The Trouble With Tesloids – They’re Not Tribbles.

The Trouble With Tesloids is that they are not like Tribbles. They don’t multiply very quickly.

No one would question that Apple’s iPod, iPhone, and iPad represent truly disruptive technologies that have sold literally hundreds of millions of units and dramatically altered telephone communications, the Internet, and personal computers, all in one fell swoop. The impact of these devices is simply enormous and global in scope. It is not much of an exaggeration to note that they have changed life as we know it.

Steve Jobs and Apple Computer are of course credited with the invention of these devices. And most of the population believe they appeared out of the blue as totally original disruptive technology.

This simply isn’t what happened. And that the body politic’s view of history is not precisely accurate is not precisely a surprise.

Alan Kay conceived of a device termed a DynaBook in 1968 that contained all the essential elements and made NO claim at the time that IT was particularly original. A prototype was actually built at the Xerox PARC center in Palo Alto in 1972.

There were literally dozens of network “tablets” produced in subsequent years and indeed an entire genre of “personal digital assistants” evolved. Always in the fringe, and always in low numbers. Even the NAME of the iPad is not particularly interesting. In 2000, Compaq introduced a reasonably capable personal digital assistant (PDA) titled the iPaq.

The point is, the pieces of a hand sized digital tablet/book have not just been floating around for literally decades predating the iPad, but were actually productized and sold. There is actually little original material to be pointed to in either the iPad or iPhone.

Nor was it particularly a matter of “marketing” or corporate funding. Steve Jobs simply took all the elements of all that went before, and combined them into an artful product blend that became for all intents and purposes a “new thing” that captured the imagination of the public instantly. To have one in your hand was to know you wanted one. Gestures. Touch. Neither were new. The success was due to an artful blend of the right components and the right utility in a single device in a way that was indeed perceived as “different” because it was different. Design counts. Not just functional design. But design itself and for itself.

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We believe that the advantages of electrically powered drive in automobiles for personal transportation are at this point self evident. They are simply an order of magnitude more efficient and appropriate for transportation. That means we use an order of magnitude LESS energy to accomplish the same goals – without suffering or going without anything. We are focused on IMPROVING the experience of personal transportation, not settling for something lesser to “save the planet.” It is our belief that we can apply modern technologies to the problems of foreign oil dependency, global climate change, and the personal expense of getting around in our daily lives, and simply do it much better. Quieter. Less smelly. On less money.

Electric cars have been with us since the 1830’s, depending on what you count. But they have largely failed in the marketplace and frankly continue to do so. Some of them, like Kay’s DynaBook, the Palm Pilot, and the iPaq have been fairly cunning in their design. But they, in concert with their infrastructure and context, have not captured the imagination of the public.

I might also point out that Apple Computer, Microsoft, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, IBM, AT&T, and indeed ALL of our major corporations that employ millions of people and pay the vast majority of the taxes that fund our government, ALL started in one of two ways – one guy in a garage or workshop, or TWO guys in a garage or workshop. There is no other story to be had. None were started by Baine Capital. Or 3M. Or Archer Daniels, or EXXON. Standard Oil itself was the brainchild of one guy.

Innovation comes from individuals. Scale comes from corporate organization. Two guys in a garage can’t make a million of anything. And a corporation is simply not a place to innovate. They can improve incrementally. But they cannot invent. They cannot disrupt. They cannot truly innovate. Just as two guys might make a dozen, they might make a hundred, but they cannot make a million of anything.

It has EVER been so. Perhaps not as much so as now, but ever so nonetheless. It is simply immutable. Individuals innovate. Corporations scale those innovations into production in large quantities.

Today, we have large corporations trying to reintroduce the electric car, largely to comply with demands and regulations requiring more efficient transportation. That is not a formula for success to my way of thinking, but it is a welcome development that we applaud in principle. Will government subsidies and loan guarantees, cause corporations to innovate? Will sufficient water and food cause a hyena to spout like a whale? I don’t know. Sure. Anything is possible. If you view a horse, a camel, and a cow as being essentially the same thing, then John Wayne was just riding one beast of the several he had to select from.

We would posit that the bubbling cauldron of American innovation is in reality almost entirely contained in the garages and workshops of individuals across the land. And that that genius for individual innovation is the heartbeat of the largest wealth creation machine the world has ever witnessed in operation. And that it is the most likely source of a new electric car of just the right design to capture the attention of the public and change the way billions of people are enabled to move about in their world.

It is true that the Tesla Model S, the brainchild of Elon Musk and JB Straubel, COULD be that car. It would still follow our law of innovation. Or but not. A $10,000 iPad would likely have as much impact as a $10,000 Lisa or a $10,000 NeXt computer.

You see, innovators, even Steve Jobs, fail. They fail a LOT. On the way to success.

For an iPad to exist, the RIGHT touchscreen with the RIGHT processor, and the RIGHT devices for wireless and Bluetooth all had to be combined in the RIGHT package – by the right individual and at the right price and at the right time. Without the components being available, there is no iPad. And without the right mind to put them together, there would STILL be no iPad. And a $10,000 iPad is very similar in impact, to no iPad at all.

A viable electric car will not be born of a $34,000 motor and controller combination. Components are needed and they must be components offering a good value proposition. As must the car.

I personally, deeply, and viscerally believe that harnessing the forces of magnetic drive and atomic level battery chemistry can and will revolutionize personal transportation worldwide. The advantages are just too obvious and overwhelming. I am personally committed for the remainder of days allotted to me to furthering that cause.

But I believe the RIGHT design has yet to emerge – built from the right components, and available at the right value proposition. And I would rate the probability of that design coming from BMW, General Motors, Toyota, or Nissan as about as likely as for the Burlington Northern Railroad to invent the DC-3. And for the same reasons.

And so I have a bit longer view, of a bit of a messy process, that will take longer, be more work, and face greater challenges, than the simple act of a corporate CEO to spew several billion dollars of other people’s money into the ether in the hopes of a good outcome. Would that it could only be so.

Innovation comes from individual guys, in individual garages and workshops. This has been my direct and personal experience and observation, and an accurate history of EVERY significant major American corporation, without exception, tends to support my view.

The problem is, I can’t predict WHO the ultimate innovator of the electric car that changes the world will be. But I shiver at the thought that I might be in the room with him today.

Welcome to the second annual Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. I would like to go on public record now and today. So let it be written and let it be told, inscribed on all temple walls and obelisks throughout the land, that I not only didn’t say it couldn’t be done and wouldn’t work, but that I truly believed and publicly noted that you COULD do it before YOU thought you could do it.

Jack Rickard

42 thoughts on “The Trouble With Tesloids – They’re Not Tribbles.”

  1. I believe Christina Ra is Tesla’s head of communications.

    It’s bizarre your rep felt he couldn’t tell you that. I’ve seen her mentioned in plenty of articles.

  2. Jack,
    Now I know why you were asking for a URL. It wasn’t because you couldn’t figure out where my movie was… rather, it was you wanted to promote my website! Sorry mostly for me because I missed that opportunity. Life goes on. Richard however, is not going to get my car for time on your show! Sorry Richard too much Blood, Sweat, Tears, Time, and energy in a tangible entity to justify trading it for immortality in pixel dust.
    Jack my website is http://www.electricar.us
    A little late but never the less… in our business “right on time”

      1. I am taking mom to Reno for her 83rd Birthday tomorrow. If I show up at EVCCON with EVIE in tow, that means we won. If I just show up that means we didn’t lose everything, If I don’t show… call the paramedics;-)>

  3. Interesting….

    It sounds like you views on Tesla are changing and with good reason. I do not think that the Model S is smoke and mirrors, but it’s short term success may have been greatly exaggerated. However, you can still by a less expensive model, you just have to give up range. Lets face it, $50-$60 with 100-150 mile range base model is still a damn fine car if you can get over the bragging rights thing…

    If I were a little younger, I would probably jump head first into this EV Thing (no pun intended). After trying to build this electric Thing, I realize that I do not have the energy I did a few years ago. In the past, I have bought, built and broke and repaired custom cars faster than this project is moving along.

    I am extremely disappointed that It does not look like I will have the EVThing ready in time for EVCCON. This has really been bothering me lately… For example, I am not even sure I will have the charger before the show (ordered it a few weeks ago). The most irritating part is that it will be 95%+ complete. I just don’t have enough free time between now and then to finnish it…

    I do think that a profitable small production vehicle is possible right now. Probably in the 25-50 units / year range at around $40K per car. There are thousand of after market parts available from the Hot-Rod industries. For example you can buy a complete rack and pinion/disc brake front end suspension and steering system for around $1,200 from many vendors. Add a VW IRS rear suspension, transaxle and an aluminum frame and you have a roller chassis. Add the Fiberglass body of your choice and you basically have a roller car ready to install the electrical bits. I think you could get the roller hardware cost to around $10-15K. ( You would have to make the molds and bodys) Add $15K of batteries/Controller/Misc and you are in the $25-$30K cost range. Add on $10K for your labor and you have a very nice $35-40K electric car. The key is keeping everything light weight and as off the shelf as possible.

    As for the electric boats, I just think it would be a very fun project. You could buy the Aristocraft unfinished for $10K. $1K worth of finishing materials materials and A LOT of elbow grease. Buy a used jet ski for $1K (blown engine acceptable). Cut the entire jet drive and motor mount out of the jet ski. Cut same size hole out of the bottom of the boat. (It will fit between the two rear stringers) Use epoxy to laminate in the drive system to the hull. (Literally a weekend project) Modify the motor mounts and add a u-joint to the input shaft. Add a Warp 9 and Soliton Jr controller, 60 CALB 100 batteries and controller for $13K, and you are at $25K for what would probably be one of the coolest boats ever…

    I really wish I was a little younger… This could be a great career…

    1. Wow Andyj, that is just so amazing that this is the first I’ve heard of it. That should have been big news. We are so oblivious to this that I fear we are doomed.

      1. Not Doomed but expect the US/EU to become even more desperate. One by one each of those errant countries will be destabilised/invaded and their Governments will be substituted by puppets to ensure the dollar stays in power.

  4. Jack,

    On a more serious side, here is a new concept that I think is where electric boats should be heading. In general motor terms it’s called a Rim Thruster: http://www.rotorque-jet.de/ . Sorry, it’s in German.
    I have been thinking about this for years and finally somebody has done it. Now all they need to do is get the speed up. There was another American product that was mentioned in EVWorld a number of months ago called the RipJet that looked promising, but it doesn’t seem to have an online presence anymore. The thing I like about this idea is that it is so simple.
    In any case, have fun with the boat projects! I look forward to your results.
    Cheerio,
    John

  5. Have a look at American Turbune’s jet drives they have been building and designing these since the 70s. My wife works for American Turbine the company split in the late 80s but kept the same name. One company builds, designs racing boat drives the other building water pumps. My wife works for the American Turbine designing water pumps.

    americanturbine.com is the jet drive company.

    Charlie

  6. Hey Brandon, 5 month wait for your adaptor? I wish I was that lucky. I’ve been waiting 15 MONTHS now (same California company) and STILL waiting. I since had a local machinist make one. Took him a whole week.

    1. I happened to be in the Bay area last November and decided to drop in and talk to Mike and Shari. I had ordered my adaptor in October and thought I would drop off the flywheel so he could verify it was all correct. Mike is a nice guy and he has a clean and well equipped shop. I briefly met Shari. Mike thought they would have my adapter done by the end of the year. I didn’t get my parts until February. They stopped talking to me after the deadline until I got a note that indicated my stuff had shipped. The work is very good but I would not order anything from them again. I can’t begin to guess what the problem is.

      Doug

  7. Jack, as to your question could it be the Torque Converter on the Ford Edge, Yes. I don’t know what the car was doing as to what was wrong with the trans but there are several things that can go wrong with a torque converter. The other thing is that if there was any parts broken in the old trans the fluid would have carried the metal chips and bits into the torque converter and if the new trans is run with the old torque converter has anything in it that will soon be into the new trans. As to the alignment snout on the front of the torque converter, a torque converter rebuild shop can swap those for you for a minimal amount of money. I would do this in place of reusing the old converter. In order to find a converter shop check with a local trans shop, they will have someone they do business with and if they are a good trans shop the converter shop they use will be good also. If I was you I would seriously consider pulling the motor and trans and swapping those out. You and Jessie not having been in the transmission business would not have known that but I don’t know of any trans shop that would use the old converter in the new trans. Another thing you could do rather than having the alignment pug removed and installed would be to have the old converter rebuilt. Here in Florence, Al I can get a converter for a 4L60 rebuild for just under $100. It is mostly labor and a few parts(bearings, shims, sometimes a stator). The biggest thing would be to not allow any trash from the old trans to get into the new one. Good luck with, I’m really interested to see it running.

  8. Hey Jack, Can you put a tack on that lawn mower and tell me what speed RPM that motor is running at? I’m curious about the unloaded speed and loaded speed while running on 13 cells or 42V. I would think the goal would be to be about the same as the gas engine which prob was 3600 RPM’s

    Thanks, Jim

    1. Hardly need to Jim. You’ll get about 50 rpm per volt from any of these motors. That should be 2150 rpm. The engine removed was not probably 3600 but more like 2000 rpm in RUN position.

      I haven’t seen a mower at 3600 rpm for many years. THe safety nazis have pretty much killed that. Nothing in zero turn anyway.

      Jack Rickard

  9. According to this article, Tesla will announce the Supercharger on Monday. Just like Jack said, fast charging with solar and perhaps battery swapping.

    http://www.chargedevs.com/content/news-wire/post/will-tesla%E2%80%99s-sci-fi-super-charger-include-solar-panels-and-battery-swapping?goback=%2Egde_4198666_member_165970728

    Here’s the placeholder for the announcement on Monday night at 8PM Pacific time.
    http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

    1. Yes. So far, what I’m hearing is not as grand as my vision. On the technical details, I’m pretty sure we hit the nail on the head. But I think they need a couple of things that I’m not hearing a lot about coming out of the chute.

      First is that I’ve actually come around on the battery swapping with Teslas lower pack and the way they did it. This opens the door to a situation where you don’t own the battery, you lease battery. This is not going to be very appealing to our viewers, but could advance the token nonetheless. If you are just renting battery from
      Tesla, and were it priced appropriately, you don’t care what the cycle life is nor do you care about your batteries becoming obsolete. They get upgraded in the pool. The down side is that kind of works AGAINST timely upgrades. But it removes a lot of risk from the car purchase decision.

      The second issue was NOT precisely for comic effect. There are a little over 160,000 gas stations in the United States and the business model has changed considerably. Pepsi Cola is the highest profit margin in the place followed by coffee and ice. They make NOTHING on gasoline – 4 cents a gallon in the best of times and at times negative numbers. Gasoline gets them into the convenience store where prices are as much as 30% higher than the grocery store for the same things. But their cost on the 64 ounce big gulp is like 12 cents with a disproportionate amount of that being in the cup itself. They don’t even pay rent on the machine.

      So I’m picturing a kind of large number of “Solar City Stops” – maybe 85 across California, economically viable because of coke and twinkie sales. In CA, that probably translates to Frappacino and pita wrap. But you get the idea. Wifi but of course. And clean restrooms.

      I think Monday he’ll talk about a tres kewell charging kiosk DEVICE using solar panels. I don’t really think that’s the game.

      Jack Rickard

  10. ok, I’ve not seen this asked or answered, so I’ll ask. Why has Brian “the brain” Noto gone from co-host to the side of a milk carton? Is he so busy working on the convention he no longer has time for the shop and taping duties, or is it something more serious? I’m hoping that it is just because organizing the show is a full time job.

    1. I too hpe Brain returns. I also miss the hands on work that was the bulk of the show earlier in its life. I do think that many of the viewer videos need to be edited they are far too long. WHy not suggest that any viewer video should be say 5min long. Although I guess that means you will have to find more editorial to fill the programme. If filling the programme with good editorial is a problem, why not go to a Fortnightly editorial/ presented version of the show with real content and your builds, and the alternate fortnights with Viewer videos.
      Good luck with EVcon and please drag Brian back.

      1. The Brain needs a little rest. Jack probably does too but none likely in the near future. Finding the right blend for this show is always an issue. We have done many hands on builds and of course that will continue. But we hope to include more viewer builds in the future. Some are indeed better than others. I’ll try to be more selective. Over time, they’ll learn how to do this just as we do.

        In any such endeavor, magazine, video, whatever, you have a bright conflict of editorial selection. Despite the grueling hours, I like the weekly video format in that we get a lot of direct feedback from our viewers. I can see how this would drive some crazy. But thanks the magazine experience, a monthly, I’m quite accustomed to the shrill requests. Some like the political rants. Others want to see step by step how to install disk brakes. Others deplore the same thing. Some like more builds from around the world, and others would prefer we leave that to youtube. It’s all about what to leave in, and what to leave out, and your mission.

        Our mission is to ATTRACT those passionately involved in actually building or converting electric cars, while at the same time kind of driving away the end of the world that thinks electric cars are very cool, and are at the reinventing perpetual motion stage intellectually. At times, a fine line. Some of our viewers are a little lost here in that they think the mission is to get more eyeballs, after the fashion of network television or cable. It simply isn’t. This is a new genre and we are pioneers in it. My sense as trade magazine publisher is to do it much like I did with the magazine, and attract the best design engineers in the field while fomenting new blood coming into it to do great builds. Ergo a two hour, detailed video that is kind of boring for the general populace. What I’m hearing from you is to get back to detailed. You may be right. We’re getting to be a little “cool” instead of more informative.

        Jack Rickard

  11. Lovely post and encouraging thoughts. We’re going to miss seeing you next week, but will be there with bells (and whistles) on next time.

    (“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” -SJ)

  12. I too would like to see Brian back on the show. I can understand the need to take some time off. Maybe if/when he makes it back and if Richard can stay with the show, with 3 of you on hand to do the show and also with Jessie on hand, one can take some time as needed and maybe rotate it out. I just want to thank you all for your hard work to help educate us all in the news and construction of EVs and for a great show. I’m sure EVCON will be great and I am looking forward to highlights on the show. Maybe I can make next year.

    1. yes, I agree. Seems Richard is doing a great job in the co-host roll and Jessie in the shop role. As a 4 man team they could be awesome and not feel over-pressured. Brian and Jessie could knock out the lightweight speedster in no time.

  13. This last week has been a marathon to try to get ready to bring the car to EVCCON. I managed my test drive today. Actually three drives. The first was a tenth of a mile and check to see if anything bad was happening. The second was about 5 miles and third was a little over 16 miles. No problems in the 21.6 miles driven. I am charging up now and I will find out how much I used when that is done. Leaving tomorrow morning for a leisurely 1100 mile drive. I think Ill go visit Jack for a few days.

    See some of you on Wednesday!

    Doug

    1. Doug I’m jealous. I’ve been waiting on zivan USA, who has had the charger literally sitting on the bench needing only 2 hours of work done to it for over a week. Very frustrating.

      To say we’ve been waiting is a bit of a stretch, but we are tidying things up now and will be able to give it a little charge Tuesday when the charger arrives – enough to get it on the trailer at least. Then head south.

      Been shooting a goodly amount of tedium to contribute after we get a minute to edit a little.

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