Saturday, August 16, 2014

EVCCON 2014 - Day 4

Today is the last day of presentations, then we go outside for the car show in the park.

First Session - Built It To Last and Build It To Maintain It.  The Myth of No Maintenance Electric Vehicles by Brian Noto

EVTV's very own co-host "The Brain" has spent many hours building, rebuilding and rebuilding again electric cars, so he's in a great position to discuss component choice, build technique and maintenance.


Jack jumped in and discussed the battery situation of the electric Smart car he just bought on eBay.  You can lease a Smart electric car and included in your monthly payment is a battery lease fee.  You can also buy the car and then you also own the battery too, but they still want you to pay the battery lease fee.  They will sell you a new battery pack, but it costs more than the price of a whole new car.  Jack got in contact with the president of Smart USA who promised him the CAN bus documentation so Jack can build his own battery pack for the battery-less Smart be bought on eBay.  We'll see what happens after he talks with the engineers and the lawyers.

There is a growing issue that you can buy a car these days, but you can't fix anything yourself because of a lack of documentation, and more and more of a modern car is embedded computers and software.  Most car companies won't release their specs and that hurts us when we try to understand or update the vehicle we've bought and paid for.

Brian talked about other OEMs that we in the world of electric cars came to depend on like A123, Azure Dynamics, Winston, Netgain Controls, Better Place and my own issues with PakTrakr who are now history.  The issue is someday the company you're depending on may go out of business.  This leaves you without a source for components, replacement parts, service and documentation.  This is the heart of the Build vs. Buy argument that every company has when sourcing components.

We should be moving to more robust and sophisticated techniques and components, like one-twist battery box disconnects rather than running cables through holes, and readily accessible components for replacement like controllers, fuses, and contactors, because things break and you will need to fix or replace.  Due to the high voltage and current, it's important to use hydraulic crimpers on your battery cables, and invest in a good crimping tool for the other wiring in the car.

Quality usually costs more, but do not compromise your car for short-term savings.  Also take time to research components and techniques, don't rush into decisions.

Fred Behning made a point of thanking EVTV for the excellent documentation that comes along with the products they sell.  The JLD404 and the GEVCU are especially good.  Jack recommends having a quality multimeter and sunglasses.  If you can measure it, you can tell if it's working properly.  Brian says to build a small team, each person with specific skills.  Jeff Southern says to get to know your local trade schools.  The point was made about watching the EVTV guys make a mistake, recognize it, make a new plan and succeed - this is how we learn best.

The questions was asked how many people are doing their own electric conversions.  EVAlbum has about 3000, but it includes electric bicycles and couches.  While other people think we are on the bleeding edge and doing impossible things, we think it's just a fun project and then we just drive it around to get to where we want to go.  Jack's theory of publishing is make people go away, and then you're left with the people who are intensely interested in the subject.

Next Session: Helwig Carbon Products with Tom Brunka

Tom recapped his fascinating sessions from previous EVCCONs.  Refer to my notes from EVCCON 2011 and 2012.  He did mention that he built custom brushes and thick shunt wires for John Metric's drag car.  The plasma you see on his videos from yesterday is generated at the point where the brushes touch the motor's commutator.  Without high-amperage and high-temperature brushes, they would self-destruct and probably take out the motor too.


One point that Tom stressed again, that most people don't understand, is that you have to seat your brushes before full power is applied to the motor, i.e. driving it for the first time.  The brushes come from the factory with the contact surface perpendicular to the side, but the brush is rubbing against a round commutator, so enough brush material has to wear off to get the brush into full contact with the commutator.  Tom's rule of thumb is, depending on the grade of the brush, is running the motor at 3000 rpm for between 7 and 17 days.  Yes, a week to almost 3 weeks, 24x7.  This ensures the brush is in full contact with the commutator, allowing maximum current flow across the largest area and lowest temperature.

Next Session: The Future As I See It - Jack Rickard

Jack and Paulo discussed the blitz build of the Smart car.  It was stuck in 4th gear on the first attempt but they got that fixed and it's now fixed in 2nd gear, giving fast acceleration and 55 mph top speed which is great for around-town driving.

Jack then brought us of the Smart car project up on stage, we introduced ourselves and talked about what we worked on.  Jack will have to top it next year, many people called out "boat" so we may have a floating project next year.

Next year's EVCCON 2015 is September 15 - 21, 2015.  It's a little cooler and more predictable good weather.

The boat that Anne built for Jack was supposed to arrive during the show, but is taking a week and a half to make it 300 miles from Chicago by Monday so most of us won't get to see it.  Boats and cars are just two kinds of vehicles that can benefit from electric motion, and even cars are highly specialized for the needs of their drivers.

Jack reiterated his view that all innovation comes from one or two people in a basement or a garage.  We are working in an area that still has incredible opportunity for great ideas.

Ray suggested we have access to a computer where we can copy on pictures and video and others can copy them back off.  Somebody else suggested Flicker.  Jack's looking for a volunteer to handle this next year.

Jack says the Lear company is quietly taking over the world of chargers in EVs and its CAN bus properties are a mystery that needs to be documented.

We now break for lunch then outside for the car show, as long as it's not pouring rain.  And we lucked out, not a drop of rain.  There was a gas car show going on on the other side of the park, so we got some visitors who wandered over from there too.



This is a Twike.  It has pedals and an electric motor and batteries too.


These are the two fastest cars at the show.  The front car holds the world record as the fastest golf cart.  Just behind is John Metric's drag racing Miata.


Hanging out in the back seat of Jack's Tesla Model S.  Well, it's actually Jack's wife Jill's car...


The Model S always had a big crowd.


Closeup of the dashboard.



I easily found my building in Thailand on the satnav, it's the L-shaped white roof in the center.  Unfortunately it wouldn't let me click the Navigate button.  It must have figured out you can't drive from Missouri to Thailand.


After the car show, we went on a very quiet, police escort parade through town.

At the end of the parade we got the cars set up for the traditional group photos.





After the group photos we got dressed up in our finest and had the closing banquet and awards ceremony.  I won the trophy for the furthest traveled attendee!