Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 8th Feb, 2010

Energised communities

Last week I went along to a group at once new and very familiar. They all were passionately keen about a new technology, and yet they'd all had to explain the benefits over and over again to disbelievers. Most of them were working on their own projects but came together as a larger community. While they all knew it was the inevitable way of the future, powerful commercial interests were working against them and governments and the general public seemed indifferent to their cause.

This was, of course, electric vehicle hobbyists.

For my part, I'm keen on constructing an electric motorbike. I'm also interested in adding open source components and microprocessor controllers to various parts of the project, partly to keep the cost down (some of the proprietary parts are really expensive) and partly for the fun of tinkering.

There were three main topics of discussion during the night:

Firstly, there's a lot of interest in the local group in starting a EV racing standard and, within one to two years, getting actual races happening. Initial ideas revolved around a standard car chassis that is fully CAMS approved (which is necessary for official racing), but then someone mentioned go-karts as a lower-cost entry level category which also got a lot of nods. There's already moves in this direction (CAMS has had an Alternative Energy division since August 2008) but getting the community groups - schools, Scouts, youth groups, etc - involved is a great idea.

Secondly, the group is trying to collect information about building EVs into an online resorce. I put in my oar and proposed using a wiki (which they sort of have already) and keeping it public (opposing the person who said it could be monetised in the future), both of which met with general agreement. The current process they're using is for one person to be a 'subject matter expert' that collates all the ideas from the group into an article, and that then gets put on the Wiki and people can edit it from there. This combines the best of both practices of document writing, and I think it's an excellent way to go.

Thirdly, there was a lot of interest in the hardware hacking theme that is all the rage at the moment. Everything from makerbots and repraps to arduinos and programmable fridges was met with interest and requests for more detail. I'm trying to find their email list to make a general announcement and I'm hoping that I'll get a few people coming along to the next CLUG meeting. There's a number of projects out there, from David Rowe's work on controllers to the Tumanako project that are applicable to EVs. I really need to point the Canberra EV group in the direction of the Electric Saker sports car - a New Zealand project!

My main quest for this month is to make the plans for my new electric motorbike, and to understand what a battery management system does and find one that doesn't suck.

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