Driving Toward the Lowest Common Denominator


I’ve written on the topic before. And I’m uncomfortable with becoming a constant whiner. But would you guys grow to fuck up?

How in the world, with an INTERNET PRICE MATCH GUARANTEE, guaranteeing absolutely that if you find a HIGHER price on the Internet anywhere, WE’LL MATCH IT, do we keep attracting this clingy, grasping, wheedling, begging band of bottom feeders? We absolutely do not post to any of the known bottom feeder online haunts. But somehow they find us and just keep at it?

I’m sympathetic to a point. Everyone wants value for their hard earned ducats. I confess I “shop” a bit and do bristle at people obviously marking things up heroically in the hope someone will buy by accident anyway. And in this weeks show, we welcome a personal visit from Damien Maguire, the ultimate bottom feeder – indeed the Martha Stewart of EV’s. Martha makes a glass of orange juice on her show starting with an orange tree seed. Shows you how to plant and water it. Waits patiently until it grows into a tree. Picks the oranges by hand, and then hand squeezes them – filtering out the seeds and pulp. In this way, excellent fresh orange juice and organic at that. And in a lovely glass, complete with a lovely napkin and a homegrown rose – no chemicals used at all.

Mr. Maguire is inventive. He builds his own chargers, controllers, and doesn’t even use a DC-DC converter, just charges an old 12v lead battery. He gets his motors mostly from junkyards and cleans them up himself. Like Martha Stewart. Build an EV from dirt.

He does derive a lot of education from the thrift. Which is good, as he often spends more on doing it from dirt than he would have by buying good quality prepared components in the first place. So it’s kind of a deliberate and demonstrated bottom feeding in a controlled fashion.

But gradually the learning process takes hold. He’s kind of grown past the headway cell modules he used to painfully build. Today it is CA180’s and the odd Better Place pack.

His latest build uses one of our Siemens motors. You see at some point, it comes home that value is about VALUE, not about the numeric price. You ultimately pay the piper either way, and he’s explored ALL the ways on the way to where he is today. At some point, you realize that unless you just LIKE the smell of dumpsters, dumpster diving for EV parts really doesn’t save anything, and the odds of them making it an olympic sport are pretty grim.

He contiinues to experiment, but now he STARTS with a DMOC645 and sets out to improve it with a different controller. This kind of leads to the possibility of an ongoing controller for the Siemens motor AFTER the very limited supply of DMOC645’s run out. He’s removed the proprietary controller adn gate driver boards, and replaced them with more available stuff. The IGBT’s heat sinks, and capacitors are all more or less available and indeed, BETTER power electronics are now available. We like all that as we have signficantly MORE motors on hand than we quite have controllers for.

Along those lines, I’m mildly embarassed to admit that I’ve stooped to kind of a mean spirited response to what was TWO very mean spirited pokes I received from one of our existing customers and from Michael Bream of EVWEST. The result was that the customer paid nearly $1000 more than he had to for a motor, and Michael’s HPEVS sales have essentially gone away. But living in a world of pricks is not exactly an excuse for BEING a prick. It appears so. But it is self-destructive. A drive to the least common denominator with me making a personal choice to much about in the mud at the bottom of the pond with them.

That’s not how we normally run around here.

What I did was put the entire HPEVS line on sale here at approximately our cost. Kind of squishy as we always include the chill plate and a couple of other items which is hard to communicate in the online price comparison. But yes, we threw the concept of profit out the window for a few weeks.

The results are more than interesting. I have now my FOURTH incident of multiple e-mail exchanges that however nicely put, however generously read, were from people who wanted the HPEVS equipment but for LESS YET. Rather proving my point that the actual price DOESN’T MATTER. There is no longer a need to offer the bet. Indeed, it is kind of proven empirically. If I offered these SAME motors and controllers for a package price of $300, it would INDEED increase interest. And I would hear from the SAME four guys, who really just couldn’t quite make up their mind, unless I could do them a “special” deal at $275. $300. $10,000. Doesn’t matter. They just want it for less. Whatever it is. There is no value in their mind. Only the price.

One guy was quite miffed. He thought he should get teh AC50 motor with the newer 1239 controller since it was available “optionally” for the AC50 as well as the AC51. How dare I want more money for the option. The web site is obviously misleading and I should honor the AC50 price WITH the 1239 AC-51 controller.

So we’ll give it another week and end the price war. It really didn’t accomplish much. I don’t actually want to drive EVWEST out of business. What competitors do, by EVTV core policy, doesn’t matter. Our competition is ourself. If we can improve on our show, our products, our shipping and delivery, 1% each and every month, after a certain but unknown number of serial months, we win. That’s the theory. And we don’t normally even acknowledge that there IS competition. Worked like a charm at Boardwatch. And it will here as well.

But the constant pressure is an emotional drain. We are currently working hard at decoding the operation of OEM parts so that WE can offer them at lower prices than what you are paying for similar equipment now. We’re not even THERE yet and I am besieged by those who want to buy at the eBay price and use our efforts to make them go, cutting us out of the process along the way. No, they don’t really want to contribute anything to the process and indeed profess they are unable to do so by time available and skills on hand. But shouldn’t we in the spirit of open source, give it to them for free anyway?

I don’t know. Should we?

It rather means the end of the effort to do so. Will it then continue automatically anyway? I fear not.

You see at the heart of this is where the Ev world was when we arrived. Almost no one with any equipment that was useful would sell it to individual DIY hobbyists. Indeed the genre had a horrible reputation simply based on the bottom feeder phenonmenon. That’s why Siemens won’t sell you motors. Borg Warner won’t sell you eGearDrives. AC propulsion doesn’t want to talk to you unless you can come up with some persuasive lie as to how you are going to ultimately purchase 100 of them. UQM ditto. Most of them WILL sell you something, at 3X their real price. If you are willing to pay it, they WILL sell you a drive train for $25,000. Or the same thing to a prospective OEM at $5000.

The irony of our quest is I could have easily told the lie. ANd we could have easily bought and sold all the OEMs they have been dealing with right up to bankruptcy, using our entertainment funds. 99% of these startups were always BIG HAT – NO CATTLE with an occasional infusion of other people’s money that was of course lost entirely.

We don’t do BIG HAT, no cattle. We don’t even do BIG HAT with cattle. Even with lots of cattle. Most of the guys who actually DO have lots of cattle actually wear baseball caps anyway. In this part of the country, if you see a guy with a big cowboy hat and a lot of talk, almost everyone knows to simply avoid him.

The bottom line is if you do truly want the best price in all cases and want to ensure that anyone you get it from makes 0% profit OR LESS, you are really saying you want NO market participants, NO trade in either information or goods, and you would PREFER to buy from OEMs with everything proprietary and pricing at their whim as a VICTIM.

We think there is a seam in the zone here to lower the true cost of building custom electric vehicles. We see a path to do that. But if the object of the game is to cut us out of it, it may well be a path not taken – to the least common denominator in information, components, and custom electric vehicles.

I would ask that you eschew the group that counts the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and rather join with us in delight as we together drive a path toward lower costs and better components for everyone. Along the way, I think we can make a couple of important further points. Innovation comes from small shops of one or two guys. And more “open” cars are desirable. Not because they are cheaper. Because they are better and allow third party further innovations, improvements, and so forth. I look at the VW Beetle, the Ford Mustang front end, the Ford 9-inch rear end, and the vast ecosphere of support and variations available for all those, and envision it for future cars as well. I would like for it to be the Tesla. But I’ll settle for a Chevy Volt or a Leaf if that’s the way it turns out.

As noted in the video. Yes, I did score a Tesla Drive Train for $6500. No, we will not sell it to you for that. Yes, you can probably find one as well. No we will not enable you to use it using our efforts for free. But yes, I can see them in stock for less than $10-12K within the year.

Yes of course you can cut us out of the deal. But you will probably wind up with $15K in it when you do. And if you are after the education and willing to pay that, you might as well join our hack team and be part of it. I think we’re already losing a few because they don’t like the term “ass clowns” and indeed resent it. If you are into titles, you probably want to avoid us.

Jack Rickard
Editor Rotundus Magnus Maximus
Ass-Clown Imperator Maximus

56 thoughts on “Driving Toward the Lowest Common Denominator”

  1. I spent $25,000ish (I don’t actually know how much) to convert an $800 Ford Ranger. It’s a sleeper that will forever look like spent most of it’s life working on the Alaskan Pipeline (it did). What sensible person would do that? Certainly not one who’s less than a year from retiring from the military with no clue where he’s going to live or what he’s going to do. If anyone should be saving money, it’s me!

    Over the years I’ve built and restored several trucks and motorcycles so I know what it feels like to complete all the steps between invisioning a project and seeing it through to completion. Following the standard, “How far does it go? How fast is it? How long to take to charge?” questions I get “How much did it cost?” I don’t bat an eye when I tell them and they ALWAYS shudder at the total. They ALWAYS smile when I give them a ride, too. I think they begin to understand after I tell them that, throughout my entire automotive history, I’ve never done anything more satisfying…that is more of a pleasure to own and operate…than building an ugly, beat-up Ranger. I literally did an in-the-air fist pump when I got the DC-DC converter working. I was giddy for a week after I got the charger to work.

    For me, it’s been like rescuing the discarded,abused, three-legged dog from the alley. Unfortunately, I have to act like an adult now and start thinking about my civilian future so won’t be able to do another build for who knows how long. That’s a shame because there’s a 2004 Wrangler for sale down the road that a UQM PF100 (or maybe an AC35x2 if it’d fit) would be lovely in…

    1. Bill:

      I still remember the TV commercial of the sixties by the United Negro College Fund. “A mind is a terrible thing…..”

      They went on with some more piffle and tosh. But the first six words were what stuck with me.

      I have an entirely delusional mental image of a universe of plenty waiting for a creative guy like me to put it to work. I just assume that whatever resource is necessary will appear at my hand as I need it if I am doing something worthwhile to that universe. And so I consider not any of the necessities to do what I set out to do – I just don’t have to….

      Turns out, in practice it is an imperfect mechanism. It has always provided me MORE than necessary to an embarrassing excess at some points.

      I AM AWARE that there is an obverse point of view – no doubt just as delusional. But that is a universe of want. And whatever you do, you and all will be faced with TOO LITTLE to do what you set out to do. Those people always need a job. They always need money. They always need something for nothing. They always need a lower price. They prefer buffets where they can eat all they want. There is never actually enough. It is a universe of want…. . a universe of need… and a universe of too little.

      Guess what? For them too it is an imperfect mechanism. And they never quite get even enough to do what they are already doing… And no one on God’s green earth can fix them. I know that….

      But it’s still annoying. A mind is a terrible thing….

      Here you view this week’s show. Damien Maguire has built electric cars in his garage. His new job, at MUCH higher pay, happened as a RESULT of his building an electric car (or three) that he couldn’t AFFORD AT ALL. Now he has a new house, a new job, and a new lady friend he vows to make his own permanently.

      As I described for you some months ago. I’m an employer. I employ people. I hire people. I fire people. And Iv’e done so for decades spanning hundreds of people.

      Now here’s a guy who is getting out of the military and NEEDS a job.

      And here’s a guy who is getting out of the military and built his own electric pickup truck from scratch – by himself. Of his own design. That he drives. I kind of have to HOPE he NEEDS a job….

      Let me let you in on a little secret. There is not a SINGLE company operating in all of the United States, and probably in all of the world, who does not NEED to hire an employee right this minute. And I would say that 99% of them are acutely aware of it. You may find this astounding. Particularly in the case of companies that are laying people off by the TENS OF THOUSANDS. I must mean companies other than those.

      No, those two. If you could see inside the mind of the executvies laying off all those people, you would see a picture of NEED of NOT ENOUGH – not enough of the RIGHT people….

      To invent your own car is an unusual act even if it’s adding a few cup holders and some lower dams. But to invent your own car that drives ELEcTRIC in a world of gasoline cars, you already ARE the right people. The act of getting that charger working, and that DC-DC converter working, and driving that car away, provides a confidence building exercise that should have been successful.

      And at that point, you lose the ONE thing that separates my group from the group of NEEDY Dan Friedricksons that never have enough. Fear.

      And you have to LOSE the FEAR to be a player.

      At that point, it isn’t a matter of where you can find a job to support your family.

      It is that of among ALL teh companies doing ALL the things that are done, and exist anywhere… you have to pick which one of them you want to work for and why.

      The next step is to go talk to one of the decision makers there, and explain to him WHY you want to do what they do, and assure him that of course you already ARE the right guy.

      I do not know an employer myself who can resist this. I’ve never tried it myself when I did work for companies where it failed. It is a 100% hit process. No doubt of the outcome. I can say in all honesty that NO ONE ever “hired” me. I chose to joine them. And when I noted it, they in all cases agreed. 100% of the time.

      The problem is, you have to believe all this. YOU have to believe you are the right guy. And that comes from doing stuff, and getting a good outcome when you do. BUilding an electric car is a kind of pure test. It’s just not likely that the wrong guy can get it to completion and get it to roll. If you can, you’re down to FEAR and belief.

      Simply refuse the fear. I CHOOSE not to fear – at all. Most of the things that would actually make me fearful – death of spouse or child, eternal damnation, raining frogs, there isn’t a thing I can do about anyway. So I simply CHOOSE a blanket policy on fear. I don’t have it. I don’t allow it. I don’t allow it in my wife and kids. They are simply forbidden to fear at all and if they show any signs of it they know an ass chewing extravaganza is about to cloud up and rain all over them.

      If you can go into your own damn garage, and build your own damned car and drive away in it, without gasoline, permission, or blessings of King or Country, what is it you imagine you CANNOT do? If you decline the fear, you are left with the belief.

      Any company operating in the United States would be fortunate to have you in their employ. Some may not be able to afford you at the moment. But they would always WANT to be able to afford you. You military guys live pretty well.

      Damien never applied for the position. He was asked to show them how a kind of pricey Oscilloscope worked and they offered to pay him in pizza. Despite his avowed loyalty to “conventional foods” he is a sucker for a pizza. Loses his head entirely. And so they got him. He would have no doubt gotten more money had he asked. But he had already lunged at the pizza, and he would still get to play with the expensive oscilloscope. Never mind. His needs for the moment met, and to some degree exceeded no doubt.

      Jack Rickard

    2. Bill,

      First – thank you for your service. If it were up to me, you’d all have jobs awaiting for you as part of the recruiting deal.

      Second – I want to really highlight part of what Jack has said in his very wise reply to you. While I haven’t fired and hired hundreds over the last few decades, it is in the dozens. And while it is specifically for the software industry, this certainly applies to pretty much any industry out there, and that is: “Please, oh please, do tell me WHY you want to work for this company”. Simple, but less than 1 in about 400 applicants do this. No exaggeration.

      Over the years, the candidates who stand out are those that took the time to find out what it is we actually do, and then proceed to tell me how that fits into their own passions and drives, how they will actually help me build and improve our product line, how they’ve admired what we’ve done and how they want to be a part of it. The ones I pass on are those that are obvious “résumé-spam”, where they barely took the time to search and replace the company name in their cover letter, and the résumé itself usually, in bright neon, announces between the lines: “I will take any job that pays me enough”. Worse: I phone the candidate, and they go “What company are you with again?”.

      This may make Collin K shudder, but about 4-5 years ago I had a short list of about a half dozen guys for a C# .Net developer position, I actually ended up hiring the one who actually specialized in Java. Why? His cover letter, subsequent phone and in-person interviews all sent me the same message: he wasn’t just looking for any old coding job, but rather hunted us down specifically and rather enthusiastically explained how he’d found his new career. How could I say no? How could anyone?

      On the other end of it, there is a very important bit of information, almost overlooked as it i usually saved to the last line of the résumé , and that is “Interests”. If I see another “Interests: Jogging, hiking, volleyball, chess”, I think I’ll hang up my own “Gone fishin'” sign. And if I ever do see “Converting my ’92 Ranger to electric drive” (especially with a blog link, or photos), I think I would honestly fall off my mesh-back chair.

  2. It took me several painful years and sleepless nights before I realized that my best option was to fire one of my customers. He was exactly as Jack describes above: whiny, always wanting something for nothing, and berating me for making a profit off of his back. I told him I no longer wanted his business, and sent him packing. He was astounded, but I never slept better. What I hadn’t anticipated is how that act would strengthen the rest of my customer base. He took so much of my time and effort that I had been neglecting others who were not troublesome. It happened a few more times, each time the firings got easier, and each time my life got better.

  3. Several years ago I restored a hight-end brand vintage motorcycle that I had bough from my best friend. I was absolutely amazed at how many stores and machine shops that sold to people restoring and maintaining this brand and era of motorcycle didn’t want any kind of payment for the item until you received the it, new or rebuilt. The sense of trust and sharing information was hugely enlightening and I was proud to be one of “them”.

    Agreed, fire your PIA customers.

    I enjoyed the chat with Damien and understand his take on things. Making things from dirt is more expensive then buying the object of desire new off the shelf. But you get more than just the object, you also get the education of how the object is made, how it works, what it needs to last in your application, how to fix it, maybe how to improve it, what its limits might be, if it’s even appropriate for your application and many more lessons less obvious. Education isn’t free, I consider it one of the best things a person can spend their money on. Too bad the school of making things from dirt or hard knocks doesn’t hand out a diploma or certificate of accomplishment. But a knowing potential employer can see it without the paper.

  4. Funny thing. I was the high bidder on the motor and gearbox you purchased. I was in the midst of some email conversations with the seller asking about the availability of some cables and such when you purchased the item at the BIN price. He emailed me and asked if I decided to purchase it or if it might be another buyer. I told him that it was not me yet since I was still waiting for his response to some questions. I thought “wouldn’t it be funny if it was Jack who bought this out from under me”…then I saw the photo on your page when you uploaded the video and had to laugh. Great job on the purchase and I look forward to your progress on getting it running. It’ll be much easier for you since you have an S to capture a good data stream. That was some of my hesitation on the purchase. I guess I’ll work on getting my Leaf to run on GEVCU and I’ll let you work on the big boy toys.

    1. Well, I guess you were not the high bidder then. It is kind of a gamble and it remains to be seen if ti was a good thing for you or a good thing for me.

      I spent about 10 seconds on it. We sell UQM systems for more than that.

      But I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. There are many more wrecked Teslas to come. As best I can tell, those crumple zones are very effective because it sure seems a lot of them are becomiing crumpled.

  5. Jack I really feel your pain. Bottom feeders………………….Hmmm
    Up until a few years ago I was a full service solar electric installer/designer/educator. I built my first solar PV panel myself in 1976 using some cast off 1 1/2″ diameter silicon ‘dice’ that we custom doped and prepped ( I worked as a lab tech building diodes and SCRS for FMC Corp so we had everything we needed to do the work). I mention this so you get some idea of how I got started down this road.
    Anyway to make a long story short my business in solar brought me in contact with hundreds of bottom feeders who like you say ‘knew the price of everything and the cost of nothing”
    My time in learning all the tricks of the trade were apparently worth nothing to them

    Keep up the good work

    And I”ll be ordering again as my EV projects move forward

    No I won’t try to niggle you down to the bottom line

    1. I’m actually kind of getting into the spirit of messing with their heads. I had several just in agony wanting some way to get another $4 off on the HPEVS stuff. So I ended the sale today – making them the one that got away I fear.

      So now I’ve done something totally bizarre. I’ve put the Siemens motor, DMOC645, a GEVCu, and 100 SE100AH cells up for $11995. As the cells were already the lowest price for lithium in the country at $9000, I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about this one.

      Jack Rickard

  6. Someone once said “Sometimes it’s not about the destination but the journey” or something like that. When you’re building an EV what do you have in the end? Just another car on the road. But what you learned and experienced along the way made it worth it. My dream EV (one built without concern to a budget) would be just another replica car on the road but I’m having a lot of fun designing it. Figuring out the drive train design and performance, designing the instrumentation, solving climate control issues, what to do about the entertainment system etc. keeps my mind active and gives me something to do when I’m bored.

  7. Jack,

    I have not ordered a single thing from your store, but someday I will. This is because of the original reason behind the store; the fact that there were few, if any, reputable EV parts dealers out there. Horror stories of money taken without giving product in return abounded. Sure, you might charge a bit more, but the product will be shipped and with all the available extras. If these bottom feeders want to bargain hunt, let them take the risk with someone else and try to find those extra pieces on their own. “Got connectors?”

  8. Hi Jack,

    I watch EVTV because I’m interested in electric transportation. I find the show insightful and I have learned a lot over the many years. But I’m never going to build my own EV (I’ve got a Model S) and so I will never buy any parts from you. But I do want to support what you are doing. I think it is tremendously important for the whole EV industry. I think it puts a similar pressure on the OEM’s to open up their cars as the open source movement is putting on the world of software (everything is connected).

    So could you please set up a paid subscription on a service like Patreon.com? I pledge $10/month if you do. If a few of your loyal viewers do the same then we could help cover some of your operating expenses.

    I remember a couple of years ago you had a PayPal donate button and then you took it down. I suspect it didn’t work or you didn’t want it look like you are asking for money. I think a subscription would be different because you sign up once and don’t have to make a conscious choice every month to donate again (same effect as opt-in vs opt-out policies for organ donation). Plus you could give subscribers a symbolical incentive like sending an email with a direct link to the latest episode a couple of hours before you make it publicly available. Or do a raffle among subscribers of some EVTV memorabilia.

    Viewers, please respond if you would subscribe for $10/month.


      1. I pay npr because of the quality of news and programs I listen to. I would “subscribe” to evtv the same. (I usually just make an annual purchase from the store though 🙂

        1. Chad:

          Unfortunately, my whining always winds up being a good solid “preaching to the choir” exercise. The many many viewers who have supported us in SO many ways over the years is why we keep doing it. And indeed it is such an overwhelming blessing I am often reluctant to look at it at all. The number of people I hear from weekly who make the claim to have watched ALL the shows (I’m pretty sure I haven’t) is just not plausible.
          Similarly, our webstat program, which I have shared in a past episode when we passed a million viewers, has to have some sort of malfunction. It shows numerous individual viewers with 300 or even 500 “visits” to the web site. An implausible number.

          And realistically, EVTV is just not likely to ever be in the black. The more we are given, simply the more we do. This week, taking on a Tesla drive train is a good example. $8000 up in smoke for equipment that will never go in a car, destined forever as a static test bench. And another overwhelming mission to decode that of course at this point looks like we can never accomplish.

          Of course, that was very much the case with the CODA drive train, and the Siemens before that. Today they are ordinaries in cars around the world.

          The truth is – my ability to dream up new shit to do far exceeds your ability to spend me into profitability. This month we actually add Collin Kidder to the payroll in an attempt to do more faster – by way of example.

          In the end, it is just part of dealing with the public and not all the public do we really want to deal with. Basically, we have to stay focused and on mission. Many forces want us to be or do something other than what we are. I’m an old man and suffer fools poorly. Actually when I was a young man I had the same flaw.

          I suppose at the heart of it is an ongoing concern. We do not do lead acid cars. And we do NOT admire do it yourself junk/wreck messes. The eyes of the world or not so much on us, as they are on YOU. And the type of cars you build and drive are important examples in TWO ways.

          First, they either re-enforce damaging stereotypes of the limitations of electric vehicles, or they demonstrate that electric vehicles are a viable alternative to fossile fueled vehicles. Everytime somebody builds a piece of shit lead acid car with a 12 mile range which doesn’t matter because it always breaks down 5 miles in, that re-enforces the negative stereotype. Every time someone builds a show car that goes 100 miles on a charge and runs flawlessly, it disassembles that stereotype.

          Second, the reputation and ultimately REGULATION of the DIY hobbyist car builder is at stake. If we assemble vehicles that are unsafe and a menace on the road, the public will rightfully take steps to protect itself from these problems. In much of Europe, you are simply not allowed. Here in the U.S., it is somewhat more accepted FOR THE MOMENT. There are indeed commercial interests which would love to see us banned from operation and from the roads. A handful of guys who insist they can do it with baling wire and for $12 can do irreperable damage to all. They are a THREAT to our freedom to repair, customize, alter, and operate our vehicles. And then they want to CLAIM they are one of us. They are not.

          Thrift and prudence are VIRTUES in my homeland – this part of America. But it has to be tempered with common sense and a sense of value. I am NOT a safety Nazi. But quality in a build is important and doubly so in a device capable of 0-60 in six or seven seconds or hurtling 4 tons down the road at 75 mph. Ergo, my aversion to elektrojunk.

          We are literally working day and night to make QUALITY components available at lower costs. But in the middle of that, I am sometimes besieged even from within our own group by those who want to know what I’m paying for it and how much are we making on it. Kind of a communist manifesto run amuck. The most comical of these was posted on DIYelectrijunk. A guy had inquired where he could get a reasonably priced AC drive system. The respondent posted a four paragraph damnation of all things EvTv being evil, profiteering, greedy bunch of blood suckers. Sinful markups – just awful. But he closed by noting that unfortunately, it was the lowest cost system of that type available. ????

          Thus far, the answer is, we’re making about $750,000 per year too little. Not because we are living too high on the hog. But because I keep finding new things to stock and new toys to play with. The end objective of whih is a much larger community of people converting cars effectively and at lower cost. It basically is $35,000 to do a quality build on a mid-size car – just in components. Sure, you can do a VW for $20k. But we tend toward the $35,000 level. You can BUY a Leaf or a Volt for that. How badly do you NEED a 1974 VW Thing? Ergo our small numbers.

          If we could get that to $15k, I think its a different world.

          In any event, while whining, of course my main audience is all the guys who have supported us in this as a mutual effort eggregiously for years. The bottom feeders are both tone deaf and oblvious. Preaching to the choir.

          1. Ok, so I’m persona non grata here.

            I’m going to be plain, Mr RIckard. The reason your tent is so small, is because you are intentionally making it small. No EV OEMs at your convention? Why? If they pay their dues, why not? OEM Fan boys will come with their OEM cars and be inspired by the homebrews. You can influence the OEMs to be open with stupid CAN codes and only encrypt their friggin wireless comms. You have persuasive arguments, which, I am afraid, they are currently paying zero attention to. No lead acid guys? Why not? I came, was inspired, and was referred to a great source of affordable lithium batteries that I can put on my Christmas list. Not sure what safety has to do with it other than bad designs and poor acceleration. I’m making an enclosed, recumbent, electric motorcycle. It will have plenty of performance. The goal is 70mph WITH a 30 mph headwind. I only need 24 miles because that’s my commute. It’s got such a low weight, low frontal area, and coefficient of drag that it will scream. Hell, I currently drive a 4-cylinder toyota truck. This should beat the pants off of it.

            Mr. Rickard, with all due respect, you are more worried about appearances than broadening the movement here.

            In my experience, electric cars have mostly looked like dog squeeze, NOT performance vehicles. My aim is to make a very efficient vehicle that looks GREAT and SAVES me money, a two-wheeled vehicle. Your electric vehicles look like beautiful restored antiques, but antiques at that. There is some value in forward looking visual design to inspire young guys to take up the mantle.

            The basic problem with EVs as I see it, is they do not offer the performance at the same convenience an equivalent ICE vehicle provides at their price point.

            If we want to be realistic here, you can’t have widespread EV adoption even with the latest chemistries,even at “fast charge” stations.
            30 minute waits every time you need to “refuel” just will not cut it for someone who forgot to plug it in the night before and is late to work.

            If you really want to put your millions to good use spreading the EV gospel, CREATE a STANDARD for a swappable power pack. Convenience stores can carry them like they do swappable propane tanks. I don’t know–how about a zinc-air battery and a zinc-reclamation device that goes with it?

            In the meantime, I can’t say much more than, when you let people ride in your cars, they get it. Maybe when I show you my build, you’ll get it.

            You and Tesla are both starting at the top end, hoping to come down to mass appeal. I’m starting at the bottom, working up.

            If you could get your cars to $15K I still wouldn’t be interested. My goal is to keep the price point the same ($5000) but keep improving the performance iteratively. I want a repeatable system for converting a broad range of older motorcycle chassis into affordable, beautiful, performance commuters.

            And whether you like me there or not, I certainly claim the EV homebrew build flag as my own, and have been inspired by your efforts. Don’t put that down, please.


          2. Royalestel.

            I’ve apparently NOT been plain enough. And that seems to be part of the bottom feeder motif – abject rudeness.

            You are doing NO one a service – rather a disservice and enforcing stereotypes that clearly no longer apply, except among a devout group of junkyard wars enthusiasts who see some sort of virtue in trading in trash.

            take it to DIY electriJunk. They live for that stuff. We want no part of lead, $5000, or any other half baked perpetual motion dumpster diving copper foil helmet crap on wheels. Your entire position is a MENACE to everything we work for.

            Jack Rickard

  9. http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2014/11/14/vecna-cto-solar-powered-vw-bus/

    “As part of a side project, Theobald teamed up with coworkers to convert the VW bus from a gas-guzzler to an electric vehicle. Wanting to take it a step further, however, and completely eradicate his carbon footprint, moving away from having to plug in his vehicle to charge it up for his commutes, the team “experimented with some technology” and assembled a massive solar panel. They then installed the panel onto the roof, inadvertently creating the illusion that Theobald was driving around with a giant surfboard on the top of his van.”

  10. I have a different goal in my EV build (which is way above my head. The build REQUIRES custom welding and I finally got my welder upstairs and still don’t know how to weld yet. But I’m trying.)

    My goal is to build an electric vehicle that meets my MINIMUM transportation needs. This means 45mph even with a headwind, so I can be on the highway, and make a round trip of 24 miles in a day, and do it for the minimum of cost and effort. I’m even using lead acid batteries.

    I know this is heresy in the EVTV world, but I’ve always gotten jollies from driving against the grain in any society I’ve been a part of.

    And I feel a part of the EVTV realm after shaking Jack’s hand at the last EVCON. That and tweaking my back while trying to film a solo motocross run. Once you’ve injured yourself by blood spilt or shooting pains up your back, you’ve officially passed the hazing test of EVhood . . . right?

    Or maybe I actually need to FINISH the build . . .

    Anyhow, aside from the average bottom feeder, my bottom feeding goal is to SAVE gas money. In the process I am learning something and building something that looks cool enough, yet is useful enough and cheap enough to sell to some other EV noob. . .

    and THEN I will use the money to buy parts from Jack’s shop and build a REAL performance vehicle.

    Heck I’ve even been taking EE classes at a local college to get the skills I need to make my own battery charger. And I’m halfway there (I think).

    All this, because when I envision who I want to be as a successful person, doing things that matter to me, I drive a kick-butt, friggin’ awesome looking EV, that I designed and built myself.

    Look for my EV this year, because I am doing by best to finish the thing and bring it to the ‘CON.


    1. Sorry I just return from getting the lead acid blues again. Dont trust them!

      I have got a little power box. That is 12V / 10AH put in a box together with a compressor to keep the magic smoke in my wheels. The lead acid is mostly used for hamradio or my ip-cam but not very much at all. Dont put lead acid and NiMH in parallel, no no!

      Why? It works great!

      Until I found out that the 12V 2.6AH keep the original wall plug charger from charging the lead acid.

      No problem. I have a little 12V system working at home that can keep both batteries happy it thought. My hamradio power supply can supply some 14.4V and it did keep the NiMH happy at least but my compressor failed again.

      If I remember correctly then the compressor always worked with both lead acid and NiMH in parallel. It rarely worked with lead acid alone.

      Funny discovery, the 10AH lead acid make the little 12V / 27AH of our i-MiEV happy when plugged into the lighter socket. But the 2.6 AH NiMH have blown a fuse. Looks like NiMH can take and deliver more juice than 4 times lead acid and they are less heavy and a lot smaller.

      Toying with lithium – they are even better.

      I dont know why there is lead acid in the 12V system of the i-MiEV but at least it seems to be designed to keep lead acid happy. It seems not to like NiMH although they have a lot in common e.g. they survive the parallel existence of a bms most of the time at least. Me and lead acid live on different planets. Lithium and me that works great. Me and BMS – we dont trust each other.

      Peter and Karin (Karin does not like lead either)

  11. I just want to say a big thank you to Jack and everyone at EVTV for making me so welcome on my first visit to the United States. I arrived after 22 hours traveling and was less than coherent. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and look forward to being back in September for the convention. The EVTV workshop is the proverbial candy store for a guy like me and I hope some day to have similar. Regards the whole race to the bottom thing I have a simple moto: If I can’t afford something it’s my problem not the vendor’s.I can either find the money or build it myself.

      1. That’s interesting. Jack is right, the device is a 1/10th of what we have. It’s single canbus, non-isolated, and has no SDCard. We have an sdcard, dual canbus, and full isolation. Our hardware is simply a lot nicer. In reality, the CANDue is a steal. It would cost $1200 or more to get a kvaser device that matches the CANDue. There really isn’t anything out there nicer or more fully featured for anything even approaching the price of a CANDue. Firmware: He is using no interrupts and the firmware I see in his github would not handle high loads at all. The GVRET firmware is miles ahead in terms of features (and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it). The GVRET firmware really is a lot more advanced at this point. CANDue is a little more than twice the money but it is WORTH EVERY PENNY.

        I don’t see the supposed python stuff on the PC side so maybe he hasn’t really posted it yet. But, the video presentation he did only has very little in the way of python code and deals mostly with OBDII. He briefly mentions that canbus is elsewhere but he’s not accounting for ways to get to it. He doesn’t handle single-wire can but does talk about how it exists. He seems to suggest that you’d just grab existing canbus database files and doesn’t go into how you might get that data yourself so it seems like he isn’t really focused on reverse engineering. I don’t think that he’s anywhere near as far as I am with writing PC apps for this kind of thing.

        So, yeah, I suppose it’s a bit odd that he gets several media stories and we work in the shadows despite having better hardware and software. But, that’s probably for the best. If Nissan and Tesla were following what we’re doing they would not appreciate it. I’d imagine that the bullseye on my back is already bright enough. 😉

        1. You might be surprised to learn who is following what and just what they think of it, and what they publicly think of it. And there’s a lot of swing thoughts going on in that golf game.

          I think I actually included a bit of an interview with Elon Musk on this topic in last weeks show. They are vERY concerned about security. But not in the way it has been betrayed. He is personally a hands on coder and very familiar with what can and cannot be done. In that interview he basically said they weren’t really concerned about what someone did to a car they had access to, as LIKE a computer anything you have access to can be hacked. They are entirely focused on the net access to the car. They have actually hired some 30 “hackers” to try to get through their online system and GSM update system to get TO “foreign” cars or mass cars over that network. That would be a really bad situation. Particularly going forward with this autopilot thing.

          And of course you and I don’t want OTHER people getting into OUR car. We want access to our OWN cars. Not to other peoples.

          His avowed “open source” approach to electric cars rather belies some of the service and parts things they have actually done and/or versa vice. It is my belief that they have an immature position on all this, and are kind of feeling their way along moment to moment. One moment you can’t rebuild a salvage Tesla at all. Next day online schematics and parts codes. One guy was actually hand trimming his car lowering thing for racing. They wouldn’t give him the information. But then the service guys helped him do it even though he had voided the warranty entirely. Otmar gets shut down on parts. We get parts handed to us on eBay.

          It is a dynamic and evolving picture. This is why i think it is crucially important to apply pressure on the side of right to repair. And the easiest way to get concession there is to make it apparent it is going to happen anyway.

          They actually have no legal rights to “prevent repair or customization.” And the whole concept of liability is just a red herring. I have never heard of a case of an automanufacturer being held liable for whatever might have happened to a heavily modified car. Hell it took YEARS to bring GM to heel on a blatant coverup of a known screwup on the ignition switch debacle. The Chevy Smartblock in a Smart ForTwo just doesn’t pose Daimler much of a legal liability threat.

          The CAN tools are just a great gaping gap. Kvaser and CANoe etc are all expensive because they cater to a micro customer base of a few hundred engineers in the world. It’s just a tiny universe that needs it, so if they do it at all it has to be hugely expensive.

          The user end of it has been cutsey ELM327 dongles showing detailed car data on the dashboard.

          Actually needing CAN to shift our transmissions, operate components, is kind of new ground to plow. We’ll hopefully make a few ducats on CANdue, but so far mostly not. We’re bootstrapping Arduino based stuff into smallish inexpensive tools to access CAN. Last week Mark showed a bit of the process and this week I tried to drive that down into a bit more detail of how to reverse engineer CAN. It’s not entirely a snake pit. More like doing crossword puzzles at the New York Times level. Hard, but in the end they ARE crossword puzzles. We actually spend more time hooking up cooling hoses and test equipment than we do on any code or data. The test fixture literally dwarfs the test. Four hours of physical construction to watch two bytes twitch three dozen times.

          Yes, as we get into J1939, SWCAN, and LIN, it stays interesting. But it’s all just serial data work. Mark and I have been doing serial data networks so long that we are having to relearn shit we’ve forgotten because we haven’t seen that done in decades. I suppose the next thing we’re going to encounter is CAN ATM commands. Or reinvention of the XMODEM protocol over CAN. Then TCP/IP over CAN. Or CAN over TCP/IP.

          Then too, when I was young and pretty like you I was good at such codes and puzzles. The problem I have now is I find myself waking up in the chair in front of the laptop without really being aware I had dozed off. And I have to pee every hour it seems like. Which breaks the focus a bit. But it is still fun.

          Jack Rickard

  12. Nearing the end of the March 20th show. Unfortunately I live on my own so the fooling around reverse bribe doesn’t work (memo to self – must fix that).

    I do agree on the water thing. When I lived in Tanzania, some folk in the country were reportedly walking ten miles every day to fetch water. Anyone with a tap just outside is rich and anyone with a tap in the house is filthy rich

  13. Just back from a 4 mile voyage to my local Chademo filling station after fitting the EVTV fast charge port to the land yacht. This was just to check that the charge plug fitted and that my location of the socket did not foul the plug. Anyway , as I was filiming , a leaf pulled in beside me and a guy jumped out and started in on me for blocking the charge point. He did a very comical double take when he spotted the fast charge plugged into the yacht! I caught the whole thing on film as I was testing my new go pro. A 30 minute conversation ensued when another leaf pulled in. I got so hoarse I had to go into the filling station shop for a bottle of water. Imagine what it’s going to be like when I’m sitting in the car with the laptop logging CAN messages….

    1. I think the Land Yacht recharging at a Chademo point will represent a significant moment in history. It shows that a moderately priced executive barge can go anywhere in Europe on coulombs today. What you can do with one car in your garage, BMW ought to be able to do at scale rather than messing around with their beautiful but nonsensical i8

  14. Thanks for sharing this story Jack. It’s good for your readers to know that if you are less than satisfied with a product bought from EV West, or just have bad luck with a product, we will go out of our way to make sure you’re well served, even if it means not making money on the deal, or being called a prick by Mr. Rickard. Customers always come first. I hope you soon understand that it’s us versus them, and not us versus us. Build on my friend.

    1. Michael:

      I never know if it’s some sort of dyslexia with you or ADD or what. I read what you have said. It is out of context and actually makes no sense to me at all. I really think we DO have a communication problem. In any event, we see the world through different lenses.

      1. It is not us vs. them.
      2. It is certainly not us vs us.
      3. Customers do NOT come first. In fact sales do not come first.

      I regularly fire customers entirely. Indeed, I send a significant number actually to you, or I did when you was Hauber. In a lot of cases they are just not something we can deal with or do. Herbie the VW springs recently to mind. He just couldnt’ believe we designated a big time operator such as hisself as “not a match” and asked him politely to return his business to EVWest. Similarly the gentleman who “outed” you on the “let’s keep this secret just between us” price war. He is now either a proud EV West customer or is back to digging through the dumpsters.

      We do not exist to serve customers. We do not exist to sell shit.

      Our mission is to convert the world’s personal transportation choices to electric drive – not by force. Not by fiat. Not by legislation. By demonstration and personal example that it is BETTER in every way as a personal choice.

      Others have bought into that vision and we have suggested and do urge them to proselytize not by being a shrill “advocate” but by similar direct personal action and example – build a car and drive it proudly. Take it to every car show, high school class or Rotory lunch or other outing possible and demonstrate to other people that YOU can drive a car with no gasoline, no fumes, no toxic gasses, no clammoring noise, billowing black clouds, roars of big block engines – etc. Warp factor 9 Mr. Sulu, if you will vice “Jethro get granny on the truck.”

      You do not need to be enabled by an OEM, an oil company, or a government. Individual adult guys just going to the garage and building/rebuilding a car.

      Where OEM’s, oil companies or governements ASSist – polite applause. Where they RESist – fuck you very much. Indeed it is perfectly acceptable to drive OEM cars in this mission, use OEM parts, and accept government subsidies where available. They can lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. It actually doesn’t matter to us very much. I might apply the same policy toward “opportunists” who seek a business opportunity here.
      Welcome and go and do good.

      We do derive oxygen from parts sales. But that was more or less a demand of our VIEWERS, not our “customers”. At the time, our viewers could not purchase components without being defrauded by unscrupulous online retail stores that were simply taking their money and then daring them to sue them. As it turns out, there is no legal recourse. Apparently it is no longer against the law to steal – as long as it isn’t from the government. And indeed as a civil matter, it almost never leads to any recovery.

      So we started in a small way to act as a trusted source on select components. That line has expanded dramatically in thet past few years. But we still have the oddity that we don’t really stock or carry anything we have not directly used and are familiar with. And more recently, I fear we’ve been drawn into product development. It is a necessary evil to enable the next level of competence in custom electric cars. And it has been rather revealing that most of our builders really aren’t car guys either – mostly computer and IT guys as it turns out anyway.

      So the disconnect is we don’t consider you us. And we don’t even consider you a competitor. The HPEVS sale was to demonstrate that. But where you build a nice a car, get a good reaction, get some wider press or media, we APPLAUD all that and have indeed covered your progress in those areas most generously over the years. And San Diego should be an ideal location for a conversion shop. Now two as I understand Hauber has left you to do his own. Should be fertile ground. A no-smoking area with good solar exposure, lots of freeway, and lots of money.

      So there is no “us vs us” because there really isn’t any us. It is cute that you put on black shirts and have Jehu waive a video camera around. I thought it was just a parody at first and it WAS funny. But you can no more BE us than we can be you. If I DID get up on a skateboard it would be declared a medical emergency in this part of the country.

      Jack Rickard

      1. Well if you believe that (referred to your last response to me), you can’t understand the current spread of EV enthusiasts.

        There’s the small group of millionaires and the masses of “bottom feeders” as you call them.

        I understand you want no part of lead acid–but you also opine that you have a small clique. And that you attract bottom feeders.

        You attract them because you provide valuable information, and are a hub for still hard-to-find–and even harder to evaluate independently– parts. And the fact remains that there will always be far more bottom feeders in any real pond than millionaires.

        I stumbled onto your website through a friend. I actually volunteered and provided lots of my free time to benefit your EVCON. You sir, indeed made a profit off of me, at least at the last ‘con.

        And I wasn’t asking for anything other than an appeal to realize that there is a HUGE movement waiting to be tapped and shaped in the bottom feeder pool.

        I know, you want nothing to do with it and feel it is diametrically opposed to your efforts. And I believe you are wrong. . . If your goal is widespread adoption. But I assure that I intoned no rudeness in my posts–enthusiastically opposing viewpoint, yes.

        Sorry to have offended you.

        And as you have multiple times made clear, you want nothing to do with bottom feeding tin-foil hat wearing crowd, of which you have declared I am a member.

        Therefore, I leave you and yours to your own devices.


        1. I think calling 2 groups a spread is quite obtuse. I fall into neither of those groups and yet, I consider myself and EV Enthusiast. I think you are misinterpreting what he is categorizing as bottom feeders. The current price war to the bottom is simply feeding the trolls…

          1. Thank you Chad. I wasn’t going to address it because it is obviously so self serving.

            I live in a part of the country where thrift and prudence is a kind of subreligion underlying all the other higher forms. I have nothing but praise for either.

            With a handful of millionaires on one end, there is ANOTHER end at the other end, that will steal your hubcaps off your car because

            1. They need them.
            2. They don’t see why they should pay for them.
            3. They’re freely available – they’re just on your car.
            4. It’s really quite unfair and an accident of the universe that you HAVE them and they do NOT. This shoudl be rectified.
            5. Now that they have all four, are there any in the trunk?

            More broadly, yes I do characterize people who assemble junk into a junk car wiht batteries and want to call it an EV a bottom feeder. I view it actually as an attack on the reputation and potentially on the afforded liberties enjoyed by people who like to customize or even build electric vehicles. They are often cited as the norm among enthusiasts who do it themselves. They are not. They are bottom feeders and wannabes.

            If they can somehow construe that they are actually the MAJORITY, then something good happens for them, I’m not sure what. They are a scant handful of hangers on. But they can make a lot of noise because they think it is actually a virtue to be shrill, demanding, and insistent.

            But i whine about really a handful of people. They just show up at every picnic.

            Jack Rickard

  15. I just watched this week’s show, and I sure do enjoy Ed Klausen’s updates. Keep ’em coming, Ed. For me, and no doubt many others, the last piece in the puzzle still remains instrumentation — and this is where I am finding a lot of my time (and fun units) being spent lately. My drive train schedule be damned.

    When I freeze-frame the video and look at the new Saf-T BMS board (SKU JLD606?), I don’t see the Sendyne SFP100 on there. I myself ended up foregoing it because in my own testing of their eval module I observed a lot of noise in the bottom end, something I recall hearing from Ed or Jack on past episodes. Did you instead opt to use the JLD505’s INA226?

    Also, if I refer to the block diagram of Sendyne’s IC, the actual current sensing and associated ADC was a fraction of what the package did — a lot of the other features seemed redundant when using an AVR/SAM micro controller to drive it. Eg: temperature sensing and voltage measuring you can do with a $20 Arduino and a few thermistors and resistors. Of course, ADC sucks in that example. And the isolation. And the lack of a CAN controller. And the lack of memory. And the lack of Mhz. And…

    – Collin

    1. I was very much a fan of the Sendyne. But as you say. Overhead was high. And the secret to their accuracy was mostly about temperature compensation. There is a difference between finely chopped parseley and parsely dust. It just didn’t work out.

      The laregest issue which will never be actually appreciated was an effort to isolate the pack but also not to introduce asymetric nanocurrent flows based on the measurement itself. Traditional BMS actually treat your battery cells rather badly all around because they get to “fix it” later with a crude top balance procedure. We do not have that luxury.

      So basically each pack segment is switched on in turn to charge a transfer cap. Then the pack is disconnected and the transfer cap read with a 16-bit I think A/D. Then the next pack segment is read. but this isn’t done with relays. Rather little MOSFET switch anolog opto isolators which promise to make this thing at least expensive.

      Most BmS use a simple ladder to read segments. EVERY time we talked to anyone about this they drew out the same ladder structure. The problem is, the segment at the bottom of the ladder gets current output when ANY segment is read. And the top segment gets current flow only when it is read. So over time, the most negative battery box is drained more than the most positive battery box. Creating an imbalance.

      Sure, it’s small. But we’re doing this hundreds of times per minute for potentially years.

      Jack Rickard

      1. The ladder effect of voltage monitoring is a real problem. My test rigs used Junsi Cell Logs with (IIRC) a 2 milliamp imbalance over just 8 cells. That is more than 16 Ah per year. My first tests used 10Ah Headways. I eliminated the problem using op amp voltage followers which only ever caught fire when I mis-wired them

  16. It appears, perhaps, that the first byte of CAN code is the present voltage and the second byte is a count down to setpoint. Was the setpoint 238 volts?

    1. I thought maybe your CAN bytes represented millivolts offset from a base value, such as 189.5V. But this leads to deviation from your measured values up to about .4V, probably too much for measurement error? And between the observed values of 229.3 and 229.4V, the byte values actually decrease. In 3 cases the delta is 512, which is too cute.

  17. Jack,

    only because you try very hard to get it right:

    ghoti (english noun)

    gh — from enough
    o — from women
    ti — from station

    If you can pronounce it “fish” then try

    ebersbaecher (german name with a umlaut = ae or a with a colon above)

    eber = ever — from everywhere
    s — from sailboat
    bae = ba — from backside
    ch = sh — from shoelace
    er = or — from anchor

    The pronounciation is not 100% but most of us will not notice. And please dont feel insulted. Non natives like me try to make a lot of mistakes when speaking or writing english so you can easier tell us from the natives.

    Peter and Karin

    1. My two Pierburg pumps from EVTV came with a LIN bus input on the plug. Now that LIN capture is being retrofitted to our CANopener board we just need a capture file from a BMW to spoof the pumps.

      1. Hi Roy,

        that one comes really close.

        Got a problem uploading a video. Maybe I should wait until my download has finished.
        I all else fails I’ll try email.

        Jack it is


        Text description worked really fast but 0.4 MiB takes forever.

        Peter and Karin

  18. Ah-Ha moment. I finally found a new reprint of the book I sent Damien when he wanted to know how to use a 3-phase motor stator as a boost transformer. I ordered a new one to replenish my personal technology library.
    Following Damien’s lead is not for the faint of heart but I built my three phase convertor and a 3-phase 5 Kw 125 volt gen set with this level of historic motor design information.

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