This is one of the longest shows we’ve ever published and in some ways perhaps the best. I have a few interesting views on publishing, forming over the past twenty years. When a publication serves best, it serves mostly as a mirror – relecting the readership or in this case viewership, and allowing them to see themselves in as faithful a fashion as is possible. That means a fairly flat smooth mirror with little bias.

The conccept of Jack Rickard without bias is a bit comical, because it is a bit in conflict with another publishing precept. I often have clearly strongly held, if otherwise uqualified opinions. It might surprise you to know they are not quite as strongly held as you might imagine. But I have learned that it makes the transmission of often somewhat monotonic technical information both more palatable and more memorable.

If I say I just can’t stand a vacuum pump and show you a vacuum pump and why I dislike them and on and on in a rail against vacuum pump, almost exactly half of you are going to say “That’s right Jack. You go. I feel the same way.” Almost exactly the remaining half is going to say, “Wait a minute I like vacuum pumps and I intend to use one, I don’t care what that fat jerk says.”

In even the short run, it already doesn’t matter. You both were a bit entertained about vacuum pumps, and we all know a bit more about them than we did. Had I stood in front of the camera and read you the spec sheet on the vacuum pump, even I wouldn’t be able to stay awake for the whole thing.

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Back to the publication as a mirror. Everyone likes to see themselves of course. But that is not precisely what a mirror in this case accomplishes.
Many of you labor long and hard on converting a beloved automotive model to magnetic drive. Usually somewhat alone, in a garage, with few to share the experience with. Sometimes that can seem like being the only savage on the buffalo hunt. And so it is heartening to see others like yourself, with the same interests and doing broadly the same work.

Better, in seeing what is really a co-creator or peer is doing half a world away, whom you would not otherwise be aware of or know, you might just see THEIR solution to a problem you may have. And like the vacuum pump, that can either result in your adopting it or devising something to avoid the problems caused by that solution. Like the vacuum pump, it hardly matters. It has ACCELERATED your knowledge and progress in what you are doing. Along with the of course pleasant recognition that you are not truly alone in the world.

I see further because I stand on the shoulders of giants. This works in big obvious ways, but even more so in many small ways. And so in a world where it is commercially of advantage to keep EVERYTHING YOU LEARN OR DEVELOP A TOTAL SECRET, you can see how that kind of stifles innovation. But when info is OUTED in this fashion and shared, it is not so we can all copy each other, it is because it leads to more numerous and rapid advances.

And so any industry served by an excellent trade publication that effectively mirrors developments within that industry, will find its forward progress aided, abetted, and often accelerated because of the publication itself – the sharing of the info. Availability of tools and components others can use to extend FURTHER there own personal progress – shared back then leading to yet MORE progress.

And as I say, I don’t think anyone is truly cognizant of the dear price we pay for trade secrets, patents, and the protection of intellectual property.
Everyone can see how those policies encourage innovation, at a child mind level. But few recognize how deeply it STIFLES innovation. And so the balance of the free flow of information and trade secrecy is a constant standoff of opposing forces.

In my younger days in print, it was pretty easy to reach people by telephone. I would talk to them, correspond a bit by e-mail, and maybe wheedle a photo out of them now and again. THen I would write the story rather in complete control and often even getting parts of it right. In a more contemporary world of a global internet and high definition video, that doesn’t work quite as well.

And so the concept of a mirror publication is a bit of a lurch into the unknown. The past few weeks with viewer contributed videos such as Michael Neuweiler’s spin of his Brusa motor and inverter with the GEVCU, Jehu Garcia’s cheerfully whimsical Samba Van, and this week with Paulo Almeida and Celso Menia with a virtual visit to the Institute of Engineering Lisbon, complete with SMD soldering tutorial I’m seeing really quite high quality video with perfectly tuned information content that is a joy to view. And so it feels like “I” am now not the only savage on the buffalo hunt.

And the more I learn the better I like it. Not only do I now know the secret to seeing SMD soldering (USB microscopes), but I’m now a big fan of Ana Mouro and indeed the FADO genre. Fado is kind of an older folk music form of Portugal celebrating the soulful suffering of the downtrodden, happy to be sad, and angry to be so calm. They have Fado houses where people sing these convoluted whimsical songs of contrast. The title of the song on Paulo’s video is DesFado – meaning UNfado. The heart of Fado is kind of like GNU is Not Unix – a self referencing paradox. As it is difficult for me to even know what the words mean, my new found love for Fado is inevitably destined to be a little basic, but there you are.

Back to the mirror. The picture that emerges is of a truly global and kind of tight knit little clan of Ass Clowns building electric boats, planes, cars, busses and lawn mowers at ever higher quality. It is ironic that as chief flag waver and rain maker for the electric vehicle movement, I have been in the very strange position of being entirely negative on lead acid batteries, junk cars, battery management systems, the CHevy Volt, and the Nissan Leaf. ALL of those rather give the WRONG message about electric vehicles. They can be delightful, quite simple, very robust, and a pleasure to own and drive. Finally, the OEM’s are starting to come my way with the TEsla Model S and the BMW i3. But similarly, the average enthusiast around the globe is moving to better components, more desireable classic cars, and better builds. I would love to fancy that we’ve been part of that because it leads to a body of DESIRABLE VEHICLES that the surrounding community can become more familiar with and develop a DESIRE to become a part of.

Picture acres of Samba’s gathered for a meeting, with one lone electric example still in primer and largely without glass. Guess which one will cause the most attention and desire.

And most of all, instead of me standing like a steer in a feedlot and TELLING you about all that’s going on in the world, now I can SHOW you what’s happening, literally around the world. In multiple lands and peoples. Boats. Cars. GEVCUs. Busses. In dark sheds in Switzerland and in bright industrial labs in Lisbon and of course in Rancho Cucamonga California.

Our European component sales continue to grow with EVTV.EU and Anne’s build company, NewElectric continues to garner attention with his gorgeous boat builds. We are keen to announce, hopefully soon, a SECOND EVTV affiliate with EVTV.UK. The careful growth of this global warehouse network is part of the plan of providing nearly instant gratification on quality build components to further fuel the fires.

And work on the Generalized ELectric Vehicle Control Unit (GEVCU) continues. We rewired the THING to take advantage of Collin Kidder’s precharge function that was recently added and it worked perfectly the very first time we keyed it up with the ignition. Michael Neuweiller is continuing to fix up the WiFi configuration web page and I even added some tooltips and so forth to that myself this morning. So team EVACI (Electric Vehicle Ass Clowns International) continues to forge new tooling.

Pundits continue to debate whether Tesla can continue to compete in the automotive market. They still don’t get it. Tesla is DESTRUCTIVELY changing the automotive market forever. I delight in the fact that these disruptive innovations almost always come from some humble garage somewhere. One of the EVACI members pointed me to a photo of anewly renovated garage that in 1941 served as the birthplace of Hewlett Packard. In looking into it, I also found the ELEVEN RULES that were established in those early days at the birthplace of Silicon Valley. I kind of combined them in Photoshop to produce a poster suitable for framing and we now have it hanging in the showroom.


I guess we started in a garage. Since the sign is gone from the garage at home, I used the photo of our current shop as the backdrop, adding our own little set of rules.


We’re having both printed on colorform plastic at 18 x 24 inches suitable for framing and hanging in your own garage.

No real interest expressed in our BMS contest – which looks like ti will save me a slick $10K or so. Not sure what’s different about that from the GEVCU. We’ll have to study on the matter.

Stay with us….

Jack Rickard

47 thoughts on “DasFado”

  1. Hi Jack,

    This was a good episode. Thanks to all the contributors! About your BMS project. I have this as a low priority project that I have been thinking about for a couple of years. The battery prize was almost enough to push me to work on it but there is no way I could do such a project to a reasonable conclusion in the time I have available and continue to work on my conversion at the same time. I suppose if I quit work… I personally don’t need a BMS, I want a state of charge gauge. I think the difference here is that the GEVCU is something that is perceived as being essential and the BMS is not. The GEVCU is interesting because it is new territory, The BMS project is a problem where there aren’t any unknowns. It is just going to be hard work, a few hundred man hours to get something that could be manufactured and sold. I will eventually do the gas gauge part if someone doesn’t beat me to it. Adding a couple of temperature and voltage sensors is not a significant increase over the coulomb counting. But I don’t want to manufacture or sell this. I’ve been there and done that.

    I will buy the posters when you get them stocked.

    1. Jack, one big difference between the two is that the GEVCU is open source, and the BMS will not be. The open source one is getting contributions from multiple people, the sum of the parts being greater than the individual contributions. I bet if you take the same route with the BMS it would take off as well. Count me in anyway πŸ™‚

  2. Vacuum pumps?

    I thought it was BMSes. Both have been successfully used for breaking Teslas at least.

    Nothing new about Autolib cars exploding, except speculation a spy working for BMW might have forgotten his smoldering BMS on one of the wheels. They usually use BBQ incinerators but BMSes are more reliable.

    It is interesting the media are not flying to Paris interviewing the ashes. Media shutdown?


  3. Jack,

    I loved the show this week… The video’s from your army were GREAT!!

    I think that the GEVCU will eventually (ALSO) be the BMS you are looking for. All you need is one bi directional 16 bit (with sign) Analog input for the shunt and two standard unipolar analog inputs and a hand full of Digital INs and OUTs. The entire complexity is in the High Voltage to 0-5v or 0-10V or +-10v protection circuits. The underlying processor is more or less trivial…

    I know it can be done with a few signal conditioners from Phoenix but you will have to deal with 24vdc. I also know that I am too rusty with PC board design to be able to do any of the signal conditioning before this time next year if I am lucky and not too lazy…

  4. I would say that the BMS contest is a bit of a rush for any respectable level of quality. The winner may well be the loser in the end. The rabbit may finish in 2013 only to be sorely upstaged by the turtle come spring 2014.

    I’ve been amazed by the rapidity of development on GEVCU. Yet it’s still just past half done. I’d not be at all surprised to see rev4 be shelved in favor of rev5 to be the first wave of 30. But at what timescale?

    Then there is also the phenomenon of performance incentives working positively for labor tasks and negatively for more mental tasks. Or perhaps the carrot is a bit small for those with credentials and confidence to bother?

  5. I believe the GEVCU is different from !BMS in two ways: 1) You didn’t promise to pay anyone anything and 2) You didn’t want to own the design. Therefore one might conclude that people will rather work for free and keep the results than get paid and not keep the product. It might have something to do with people doing the latter at work every day.

    1. Keep the product to do what with it? It’s open source.

      But it’s ok. For $10K, I should probably just make time to do it myself. As I recall, we had over a thousand interested in our components giveaway a few years ago. But as gentlemen of property and substance such as Nabil point out, a measeley $10K is hardly worth showing up for.

      In reality, three guys can sound like a thousand. I’m guessing the few who have to scratch the BMS itch don’t really make a product market anyway. But I would like to have something a bit more modern than the JLD404. I’ll probably just do it myself.


      1. Oh, I’m still interested in doing a BMS but I was never quite sure if it would have worked out in the contest format anyway.

        To be perfectly honest, the reasons have already pretty much been covered by others – time, freedom, incentive, etc, etc. But, that only affects the contest. There are a bunch of us already working on GEVCU hardware and software and a BMS is just a hop, skip, and jump from what we already have. The path of least resistance is to modify the board enough to make it work. Or, develop a little add-on front end board that sits with the batteries, does the measurements, and reports the raw data over canbus to the GEVCU board so it can interface with the rest of the system.

        1. It is tempting to do an add-on for the GEVCU. As Per notes, I had a little bluetooth board working, albeit with hall effect current sensors that drifted a bit.

          Here’s where I get a little conceptually lost. I turn GEVCU ON with the ignition 12v. It’s a brick overnight. So it just isn’t available as currently used for charging duties. If I power it unswitched, I suppose I could use ignition to enable it, but then it is a constant drain. Now we’ve got precharge involved as well.

          1. That is a good question and cuts to the heart of why GEVCU and this BMS project are different (at least conceptually).

            Let me say it like this:

            A lot of companies have worked on linux. IBM has people working on it. HP has people working on it. People volunteer, people are paid to do it. All sorts of people work on it. They work on it because it is useful for them and/or their employer to have something like linux. IBM wants linux because it allows people to use their servers. HP also wants people to buy their hardware. The fact that so many people work on it spreads the labor and expense out so that no one pocket is left empty. Everyone helps everyone else so that they can get what they want. IBM spends a lot of money on making linux better and work with their hardware. But, it is a drop in the bucket compared to what it would cost to do it all themselves. This is GEVCU. My incentive for doing this project? I needed it. Allowing it to be open source and freely available has allowed the likes of Michael, Charles, Ed, Paulo, et al to help out. It hasn’t costed me nearly as much as having to do it and finance it all by myself. That’s how open source works. Everyone wants the same thing and everyone has skin in the game. I didn’t have to write the whole thing. I didn’t have to design all the hardware. The burden is shared.

            Way back in the past Microsoft bought DOS from another company. They then made all modifications and retained all profit. The original company got a payout but didn’t do quite as well as MS. This is the BMS contest. No one is saying that working for a payout is wrong. Most of us work for employers who pay us X dollars and keep what we do while at work. These employers of course hope to make a sizeable profit by doing so. That’s the arrangement and everyone is honest and cognizant about how the situation is. But, sometimes it is nice to retain control and the profits. This is more dangerous, more prone to fail, etc. It is gambling. One gambles that the payoff will be larger than passing control to someone else. I believe that the contest would have been more successful if the prize were actually *lower* but control did not change hands. People like being able to call something theirs. So, I think more people would have been interested if the prize was, say, worth a couple of thousand but they retained ownership. An intriguing idea would be to make the prize printing and assembly of X number of BMS units which the contest winner would then get profits from the sale of (or could take some units for themselves, etc). After the initial run was over it would be up to the winner to finance building more of them. Yes, this puts a burden on the winner to provide support and find ways to build out their design. But, that’s what some people want.

            I suppose it is a difficult situation because only some people will want to retain ownership while others would probably be happy to get the battery pack.

            So, Dovepa: What is your take on the design? Do you want open source? Do you want to keep it closed and close to the vest and try for profit?

          2. Jack,

            If I built it it would simply be to share it with the fellow EV enthusiasts. I would not want or expect any reward for the work….

            I just have lost most of the necessary skills to design the analog side of he circuits… I have not designed them in over 15 years.

            I also now how well these little PLCs can do the job and they are easy to make reliable….

          3. Yes, I have a couple of problems with that and it does go to control. As you recall I spent about $7000 on a scant 100 CAN boards for the Due. Great idea, but somebody forgot to tell the assembly house to put the pins on the BOTTOM of the board instead of the top. So they are essentially useless. It’s ok. At that price there is also zero demand for them apparently.

            And what I’m hearing isn’t precisely open source. It’s open envy. You don’t want anyone to profit from it. Let’s try a little experiment. I’ll send you a couple of Paulo’s boards, you procure all teh components, solder them together, and give them away. It can be done. Paulo and I have done it.

            Yes, IBM and HP do some on Linux to sell hardware. They also control the hardware.

            I guess this will come up on the GEVCU as well. It will be MUCH more expensive to produce the hardware than the CAN boards. I think Ed had calculated about $450 in components for his version.

            All that said, since posting this I’ve had several people contact me that they WERE working on it – just quietly. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

            The flaw in the childmind take on open source is that without someone to pony up to produce the hardware, nothing actually gets done. Without any possibility of profit, no one is going to do that.

            Open source software generally relies on everyone to already own a PC. I suppose Arduino itself as open source hardware is interesting, but they’ve profited rather well selling the same hardware because most people don’t go to the trouble to build it themselves.

            Paulo funded the board in your hands. I gave Paulo a motor and controller at cost and then with soem logistical heroics through Anne at that.

            Nothing comes from nothing Collin. So we rather differ on what open source is. And I would posit without substantial investment in hardware, GEVCU itself is a non-starter. So far, I’ve paid for all of that as well as I recall. Including the box in your hands.

            So maybe it would be better if I just sat back and let these things run their open source course. Instead of attempting to encourage this development in such active fashion.

            Of course then we don’t have anything… and we’re left wishing SOMEBODY would do SOMETHING we could use on our cars.

            EVnetics did for example. And I understand they are currently totally disenchanted with the whole DIY movement.

            So who and how is this hardwrae to be produced. Who’s going to sell it. And who’s going to put it in a box and ship it?

            What you don’t know, and actually I do, is that the guy that sold Phoenix to Microsoft was absolutely jubilant at the time. No one had ever sold PC software for $50,000 before. He thought he had scored the big one. ANd indeed he had. ALL the sales of Microsoft’s BASIC didn’t total that amount at the time. The first version of DOS had twice the code in it that Phoenix had. Where did it come from? It was sold through IBM initially of course.

            I love it when people recite history from their own point of view, especially without knowing anything about it. Gary Kildall was so dominant in operating systems he would not deign miss a surfing outing to meet with IBM. No one even knows who he was now, perhaps aside from Mark and I.

            So even the example you cite didn’t quite happen that way. DOS was a hugely useful tool and some of us still don’t know if this Windows thing was a good idea or not.

            After four years with Linux I gave it up for Lent and haven’t gone back frankly. Four versions of Ubuntu breaking a Logitech wireless keyboard, hardly obscure hardware and I was done with kids with compilers and their wierd religion. Those “bad” profit making companies liek Logitech just wouldn’t provide their source code to make it easy.

            Apple makes it easy. I write them checks. And I get hardware and software for grownups that works. More or less. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the new MacPro.

          4. But Jack, hasn’t the Arduino project proved we can have it both ways? Keep the hardware design open as well as the software and you can still sell hardware for a profit. I know there are people making knock offs of the Arduino, but people do still buy the original to show their thanks and I believe the same would apply with the BMS. In the end I think the open nature will allow for improvements over time and in general a better result. I’m not criticizing your decision, but I think the biggest problem with the BMS project is a single prize which effectively makes it a one man effort unless you get really creative abut sharing the reward. I guess a group of us could build scooters or something with a handful of batteries πŸ™‚

      2. I think you were on the right track with that Roving networks things and the MEGA board you were testing on the Mini.
        Why dont you just put that on the Due now and use the same concept. Four of the BT high precision AD thingies to do the pack part comparisons via. and one for the current sensor.

        As I recall you had a Mac interface all up and running and a GPS module to it to track eMPG and all……
        Feels like you were just hairs from having what you wanted.


        1. Curious that you recall that Per. Yes, bluetooth, GPS, and a pretty good A/D going on to count coulombs. I guess I kind of lost faith in Hall Effect sensors at about that point. If I’d get it pretty much calibrated driving, it was out charging. If I got it counting charging pretty accurately, then out on discharging. If I got it nicely split between both, and the temperature changed overnight, it was out again.

          So I kind of lost faith in the hall effect sensor. Ergo my fascination with the Sendyne shunt chip.

          Jack Rickard

          1. You also introduced us to the LEM CAB300 hall effect sensor. Very accurate, very little drift.
            I think that the combo of your earlier work and this sensor might take you to the goal as well now that you have CAN at your disposal too.
            I have a CAB300 here if you want to collaborate…

        2. Charles, you pointed it out and missed the point. Open source hardware can work. But only in the market of its choosing. Arduino attracts hobbyists who quickly discover how important the Arduino project was in getting this chip on this board and so easily programmable in their hands. They also quickly realize that value and attribute buying the officially branded boards to be the right thing to do.

          Tivo was quickly dwarfed by knockoffs, and squashed. It didn’t even use open hardware. But it was squashed by someone who took the benefits of it, and bundled it into something more useful to a bigger audience who didn’t care who their money was going to. The hardware was irrelevant, open or not.

      1. That’s ok Celso. GEVCU is about 10,000 times as important. The BMS is almost a thought I’ve been noodling. We drive every day without it. Living BMS free, one day at a time.

        I was really just trying to put some reward in the game. I can see now it was misdirected. Perhaps an open source version would be more interesting. We’ll see how far it gets on “free”.

    1. # jehugarcia

      Haha…. Nice πŸ˜›

      Do you still having problem with your charger DIY project ?
      I am attempting to solve mine, however i can only charge with 13.6 Amp @ 140 V (42 cell) :/
      perhaps we can share some experiences ?


      1. Allan, I have one air cooled non-PFC charger that I havent finished assembling, I blew up the 15V dc-dc converters and the IGBT, I need to solder the new ones on the board and run thru the whole testing process again. But since I have a running water cooled PFC charger running on my car, working on the original charger moved down the priority list, but i’ll get to it one day.

  6. I’ve also got some ideas for the BMS thing, but for me getting my car back up and running is the higher priority. Tearing out the DC system for the AC system is going to take up much of my time. Actually I’ll probably be joining the ass clowns in the GEVCU project once i have the motor and eGearDrive mounted since that project is needed to get me rolling again. Once I’m rolling again, I’ll start on the BMS project if someone has not already come up with a better widget.

  7. Jack,

    Tesla might want to think about radar evading tech for their car to protect the battery from road debris and things, instead of self driving cars. The car fire is a serious matter and it seems no one want to talk about it further to resolve it.

    1. Gasoline cars burn every day. I witnessed it once. They go up in a matter of minutes by the time the fire department came it was almost out because it was all the stuff that would burn was burnt. The flames went up 10 or 15 feet.

    2. Can’t have the car automatically slamming on the brakes or causing it to swerve for “something” on the road. Auto suspension raising might not be quick enough either.
      Maybe the car needed the nut tightening up, behind the wheel?

    1. Yes, Bravo Annekin Kloopenborg. Excellent coverage in autoblog green on your aquatic efforts as the little mermaid of EVdom. You’re cutting a patch there. Beautiful.


  8. Thanks Guys! Domenick Yoney of Autobloggreen wrote the piece..He’s the same editor that has posted about EVCCON and EVTV before, so it would seem that ‘premiering’ our commercial on EVtv worked great! Also good it mentions EVTV EU components connection.

    We are getting alot of great response to the video, exciting times for bringing EV power to the life aquatic πŸ™‚

    1. John,
      That was a great YouTube segment on the Electric Mercedes SLS AMG. I liked the brief view of the mechanical layout of the vehicle, in particular the carbon fiber center structural spine that also contained the between axle battery pack. Also, the unique gear reduced/motor mount assembly, one for the front axle one for the back axle. This gear reduced/motor mount assembly allowed for the mounting of two motors with independent gearing linking half-shafts to the individual wheels. Therefore allowing one motor’s torque to be able to torque vector its own individual wheel by means of electronic stability control inputs into the individual inverters. It was said during this piece that “negative torque”, (a.k.a. regenerative braking) was used to actually steer the car.
      Anyway…SIMPLY AMAZING!
      Mark Yormark

      1. For kit cars a structural spine is the way to go and provides a superb method of battery affixing.
        Gardner Douglas Cobra.

      2. Thanks for the comment Mark.

        Yes the thing I picked up on from the tech talk was that they could do the negative torque (differential regen braking) trick to steer the car because a motor and controller reacts far faster than trying to automate mechanical brakes.

        In other words the dynamic handling qualities that the journalist was raving about were possible, and only possible, exactly BECAUSE it was an electric vehicle. I don’t think he picked that up.

        Remember the Mini Cooper driveline component that Jack twisted with too high a ramp rate? This is the upside of that instant torque change.

        Mind you it is all racetrack stuff. Good PR for EVs but irrelevant for the average shopping trip!

        1. See it the other way.

          With bumpers and pot holes all over the streets I am looking for a way to get a more civilized ride. I was actually looking into a 5 wheeled car with 3 wheels on one side and 2 on the other. The car, actually the wheels can turn individually in any direction and each has its own motor. You can turn the seats as well so the driver always looks where the car goes. That car would make an ideal ambulance for todays cities.

          As each wheel is controlled individually it would save energy, no more differential needed. And it could ride stairs.

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