Electrogenic July 2020 Newsletter

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

At Electrogenic we are always saying things like “we are in another golden age of motoring” and (being Oxford-based) “it’s like it must have been 100 years ago for William Morris”.  But what was it like before William Morris switched production from bicycles to cars in 1912?  It turns out it was electrifying.  In fact electric cars beat the competition hands-down at the dawn of motoring and ruled the roost for a quarter of a century until improved reliability of petrol engines, petrol stations and Henry Ford eased them into the background.  Who knew Ferdinand Porsche built the world’s first hybrid before the beginning of the last century?!

Back at the garage, our pioneering continues.  We have designed and are now installing a unique direct-drive system.  We will unveil all when we take it for a drive.  In the mean time, happy summer motoring!

Back to the Future

The first EV was built in France in 1881 by Gustav Trouve, who re-engineered a Siemens motor.  In the UK, Thomas Parker developed high-capacity rechargeable batteries in 1882, but development of meaningful electric cars had to wait for the abolition of the Red Flag Acts in 1896.  Thomas went on to produce EVs with hydraulic brakes and four-wheel steering.

Inventors in the USA had no such restrictions.  The first successful electric car in the United States was built by William Morrison (no relation!) in 1891.  The four-horsepower vehicle had a top speed of 20 mph and could carry up to 12 passengers.  It was powered by 24 battery cells that were stored under the seats and had a range of 50 miles.

Over in Europe, in 1898 a certain Dr. Ferdinand Porsche built his first car: the Lohner Electric Chaise. With a hub-motor at each driving wheel it was the world’s first front-wheel-drive. Porsche’s second car was a hybrid, using an internal combustion engine to spin a generator that provided power to electric motors located in the wheel hubs. On battery alone, the car could travel nearly 40 miles.

The same year saw the first speed record.  On December 18, 1898 Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of Paris, France, became the fastest man alive. The Count had driven his speed demon electric vehicle Jeantaud to speeds never known before or experienced by any human. This speed was a phenomenal 39 miles for per hour.  His record lasted only four weeks and led to a spat with Belgian Camille Jenatzy.  Over the next four months the record was batted to and fro between them until Jenatzy finally trumped the “Electric Count” with a record a record 65.79 mph in the “Jamais Contente”.  (The last official electric speed record was in 1902 in the USA, at 104 mph, which lasted two years before being beaten by a steam car at 127mph.)

Electric cars were attractive for city use, and were more reliable and easier to keep than their petrol cousins.  The wonderful Jay Leno has a 1909 Baker Electric in his collection and you can see the attraction here.

Eventually the electric car lost out to the internal combustion engine as roads started to connect cities (creating more need for range), the discovery of oil in Texas (cheaper petrol) and Henry Ford inventing mass-production (cheaper petrol cars).  The last Detroit Electric car was shipped in 1932, but along the way, the EV pioneered the steering wheel, rack and pinion steering, safety belts, hub motors, regenerative braking (1894!), shaft drive, use of alloy steel, “full floating” ball bearing rear axle and the land speed record.  And then came Tesla…

PS        While we’re on the “back to the future theme, does anyone have a DeLorean they want converting….)

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery picture 7
Mystery Picture 7
Mystery Picture 8

Answers from June:

Mystery Picture 5 – it’s a Quaife limited-slip diff about to go into a new gearbox for the Marmite bus… so Paul Swift could drift it!  If you missed that, click here for the action
Mystery Picture 6 – fancy wheels for the mini

And welcome to… Alex!

Alex has joined us to organise and bring in-house all of our component design.  Our library of bespoke parts is ever-increasing and it makes sense to have continuity in the design process, so we can reduce machine costs and continually improve.

Alex has a Masters in Automotive Engineering from Oxford Brookes University and as you can see, we have promised him at least two days a week in the workshop, away from Solidworks!

And finally…

This month we also spent a happy hour with Ian Cook at @popbangcolour doing a live Instagram feed.  Ian painted our very own Hudson Commodore, while chatting to us and asking questions while we walked around the garage showing the viewers what was going on.  A new experience for us, and we ended up with a painting of our Hudson!

The delve into EV history was first prompted by Jay Leno.  It’s fascinating, and there’s lots more than we touched on above.  His YouTube video of the Baker Electric Car really is great viewing, so don’t pass it by.  And of course there are lots of other interesting EVs on our YouTube playlist.

Lot’s of what happens day to day, and the new cars coming in and out of the workshop, appear on our social media.  So if you want to keep in touch between newsletters, please check out the links below.  And we are doing Covid-appropriate test-drives again.  So if you fancy driving a Retro-EV, give us a call…

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Electrogenic May 2020 Newsletter

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

We’re back!  We are happy to tell you that following the new government guidelines, the newly socially-distanced workshop has re-opened and things feel a little more normal.  So what have we been doing other than home-stay Easter holidays?  A little Spring-cleaning and a LOT of R&D…

Prof Steve’s workbench

During the lockdown, Steve H has been faking it…

More specifically, Steve built a fake EVSE charge point and a series of fake Tesla batteries, to test our new integrated charging/battery management/motor controller and cell monitoring system.  The system has passed with flying colours and will be installed in all our vehicles from next month.

The basic idea of the system is twofold:

    1. so we have a common system architecture that will suit a range of motor controllers and battery systems, and
    2. to make sure that all the electric drive systems operate in their “sweet spot” at all times (charging and driving).

It also enables everything to connect with our remote diagnostic system, which helps us to help you.

Each element of the system cross-checks with all the other elements about 50 times a second.  If anything gets out of balance then it takes corrective action, notifies the driver if necessary, and if absolutely necessary pulls the emergency cord.  So for example we can reduce currents if battery voltages are going up, or if the batteries are getting low, tell the driver and switch into “get me home” mode.

Why did we develop it?  Because off-the-shelf systems don’t have the subtlety, and it gives us a platform to be able to better respond to customer requests.  Want to switch the kettle on when you’re 5 minutes from home…?

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery Picture 3
Mystery Picture 4

Answers from April:    Mystery Picture 1 – “Angel Eye” Mini headlight
Mystery Picture 2 – Land Rover Defender gearbox flange

Welcome to Laura!

Some of you have spotted that while we are capable of building fabulous vehicles, our back-office has been a little haphazard at times.  So welcome to Laura, who has a degree in car design and is reaching parts that the rest of us can’t reach.  She has already revolutionised our component sourcing and is starting to make the rest of the business hum like one of our Hyper 9s.  Here is Laura with one of her minis…

And finally…

We now have a YouTube channel.  There is not much there at the moment, but we are developing a playlist called “Dream cars for electric conversion”.  Check it out and add some suggestions. 

We are also in the press.  WhichEV just published a nice piece about Retro-EVs, featuring us.  You can check it out here.

You have heard what Steve H has been doing during lockdown.  But what of the other Steve, I hear you ask?  For those of you on Facebook, you can check it out here.  For the rest of you, check out YouTube.

And last but absolutely most importantly, we have sorted the social distancing, so you CAN come and see us now.  So please give us a call to make an appointment and see you soon! 

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