Who Killed The Electric Car – This Time….

rickard

This week marks the end of the electric car. By years end, all OEMs but Tesla will be announcing their exist from the market and Tesla will go shortly thereafter in 2016.

????

Kind of a downer prediction to start off with eh?

Well let’s hope not.

Why do people buy new cars? I guess I don’t really know.

My father was born during the depression, actually he thinks he CAUSED the depression as he was born in June of 1929 a few months before the stock market crash. I like to think he was prudent with his funds, but the truth is, he could squeeze a nickle until the Buffalo shit all over itself.

He really DID install flourescent lights in our new home in 1959. I don’t mean he installed them. We didn’t have any OTHER kind of lighting until 10 years later. Because they were inexpensive to operate. As a result, our house had this garrish harsh blue light that flickered. Everybody else’s house had “yellow” light that was “still”. A clear sign that we were different.

We also had the first “central air conditioning” probably of any home in town. Of course, he thought air conditioning was to bring the house temperature just down to 89 degrees in July so you would actually be lounging around in the luxury of “below 90” degree temperatures inside. It just never occured to him that you could cool it to 74. Why? It’s summer.
And if anyone were to actually touch the thermostat….well….I don’t actually know what would happen. But something bad…

And so I naturally learned to buy cars from him. He seemed like the knowledgeable adult on the scene. My mother wouldn’t dream of buying a car. He had to buy it for her. Sometimes after much pleading and tears…

And he always bought cars the same way. They HAD to be exactly two years old and they HAD to have exactly 10,000 miles on them. Why? Depreciation. In fact for years I had the Great Depression and Depreciation all confused in my young mind. I didn’t know exactly what Depreciation was, but I knew it was very very bad, and had something to do with new cars. People who bought new cars were functional illiterates who shouldn’t be allowed to pull a little red wagon down the road, much less drive a car. New cars were for stupid people, period.

So I naturally thought they were manufactured initially for morons, who broke them in. And like wine, they only became acceptable after at least two years aging.

Similarly tires. You bought two new tires for the front of the car. Put the tires from the front on the back. And so your tires never wore out at the same time. So you never had to buy four at the same time. It’s just how tires were done.

Its why it is so important to have a father. So you learn these things. I am told that now over half the children born in America have no fathers. How do all those women DO that? In my day, two were REQUIRED. I think by law. And they HAD to be different sexes too. Modern medicine is not only truly a miracle, but you may ALSO be entitled to SUBSTANTIAL compensation. Apparently women have not only won the right to murder their offspring before birth, but also to create them with no male assistance at all. What a country!

In any event, if you DID foolishly buy a brand new car, for say $3000, you would find that at the MINUTE you drove it off the lot, it was instantly worth $2500. And over the next year, it would decline further to $2200. And after that, while it continued to decline in value as the miles accrued, the rate of decline declined. And so you wanted to avoid the first two years of depreciation. Ergo, buy cars that were two years old and had 10,000 miles on them. That would be a low mileage car that had already taken the depreciation hit.

And so that was how I bought cars for the most part, until selling my company for $38.5 million. At that point, I figured “What the Hell.” And that’s how I became a moron with a brand new Lexus.

But they do sell 15 million new cars each year. So there is apparently either no shortage of new-money millionaires, or a plentitude of morons.

Auto dealerships have for the most part offered a less than warmish greeting to celebrate the rebirth of the electric car. Most of the owners of these dealerships DO know a bit about selling automobiles in a very competitive business. And from their point of view, it all kind of hangs together.

First, the major profit center for dealerships is not the sale of new cars. That’s how they prime the pump and keep the river flowing. The source of real cash flow is warranty maintenance work. Compensated monthly in one big fat check from the manufacturer. The electric car promises little and for the most part delivers even less in this respect.

But it goes beyond…. most of these dealers have endured every fad imaginable in the past 50 years. Every time gasoline goes up or becomes short in supply, the hoard roars past their acres of gas guzzlers to fight over the handful of economy cars they had in the corner. And as soon as the price of gasoline goes down, they storm past the acres of cheap little economy cars to fight over the handful of SUV behemoths left out back for farmers.

I recently found a brand new Ford eTransit Connect that had gone unsold for three years at a Ford dealer. They had over $50,000 in the vehicle – which had originally MSRP of $58,575. The problem of course was that it had sat unclaimed until the battery drained down to zero. At which point, they had no clue how to revive it. Azure Dynamics, who had offered a two year warranty on the vehicle, had gone bankrupt and was no more.

So what are they to do with the vehicle? Here it sits. A little patina of dust over a brand new paint job. No miles. And none likely. How can they sell it? Who’s going to buy a brand new Ford from a Ford dealership, that doesnt’ work, and that the Ford dealership can do NOTHING to get it to work? What do you discount that TO? I made em an offer to part it out. It’s so low they almost can’t bother, but there aren’t many other bidders. Same problem. So they’re evaluating what it would take to convert it BACK to gasoline. What difference does it make? The things only sell for $24k with gasoline power brand new. What can they get for a hacked up reconvert? And when they find out what it really would take, they could be in negative numbers.

I mentioned this in the EVTV Hack Team mailing list. Byron Izbenhaard instantly located another one via Google and bought it for $6000 within a day.

Also on the list was Christopher Brand. He came to the end of a 39 month lease and was startled to learn Nissan was heavily discounting “residual value” on the lease. Like by about $5000. He could KEEP his perfectly good Nissan Leaf for $11,500 – a car that originally listed for some $38,000.

Within a couple days, Hack Teamers Mark Weisheimer and Damien Maguire had both purchased off-lease Leafs. Mark opted for a very low mileage “loaded” model with everything you can get on a Leaf for $13,500. His wife endures a 4 mile commute.

Damien, in Ireland, paid $11,000 for one with a few easily cured problems. But he’s going to part it out to finish off his BMW “der Panzer” build. And meanwhile do some Leaf Fast Charge CHAdeMO data logging for us.

I found FOUR off-lease Nissan Leaf SL’s, all with less than 40,000 miles at a dealer in Houston, Texas on eBay at $10,495. No, I didn’t buy. And there’s a reason.

For anyone jealous that they “missed” these deals, fear not. This is, as Churchill noted, not the BEGINNING of the end. It’s more the end of the beginning. Both Nissan and Chevrolet have already layed out their new 2016 models with significant upgrades in range, amenities, and re-engineering. Within months, not only will there be tens of thousands of Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts coming off lease, but they will be technically obsolete with much more desireable iron glistening on the lot – complete with very attractive lease terms to move THEM.

Indeed, the Detroit Free Press reports that currently, with the factory shut down to retool for 2016, there are over 6,000 Chevrolet Volts languishing on dealer lots across the country – brand new and never leased. To put this in perspective, Chevrolet sold LESS than 3000 Volts in the first 3 months of the year. So they have a six month’s inventory overhang out there now, and tens of thousands of Volts coming off-lease this year to add to the pile – just in time to be obsolete in all respects compared to what really is an impressive engineering tour d’force in the 2016 model. By all accounts they REALLY did a nice job of the 2016 model.

Even mighty Tesla may have a brewing storm. They have introduced their new Model D Model S (I knew they were going to get in trouble with this nomenclature. There is a REASON Ford is not on the model ZZXY by now). And they were firestormed with trade-in/trade-ups. We recently showed a video from one viewer of a midwest Tesla service center with dozens of Model S trade-in vehicles parked wherever they could find room for them. Of so, what of California? And where ARE they parking them? Purportedly the Model X will roll late in Quarter 3. Which I think is quarter two for the rest of us not on the Tesla fiscal calendar. What will happen then?

And so I can easily see a low mileage Chevy Volt in pristine condition in our future for say $7500 and some lucky dealer happy to get it at that.

Bottom line – an unprecedented perfect storm of crashing vehicle values in the used electric car market. I guess I really mean unprecedented market COLLAPSE.

This week we celebrate exactly our six years in weekly video publication at EVTV. Our first video was uploaded May 22, 2009. At the time of our initial video, there was precisely ONE electric car available worldwide – the Tesla Roadster. It cost over $100 grand and was unobtainium for over a YEAR. There was NO second model to choose from.

And so for OUR viewers, who might be able to deal with the vagaries of repairing a used electric car, it is party time. It is RAINING inexpensive, perfectly operational electric vehicles. PARTY LIKE ROCK STAR DOGS. You can not only get them, but they have ALL the creature comforts, ABS, traction controll, airbags, power windows, bluetooth, remote controls on your iPhone – ultramodern amenities and low miles. Free coke for the kids. Clowns with balloon animals.

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In every economic event, there are those who celebrate, and those who despair. There is a dark side here.

I’ve feared for years the single achillies heel of electric vehicles. Not range. Not cross country driving. Not battery failure. Depreciation.

You see, I learned to only buy cars that were TWO YEARS old and exactly 10,000 miles. Because of “depreciation.”

Whatever the realities of lithium ion cells, they really don’t matter. Everyone already KNOWS everything they need to know about batteries. We’ve had them in our flashlights. We’ve had them in our “transistorized radios”. We’ve had them in our cell phones. We’ve struggled with the lead acid starter/lights/ignition battery in our cars. There are ZERO drivers in America who have not turned the key at one frustrating, even enraging, time or another only to find a “dead” battery. It’s actually ORDINARY. An everyday experience.

We know all about batteries.

And the idea of a NEW car, with NEW batteries, brings up the question of how far can you go, how long does it take to recharge, and how long will the batteries last at all.

But the question of how long the USED batteries in the USED electric car will last is a known entity. They won’t last AT ALL. That’s why they traded it in. They’re undoubtedly SHOT.

That in reality the batteries in the typical three year-old electric car will probably last another 15 years and 200,000 miles doesn’t matter AT ALL. We already KNOW so we don’t need any new information.

And when the batteries ARE shot in the Nissan Leaf, we’re getting 45 mile range instead of 75. But we’re still averaging 39.5 miles per day. So “shot” is perfectly acceptable. But it doesn’t matter. We already KNOW what happens to batteries.

Within weeks now, it will be widely known that the depreciation on electric cars is CATASTROPHICALLY worse than the same car in ICE version. It will not matter that in the three years of Leaf ownership, the owner never bought a single gallon of gasoline for the car, and charged it completely for less than a buck every time. It just will not enter the equation.

The news will inevitably be, that if you buy an electric car, the first year’s depreciation will kill you. Leaving only morons to buy new cars. And only the most eggregiously pathetic morons to buy new electric cars. And, at the risk of repeating myself, Californians of course.

Its a classic case of perception trumping reality. Of self-fulfilling prophesy. If everyone believes the value of the electric car plummets on the event of its first sale, then it does. Period. No argument. No response. Nada. The true value is always true. And it is ALWAYS based on perception.

What does this portend of the sales of the new Nissan and CHevrolet Volt and Bolt models? It is entirely possible they will CEASE. Dealers could simply revolt and not take anymore, with their lots already crowded with unsold earlier year models and off-lease returns. They don’t HAVE to take the cars at all. And their mulish reticence at carrying the new electrics from the beginning will prove astute.

The manufacturers can then shred the new product – arguably the best electric vehicles ever produced, or write them down to such ridiculous levels that they cannibalize the sale of what they will then refer to as their “real” cars.

The Tea Party will triumphantly announce the “total” that the democrats “spent” on subsidizing electric vehicles. And California will come under intense pressure to again back off the CAFE standards requiring zero emission vehicles at all. In fact, they will be pilloried for it.

Pretty gloomy, eh? Moving into the future is not quite as easy as we make it look like on EVTV.

Is the glass half-full, or half-empty? Well, to an engineer, it’s obviously the wrong size glass to begin with. We probably shouldn’t be using glass at all for this application. And in fact, there a number of more appropriate to the task fluids we could be working with as well. Water, as the universal solvent, is basically the enemy – to be shielded and protected from in all applications. So like all engineers, I may know the answer, but I’m sorry, what was the question again?

Now a little empathy here. Whether you BELIEVE and agree with the above scenario or not, pretend for a few minutes you are me. And we are about to inherit 75,000-100,000 used Chevrolet Volts at very low values here in the U.S. alone, and we are simultaneously about to inherit 75000-100000 Nissan Leaf’s here in the U.S. at VERY low values. And the dealers for both those companies are disinclined to WANT to support or repair them, and at the same time pathologically ill EQUIPPED to repair or support them.

We DID recently describe a guy who purchased a USED Toyota Camry hybrid. He had a check engine light on the dash. That’s all he wanted taken care of. The dealer presented him an estimate for OVER $4500 for a brand new hybrid battery for the car. He declined the offer. Went home. Took apart the battery pack, and cleaned every terminal with vinegar, neutralizing the acid with baking soda. Totally successful permanent repair. Check engine light gone. Did he have a PHd in “electric car”. He has just mastered vinegar wash.

And the position of the automakers, publicly described in gorey detail in legally entered officially printed and promulgated public comment, is that information regarding the repair of these modern vehicles is part of THEIR intellectual property RIGHTS and no one should be allowed to repair their own modern car in the interests of public safety because we don’t know what we’re doing. And we don’t know what we are doing because they won’t give us the information on how to repair it. Or even how it works.

What the SHIT am I supposed to do with THAT? Obviously, all auto manufacturers are EXCELLENT candidates for purchasing NEW cars as described by my father. And I would note that in almost every case, their Senior executives have INDEED been seen driving around in brand new cars PROOF POSITIVE that Dad was RIGHT ALL ALONG.

In this episode, the EVTV hack team, stoically and quietly continue an eggregiously dull boring chore of dismembering and reverse engineering the machinations of the Tesla PowerTrain CAN bus. We’ve had to engineer our own hardware tools, our own software tools, and begin gathering huge data sets that have to be pored over line by line, byte by byte, and bit by bit. All to figure out how to make useful some perfectly good drive trains from wrecked Tesla Model S vehicles. And the horrible irony is that Tesla could GIVE us this information in CAN.dbf files they already have, at ZERO cost, and at ZERO risk of anything – ANYTHING. Any time they chose to. And they’ve already publicly proclaimed their entire car OPEN SOURCE. But they won’t do it. And Chevrolet won’t do it. And Nissan won’t do it. ANd Daimler won’t do it.

And none of them even can present a cogent single sentence of WHY they won’t do it. They magically allude to “liability” as the catchall reason to not do anything in our society today, with no concept of what they are saying. They are not sufficiently sentient to comprehend the irony in the words coming out of their grim greedy little mouths. They USE the dark concepts of magical “hackers” and “public safety” to excuse their positions. But they don’t have any line of thought as to what those positions ARE in the first place.

The HEAD of Daimler’s electric program in the U.S. sincerely believed there was NOTHING wrong with giving me this data for a Smart ForTwo electric. He instantly agreed to do it. Only in arrears, was he informed later by people BELOW him in the organization that this was a huge no-no and had to publicly retract his promise to do so. And I talked to him about it. He really doesn’t YET know WHY. He only knows that it is PROPRIETARY.

We have SINCE purchased a battery from them at a MUCH reduced and more reasonable cost of around $8000 than their original $30,000 estimate. But they found something wrong with the plug that connects it. And so they agreed to INSTALL the battery. But not enter the 10 digit serial number in a simple OBDII handheld device to activate it until we “repaired” it and then ported iT BACK to St. Louis to have this act of software performed.

I, and Mark Weisheimer, and Byron Inzbenhaard, each examined the connector in question. As between us we have more direct experience with and knowledge of electric vehicles than the ENTIRE DAIMLER ORGANIZATION in the United States, including ALL their Dealers TOGETHER, it is all the more perplexing in that we couldnt’ find a SINGLE THING wrong with the connector. It appeared 100% undamaged and operational in all respects. But some ass clown in the Creve Cour dealership had proclaimed it unsafe to turn on. It’s probably missing some sort of plastic shield that we don’t even know about nor need EVER.

So I had ONE 110 mile trip to trailor it up there. One 110 mile trip to trailer it back. And I only face TWO MORE, all because they can’t give me a 10 digit code to enter into a computer.

To do what? To protect what? With no cognizance of it, the net effect is to REDUCE THE VALUE OF THEIR VEHICLES. To make them LESS desirable. And to do irreparable harm to their brand. Regarding a car I am otherwise moved to admire, what is MY opinion of Daimler Smart electric cars? And what is yours? Clearly we are NOT in the minority. They haven’t EVEN approached the abysmal success rate of Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt in the marketplace.

So it should be the death of EVTV as well. For the foreseeable future, it will be MUCH less expensive to purchase a perfectly operational modern electric vehicle, manufactured and produced to professional standards, than to do your own conversion. I guess we should wrap up this episode, and start a video series on how to make your own whiskey at home….

There are a few clues in this episode however. Americans, and indeed car enthusiasts worldwide, have a love of automobiles and indeed customizing automobiles that runs very very deep. In this episode, we see a fully restored and electric late 1950’s Mercedes Benz SL190 coming to life with one of our ultra smooth and compact UQM Powerphase 100 drive trains. Stand that up next to an electric SmartForTwo and see which turns the heads. The work is done by a family owned business of DECADES dedicated solely to providing metal stampings for the renovation of classic Mercedes Benz automobiles. DECADES.

We show a rework of a 1958 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck in electric drive in work in Toronto. The Steamwhistle Brewery delivery truck.

And beyond the restoration of classic cars, I’m going to coin a new term – “heirloom vehicle”. That is, a classic vehicle that is passed on generation to generation in families as a treasured family heirloom. How about a 1960 Studebaker Champ pickup truck. And does this one look GREAT with over 100 CA180FI cells in it and again a UQM Powerphase 100 smoothly spinning the wheels.

I have wincingly noted, quite along the way, that while I would love to share your proclamations of final victory on the transition from internal combustion engine to magnetic drive, it just isn’t that easy. The challenges are in social acculturation and economics, not in technology. And we are still very much in the tinkerer and innovator stage.

Picking up just where in the evolution of a technology it DOES move into the early adopter phase is kind of tricky. But without knowing anything more about the actual curve, we are forced to the classic definition which indicates the BEGINNING of the early adopter stage NORMALLY occurs at about 2.5% market penetration. At 15 million vehicles in the U.S. alone, that implies annual sales of 375,000 electric vehicles. We have yet to even approach that. This year, perhaps 60,000 sales total for battery electric plug-in vehicles.

And there is nothing smooth in the tinkerer innovator phase of the curve. It is full of starts and stops. Promises of riches and the despair of bankruptcy. Dreams both dreamed and dashed sometimes in a single season. Geoffrey Moore’s CHASM is POST early adopter. We are not yet TO early adopter. Elon Musk is a well funded tinkerer and innovator. We hope he can lead us to early adopter. But nothing is assured.

In this episode I repeat my call to arms of May, 2009. And I repeat it with full congnizance of what I was asking then, and now. I didn’t stutter. It wasn’t an accident. I’m not the slightest confused. I saw it in ALL its gorey implications then and what it would take in time and treasure from me personally and you as a group. I can only reiterate for those with an ear to hear. It is terribly terribly important to the future that this battle be won. I will NOT describe for you the alternative. It is a horror beyond description.

And while it would indeed be fantastic for the enemies of this struggle to lay down and surrender as their first official act, and for us to declare victory at every successful first drive, I do fear to report it is not the way of the world. I can offer only tears, blood, sweat and struggle. And I can assure you of total anonymity in victory. Your personal dedication to this battle WILL be forgotten if you succeed. And if you sit on the couch and fail to act, the outcome will NOT be won.

Obama can’t do it. Hillerairy can’t do it. General Motors can’t do it. The State of California can’t vote it in. We can’t all vote ourselves energy millionaires. VW and LGCHEM are not going to save us. There is no magic button. No silver bullet. Elon can’t do it alone. The utility companies are NOT your friend and ally. Every fair wind you have celebrated thus far has been ephemeral. Every following sea treacherous. Every break in the clouds a trap.

But we are not without hope. There has been change of many minds along the way. There are many more of us now. And we inherit a huge treasure of engineering talent, parts, techniques, and advanced technology in the crumbling wreckage and debris of this setback. It is precisely the re-enforcement of ammunition we needed at the perfect moment of our need. We will sift through the rubble grubbing out the treasures and the artifacts. We will retool them and repolish them and resuse them. We will use it up. We will wear it out. We will make it do. Or we will do without. I promise you another 40 miles of piss, blood, razor blades and broken glass and the opportunity to crawl through them all on your hands and knees retching and vomiting the entire way. At which point it will be declared an overnight success story and of course entirely inevitable the whole time. And GM will no doubt have invented it. But only with the help of the government. Or the telephone company. I get confused as to which.

Let’s go over this again. I happen to know there are 100,000 Jack Rickard’s out there. I need them to go into the garage, and sweep out a space about the size of a car….

…And unlike Obama, …… I already know how this comes out…..

I’m aging. And I’m heavy. My knees buckle a littler earlier in the evening. I’m not as young and pretty as maybe I once was. And if I appear short and grouchy with the opportunists, the me-toos, the wannabees, the fakirs and the poseurs, it’s because I never did like em much before, and I don’t like em now at all. I suffer fools even more poorly than I did at a younger and more cheerful age.

But for those among the 100K, you have my time, my treasure, and my life. Spend it well.

Jack Rickard

42 thoughts on “Who Killed The Electric Car – This Time….”

    1. I guess I’m an overwrought kind of guy Rich.

      This CAN device is a toy – in all respects. I don’t think it would even capture a Tesla PowerTrain CAN flow. This guy has gotten a lot of press from not very much board and less software.

      PHP? Come on…

    2. Hehe, I should have a shirt that says “Yes, I know who Eric Evenchick is.” That guy gets a lot of publicity. Everyone has run a story on the guy and what he did. So, I’ve certainly heard of him. Funny enough, he’s heard of me too. In one of his hack-a-day articles about canbus he linked to my due_can library. So, the circle is now complete. It’s really a pretty small field. There are only so many people doing open source canbus tools.

      His board is reasonably priced and likely works alright. His software seems well written enough. Chances are he’s a reasonably decent programmer. He seems good enough at self promotion too. As Jack said, what he has done is not terribly high end though. He made something decent and got a huge amount of exposure about it. It seems that he didn’t even expect that. It was probably a somewhat lucky coincidence. A quick story about how that all works… During the era of plastic 5 button guitar games for game consoles I had an idea. I was over at my parents and one of their game guitars had the strumbar break. So, I got the idea to replace the strumbar with a light beam. I got to work and made it happen. We uploaded the video of it to youtube because it seemed kind of cool. Well, the internet found it. Eventually a somewhat large gaming webzine from South Korea found out about it and linked to the youtube video. Other sites followed afterward. I got enough hits for youtube to start hounding me to set up paid advertising over the video so we both could make money. I didn’t expect any of that. I think I was the first person to do that to one of the game guitars but who knows? I certainly was the most famous person to do so. Eric’s canbus hardware and software seems like what happened to me. He made something he found interesting and he put it out there. It just sort of grew legs and took on a life of its own. These things tend to die down as quickly as they start. He is, however, still working on it so it’s not a dead end.

      What we’re doing with the CANKit and SavvyCAN and all that is basically what Eric did but writ large. We’ve taken the scope of what he wanted to do and expanded it many fold in all directions. That’s not to say that there is no value in the cheaper, simpler solutions. What he did is just fine. It’s just that sometimes you have to push harder and farther and see where you can go. The Tesla powertrain bus probably has 2000 frames per second on it. Jack has managed to get captures of more than one million frames. You aren’t going to want to try that with cheap hardware and a python script. For some things you need heavy tools. For other things the cheaper, simpler solutions are best.

  1. Jarkko Santala

    I got my Citroën C-Zero for two fifths the price of new last year already. Three years old and less than 10.000km (6.200mi) on it. Not expecting to get anything if I’d trade it in. Probably keep the parts and put the cells in my motorcycle when in about three years I can buy a 200mi EV for nothing.

  2. Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our CARS, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!

  3. This was sad to read. I’ve been worrying about it for a while; the faster EV tech evolves, the faster existing ev’s depreciate, in relative value terms. But relative to ICE cars, I think they’re pretty solid. Except for the terrible looks.

    Wat really frustrates me is that the major OEM’s seem to be deliberately designing un-charismatic EV’s, and using really bad advertising to sell them. Almost as if they don’t really want to sell them. I remember in particular, some terrible advertising for the Ford Energi cars. … and the truth is, the Tesla only really appeals the affluent, tech-freindly, over-35 crowd (a rather small minority). It is not a sexy or badass style. To succeed, EV’s need to appeal to the masses. Especially in a time when cars are not so much a necessity but an optional extra, people buy them to show off, to show how cool they are. If EV’s aren’t cool LOOKING, they are failing. I think this is why ev-conversions have so much potential. They can start with charismatic ICE cars.

    I have an idea. How about an electric Gymkhana 7 style car? I think magnetic drive is far superior to ICE drive for drifting purposes. Far superior torque curve. How about an electric gymkhana-7 style project, with Monster Energy sponsorship, and some ‘sick’ youtube footage? I think that would really lay to rest the ‘geeky’ image of EV’s.

    here’s the link to Gymkhana 7 video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qanlirrRWs

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  4. Mr. Green jeans

    So, we can buy off-lease Leaf for say $10,000, use the money we save by not buying gas to build an magnetic drive heirloom vehicle with parts from Cap’n Jack, and when the Leaf batteries play out, use the charger and heater and various other parts to complete the heirloom project and sell the rest of the car for parts–all the while changing the world. Sounds like a winner!

    1. Stanley Cloyd

      Any one else here remember the Mopar “bodies-in-white” available for drag racers back in the ’70s? The auto OEMs have invested a bit in EV infrastructure. They need to be using the equipment for seven years to fully reclaim the depreciation on taxes. I’ve worked in several plants that were shut down right after the company could not milk out more depreciation on taxes. I’ve driven a Volt for about a month now. Once you do, you won’t want to go back to pure ICE drive ever! I had to put fuel in it for the first time in the Arizona mountains last week. When I opened my wallet, Andrew Jackson could clearly be seen squinting.

  5. I’ve long said that EVs will have arrived when teenagers are tuning and chopping them. That doesn’t happen until warranties expire and prices come down to teen levels. what do I call 200,000 dirt-cheap EVs? Raw Material. another vector for social infection. The virus spreads.

    1. Stanley Cloyd

      The first time someone fitted two updraft Zenith carbs on a four banger Ford the warranty was void and the race was on. Originally thermo-siphon cooling was enough. Early hot rodding led to the inclusion of a water pump. Deja vu? Comparison of early hotrods to stock vehicles caused some shoppers to inquire in the showroom: Why can’t (you, the OEM do that)? Factory sponsored racing teams were a way for the OEMs to cheaply obtain innovations from a bunch of guys in their garages before the other OEMs got it. The same thing happened with both snowmobiles and personal water craft. From time to time the tail tries to wag the dog and the OEMs attempt to teach us why we need things the way they choose to produce them. Once in a blue moon the old adage: “the customer is always right.” breaks out like sunshine on a winter day. The bootlegging fathers of NASCAR built special cars the cops just couldn’t catch. After the big three started building fast light interceptors racing on a track was preferable to jail time. What goes around comes around.

  6. The depreciation is so harsh because the cars, more to the point the parts, are overpriced to begin with. As production of these components ramps up, the costs are coming down. Regardless of the perceived battery issues and thus value of the vehicle, the simplicity of the components will out. Electric drivetrains have nowhere to go but down in price. The whole system is a fraction of the complexity of a typical ICE motor. The economy of scale is the only excuse for a Leaf or other real electric car to cost more than its ICE equivalent. And that excuse is quickly dissipating. We may have to hack them, but these electric cars will end up lasting much longer than their ICE counterparts. Residual values will climb back up eventually, but initial cost will drop dramatically first.

    1. I don’t know, man. For me, it’s always been the PRICE of the frickin’ battery that’s the biggest sticking point, because 5 years after new, you don’t get slightly less empg–no, you get an opportunity to shell out thousands of dollars to the tune of 40-60% the price of the vehicle. For a battery. Oh, and it still takes 10 times as long to “fuel up” as an ICE engine and the cars cost much more.

      To make a point, I’m going to throw down my street cred here, as a bottom-feeder. In my patent-awarded day-job, I am part of a team that makes certain parts for aircraft simulators. I design features and test new features. Our team does it cheaply, faster, and better than our competition. Price makes a difference. Are we the top of the line Teslas in our field? No, but our competition costs 3 times as much as we do, we meet the basic requirements, and every two years we offer enormous performance upgrades for 10% of the original purchase price. Our low cost allows our customers to do amazing things that just wouldn’t be possible with more expensive competition. They can buy several of our products and do team training, and avoid multi-million dollar “upgrades” every 10 years. They can afford several thousand dollars for bi-annual incremental upgrades.

      My point is, low cost products with marginally equivalent performance can spawn broad-based adoption and enough allow novel applications to arrive (like we have in our field). We all could have had 3D televisions in the 1960’s . . . for $350,000 each. Plus all the space they took up and noise they made, and the huge expense at the time of creating 3D content . . . it wasn’t practical. And practical is what makes things broadly adaptable. I guarantee you that if EVs cost 1/3 the price of their ICE counterparts, even with the current major disadvantages, there would be some businesses somewhere that could crunch the numbers and find a practical, permanent use for the things.

      The top of the line EVs, Teslas, have some major practical performance disadvantages to ICE cars, (battery price and charge time–range is a very solveable problem already) but they are nowhere near the price of ICE cars.
      So to sum up: major disadvantages, more expensive.

      Who saw mass adoption with this setup?

      I agree that the price crash we’re hitting is the beginning of the teens building EVs movement. Because the raw materials will be cheap enough that it won’t matter the battery is practically useless in 5 years; it won’t cost that much to replace it.

      I also can’t say that government subsidies haven’t aided this. Mucking about in the markets and creating artificial demand CAN lead to bigger crashes than otherwise would have occurred as new EV owners began to learn first-hand the limits of their new tech, and returned to ICE cars on their own, until better energy storage options arrived.

      In the 3 years I’ve poked at building an EV, I have met (excluding EVCON) 1 person with a Lithium-based build for every 20 people with Lead Acid.builds. Bottom-feeders, as Mr. Rickard puts it, so far outnumber the top-tier “Do it Right” folks like you all, as far as I can tell.

      Anyhow, with all that said, I still encourage you folks to keep going with your dreams and experiments. I guess I’d better leave now, before the bouncers bust me out anyway.

      Cheers.

      1. Some interesting ideas there Royalestel. I think there are a couple of points worth making. One is that lead isn’t cheaper than lithium because you have to replace it so much more often. A friend had a 30 mile range lead pack drop to three miles within a year or so. And a 30 mile pack of lithiums is not that expensive. The pack in my Civic is good for 40 – 45 miles and I know (because I have tested cells of the same type) that they will still have good power in 2000 cycles (six years of daily charging or 12 years every other day).

        The second is that there is a tipping point in practicality. My 40-45 mile lithium pack plus motor and controller weigh about the same as the diesel lump I took out, and fit in the same space so I can still haul 5 plus luggage. A 40-45 mile lead pack would reduce the car to a two seater, or a tail-heavy 5 seater with no luggage space

        1. I appreciate the long term costs of the LiFePO batteries are dropping, but I can recondition my lead acid batteries myself without too much work, and extend their useful life by quite a lot. I suppose the battery pack size all has to do with our efficiencies and weight, etc. I am really happy to see the expected life of the lithium batteries continues to increase.

          I think you misunderstand my point about lead acid. I don’t believe either the lithium or lead acid batteries is a practical solution for the average “I don’t care how it works” driver that just wants a car to commute with. I mention lead acid because there are so many more that have gone that route as the cheaper one, because it is possible to build a lead acid EV commuter for a fraction of the price of a lithium (though long term use is arguably more expensive, if not reconditioning your own batteries). The commuter I drive only has 2 1/2 seats (small cab pickup) so there is no reduced cab space with lead acid, though I may lose some cargo space if I converted it. The lead acid car owners seem pretty happy with their capabilities, but they truly are minimal performance vehicles. Might as well drive a scooter, except scooters aren’t all-weather.

          What I think we really need is an energy storage solution that’s at least as energy dense as lithium batteries, but more easily recyclable, and cheaper. I have some hope for this:
          http://www.eosenergystorage.com/technology-and-products/

          1. royalestel, have you ever driven a LiFePO4 powered vehicle and compared it to a lead acid powered one? I was happy with my lead acid powered Gizmo until I installed LiFePO4. I will never go back to lead acid. I got 5008 miles out of my first lead acid pack. Had I realized that the capacity had dropped so much I might have been able to squeeze out another 1000 miles. When I installed my LiFePO4 pack and had my first drive on January 18, 2010 I was hooked on LiFePO4. 5 and a half years later I still have a strong pack and as of today, 20,558 miles on the pack. Even if I could get 7000 miles out of a lead acid pack that would have been 3 packs by now and I’d need to be putting in the 4th pack soon.

            I have had to sacrifice quite a bit with this LiFePO4 pack. I had to give up monthly watering. Monthly checking and tightening of terminal connections and regular cleaning of the battery tops. I’ve had to give up dealing with corrosion caused by the acid mist from charging the batteries. I have had to give up charging as often since the LiFePO4 pack has a 70 mile range running wide open. I have had to give up getting at best 4 miles/kWh from the wall and instead stretch that to 5.5 mi/kWh. I’ve had to give up driving the gas guzzler on many of my trips where my Gizmo couldn’t make it either because it hadn’t quite charged enough for the trips later in the day or it simply couldn’t make that trip. I’ve had to give up taking out the battery pack regularly to clean the corrosion of the aluminum battery box. Oh, I also had to give up on replacing the battery box by now since LiFePO4 doesn’t corrode anything. I had to give up on having the suspension cranked to the max to handle the weight of the lead acid pack. And the list goes on.

            Have I checked on the tightness of the terminals of my LiFePO4 pack? Sure! But I found that nothing changes since I have the right combination of bolts and washers. Have I checked for corrosion on the terminals? Sure, but I haven’t found any. Have I checked that the batteries aren’t “drifting apart” from each other and I don’t have a cell level BMS? Sure, but after nearly 4 years I still don’t find any. I don’t bother checking very often because nothing really changes. Lately I’ve been checking every 6 months but I probably won’t check until next summer after this summer’s check. So in short, while I do care how it works, as most physicists would, it just works. LiFePO4 is definitely a practical solution for the average “I don’t care how it works” driver. In fact, it is likely even better than what most OEMs use for that driver. And, in my case, I am now past the break even point compared to using lead acid. Even with your reconditioning of the lead acid there is no reconditioning which would have given me 3-4 times the range of lead acid. In my case LiFePO4 is definitely cheaper than lead acid and way more convenient.

            David D. Nelson

  7. Here in the UK there were 37 bids (last time I looked) on a non-runner Modec van on ebay (Modec are no more). They might be planning to cannibalise it but some bidders may be hoping to get it running again as an EV.

    1. That’s how I would go about it. Say for instance it were an AZD van. If it were the vehicle control electronics, and you can’t find the replacement parts, you can bypass all of that junk and use GEVCU. As we gain control over more and more OEM equipment, we can bring these “dead” vehicles back to life after acquiring them for a steal.

  8. What do you think Jack, will it be possible to separate the Model S motor from the transmission unit like it is with the UQM and Siemens and make it usable that way? I understand starting the process of making the drivetrain usale by learning to speak “go”, “faster”, “steady” and “backwards, please” in a language it can understand, but is mechanical connectivity to a non Tesla vehicle next on your checklist?

    BTW Thanks for a great show, I seem to enjoy watching it a little bit more every week. So much in fact, that my wife has declared EVTV “headphone listening only”, go figure.

  9. For those who have been following my Honda Civic conversion, I’ve got maybe 100 miles on it since getting it on the road a week last Saturday and it is going fine. I weighed it today. It is 60 kg lighter as an EV than it was as a diesel (in old money it is bang on 3000 lbs – originally 3130lbs). No flywheel and no air conditioning

    I am still tweaking controller parameters (although it worked very well with the defaults straight out of the HPEVS crate), and I still have a few unwanted lights on the dash. The lack of clutch (damaged during rebuild) has been a slight issue. I have turned off regen as a temporary fix to make it easier to change gear. Longer term plan is to upgrade the software and put a switch on the gear knob to suppress regen when changing gear.

    I am very pleased with it. I suspect that it may be the only European style 8th Gen Civic EV in the Western hemisphere. MANY thanks to HPEVS, Jack, Damien and a number of others who have advised, encouraged and helped

    1. Don’t sell yourself short, John. Does Ford sell a Euro-spec 8th Gen Civic anywhere but Europe? If not, I’d say you have the only converted one in the WHOLE WORLD!!

  10. We have a company here in FL named “Off Lease Only” where I REGULARLY see low mileage LEAFS for CHEAP, i.e ~$8K to $12K. A few weeks ago, there was a 4 digit mileage 2012 off lease example for $12K.

  11. Here in the UK the EV market as well as the ICE new market has changed dramatically over the last few years, since the great depression hit. The bulk (around 60+%)of new cars were sold to business purchasers who leased them over 2 to 4 years. Resulting in decent prices for used cars with 100k on the clock. The Business world having taken the hit. Personal new buyers were of the buy a new car every 3 years even if you have only done 20k miles. Now the bulk of sales highger than 60% is to people buying new cars on Personal lease plans, ie you pay a small first payment, then monthly payments, walk away at 2 or 3 years, or pay a final sum and its yours, Then if you walked away, have another new car. A lot of EVs have been purchased in this way, and battery lease is popular with a number of users. As clearly you are worried about buying a new car on a 2 year personal lease plan, and fearing the battery pack will fail, even with the 5 year warranty, so leasing has to be better. People here see the Battery lease cost as being like paying for petrol, so are happy to pay. Renault tempt people in with cheap advertised battery lease costs of £40 / month, then you realise that works out at 8 miles a day with excess mileage over a 3 year lease of £0.3 / mile. If you only travel 8 miles a day, you could have a brand new Electric bike every month and still come out on top over 3 years.
    The makers have also killed the used market by dumping new last season models.It started early 2013 when Nissan were dumping 2012 leafs for around half list price, having registered them to dealers first so officially they were used. Citroen and Peugeot could not sell the re badged Miev as they had only a few dealers across the country who could sell and service them, These cars were close on £30k list, I know people whou bought then for under £10k new. Guess what, second hand prices for EVs are now going down even more rapidly.
    There are thousands of used Leafs selling at around £10 to 12k and hundreds of used renault Zoes costing used car sales money (They still have to pay the battery lease even if the car is not being used). Renault wont take back the battery pack, as your arrangement is with a separate leasing company , not renault. SOme have enquired, and renault will charge to remove the battery, disable your car, by deleting the battery details in the ECU, then they will refuse to sell you a battery or even a new lease battery as they claim only one battery can be allocated to a car. So if you deal in used cars, dont buy a Renault to sell on.
    I am looking at making a Twizy battery pack replacement, a few owners have asked me for this. As the vehicle has a simple Sevcon controller and can be talked to. Again renault say only one Battery per car, but If a replacement can be offered then Twizy can have a second life.
    Keep up the good work Jack.

  12. John Westlund

    Excellent read, as usual.

    I’ve thought a bit about the flood of used, inexpensive EVs myself, and have considered perhaps that these EV components and/or working cars might reverse their trend and become highly prized in the future, especially if gasoline became unavailable at any price.

    My prediction is that working cars and/or fuel to propel them will become scarce at some time within my lifetime. This would be the result of geopolitical factors, resource scarcity, economic collapse, biosphere collapse, and/or oil supply depletion. There is already historical precedent showing government and industry are both willing to re-tool industrial production to engorge the size of the war machine, and just like during WWII, one major international conflict resulting from any archetypical camel sneeze or black swan event could result in all automobile production CEASING entirely.

    Imagine that Israel pre-emptively attacks Iran, then the U.S. gets involved, then China and Russia get involved, then NATO gets involved, then everyone else gets involved, and the whole world goes to shit as a result of one big conflict(sparing, of course, the idea that this goes nuclear). Iran shuts down the Straight of Hormuz, Oil spikes to $400/barrel, gasoline is $10/gallon in the U.S. at the pump in less than a week. The president issues an executive order that forbids Tesla, GM, Ford, and all the other OEMs from manufacturing automobiles outright in order that they re-tool to produce machines of war. Meanwhile, Joe Sixpack in middle-America uses a gas-guzzling late-model pickup truck to commute his 30 miles to work, of which he can’t get repaired outside of a dealer network that no longer stocks parts, and living from paycheck to paycheck, one he can no longer afford to operate. One component failure can leave Joe Sixpack without wheels, meanwhile he is also seeing gas rationing and fights breaking out at empty gas stations.

    Fast forward 5 years, assume we don’t get nuked, but the war still rages.

    Does Joe Sixpack own the SUV anymore? Probably not, unless he converted it into a chicken coop… or made it his new house…

    Were that to become the case, a working EV could be an extremely expensive to obtain and highly desired commodity. There simply wouldn’t be enough vehicles or parts to meet the demand that would exist, and probably would there be no hope of ever being able to mass produce OEM components ever again. Maybe “Mad Max” has it all wrong, and the nomad gangs of outlaw bikers will be after working battery packs, instead of “guzzoline.”

    It would be nice if I had more than a few weeks a year to pursue my project… Part of that would be jumping into the hack team mentioned in the article to figure out how to make the Tesla drivetrain/CANbus/BMS/ect work, but I don’t see how I can help with that yet, with other real life circumstances getting in the way and all. Distance certainly doesn’t help. But that’s a damned good learning opportunity…

    My components in the GT6 are all already out of date(but very usable), and I haven’t personally put an entire mile on my conversion yet. It works very well up to at least 30 mph, but it hasn’t seen more than that yet driven around the block. Maybe a junked Model S drivetrain for a few grand is in my future… whether I need the extra horsepower or not.

  13. Welcome back to Jack! I see him on the shop webcam so he must have made it back. He looks to be moving around and able, so I am sorry there wasn’t any weird cousin storys! Looking forward to a new video this week!

    All the best,
    Aaron Lephart

  14. I found your comment about not wanting to deal with low voltage cars interesting. My biggest complaint about the HPEVS drives is the low voltage, but it seems to be the best seller and its a fantastic system, but if you can’t get ChaDeMo to work with them it’ll be a big problem. Most of the US ChaDeMo stations are from Nissan and ABB. Hopefully those “play nice” with low voltage vehicles. I’m looking forward to future installments on this, and I hope you find its not the voltage but some other quirk in the logic that can be resolved.

    http://insideevs.com/75-of-all-chademo-quick-chargers-come-from-nissan-abb-or-fuji-electric/

  15. So Jack is there going to be a video this week or are you going to be liquored up playing with high voltage?
    For the Tesla drive train I have been thinking of using a Chevy SSR, because it is a convertible has a truck bed with a cover, some panels on it,
    and is made to look like the earlier type trucks, about 44 to 57.

    Steve

  16. Presumably all this CHADEMO business is just us getting ready for the next generation of higher density batteries? I try to imagine what would I do differently if I had fast DC charging. My Ranger gets 90-100mi currently. Would I plan a coast to coast trip with it? Would I even try to drive to MO from NJ? How would that even work assuming I could find enough charging stations. Drive 90mi MAXIMUM because even if I could go 100mi I wouldn’t want to risk it. As I write this, 90mi even seems like a stretch. What if the charge station is broken? What if someone cut the cord for the copper? What if someone else is there and after waiting an hour he/she is still nowhere to be seen? Not only that, but ignoring the logistics, how much does it cost to charge? If it’s much more than the $.16/kwh I pay at home (roughly $5.44/equivalent gallon gasoline), at $2.50/gal it wouldn’t take a super high mpg ICE car to reach parity especially if you factor in the convenience of not having to stop for 30-45min every hour once you’ve found a functioning charge station.
    I’m certainly not suggesting we all pack it up and go home because if building an EV is worth doing, and we all know it is, it’s worth doing well and using the most current technologies is doing it well.
    Just thinking out loud…..

  17. Jack, congrats on the new sidekick. I think we were hoping for a titty blonde, Bob will have to do. I just want to throw $ .02 at the Tesla powered donor car project. I love that you are considering a Corvette based idea, that car looks cool. However an American icon with IRS since 1963 is a Corvette. My personal fave is the C2 63-67 coupe. Going a step further would be a Cobra Killer Grand Sport. That would have to be a replica though as they only made 5. The story behind those 5 cars is quite interesting. Here is a clip from Wikipedia:
    In 1962 Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov initiated a program to produce a lightweight version based on a prototype that mirrored the new 1963 Corvette.[18] Concerned about Ford and what they were doing with the Shelby Cobra, Duntov’s program included plans to build 125 Grand Sport Corvettes to make them eligible for international Grand Touring races. After the GM executives learned of the secret project, the program was stopped, and only five cars were built. All five cars have survived and are in private collections. They are among the most coveted and valuable Corvettes ever built, not because of what they accomplished, but because of what might have been.

    There is an outfit called Grand Sport Replicas that makes these replicas in various degree of completeness using modern Corvette suspension parts.

  18. Great show, as usual. I think you have a real dilema over what to do with a working Tesla drivetrain. But really I think you already know what its going to be, you have mentioned the vehicle many times in your videos. Its the Ford P150. As the best selling vehicle over in the states it would surely show what can be done. A great deal of the public will have owned one at some point and be able to appreciate the real advantages of a converted one. Shame its not more of a looker, but everyone knows it. Reminds me of an old girlfriend.

      1. A question for the group… does anyone know if Canada or any of our provinces have right repair legislation? In a state with right to repair, does Tesla have to sell you parts? If so, do you have to supply a VIN number? Does anybody know how that works?

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