Saturday, September 29, 2012

EVCCON 2012 Day 3

After the drag racing, autocrossing, dynamometer testing and socializing, attendees were a bit thin in the seats first thing on Saturday morning!

We kicked off with a roundtable discussion about electric boats with Anne Kloppenborg, Bill Denning, Jack and Jeff Southern.

Anne has completed a 1970s Glastron crusing/speed boat conversion project, in the Netherlands.  It's great for both meandering around Amsterdam's harbor and canals and water skiing.  He used Lithium batteries obviously and kept the Volvo-Penta stern drive via a custom-machined adapter plate.  He's done extensive testing on energy usage at different speeds and at city speed he is pulling 1.3KW and can cruise for 20 hours on his battery pack, and in open water, peak power output is when he comes up on plane and then when on plane drops down to 41 KW.  At top speed, it's pulling 86 KW, so a little more speed takes a great deal of additional power.  Boats have a different driving style than cars, as they tend to go at slow speed to get out of the marina, then at constant high speed for extended periods of time, then slow again when you get to your destination.  This may have a detrimental effect on EV-targeted motors unless sufficient cooling is implemented and a water-cooled motor would be natural in this application.  Anne is now working on converting a 1950s Ray Wright Delta speedboat from a British company that made Spitfires in WW II.  It's very small and fast!

Bill then spoke about a 40' boat project he's starting, making it out of Magnesium Oxide board, which is cheap and 4 times the strength of concrete..  He wants to do The Great Loop.

Jeff Southern then spoke about his history converting a dozen 5hp outboard motors to electric drive.  Jack wants to convert an Aristocraft 14' speedboat and Jeff went to visit their factory outside Atlanta.  Going with an electric boat will help as more and more restrictions are being placed on gas motor noise and pollution on lakes.  Anne said that the Amsterdam is forcing tour companies to switch their boats from diesel over to electric.  Jack and Anne believe that boat pricing is such that you can successfully put an electric drivetrain in a boat and make it still in the price range that people would expect, and the effective  fuel cost is significantly lower.

Dave Hrivnak asked about the effects of salt water on electrical equipment and electrical safety issues with all of that water around.  Nobody had any experience with salt water effects, but Anne said he got zapped when a wave came over his boat and he touched a wire that hadn't been properly mounted.  Jack said that electrical safety on the water is a big issue and more effort needs to be put into waterproof packaging the components.  Anne said one of his sub-packs got completely submerged in fresh water and there were no issues.  Jeff said that he has seen no corrosion in an extensive fresh water environment.  Jeff said electric boats work well in very cold temperatures when gasoline engines have a hard time starting.

George Hamstra from NetGain made an announcement about a new product, under development for 5 years.  He has partnered with a large AC motor manufacturer, which supplies motors to along others Kia, Hyundai and Mercedes and trains, to bring 3 AC motors into the NetGain family.  First is a 15KW-30KW 9,000 rpm air-cooled motor targeted to outboard motors.  Next is a 30-60KW 9,000 rpm and 50-100KW 12,000 rpm liquid cooled motors.  The controller they're partnering with the motors is a called ICPU which includes charger and J1772 plug and CANBus data connection.  Pricing will be targeted at the same price as a current motor and controller.  George had the unit under a black blanket so I will take a picture and put it here when the session is over.  Update: Here they are, the motor is smaller than my WarP 9, and the controller is mounted on a huge finned heatsink.  Not much detail yet, nothing on their web site.

Next up was a panel discussion on Driving the EV Business, with Jack, Sebastien Bourgois from Evnetics, George Hamstra from NetGain and Michael Bream from EV West.

George kicked off with a "presentation more dangerous than high voltage because it's about money, so use your common sense."  The keys to success are hard work, dedication, knowledge (why we are all here at the show), drive, attitude, timing, luck (and making your own luck).  The dirty work is inventory, AP, AR, balance sheet, customers (questions, phone calls and problems) and product documentation.  You will need to do quarterly reports for potential business partners and banks.  Steps to success are choosing the right business to be in (cost of startup), choosing a lawyer (and ask for his law school transcript), choose an accountant, choose a bank (check their lending limits and approval process), choose your employees (your most important asset).  The Fear of Zeros is anxiety builds as the dollar amounts grow substantially, but you need to get over it and at large amounts the bank becomes your partner and wants you to succeed.  If you're successful, you will accelerate so be ready for the ride and never drop the ball.  To get rich, work for your own company, as your security, benefits and salary are up to you.  The secret is to build the business with the intention of selling it off.  You can then either retire and live the good life or start another company and do it all over again.

George then brought Jack, Sebastien and Michael into the discussion.  Jack talked the Players and the rest of the population.  Players are the innovators and serial entrepreneurs who are addicted to this kind of work.   Find something you really like to do, aligned with a higher purpose, goal or mission.  Do it a lot until you get good at it, and then people will pay you for it.  Michael suggested finding a mentor, and the SCORE program can provide some valuable free advisors.  Sebastien says that being the boss takes a great toll on you personally and he has to work twice as hard as everyone around him.  Mark said he didn't have a business background, but he learned bookkeeping so he would understand what a good bookkeeper should be doing.  Jack said he hired an accountant right from the start who did all reporting correctly which helped him in the end when he sold his business.  Jack suggests that you plow all of your money back into the company in employee salary, R&D, capital expenses, etc. as this will reduce your taxable profits.  George is concerned with his monthly outgoing money and projected monthly incoming money.  The accountant will keep track of the details.  Jack was concerned with daily cash balance, and he paid all of his bills on the day they were received, not 30 days later since that money belongs to somebody else.  Some companies try to stretch their payables but that's a mistake.

Anne asked about how the panel handled bank and investor cash infusions.  Michael said his first inflow was with a bank, and he built a personal relationship with the president of his bank.  Sebastien took over a solar company with no clients and some debt, so he had to put in a tremendous amount of work for 3 to 5 years to get the company moving and then banks become interested.  Jack said he started a business for $80 and sold it 11 years later for $38 million, without putting any more of his money into it.  He stressed that it all comes down to selling, not matter how much innovation and hard work you do, it's all about taking in money from customers who want to give you money.

A question came up about feeling that weekends were getting in the way of running the business and Jack said he hates showering because it takes up valuable time.  The board agreed that people with the drive succeed when they put in the effort.  Jack likes to bring good people into his team and let them work hard and experience the excitement and process, and pay them well.  Leaders exploit their skills and then hire people into the team to bring in missing skills until all pieces of the puzzle are in place.  A point was made that a 1 - 15 person company can be mangaged by one person at the top, but anything above that requires layers of management and you have to be ready for the growth.  Jack talked about plateaus, you get to a point and support that, then jump to the next one.

Andrew McClary told us about his experiences in the world of television and how it led to his new startup of a consumer-oriented hot rod electric conversion shop which will be supported by his video skills.

George said if you fail one time and quit, that's sad.  Jack believes he can objectively analyze his failures and use that information for the next thing.

A question came up about product liability and George says he has Product Liability Insurance.  Jack says he had to have insurance in certain circumstances, but avoids it when possible as it attracts lawsuits and lawwers.

We then headed down to the park for the public car show.  Just a few pictures as I took a bunch of most of the same cars last year.  A lot of interested people showed up to check out the cars and ask questions.  Dave Hrivnak, with the blue Tesla Roadster, gave an interview to a young woman from college radio station, and then gave her a ride.  She came back with the expected EV grin!  I can't find a link to the interview, so if you find it, let me know.

We then drove in a police escorted parade through town back to the hotel, where we posed the cars and took some group pictures.

And a little video of the celebration!

After a short nap, we then headed back to the Show Me Center for the banquet and awards.  I forgot to take pictures!  At about midnight I stumbled back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep before leaving for the airport in the morning.

One thing to note is Jack did not announce EVCCON 2013!  He discussed this in the video he released after the show, saying he took a loss on the show again and isn't sure if it's worth the time and effort, and if it should stay in the same format or change.  Richard wants people to call him and give him support to run it again.  Keep watching EVTV to see how things firm up.