Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts on batteries

So the idea about recycling packs from old power tools is essentially dead. I did some calculations and figure that such a pack would weigh more than a given lead pack. yikes. There are a few lithium options that would be great but still very expensive, likely 10-12 thousand for a decent pack. Another option is the very cool sounding molten salt nickel or Zebra battery being manufactured by Cebi in Switzerland. No idea on the current cost as they are only selling to OEMs, but in the long run should be much cheaper than a lithium pack.

IGBT's on the way

I won an ebay auction for 3 Fuji 1200 V 200 amp IGBT's. They should be here in a few weeks. woot!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shopping List

So here is the list of parts I'm trying to scavenge. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  1. Motor, 30 to 40 Hp 1800 or 3600 RPM TEFC, any frame size. Burnt out is okay as I will likely have to rewind it anyway.
  2. IGBTs. Need 3. Looking for at least 600V, 200 to 300 amp. I'll likely find these on Ebay.
  3. Firing Cards. The sanguino only outputs 5V at low current, so will need to step this up to fire the IGBTs. I'll likely buy the PWM cards from the Reprap store.
  4. Current Shunt. I need to measure somewhere up to 200 to 300 amps. These are available pretty cheap on Ebay.
  5. Encoder - already have one from BEI coming from Ebay. I've used these with great success in industrial applications. However the unit I won is a 1000 pulse per revolution, which may be too many pulses per second.
  6. Busbar - This stuff is expensive, but I will try and find some from my favorite used electrical guys at ACNelson. If not I will flatten some copper pipe.
  7. Fuses - I'd like to include low voltage control fuses and a high voltage high amp high speed semiconductor fuse on the DC bus. I think this might be one place I buy new.
  8. DC Contactors - I'd like to use two or three single pole contactors in series in the pack such that when the car is off, or any thing bad happens, all the contactors drop out, reducing the total voltage anywhere in the pack. And one big two pole contactor for the main contactor. Not sure where I am going to find these.
  9. Circuit Breaker - I need a 400V 200A breaker. Still looking for a solution.
  10. Throttle - need a beefy industrial potentiometer to be used for the throttle. Will be doing some sort of regen as well, but not yet sure if I will do this off the brake pedal.
That's it to start.

Request for Batteries

I have an idea for the battery pack. There are lots of dead cordless power tools floating around. When these packs go bad, it is usually just one or two cells that are toast. I'm thinking I could pull apart dead packs, and scavenge the remaining good cells to build the pack. It would be a lot of futzing around, but it would be free.

So, if anyone has dead tool packs you'd like to recycle, send me an email at "jake (at) jakegray (dot) ca" and I'll give you my address.

Issues I had with the sanguino

I bought the kit from the Rep Rap Store, and they are great. It came very fast, and was well packaged and complete. The online instructions are easy to follow, and though the soldering pads are quite small, I had no problems with the assembly.

I had a bit of a challenge getting my first program to upload. The instructions didn't mention getting a driver for the USB to TTL cable that is required for programming the sanguino. Once the drivers were downloaded and installed, it worked great.

Changing the Purpose of this Blog.

As the election is long passed, and I'm back to the regular part of my life, I'm going to start using this to document my attempt to build an electric car. I'll be kluging together all the parts I can scrounge, and recycling or upcylcing at every opportunity. This will be the ultimate cheap skate ride.

Here is the basic idea:

Find an old small light car to convert. I have a friend with a '68 VW beetle who may be interested in donating it to the cause. It's a bit rusty, but I'm a decent welder and the replacement steel is cheap.

Ditch the engine/gas tank and anything else no longer needed, hopefully selling the engine for the cost of the steel repairs.

Find a burnt out 30 to 40 hp squirrel cage AC motor for scrap value. Grind off the cooling fins, weld on a water jacket, fabricate an adapter to the transmission, replace the bearings, and rewind with high quality windings.

Make my own VFD for controlling the motor. I'm going to use a sanguino which I have already bought and built. I'm having to learn how to program it which is very fun. I've bought an encoder off ebay and will be trying to implement some kind of vector control. I like full torque at 0 rpm.

Highish voltage pack. Somewhere around 400V DC. Still trying to figure out what batteries to use. If I can find a sponsor I will try and use lithium. I have no problem plastering the car with some companies logo if it means we can afford a juicy highpower pack. Only issue is lithium needs a much more complex pack controller, and the fact lithium is about 4 times the price of lead. Looking for about a 17 kwh pack which should make for at least an 80km range. More to follow.

Homebuilt progammable charger. I'll likely use a microcontroller, a big IGBT and a welding power supply.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh dear!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Jim Prentice has blocked the takeover of Macdonald-Dettwiler by Alliant Techsystems Inc.

While I am mostly a free market kind of guy, I'm glad that common sense has prevailed, and not placed Radarsat-2, the world's most advanced radar imaging satellite, into American control.

Congratulations Mister Prentice. While the opposition parties are asking for protection of Canadian aerospace industries this is not what is really needed. Protectionism simply breeds weak, inefficient companies. However there are instances where national security issues should block foreign takeovers of Canadian companies.

Mr. Prentice, can I recommend that you develop some clear guidelines for your ministry and your predecessors on how you determine what is of "net benefit" to Canada, and what national security issues should block the sale of Canadian companies? Business needs certainty.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Best Political Fundraiser Ever #2

March 2nd we are hosting our 2nd of many movie nights at the Clova in Cloverdale. We've got Charlie Wilson's War. Here is a link to the Facebook group. link.

To get tickets contact me,

I'm looking forward to another successful event!

Friday, February 1, 2008

I should have seen it coming, but I'm still disappointed.

Canada has abolished the position of National Science Advisor.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Everybody vs. Alberta, Water Meters

Today Ed Stelmach, Premier of Alberta, released a climate change plan that would have Alberta STOP INCREASING its GHG emissions by 2020, and reduce them 14% of 2005 levels by 2050.

Lets compare this to some other jurisdictions.
- BC is set to reduce GHG emissions 33 percent below 2007 levels by 2020, 80 % below 2007 levels by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 15.9.
- Ontario is set to reduce GHG emissions to 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 16.4.
- Quebec is set to reduce GHG emissions to 1.5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 12.2.
- Norway - GHG NEUTRAL ie zero emissions by 2030. Tonnes per person per year in 2005 - 8.

Alberta - raising emissions until 2020, 14% below 2005 by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 73.2.

Is this going to be a show down between Ottawa and Edmonton? Unlikely, our "environment" minister released a statement welcoming Alberta's plan. Don't forget, Stephen Harper's riding is Calgary Southwest.

Now to a Langley issue. The township of Langley is contemplating putting water meters on private wells. Though not a Federal matter, this is something that effects me directly as I am a user of well water. This is an issue I am torn on.

On the Say No to meter side. who is going to pay for the meters? The taxpayers of the Township, that's who. We already have seen large increases in property taxes over the past few years. Once a meter is in place, it is only a matter of time before the water is taxed. But what about the farms, the huge users of water? If we are trying to protect the aquifers, should not the largest users of water be controlled? They will be protected from water taxes by the right to farm legislation of the Province. I don't think putting meters on their wells will stop them from using whatever irrigation system is the cheapest, no matter how much water it wastes.

On the Say Yes to meter side. Our ground water is a shared resource, and as such it is subject to what is called the tragedy of the commons. If a shared resource has no cost to individual users, that resource will be squandered. It is seen time and time again in fisheries and water rights. Water mis-management is suspected to have caused the demise of the Mayan civilization. Langley's water table is shared and unmanaged. There is no cost to any individual for over use. There is another old adage that says " you can't manage what you don't measure." If we are to manage our water, it must be measured, and perhaps taxed at a level that makes us think twice about watering our lawns in the middle of the day. While the right to farm legislation in essence immunizes the farms, if the meters are in place the provincial politicians will have better information with which to change that legislation.

So I am torn on the issue. Water is a very important resource that must be protected, and that may mean metering. On the flip side, I really do not want a water meter on my well.

Please let me know what you think.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Movie Night

Last night we put on a movie night at the Clova Theatre in Cloverdale. It was a roaring success which we are going to do once a month. Our plan is to have fundraisers that are actually fun.

So, we are now starting Jake's Clova Movie Club.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

If they want to be consistent....

I hear Micheal Brown is looking for a job...



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Let them eat cake

International Trade Minister David Emerson said the recent money transferred to the softwood industry was proof that the softwood deal is working.

How is it working? By driving companies out of business so that the Federal Government has to prop up an industry in tatters?

A weak US market, a high Canadian dollar, over supply of beetle kill logs, and a terrible and unworkable trade deal have the softwood lumber industry in tatters.

David Emerson was the president of Canfor. He knows this. Stop lying.


NRTEE, a good report to read if you have time

There was a comment on an earlier post where someone hadn't read anything that explained how a carbon tax or cap and trade system actually reduces GHG emissions.

It's a bit heavy, but here is a link to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Report which does a better job than I at explaining why we need one of these solutions, and how it will get us to the reductions we are looking for.


Monday, January 14, 2008

New Transit Plan

Okay, I have had a chance to look at the plan a little bit and here is what I like and what I don't like so far.

Good - More buses. However I am sure that the existing buses can be more effectively utilitzed with better tracking systems to spread the buses out properly. I hope the new buses have GPS dispatch systems.

Good - More Trains. Evergreen, Expo Extension, Line to UBC (watch out businesses on Broadway!), more trains on the tracks, all good moves.

Good - Dedicated bus lines. I prefer streetcars for better economics and ease of electrification, but having a bus that can maintain a schedule is a good start.

Good - Smart Card system. We need to utilize technology that is available. I like the idea of not having to find a vendor once a month.

Bad - Langley and further East gets the shaft until after 2020. We need massively increased service now. Line by 2030? What about using the old Interurban line today?

Bad - New plan doesn't really address freight transit in the lower mainland. A new crossing and a few new switching yards are needed to help get containers on trains instead of trucks. The new port in Prince Rupert will help, but won't be enough.

Bad - The feds haven't committed to anything, nor is it clear they will. The province will be asking for more than 3 billion dollars from the Federal Government. The Conservatives already committed money to Montreal and Toronto. The previous Liberal Government put the money up for the Canada Line, and the Conservatives tried to pull it back. So we'll see if they will come to the party. I'm all for more transit investment.

Bad - These are all expensive options. I'd like to see more cheap solutions along with the big ticket items. Part of the problem is in the world of public infrastructure, everyone loves a show.


A blog with an effective view on media bias

Here is a blog I really like that talks about real issues in the US, including some clear and concise discussions on the challenges facing the US economy.

Jon Taplin

Other items of note.

Some folks think that with just a little slowing of the economy the government will be back in a deficit situation. Upbeat Jim doesn't think so.

Gary Lunn continues to spew blame on Linda Keen, who is firing back. This whole story is still a bit hazy.

Kevin Flacon just announced a huge amount of investment for public transit. I'm still digesting the info and will post about later, but first off, any investment in public transit is a good move.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Carbon tax vs. Cap and Trade vs. Baird's Beer Belly

It is pretty well understood, and accepted, that Canadians have to lower our collective emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), at least, it is understood by all the opposition parties, and the vast majority of voters.

What is less well understood is how are we going to do it? The two common methods are cap and trade system and a carbon tax. So, how do they work, which one is better, which should Canada implement, and why aren't we doing it already?

Carbon Tax. This is pretty simple. The government requires all producers of GHG to monitor and report there emissions. Then they pay a fee for each tonne equivalent of CO2 they emit. Would this raise prices? Yes. Prices of any product that has associated emissions would go up. Would the cost of living go up? Not necessarily. If the government offset the carbon tax with income tax cuts (which are much better for the structure of the economy than GST cuts) the cost of living could stay the same. The whole point is to get consumers and companies to use less of the things that emit the most GHG. The issue is then how high should the fees per tonne of CO2 be? It has to be high enough to provide a significant incentive to reduce emissions, but not so high it crushes the economy.

Cap and Trade System. This is a much more difficult to understand system, but it avoids the unpalatable term "tax". The Government sets the total amount of emissions the country is allowed for the year. The Government creates formulas to assign each business a certain amount of GHG credits for that year. If the business is over their credits, they must purchase credits from a carbon credit trading market. If a business is under their credits they may sell their credits on the market. This system penalizes the heavy polluters, and rewards those making reductions. The end effect is the same as a Carbon Tax. Because the government sets who gets how many credits, it allows the government to direct the economy. I don't think this is a good idea. Managed economies have not had a track record of doing as well as the free market.

I prefer the Carbon Tax. It is simple. It penalizes the worst emitters and rewards those that reduce their emissions. It pushes the economy towards less emitting industries, but does it while allowing the market to decide what is best. I have a lot more faith in the market than bureaucracy.

Why don't we have a Carbon Tax now? Europe has had a cap and trade system for years. Even the US has a carbon market before they have regulations. The Harper government thinks that Canadians do not want to do anything about climate change. Everything was in place to have a carbon tax three years ago and has been left to languish with child care, poverty reduction, and infrastructure investment. I would gladly support a 30% income tax reduction traded for the equivalent Carbon Tax. If we can't have a Carbon Tax, I would support a cap and trade system too, as long as the credit assignment process was open and transparent.

Either is wishful thinking under the current government.



Absoslutely ridiculous

Sometimes the conservative government does something so stupid it is hard to understand what they are thinking.

With no public discourse, with no discussion of knowledgeable scientists or health care professionals, with no discussion with any community advocates, the conservative government has effectively banned organ donations from gay men.

Do you want to ban people who have high risk sexual behaviour? Go ahead. But banning people based on sexual orientation will not make tissue transplants safer. It will just make the wait list longer.

This is a strong demonstration of the irrational homophobic bigotry that still pervades the Conservative Party. Remember, this is not the Progressive Conservative Party anymore. It is the pigs of the Reform party wearing a conservative dress. There is no PC left.

I feel bad for Peter McKay, because to quote John Stewart, "you're the guy who has to spray perfume on these turds."

All is not well in the land of Automobilia

Tata, a massive Indian industrial company and purveyor of fine tea, has started production on a new "people's car". It will sell for about 2,550 US dollars.

The Bad.

I visited India for 4 months in 1999. Back then, India did not need more cars. The congestion in the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta made the Fraser Valley's rush hour seem like a leisurely drive in the country. With this car, Tata intends to bring the car within reach of much more of the population. While in the 9 years since I was there, India has dramatically improved the rail and road infrastructure, their road system is still woefully inadequate for the traffic they already have. As well, building more roads does not solve congestion. It never has. Putting a million more cars on their roads is not going to "empower the poor", it is only going to dirty the air.

The Good.

Tata has beaten the western companies at providing something the people actually want. A small, cheap, efficient way to get around. If a car like this was available here, I would probably buy it. Products arise in markets that need them. We have the Smart car, but at almost 10 times the cost of Tata's creation, it doesn't seem to be much of a bargain.

I've railed against GM in the past, saying such things as

"They are doomed."
"They will never turn themselves around because they continue to make bad cars."
"They can't make a good car, so they buy crappy Daewoo's and put they're name on it."

But GM is doing a couple things I like. The Volt is set to be in production for 2010. This is a Plug in Hybrid sports car. Good mileage, good performance, and it is first good looking prototype I've seen from GM in years.

The first crack for GM at hybrids was a bit silly. Hybrid Tahoe?

However their current hybrid system incorporates electric motors into the transmission case which allows allows full electric, fuel engine only, or combined operation. This is similar to the Toyota system to the driver, but without the extra gear system of Toyota's Synergy Drive.

Now GM just has to get off their keister with a high performance low emission diesel engine that is setup for biodiesel.

Diesel Volt Anyone?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Comments, Questions for you, Fundraiser!

I just learned how to moderate the comments. Yay!

There is some good information in there so have a look.

If people would like to know where I stand on a particular issue, please leave a comment, or send me an email ( I sit down and write about what I feel strongly about, but I'm concerned I might turn into a broken record writing about the same issues all the time.

We are having a fundraiser on Sunday January 20th at 3:15 pm at the Clova Cinema. Here is the Facebook event with more details.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Back to writing

There are many things to write about today, and its hard to pick a topic. American elections, Ottawa mayor getting finger printed, Federal report calling for a carbon tax, Consumer Electronics Expo in Las Vegas, Storms in California. I might as well write about it all.

American Elections. My favorite candidate is the Democrat Bill Richardson. He believes in strong action on climate change, is a supporter of free trade, and is a proponent of more money for education and health care. Unfortunately he is pretty much out of the running now. Maybe he will make someone's running mate. Some of the other Democrat candidates use too much protectionist rhetoric for my taste. As for the Republicans, Huckabee is a train wreck. The guy should be a county commissioner in some backwater swamp, not a serious contender for the republican nomination. I suppose John McCain and Rudy Giuliani don't make me feel queasy, but do nothing to inspire me about the future. I get a bad feeling from Romney, not like he is evil, just that he has no real substance. He also some historical allegations of receiving bribes and influence peddling, which leads to...

Ottawa Mayor getting fingerprinted for influence peddling charges. The Mayor of Ottawa, Larry O'Brien, is charged with promising a previous mayoral competitor, Terry Kilrea, a cushy position with the National Parole Board of Canada if Terry were to drop out of the Mayorlty race. But it goes further than the municipality, as the Mayor of Ottawa can't promise a position like that, no no no, it would have had to be delivered by the then Chairman of the Treasury Board.....My buddy John Baird.....

Who just received the the Federal Report from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which recommends a Carbon Tax or an immediate cap and trade system. John Baird's response was the usual blame Stephane Dion. I swear this guy blames Dion for the ring around his bath tub. The fact is a year ago the Dion and the Liberals were calling for a Carbon Tax. As written in a previous post, Baird is not a good choice for the position of Minister of the Environment. He only knows how to blame and evade. What we need is a luminary.....

Like this new TV from Sony just announced at the CES show in Vegas! I don't watch TV, and don't own one, but this things is so geek sexy, I might have to consider it. Organic LED lighting, only 3 mm thick, super bright, super efficient, super sleek. It's going to be super expensive, but somethings are worth it.

As California understands with their lawsuit against the EPA. Since their federal government is full of the same neo-conservative blockheads, California has been trying to impose their own CO2 restraints on cars and industry as they are seeing the direct results of climate change with their crazy summer of fires last year and the crazy winter of snow and rain right now. The EPA ruled that carbon emissions are federal jurisdiction, so the state is suing the EPA for not following their own mandate.

At least the issue is now big enough and public enough that it is showing up in the rhetoric of the presidential candidates.