A Portable Wind Tunnel

We built a portable wind tunnel for measuring EV efficiency and will be used to calculate the drag coefficients of Tesla and Chevrolet EVs. It sticks on the car windshield using suction cups. Pitot tube based  anemometer. Jack had two choices to place the portable wind tunnel at mid ground level near the front air intake or place it on the roof. He said: I personally think that the mid ground level is the most accurate but it sticks out there and I was afraid of damaging it was just easier to place it on the windshield. He then found a little difference between the GPS speed and wind speed if drove it during the early morning hours on flat ground with a little turbulence. He was able to back calculate the Drag-Area and using the factory area and ODBII PIDs, get within a few percent of the factory number of Cd=.308. The number was .311. The PIDs are comprehensive and highly accurate. used a tire model for LRR tires. Next is the Model S.

CE 190

This fall Jack will be teaching Electric Vehicle technology at UC Berkeley again. The course is a comprehensive technical breakdown of the physics of electric vehicles.

Future of Mobility Podcast Interview: Innovation, Electrified Vehicles, Virtual Reality & More with Jack McCauley

I enjoyed talking with Brandon Bartneck of Future of Mobility. The following is an excerpt from my interview and to hear the full episode visit here. Encouraging Innovation Encouraging innovation in young children is incredibly important. Take me, for example. I never considered myself to be a “star” student. I spent my time doing other creative things like building models, working on eclectic trains, building, drawing, and making music. I even got a scholarship at 9 years old from Tinker Toys. If you find that you have a propensity for those things, or you have a child who does, it is important to foster that creative spirit. Academics will develop eventually, but creativity and innovation are equally as important.  Biggest Opportunities for Improvements in Electric Vehicles There is a ton of innovation happening in electric vehicles right now. Just about every automaker is coming out with a similar electric vehicle. I see the main opportunities for EVs being solid state batteries. Batteries wear out and diminish in their capacity to deliver electrons. There is now an emphasis on using solid lithium batteries rather than lead acid batteries. Solid state batteries do not have as many issues as the others and have more potential to have longer battery lives. Energy management in electric vehicles is an area with significant room for improvement. Smaller EVs are less able to cool themselves down than larger vehicles. For example, the Chevy Volt versus an electric scooter. If we can figure out a way to keep the batteries at a cooler temperature, it would be a better way to manage the power content of the engine and batteries.  Many places are making efforts to eventually have “EV-only” cities, as a way to become more environmentally friendly. Manufacturers need to have enough vehicles for that level of electric vehicle demand. In these “EV-only” cities, you will have the flexibility to drive further with smaller battery packs, which is more sustainable in the long run. One of the biggest advantages of an electric vehicle is that it has an ability to generate power. There is a reversible chemical reaction that occurs in an EV and can actually generate energy through the braking force of the electric motors. With my own electric vehicle, it costs me $6 to charge my battery from dead and I can travel 250 miles, more than I could in a gas engine and for less money. That is the biggest advantage I am seeing. Something I, and My Students, Have Learned While Building and Improving Their Own Electric And Hybrid Vehicles While building electric vehicles with my students, we have come to learn several things. One challenge we tackled was figuring out how we could make the hybrid vehicles more efficient. Our hybrid model has a small gas engine, which we have only charged twice. That engine cannot power the entire vehicle, but it is enough that when you park it, the braking force tops the battery off. In hybrid vehicles, if you have a battery that takes the energy from braking and a battery from propulsion, when you stop, it tops off the propulsion battery from the braking. We tried to separate the two to control how much the battery is being used, so we can control the temperature.  Our EV has no brakes, just all regenerative braking. If you have an electric vehicle that is at the top of a hill with fully charged batteries, and you want to go down hill, you can’t use the brakes because there is nowhere for the regenerative energy to go. If you had two motors, one in regen mode and the other in braking mode, the braking force would not regenerate power and would just have a braking force without using the battery. Valuable Career Advice for my Students If a student wants to make an impact, I would tell them three things.  First, maintaining relationships and staying in touch with people is critical. It can be as simple as calling them up just to say hello. Throughout my career, I have stayed in touch with past coworkers even from my very first jobs, and it has paid off.  The second thing is, it is great if people remember you, but you should also make a great effort to do the job well. Be honest and easy to work with, do your best to get along with people. Last, do something you love and that you won’t be miserable doing. Feeling a greater sense of purpose will make you happier in your career.  Overall, I want to set my students up for success in their lives. Every semester, I hope they’ll walk out of the class and know how an electric vehicle works, their ins and outs, and why they are used. 

A Glimpse into the Future of Shared Vehicles, EVs, and Solid State Batteries (Part 2)

The following (part 2) is based on a conversation I had with Roger Atkins,  EV Specialist and Founder at Electric Vehicles Outlook Ltd, who has been highly engaged with all aspects of the electric vehicle journey for the past 15 years. In this post you’ll find insights related to keys to career success, the future of solid state batteries, advantages and disadvantages with AI, and of course, electric vehicles. You can hear the full conversation on his podcast, Electric & Eclectic with Roger Atkins.  Roger: Let’s get back to electric vehicles now. There’s an acronym, which you’ll be familiar with called CASE, “connected, autonomous, shared, electric vehicles.” I think the two really exciting bits of that acronym are “shared” because society needs to shift to be less selfish, and “autonomous.” So, what would your sense be, Jack, on the timeline of us having fully autonomous vehicles that can take you anywhere and do profound things, because it can. Can you give us a little feel for that because you know this stuff? Jack: To your point, I have an EV that sits in the sun 12 hrs a day and is not driven. I pay $30-40k for it to just sit there. It is a resource that you use a few hours out of the day and then it just sits there. No other resource is like that. What if you own part of it? Say, 10% of it if 10 others own it too. You hail it and get in it; you sit in the back seat on your phone and do your email, then it drops you off and splits and does something else. You can’t pay a staffer to sit and drive people around as that’s expensive, but that’s the model for autonomy. You still own the vehicle, but you only use it for transportation. It’s much like a Venn diagram of Uber and your own personal vehicle.  People choose cars based on the way they look. You wouldn’t buy an EV with 10 horsepower that looks like a Ferrari because it doesn’t go fast, so it has to look good. It’s the buyer’s market so the style and design is important. You would choose what pool of cars you want to be in based on the kind of cars you’d like to be seen in. I really like British cars, I’ve got a LOLAT70 and I drive it on the street. I love the way they look, they’re light. I love Bentleys and Rolls and all that stuff. I think the autonomous model that will come is something car manufacturers are going to have to deal with. They are used to selling you something that they know is going to sit, and EVs potentially last 400,000 miles and aren’t worn out yet. One of the things I talked to Henrik Fisker about was what do you do with a viable power train and an outdated body style? Could it be that you take the car in and you get a new body put on it to freshen up its look? It would still be viable, still be yours, and cheaper than buying a new one. This was not my idea. This was Henrik’s thing he was thinking about.   Roger: I can sense that we are like minded on this madness of owning cars. I made a little presentation and delivered it a few times, which is called “Mass adoption of electric vehicles would be a big mistake.” It would be madness and we will have achieved nothing if we build 70 million cars a year like we do today. There is no need, the most inefficient part is not the motor, engine, battery, or fuel tank, it’s the utilization and ownership. I am completely with you on this and I am extremely passionate about understanding how we can get there. Do you believe with the work that you’ve done we can ever get to a point where artificial intelligence has sentience or an independent intelligence and capabilities? Jack: It’s interesting that art and technology follow hand in hand. The Italian movie poster for 2001 Space Odyssey has a guy holding a tablet computer in his hand and looking at it, and that’s how far ahead these are. It’s like who came first, art or tech? I always liked that movie, that’s my favorite movie. I saw it too when I was a kid, but I really didn’t really understand it.  The other dystopian movie I like is THX1138, George Lucas’s first big budget feature film. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. The center feature of that is the LOLA T70, exactly what I have. When I saw that movie I said, “Someday I’m going to own that car.”  Roger: Do you think, given your fascination with dystopian science fiction, that this could be a scenario where the only way we are saved from utter destruction is to cede responsibility to artificial intelligence?  Jack: What artificial intelligence does well, particularly neural nets is.. first of all let me back up. I don’t personally believe they’ll ever have human consciousness. I don’t think it can do that. If you ever look at a neural net, it’s a really simple little thing. It’s an array of software things that get reinforced by training. So the only training into a neural net is what we put into it. It’s good at pattern recognition because this array of things can get impressed with regions of the face that have a certain color or shape or something, and then reinforce on that. A neural net is blank and all of a sudden the software comes in and lays down what the neural net is supposed to have in each node. Then that gets used to do pattern recognition and if that doesn’t work, it lays in a new neural net. It is impressed with what is already known about it, so it previously knows something. If you know that about the

Car Innovation: What Needs to Happen to Make EVs More Practical and AI’s Role

The following conversation is with Todd Lassa, Detroit Bureau Chief, Automobile Magazine, and Formula 1 enthusiast who researches, reports, and writes about emerging auto technologies for the publication. In this post you’ll learn about battery technology complexities, when EVs could overtake combustion engines, what the future may hold for autonomous vehicles, and AI’s role. Jack: How did you get into merging your interest in autos and writing?  Todd: I’m a journalist by trade and come from a hard news background. However, I didn’t get into car magazines until well into my 30’s. I worked for a newsletter company in D.C. covering advanced nursing issues, Capitol Hill and health reform, then began working for AutoWeek in 1996. My core reading audience changed from female to male readers and even having always been a car guy, I had no engineering skills to speak of. Through this transition, I realized that writing and reporting for a living is what I wanted to do. I think I started out wanting to write for a car magazine and then it actually happened by accident. A former co-worker passed my resume to the former Editor of AutoWeek and I got the job where I worked for them for four years, then Motor Trend for 12 years and now write for Automobile writing car reviews and breaking news.  Jack: Have you driven many electric vehicles? Todd: Yes, quite a few. The MINI Cooper electric vehicle was one of the first I drove in 2007 or so, which probably barely had a 100-mile range. Fortunately, EVs have changed quite a bit. I have driven Teslas including the Model S which we previously voted in as car of year in Motor Trend. We also named the Chevy Volt car of the year when I was at Motor Trend in 2011. I’ve driven a few Nissan LEAFs and had the convenience of plugging them in here at work. Jack: When I turn off the car heater in my EV, it impacts the car. I think it has to do with the chemistry of the battery. What do you think? Todd: Yes, I agree. Jack: I own an EV, but EVs are more expensive than similarly equipped gasoline powered cars. At what point do you see the cost equation working for EVs so that they overtake internal combustion cars? Todd: When cost, range, and the speed in recharging the EV all improve, that will be the ticket. Recently GM previewed their EVs; they’re building 20 between now and 2023 and some are additions to their announcement a few years ago. One was badged an Escalade and could supplement or eventually replace the ICE-powered Escalade just redesigned for 2021. I think gas and diesel engines will carry them forward for the next decade or so and that they’ll “ramp down” combustion engines as new EVs replace ICE models. GM says this new battery design comes in stacks of 6, 8, 10, and 12 and can be double stacked for bigger cars like Hummers. They are working to get the cost down from $145 per kW hour to less than $100 per kW hour. GM claims once below $100, they’ll be able to make more of a profit on EVs. I’ve also spoken to Toyota who says at this point if you’re selling an EV for less than $50k you’re not making money. They’re looking beyond battery electric. They’re very interested in hydrogen fuel cells, which are represented in their first and second generation Mirai. It looks like a Lexus, but they’re badging it as a Toyota. All of these vehicles are reducing the cost of the battery, which is one of the major goals – to make money on those cars and trucks and to get them up to a 400-mile range.  Also important is to be able to add 100 miles on a level two charge. That’s the good news. The flip side is the Chevy Bolt, and such are affordable for EVs but there is a huge shift in the auto industry that is getting away from affordable new cars. I think that brand new cars, whether a Cadillac, BMW or VW for instance are no longer attainable for the working class. Now a $35k range is affordable in the middle class, like Nissan LEAF for instance, is in the low $30k range. I see the entire industry: diesel, gas, EV, all moving on to more premium cost cars.  Jack: There has to be a financing program. 30k is a lot for a middle-class person. Manufacturers are going to have to do a resale program or something of the like to make it affordable. Todd: They’re looking at car subscriptions or car sharing. Even those are huge shifts in the transportation systems. At a global level, people are moving closer to big cities, even more so than 60 years ago. Then the question is, do you want a car in a big city? Manhattan is looking at parts of the city without personal cars. One area in San Francisco just went carless and bike lanes are increasing. Cities are moving away from designing streets around cars, moving to designing around public transit, pedestrians and cyclists. Paris and London are looking at EVs only or banning gas cars completely. Auto makers are trying to figure out car sharing. For instance, maybe an autonomous vehicle drives a 9am commuter to work, and then goes to another customer and takes him or her to work. One car can serve many people in a day. This is very pie in the sky, but the amount of money spent on autonomous vehicles is like an EV and the technology is advancing quickly.  All that said, the COVID-19 pandemic may change all of the above, we’ll have to wait and see. Jack: Seems like EV range is an issue with EVs. I get about a 300-mile range out of a full charge on my Chevy Bolt. When it gets down to less than 100 miles, I have to think ahead. Should I plug it

In the Fast Lane: EV and the Industrial Revolution

The following conversation is with Mike “Mouse” McCoy, CEO and Co-Founder of Hackrod Inc., Founder and former CEO of Bandito Brothers, an award-winning entertainment studio that architected a #1 box office feature film, Act of Valor, which McCoy produced and directed. In this post you’ll learn how speed and creativity can propel innovation to the next level, from the future of electric vehicles (EV) to design manufacturing. So buckle your seatbelt and prepare to find out how constant evaluation and redirection can shape the future of technology. Jack: Are you currently focused on developing action movies? Mouse: No, that was just one project but action has been a big part of my life. In fact, it was my trajectory into the movie business. I started racing motorcycles when I was four years old, was little and pretty quick and got the nickname Mouse. The name stuck and I went on to have a really good career as a professional motorcycle racer, including winning the Baja 1000 and 500 a number of times, as well as other records. Jack: What was conditioning like for that career?  Mouse: I’d be on the bike for hours in the mountains and it was training my brain to get really mentally comfortable with going fast alone and taking risks alone. If you crash in the desert, you’re a long way away from any help. Motorcycles are physically demanding; you’re dealing with rough terrain, your body gets destroyed, so keeping a sharp mind when you get physically whooped is important. You need to adapt and optimize for your specific discipline. There’s no one right way to train. Jack: Right, exactly. It’s just like if you’re a runner you’re not going to be in the pool, you’re going to be running. How did you go from motorcycle racing to the movie business? Mouse: Since I had been a stunt man, a lot of my life was spent in production and I wanted to make a movie about it so that people could visualize how wild and crazy it is. People thought it was impossible; to run cameras spread out across the desert was a tough order. It came to life starting out as a documentary and then became this really cinematic, deeply narrative movie that I starred in and produced, Dust of Glory. Jack: You’ve since moved on to a new realm. I’ve been to your studio which is very impressive. Your industrial warehouse is in a funky beach town and inside the building are vehicles, memorabilia from your career, and a torn-apart Prius car as you’re working on an autonomous vehicle. Tell us more about that. Mouse: Coming off of Dust of Glory, I said, why don’t we keep doing this? I got injured at 35 in a stunt job in Canada. I flipped an ATV off the mountain, destroyed myself and was in the hospital for five months. When I got out, I redirected myself. I went on to direct commercials and founded the movie studio, Bandito Brothers. We partnered with Navy SEALs to tell their stories and it developed into a top Hollywood movie, Act of Valor. Next came a call from Hot Wheels (famous makers of toy cars), who wanted to invigorate the brand visually. We then helped bring “Hot Wheels for Real” to fruition: real car-sized Hot Wheels with huge ramps were built and they made three auto world records within 18 months. Along the way, we started to recognize our process, which was wildly successful and won awards.  While we went out to create entertainment, it turned into rapid prototyping, and opened our eyes. Our tech was old school so we launched a research project. Kids were in their bedrooms dreaming their dreams, which would include building a custom car or motorcycle. We looked at the hot rod movement as inspiration, and created a new company, Hackrod Inc. We focused on where advanced manufacturing was going; the tech that would drive a new industrial revolution. It’s interesting because in entertainment we work in 3D design all the time, and it is fast. We started Hackrod to blend 3D design entertainment and industrial 3D design and chased that dream. Jack: What do you think of the current state of electric vehicles? And do you see EV demand in the hot rod market? Mouse: I think it’s an unstoppable movement overall. I credit Tesla for proving the market for it. Now market data is unequivocal and we need to address the carbon situation. I’m excited about the next revolution of battery tech and moving the chains for it. The genie is out of the bottle. Most of the major players are not tooled up for the production need, so that will be interesting to see how they handle it. Jack: How about the future? For example, do you think people will be putting EV powertrains into hot rods instead of the traditional muscle car powertrains? (Spoiler alert: I’m looking forward to working with Mouse on this.) Mouse: I look at it as being more than just a car. The hot rod is state of mind and the hot rod guy or gal is always looking for what’s new and fresh. I see hot rod EVs taking off wildly as the ability to rebuild and recycle is hot. The question is, what will be the new design and will be cool from a design perspective?  Jack: The speed and performance and amount of torque from an EV is astounding. There is the economic argument with climate change factor and the big cost advantage too. It only costs $6 to go 200 miles or so – amazing. Mouse: I agree! There’s the old school gear and combustion engine that’s getting smoked now. The pursuit of speed is the style – what hot rod is all about, and we’re going to see new styles emerge. Jack: I have a car shop like yours. I’m building an EV at a quarter scale and then will go