If I Only Had a Brain… and 12lbs of Potatoes in a 10 lb Sack

I first met Brian Noto in 1995, shortly before our disastrous BBSCON in the Tampa Convention Center in August. The advisability of holding a convention in August is on my mind these days for obvious reasons as I may have made the same mistake again with EVCCON 2013 scheduled for August 6-11. But in 1995 I was younger and prettier and a little more naive. The basic premise was that the Tampa Convention Center would GIVE us the facility for five days if we would just hold it there. They couldn’t get anyone else in the country to schedule an event at that time and the hotels are just withering into the ground that month as well. They didn’t tell me of course that they DID charge $800 a day to run the escalator. Or that there was another charge for the air conditioning. Some aspects of business are simply bitter and negative.

In any event, it was a massive and gorgeous facility. The vendors could drive their trailer trucks right out onto the exhibit floor to unload. Once all of them had, we closed the doors and started the air conditioners. Millions of dollars worth of electronics equipment of course and all the vendors working furiously to erect their displays.

The cold air conditioned air hit the very warm, very moist air that was in this huge hall from having the doors open earlier. And of course, the humidity immediately condensed. I’d never actually PERSONALLY been responsible for a rainstorm before and didn’t know quite how to react as the vendors formed a posse to drag my remains through the public square. Luckily, the rain continued for 15 minutes and everyone stopped to marvel that such a thing could even occur.

As it naturally started to trickle off, I stepped out on a balcony, held out my hands and commanded the winds and the rain to cease. This caused howls – I think they were laughing but they may have just as well been howls of rage looking back on it.

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In the interim, El Braino has worked for me five times making this his sixth run at employment, not counting my silent partnership in his Krav Mahga/Brazillian Ju Jitsu venture in Southern California. A complex relationship, you have to understand I’ve never hired the man even once.

He came into the Boardwatch Offices on Bowles Avenue in Littleton Colorado one morning and indicated he was looking for work as an advertising salesman. He learned of our existence because we printed with a company that also printed a “Thrifty Nickel” type neighborhood advertising newsprint he’d been involved with that didn’t work out so well. Harried and disorganized, even then, I was searching for my sunglasses (on my head as it turns out) and trying to do something at the time. I told him we didn’t have any current openings but that I was sorry the rag didn’t work out and good luck.

Looking back, I guess he didn’t want to go home and talk to the wife, Debbie I think that one was, so he just hung out around Boardwatch chatting with different employees. He came in the next day as well and somehow talked somebody out of temporary use of an office, desk and phone. By the end of the week he was a fixture. At some point I guess Kathy thought we had hired him and had him fill out a withholding form and got his Social Security Number. Seemed like he was always around after that.

He did go into a room where I had had a guy from some Boulder magazine about Mercenary Soldiers who worked for us briefly on retail distribution. Brain found the printouts of all the stores in the country where we appeared on the newsstand and started going through them. Within a few months, he had trimmed our drop to these stores and increased our sell through probably 30% turning this money loser segment into a slight profit. I started to warm up to him about then.

Ever since, he comes and he goes. I never hire him. I’ve never fired him. When I get REALLY dependent on him, he goes away. When I get used to doing it on my own, kind of badly, he shows up. As he’s on his fifth wife, I suppose it could all be even more emotional if I was a woman.

In any event, while I am totally disorganized, near hysteria most of the time, and trying of course to do 12 things at once, the Brain is calm, methodical, organized, and instead of telling everyone they are f***ing morons he has this cunning way of talking to them calmly and getting them to do whatever he needs done. I don’t really know how that works. But its very effective.

So Yin and Yang, we are entirely different but quite complimentary in an odd way. We don’t really “share” or have “feelings”. Brain was an only child and doesn’t really do that. His mother says when he was a kid she had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him. So after 17 years and five rodeos, I guess I don’t really know him very well. I know he’s a couple years younger than me, and likes weddings. Actually he was best man at my last wedding. As the preacher was in his cups during rehearsal, Brain calmly showed him how to do the ceremony and where everyone stood and didn’t even call the guy a f***ing anything.

His last wedding got rained out, so we moved it to my wine cellar and about 100 people got REALLY messed up on some pretty good wine.

He’s particularly good at what I call fitment. When I put something on a car, it is usually hanging by some zip ties, crookedly and not very securely, and at an odd angle. Somehow he has a way of removing the zip ties, and carefully mounting the item on the car as if it were done on purpose, in the exact position I WOULD have put it if I was good at fitment. That’s kind of handy.

But I suppose life with Jack has it’s stresses and strains. And at some point, he goes away. The question is, why does he come back? He’s very capable at anything he does.

I kind of think he is addicted to drama. At Boardwatch, and at EVTV, every day features a new plan on how to take over the world, from the Steven Spielberg cartoon Pinky and the Brain – ergo the Brain. If you get used to that, it kind of feels like you are on a mission. It is of course a relief to escape it to a normal world of magazine publishing and ad sales. But at some point it occurs to you they are there to make money and have a life with their wives and kids and dogs and sell magazines. No real mission. No real drama. Commerce. Once you get addicted to taking over the world, it’s hard to do that for any length of time. It’s restful. But not very satisfying. You get to where you kind of LIKE taking over the world.

Of course everything at EVTV is almost the opposite of what it appears. In Speilberg’s cartoon, the BRAIN is a megalomaniac bent on grandiose but implausible/impossible plans to take over the world, and of course from there – the universe. Pinky is the pragmatic who bails him out of each episode just in the nick of time as Brain gets a wee bit overextended. And so now you know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey puts it.

Technically, this week we continue our bizarre quest to heat the Escalade. Preview of next week. The SSR I installed in this episode has already failed catastrophically and I was forced into deep appreciation of the forethought of a maintenance switch. ALWAYS have a heavy duty maintenance switch somewhere handy to break your battery pack. I’m not talking about a little slap switch to disengage a contactor. I’m talking a heavy duty switch so you don’t have to use the insulated cable cutters to cut a cable.

Oh, and the 4000 watt heater melted the heater hoses. Other than that, great ideas.

Tesla did file their 10K finally on Thursday. We talk about that a bit. But notably is their admission that on the Tesla Roadster, overall battery capacity, it looks like now, will come in at 60-65% of the original capacity of the car within 7 years or 100,000 miles. This kind of wrecks the resale value of these vehicles as it is a very different matter from 80% in 10 years.

The heart of this problem is their choice of batteries. This choice is actually kind of cunning in some interesting ways. They can design a battery module really pretty much ONCE as the 18650 form
factor is forever. These cells are used in millions of small electronic devices – the lithium version of the AA battery. Not only do they gain the economies of scale as millions of these batteries are manufactured, but as the chemistry improves to provide more power, energy, and thus range, their upgrade development cost is limited to a few scraggly lines of software code.

The downside is they are using a flashlight battery for a car. And flashlights and cars don’t have quite the same needs. In a flashlight, energy density and power density are important as well as cost. All that is true for a car. But nobody cares how long a rechargeable flashlight battery lasts really. And no one making them is going to spend much on getting them to last LONGER than they do now. But for me, the MAIN advantage of lithium over lead is NOT that they are smaller and lighter, however welcome and enabling those features are. It is that the cycle life is MUCH longer. 300 cycles for lead, 3000 cycles for Lithium ionic cells. Panasonic, when they talk about it at all, talk 300-800 cycles for their cells. And so two years ago I talked about the cycle life of these cells and what Tesla could have done to address this problem. Thursday’s 10K indicates that the answer is “not very much.” There’s just not much to be done. The new NNP NCR18650B from Panasonic doesn’t even LIST a cycle life rating.

Most Roadsters don’t actually get a lot of miles. They are kind of toy cars for the weekend and for the most part not employed in a daily driver role. But I think this darker side of Tesla ownership is going to become an issue with the Model S. It IS likely to be the daily driver. Model X as well. The Tesla battery technology is kind of central to their game. Maybe at some point, they will be buying enough cells to have them custom made with more attention to life. But I think you will hear more on this topic and not from me. Replacement modules are NOT going to be cheap. But if you are nearing the end of warranty, measure carefully and it will be interesting to see what their policy is on battery replacement if you are under 80%.

That takes us to a discussion of battery costs generally. As you know, I’m a big fan of the new CALB cells. But there should be choices in life and the CALB cells have not gone down in price AT ALL. In fact, when the China Aviation Missle Academy first invested in Sky Energy, the prices went UP slightly. When they gained a U.S. warehouse they went UP again. It is true we are offering at about $450 per kWh in a world that is totally convinced throughout America that the going rate for lithium is $600 per kWh. But it isn’t going down.

So I’ve been talking to other battery vendors in China about alternatives. There aren’t many. But there are a few. They don’t have the power output or cold weather performance of the CALB, so
surely they would be less expensive.

Oddly no. Well they are, but like a nickel an AH. Not enough to fool with really. I keep chasing 90 cent an AH batteries only to learn later that they are padding the shipping or adding on extras or something.

What I think is that the Chinese have FOUND the bottom on battery prices. They are not going to come down from here, and all that are waiting for the big crash in prices to start their project are going to be waiting sometime.

The reasons for this are actually pretty understandable. There is just a certain amount of copper and aluminum and polyethylene and plastic that go into a 12.5 lb 180Ah cell. The process to put it there requires some capital intensive investment in precision equipment. It has to be in a pretty controlled environment in a nice facility. Worse, once it is there, nobody in the building wants to buy a battery. So the cells have to be MOVED. ANd every time someone picks one up, it costs. And every time that 12.5lbs gets shipped, there is shipping. And moving a lot of them around is very expensive. So trying to negotiate a lower price eventually we just reach a point where nobody makes enough per cell to fool with them. The little dark secret in all this is that
the Chinese government actively subsidizes the export of these cells. YOU are buying them here for less than the Chinese can buy them in CHina – even after shipping several times.

So why do I keep looking forward to cheaper batteries? Well I do. I just didn’t realize until recently what YOU expected with respect to cheaper batteries.

If we say that a CA180AH 12.5 lb cell is $259, note that the previous SE version was really about the same. While the price went up when they took over, and the price went up when they opened the US. warehouse, it did NOT go up when they went from SE to CA version. Even though the batteries were much better.

We have reached the “floor” price on a 12.5lb battery cell largely made of copper and aluminum. But the CHEMISTRY can be improved. And those improvements could mean higher energy density, higher power output, and longer cycle life, all “GOOD THINGS” in the World of Martha Stewart EV’s.

Let’s say a way was found to account for the 400% volumetric expansion of silicon on the anode. And some combination of carbon and silicon was developed that would DOUBLE the capacity of the cell.

Well that would be great. Using the same physical cell format, we coudl replace our cells and go from a nominal 80 mile car to a 160 mile range in our car immediately. On introduction, this new chemistry would undoubtedly command a premium, but as the numbers ramped up and other competitors also produced higher capacity cells, prices would sink to about the floor we are at now.

This isnt’ going to save you anything. The pack is still $10,000. But now you can go twice as far.

Let’s say then that a solution is found for sulphur reacting with electrolyte to form crippling byproducts and suddenly we could use sulphur on the cathode side and the battery capacity doubled AGAIN. Now our 12.5 lb cell, which had been 180 AH and then 360 Ah is suddenly 720Ah. Still $259. Well the truth is there is limited utility for me personally in going from 160 to 320 miles on a charge. I would be sorely tempted to cut my pack SIZE in half and WEIGHT in half and thus COST in half and just settle for 160 mile range. Where am I going anyway?

And so I DO see the cost of “batteries” going down generally. But I don’t see the cost of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and shipping a 12.5 lb metal cell going down. We’ll get an ever improving cell. And I do NOT buy into the 6-8% per year gig. These things go in fits and starts. We’ll be stalled out for awhile, then big breakthrough and trickle down period. Then stalled out, then big breakthrough and trickle down period. It might ultimately be 8% per year on average, but it will go in fits and starts.

I continue to be amazed at the almost total misunderstanding of these cell chemistries by some very talented, bright and educated engineers. They seem UNABLE to let go of myth and leftovers from previous chemistries and the misinformation seems to feed on itself.

Also this week, the NTSB issued an interim fact finding report on the Boeing 787 APU battery. Boeing and the battery designer are working FURIOUSLY to put together a package of engineering improvements to satisfy the FAA that it is no longer a problem. Kind of difficult since NO examination has shown a smoking gun – a failed part – a failed procedure, or anything other than that the cells failed and shorted as if by magic.

My fear is that the conclusion that will be reached is simply that these cells are simply dangerous, and should not be allowed on airplanes. In fact, since we don’t know why they failed, perhaps we should ban their SHIPMENT on aircraft.

I take some joy in reading this report, though I was doing it most carefully yesterday while editing the show. Puzzles are fun for me. And I am pretty confident I have decoded EXACTLY what is going on and exactly what caused these cells to fail and an almost ZERO cost solution to keep them from ever failing again. I’m most delighted by this because they use Lithium Cobalt cells, not the hybrids but the LiCo cells that I detest. And I think this explanation covers ALL the fires including the laptops and cell phones and all of them.

I could be delusional. I cannot believe that over all this time, I’m the only one that understands these cells this way. I by vote and by all that’s holy HAVE to be totally wrong on this. AND I happen to know I’m not. Very peculiar situation. Kind of gives me a chill. And I’ll tell you why. YES. I COULD have automated our testing with Labview. I can also automate our bottom balancing. The only way I can account for deep knowledge of these cells not elsewhere available:

1. I didn’t automate it. And so I was FORCED to STAND and watch these cells for hundreds of hours at a time.
2. I learned quickly that most of what was printed about these cell chemistries was utter nonsense.
3. Best of all, I bought them from the Chinese. Their idea of documentation on my first purchase was a badly laser printed black text on a half sheet of not very white paper. It read in total:

Your glad acceptance is our warmest happiness. Best quality. Best Service.

I had NO instructions or specifications. So little in the way of procedure to deal with them. And the mistakes cost me direct ducats in a very painful way.
I never did get a spec sheet on the Seidens’ But I WAS able to get one with my first purchase of 90AH Thundersky yellow cells. And I found the charge procedure, to 4.2vdc very strange.
Would you believe I went to no small effort originally to develop a BATTERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM to measure and to balance those cells? To laugh now. But I REALLY did.

But the best thing I did was spend time with them. I woudl charge them. And not only watch them charge, I watched them for hours AFTER I charged them. By voltage, our easiest measurement.
I also discharged them. I’ve bottom balanced THOUSANDS of these at this point. You discharge to a voltage, and then it BOUNCES back up. So you have to do it again. If one is to low, you have to add a little charge. And then the voltage FALLS in the corresponding move to the discharge. They are kind of “spongy” this way.

And after awhile you start to give them names. And cells sometimes don’t “feel” right. They are perfectly operational. But they don’t “feel” right. I marked one when putting together the Cadillac Escalade battery pack. It actually had a kind of a high capacity. But something wasn’t right with it. It didn’t react like the others when I was manually balancing. We drove the car a few times and had a problem with the pack. I told the kid working in the shop at the time to change out cell 38. I didn’t even go look or put a meter on it. Sure enough. I just KNEW that cell had a bad attitude and would never grow up to amount to anything. Bad seed.

I recall explaining all this to young Hauber. He thought I was truly mentally disturbed. So I had him bottom balance a pack he had kind of mixed up badly for the Green Van. At the end of three days, he had given them names. And if I got to near the pack he would step between us protectively. I wan’t allowed near his young. HE would take a look.

Ok, ok so I spend too much time alone in a dark shop. My point is that I have viscerally come to learn some things about these cells that putting them on a cycle machine and reading the graphs doesn’t quite cover. Couple this with having read almost every journaled paper on the topic for three years, and I have some deep knowledge.

I guess the most intimate thing I have learned has been the one I have failed most generally to communicate. That is, that everything we measure on these batteries is kind of a once removed one off that does NOT reflect the battery itself. Voltage DOES indicate SOC. But only static voltage. If you put energy in or take energy out, you set off a massive rearrangement of the chairs within the cell that I loosely term DIFFUSION. And you will not be able to ACCURATELY measure a voltage for at least 12 hours and in reality, better 24 hours.

Even the discharge curves all batteries now come with are approximations. They will show you one curve at 0.5C discharge and another curve at 1.0C discharge and another curve at 2C and at 3C. All will be different at different temperatures. They are INDICATIVE in that they are using a CONSTANT CURRENT load and so we can graph the VOLTAGE of teh curve, either charging, or discharging, and after awhile you think that IS something. It IS something. Just not anything real or that the cell cares about.

If you leave it alone for 24 hours you can measure the voltage and tell pretty much what you have. But then if you do anything about it you change it and have to wait 24 hours.

And so we operate on these cells in really a one -off fashion. We can develop charge PROCEDURES and bottom balancing PROCEDURES and if you didn’t know better, you would actually after awhile think they become real. They are not.

Let’s do an analogy. I’m going to give you a recipe for a chocolate cake. I want you to mix some Hershey’s cocoa, some flour, a couple of eggs, some milk and some baking powder (pinch of salt) in a large bowl. Pour it into a pan. Put the pan in the oven. Set the oven to 350F. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pan. You have a cake.

Now if you put it in over at 350F and take it out after five minutes, will you have cake? No. It won’t be done. How about if you get some precision equipment and set it to 350.00001 degrees and build $2000 worth of temperature control to make sure that never varies more than 0.001 degree F? Won’t help. How about if we make 350F a religion and actually put the cake in a pan that is stamped 350 in the bottom backwards so that if we DID ever get it cooked it would come out saying 350F across the top?

Actually there is no magic in 350F. We could cook it at 300F and extend teh time a bit and cook it for 40 minutes. We’d probably get a cooked cake. Let’s say we went to 400 degrees at 20 minutes. Yes, it would be slightly different but broadly a cooked cake.

But let’s say we have our best success at 350F. So we’ll call it a 350F cake. Test question. What’s its temperature when we eat it? 350F?

It’s a procedure. We now if you do it this way you’ll get a cake.

So let’s assume we have a battery, and the only way we can really measure it is to wait 24 hours with no load and measure it. How do we charge it?

Well, how about this. Could we add energy to it at 1C until we have added 2 AH. And then wait 24 hours. And measure the voltage. Then add 2AH more, and wait another 24 hours, and check the voltage.

After about a month we would have a fully charged cell. Now there ARE some absolutes. We actually KNOW the electrical potential of a carbon anode. And we actually KNOW the electrical potential of a lithium iron phosphate cathode. And if we add them together we KNOW they algebraically sum to 3.38v. If we REACH those maximum potentials, we know FOR A FACT that we have a fully charged cell. But we can only measure this accurately after a days rest.

So let’s try something. Lets charge more quickly in one continous charge at a much higher voltage and get this over with. We know, that our electrolytes, even though they are organic solvents and do not hydrolize above 2 v like aqueous solutions do, STILL have some problems starting at about 4.5v. So we don’t want to go there. Let’s pick a value safely under that, say 4.2v.

We will charge at full current until we reach this arbitrary 4.2 volts and then let’s hold it there until our current required to hold it there diminishes. As the energy in the cell fills, the difference in potential will diminish and so will the current. And at some point then let’s terminate the charge. Then let it set for a day, and see how close we come.

For 4.2v, we can by doing this, adjust the point where the current has diminished to get a result we like- pretty close to 3.38 after a days rest. Oh, let’s add a little pad and say 3.36.

Could we develop such a charge curve at 4.0V? Sure we could. Using the same procedure. How about 3.8v? Or 3.6v? Actually, I have seen charging instructions for the SAME chemistry cell, from the SAME manufacturer, at each and every one of those voltages.

That’s because they aren’t real. They are a PROCEDURE to get to an open circuit voltage of 3.36 indicating fully charged with a little pad. We need a little pad because the penalties for overcharging are severe. Swelling. Which dislocates the proximity of the thin foil plates. Shorts. Fires. So 3.36 instead of 3.38.

So, the wise and learned learn NOT to exceed the CHARGE voltage because they DON’T want to overcharge the cells. And the corollary will then be if they DON’T exceed the charge voltage, they WON’T overcharge the cells. Make sense?

Sure it does. In your mind. Did you check with the cells on their take on this?

Since it is a contrived procedure, you have to follow the WHOLE procedure. And the WHOLE procedure is to TERMINATE ALL CHARGING at a specific current. What happens if you charge to the charge voltage and terminate IMMEDIATELY. You don’t fully charge the cells. What happens if you charge to the charge voltage, whatever it is or whatever you like, and then continue to add energy comfortable in the knowledge that it will decrease to a very low value and probably won’t do any harm.

You are either ADDING energy to the cell, or you ARE NOT. How quickly only matters over time.

Let’s go back to the cake. Our instructions are 350F for 30 minutes. How about if we put it in a preheated oven at 350F and after 30 minutes we turn the oven off. But we leave the cake in the oven. The temperature gradually decreases to 120 degrees over the next hour and a half. Care for a piece of cake? You didn’t FOLLOW the procedure. 350F WAS part of it. But it wasnt’ the entire procedure.

The FULLY charged voltage of a LiFePo4 cell is 3.38. If you connect it to a 3.39v source for long enough, you will overcharge the cells. You can tell this because they will swell. How could that possibly be since you did not exceed the 350F? And I mistake that for 3.8v on purpose because EACH value has about the same amount of matter to the cell. IT was a PROCEDURE. There was no magic to 3.8volts.

You can’t trickle charge lithium ion cells because you will inevitably and without fail overcharge them. And if you overcharge them they will swell. And if you overcharge them enough and they swell enough they will short. Actually not. The SEI layer breaks down allowing electrolyte access to lithium ions which causes a thermal event. This thermal event is sufficient often to cause the release of oxygen on the cathodes giving rise to a fire of copper, aluminum and plastic that provides its own oxygen. It gets hot. And you can’t put it out.

As it so happens, LiFePo4 has the hIGHEST temperature for the release of free oxygen from the cathode of any currently available Lithium ionic chemistry. And Lithium Cobalt, at 150C has the lowest. By a lot.

If you examine the CT Scan on page 22 of the NTSB Interim Factual Report you can clearly see several cells are dramatically swollen and the rest are somewhat swollen. The NTSB and Boeing are curiously in agreement that the cells have NOT been overcharged but largely from logs of the charging which does indicate any unusual charging activity or failure in the Battery Charging Unit or the TWO Battery Management Units. As the BMU were pretty much destroyed by fire, they can’t tell if they failed or not.

I rather gather they did not. You will find it alarming and out of character that I am NOT going to blame this fire on the BMS. I do not believe it caused it. Further, I think if they COMPLETELY redesign the BMU AND the BCU, using the very latest components available and the brightest engineers, add separators, and a really really CONTAINED can to store it all in, they event will happen at about the same life of the battery and with adequate containment, could very possibly convert a smoke and flame event into an explosive event sufficient to blow the plane in half.

Let’s talk briefly about what an APU is. The acronym stands for Auxiliary Power Unit and they are a necessary blessing on every aircraft and not for emergency backup or use. The plane has multiple engines and multiple generators on each engine and there is no shortage of electricity in this class of plane as long as it is flying. As soon as it lands and the engines shut off they have no electricity. With the sun beating down, the plane turning into parking, 300 people inside, if you don’t have air conditioning you will WISH YOU DID!!!.

Enter the APU. It’s actually a small jet engine that turns a turbine. It is started by a battery. And in this case has a battery that works with it. Aircraft systems are supposed to be 28v but this generator operates at 32v. Kind of like our 12v SLI batteries are actually 12.6. So the generator supplies the power, the batteries kind of buffer that from spikes etc, and if the APU generator fails you do have a few minutes of battery as well.

Table 2 on page 11 provides the timeline. The plane lands at 10:00 and 24 seconds. About a half minute late. What’s that about? Does anybody in this country know how to run a railroad.

Four minutes later they start the APU and it starts fine. Two minutes later they shut down the main engines and we are on APU power at 32 volts. Fourteen minutes later we have a decrease in voltage, followed by a jump to 45 amps of current INTO the batteries and from there all hell breaks loose.

The open circuit voltage of a LiCoO2 cell is considered to be 3.66volts, midway between two reactive peaks at 3.72 and 3.61 volts. It is normally charged to 4.4 volts and discharge is normally cutoff at 2.5v. And so at any voltage above 3.72, these cells are taking on energy. With 8 of them, 29.76 volts.

In operating at 32volts, the bus voltage of the APU, these cells are on trickle charge. So if we use them to start the APU, we do take energy out of them. But as we use them on the bus, we are charging them. Not with the BCU. And not as part of a charge procedure to 4.4v. But just trickle charging them.

In this case, the failure was after 14 minutes of this. Not terribly important. EVERY time this plane landed, these cells were trickle charged at 32 volts for some period of time that is operationally a variable. The time on ground from when they started the APU until they shut down the aircraft entirely and hooked up to ground power.

The planes ostensibly each had less than 100,000 hours on them. This is a cumulative effect where they are simply overcharging the cells A LITTLE BIT every time they land. Like being nibbled to death by ducks, it doesn’t show up until they burn. And now we know that happens somewhere within the first 100,000 hours.

If true, and they keep flying, they would have had more fires. They are grounded, at enormous expense. And their solution, if approved, could provide an even greater threat to life and limb by trying to contain it in a stronger can. A bomb if you like.

They basically are operating these batteries on a 32v bus when they have a fully charged open circuit voltage of 3.72. And so they charge WHENEVER they are in operation, in addition to when they are actually CHARGED.

That it is a “little bit of an overcharge” is no relief. The charge, and the damage, is cumulative.

So the fix is almost free. Go to 9 cells. And proving it is almost free as well.

Let’s connect one of the cells to a regulated 4.0v source and leave it. Preferably leave it outdoors. On a patio or concrete slab. With no flammables nearby.

I don’t need to perform the experiment actually. I left an Apple Laptop plugged into a wall socket for 4 months without ever turning on the laptop. The battery looked like Jiffy Pop and I found the laptop cocked over on this “hump” of swollen battery pack. Fortunately caught it before it burned down the house.

If you cook a 350F cake at 160 degrees for 4 months. It’s just as cooked. In fact it is overcooked. And NOBODY is accounting for this in laptops, powertools, or anything else except US. Our chargers terminate, and by terminate I mean they turn OFF. You have to disconnect them, and then reconnect them to the mains to get them to come up charging again. Good practice.

It is my belief that these cells are failing because they are being slowly and cumulatively overcharged repeatedly. At some point, they are sufficiently mechanically swollen and the SEI is sufficiently damaged to allow recombination and a thermal event. LiCoO2 cathodes are peculiarly susceptible to this as an ignition source.

The BMS is not the problem. The Battery CHarging Unit is not the problem. The cells are not the problem. The container is not the problem. The problem is they are overcharging my cells BY DESIGN in routine operation, and then they are going to blame the cells. I am deeply offended.

Shall they not cease, I will have Brain take care of them. And trust me, they do NOT want his undivided attention.

102 thoughts on “If I Only Had a Brain… and 12lbs of Potatoes in a 10 lb Sack”

  1. Roger Peterson

    Great the see and hear Brian again. His calming influnce has been sorely missed. Look forward to seeing him at EVCCON.

    RE: DC SSR’s. Jack keep in mind that 2 mA leakage current in the OFF state. It adds to the all the other small, constant drains on the pack. I’m too old school. Think I will stay in the contactor camp for now.


  2. Welcome back Brian….

    I do agree with putting two relays in series is a good safety measure (Solidstate or Mechanical). However there is one catch with an SSR. Since the full current is flowing through both relays, you need to double the heatsink requirements from a single relay because you have to cool both relays equally.

    I am going to use SSR’s to operate the heater system in my car…

    I found this to be good info on SSR’s in parallel and series:


    Still making slow progress on the EVThing. Typring to decide were to put everything under the hood…

    Details at http://www.EVThing.me….

  3. Jack let the igniton turn on the the kilovac, to energize the bus voltage to the heater system. This way all turns off when you turn the key off.


    1. That’s a pretty good idea actually ROy. Use the SSR to run the heater but when you turn off the key, it all goes away. I like that. I think we’ll implement. I have some large heat sinks coming for SSR to try again.

      1. This is exactly what I did with my ptc heater controls for the BadCat. Everything runs through my Bubba contactor. If the key is off, nothing gets power from the battery pack. Of course I didn’t use SSR’s I used some to-227 mosfets way over rated for what I’m asking them to do. Plus mounted them to a heat sink. As you say Jack, “over engineer, to have some padding in the design.”

      2. How about this idea for the heater SSR. Still use the SSR controlled by the temperature controller, but don’t use a secondary dedicated contactor in series with the SSR that comes on with the ignition key. Depending on which type of motor controller you have, some have input contactors required to power up the drive. If you have one of those types, connect the SSR to the drive side of the contactor. Thus when your vehicle is off, the SSR has no power to it, no leakage, and if it’s shorted the main drive contactor will remove power to the heater. Thus you’ve engineered a redundant system without added cost. I’ve always been a fan of having main battery pack contactors and an auxilary 12V battery to energize the contactors on start up. In that system I would never have to worry about a shorted SSR or any DC-DC converter draining my battery pack overnight, or over a month storage.


  4. While I understand the point about minimum battery costs, copper and aluminum cost aren’t such a big driver of that final number. Although the anodes and cathodes of lifepo cells are aluminum and copper foil and very numerous, the foil is quite thin. I’d hazard a guess that it’s in the 2 mil range. It doesn’t need to be any thicker for mfg handling or current carrying.
    A quick back-of-the-envelope says that’s somewhere in the range of a couple of pounds of copper for a 12 pound cell. And indeed if you look at the various MSDS forms that lifepo manufacturers have to file, they all put the copper content at 5%-ish to 15%-ish by weight, which means our back of the envelope was roughly correct (throw in the terminals as well).
    So maybe $15 or $20 and 4 pounds of that $200/12 pound cell is for the copper and aluminum (throw in a little price premium for the high quality nature of the foils). The rest of the weight is mostly plastic (separators, between-cell barriers, casing) and electrolyte. And a little for the Li, Fe and PO4. (Even a thin electrolyte layer probably accounts for ~3 pounds. It’s most likely more than that.)

    As you mention, the processing is hugely expensive. Roll-to-roll precision wet processing equipment is very complex and running it is not inexpensive. The sunk development and capital equipment costs are undoubtedly large and I bet their scrap rate is out of sight. The upside is that it’s very susceptible to economies of scale gains for the same technical reasons as the electronics industry, both board level and chip level.

    So the price may not have room to come down, but I’d blame that more on processing and the Chinese government scaling their subsidies to set a price floor than on constituent materials.

  5. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Happy….Happy…Joy…Joy our Brain is backkkkkkkk!

    Other than my original EV grin… I’ve never smiled a bigger EV grin until I saw that Brian had been found.

    Jack I’d like you to extend my thanks to the local milkman for his determination in finding our beloved Brain… 🙂

  6. facebook_celso.menaia

    Nice that Brian is back.
    Great news for me also, finally I have finished my master degree 🙂
    A funny thing with the evaluation of my work about LifePO4 batteries. I did some testing of self-discharge on LiFePO4 , my conclusion as a bit out of the ordinary, I wrote something like this: …..even after 30 months on storage, these batteries were at 50% SOC as they were when they left the factory. So it is observed that they present a small or no self-discharge evidence…..

    Hope to see you at EVCCON 2013.

    1. Congratulations on your Master’s Degree Celso. I would like to read your thesis. Yes, self discharge is just ACCEPTED in the community and I can find no evidence of it’s EXISTENCE in practice. At least with LiFePo4 cells. So many myths. It is frightening.

      We’d love to see you at EVCCON 2013.

      Jack Rickard

      1. Would also like to have a peek at your thesis. Did you check the absolute capacity?
        For the cells I have been looking at (two extra cells from my TS LFP90’s pack) I can see NO difference from the ones that have been standing on my desk for 2½ years and the ones that have been used daily in my car for 25kkm in the same period. But the capacity is about 85 – 90% of the original capacity.

        1. This response makes no sense at all Martin. HOW could you not tell the “difference” between the ones on your desk and the ones in your car. Then which cells were at 85-90% of capacity. What was the original capacity of the desk cells. What was the latest capacity of the desk cells. What was the original capacity of the car cells. What was the now capacity of the car cells.

          Jack Rickard

          1. Tested the two cells, which had not been mounted in the car but been standing on a desktop for 2½ year and two cells from the car, which had been on the road for the same period of time.
            They all four showed the same capacity loss relative to the capacity I originally measured when they were new – they all were about 85% to 90% percent of the original (unused) capacity. If it wasn’t for the dirt and the serial numbers, I couldn’t tell the difference from the unused and the used cells.

            Sorry for not making sense 😉


  7. Oh! It’s a good job you are not a painter, Jack.
    “China Aviation Missle Academy first invested in Sky Energy, the prices went UP slightly.”
    I was packing a little something for the British navy once. The stencil work had “mssle” on it so I snuck into paint shop and asked the only guy there who did JZxxx because it had a small typo. Same work colleague did not keep it quiet. It hit 400 people faster than the internet and caused a right kerfuffle. By that afternoon there were pictures of Shrek uttering the word “sory” posted up everywhere. 😀

  8. I find it curious that they used lithium cobalt batteries in such a strictly regulated environment; such as an aircraft, and actually got approval to implement it. Especially with them set up to trickle charge at charge cutoff voltage, rather than their fully charge resting voltage, or a little lower. It seems like someone didn’t have a clue what they were doing when they chose the batteries and built that battery pack.

    Anyway. Welcome back Brian. It’s good to see you back on EVTV.

  9. Love to see you’re back on the show dear Brian !
    Last week i was at World Smart Energy Week in Japan, Tokyo
    I was trying to find LiFePo4 cell in large scale, I only found 5 different companies how made LiFePo4 cells and 4 of the companies only had cells at maxim of 50 – 60 Ah. Only one company had cells from 40 Ah to 1000 Ah and that was Sinopoly. Mr. Chen from Sinopoly told me that the where selling cells to major big company, and the didn’t have a clue what they were dealing with the cells.
    Hitachi had a pressure switch on top of there cell, smart, but we should not charge the cell so i would be necessary to have use for it.
    I spoke with a company that had a quick charger 10 – 50 KW with CHAdeMO and the wore at the CHAddeMO board. I asked where to find the protocol so the car an charger would be able to communicate, they couldn’t tell me, but the promised me to get back with info however I am not that naïve
    So I guess it is more or less impossible to get the protocol free of charges, However should it get into my possession, then I will uploaded it on this website.

    Best Regards Allan

    1. Welcome back Brian! I never appreciated how much you added to the show until you where gone. Good to have you side-by-side with the “Behemoth of EV” once again. Long live EVTV!

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

  10. Hey Jack, I was watching the show and had to comment to your statement that there are some people that assume you have to have a BMS.

    It’s actually more disturbing than that. The fire protection research foundation made this statement in their report.

    Lithium-ion batteries require relatively complex protection circuitry to protect against a variety
    of electrical abuse scenarios including over voltage overcharge, over current overcharge,
    discharging at an excessive current (external short circuit), charging outside an acceptable
    temperature range, over discharge, and imbalance protection for multi-series battery packs.


  11. Adding my Welcome Back to Brian – I missed you and never gave up hope as long as you were still in the opening video montage and the milk carton at the end.

    Also, Tesla just opened their showroom in Austin last weekend. Check my blog for a report on my visit: evtd.blogspot.com.

  12. Hello Brian! I’m glad you’re back! Watching old and new shows alternately, it became more than evident how much you contribute.

    SSR failure: darn, it appeared as if everything was set-up right this time.. I’m very interested in an explanation as to why they have failed again. Was the vehicle operated this week? Could it be some surge currents on the 12V? In http://www.vertex-qis.eu/handb%C3%BCcher/SSR_App_Note.pdf , they mention the need for a high speed fuse and the impact of the temperature on the max. current. Maybe this article might give a clue to the cause.

  13. really happy that you’re back Brain…stay for longer please… Excellent write up, Jack. Thanks for all your hard work on these batteries but I sincerely hope the Boeing batteries would not blow up and tear a flying plane apart.

  14. There’s not a lot I can add to Jack’s introduction on the blog this week. I will, however, say that it’s great to step off the milk carton and back to the world of EVTV and the EVCCON! I’m still feeling a little “flat” as being virtually two dimensional for the past few months is a little tough on a body! Kidding aside, I am heartily delighted and genuinely humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support and well wishes I received from the EVTV viewers and EVCCON attendees during my “reboot” period. With that said, It’s time to attack the task at hand… produce the best electric vehicle TV show possible as well as continue to create an incredible and memorable experience for our ever growing cadre of EVCCON attendees. I’d love to continue hearing from all of you. Please contact me by email or connect with me on Linkedin. In the words of Anonymous, “Cinch up your Depends… we’re goin’ in!”

  15. Jack:
    Now I understand what you and Brian are about. And, it is good to see Brian back.

    Your explanation of the 787 problem makes sense and from all my readings about batteries, you may have the solution as all the voltages mate properly. But, I suspect the solution will not be as you suggested. I’m thinking it will be blown way out of what is normal and the solution of matching voltages will only be a part of a much more complicated and grandiose scheme of BMU management along with a bomb proofing of the container.

    1. Each LiCo cell in the 787 pack is charged at 4V. (32V/8cells). If there are no DC-DC converters doing interesting things.
      I have two Laptops each with 6 LiCo cells inside with one cable blister at 19.8V and the other at 20V therefore each cell receives 3.ǮV ,(three and a third volts).
      Stands to reason, 32V really needs 9.7 cells and to hell with power density when safer cells are LiFePo4’s and its an aircraft full of self loading cargo.

      1. I wonder how many kWh of batteries are on each flight? Especially common business flights. Sum of the phones+laptops+ipads, all safely flying. This is what boeing gets for going with the lowest bidder.

  16. Am I the only guy observing problems with non-HD version of the last video?
    Strangely, the file is much larger than usual: 1.4GB instead of around 250MB. Worse, video freezes at about middle of the episode.
    Could you please doublecheck that?

  17. The iPhone version is 1.27GB in size. The other is 3.7GB. It is a bit larger. Not the best for watching on your iPhone. Works fine on the computer. Because of the size it takes a bit longer and you will get lots of buffering.

  18. Hi all,

    A question regarding overcharging & trickle charging LiFePO4’s from Jack’s comments in this blog:

    If LiFePO4 has a fully charged voltage of 3.38V, and maintaining a trickle charge after fully charging at over this voltage will always cause overcharge (which I agree makes perfect sense), then it should follow that if the charge device doesn’t “cut-off” but has a trickle charge of less than 3.38V then the cells will not be overcharged (in fact it would seem that if the charger trickle charge is set at, say 3.2V, then it will contribute no current at all to the cells once the charger goes into trickle charge).

    Do you agree with that, Richard?

    1. Indeed, the solution to the Boeing problem is embarrassing in its’ simplicity. Use 9 of the same cells and the entire issue goes away forever. 9 x 3.72 = 33.48 on a 32v bus will run forever. The batteries will provide current until they are discharged DOWN to 3.55 and live happily ever after. Being slightly UNDERCHARGED is our philosophy from the get go.

      Jack Rickard

    2. I am not Richard and I don’t play him on EVTV. Trickle charging would by definition overcharge all the lithium battery types I am aware of. Instead call it a float charge. This is where you hold the battery at a constant float voltage. The normal meaning of trickle charge is a constant minimum current to replenish that lost due to self discharge. Since lithium cells don’t seem to have a self discharge the correct current for trickle charging would be zero. I have a datasheet for A123 Systems ANR26650-M1 cell which has a recommended float charge voltage of 3.45 volts. I left a fully charged cell connected to a power supply adjusted to this voltage for 6 months and could not detect any degradation of the cell capacity at the end of that time. The current to hold that voltage was less than a tenth of a microamp (this is at the limits of my meter) so not much energy to do any damage. I have a 4S4P pack of these cells in my car as a backup battery for the DC-DC converter. I float the battery at 13.6 volts (3.4 vpc) and have been doing this for about 6 months now. Because of the way I am utilizing this pack I carefully matched the cells such that each module in the series string are within 15mah of each other in capacity and are top balanced. Since it is so closely matched it is essentially bottom balanced as well. It is pretty interesting to watch it go dead. It is almost like turning off a switch as the whole thing dumps at the same time and when charged they all track in voltage right up to the 3.4volts and the current tapers off to milliamps over the next few hours. It should certainly be 100% safe to set a constant float voltage such that the smallest capacity cell in the pack would end up floating at 3.38 volts. And the current will eventually drop to as close to zero as makes no difference.

      1. Hi Doug,

        Thanks for sharing your experience – yes, that’s exactly what I was asking about. Your experience confirms what physics says should happen (but sometimes our logic isn’t necessarily correct, hence the need to back it up with real world experience)..

        And thanks for pulling me up on my terminology – you’re absolutely correct that it is a “float voltage” or “float charge”, and not a “trickle charge” (CV vs CC). I think using the correct terminology is important since incorrect use can lead to confusion.

      2. The difference in terminology is a little lost on me as they appear to be one and the same in most practices.

        However, certainly you can hold lithium cells at any value UNDER their 100SOC level 3.38 or 3.40 and they will not overcharge. At 3.45, as you point out, the difference in potential is so small that the energy going into the battery is trivial. I suppose it WOULD eventually overcharge the cell. But that implies you never actually USE the cell for anything at all.

        That’s quite different from 4v on a 3.72v cell. Which is what they are doing on the 787. It still takes months, but eventually you can’t put 12 lbs of potatoes in a 10 lb sack even if you do it quite slowly.

        We know that UNDERCHARGING promotes longer cell life. If I were going to “float” it would be at 3.34 or below.

        Nine LiCoO2 cells at 32 volts would be 3.55v per cell. They would work fine. And they would last forever.


    1. Cap’t Obvious. What’s the voltage supplied to your laptop? Mine are ~20V, the packs have three connectors, the centre being 0V (centre tapped) to the – and + pins.

  19. Welcome back Brian, it’s great to have you back. Do we get to keep Richard too or is he going onto the milk carton? It would be great to see what the all 3 of you can do and come up with. That also leaves me to wonder if Richard and Brian are on opposite swing shifts?

    1. They added 150 pounds to the weight of the aircraft… It’s like carrying one Japanese passenger more all the time… or one American child.
      Now they should work out a way to swap dead batteries fast.
      Btw, Boeing called GS Yuasa a “tremendous” partner. I think he meant “horrendous” because their caused the whole fleet to be grounded.

  20. caolivieri:
    Jack had mentioned that the batteries are only for starting up the aux power unit while the plane is on the ground and the main engines are off or spinning way too slow for power production. These batteries should have very little use on them hour wise. They were probably overcharged.

    1. Tom, I agree, the batteries were likely overcharged for a lack of understanding the chemistry by Boeing’s subcontractor. My point was that there are likely a hundred laptop batteries on every flight that are well designed (as Captain Obvious points out) to not overcharge yet Boeing paid some aerospace contractor buddy to build them a pack at the cheapest price with no knowledge of lithium cells.

  21. Somebody just replaced my regular coffee with Folgers!

    Great to see Brian is back.

    Guys I was listening to my local Columbia MO community radio station KOPN recently and learned that Ameren UE has an incentive program for Solar Electric systems that pays the owner of the system 2 dollars per installed watt!

    Let me repeat: you recieve 2 dollars per installed watt!

    So for a 25 Kw system they will pay you 50 thousand dollars! I checked online and systems are running less than 2 dollars per watt for the materials minus the rack systems. See this: http://www.wholesalesolar.com/gridtie.html

    In Cape the power is provided by AmerenUE.

    Also for others in the USA check out http://www.dsireusa.org/ for a comprehensive list of energy incentives!

    1. By the way Jack I know this sounds like a commercial but I am just excited and wanted to know if you were aware of this program. i have no interest except same as you.

      Thanks again for all you do.

  22. Hi, Jack.

    First, I would like to thank you for your work and your knowledge that you like to share in the most generous and open source form. Most, if not all I know about lithium cells I owe it to you ; and need I say I watch every show of yours not only for learning purpose, but also entertainment and fun ;-).

    I haven’t converted a car to electric as of yet, but I drive on a daily basis a lithium powered maxi-scooter, built in Poland though designed in the US. As your show is entitled “Electric Vehicle” and not “Electric Car”, I would like to have your input on something that puzzles me concerning charge.

    This scooter has 40 prismatic LiFePo4 cells (EVB Tech, GP Batteries) and a BMS that charges them using the following procedure.
    During the CC phase, a 10A current is applied to the 40 cells till the first one reaches 3,65v. It usually takes 3 hours. Then, intensity decreases slowly to 0,3A and 0,1A. One by one, each cell reaches 3.65v and stays theres, waiting for the end of charge, while its resistor shunts the small current applied to its terminals.
    This phase usually takes more than 9 hours to a final 146v total. A complete charge takes more than 12 hours with this kind of top equalization. The first cell to reach 3.65v sits there for a long time each time ; and the repetitive long charges seem to indicate that top balancing never actually occurs properly somehow.

    After a year, all Li powered scooters suffered a major flaw and needed to have their battery pack replaced, including mine.
    Vectrix factory response was to replace batteries and to give a software update, charging to 140v total, and 3.5v each cell but using the same procedure.

    They said the flaw was due to “BMS failure and bugs” but I fear that batteries cells were over-charged and doubt now that 3,5v top equalization might give the same terrible result.

    I would like to have your insight on that.

    For now, I unplug the scooter myself as soon as the first cell reaches 3.5v. But I imagine I might one day convert this bike to custom prismatic cells with no BMS, à la Jack, as some enthusiasts have already done quite successfully.

    Thank you again for everything.

    1. You might note that they were properly charging the cells to 3.65v per the book. They now advocate charging the cells to 3.5v. You might note that our cells have a charge voltage specification of 3.65v and we now charge to 3.55 or 3.50v. We do so to undercharge the cells slightly. And now they do as well.

      Thundersky originally charged their cells to 4.2v and Winston Chung was quoted as saying that charging to a lower voltage would damage the cells. We started charging to 3.65v very successfully. They changed to 4.0, 3.8, and finally 3.65 and at each increment their warranty claims and complaints went down.

      So your Vectrix people have learned a valuable if expensive recall lesson. Another recall and perhaps they will learn not to top balance as well.

      You will note that I am viewed as a crank and pariah in the circle of “real” battery “professional engineers”, a role I almost bask in. You will also note with each passing season that the spelling gradually changes from pariah to praiaph to propiah to prophia to prophit to prophet in a very gradual fashion over time.

      Lithium ionic cells were first produced in 1990 and did not come into WIDE use in automobiles until about 2009. It is a learning curve and by 2109 we will know a lot more about them…..

      In the meantime, if you want to learn, observe what’s in front of you and do not rely on the voices of authority, even including mine. First hand observations are how we learn, not by repeating knowledge as a religious chant or incantation until it morphs into something better or more to our liking.

      I am 57 years old and have an IQ of 166. Both have advantages. Both have disadvantages. In combination the end result and most powerful tool is not that
      I am right more often. I am simply less upset by the concept of being WRONG. And so I’m not wed to any particular belief system even my own.

      I have the ability to fall on my own sword in public via a worldwide distributed weekly two hour video series. And I am not the SLIGHTEST bit embarassed by
      it. Ergo I can still learn every day. Most can’t. Their hubris will not allow it.

      Jack Rickard

  23. I fired up the 787 simulator this afternoon – four Headways in series on trickle/float charge at around 15 volts. It is sitting in a flower bed under a polythene sheet with a long wire back to the charger.

    BTW they were all within a hundredth of a volt of each other after almost 600 cycles followed by 7-8 months lying around in a cardboard box. No balancing apart from initial bottom balance. It seems a pity to trash them. Still I haven’t blown up any cells yet and I’m curious

    1. John, are you trickle/holding the charge to 4V/cell or whatever Boeing etc. are saying they shovel in?
      I must be getting too old; so scary reading what people are saying in “DIY electric car”. >:)

  24. Captain Obvious

    All my laptop supplies in use are ~20V (6). They’re all 2 connectors. 3 is usually for proprietary crap, Dell used to do that. Both laptops I’m on now say design voltage 10.8, and are at 12.3V right now (one resting at 93% full the other charging at 73%).

    My point is just to not judge a battery pack by its power supply. Most consumer electronics have internal battery control circuitry and what you see on the outsidemay not be indicative of what is on the inside. It’s nice that they’ve standardized the power supplies for the most part, even if there are 30 different plugs. An Acer supply can charge a ThinkPad if some paper clips help out.

    1. No Capt’n. My “chargers” are 20V, two pin and work on either laptop.
      The battery packs are centre tapped for three pin: Toshiba and Clevo.
      A lot of computers require a double ended supply. I’m wondering what you are using because I’d love a cheap, small laptop that takes 12V for what I’m making.

      1. Captain Obvious

        The smallest one I like is a 12″ Acer Aspire One (722). Small, but not useless like a netbook. No crappy Atoms. Was $300 when I got it a couple years ago.

        I don’t know how easy it would be to bypass the charge and control logic to run at 12V, but don’t let that stop you 🙂

        1. Sadly my laptop packs are not 2P.
          My niece has a spare Kindle. Getting to the graphics while networked to a Raspberry Pi will be another ball game for me. I might fail unless someone better has already crossed that bridge.

  25. Jarkko Santala

    Something you need to keep in mind when you’re dealing with the corporate world. It doesn’t matter if it’s aviation, finance, military or anything else. Quality of the product is utterly secondary. Primary concern is validation and limitation of liability. Everywhere you look you need to be certified for this and that. It doesn’t matter if you have the best product ever. You need to have it approved, in some cases validation even requires you to make the product worse, just to meet an outdated standard. If you can check all the boxes and still make money, you have done all that you were asked of, your limitation of liability has been accomplished and you good to go, ship it. Something goes wrong? Oh, but we’re 100% validated. How can it be our fault if we’re fully certified…

    1. Jarkko, sometimes your statement is right on the money. But on the other hand if there is a design flaw or an operator did not fit a widget on properly. The system you speak of will immediately pinpoint the culprit.
      If it was an A123 20AH. They fudged their ISO rating; could not tell which cells were bad so had to pack up and die.
      On the other hand they are treating this 787 battery fire like a dentist to a patients tooth. Drilled away the evidence to disprove the teeth were good.
      Anyway, bikers might like this news:

  26. Anthony Parisio

    Don’y ruin a classic Thing with to big a motor. Why not put the Siemen motor and E-drive in the Edge? I would like to see how to make a real normal modern useful car like the Edge electric.

    1. Anthony:

      We have a lot going on here. The Siemens in the THing will make kind of a nice rolling test bed with fairly easy access to most of the components.

      But we have DMOC645’s, eGearDrives, and Siemens motors in the online store. And the Ford Edge is commonly available on eBay. Why don’t YOU show US.

      So many gasoline powered cars…….so little time…….

      Jack Rickard

  27. Enjoyed the show this week (15th). With a Siemens in the Thing you will be giving Ron Ron Adamowicz a run for his money in the quarter mile. Presumably there is a risk of smoking clutch -> installing stronger clutch -> lunching gearbox -> install stronger transaxle -> break driveshaft… Have fun!

    1. The way it looked on the video, they may not have to worry about the clutch, because there is no way to make it fit with that transmission. They are probably going to have to pull it out and sell it and then work on fitting the Siemens motor with an eGearDrive inside the engine bay. I bet it will be a whole lot easier than reworking the entire rear end sheet-metal. Still not an easy task, but potentially easier than putting a jet exhaust on the rear of the thing.


  28. Nice to see Brain return. Jack appears visibly relieved and in much better spirits. Yin and Yang together again.

    Ironic but sensible that the VW Thing build turns out to be the testbed for the new high-tech approach. It’ll be interesting to see how Brain gets it to fit. I mean… to see what “Yang” does to the “Thang”.

  29. Part of what I do for a living is test batteries. And after years of watching li-ion batteries fail, I was shocked to see the fix was making the battery box heavier, adding insulation, and changing the wiring on the 787. Then I said, “And surely, they are doing something to fix the overcharging that is accumulating. It’s just a little software patch that wasn’t worth mentioning. Surely. It must be.”

    And then you wrote this Jack. I’m glad I’m not the only one to feel skeptical about their solution. Enough smaller voices might add up and maybe they will come up with some more/better answers instead of this issue becoming big again if (when?) another cell burns.

    1. Is CALB’s small enough?
      CALB’s technical notes clearly state no cell must be trickle charged at 3.4V or more at any time.
      Which boils down to:-
      Standard (dis)charge rate is 0.3C
      3.6V per cell/pack max.
      Trickle to no less than 0.05C
      Float charging to 3.4V.
      Warning alert at 3V
      Absolute max Voltages
      Cut-off charger when the first cell hits 3.9V
      Cut-off controller when the first cell hits 2.5V
      2V or under is considered unrecoverable.
      Temperature ranges
      Cool the cells at 40°C
      Reduce power at 50°C
      Kill the pack at 55°C
      Range 5°C to 45°C
      Never charge at 0°C or below.

    2. If I got that correctly then my personal solution must not be “dont fly Boing” but “dont visit airports where Boings might take off”. No wonder Jack is flying a DC3. Landing should be harmless because they are either down before reaching the airport or ignite after parking.

      Except http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/04/03/accident-report-lithium-batteries-ups-plane/

      Avoid streets were Teslas are running?

      People believing in BMSes are members of a cult far more dangerous than Scientology. Best keep them in a secret place and take wristwatches and anything with batteries away from them or they might suicidebomb us.

      It is a cult no doubt and they flourish …

      1. Who are these Fox News people? Looks like they don’t do their research: “…Unlike other kinds of batteries, some lithium batteries contain metal that will spontaneously ignite if exposed to air…” Maybe they mean water. If so, table salt (Sodium Chloride) has the same problem if you extract the Sodium.

        Almost as bad as the BBC

        1. John, how can you not have heard of Fox News? 🙂

          I was going to write a little summary of my thoughts on them, but that might be a bit controversial, so let me just say they are “controversial” and politically significant in US politics. Although perhaps less so now that the internet has arrived and there are so many voices out there.

          1. Yes I was being a bit naughty – I have heard of them and I’m aware that they are not universally respected, but fairs fair, don’t know them well enough to have a view either way myself.

        2. Actually John Fox is the only remaining conservative and/or realistic major news channel left in America. It is an enraging affront to the elitist liberal intelligentsia that has completely taken over the rest of our news media here.

          They do kind of struggle with technology though.

          Jack Rickard

  30. I’m excited to see the results of the adapter plate for the eGearDrive. It might be a great replacement for that awful transmission in the Smart ForTwo. With an AC50 motor and a set of 60AH Calbs… Mmm mmm EV goodness.

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