Battery Magic and Influenza

This week I seem to be coming down with the influenza that is not rampant across the land. Joy. I love influenza. Particularly the joy of breathing after it is over.

We are struggling with Speedster Nippon. The car has been ready for weeks. We do have some licensing issues to get through as there is apparently some adantage in Japan to having a car licensed in Missouri. How di I get involved in this stuff? The rest has been instrumentation issues. Largely because I believed the RechargeCar guys when they told me the AutoblockAmp was finally ready for primetime and indeed kind of suckered in on a new feature from HPEVS about their Curtis 1238 software that it would output the rpm data that it undoubtedly does have to a tachometer. I so believed this that I bought 10 of the optoisolators they make for the store.

Both have been hugely problematical. The RechargeCar guys are actually coming this week to see for themselees. Maybe something simple I’m overlooking. I called HPEVG for help after updating the firmware to their latest and checking every wire in the system. They basically told me to hook up an oscilloscope and good luck. As we’ve sold about a dozen of their motors and controllers, and used three or four ourselves on projects, I was a little shocked. They had been all for the EVCCON last fall and suddenly cancelled at the last minute. I’m not sure what’s going on there.

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But I am beginning to NOT like the components business – intensely and very much as I thought all along. My background is technology and technical communication – publishing. NOT retail. I couldn’t sell a grape to a starving starling. But that’s not why I don’t like it.

Case in point is our BlowMe blowers for the Netgain motors. We sell a few of these. I was getting them from a guy on eBay. In the last shipment, he sent air filters that simply did not fit the blowers and one blower arrived entirely without screws. I had ordered and paid for a dozen. We called this to his attention and he agreed completely that he would send all of that immediately. In two months we’ve never received it. I found another guy who made the things, they basically just take worn out Garrett Superchargers and put a new turbine in them with a small DC motor and bead blast it. We ordered one and examined it. I told the guy what we used them for. He’s been after me for the last two months to let HIM build the things for us. He DID use a nice air filter.

I actually have plenty on hand. But he kept after me so I finally told him to go ahead and send me ten of them. He billed me by Paypal and I paid it within minutes. The very next day, he tells me his component costs have gone up and he’ll have to charge more than we agreed. Would it be ok if he sent eight of them in lpace of the ten he’s already sold me? Where do these guys get this theory of business? He said well prices DO go up you know. Not normally between when you pay for something and when they deliver it. particularly when they named the price in the first place….

And the pressure is just continuous. Everyone understandably wants more for less. Me too. I understand that. But most of the bottom feeders are so heroically ARTLESS at it that I just get a kind of a nausea going by early afternoon that doesn’t leave until I go home.
As you know, I have the attention span of a four-year-old. If this ceases to be fun, it will cease entirely.

I had one gentelman quiz me on batteries mercilessly – 18 e-mail messages. Finally he seemed to understand it. I then got a request from him for battery straps, noting that he had found the batteries themselves much cheaper elsewhere and was ordering the batteries there, but wanted the straps from me. I checked into it, and they WERE much cheaper. In fact, about my cost. So I jumped my CALB contact pretty hard. He assured me we were moving more of these cells than anybody in the country and there was no way these guys could sell them at that price. Turns out, they don’t quite. They DO sell a BMS system. And they are selling the batteries inexpensively IF you buy the $2000 BMS. In the end, this guy would up with NO batteries and NO straps and I’m seriously put out at him. So his FRIEND returns a Voltmeter HE had bought demanding a refund. I gave it to him. His response was to post a blog that I’m somehow against the United States Marine Corp. As I was in the Navy, I am of course. But that’s not the point. My wife was a Marine.

So from my perspective, rather than enabling others to do quality builds, what we seem to be engaged in is some form of shit war with the least artful negotiators on the planet, in a desperate fight for the last quarter in the grass. Pass. Further, we’re getting six calls per day now from University Build Teams and Religious Organizations pretty much demanding that we sponsor them with gifts of components in the $30,000 range.

So I’m going to turn all that over to Richard, and instead of bird dogging cool stuff for the store, I’m going back to publishing. He can sell of the rest of what we’ve got as he can.

We’re two hours again this week. I don’t know why we’re two hours. That’s about what we are every week. Yes, I I would learn to talk faster and not repeat myself I guess it would be more entertaining. Also if I had a pair of twin 36ers in front of me that would work too. I’m an old man working in the now defunct Kaiser/Fraser Nash dealership in a small town on the Mississippi River. And far from an electrical genius, I can’t get known and available advertised products to work at all on a car. Just shoot me. You should all be watching serial episodes of LOST on Amazon’s new video service. Free for Prime members.

There have been some developments of note. Yi Cui and a team at Stansford University Materials Science Lab in conjunction with the SLAC Accelerator Laboratory have come up with some very interesting anode and cathode materials. Last April they published a paper on encapsulating silicon in Silicon Dioxide with a carbon wrapper that I find fascinating. They then dissolve the SiO2 with toluene leaving space for the silicon to expand.

On January 8, they published a new paper on a similar technique for sulphur cathodes. This time, they coated with my favorite material, TiO2 and dissolved most of the sulphur with hydrofluoric acid. This leaves a small sulphur nugget inside a TiO2 shell solving the problem of polysulfides in the electrolytes. Putting the two of them together, and assuming some loss from the use of these other materials and processes, we’re looking at a 1000 mAh/gram cell – over five times the capacity of current Lithium Ion cells. It will be at a lesser potential of 2.1 volts, so more cells. But the capacity gains would be huge – a 450 mile range car at 80% discharge. More likely for me, the same 80 mile safe range 100 mile max using 1/5 of the cell size and hopefully 1/5 the cost.

TiO2, Sulphur, Silicon, Carbon, and Silicon Dioxide are all heroically non toxic safe elements of extremely low cost. The processes they’ve devised are kind of room temperature washes and rinses. Nothing heroic and probably quite scalable. None of this actually happens very quickly. But I can see these cells emerging in five to seven years. They’ll probably be the same cost as today’s cells, but you wont’ need as many. And they will have accomplished about HALF the potential of those materials. Lots of room for optimization.

I never do get over this. Picture a book of alternate aluminum and copper sheets, simply coated on each side with a particular mixture of sand, carbon, and sulphur, with no moving parts at all, that can store enough energy to drive a car 450 miles. It is alchemy. Magic. Sorcery. You have to know the precise steps to cook the charcoal, sand, and sulphur into a witche’s slurry, and carefully dip your sheets into it, and then dry them and put them together in a book. You have to put a thin plastic sheet between the pages, and add a few tablespoons full of basically whiskey and antifreeze. And you have a battery. 40 of these books will store 150 kWh of energy. Enough to drive 9-10 hours in a day. I just never get over it.

I have started a little CAN bus program on the Arduino/Macchina to talk to a TCCH charger. It’s a lot of fun. Made a CHARGER class that inherits from the MCP2515 class and I just love C++. It is so much more fun than arguing with a Marine for 18 e-mails about every aspect of every battery pack he MIGHT want to build, when he’s sure that everyone is telling him different, and almost entirely nonsense. All to have him actually DELIGHT in telling me he’s found them somewhere else for less. And as you know, money is terribly important!

This week, weather permitting, we will roll that Speedster Nippon. And I’m pretty sure it will roll well. Not so sure the instruments will all work. But it will roll. And I never quite get over THAT as well.

If you haven’t built an electric car and driven it away, I just actually can’t picture WHY??? It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I just keep on doing it. It is no longer whether it will work of course. It is how nicely balanced can I make it FEEL. And each one gets a little better. If you have yet to do this. I don’t know what else I can say to persuade you to start a build.

Finally, we did make a little progress with our test bench. By now it is apparent. I intend finally to build an electric car, ENTIRELY WITHOUT THE CAR. A fixed, immobile, automobile. Yes, we have evolved this entirely past transportation and cars. We are now going to build them SOLELY from drive components on a bench. So I can play and just drive all I want without ever leaving the shop at all. But these yokes and splined shafts and things are just MYSTICAL to me. Why do none of them fit together already? How come everyone uses something different?

Finally, we view Anne Kloopenburg’s New Electric Glastron. He is certainly having a hoot with electric boats. He is apparently more patient with the online sales thing than I as he wants to start an EVTV EU site to sell parts more easily and directly to our friends across the pond. We actually do sell a surprising amount in Europe from here, surprising because the shipping is just a horror. But Anne has some of that worked out to a much less costly operation through some sort of logistics outfit and can move stuff around at a fraction. So we hope this goes well.

Jack Rickard

31 thoughts on “Battery Magic and Influenza”

  1. Here is something to cheer you up. I just finished watching Lonesome Dove on Netflix. I did not watch it when it first aired, so this was the first time viewing for me. What a great mini series. I really enjoyed it.

  2. It was interesting to hear about your views om the ev sales in norway. They actually broke 5% of car sales as electric in december. I think they had 2.x% on the whole year. That puts them into early adopters phase i guess.

    Really nice. I just wish Sweden would have the same kind of bonus-malus program for promoting EVs.

    Best regards

    Hope you get well soon.

    1. I checked the number on sales in norway. They had their 5.2% share on new cars sales in september 2012 and averaged 2.9% for the whole 2012.

      Thats good.

  3. Such a test-bench is a wonderful thing and almost as much fun as building a real EV
    Recently, i built a homemade IGBT-controller and other funny things that can be tested
    there without any danger (and without any legal problems) Things are not easy in this case
    here in Germany…… I Do not even intend to get that 11″ 180A 80V @1400rpm for 60min. -beast
    from an old “Still” forklift street legal, but it is great fun to run and brake down that motor
    until the brakes and cables are smoking…….At the moment it is attached to a modified 2CV-Gearbox
    as these have the brakes mounted to the gearbox. I had to modify the gears a little bit
    by putting in two gears at the same time and cutting out a few wheels……Now the
    power runs another way than original, but it will run 100Km/h at 3000rpm instead at 5000rpm.
    ……..but there is only one gear left……so it will not be the best solution for daily use….
    But it is perfect for my controller tests! (And that motor would play with the 700Kg of a E-2CV even if there
    is only one gear 😉 that is not a power- but a rev-problem and a huge weight-problem in a 2CV)
    But eventually it will power a VW Golf (Rabbit)Mk3 some day with a Diesel-gearbox, that fits better!
    At least, the controller seems to be working very fine, much better than expected.
    I spent hours just sitting in front of that, watching the motor running, accelerating and
    braking it just like a little boy who got a little steam-engine for christmas!

    The controller is programmed in BASCOM. A Atmega168 does the job.
    TC4451 as IGBT driver, a LEM HASS200-S for metering current,
    the schematic is inspired by early versions of the open revolt controller.
    You can have a look at the code there: (not the last version, but it works)
    the main thing that is still missing is a rev.counter and limiter.

    And something special: I tested the controller as a charger DC-DC from a “mother-pack”
    100A had been no problem, although the necessary coil was made in a very crude way…….

    have fun!

  4. I liked the show. The battery material science if fascinating… Seeing Anna is always a treat… That guy has too much energy…

    Sorry to hear the Store is becoming a problem. Maybe Richard can handle that side of things as he has done that type of business before. I love being able to buy components with a reasonable chance of actually getting them…

    My EVThing is inching along. I got the body work done and shot a heavy coat of primer on it. I will paint the fist day it is warm enough to spray… Then it is just assembly and wiring… Fingers are sore from hand sanding….

    It looks like I can get the heavy cables through the tunnel without interfering with the shifter. (I hope so)

    I swore I would not start another project until I got the EVThing running, but I might have a chance to build a few adult size electric go carts…

    Any way, I just wanted to say hello to everyone…..

  5. Jack Somerville

    I agree with Jeff. Hopefully Richard can act as a buffer between you and the barbarians who are sadly an inevitable part of retail. Have you thought of a blacklist? Act like a jerk and you are digitally excommunicated. It would be a tragedy having found one honest man in this rarified field to see this great service disappear.

      1. Yes please don’t let the vultures and unreliable suppliers win and give up on the shop. I’m a bit too far away to order by mail but it was great to be able to tank up with parts at EVCCON. My only other option for shielded cable was a special minimum order deal at £400 (about US$600).

        Hope you are better soon

  6. Great show once again Jack and Richard,
    I have been in touch with Anne re his EU shop and hope to be a customer of his.

    Just a question on the test bench, the torque reaction between the motor and generator will be strong – is there a way planned to take care of it?

    1. Hope you get feel well soon Jack. I might add that I understand your frustration about online sales and dealing with suppliers. The only good ideas that I have to offer to help alleviate the problems is to try and limit the types of sellers that you deal with to ones that you believe to be honest people. The random person on ebay might not be the most reliable. ebay in my opinion seems to have gone steadily downhill since the late 1990’s and now all that is sold is buy it now items priced higher than retail and items sold through “work at home” companies which sell items shipped direct from overseas suppliers.I would understand if you stopped selling items that you could not reliably stock. What I would hope that you would continue to sell is items that you could reliably purchase but in higher quantities than the normal EV converter would need. Battery straps might be an example… If you have to order 2,000 of them for a production run, then this is a great service to the EV industry because people can buy 10-20 they need at a time. the JLD404 might be another example, I at one time found the source for them before I heard about them at EVTV but since misplaced that info. I do remember that it might have been an overseas company or there was some other difficulty in ordering them. Now I would just buy them from EVTV. Even if at a higher cost, A: I know I’ll receive it in a reasonable time frame, B: If it’s slightly more expensive, the profit is going to a good cause. Really, what’s the difference between donating some cash to EVTV and paying to keep the show I love operating or buying some hardware at a slightly higher cost?
      I would expect when all the Azure hardware is sold, EVTV should be left with a hefty profit. Yes, Jack, if you haven’t predicted it already, it will all sell and quicker than you originally thought. The people who watch EVTV and those that attend EVCCON are interested in that type of hardware and were previously unable to acquire it.
      If you are really set on selling the Blow me blowers, than maybe you can convince a local shop whom you trust to build them for you?
      just my ramblings..

      1. Perhaps that idiot customer hadn’t been apprised of evtv’s price match guarantee? Anyway, as a result of EVCCON 2012, I now have a conversion in work, a 2003 Ford Ranger. And being just a leisurely drive up the road in St. Louis, I was counting on making some of my significant purchases from the evtv store, and helping to sustain the evtv webcast, and availing myself of Jack’s expertise along the way. Don’t let the bastards get you down. We need your selective, quality inventory to sustain our efforts. Build on!!

        1. Yes, if you find a higher price anywhere on the Internet – we’ll match it.

          This is kind of an inside joke that some portion of our viewership has taken literally. It is kind of a backhanded swipe at the fact that the Internet pretty much washes out any markup
          on any product by anybody. And if you have an industry, how do reliable suppliers emerge if they are under constant pressure to sell for less than cost? This pretty much leaves us where we are of
          course -no reliable suppliers.

          This goes back years to the days of Otmar and the Zilla. This guy was near a nervous breakdown because he had unhappy customers on him all the time over his six month backlog to make them
          controllers. I spoke with him briefly as he was trying to sell the business – another strange evolution that has gone historically very wierdly awry. When I suggested he raise his prices
          he very patiently explained to me that they wouldn’t pay that. Of course, if they wouldn’t pay it, then I guess the backlog would go away and that would be the end of the problem…. he
          didn’t even seem to follow the irony during the conversation.

          George Hamstra actually thought they had reached an agreement for Netgain to buy it. He found out on Otmar’s web site that the deal had fallen through. Never did actually hear from Otmar that
          directly that it had. It was later sold to James Morrison, infamous for ripping about 40 people off totally on their purchases, and Otmar along the way.

          And so a kind of inside joke, if you want to actually receive components and support, shop for the HIGHEST price on the Internet, not the lowest.

          But when I’m faced with a guy who exchanges EIGHTEEN lengthy detailed messages on batteries and why you should do it a certain way, I was faced with him noting with great pride that he had actually found
          someone else who would sell them to him at much less expense. And of course he was entirely unconscious of the fact that he was going to be required to buy a $2000 BMS to get the batteries.
          Today he has NO batteries, and has abandoned the concept of the build. But his friend has put up a BOYCOTT JACK RICKARD blog page. Boycott me? I’d be way out The ahead if I PAID THEM TO GO AWAY.

          The bitter part is that THIS IS WHY we can’t get companies like Rhemy and Siemens to deal with us. The guy thought he had done some sort of INTELLIGENT thing by Googline “battery”.

          He’s actually qualifying the demise of individual innovators building or converting electric vehicles. If you mentally grow this to all that it implies, it is kind of depressing. As a society

          I have the young socialist talking heads of MSNBC this morning in the background, yelping and wailing and gnashing their teeth over the wicked NRA actually mentioning that the President’s
          daughters are guarded by Secret Service guys – with guns of course = to keep them safe. Total child minds at work that I would find extremely discouraging had it been exhibited by
          any of my children at age eight. These people are talking to the majority of Americans. Don’t know. And entirely unconscious to the fact that they don’t know. They want to pass a law
          to stop murder in the early grades of grade school. And apparently unaware that it is already against the law? And that their well intended “regulations” in an “unintended consequence” was what lead
          us to this point in the first place. So if only they could have MORE of that, they could finally fix it. And they incessantly cite opinion polls, which they strive to form, as a circular form
          of support for this child mind views.

          My conclusion …Influenze causes depression…


          1. Jack,

            Re: the folk gentleman who ordered two gearboxes and subsequently wanted to return them, you may need to institute a 15% restocking fee to cover your costs and cut back on that type of abuse.


      2. You are of course quite correct on all points Brian. If I were nipple deep in dollar bills and rosepetals I’d still be pissing and moaning over something.

        I probably get more frustrated with the vendors than the buyers. It is kind of remarkable to me how many holes there are in the component list for electric vehicles. There just isn’t a really good DC-DC converter
        I like and the most serious hole is of course the charger – heart of the whole concept. I was supposed to have 10 PulsaR’s by November 15th. I should have been more specific about which years I suppose.
        I actually reached a good agreement with a guy I know to do a simple Arduino controller for TCCH chargers – last August. It’s never gotten done and so now I’m coding myself, which is kind
        of fun but I’ve no time to devote to it.

        We’ve never really come up with an affordable AC inverter beyond the Curtis 1238, which is extremely limited in power and voltage. OEMs get these for $2000=$4000 all the time, but
        we’ve yet to break one loose that works.

        And none of it precisely requires NASA to develop, although interestingly I DO have a NASA team working on part of it. The intransigence of companies like Siemens and Rhemy that have
        ready solutions is absurd – a comedy not even in their own self interest.

        But the customers can get to you as well. Sold a guy two eGearDrives. One arrived damaged. We replaced it not only of course, but overnight shipping. Now he wants to return them. HIS customer
        changed his mind. Now how am I supposed to deal with that? I have to buy them 20 at a time, and we just did.

        On the other end, I have another component supplier wanting US to sell HIS stuff. He has one little proviso. If they order the wrong one, absolutely NO returns. I told him we have a
        pretty strict rule too – NO UNHAPPY customers. So it doesn’t sound like a marriage to me. He replies he hasn’t had a problem with it for 20 years. If it’s not a problem, why the rule? And
        how do I resolve this with the guy who has two eGear Drives he HAD to have right away, and now he’s changed his mind and wants to return it?

        I’m just feeling a wee bit like the only savage on the buffalo hunt these days. I’ll probably get over it about the time the cough and sniffles clear up. But thanks for the encouragement.

        And it DOES kind of force some examination as to what part component sales really contributes to our mission, or conversely how distracting it might be FROM it.

        Jack Rickard

        1. Well Jack…. I kind of know how you feel… In the work I do, people are typically already mad when they get to me. My job is to fix what ever is screwed up at that point. I have a lot of experiance and can usually solve the issue. It is the only reason the company keeps me around as I tend to be a whinny grouch most if the time….

          I know that I could make most of the components that are missing int the EV world, but lack the time to do them… ( And I tend to be a little lazy) I some times wish my boss would just fire me so I would be forced to move on….. Plus, I have never been fired and that would be an interesting experiance….

          I volunteered to quit when the economy got really bad so other people could keep their job and they still refused to let me go. In fact to my amazement, they gave me a pretty good raise…???? I never really figured that one out….

          I am not sure what I am trying to say, but I guess I wanted you to know that I do under stand your frustrations. I do appreciate all that you do on behalf of the EV community. You are a little crazy, but I kind of like that quality in people….

          If I think of a way to really help the EV cause, I will do it….

  7. Hi folks. As you know about the news concerning the battery fire. Here are some details..
    “The battery can charge from 0 to 90% in only 75 minutes and comes with battery management electronics which guarantees multiple levels of safety features.”
    The PDF below shows operating voltages outside we use for LiFePo4’s.

    What’s left of the UPS 747-400 that crashed in Dubai, carrying lithium batteries, after an unsuccessful landing during a cargo fire/smoke emergency.


      “Worries over potential fire risks from lithium ion batteries, with their well-known flammability…” Yngggh. Flammable?

      How is that flammable? We can only hope this is looked into properly and BMS is found the be the cause. Not the “lithium batteries” all the headlines are screaming about. Sure, they will burn, if you try hard enough, but really have to put some effort into it before it happens.

  8. The BBC reported today that JAL have said that the 787 battery fire was caused by overcharging. They didn’t say, but we can presume that charging was being managed by a BMS.

    A familiar pattern except that it didn’t happen in a hangar in the middle of the night

  9. Brilliant show. I’m also happy to see the Julius Sumner Miller-esque white board leactures. This one was particularly good. I kept wanting you insert flexible aerogels in the mix somewhere, And it was literally LOL funny when you stuck the paper to your forehead and made the pygmy whores comment.

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