Is you have to keep learning. Actually, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature. And at the point where the pace of my education slows, probably leads to my departure from the EV scene.
Despite my almost famous dislike of YouTube, they do continue to reinvent themselves. We’re up to about 2500 subscribers now there – people I think of as unable to deal with the JWPlayer for some reason or other and mostly trying to watch EVTV on Apple iPhones or something. I’m quite devoted to the Amazon Cloud platform and we will continue with it.
But the pace of development at Google/Youtube continues.
One pet project, which they seem enormously taken with which makes little sense to me because it is SO bandwidth intensive, is the concept of “live events” or “live streams”. Google HAD a very nice feature in that I could glance at my contacts list and see who was currently online and if they had a webcam. If so, I could simply click on them and initiate a video call. We could see other onscreen and chat just like George Jetson’s videophone I saw as a kid. Anne Kloopenborg, our EVtv presence in Amsterdam, and I do this fairly often and at really zero cost.
Unfortunately, Google has complicated this a bit with the concept of “hangouts”. They just cannot abide the success of Facebook and are desperately trying to counter with a horrid mix mashup of things on Google+ with Google Friends and so forth and I can hardly make out what its all about. But now, instead of “clicking” on Anne, I have to go to my Google Hangout and INVITE him to join me.
In theory, this is an upgrade. And indeed the advantage is you can invite others and have up to 10 people in your “hangout.”
They have expanded this with a concept called “Hangouts on Air.” I THINK this scenario is you can have up to 10 “friends” on screen, but an unlimited number of people can watch that 10 as kind of a live web video cast.
Meanwhile, YouTube introduced last June a concept termed “Live Events”. Live events was again, streaming, “live” video rather than recorded videos. A podcast/videocast “live” event. In theory, you promote these to your subscribers ahead of time and it is somewhat interactive as viewers can of course post comments.
Our “live” presence has thus far been limited to an old style web cam view of the shop, with no audio at all. It’s perched high up on the wall and gives a good view of the entire shop. We forget its there. I’m often out in front of it, picking my nose and scratching my private parts blissfully unaware. I really didn’t think anyone would actually be watching it ever. But quite regularly, I’ll be in the shop and get a call from one of our more intimates on my cell phone asking me what iS that thing I’m standing next to.
Frankly, I confess some agnosticism/cluelessness on the difference between produced video, video that is delayed 60 seconds, and the concept of “live” video. If it’s a thousand miles away, the concept of “when” gets a little vague in importance. But I am hearing noises in my e-mail box and they have grown somewhat persistent.
One of the things I have learned over decades of dealing with a readership/viewership is that there is a major disconnect between what they are TELLING you they want, what you are HEARING that they want, and what they REALLY want. The puzzle is figuring out what will really scratch the itch.
What I really think I’m hearing is a desire for interactivity. To be part of the story. We have some of that in the commentary with the blog which has been popular and I am to be faulted for not being more active in these blog pages. Some personal time management issues but in truth, I’m a lot better in writing than in person or on video so I should in fact be doing more of it.
But I think the desire for interactivity is for a richer, higher bandwidth VIDEO style interactivity.
As there have been group gropes on Skype etc and video casts such as Nikki Gordon Bloomfields podcasts and Bo somebody’s EVCAST long gone, it is surprising to think of this as plowing new ground. But indeed it IS new ground.
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An interesting aside. When YouTube introduced Live Events last June I think you had to have 10,000 subscribers to use the service. That was reduced to 1000 subscribers and now recently 100 subscribers. In truth, I have a second account on YouTube with NO videos and NO subscribers and I actually set up a “live event” there. So anyone, i.e. YOU can set up a live event right now. You don’t actually NEED me at all to do an interactive session on the latest EVTV video. Or similarly a Google Hangout on Air.
But for the sake of argument let’s assume that I spend most of the week sitting around wishing I had something to do. And the concept of a “live” segment was on the table offering kind of a longer/wider format with interactivity. That offers some advantages. Right now, if we want to hear from Otmar we have to have him do a video, we download it, edit it into the show. We introduce it. Show it. Then comment on it. But we never really talk to Otmar on the video. So this also goes to the heart of “live interviews.”.
We actually DO occasionally get visitors in the shop and occasionally DO tape an interview. But they often come on the weekends. If I go in to meet them, I’m by myself. I recall Ed Clausen came and we taped a great interview. But the batteries on the microphones died in the middle of it, and since their was nobody minding the camera, I didn’t catch it. So you never got to see the interview which was very enlightening. Ed was explaining to me that he had bought a Leaf and had no NEED to do his custom conversion that he had planned and he was dropping the idea. With essentially no prompting from me, he then provided a LIST of things that he couldn’t do with the Leaf that he found frustrating and got really pretty wrapped up in it. I very demurely mentioned that when you build your own EV, you get to control anything you want. By the end of the interview he was back on the DIY EV thing and subsequently purchased a BMW and is in the process of converting it now.
This goes centrally to the core of the EV issue, but I lost the interview to technical issues. Frustrating. Anyway, returning from that segue, the concept of a talking heads video after the fashion of the communist youth league every morning on MSNBC, it is technically possible to form an EVTV coffee klatch with regulars such as Anne, Jehu, Brian, and myself and then include guests in the discussion such as Otmar or Brian Seymour of HPEVS or Paulo Almeida from Lisbon or Sebastien Bougouis, Matt Hauber, etc.
Of course, I kind of forfeit the current luxury of taking shots at them with no possibility of timely response. That is probably a good thing to forfeit frankly.
The editing and processing has come quite a ways and I normally have the video up and available pretty solidly on Sunday morning. And so many of our viewers tend to watch EVTV on Sunday afternoon. As we are verbosely and famously two hours long, when I say “watch” I’m kind of stretching things optimistically here. I would guess most viewers are tinkering around with their cars or a circuit or something on Sunday afternoons and have us kind of droning on and on in the background – a kind of white noise machine for their Sunday afternoon siesta/putter/tinker/hack/software development cum bratwurst grilling chores. NOT to imply AT ALL that anyone has actually napped through such an episode…or that their attention was anything less than rapt…
So that’s kind of the concept. Add a Sunday afternoon live interview segment with a bit broader participation than just the fat guy talking over the top of Brain. A talking head session.
I would love to expand that to having “callers” either video phone ins or voice phone ins. Technically we would probably start with text chat comments. But I would like to get to a technical level where individuals could indeed “call in” using video and voice and be added to the “team” interactively.
How to do all that is a little problematical and probably technically dangerous. Let me provide an anecdote, or as Richard often claimed, an antidote. This past Sunday, I was experimenting with YouTube live events and a software program titled WIRECAST that seems to be the software dujour for this work, which I ruefully found out about 15 minutes after purchasing the pro version of BOINX. In any event, i had a cheap Logitech Webcam that was HD anyway and was experimenting with different bandwidths and links to YouTube for streaming for live events. There is a check box for “private” or “public” and I thought of course that I had checked “private.” Unshaven, sitting in my PJs, in the bedroom, I looked up to see 21 “watchers” and a scrolling bar full of comments about my muttering and camel cigarette smoking. They DID serve a useful if embarrassing function in helping me adjust the microphone as I had to turn off the speakers to avoid feedback. But for two hours then I kind of riffed verbally on questions they would put on the screen in text. Over a couple of hours, 176 people joined in the fun averaging 26 minutes each.
Several were people I’ve NEVER heard from directly that had been watching for years. They claimed to have watched EVERY EVtv video ever made. I’m pretty sure I haven’t watched every EVtv video ever made. It was an eye opener.
In comparing Google Hangouts to YouTube Live Events, Youtube has a vastly superior HD video presentation for no reason I can fathom. They are both offered by the same company. But the video is much better on Youtube.
Google hangouts makes it pretty easy to add other talking heads to the mix. AND you CAN “link” it to the Youtube Live Events where your Google Hangout on Air shows up on YouTube. But it still has the inferior Google Hangout video resolution.
We also need a bit more professional presentation than you see on these Google Hangouts generally. So I really need this WIRECAST program to deal with our professional video cameras instead of little logitech webcams, to do green screen backgrounds, titles, lower thirds, music rolls, etc.
Our MacPros have tons of processing power and I’ve just upgraded the office from 2Mbps uplink to 5 Mbps uplink. Of course we have like 50 Mbps downlink. So I just need a high resolution way to establish links with guests, stream THEM into Wirecast, mash it up, and stream THAT out to Youtube. I think. I also think things like Skype are back at Google Hangout type resolutions. And it has to be something the guests can do without taking a course in Internet video.
So I’m open to ideas assistance. Maybe Jehu will rescue me here. But we are working on the CONCEPT of a Sunday afternoon EVTV coffee clutch/discussion open forum. I just have to find the right tool mix.
I’m actually quite excited over something we’ve alluded to for some time. Kind of an advanced topic but it goes directly to the heart of the beast.
We were basically a publication seeking advertisers. Not “sponsors” or “support” in the way you think of it. I’m a publisher, and historically and demonstrably one of the best in the world. I got there by learning how to provide an advertising channel that returned far more than it cost to the people who bought advertising. But it only worked for a certain type of advertiser. At the time of the sale of Boardwatch Magazine, we had 24 advertisers ON ANNUAL CONTRACTS including Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, – really ALL the major players in the Internet space of the time. The company we sold it to had NEVER DONE an annual contract with any advertiser in their entire history of operation. One of our ad salesmen at the time, who was actually a saleswoman more properly, now works at CHARGED Magazine. Brain was the advertising honcho. Laurel Zimmer worked for him and is now at CHARGED magazine.
In any event, unlike most publications, Boardwatch caused direct and measurable response that very quickly convinced our advertisers that we were essentially “free” – with a page rate of $7800 that per reader was probably the highest in print publishing worldwide.
The EV industry is quite fragmented, unorganized, and the parts I’m interested in tend to be mom and pop shops that we could graciously term “inexperienced in such matters.” But along the way, we encountered the phenomenon of online web shops offering EV components. They competed viciously on price, had no margin for their products, and despite low operating costs and mostly drop ship arrangements, they had little control of product or when it arrived, and inevitably generally had to steal from their customers to eat.
Cost of EV components being what it is, we were swarming with walking examples of guys who had paid $10,000, $12,000, even $16,000 for parts an NEVER RECEIVED THEM. Worse, as it turns out, while they will put Martha Stewart in jail under the dubious rubric that she “lied to the government” (an act I had always assumed was a constitutional obligation as citizen), prosecutors, law enforcement, consumers groups, have ZERO INTEREST in doing anything about such fraud. In the case of James Morrison, we had 23 victims out about a quarter of a million dollars and the law enforcement agencies insisted it was mostly a civil matter and simply stealing money and not shipping products was not really a matter for law enforcement to become involved in.
The high expense of components, the absolute helplessness if the vendor simply screws you, and the resulting demonstrated propensity for them to do so had an absolutely chilling effect on the whole concept of EV conversions.
My immediate reaction was that this might be one frontier we had arrived at just a bit TOO early as publishers. Not to be alarmist, but every morning I wake to an odd confluence of a clock ticking and a gas pump meter running. The sound is like tinnitus ringing in my ears all day. And its the last thing I hear at night. Tick tock. Clickety click. Tick tock. Clickety click.
So we kind of got INTO the EV components business. We don’t belong there. And I didn’t want to be there. It’s not something we are equipped to do well. Worse, we didn’t really get into to it to compete in it. We kind of see it as something we have to take over COMPLETELY.
I kid about having an Internet price match guarantee – find a higher price anywhere on the Internet and WE’LL MATCH IT. The point is, we insist on, both from our suppliers and our customers, a sustainable margin leading to a viable business model.
I am personally wounded and discouraged, each time one of you “shops” me on the Internet, locating battery cells for six bucks cheaper somewhere else. Or save $60 on a motor. From conversations with several of you, I understand you cannot imagine why this would be, any more than I can imagine why you would do it in the first place. There is a gap, a disconnect between us. I see a very short vision, missing a huge thing.
Why is this? Well, because we have to be able to write the big check. You see, most of the guys with the stuff you need, don’t want to deal with a bunch of little checks. They would rather dump the stuff on somebody that can write one big check, even if it is ultimately less money, than to deal with 600 little checks over the course of two years. Why is that? Well because you guys are a pain in the ass of course. And our BIG check is actually their “little” check, all things being relative.
But in a way, we are aggregating you, from a minuscule band of individual builders strewn across the entire planet in an almost uniform 0.000001 percent of the population, into an identifiable group that might be a market for something and might have just a tiny WEE bit of buying power.
What COULD this lead to.
2. Followon purchases of 40 eGearDrive units.
3. Followon purchase of 100 Siemens AC motors.
4. Five UQM Powerphase 100 drive trains.
5. Purchase of 72 Better Place Renault Influenza battery packs, which have 48 Nissan Leaf battery modules in each.
And more to come. It’s about gaining access to OEM quality components for cars, rather than demonstrating how holy and pure it is to build them from scraps and discards and inappropriate washer machine motors never designed for that.
But beyond aggregating your purchases into something that larger entities can deal with, we are still small and wind up with a lot of homework to make all this work. Because after they have sold it to us, they want nothing to do with us, at least for now. And so we kind of have to cobble together how to deal with it and integrate these components into custom electric vehicle builds. Ergo the GEVCU can opener project.
Yesterday, I sent a GEVCU unit to Brian Hall of Thunderstruck. He’s kind of volunteered to take on the mission of an object module for the UQM Powerphase unit.
But it has led us to an endless series of work projects. The simplest but most irritating example is 158 pumps I picked up at the Azure Dynamics auction. I thought they were junk, and couldn’t find the plug for them. Paulo Almeida quickly located the plug, and between us we developed a lot of information about this pump.
Turns out it is not junk. It’s the electric water pump of choice in the BMW. It’s often used by modders and tuners to replace the belt driven pump on a lot of cars. It’s variable speed. Of a very advanced design. Does 30 liters per minute under pretty good pressure and is probably THE ideal pump for what you need a pump for. It is available as a BMW part for $366.64. We’ll have them in the store WITH the correct plug at $99.
But its a year later. We finally got around to learning what it was and digging up a connector for it. And we’ve got piles of this stuff that are NOT useful until we decode what they are and how to use them. I have 17 ELFA Duo DUAL inverters in back that originally cost $12,000 a piece and are commonly used in busses and yachts. I haven’t had time to even OPEN ONE UP.
Here’s another example. Somebody help me. Lear Corporation makes an onboard 3.3kw charger. It is used on the Volt I believe and on the Coda absolutely. Made in Taiwan. Very OEM quality and for our purposes VERY SMALL. It is liquid cooled, CANbus controlled and I can get quite a few of them as each Coda sported two. But I can’t find ANY documentation on them whatsoever.
Similarly a Delphi 2.4kW liquid cooled CAN DC-DC converter.
The DC-DC converter might be overkill. But the Lear charger is remarkably small, and can do up to 400v charges at 8 amps. On a 60Ah pack that’s less than 8 hours and of course you can easily use two of them. By being liquid cooled, they are much smaller and lighter than the chargers we use. As you are not using the charger when you are driving, and conversely not driving when you are charging, the charger would actually add a bit of heat sink to your inverter cooling circuit. Probably also a little pressure drop, but now you have a pump that can handle it. As to the DC-DC converter, what’s wrong with overkill???
So the mission here is to UPGRADE the quality of YOUR EV conversion, and ultimately to get you access to and good use from much higher quality OEM components at prices LESS than the OEMs are paying. We have to have a viable business model where the people who have these things believe we can deal with them – and write the big check. The truth is, the batteries outgrew your forklift motors and if you try to drive them two hours on the freeway they just burn up. The future of custom EV’s looks like the components you see in the Volt, the Leaf, the Tesla. The Spark. The Fiat500. The BMW i3.
I never heard of the Pierburg pump because they want nothing to do with people like me. They’ve sold 35 million pumps since 1996 to OEMs. That’s two MILLION pumps a year. But if we can basically COOP you guys into at least a tiny market, we can have 158 of them in the back room and sell them to you for a third of what BMW customers pay for the things.
In this case, I can see farther not because of any giants with shoulders, but largely because I pulled my head out of my ass. Anyone that wants to emulate that act is invited to do so. There’s a little pressure in the beginning, but it will pop right out of there if you keep pulling on it. Component sales was not my first pick, but I notice there aren’t very many NASA scientists flocking to the genre. It can’t be that hard.
You can change the world. But you kind of have to act like an army. Not a herd of cats wandering around in a lighting storm.
At this point, you kind of see what we are about. And it isn’t about making Jack rich. He already was. Next week, we should receive our Better Place batteries. If they are received in good order and look like a good value, it is my intention to make them available, a 24kWh lithium battery pack, at $3600 each. I do not believe you can put together a pack that will actually produce the full usable 24 kWh, using any Pb chemistry cell I’m familiar with, at that price. For the magpies that will immediately tear and shred at the details of that, note that lead acid cells are usually not depleted below 50% SOC in EV applications in the hope that you can get 4 years out of them instead of two. So divide the Pb AH number in two to get Li AH.
On another topic, viewer Bill Bayer put me onto a book recently that I not only think you should read, but we’re adding it to the online store. Bill is himself a bit interesting. He first contacted us from Afghanistan where he would watch EVTV. He was in the Air Force. Returned to his stateside assignment in Alaska. Finally got out of the Air Force (I think) and retired to the Northeast. He has built an electric Rokon MotoTractor – this is a kind of motorcycle for the woods that has been around since 1966. Very ruggedized. Both wheels drive and kind of have swamper tires on them. Wide wheels. He has posted it on our Custom Electric Vehicle database and while I don’t really see us as doing motorcycles and bicycles on that database I allowed this one as it is so unusual. He’s also started a Ford Ranger build.
In any event, he recommended a book called Internal Combustion, by Edwin Black published in 2006. I Kindled it and took a look and immediately got sucked into it. IT’s kind of an overall look at energy monopolies, governments, priests and kings and how they basically take whatever YOU need to live and make sure you pay THEM for the privilege of using it – starting with firewood and certainly going through our current oil companies. In a very detailed fashion, it devolves into a battle between the forces of good (electric cars) and the forces of evil (internal combustion) around the turn of the 20th century with deeply detailed description of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s plans for an electric car future and how they were foiled, by greed and a lust for money.
Black is clearly biased, goes over the top in each chapter, and goes for the throat on every page. There is no pretense of literary neutrality here. That’s a bit disturbing. Except for the part that I share all those biases. I quickly got caught up in the tale and learned much history I thought I knew, and apparently only knew part of. Deeply researched. In the end, we diverge. He wants hydrogen fuel cell cars, and I want battery electric. But it was a gripping tale, a real page turner, and very very instructive.
Edwin Black is the award-winning, New York Times and international investigative author of 120 bestselling editions in 14 languages in 61 countries, as well as scores of newspaper and magazine articles in the leading publications of the United States, Europe and Israel. With more than a million books in print, his work focuses on genocide and hate, corporate criminality and corruption, governmental misconduct, academic fraud, philanthropy abuse, oil addiction, alternative energy and historical investigation. Editors have submitted Black’s work nine times for Pulitzer Prize nomination, and in recent years he has been the recipient of a series of top editorial awards. He has also contributed to a number of anthologies worldwide. For his work, Black has been interviewed on hundreds of network broadcasts from Oprah, the Today Show, CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports and NBC Dateline in the US to the leading networks of Europe and Latin American. His works have been the subject of numerous documentaries, here and abroad. All of his books have been optioned by Hollywood for film, with three in active production. His latest film is the screen adaptation War Against the Weak, based on his book of the same name. Black’s speaking tours include hundreds of events in dozens of cities each year, appearing at prestigious venues from the Library of Congress in Washington to the Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Los Angeles in America, and in Europe from London’s British War Museum and Amsterdam’s Institute for War Documentation to Munich’s Carl Orff Hall. He is the editor of The Cutting Edge News, which receives more than 1.5 million visits monthly.
Mr. Black is a professional speaker and wants a fairly hefty honorarium, which we normally don’t do. But I have nonetheless requested/invited him to come address our little group at Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention this August and he has provisionally agreed to do so and has expressed interest in our group and cause. We have nothing firm at the moment, but we have kind of broken into violent agreement and lacking some untoward event or scheduling conflict, I think he’ll be joining us there.
As we have Otmar and Damien also agreeing to come for the first time and to speak, this coming EVCCON is shaping up as something a bit special.