Ford Comuta

The 1967 Ford Comuta EV. Photo: Ford of GreatBritain.

In 1913, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had collaborated on an electric vehicle. This was not a successful venture. Fifty-four years later, in 1967, Ford of Great Britain, produced their first modern electric vehicle, a Ford Comuta concept/ prototype, developed at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre, east of London.

The Comuta was 2 032 mm long, and weighed about 545 kg. Along with a fiberglass body, it featured a steel backbone chassis, with an independent suspension provided by leading arms at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Drum brakes were also provided.

It could seat two adults in the front and two children in the rear. It’s top speed of 60 km/h and a range of 60 km if driven at 35 km/h. The rear wheel drive vehicle was powered by dual DC electric motors that put out 3.7 kW. These were originally designed as aircraft auxiliary units. Power came from four mid-mounted 12 V 85 Ah lead-acid batteries, producing a total of about 4 kWh. Ductwork piped air through the central backbone to provid motor cooling and heating for the passenger compartment.

Somewhere between two and six Comutas were built (sources conflict). It was unveiled at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. One can be found in the collection of the Science Museum in London. The fate of the other(s) is unknown.

Lou Ottens (1926 – 2021)

Phillips EL3300, the world’s first compact cassette recorder, with microphone, cassette tape and tape container launched in 1963. It was developed by Lou Ottens and a team at the Phillips Hasselt factory, in Belgium. Photo: Vintage Music Museum.

Lou Ottens (1926-06-21 – 2021-03-06) was born in Bellingwolde, in the south-east of the Netherlands, near the German border. During World War II, he constructed a radio with a primitive directional antenna to listen to Radio Oranje, a BBC European Service broadcast to the German-occupied Netherlands transmitted from London and lasting about 15 minutes.

Ottens attended Delft University of Technology. After he graduated from mechanical engineering studies in 1952, he was hired by Philips to work in the mechanization department of the Main Industry Group in Eindhoven. In 1957, he transferred to the Hasselt, Belgium, factory that produced audio equipment, such as turntables, tape recorders and loudspeakers.

Meanwhile, in 1958, on the other side of the world, RCA = Radio Corporation of America, proposed a worldwide tape recorder standard for a quick loading cartridge based on two flangeless hubs in a flat box. Flangeless hubs facilitate smaller dimensions because one reel diminishes as the other grows in diameter. It was based on the existing standard tape speed  3 ¾ IPS (inches per second) = 95 mm/sec and reversible utilisation for 2 x 30 minutes in stereo. Unfortunately for RCA, and fortunately for Philips, this proved to be an unsuitable solution. Quick rewinding and winding the tape could lead to jamming, and the power consumption due to the internal friction in the cartridge made it unsuitable for use in battery operated equipment.

In 1960, Ottens became the head of the new product development department and developed the EL 3585 portable tape recorder. One of its goals was to develop a pocket recorder, known today as a portable cassette recorder. It was to be inexpensive, physically small, with low battery consumption but with good, but not great, sound quality. Cassette design started with the cutting a block of wood that could fit into a jacket pocket. This developed into the EL 3300 cassette recorder. A team of ten/ twelve workers with design experience from gramophones and tape recorders were used to develop the cassette and its equipment.

The EL 3300 used a plastic enclosure 113 x 56 x 196 mm that held 5 x 1.5V batteries = 8.5 V power, but with the possibility of powering from the grid using a power jack. There were seven transistors (4 x AC125, 1 x AC126 and 2 x AC128) inside that provided 0.25 W of power to a permanent magnet dynamic loudspeaker with a moving coil) / Ø 2.4 inch = 61 mm.

The product was launched at the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin = International radio exhibition Berlin = Berlin Radio Show, in 1963-08-30. This cassette was 1/4 the size of existing Fidelipac or Lear cartridges. It featured reversible housing with maximum tape protection allowing 30 or 45 minutes of stereo music per side. Tape speed: 47.6 mm/s. Tape width: 3.81 mm. In the US Philips used the name Norelco. A note for collectors: An original Philips EL3300 is not difficult to buy, but are in average (rather than pristine) condition. Prices vary, but are often US$ 50 to 60. Finding one requires patience.

Ottens made agreements with Sony for the patented Philips cassette mechanism to be a world standard. The triumph of the cassette tape ended only with the appearance of the Compact Disc format, another joint venture between Philips and Sony.

In 1969, Ottens became Director of Philips Hasselt, where it focused primarily on producing Philips cassette systems. Hasselts grew larger, with over 5000 employees.

In 1972 Ottens became director of audio at Philips’ NatLab, where he became involved in the next major music innovation: the CD. A collaboration was entered into with Sony and in 1980 the 120 mm Philips-Sony CD standard was ready for the world.

Ottens told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, “Nothing can match the sound of the CD, It is absolutely noise and rumble-free. That never worked with tape … I have made a lot of record players and I know that the distortion with vinyl is much higher. I think people mainly hear what they want to hear.” Ottens had little patience with the renewed popularity of the cassette tape and vinyl. More than 100bn cassette tapes and 200bn CDs have been sold. When asked about his regrets, Ottens lamented that Sony had brought out the first Walkman.

Ottens retired from Philips in 1986. He became chairperson of the Dutch Association for Logistics Management in 1988. On 2021-03-06 Ottens died at his home in the village of Duizel in North Brabant, Netherlands.

Aurora: A tidbit

Aurora Aksnes (1996-06-15 – )

One Track: Running with the Wolves (2015).

One Quotation: “I don’t think I was born to be an entertainer, I used to really be afraid of playing live on-stage. Obviously it’s terrifying! But now I look forward to it every time. I’ve learned not focus on myself, cause it’s not about me. Now I only think about giving everyone the best experience. A magic moment.”

One Comment: Aurora was chosen as a singer-songwriter in an attempt to focus on women musicians, composers and songwriters under age fifty. On the date of publication, she has finally reached twenty-five years old. Running with Wolves was released in 2015, when she was eighteen. Wikipedia describes Aurora as having an eclectic musical style that is a composite of eight genres: art pop, Nordic-folk, synth-pop, electropop, electro-folk, indie pop, dark pop and avant-garde pop. I appreciate the fact that she in-sources costumes and makeup to her sisters.

Sci-Hub

The Sci-Hub logo.

When people feel that society is not working for them, they create their own solutions. Many become criminals. Some participate in guerrilla actions, ranging from one-off events to lifestyle transitions. A few found institutions, businesses and organizations to resolve these points of conflict. In this post, one will meet numerous people, and institutions that have arisen to gain free access to scientific information.

In the beginning, there was The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California. The foundation was formed 1990-07-10 by activist John Gilmore (1955 – ), poet, essayist and cattle rancher John Perry Barlow (1947 – 2018) and entrepreneur Mitch Kapor (1950 – ) to promote Internet civil liberties.

The EFF “provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amicus curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers abusive legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms and online civil liberties, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use and solicits a list of what it considers abusive patents with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.”

The EFF had noted that more than half of all academic publishing is controlled by five publishers, using paywalls justified on the premise that they compensate publishers for their investment in editing, curating, and publishing. Yet, a large portion of that work involves uncompensated peer-reviews by scholars. In addition, much of the research behind these articles is publicly funded. Because of this, the EFF and many others argue that the results should be freely available.

On 2005-06-15, Reddit was born, a website with 1.) social news aggregation, 2.) web content rating, and 3.) discussion. It claims to be the front-page of the internet. It was founded by spez = Steve Huffman (1983 – ) and Alexis Ohanian (1983 – ), students at the University of Virginia. Later, Aaron Swartz (1986 – 2013) was given founder status for his work rewriting Reddit’s Lisp codebase using Python and web.py. Already in 2006-10, Reddit had been acquired.

According to Alexa Internet, Reddit ranks as the 18th-most-visited website in the world and 7th most-visited website in the USA. Somewhat less than half of its user base is from USA, and with users from the UK and Canada, Anglophiles dominate. Most of these are young. Some would even say that a large portion of the user base is eager to change the world. They are in part inspired by Swartz as computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist.

Reddit looks somewhat old fashioned with a bulletin board system that displays user-generated content (texts, photos, videos, links) and content discussions. Reddit is a play-on-words with read it. According to Reddit, there were approximately 430 million monthly users, or redditors (in 2019). Content is divided into 138 000 subreddits = categories/ communities. Redditor posts and comments result in a conversation. These can be voted upon using positive upvotes and negative downvotes. These votes determine a post’s site visibility. Redditors earn karma for their posts and comments. After six months, posts are automatically archived, prohibiting comments and votes.

Sci-Hub was founded by Kazakhstani computer programmer Alexandra Elbakyan (1988 – ) in 2011 in response to the high cost of research papers behind paywalls. The site is extensively used worldwide. One estimate is that it serves 400 000 requests per day to provides free access to an archive over 85 million research papers and books using 77 TB of data, without regard to copyright. It uses a variety of approaches to bypass publishers’ paywalls. Science journalist John Bohannon described Sci-Hub as “an awe-inspiring act of altruism or a massive criminal enterprise, depending on whom you ask.”

In 2019, a community of redditors downloaded and released 33TB of scientific papers and books from Library Genesis, a site similar to Sci-Hub. Now, the r/DataHoarder subreddit is involved in a new rescue mission for Open Science. It involves approximately 8 500 individuals torrenting papers in order to download the entire library. The goal is to make an open-source library that cannot be taken down.

Torrenting? Torrenting is a form of downloading where a torrent (aka tracker) will break up a file into smaller pieces, called packets. Some participants in the process (seeders) will have the entire file in their possession. Others, varyingly called peers or leechers, will only have some of the parts, but are in the process of acquiring them all. The torrent file being downloaded keeps track of who has which packet and alternate sources.

Harvard University warned in 2012 that subscription fees for scientific journals were becoming prohibitively expensive. The European Union, through European Commissioner covering the portfolio of Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas (1970 – ), announced 2016-05-28 that all publicly funded scientific papers published in Europe could be made free to access by 2020.

Guidelines were released in 2017, and in part state: “Modern research builds on extensive scientific dialogue and advances by improving earlier work. The Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy underlines the central role of knowledge and innovation in generating growth. Broader access to scientific publications and data therefore helps to[:] build on previous research results (improved quality of results)[;] encourage collaboration and avoid duplication of effort (greater efficiency)[;] speed up innovation (faster progress to market means faster growth)[;] involve citizens and society (improved transparency of the scientific process)[.]” (p. 4)

Now, Redditors at the r/DataHoarder subreddit are trying to preserve the numerous papers available on Sci-Hub. In a post dated 2021-05-13, the moderators of r/DataHoarder, provided “… a clearer message about the fate of Sci-Hub and open science. We are the library, we do not get silenced, we do not shut down our computers, and we are many.” Redditors aim to release all of the downloaded data via a new uncensorable open-source website.

The Sci-Hub logo: An aside

In the next three paragraphs, Alexandra Elbakyan comments on the Sci-Hub logo, “The history of Sci-Hub logo is less intriguing than it appears to be. When Sci-Hub started in 2011, its first logo was a simple Soviet hammer and sickle, and when the mouse pointer hovered upon it, a text showed up stating: „Communism is … common ownership of the means of production with free access to articles of consumption.“

I took this communism definition from a Wikipedia page and it fitted Sci-Hub very neatly. I was lucky because that definition of communism in Wikipedia was only in 2011 – if you check earlier versions of Wiki article about communism or later versions, they do not contain anything about „free access to articles“.

In 2014 I created a group in a social network to bring together Sci-Hub users (vk.com/sci_hub). First I used the Mendeleev table as a logo, after that it was an alchemical serpent. Later I decided to look up some picture in Google with a key and books to use as a group logo, and found that Raven sitting on books, holding a key. I loved that picture and immediately put it up as a logo on Sci-Hub’s social network group. Later in 2015, I decided to re-design Sci-Hub website and create a modern design, and used the group raven logo as a website logo.”

V2G

Weighing almost 4 000 kg, the Dream Car 123 EV has a range of almost 400 km at a speed of 60 km/h, with 3.5 hours of charging. Greg Zanis, the Dream Car 123’s developer, built the car’s tower garage to harvest solar and wind power to provide the vehicle with a personalized V1G capability. Photo: Zapcar.ru

V2G = Vehicle-to-Grid, involves one basic question. Who can a person trust? Technically, this is a weblog post about the transfer of electrical power to and from an electric vehicle (EV). This topic is forcing electrical vehicle stakeholders to think in new ways. It is a bit too early to call it a paradigm change, but that is the direction in which it is heading. One of the main challenges is to find out who is going to control (and profit from) this transfer. There are at least four potential answers: consumers, electricity producers/ grid owners, regulators and EV manufacturers. One’s approach to this control, may have much to say about the attractiveness of EV brands.

First, this blogger would like to criticize the Wikipedia article on the topic that begins by putting V2G into a purely economic perspective, essentially a system in which plug-in electric vehicles (PEV), “communicate with the power grid to sell demand response services by either returning electricity to the grid or by throttling their charging rate.” There can be other reasons for connecting a vehicle to the grid other than economic considerations. Security from power outages is one of these. Speed can be another. The type of ownership can be yet one more consideration, especially if one is a member of a co-operative. If economic considerations are to be made, then it is important that all costs associated with it are taken into consideration. Battery degradation is one of these, especially when the cost of a battery in a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is about one-third of the vehicle cost, in 2021. Then there are regulations, which impact stakeholders in different ways, some technical, some economic, some social and even some that are cultural.

Second, for a century consumers have been persuaded that their role in the electricity supply system is to use electricity, and to pay for it. With more discussion of a smart grid, this narrow role is being expanded. At a minimum, consumers living between 60 degrees S and 60 degrees N, are being encouraged to install solar panels. Increasingly, electrical power does not just need to be produced. It needs to be stored. Electrical producers and grid managers are also having difficulty responding to this change. This has necessitated grid regulators to enter the arena, and to make decisions that are typically unpopular with one group or the other.

Third, there are numerous variations on the theme, involving electrical power flow. Here are some of them.

  1. V1G = Unidirectional power flow, from one source
  2. V1G, from several sources
  3. V1G, with fragmented actor objectives
  4. V2G = Bidirectional power flow
  5. V2H = Vehicle-to-home
  6. V2B = Vehicle-to-building
  7. V2L = Vehicle-to-load
  8. V2X = Vehicle-to-everything

Apart from this paragraph, V2X will not be discussed further in the post. It is less about the transfer of (electrical) power, than communication between a vehicle and any entity that may affect, or may be affected by, that vehicle. It may incorporate other more specific types of communication, including: V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure), V2N (vehicle-to-network), V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle), V2P (vehicle-to-pedestrian), V2D (vehicle-to-device) and V2G (vehicle-to-grid). The main motivations for V2X are road safety, traffic efficiency and energy savings.

Fourth, there are at least three approaches to V2G from automakers. These will be examined in terms of three different EV manufacturers: Tesla, Volkswagen and Hyundai.

Avoidance

Tesla seems to want to avoid V2G altogether. Jeffrey B Straubel (1975 – ), Tesla’s chief technical officer, stated his opposition to V2G technology, because battery wear outweighs its economic benefits. This might be a satisfactory solution in areas that do not experience power outages, but even in California power companies are cutting off power, to prevent forest fires, during extreme weather situations. The deadliest and most destructive forest fire in California history, the Camp Fire in Northern California in 2019, is thought to have been caused by downed power lines. According to at least one source, during the Texas blackout of 2021, a Tesla owner who rigged up such a system to provide basic needs for his family, had his Tesla Warranty voided.

Tesla often undertakes unilateral actions, including software updates, that sometimes impact consumers negatively. On such change occurred in 2019, when Tesla updated system software to “protect the battery and improve battery longevity,” and it resulted in a range loss for only “a small percentage of owners.” In Norway, a lawsuit was filed with the (consumer) Conciliation Board, 2020-12. Tesla did not respond to this. On 2021-04-29, the board found Tesla guilty of throttling charging speed and battery capacity through this 2019 software update. It ordered Tesla to pay NOK 136 000 = ca US$ 16 000 for each vehicle registered in the case. There are about 10 000 such vehicles in Norway, and this judgement would also apply to many of them. The decision could also be even more significant, with similar legal cases in other countries.

Control

On 2021-04-05 Volkswagen Group announced that starting 2022-01-01, all vehicles built on its MEB platform will have V2G capability. This is probably a good enough reason for anyone considering a new Audi, Seat-Cupra, Skoda or Volkswagen vehicle should wait until then before buying such a vehicle.

At Volkswagen’s Power Day (2021-03-15) Elke Temme, Head of Charging & Energy at Volkswagen Group Components, stated that 6 500 GWh a year of renewable energy is not used due to lack of energy storage. She suggested that grid operators could store that electricity in car batteries if they have the technical and regulatory ability to do so. This is sufficient energy to power 2.7 million BEVs. She did not discuss how much Volkswagen could earn from such an arrangement.

Consumers may once again be concerned about how their interests are going to be taken into consideration, by Volkswagen Group. As individual consumers produce more power through solar panels, and other devices, it can be more economically beneficial for them to power their own houses – and vehicle batteries – first, before sending power into the grid. From the description of the Volkswagen system provided so-far, Volkswagen seems to want to take on the role of being an electrical system power broker, but one that is only capable of a binary relationship, in which either power is supplied to the grid, or taken from it. Similarly, there was no mention of compensating BEV owners for any battery degradation.

Flexibility

On 2021-02-22 Hyundai announced that its Ioniq 5 would offer V2L capabilities. V2L enables it to provide up to 3.6 kW of power to external devices. This is managed through 1) an Integrated Charging Control Unit (ICCU); 2) a Vehicle Charging Management System (VCMS); and 3) an on-board charger (OBC) . Users can access up to 70% of the vehicle’s battery capacity. This includes the ability to charge other vehicles. The Hyundai approach seems to offer a much more flexible solution, than those offered by Tesla or Volkswagen.

Hyundai’s new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) will be underpinning new Genesis, Hyundai and Kia EVs. Between 2021 and 2025, they will be releasing 23 different models that use this platform. Its main components will be 1.) a battery pack under the cabin, 2.) an all-in-one motor, transmission, and inverter designed/ developed/ manufactured by Hyundai. This bundling will raise the maximum speed of the motor by up to 70 percent compared to existing motors, despite its small size, allowing it to produce up to 450 kW of power. Equipped with a 50 kWh vehicle battery pack, an EV will be able to provide 35 kWh of electrical energy that can be fed into a house during an outage. While the size of batteries has not been disclosed, they should offer a range of about 500 km, and allow 80% charging in 18 minutes, with an 800 V architecture and 350 kW charging speeds. A five-minute charge can add about 100 km of range.

Consumer Responses

What should consumers do? A first step is for every consumer to show a healthy scepticism to all proposals from other electricity stakeholders, including electricity producers and EV manufacturers. Assume they will not be acting in consumer interests, but in their own interests, until proven otherwise. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. A second step is to understand how a smart grid operates, and the role of the various stakeholders in it, including consumers. Part of this could be a household level microgrid (MG). A third step is to understand, and potentially advocate for a broad right-to-repair legislation, to ensure that the consumer is fully in charge of the vehicle.

When an EV is connected to a MG, rather than to the larger grid directly, the consumer has an opportunity of using both energy production and energy storage sources optimally. The consumer can decide if power should flow from an EV to the main grid, a V2G strategy, or to the load, a V2L strategy, at any given time. Consumers should be encouraged to reduce loads in peak periods, or shift them to off-peak periods. EV scheduling and demand response programs help MGs to reduce costs/ increase profits. Sahbasadat Rajamand has used simulations to show costs can be reduced by 14.67% using optimized EV scheduling.

One energy related stakeholder that has not been heard from so far, in the presentation of this debate is the consumer’s insurance company. They are, in fact, not particularly keen about shifting electrical consumption to off-peak hours, particularly if those hours involve the night when consumers are sleeping. In Norway, they are actively discouraging consumers from using equipment such as washing machines, driers and dish washers during the night because of the fire risk. While potential cost savings look significant as a percentage, they are totally insignificant if lives are put in danger.

For consumers maximizing energy usage to off-peak hours, can be a tedious chore. Norwegian consumers have decided that the economic benefits are not worth the cost. Major electricity producers are advocating it, so that they can profit from selling power outside of their traditional market. The advantage of V2G comes from emergency preparation. As implied in a weblog post about the ACE EV, auxiliary electrical power offers an almost normal lifestyle during an electrical power outage. It can power refrigerators and freezers, hot water tanks, induction stove tops, conventional and microwave ovens, computers and their screens, lighting or broadband interconnections.

As readers can see from the above, this writer is more impressed with the V2L solution offerd by Hyundai Group than that offered by either Tesla or Volkswagen Group. It remains to be seen how other EV manufacturers, such as BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes Benz, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi (including Avtovaz and Dacia brands), Stellantis (Chrysler, Citroën, DS, Fiat, Opel, Peugeot, Vauxhall), Toyota and numerous Chinese brands will develop, with respect to V2G.