Monday, December 17, 2018

EVs and the Coming Oil Glut?

The other day I read this article. The author, Ross Tessien seems to have created something of a stir.  His basic premise is that the demand for EVs has already quietly started a rapid journey to 100% adoption by 2026, we have not correctly interpreted the signs yet, and all of this will amount to a historically significant oil glut as early as 2023 (when everyone realizes oil is being massively overproduced).

Here's a great, very friendly video explanation by the guys from "Now You Know". Be forewarned that all of their content seems to be heavily Tesla-centered and slightly fanatical, so they are likely to be more bullish on this hypothesis.

Despite the fact that I more-or-less believe that this is the ultimate outcome, I think there are some factors that Tessien has not considered:
  1. "Gas Grab" - A subset of people who just want cheap transportation will be happy to buy and own their gas-powered cars when gas prices drop, causing a hesitation in the rapid adoption rate of EVs.
  2. "Grid Crisis" - The demand for EVs will be tempered by a spike in the cost of electricity production during a window where demand exceeds supply.  It will take quite a while to ramp up our infrastructure to the extent necessary to handle an EV in every American garage, and I think that is not fully realized.

Still, even if he is off by a few years, this is still a significant prediction.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Plasti-Dip Chevy Volt Emblems and Rims

Now that I have had my Chevy Volt for a week, I had to take care of some high priority items in order to make it driveable.  The first one, of course, was to black out the rims and gold Chevy emblems.

I used a product called Custom Wrap by Dupli-Color. It's the equivalent of a better-known product called Plasti-Dip.  You spray it on, and it peels or wipes off when you want it to (assuming you did it right).  


Started with some serious cleaning of the wheels.  I used Simple Green mixed with water, a sponge, and a lot of elbow grease. I chose to remove the wheels for application, but that is not expressly necessary.  In my case I didn't want to worry about over-spray onto the car or rotors, and felt I could do a better job of getting all the nooks and crannies.  I didn't mask anything at all; I just made sure to do lots of (4-5) coats on everything (including the tires) so it would peel nicely off.  The whole wheels job used 2 cans.  I put the wheels on top of an old tarp before spraying, because I heard this stuff does not come off of concrete or asphalt.  When I was done, I put the wheels on the car and drove it 100+ miles.  After that, most of the over-spray onto the tires was gone, and the rest peeled off easily.  I am the king of laziness.


I took a little more care here and made a basic mask out of cardboard and masking tape.  I don't have any photos, but on each I basically sprayed the entire emblem plus a box about 1-2" around them.  After it dried I peeled off all of the parts I didn't want blacked out. On the front emblem, I just changed the inner bowtie from gold to black (why does Chevy still insist on having gold logos on a chrome grill?)  On the back, I left it fully blacked out so it basically disappears into the black part of the trunk around it.

I am pretty happy with how all this came out. Time will tell as far as how long it lasts, but I hear it becomes pretty stable after one week - you can even take it through a touch car wash with no anxiety.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

How the Gen 2 Volt Drivetrain (Really) Works

Is the Chevy Volt a parallel hybrid or serial?  Does the engine drive the wheels after the battery is depleted?  Or does it generate electricity to run the motors, like a range-extended EV?  There are tons of opinions about what class of hybrid the Chevy Volt fits into, and there is good reason for this. The truth of the matter is, it is all of these things and more.

If I have lost you, don't feel bad. After reviewing multiple sources of information about how the 2nd gen Volt works, it seemed to be something I would never get my head around (and still haven't).  Let me try to break down what I know and give you some valuable references.

Components of the Chevy Voltec Drive System

There are 5 main components involved in the Chevy Voltec drive:

  1. 1.5L ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)
  2. Electric Motor/Generator A (EMG A)
  3. Electric Motor/Generator B (EMG B)
  4. Planetary Gear A (PGA)
  5. Planetary Gear B (PGB)

How They Interact

The Planetary gear PGA is connected to EMG A and the ICE.  PGB is connected to EMG B. Both planetary gear sets are connected to the wheels, and they are connected to each other..  Together with clutches, they function as transmissions that switch and mix power from the engine, motor A, motor B, and to/from the wheels, into several possible configurations to maximize efficiency depending on the torque being demanded, charge state of the battery, and the speed of the vehicle.  It's really quite the mind-blow.  The bottom line is that, the configuration of the car can freely change from EV, to parallel hybrid, to series hybrid, and some interstitial stages having the properties of both at the same time - all seamlessly and within seconds of the previous.

For more information, check out this Youtube Video posted by Alex on Autos. It's very to-the-point and in-depth, but it does have some diagrams.

Why I Got a Chevy Volt

Why I chose the Volkswagen "Buy Back"

Last month, I sold my VW Golf TDI back to Volkswagen.  It was included in the emissions scandal, and I had the option to sell it back for more than I paid for it.  Even though I mostly loved the car, I had my reasons for choosing to sell it back. Here are some of the reasons which tipped the scales for me:

  • There were quirks that drove me nuts (3 sec. delay in acceleration, always complaining about my key not being in range, bluetooth microphone not working for media audio, worthless voice recognition feature, many more)
  • The mileage and age of the vehicle were getting to the point where things start getting expensive to maintain (90K).  
  • The fuel mileage was averaging about 35 mpg, which is not hard to beat using even a NON-hybrid modern gas vehicle.
  • To further this issue, a gallon of diesel comes at about a $.50 premium over gas, negating any fuel mileage advantages.
  • Also furthering this issue, is the relative difficulty of finding good sources of diesel (vs. good sources of gasoline).  

Why I chose the Chevy Volt

I have wanted an EV for a long time now, but at least once a week, I have a 140 mile round-trip commute with no access to a charging station.  The Tesla 3 is out my price range (and, although they are neat-o, the value proposition is just not there for what they are offering).  So I knew I needed a plugin hybrid. Sadly, Volkswagen does not have anything right now.  I considered the Prius Prime and the Chevy Volt.  I settled on the Volt because:
  • It has twice the range of the Prius (50 miles vs 25 miles)
  • It looks better
  • It has more torque and better handling
  • The trunk of the Prius Prime is compromised by a massive bump-up of the floor, whereas the Volt is like a regular hatchback.
Those are the main reasons.  After some searching, I was able to find a used 2016 Volt (2nd Gen) that is fully loaded.  It was tricky, because the used market on these cars is still pretty sparse.  I had to get it with Carmax and have it shipped.  Next year, these will really start coming off leases and the market will pick up.

In future posts, I will describe my experiences and thoughts associated with practical use, but so far I have not been the least bit disappointed.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Monitor Connector Preferences

When it comes to connecting a computer to a monitor, you have a lot of choices these days.  Recently I was asked what I would use, and I made a list of my preference in descending order, depending on what is available:

  1. DVI to DVI
  2. HDMI to HDMI or DVI to HDMI (using adapter or special cable)
  3. Etch-A-Sketch controlled by an artistic robot that draws a representation of what is on your screen
  4. 15-pin analog VGA to whatever