Monday, October 31, 2011

EVCCON 2011 Day 3

Saturday rose far too early, with many people AWOL in the morning breakfast.  They apparently felt they could drink more of Jack's whiskey than Jack himself.  They were sadly mistaken.  Jack was a bit late though, so we missed his planned Lithium Ion battery theory, charging and burning up cars sessions, but you can watch hundreds of hours of this on the EVTV video archives.

First up was Tom Brunka from Helwig Carbon Products.  Jack thought this session was going to be a bit of a sleeper, so he scheduled it for first thing in the morning.  In fact this was, by large measure, one of the most interesting sessions of the weekend.  Of course it helps to be deeply interested in how DC electric motors work - carbon brushes are the unsung hero.


Tom is the senior tech for Helwig, with 35 years of experience and he's doing his own electric conversion project too.  Helwig is the only 100% US motor carbon brush company.  Their brushes offer increased performance, higher efficiency and longer life.  Brushes go in every electric motor application you can imagine.

Most EVs use an Electro-Graphite compound.  These brushes have a design life of 2000 hours.  At 40 mph that's 80K miles and at 60 mph, that's 120K miles, so brushes are not a constant maintenance issue.  Brushes this hard take a long time to "seat" themselves on the commutator.  Tom believes the motor should run for 7 days at low current.  Unfortunately the motor companies don't want to spend this time or electricity in the factory, so it falls to the customer who probably installs it and runs it at full speed.  Brushes are machined with an arc-shaped contact patch at the factory to try to get them as close to the diameter of the commutator.

Metal-Graphite brushes are used in system with voltages less than 48, while standard graphite brushes can handle up to 90 volts.

Brushes are rated in Amps per square inch of contact area.  H49 compound of Electro-Graphite is 100A/sq in.  H60 Electro-Graphite is 80A/sq in, while H254 Graphite is less than 80A/sq in.

The armature is coated with a dry lubricant film - do not clean this off thinking that it's worn-off brush dust!  The thickness and color of the film tells how the motor is running.  Black is too thick and causing arcing.  Gray signifies contamination.  Medium dark chocolate color is perfect.

Brush resistance goes down as temperature goes up, and brushes like moderate humidity.  High resistance helps extinguish the arc between the brush and the motor during the break and make of the circuit during rotation.  The resistance of H49 is 0.0025 ohms / square inch cube.  This is extremely small, but is considered "high resistance" in the world of brushes.  One thing to remember - don't remove brushes to "check" them for wear.  This will shorten their life by 50%!

Tamping material is the connecting material between the brush and the wire that delivers the current.  It can be carbon or copper powder.  The factory drills a hole in the brush with a rifling patter, inserts the wire and powder, then tamps it down into place.  This shunt wire should be as large as possible to handle the enormous current expected.

EV motor usage is so severe that Helwig is moving to a multi-wafer brush design with a pad across the top.  This cuts the voltage drop in half.  The shunt wire size is balanced against the spring pressure.  The spring is designed to deliver constant force over the life of the brush.  This is tricky because the brush gets shorter as it ages.  The direction of the carbon grain in the brush makes a big difference too. 

There is a sensor wire drilled to the "wear" depth, which triggers a warning by delivering full pack voltage.  This is similar to the "screetch" noise made by worn brake pads. 

Wear factors for brushes include mechanical wear, arcing, weak spring force and commutator wear.  Improper spring pressure can overheat the motor windings by heat soaking the commutator.  This is a bad thing.  Arcing occurs between the bars in the commutator in the "neutral zone", bouncing across the gap.

A revelation to the crowd was the wearing of the motor bearings due to electrical discharge.  The bearings create a ground path for current which causes minute pitting, increasing friction and heat.  Helwig sells a grounding brush kit, which is made of 50% silver, to act as a sacrificial path for that current.  This is like the sacrificial anode in water heaters.  Tom wouldn't tell us what it cost, so I'm sure it's pretty expensive, but if you're interested in the longest life possible, then it's worth investigating.

To maintain your motor, blow out any dust with compressed air and keep it well-ventilated.  This can be passive ventilation via the motor's cooling blades or active ventilation like Jack's used turbocharger units.  Do not use silicon spray or glue near the motor , as the fumes attack brushes and commutators.  If you do need to install new brushes and springs, clean the commutator with garnet sandpaper only, in 80, 100 and 220 grits.  Then use a razor blade and a 90 degree micro file to clean out debris between the copper bars in the commutator, then finally sand with 220 again.  Only use polyurethane caulk to seal ducts.

The last organized session was George Hamstra again, a wrap-up talk called "Future Transportation Challenges".

Automotive growth explosion outside the US is staggering - up 300% between 1995 and 2020.  As for carbon emissions, the US is now the highest per capita, but China has the largest total.  Worldwide electric production comes from 1/3 oil, 1/4 natural gas and 1/4 coal, with other minor inputs.

As the price of oil increases, more reserves become economically viable that are now hard and expensive to get to: tar sands, deep-water drilling, etc.  The cost of gasoline is 68% oil cost, 15% refining cost, 6% distribution and marketing and 11% taxes.  A single 44 gallon barrel of oil produces 19-21 gallons of gasoline.  The profit is generally in the other 50% of that barrel of oil - quarts of lubricating oil, fertilizer, kerosene, thick goop for asphalt and roof shingles, etc.

Post World War II baby boomers have consumed 70% of the US oil reserves in one generation.  This is not sustainable.  Wikileaks says the Saudis are over-estimating their reserves by 40%.

GM, Ford, Chrysler, the US Department of Energy and several oil companies came together to form the PNGV - Partnership for Next Generation Vehicles.  The goal was to create the Freedom Car, using "leapfrog technology".  The effort died in 2003.

The highest growth in oil consumption is in the light truck segment.

Fuel cells have high energy density, but lower power output in vehicles.  They could be viable in houses and commercial buildings.

Lithium air batteries are on the horizon and claim 20% more power than current Lithium ion models.

Tom wrapped up by telling us oil companies are the largest users of coal-generated electricity to actually run the oil refineries.  It takes 7KW of electricity to refine 1 gallon of gasoline to go 30 miles.  That same 7KW of electricity in an electric car will take you 30 miles down the road directly, so why go to all of the trouble of refining and using gasoline just to burn it to go the same distance?

With the official sessions complete, we all drove over to a local town park for an electric car show, open to the public.  I was lucky enough to get a ride over to the park in David Hrivak's Tesla Roadster.  I made a video of the trip, but someone called me in the middle, which cut off the video, so I had to start a second one. It looks like I've run into an upload limit, so I'll work on getting the video up later.

As we pulled into the park's parking lot, they directed David to park right in the middle as the Tesla was going to draw a big crowd.  We were barely out of the car when it was surrounded.


 The townsfolk quickly piled into the park.




Close-up of the dragster.  It has dual motors and dual controllers.  The racing team has announced plans to upgrade nearly everything in the car soon to make it even more awesome..




And a great shot of the guts of Fred's Sprite.


Following the show in the park, we had a police-escorted parade through town back to the hotel.  It was probably the quietest auto parade the town has ever seen.  I rode with Fred in the Sprite and we got a lot of stares and waves from people as we rolled down the street.

I shot a video of the parade but it's far too long to upload.  I'll have to figure that out later.

After we got back to the hotel, we worked to arrange all of the cars, builders and drivers for a group shot.  I was standing in the bed of a pickup truck holding my camera over my head trying to get a decent shot.




Here's a quick video of Brian trying to arrange all of the cars for the shot.

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After the picture, we all went to the hotel to clean up and get ready for the closing banquet.  Unfortunately Fred and I missed the memo where it said we should get dressed up.  We were the only two people still wearing the EVTV t-shirt.  The banquet had fantastic food and wine and there were a small number of speeches, the best thanking Brian for being the brains and the hard work behind the show being such a success.  Here's Jack in all his glory and white suit.


Below is Jack announcing Brandon Hollinger of ampRevolt as the winner of the EVTV Build Your Dream Contest with his proposal to convert a 1971 Austin FX4, more commonly known as a London Taxi.  Brandon promised to take videos throughout his build.


Jack also announced the date of the 2012 EVCCON as September 26-30. Many of the events will again be held at the hangar at the Cape Girardeau Airport, but the sessions and vendor floor will be in Cape's own 32,000 square foot Show-Me Center Arena.  Jack and Brian are making provisions for as many as 800 attendees and 100 cars. After our goodbyes, we headed back to the hotels to get some sleep before our trips home on Sunday.

My 914 conversion will be complete for the show next year, but it's a logistical problem to get the car there.  It's 2003 miles and pulling the car on the trailer for that distance there and back is going to be brutal.  I may hire a car shipping company to transport it for me.  Several of the attendees did this - it's not cheap but it does the job.  I may be able to get a discount by sharing a trailer with someone else, possibly Richard from San Diego.  We'll see, lots of time to plan for next September.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

EVCCON 2011 Day 2

The sun rose on Friday to a lot of exhausted electric car people.  It was full of sessions and I took a lot of notes, so let's dive in.


First up was Paul Lin, founder of Aptima Motors in Taiwan.    He's designed a trash-collecting tricycle, electric sailboats, an eScooter, electric trains for the Taipei subway system and 40KW lithium electric ferry boats.  He launched the eCobra project with Jack and Brian.

He said that the Chinese luxury car market is nearly the same as the US, but the owners are 14 years younger, so the market for upscale cars is there.  He also sees city cars, with a stop/start and low speed profile, ramping up.  Electric taxis are in fleet testing right now.  They have a modular, replaceable battery pack system.  The taxi returns to the depot, several suitacase-sized battery packs are removed and replaced with fully-charges units waiting.  The back seat tips up, allowing access to the battery bay. It takes about 2 minutes to do a swap, much faster than charging.  The battery packs are owned and maintained by the electric utility.

Very few electric cars are personally owned in Asia.  Most are corporate fleet or utility owned.  People have seen reports of a few fires and are a little apprehensive.  This may have been the result of Battery Management Systems (BMS) problems, such as overcharging, as we have also seen multiple cases of battery fires in other parts of the world.


Next up was Bill Ritchie from HPEV - High Performance Electric Vehicles.  HPEV winds their own motors and developed the first sub-$5000 AC drive train EV conversion solution.  Their early work was with Curtis motor controllers.  One system they were testing broke off the dyno and went through a nearby door.  They have built hundreds of electric drivetrains for golf carts and NEV - Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles - for Palm Springs, California.  They worked with Rousch Engineering on a Ford delivery truck but were blocked from sale by the NHTSA.  They did a VW Jetta conversion with two motors on one shaft and two AC controllers.

They built the Wheego drive system, running 8500  rpm at 70 mph.  It has 36 260AH batteries with a 100 mile range.

Their AC motor is used in Jack's Speedster and Spyder and the 904.  They've put it into everything from a VW Beetle to a Ford Ranger truck, anything up to 3000 lbs.

They offer several regenerative braking modes: neutral braking, brake pad potentiometer and brake fluid pressure sensor.  They have CANBus integration, with chargers, controllers and instruments.  Soon they will offer a liquid cooled 9" AC motor paired with a 144V Curtis controller.


Next up was Dr. Dennis Doerffel from REAPsystems.  Dennis did his Doctoral thesis on "Testing and Characterization of Large High Energy Lithium Ion Batteries for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles."  He's the right guy for this audience!  REAPsystems consults on vehicle battery systems and has built a modular BMS.

He has converted a VW Golf, Honda Insight, ThinkCity anf Ford Fiesta.  He is the founder and moderator of the Yahoo group dealing with Thundersky batteries.

During his car conversion and PhD program, he decided he needed a BMS to check the state on every battery, so he founded REAPsystems in 2003 and built a Lithium Ion BMS.  His prototype EV runs 5000 euros plus batteries.  He's worked on Minis, taxi minivans, motorcycles, solar racing cars, airships, America's Cup yachts, underwater vehicles, boats and worked with Maclaren on the KERS system on their Formula 1 car!

One of his big goals is to prevent battery fires and there are a lot of factors that go into measuring the health of a battery pack: cell balance, charge/discharge rates, regeneration, thermal management, maximizing life, maximizing performance and range, driver information, diagnostics, adaptability, and CANbus integration with all devices.

His BMS module can manage 14 cells, and you can put up to 12 modules per system.  His battery control unit handles precharge, and drives contactor, heater, pump, fan, and compressor.

He then began discussing battery chemistry, starting with lead-acid (Pb).  Lead batteries have the "Peukert Effect" - self-discharge.  Lithium batteries have no self-discharge issues, even when sitting for 2 years in a shipping box, as Jack demonstrated.  In fact, high-discharge of lithium batteries can increase capacity due to the temperature increase.

Lithium charge and discharge voltages are different, and is therefore not a reliable way to measure State of charge (SOC), but after 48 hours of rest, come back to within 11mv so it's very close.  Impedance has a complex behaviour, so it's not suitable for SOC either.  Cold discharge has a bad effect on voltage, it can drop below the rated minimums, so it's best to keep the batteries within the rated temperature range.

Dennis then challenged the crowd.  If you have hate / love / ideas, send them to evccon@reapssytems.com, with subject Challenge.  If you want to participate in his efforts, email with subject "Cell Testing".  If you're an integrator or VAR, email with subject "Integrator" or "VAR".

In the end, he said amp-hour counting in and out of the pack is the best SOC metric.  You will need to reset your AH counter at the end of charge.


Next up was Dr. Valery Miftakov, founder and CEO of Electric Motor Werks.  He specializes in high end electric conversions on BMWs.  With an MS and PhD in Physics, and the two-time winner of the Russian Physics Olympics, he's got a lot of brainpower to throw at the problem.

His niche is high-volume BMW conversions with standardized parts and processes for efficiency, plus his own component design as needed.  His research find his potential customer base is interested in acceleration, recharge time and fun / cool factor.  His cars do 0-60 in less than 6 seconds with 100+ mile range at freeway speeds, topping out at over 100 mph.  His conversions cost roughly $20K and is hoping to get down to $15K as his quantities rise.  Remember, these are BMW owners and they expect performance and are willing to pay for it.

He's going to introduce his first conversion at the EV Rally in Palo Alto tomorrow.  He needs parts suppliers but he finds most things have a closed architecture and therefore technical dead-ends.  He wants to work on an open-specification set of parts for charger, controller and instrumentation.

Then we headed to lunch and more time outside with the cars!  I grabbed some shots of Jack's Mini Cooper.



A bit of a tangle of wires...


We were herded back into the hanger for David Kerzel's session on EV charging.  He launched Modular EV Power, which specializes in EV charging connectors and related parts.  He taught us everything there is to know about the J1772 connector and some others on the market.

The J1772 connector is the new standard for EV charging.  It's a polarized design so it can only be installed in one way.  It is touch-safe as the wires are all shrouded from contact, it prevents accidental disconnection with a toggle switch latch, has a ground conductor which mates in the socket first for additional safety.

There are 3 "levels" of charging defined:

Level 1: 120V at less than 16A, but typically 12A.  This delivers 1440W per hour to the pack.  At 200W of power consumption per mile, that translates to 6 miles of energy delivery per hour.  You can see that this isn't very practical for most EVs with large battery packs, but is OK for small packs, NEVs, golf carts, etc.  In this case, only one hot leg and ground are wired to the connector, while the other hot leg is left unconnected.  This allows a Level 2-capable charger to charge a Level 1 car, which is my situation for Version 1 of my 914.

Level 2: 208/240V at 6-80A, but typically 23A due to the rating of the J1772 connectors on the market today.  This delivers 5500W per hour to the pack.  At 200W of power consumption per mile, that translates to 27 miles of energy delivery per hour, or 90 miles of energy at the highest current rating of 80A.

Level 3: DC bulk charging.  There is very little of this technology available due to the need for the charger to exist outside the car, and delivery hundreds of amps of current.

EVSE, or Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment, is the technical name for a smart charger incorporating a J1772 connector.  The smart part of the system comes from two extra pins in the connector, besides the big pins delivering power.  The Pilot signal wire allows for a conversation between the car and the charger.  When the wire has a +12V signal, it means the connector is not plugged in.  At +9V, it means the connector is plugged in and ready.  At +6V it means the system is charging.  A 1Khz square wave signal on the pilot signal allows for even more control, indicating the the amount of current available for delivery.  Luckily, it only takes a few cheap components to make this conversation viable in the car and charger.  Finally there is a Proximity pin, which is only connected on the car side that indicates when the latch button is engaged in the connector.  This is only sometimes used.

There is an existing connector from Japan called CHAdeMO, which means "Charge To Move".  It delivers the equivalent of J1772 Level 3, with bulk DC charging right into the battery pack.  It's used by Nissan in the Leaf, Renault and TEPCO in Japan.  It's spec'd up to 1000V and 400A.  That is a metric ton of power being dumped into the battery pack.  Luckily a Lithium ion pack can handle it!

Last up for the day was Ryan Bohm, from EVSource and NetGain Controls.  NetGain's controllers are jumping into the market with some serious equipment.  They handle 160V at 1000A and 360V at 1400A.  They're liquid cooled and CANbus enabled.

He went into what DC motors are looking for from their controller.  They want to spin at a certain RPM for a given voltage, on a straight line.  As load is applied, more current is drawn to get back to and sustain the desired RPM.

Continuous current should be delivered at about 1/3 of peak.  Peak current should be delivered only for a few seconds at most.  Liquid cooling will help this, but there is a definite physical limit.

CANbus enablement is key, driving instruments, controllers, throttle systems, etc.

Safety is key in your project - build in redundancy for failure modes, make a plan for your build, use insulated tools, use one hand in the naughty bits.

Build with quality - plan your layout, use good wire connectors and heat shrink tubing, bundle your wires into wire loom, etc.

After this full day of sessions, we went outside to the drag strip and autocross track.  Members of the public were invited to watch and dozens showed up and enjoyed the late afternoon excitement that went until dusk made us wrap things up.  I took a bunch of pictures and videos, so enjoy the following!  The local Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) set up the 1/4 mile track and a great autocross track (with running commentary!), timing equipment and said that everyone with an electric car had to make at least one 1/4 mile run and autocross run.

Here's Richard rolling up to the weigh station for his speed run!


Here is Richard going up against Jack's Porsche Spyder.

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Here are Jason Horak in his Daytona and Tim Catellier in his BMW Z3.


Here's Duane Ball in his Porsche 904 and Eric Kriss in his Porsche Speedster.


And here's a video of them in action.

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Here are Daniel Yohannes in his Cayenne and Jim Hanna in his VW pickup.
 

Here are Kevin Smith in the custom "Seven" and Steve Woodruff in the stretch Prius.


David Hrvak is on the weigh station in his Tesla Roadster.


Tamera and Charlie Rickman's Opel GT on the weigh station.


And here are Charlie and David on their first run.  Charlie's car is great, but the Tesla is simply breathtaking.  David took many, many people for runs through the afternoon and hit 100mph at the end of each run.

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Fred is staging for his run.  With his English driving cap, he was more out for a country drive than a record-setting run.


Next up were a Geo Metro (sorry don't know the name) and John Yecker's Ford Ranger.


Next was a bit of a lopsided contest with Sebastien Bourgeois' dual-motor Porsche 911 and Michel Bondy's Subaru Forester.  I can say that Michel's clutch did survive the weekend; can't say the same for the 911...


You can almost smell the clutch in the video.

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The eventual winner of the drag racing is Ronald Adamowicz's custom-built WarpFactor II dragster built on a 1981 Chevy Camaro chassis.    This car runs a 10 second 1/4 mile, which compares with Porsche 911 Turbos and Corvette Z06s.


After dark, we decided to go over to Jack's house and have the bonfire and some home-distilled whiskey.



Well that was a very long, action packed day.  Late that night I crawled back to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

EVCCON 2011 Day 1

The morning arrived and Fred gave me a lift in his Sprite over to the airport hanger for the start of the convention. Yes, you read that right.  The convention was held in Jack's airplane hanger where he normally stores his two DC-3s.  Yes, he's got two DC-3s.  The Prowler is not electric, but the Tesla next to it is!


The hanger was set up brilliantly, with a food area, eating tables, a row of vendor booths and the main session area with a stage, a dais, a huge projection screen, and seating for about 200 people.

After a great breakfast and time to explore the hanger and get our first glimpses of the vendor booths, Jack kicked off the convention with his keynote speech.


Here are my hastily scribbled notes, any errors or omissions for anything during the convention are mine alone.

We're in the middle of a financial crisis, where people have to choose where to spend their limited money, from mortgage payments to the gas tank.   We want to help them with that decision.

It took 100 years to get 500 million cars on the roads in 1986.  By 2010 it doubled to 1 billion cars.  These are eating up limited resources and the world needs to have a better idea.

One problem with the rollout of electric cars in dense urban areas like China and India, is that there are no garages.  This means getting a charging cord to your car is going to be difficult.  We have to think globally about issues, not just suburban American families.

He told us about the National Public Radio story that was done.  I actually heard it at home the day before at about 4AM as I was getting ready to head to the airport.  Apparently the local area public radio station did a story and it was picked up by national NPR.  Local TV showed up during the event too.

Jack says there's no worry about running out of oil.  The laws of supply and demand will kick in and the price will go up as the supplies start getting harder and harder to get at.  Look for $10 gas in the not-to-distant future.

Jack believes there is a pent-up demand for electric cars that will be fulfilled by the first few thousand Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt buyers.  After that, the car makers will have to work hard to make sales, and it will be based on price and features.  As a personal note, I've seen this same pattern roll out in the solar electricity market.  The pioneers and super-greenies were the first buyers, and created demand to launch the industry.  Keeping the industry going were residential, commercial, government and utility customers who wanted to save money on their energy bills every month, hopefully with a little bit of environmentalism mixed in.

Cheaper vehicles with great mileage exist and customers will naturally go for those, even with tax incentives.  The Chevy Cruze shares the same platform as the Volt, but for $20K less.

Jack was involved in the early days of local ISPs and Internet access via dialup modem.  He sees the same kind of enthusiasm, and even some of the same people, in the nacent electric car industry.

Jack has mentioned in his videos that he doesn't really like cars very much, but he does like advanced battery technology like Lithium Ion (LiFePO4) and cars are a great showcase of what can be done with the batteries.  One of the attendees from the Netherlands wants to make an electric boat.

Lithium batteries can give a 30 to 80 mile range in a normal car, the upper end being a magic number for people to feel comfortable about getting where they need to go.  This is the "threshold of viability", and most people have incorrect opinions about electric cars, like "I need to drive farther than an electric car will take me".  The best way to teach someone is to take them for a ride.  There is nothing like driving in the car to really understand what it's all about.  The Government and the auto industry cannot change people's opinions, so it's up to us - people building, buying and driving electric cars to do grass-roots teaching.  Give people a ride, answer their questions truthfully (the good and the bad), correct their misinformation.  Every day.  Every stop sign.  Every parking lot.  Every gas station - no, don't fill up, just go inside and buy a soda or use the bathroom.  Even Chevy has two ads with this theme now.

After a break was George Hamstra.  George is the founder of NetGain Motors, maker of one of the most popular electric motor family in the electric conversion world - the WarP 9", 11" and several sub-models.

George's session title was "A Brief History of Time".  He went back to the start of computers - counting devices, transistors, computers, smartphones, etc. are bringing us a big bang of technology.  What we are seeing is comparable to the PC development era - standards rise up, get used, then get supplanted when something better is needed.  The evolutionary path is guided but has its own life.  He disussed fractals and the Butterfly Effect - we are the butterflies in the EV world.

The DC motor controller evolution has gone from primitive to very sophisticated, and we can see incremental improvements in current capacity, cooling and programmability in the future.  Controllers must be safe because there are lives at risk, potential fires, etc.

The attendees at the conference are designer and builders, but we don't have to do every little thing ourselves.  Buy products from companies you trust and drive them to improve and add new features.

DC motors have been around for hundreds of years, and in electric cars for about 100 years.  Small incremental improvements have been made, and George is keeping the innovation coming.  He's just released an improved WarP 9 with over 20 new features, and is working on a 9HV high voltage model.  He's also working on a "HyPErdrive 9" - a pair of motors with 3 brushes and dual commutators.  Also a WarP 11HV which will be sold for racing only.  He has a unit that's designed to bolt directly onto a Mercury outboard motor transmission, and one that will drop into a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Lithium batteries can exceed the 1 hour continuous maximum rating of the motor, so improved air cooling or liquid cooling is on the horizon.

He'll be introducing an updated WarP 9 in December with a shaft diameter increased to 1.125" to handle more power.

Adding these improvements is surprisingly expensive - even making the cable posts thicker involved new tooling, new drawings, different case drilling, new hardware, longer studs, etc.

Beyond 2011, George is looking at integrated battery charger and controller, J1772 charging expansion, CANBUS data linking, liquid cooling, transmission options including automatic, constant velocity and planetary, and new DC and AC motor designs.


After another break we heard from Eric Kriss.  Eric is a very interesting guy, who is teaching economics at University of Miami, co-founded Bain Capital with Mitt Romney, and was in charge of the $27 billion budget of Massachusetts while Romney was Governor.  He's a Grammy-nominated guitar and piano player, and of course in his spare time he built electric cars from an AC Cobra replica and a Porsche 356 replica.

Eric's session focused on evolution.  Everything evolves.  Transport = Product + Infrastructure (parking, roads, energy, etc).  We evolved from canals to rail to roads to air.  Once an infrastructure is in place, it can be re-used for that purpose or leveraged for other purposes.

Some evolution is allowed to jump forward due to disruptive technology.  Hydraulic cement led to canals.  Steel led to trains.  Oil rigs and gasoline engine lead to cars, trucks and planes.

Penetration curves: it took 80 years for the auto to hit 90% of its possible market.  The cell phone only took 20 years.

Economic downturns can greatly affect growth.

Lithium batteries were really the first viable stored energy alternative.

The oil shock in the early 70s drove consumers to cheap, high mileage Japanese cars.  Oil was $90/barrel then, adjusted for inflation.  Not too different from what we're seeing today.  The oil shock in the late 2000s, is driving consumers to hybrids and electric cars.

Energy density: size vs. weight vs. how much energy it can store.  The GM EV1 in 1996 had 1300lbs of batteries.  In 15 years, battery energy density will equal gasoline.

He described the concept of a "mouse hole", and other speakers picked up on this too.  This means the small guy can penetrate barriers.  Big organizations find the problem too small to bother, or too costly to stop what they're currently doing.

NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, protects existing large domestic auto manufacturers.  We need to "mouse hole" this group by calling ourselves "conversion services" rather than manufacturers.  Tesla has run into problems, including where they were fined by the government for not filing a form showing what its car's emissions would be.  Tesla felt as a zero-emission car they didn't have to bother, but not so.

The engine + exhaust + cooling + circuitry makes up 1/3 of a car's total cost.  If we can reduce or remove some of these costs, the car will end up cheaper.


Lithium battery fixed costs are the cathode and anode material and the factory overhead.  This represents half of the unit cost, not the selling price.  The other half of the price is profit for all of the middlemen between the factory and you.


Lithium cost drop: 1990 = $4/Wh, 2000 = 40c/Wh, 2010 = 16c/Wh, 2015 trend 8c/Wh.


All factors dropping in cost over time gets us to parity with ICE-engined cars.

After a great lunch it was Sebastien Bourgeois' turn, talking about his companies evnetics and Rebirth Auto.  Evnetics makes the Soliton line of motor controller, while Rebirth Auto offers low-volume, high end conversion services.


Sebastien did a VW conversion but was disappointed with component quality and capabilities.  So he founded his two companies.  He says if you find a product niche, amortize your R&D costs in the first unit you sell as the second sale may never come.    He's working on a Soliton controller that will handle 1,000,000 watts of power, strictly for racing, built on a new controller architecture.  If your car is running 200V of batteries, that means it will pump 5000A!  He says vertical integration is the key for his companies, where they can do rapid prototyping on any part they need, giving them the freedom to try any new idea they come up with.  He will be releasing a charger in 2012, based on an all-new design and it will be separate from the controller.  His company is now approved for importing his conversions into the EU.

Next up was Wayne Alexander.  Wayne is a real character who has probably done more electric conversions that anyone else on the planet.  He started with parts from an electric forklift that he installed into a Morris Minor.  He runs his conversion business on a simple slogan: $12,500 converts any car.  His normal turnaround time is about 3 days, as he's honed his parts and processes where he is now able to pull this off.  He says yes to any conversion project.  He believes that the electric car industry hasn't even started yet, and statistically he's right given the number of gasoline cars on the road.

Since we ran long on every session, Tom Bunka's talk on carbon motor brushes was pushed to Friday morning.  Everyone poured outside to check out the collection of cars.  We were supposed to have a BBQ and bonfire over at Jack's house, but the rain rolled in so we stayed in the hanger, talking, drinking and meeting with the vendors.  First up are the cars.  This was the parking lot outside, with a mixture of electric and gas cars.  You can see the stretch pure-electric Prius conversion on the left.


 Here is Richard Rodriguez' car, a 914 like mine but painted to grab your attention.




Here is David Hrivak's Tesla.  He bought is second-hand on Yahoo Motors, low mileage and a great price.  It took him 3 days to drive to the convention from his home in Tennessee, staying and charging at two hotels on the way.  I got a ride in this car later in the weekend!


Now we go over to the vendor area.  There were booths all along one side of the hanger.


Special Editions brought a "roller" - a chassis prepped and waiting for a motor of some kind.  With a transmission adapter plate, a motor, a controller and a bunch of batteries, you can build and drive this car.  Jack has based several of his conversions on rollers from this company.


Here is the  motor compartment, with the transmission opening protected by a plastic sheet.


And finally is the EVnetics Soliton 1 motor controller.  Beautifully engineered and highly respected by the builders at the show.


After we had dinner and a few beverages, Chris Paine took the stage.



Chris is the creator of the "Who Killed The Electric Car" movie.  In full disclosure, my company REC Solar installed solar power on his house in Los Angeles, and I designed the solar monitoring system.  Chris told us he had called his producer (the money guy) to see if it would be OK for him to give us an advanced screening of his new film "Revenge Of The Electric Car", as the world premier isn't scheduled until mid-October.  He didn't hear back one way or the other, so he made a decision on the spot to go ahead and show it.  Tremendous applause then broke out!  Chris made a few remarks before the screening.  He told us that we were doing work, one car at a time, that is literally changing people. 

He then showed us the trailer for another of his films called "Charged!" about the Isle of Man TT electric motorcycle races.  He said he had 20 DVDs for sale and there was a rush of humanity towards the stage, and luckily I was able to get one.

Chris said electric vehicles have been used on Earth, on the Moon and on Mars.  Gasoline vehicles only run on Earth, so we're ahead in that respect.  He went through a list of A - Z explaining why electric cars are better.  He told us something I didn't know, that oil companies are one of the biggest users of electricity!  It takes 4 - 7 KWH of electricity to refine one gallon of gasoline.  Chris sold his Prius and shipped it to New Zealand as he got the best selling price there, then bought a Chevy Volt and only had to pay $8K out of pocket.  He also bought a Tesla and was pulled over by the cops the first day he owned it because they wanted to check it out.

He then went on with the screening.  If you don't know, it focuses on 4 people involved in the world of electric cars - Elon Musk from Tesla, Carlos Ghosn from Nissan, Bob Lutz from GM, and Greg Abbot, aka "Gadget", a garage conversion guy.  Overall the movie was upbeat about the future of electric cars but showed what a difficult path it's been even for companies pouring billions of dollars into research and development.  I highly recommend you watch the film, both for the subject matter and to support Chris for his efforts for us in the electric vehicle community.

After the movie there was more drinking, then back to the hotel to get some sleep and be ready for the next day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

EVCCON 2011 Day 0

Well as you can see from the non-updates during EVCCON 2011, I just didn't have the time or energy for near-real-time reporting.  The action went from dawn to dusk and then late into the night with cars, batteries, controllers, racing, eating, drinking, talking, drinking, racing, cheering, drinking...  You get the idea.

My wife and I flew from San Luis Obispo to St. Louis on Wednesday, then a shuttle bus took us to the hotel in Cape Girardeau.  I took a taxi over to Jack Rickard and Brian Noto's workshop for the reception party, getting there around 6 PM.  I figured I would be one of the first, but there were 78 people already there, eating, talking and drinking.  The attendees who could manage it somehow brought their cars, and everyone was pouring over the cars, talking about the component choices, build quality and general amazement at what a group of spirited people can do.  Here are some pictures from that first evening.

Here we are in the eating and drinking area.  Did I mention it was free liquor all week?  Remember that anyone driving was stone cold sober - we're playing with high voltage and cars, so we don't mess around when it counts.



Then out in Jack's garage area we start to see the cars.




What's an electric car garage without a couple of chargers?  The first is a stock Clipper Creek, the second is Jack's custom gas pump replica.



Now let's take a tour around.  This is Tim Catellie's BMW Z3.  A magnificent conversion and a marvel of engineering to shoehorn all of the batteries in there!




Next was the car that started it all - Jack and Brian's Speedster.



Next I spotted Jack's converted Porsche Spyder replica:




Next up was Daniel Yohannes' Porsche Cayenne, the first electric conversion of its type in the US and perhaps only the second in the world.



Next was Duane Ball's incredible Porsche 904 replica.  This is likely a $100K car...




The fun continued with Jack and Brian's under-construction Cobra replica for Aptima Motors in Taiwan.  A bunch of people chipped in to work on the car during the convention.


Near and dear to my heart is Fred Behning's 1960 Austin Healey "Bugeye" Sprite.  I knew Fred from our days back at IBM in Austin.  Fred ran the Executive Briefing Center and always opened his sessions with a picture and discussion of this car to break the ice.  He completed the electric conversion just days before he put it on a trailer and drove from Austin to the convention.  I got a ride to and from the hotel each day with Fred and let me tell you, that is a *little* car, but a blast to drive in.  Fred's conversion is top-notch.


Next is Charlie and Tamera's Opel GT.  Besides the electric conversion, they also gave it a great paint job to bring it into the future from the 70's factory disco orange.


Up next, in butterscotch, we have Sebastien Bourgeois' 911.  This conversion has dual electric motors, and of course his own team's Evnetics Soliton 1 controller.  Everywhere it went there was a lingering smell of burning clutch...



Then another of Jack and Brian's projects, the challenging Mini.


Next is James Edmonson's Ford Ranger.  Pickups are great conversion platforms because you can hinge the truck bed and put the batteries underneath.




Finally, we wrap up with a true mixture of engineering, sweat, imagination and foam, the Illuminati Motor Works "Seven".  It came in second for the $1M Progressive Automotive X Prize, achieving 207.5 mpge.


Well that wraps it up for Day 0.  Day 1 coming next.