EXODUS – A Parting of the Waters and My People Cannot Make Bricks Without Straw.

rickardIt was long, ugly, and expensive. But this past Saturday morning, March 1, 2014, the Renault Influenza Better Place battery packs we first sought in the first week of November finally arrived at EVTV in Cape Girardeau Missouri. In a devious plot, hatched between myself and Omer Bar Yohai, we liberated these battery packs and brought them OUT of the promised land and to the promised people to whom we had promised them.

Of course it had to rain frogs before we got it done. The waters between here and Israel have no doubt turned to blood. And we still await a second shipment due Wednesday. And there is a lesson in here somewhere if I can just figure out what it is.

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We had a heady day on Saturday with just myself and Brain at the shop, wrestling with these very heavy packs. They are 716 lbs in the sarcophagus they ship in. These sarcophogus are actually part of the success story. They are cargo packs designed specifically for these battery packs, and so do an excellent job of protecting them in their travels from the Automotive Energy Corporation location in Japan, to Israel, and thence to New York, hence to Cape Girardeau Missouri.

But the packs, with a bare patina of Israeli dust on them, are just gorgeous and obviously hardly touched. You will indeed face a bit of work disassembling them and of course they are very heavy until you do.

Not so much after you do. It is actually kind of remarkable and I AM warming to the chemistry after learning a bit more about them MECHANICALLY. The pack without the sarcophagus is 640 pounds, which most of you will find a bit daunting to wrestle into position so you CAN work on it. But the modules are 8.3775 lbs each and there are precisely 48 of them in three banks of 16. Green Frog

Four function calculators being what they are, that leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the cells, mounted in their metal cans, total 402 lbs. And what that looks like to me is about 238 pounds of overengineered crap totally unnecessary to the operation of an electric car. These packs were built like an Abrams tank probably to withstand the rigours of mounting and unmounting many times over which was part of the Better Place Better Idea that was probably a bad idea in a bad place.

But 24 kWh in 402 lbs works out to about 128 kWh per kilogram. Our CA100FI cells work out to about 94 Watt-hours per kilogram and so you can expect about 36% more range for the same weight in cells. I knew these cells offered greater energy density but just how much was rather masked by all the other detritus of the battery “system” these very talented engineers have saddled these poor batteries with. A 50% weight penalty basically.

You can set them free.

We sold 15 packs in the first 24 hours of posting the device to our online store. I doubt I’ll ever get to collect a $3995 sale if this continues and we will just have to eat the additional storage charges. Never mind. We of course profit on every sale not to worry.

But therein lies the other mystery. Value proposition. As I explained to Omer, had we offered these packs at $10,000 each, which is absolutely a BARGAIN as I’m sure the vendor paid twice that to build them, I doubt I could have gotten a conversation started about these packs, much less sold any.

So how can an unsupported unwarrantied and indeed undocumented pack that NOBODY wants at $10,000 be so in demand at $3600. Our perception of the value proposition rather changes in that event does it not?

Now it is true that if we had unlimited packs at $3600, within just a few weeks, some would grouse that they are really only worth $3500. We need look no further than the Siemens motors for proof of that. In offering what HAD been a $9000 motor for $3500, we caused quite a splash a year and a half ago. But today, they move slowly as $3500 has become the price and really they should be available for less than $3000 shouldn’t they.

Veteran dumpster diver junkyard dog Peter McWade often offers me free lessons in the endless gyrations of the human mind in measuring the value proposition and instantly adjusting to new pricing with new value proposition rules almost in real time. He actually took me to task for RAISING the price to $3995 on a product we had never officially announced pricing on or indeed offered for sale, or indeed had possession of. Indeed, it will be a month before we know what they cost us. And he compared me to the common bait and switch advertising practices of the common OEM dealership with their come-on prices in the Sunday paper that you never can actually get if you go down to the dealership. I shouldnt be offended. But I was.

But I have often spoken of a “threshold of viability” with regards to function and range of electric cars. That is a change that moves a device out of the interesting examination category and into the usable and useful device category. And we may have crossed one of those chasms here. My hope of course is that in doing this we draw a signficant number of viewers that we have, indeed I have to say the overwhelming MAJORITY of our viewers are basically sitting on the fence, viewing vicariously with the idea that someday, somehow, they too will attempt a conversion. This entire effort has been an attempt to knock them off the fence and into the garage where they belong. And I’m rubbing my hands in excited anticipation of all teh gorgeous vintage/classic custom electric car conversions we will see resulting therefrom.

Other lessons. We have heard from the Influenza owners in Israel. They had been “negotiating” to buy these battery packs when we intervened. The problem of course is that the liquidators wanted to move ALL the batteries. No one among the owners was at all willing to step forward and write the check of course. So they wanted to negotiate, kind of as a group, for individual sales, with the liquidators doing all the work. And of course cherry pick the packs. And of course pay the least they possibly could. As the friction and irritation grew between the liquidators and the vehicle owners, we dropped in a bid much lower, but for the whole shebang. And being from out of town, so to speak, we hadn’t really angered anybody yet. Timing being everything, we got the whole lot.

Yes, there is power in numbers. But only if it is consolidated in a place where the rest of the world can deal with it. If you have 10,000 people, but have to individually negotiate with each one differently, it is just not manageable. If you can talk to one who represents them and he can do a deal and make it stick, then that can happen.

Subsequent to the AZD and Siemens deals, then more come to us, such as CODA and Better Place.

Not all are doable. No sooner had the video aired than we heard from an Italian gentleman in China, who sits on a pile of 300,000 of these cells. Sensing gold in them thar hills however, he would like us to pay him, the price you are paying us, but with a couple of changes. They are “B” reject cells from the Japanese manufacturer with no cans, no terminals, and no known capacity. He undoubtedly picked them up for 50 cents each and likes the whole idea of $75 for four of them. Yah. You go girlfriend.

A very interesting development you probably want to follow. There are some Nissan Leaf Owners forums, most notably MyNissanLeaf that have been investigating the Leaf CAN bus for sometime http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=4131 This effort started in September 2010. I would offer that it would appear that this CAN code decoding must be very very difficult given they have only partial success after three and a half years. But underlying this is something a bit darker. If you follow the message traffic and compare it to the other topics, you can see individuals contributing and getting smarter on parts of the CAN message digest. Then you’ll see them suddenly stop. But about the same time, another “product” appears in a parallel topic/forum. There are numbers of these and they are not precisely “open source”. So you can actually watch over a period of years, individuals investigate and participate in the open part, until they decode something interesting, at which point it becomes a means to do a proprietary device and offer it to the other Leaf owners. Interesting dynamic. So a number of the known codes never really make it back into the open spreadsheet.

We face a similar situation with the GEVCU. But I happen to know some things that are non-obvious. OUR GEVCU is more valuable open than closed. It is more useful. More extensible. More powerful. Now after months of tracking down assembly houses and wiring harness makers and enclosures, and on and on and on, I’m regularly hearing from opportunists who would like access to the hardware design to make these and sell them for less. Some have even offered to make them FOR us as long as they can then sell them against us. The NATURAL knee-jerk reaction is to protect your investment. You just can’t help those feelings. But it is exactly the WRONG reaction for success. We have thus far declined to actually pay them to do it. But here’s Paulo’s excellent design with boards and gerbers and Bill of Materials – all open source. Have a party. Rock On Wayne. Build em. Trade em with your friends.

So how does that work? Well, we think we have a pretty good package. It has documentation, which no one wants to do and no it is NOT open source though anyone can read it and write their own. They are generally looking for a quick way to make a quick buck and doing that sort of work really isn’t their thing. We do a wiring harness of some quality and attention to detail, which of course we screwed up the first three times. No magic there. Except you will screw it up the first three times and of course you have to write a big check each of the three. They’re not really into that sort of thing either. And so it goes. Actually productizing something like that is much more expensive and a lot more work than it looks like.

Our version will never achieve perfection, particularly with everything in both the hardware and the software design in constant motion. But it’s kind of like avoiding being eaten by the Cheetah. You don’t actually have to be able to run faster than the Cheetah to survive. You just have to be able to run faster than the other villagers when the Cheetah attacks. I’m convinced that more GEVCU software options and more GEVCU hardware only leads to a larger body of people tired of the hacks and finally ponying up for a real one from EVTV if they actually have a use for a GEVCU.

So despite the coy breaking off of the “good stuff” in the Nissan Leaf forums, the main body of common codes continues to grow and this can be USED with the GEVCU to open access to the Leaf hardware which inevitably will become ubiquitous. And I assure you that that same little 80kw drive system that makes the 3300 lb single gear Leaf barely perky, will drive a 2400 lb car with a four speed transmission for leverage quite well. Here’s one for $1000.00 Buy it now. Today.

It is a slower process than we would like. But gradually, the cost of superior OEM class components, including batteries, will come down. Knowledge of how to usefully employ them will go UP. I see a day when converting a car to electric drive will be something comparable to restoring a car now. WHich is admittedly non-trivial But picture something like six or eight thousand dollars for the whole KIT to do a Miata. Or a Mazda RX-8. Or a BMW. And the personal satisfaction of doing it yourself, and the quality of the result, will only increase. Today we may indeed be a ratty little band of nerdy ass clowns. But I expect it to grow phenomenally. And our current viewers are the ones who will pave the way and make it happen.

Good times. Exciting times. Catch the Vision.

As to General Motors, British Petroleum, Exxon, et al. LET MY PEOPLE GO. Or I will rain frogs on your ass like there is no tomorrow.


39 thoughts on “EXODUS – A Parting of the Waters and My People Cannot Make Bricks Without Straw.”

    1. Bill,
      It might seem silly, with such a good deal available, but I was about to order 46 CALB 100. So maybe we can get the pack that you ordered ship to men directly and you get the Leaf batteries offer. I offer you $6000 – That is $1000 discount for me, and you can get the $3600 offer.
      I live in Utah.
      If interested email me (erick.gerday@imail.org) and lets talk to Brian about the logistic of Charging my credit card and re-routing those CALB to my house

      1. Erick,
        That’s not an entirely unreasonable offer. Unfortunately (after UPS finally pulled their heads out….), the CALBs are sitting in my garage here in New Jersey. I’m afraid the RX7 is going to be LiFePo4 powered…
        Thanks anyway!

  1. I’m still a bit on the fence. If I don’t buy one I’ll be looking for someone in a cooler climate that wants to part out the cooling system on the new pack. The recent excellent research on evtv.me hinted that part of the problem with this chemistry in Phoenix, Arizona during the summer (Leaf turtles) is that the packs don’t like being charged while hot. We’ve known that about NiCds for a very long time. Nice to see the phenomenon verified for modern lithium chemistry too. Nissan obviously screwed the pooch when the nickle clickers deleted the cooling system on the packs. Obviously the best hot climate smart charger will cool the pack down first and only start charging it toward morning where it is fully charged at the moment I charge out the door to drive to work.

    1. Many countries would prefer pack warming to peak the charge rate and capacity. A hot weather package for a Leaf say in Norway or the UK would be appreciated as much as throwing a cannon ball to a man overboard.

      Conversely and strangely Brit Leafs exhibit nigh on no capacity loss with mileage – only the age.

  2. Jack how are these cans wired up? I see three tabs, a red one, the center one, and a black one. From the above picture all is covered up by the orange covers.

    1. The cells are 2S2P. So you have a center terminal so you can check each cell separately. But normally you use the two end terminals to connect the modules, with each module at 7.5 v.

      M6 x 1.25. Our 40 mm straps work but really don’t let you put them precisely side to side. I just finished a drawing and sent it off to order some 35mm straps that should fit perfectly on these modules.

      Jack Rickard

  3. It is all good. Checks in the mail for my remainder. A pleasure doing business with you. I have one or two projects in excess now and can’t wait to tear apart these packs and repurpose them to my nefarious uses. The excitement builds as weight goes down as well as the utility. Lead is dead.

    1. Lead really is dead now these are available, at least until they run out! As for value proposition, over here in Euro land (or the UK) getting our grubby little mits on one of these packs from EVTV Europe after all the additional shipping costs and two doses of the dreaded Value Added Tax costs the equivalent of $6,425, this is still a good value proposition and I’m buying one. You lot over in the US don’t know how good you’ve got it, at $3,600 if you’re still on the fence I doubt you’ll ever get off it… I doubt there will be any left after Friday, thank you Jack for getting these for us.

      I do have one request, will you break a pack for spares, or anyone who needs a few extra cell cans?

      1. I’mn aware of the problem. Europe faces many challenges and that is doubly irksome with teh hefty taxes on petrol that makes a gallon of gasoline $9 in many places. THEN if you try to build an electric car, it has to be inspected by Thomas Edison resurrected before they will allow it on the roads.

        But I have to see Anne’s done a masterful job of gettting the logistics down to a minimum in shipping from here. And dealing with the customs import and VAT at all is frankly beyond my patience. It IS much freer here. We were 17 day sin customs here but the customs duty didn’t amount ot but about $800 on the whole pile. We don’t really have a WAY to inspect the car for electrical issues during registration. You can do ALMOST anything you like to yoru car here if you are outside an emissions inspection area. You have to have some basics, tires, lights, horn, mirror, turn signals. But beyond that, party on.

        The traditional kit car and hot rod thing have had strong constituencies for many decades. Here in Missouri, if a car is over 25 years old, you register it ONCE for LIFE. If it trades hands it has to be reregistered of course.

        NEV’s don’t need any registration at all in Missouri.

        So we really do have a great deal of freedom here.

        Unfortunately, we are in a political/generational war here the moment that the other team wants desperately to emulate Europe, tax the crap out of everything, and regulate everything, all with really good intentions to DO GOOD. They never catch on that it doesn’t go SO GOOD once it becomes a governmental role. The shock and disillusionment among our young twentysomething communists/democrats over the current state of Obamacare is just heartbreaking to watch. They meant so well. It’s going SO badly. How can this be?

        I fear we are bound to become more like you, not you more like us. The very heart of it is so the powerful can MAKE MORE MONEY and you can keep less. Tragic. But that’s the game.

        Jack RIckard

  4. Hi Jack, I have been stalking Tyco Electronics website for about 2 years now waiting for advertised EV stuff to become available. You are already aware of the DC relay which you now stock, but they also “offer” quite a range of other EV stuff. One of these is a service disconnect in various amperage capacities with fuses and one without. As I understand it they also incorporate pins for the ‘HVIL’ (high voltage interlock) bus. This means that the 12v control side of the our EV’s can be disabled at the same time as the HV side. They are very nice units but, due to the current carrying limitations, more suitable for the higher voltage packs like on the THING.

    Another product they have advertised is header plugs – all in sexy HV orange – in a range of amperage ratings for connection of HV (and no doubt LV as well if you like) peripherals for electric vehicles. Take a look at the range http://www.te.com/en/industries/hybrid-electric-mobility-solutions2.html

    1. Nick:

      The problem with all that stuff is finding it. TE doesn’t sell direct and mostly through old line distributors who want to RFQ and qualify you and it goes on and on while they measure you to see what you might be willing to pay, before they ever give you a price. I just won’t buy from those kind of distributors but it can take days or weeks of back and forth before they actually quote anything.

      There are some aviation connectors I would like to have TE Elcon BD6-3 and BD13-1. They just don’t exist.

      Unobtainium. It’s not just for breakfast anymore…


  5. Very cool Jack. I do wish everyone appreciated what you have done for the movement as much I (and many others) do.

    I know how much you guys helped me get the build done…

    This is a great price for some good batteries you are went through great pains to obtain. I almost (I said almost) wish I have not got the Tesla so I could justify picking up one of these packs. I get the Model S on Friday, so now might not be the best time (in wife politics) to by a battery pack (even a GREAT deal.)

    These look like a perfect fit for the Siemens or HPEVS system.

    1. Congratulations Jeff. You will simply love the S as you probably already know. Your wife will as well. About two weeks into just NOT GOING to the gas station, it will strike her just how cool this is and what a change in life it is. After that, you can buy all the batteries you like.

      Jack Rickard

      1. Oh, but I have to tell you. The S is a head turner. It is true. But not in the league with a VW Thing. In some ways the car is just too good. It just blends in and disappears.

        A few know and follow Tesla nad lust after it and you’ll hear from them. But it will not be a wow thing like the VW THing.

        Jack Rickard

  6. The Better Place pack may seem an odd size, but those modules of 16 cells should be usable quite nicely.
    They are such a good value, I think that 3 or 4 packs are spoken for, just by folks in my fair city…
    The cell size will be handy for putting these batteries in all kinds of places the larger cells won’t fit.
    I’ve placed an order.
    Thank You for making them available!

  7. Nissan was in contact with those who fully decoded the CAN on 2011-2012 cars. Nissan is the one who pushed behind the forums so to speak as to not release CAN info yet. It is easy to take a leaf with such info and it is easy to burn out the inverter if you are to push things. So be it warranty or theft Nissan is the one pushing not to release yet. And yes product(s) in the works such as a “GEVCU”ish device. The guy who runs evseupgrade.com is the one I think doing the “GEVCU”ish device. I heard he has a Leaf with a capstone micro turbine on the back.

    1. Thank you very much for those photos Mathieu. This is something I have been trying to describe to people for some time and it is the central issue and technique with Tesla’s packs. If a cell shorts, it simply disconnects itself from the pack and cannot take other cells with it. That’s a key feature of the Tesla battery pack.

      Jack RIckard

  8. I wonder which one of those boxes staged at the door is mine? With the second truck arriving today, it looks like it might have been easier to just walk into the delivery truck and put the shipping labels on them and never remove them from the truck. Haha. I still can’t believe how big those plastic boxes are. When I saw them on the video at first I assumed that there were two packs in each one.

    1. YEs, we had a bit of a disaster yesterday. The UPS weeny driver wouldn’t try to back his truck down the ramp to our loading dock because of the snow. So we spent yesterday afternoon clearing snow from the lot. Today, we have about 40 going OUT while 36 come in. It has been wild.


  9. Very nice “value proposition”, Jack. I am tempted, as I have a project waiting in the wings, so to speak. I have two questions:

    Do you have information on the manufacture date and storage conditions for these cells?
    I’m curious that these cells appear to be designed to sit flat, or on edge … as opposed to CALB cells. Is there any explanation or reason for that?


    1. I do not have that information.

      Yes, there is a reason. These are actually prismatic pouch cells – like the A123 cells we sold earlier. They do not have a vent and really no free liquid electrolyte. The CALB cells can be laid down but cannot be inverted, as the liquid will block the vent.

      In the Leaf, the modules lay flat. In this pack, they are front to back lengthwise and on edge vertically. The orientation on these modules simply does not matter.

      Jack Rickard

  10. Jack, thanks for your effort on this “now in a better place battery procurement deal.” I bought one, wanted two, maybe later if the supply lasts long enough. Can you disassemble one more completely and then go thru your stress test and capacity testing procedure on one module? I am now getting very excited about the third season of my build and hopeful completion of a 59VW farm truck but sadly can’t make it to EVCON this year, maybe next. Thanks again your show keeps me going.

    1. Yes, we will be doing some testing on teh individual cells from these packs.

      We have sold 41 as of early Wednesday afternoon and I have to keep a couple back for spares and four our own DOKA project. I would at the point be surprised if we still had packs available by noon on Friday. The place is a madhouse.


    2. palmer_md: I’m waiting for mine to arrive. Can you tell me what kind of truck delivered them (e.g., 18-wheeler or something smaller). I’m wondering if it’s going to be able to get up my curvy driveway. Also, I’m trying to find a place for them in the garage. Can you tell me how big of a footprint the module has (length and width).


  11. This is just me being a NOOB and noticing that in the last year the gear in Jack battery testing table keeps growing.
    But, what will I need to get my New cells bottom balanced. My guess is: some sort of load for the initial drain (resistor or heating element), a multi-meter to monitor voltage ( I have a 25$ craftsman hope it will work well enough), a single cell charging method (Powwerlab 8), and a charging source (12v car battery).
    Am I missing anything?

    1. Arbies:

      There are a couple of ways to go and soon to be a third. First, we sell a very economical device designed to hand trim them at the end – a 0.1 ohm 200 watt resistor with a couple of clips on it. You can use a multimeter and this thing to drain them, but it is not automatic and you have to watch it like a hawk or your will over discharge your battery.

      The PowerLab 8 is much more automatic. You use this with a 12 volt battery and it can both charge and discharge and you can set it and forget it. You set it up, and then it can automatically charge a cell and terminate, or automatically discharge a cell and terminate.

      I’m working on something in between. I’ve found a little 2.5 to 30v meter to use with the clips and resistor. And of course we have our Digital Voltmeter Controller. I actually use something like this. It has a relay controlled by the voltmeter. I set the voltmeter to cutoff at 2.5v and cutback ON at 2.77v. So it drains to 2.5 volts and then releases. If it crawls back above 2.77 it drains it to 2.5 again. ANd it will repeat this until it just can’t quite bounce back higher than 2.77. Which usually leaves it perilously close to 2.75vdc.

      Since it takes os long, the trick is to have something you can start and walk away from. When you come back, it is already done and at the perfect voltage. HOpefully I can gen something like that up that works and can retail for less than the Cellab 8. Undoubtedly it will cost more than the resistor with clips.

      Jack RIckard

      1. For the Miata, we repurposed a forklift discharger for doing 3-7v rather than 36-48v. Admittedly not common equipment, but effective. We set up two banks of 5 parallel CA100’s in series. It still took many hours. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Liei5Y4UTrM

        I’ve found that doing several in parallel across a massive resister bank works well for the bulk of the energy. We found that leaving them together overnight, even disconnected from JLD/resistor bank helped with balancing. I would expect the less flat charge curve of the LiMn2O4 cells would serve a better effect. But ultimately, a more sophisticated device like the Powerlab is the way to do the final trimming. I set up a CC/CV discharge curve to c/20 at 2.65 for the CALBs with good results. I look forward to seeing what is optimal for my new pack..

        And thank you for doing all this Jack!

  12. I was perusing the FerrariChat forum and came across this thread about a guy who bought a Model S and then began to neglect his beloved Ferrari in favor of the Model S, so he decided to sell it and invest the money into TSLA. I thought this was pretty cool, and probably not an uncommon response from any automobile enthusiast. The future is electric and Tesla is starting to convert the influential auto buyers.

    Just sold my Ferrari to buy more TSLA – FerrariChat.com

    [QUOTE]Just sold my Ferrari to buy more TSLA[HR][/HR]I never thought my relationship with Ferrari would come to an end. For the last 10 years I’ve owned a 355 Spyder and then a 430 Spyder. I have been a Ferrari fan all of my life and met many good friends in the Ferrari community. I always thought I would be a Ferrari owner for life. What I’m about to say would have been heresy even a year ago.

    I picked up my Tesla Model S almost 1 year ago from today. It replaced my CLS 63 as my daily driver. I have been infatuated with the Model S since I took my first test drive. As the first months of ownership went by I found myself ignoring my 430. I thought maybe it was just a honeymoon phase with the Tesla. Each morning I entered my garage I had the choice of two amazing cars to drive to work. I usually drove the 430 once or twice a week to the office. But soon I was driving the 430 out of obligation from ignoring it. And it started to feel stale and antiquated. It had to warm up, the gas engine shook the whole car, it didn’t have the instant torque of the Tesla. I felt like I was betraying my baby by feeling this way but it was reality. The Tesla, with it’s maximum torque available at any RPM and with its electronic traction control was quicker off the line than my 430. It was more interesting to drive and felt like tomorrow. My 430 felt like yesterday.

    Concurrent to my ownership of the car I have been buying the stock since Nov 2012 and increasing my position along the way. I finally decided to sell the 430 because it no longer fascinated me the way it once did. And the proceeds will be buying more shares of TSLA because I am a shareholder for the long-term.

    …snip (follow link to continue reading thread)


    1. Yes I know how he feels. I was a fan of the epic Ford/Ferrari battles at Le Mans and the GT40 was my dream car. Some years ago I built a GT40 replica powered by a small block Ford. It is an excellent reproduction, well sorted with central locking, weatherproof etc. It has been in storage since I started work on the Civic and I’d sell it at the drop of a hat if my son would let me. Around town the instant low end torque and lack of gears make the Ampera much quicker in practice even though the 40 is much faster on paper. The GT40 is like a tall ship in the age of steam: so yesterday

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