Good Overview of ICEs and the challenge

Worth The Watch                                                                                                                                     

No, I don’t think we need believe all they say, but the overview is good. If you have access to movies, you might consider watching “Revenge of the Electric Car.” It would be timely if you did, as we are all enjoying the ‘curse’ of living in interesting times.

I am struggling to consider a smart thing to do with my Ford Think Neighbor, I bought it with the thought I’d repower it with Lithium batteries, as I am less than thrilled with the ideal of hauling lead around the neighborhood, and the batteries that are onboard the machine now are dead..   It just seems all wrong to haul lead.. The car is a four seater, previous owner was the University of Washington, The car has a very clean appearance.

As you might know, the Ford Think Neighbor looks like a high-end golf cart, but the amount of alloy used, and the effort to make a light weight machine is impressive with a few exceptions. The seat frames are steel, but they likely help to restrain the lead battery mass IF you decide to plow into a wall at 25MPH.

There’s a guy on Ebay who is doing a pretty good job of supporting the Ford Think Owner population, and he is currently recommending DECA lead gel batteries. One would think if there was a decent and cost effective lithium power pack that could be configured for 72volt Think, he’d be considering it as an option for his customers and market same.

So here we are, way beyond Ford’s effort to Sell what I think was a VERY practical idea, a car designed for running errands or commuting on 25mph roads. We know that the four seat Ford Think Neighbor could do 90% of the work for a retired couple in places like Southern California, South Florida and more, even haul their guests to the VFW hall!

No doubt, many of us have visited Communities like Long Beach California, where Seniors have enjoyed EVs for 50 years or more.  I remember retired folks meeting up for coffee near the water front in their golf carts in the mid sixties when I was a young sailor stationed there. Retired folks did it all from their cart, including trying to pick up babes on the board walk,  all with a lead sled. But we need be realistic…  for the most part, Long Beach is flat as a table top, and had near ideal temperatures and weather for EVs compared to the majority of North America.

The Ford think was a Long Beach Rolls Royce in concept.. a failure for FORD but why?

I do know that there were a number of recalls, and not all owners heard about them or took advantage of them. One of the more interesting recalls had to do with the motor. It appears that Ford actually paid to replace the originals due to over heating. The stock battery charger was designed heavy as lead, and I think the charge rate was rather low. Many did abandon the stock charger, as it wasn’t very smart either.

Another problem seems to be that the brain of the car is integrated into the display cluster, and they seem to burn up or fail, and they are expensive to replace. There’s a Ford Think forum out there where there’s information to install a ‘hack’…. a fuse where it blows VS smoking the micro processor and display module. This problem may have been resolved by owners and enthusiasts by now..  but I’d imagine it cost people at Ford sleepless nights, and just why did they buy this Euro golf cart company anyway? I think the answer is they flat out didn’t test he product, and they were far too anxious to enter the EV market.  Had they loaned a dozen Thinks to the Crazy people I know, they’d have found these faults and more in the first week!  

I guess my approach to selling such a car would be to stay out of the national news, and set up a sales outlet in target markets as a research project.  They need be in markets flat as a table top, mild to warm weather WHEN people want to make use of the transportation. I say this, because we might include snow birds, where they are present for only part of the year, and at other times, the car may be impractical, but safe in storage in the garage.

Just where do we hobbyists get the better battery packs, and why are we still waiting? Is there merit in redeploying something  like the Prius battery packs, maybe there’s enough wrecked where we could consider that? Maybe there’s a possibility of redeploying the EV Prius drive train parts into the Ford Think.. or even a ground up hobby effort far lighter?  

As for the rest of it. There are loud voices across North America who have been demanding EVs and Hybrids. We discussed this all before, we do know that these cars can be viable in certain markets, and of course there’s every reason to suspect improvements. I think it’s nuts to expect that power density problems will be solved at the same pace as computer memory storage density has, but there are others who believe that Moore’s Law can be applied, and power density will be resolved on the same time table. I think they should be their house on it!  

We have a wide variety of approaches to the EV/hybrid cars in the field now..  we all have a front row seat to watch the Chevy Volt, The Nissan Leaf, the Prius, and more. The only company that seems to have done their homework to identify real buyers for their car is Toyota, and I say that as a casual observer. For all I know, with all the problems these cars present their manufacturers including the supply of rare earth in the form ready to make magnets for Drive Motors, there may not be a profit for years to come.

And what about TESLA? I see a market for this car! All one need do is remain comitted to running with no profits, likely losses for the foreseeable future. We’ll all see won’t we?

There is one thing that could help the EV/Hybrid market, and it might be easier to implement in China. Do a survey, take firm orders for the car, real commitments to buy, and then place a permanent brand on the foreheads of all who committed to buy, but never had a source of income in the first place! The question in all of our minds is just how much of the excitement for these cars comes from folks who will only be owners if the car is given to them? There’s an answer to this problem, we simply copy the Obama Healthcare plan, we give folks who can’t afford the car a car for whatever price they are willing to pay. It will work till we’re all broke, and we’ll worry about it when we get there. 

Do we see efforts in Southern California to Rescue the Chevy Volt? Are they giving the car privileges where the more wealthy will buy just to enjoy those privileges? Being able to run in the diamond lane during rush hour? Why not extend other privileges? Maybe you make it legal to talk on the cell phone? How about free parking in congested cities? 

One thing I need help with, and I’m begging someone to explain to to me. San Francisco is full of hills that will suck the life out of a battery, thoughtful people know that the hills  are full of traffic lights that assure the worst possible conditions both up and down the hill for EVs.  The opportunity to make use of a REGen system is minimal when you drag the vehicle to a dead stop so often. but with these realities staring the City in the Face, EVs are a hot topic in this city, and I hear there are even level three charging stations near the bay.

I think it would be fun to take a Leaf with a discharged battery down to the water front, plug it into a charger and see how long we need be there in order to take on enough charge to get to the top of telegraph hill.  

As for the Leaf, there’s already people grearing up for aftermaket acessories, like the stylish little one wheeled trailer that allows easy backing. Plenty of room for an ICE powered generator to give those batteries enouhg juice to get to Grandma’s house for Thanks giving dinner.

Here we are in the middle of a Chinese curse.. “may you live in interesting  times..”   

GB .



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