Tag Archives: Car

Open-EVSE, an OSH Charging System for Electric Vehicles

Everyone should start keeping track of what Google is doing (if they weren’t already).

Just a few days ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source simulation software for planning heliostat arrays. Today it’s about the hardware and software for an Arduino shield that charges any electric vehicle (EV) off of household current.

The Open-EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is for charging J1772 compliant EVs. SAE J1772 is a specific type of connector.

So, basically, EVs get parked in the garage and plugged into a special computer to recharge their batteries. It’s important that the wall power be carefully metered out to maximize the life of the expensive battery pack. This thing does that, but it costs way less than its commercial equivalents and it’s open source.

Today we will be interviewing Chris Howell, the driving force behind OpenEVSE.

Okay, Chris, what is your background?

  • I am a Network Engineer and have way too many hobbies… Pilot, Electronics, Ham Radio, RC planes/UAVs…

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • I build networks for a living. I did not have any experience in building complex electronic circuits or programing before I started.

When did you start and when did you decide to go open source?

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • The decision to Open Source “OpenEVSE” was made because the Electric Vehicle industry desperately needed an inexpensive Charging station/ Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The existing hardware is far to expensive ($750+) and the manufactures are taking advantage of consumers with outrageous labor costs to install the charging station.
  • My quote to install the charging station form Nissan’s partner AV was over $1200. I already had a breaker in the panel and the charging station was to be located 18 inches away.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Not really… The licences are pretty confusing, we just picked a common license.

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

  • The Arduino paved the way for OpenEVSE. I bought an Arduino and out of frustration with my ridiculously high Charging Station quote I decided to see if I could use it to generate a J1772 pilot signal. J1772 is the standard in use by the EV industry. It is a 1khz square wave generated by the Charging Station. The voltage drop determined the EV state and duty cycle tells the EV how much current it can draw.
  • After a couple hours with the Arduino I was able to implement the pilot.
  • Other resources that were very helpful were the tutorials from Adafruit and Sparkfun. I had to learn a lot about SMD stenciling, microprocessors and opamps.
  • DorkBotPDX is great for the many prototype boards and OHARARP for the SMD stencils.

Any tools that were just really cool that everyone should know about?

  • I really like the DSO Quad scope. It has been really useful for this project.
  • The electric skillet for solder reflow is awesome.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

  • Learn how to program an Arduino.
  • Once you know what a microprocessor can do lots of ideas start flowing.

Were there any significant changes between revisions or forks?

  • No significant changes just a slow progression of improvements and added features.

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

  • The hardware was mostly individual with a few suggestions from really smart people. I brought the project to the stage that I was able to successfully charge my Nissan LEAF. Shortly after I recieved an email from “lincomatic” another LEAF owner who offered to make improvements to the software.
  • Now I still do most of the hardware, but both lincomatic and I add to the software. OpenEVSE is starting to see some small contributions from the community. Hopefully more people will contribute to the project over time.

Are you anywhere close to feeling “done” with the project?

  • The project is not done but it is mature. Open EVSE fully supports J1772 and all the same safety features as the “big boys”… GFCI, ground monitoring, stuck relay detection.
  • There are a lot that can still be added touch screen LCD, Internet connectivity, energy metering, etc.

Do you plan on selling anything when you’re finished?

Has it been successfully used in a real job? By anyone else?

  • Yes, OpenEVSE is in use by owners of the Nissan LEAF, Chevy VOLT, Toyoda PiP and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Tesla and BMW Active-E owners are currently building Charging Stations. To date over 50 OpenEVSE boards have shipped.

Where do you want to take the project from here?

  • I would like to interface OpenEVSE with a Raspberry Pi to provide a rich web interface and also a graphical interface.

What do you think about open source as a philosophy? As a strategy?

  • Open Source is a great way to get people interested in a project and to spark innovation.

Do you follow any other open source projects?

  • Arduino and Raspberry pi.

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

  • Everything…
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Crowd Funding Dump

So, apparently the JOBS Act officially sanctioned “crowdfunding” (yes it’s a real word now).

The catch is that “investors” can only work with “issuers” through the services of a “portal” which has to be registered with the SEC. What this means is that Indiegogo and Kickstarter will have some competition and we’re about to see a lot more innovative ideas pitched (more or less) directly to the public.

Anywho…that’s fascinating and all…but what will it do for open source hardware? I dunno; lets find out. Assuming there’s enough activity (seems like a safe assumption) the Crowd Funding Dump (CFD) will become a regular feature on Openalia.

Continue reading

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Interview With Joe Justice of Wikispeed

Simone Cicero has posted an extensive interview with the team lead of Wikispeed.

Joe Justice of Team Wikispeed

Joe Justice started Team Wikispeed and got 10th place in one of the divisions of the Automotive X-prize. He is continuing to lead his international team of volunteers towards the 100mpg future.

Here are some highlights from Simone’s interview:

Continue reading

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Help Wikispeed Raise Funds for the 100 mpg C3

Wikispeed is doing awesome.

The thing about open source hardware, like the Wikispeed car, is that it costs a lot more than software. For example, crash testing a prototype car costs $10,000! That means Wikispeed needs money and volunteers to join the existing international, 150 member team. With more resources, Wikispeed can produce the next generation. The Comfy, Commuter Car (C3) will be a direct replacement for your existing car.

However, it will be able to get 100 miles per gallon and you will be able to upgrade the car’s modular components so that it can grow with your needs or new technology.

Campaign Page on Indigogo

They just started their Indigogo campaign. They have 65 days to raise the $52,500 they need to get the first practical 100mpg car on the road. Major auto manufacturers can’t even mass produce a 50mpg car for $50k.

Reward Tiers:

  • $25 – your name on the car that will be displayed at the Future of Flight Innovation Center at Boeing’s Paine Field.
  • $100 – Above + thanked in a personalized video posted on Wikispeed’s website.
  • $500 – Above + get to vote on the styling of the C3 interior and exterior.
  • $5,000 – Above + training as a Certified Agile Project Manager for you and nine others, customized to your goals. This is the same Extreme Manufacturing (XM) process Wikispeed uses.
  • $10,000 – Above + vote with the Wikispeed Board of Advisors and have your name on the next 100 cars Wikispeed produces.

Related Links:

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Wikispeed – My Next Car Gets 100 Miles per Gallon

Even among the small group of people who are familiar with open source, the phrase “open source hardware” applies only to electronics. That might have been accurate in the past, but projects like Wikispeed are blazing a trail for practical HARDware projects. Like an entire car.

Team Wikispeed formed around Joe Justice when he was competing in the Automotive X-prize. Due to Joe’s day-job as a lean/agile coach, Wikispeed (which means fast-fast) adopted management practices that are normally only associated with software projects. By working in modules the team was able to rapidly iterate the design of the car. Basically, a change to one part of the car had no effect on the rest of the car. This was particularly important as the X-prize kept changing the rules of the competition. By the third change some teams had to simply drop out of the competition because they couldn’t afford the time or money to redesign their car. Team Wikispeed merely changed their suspension modules. The car they built, SGT01, ended up beating out most of the other entries and was invited to the competition. Due to technical and cultural errors the car never actually drove on the track, but that hardly dampened the spirits of the team. There is an excellent writeup in Seattle Met.

Thanks to the culture of innovation and high morale Joe has maintained, Wikispeed is still going strong. Additionally, Joe and the team have joined forces with Open Source Ecology to officially open source the design of the SGT01. Documentation is being built on the OSE wiki.

The Wikispeed SGT01 is modular. Most areas of the car can be altered or removed without affecting any of the other areas.

Wikispeed’s approach to automotive design is an entirely new paradigm (yay hyperbole!). The design of the SGT01 goes beyond merely using interchangeable parts, like stock fasteners. The car is made out of modules that each conform to contracts (size, material, location, etc). This approach means that different parts of the car can be completely changed without requiring coordination with other parts of the car. The suspension module that normally mounts a tire could be swapped out for tank treads and it wouldn’t change anything about the rest of the car.

This is a powerful concept that has the potential to dramatically change how people interact with their vehicles in the future. Basically, when support for this sort of standard becomes wide-spread, people will be able to swap out pieces of their car as easily as they swap out apps on their smartphone. Imagine having engine trouble; so you drive to the mechanic, he pulls out the engine unit, swaps a loner engine into your car, and you drive away 10-minutes later. When the mechanic finds and fixes the problem you return for another 10-minute swap and you’re back on the road. Perhaps you commute to work but also like camping in the mountains, so you have a sleek, aerodynamic car body during the week which you lift off and replace with a pickup-bed model for the weekend.

Most powerful of all is that once you own a modular car you are future-proof. Wikispeed’s current model has a >$8,000 engine and gets 100mpg. That’s with current technology. There is no reason the engine unit couldn’t have a stack of batteries and an electric motor, or a tank of hydrogen and a fuel cell, or dilithium crystals and a warp engine. If you buy a hybrid, and then a week later someone invents super-ultra-capacitors, you are stuck with the technology built into your new car. If you buy a Wikispeed car, and the next day someone invents an engine that runs on perpetual motion, all you have to do is buy that new engine and swap it into your car. You get to take advantage of all the best new stuff without buying a new car.

Team Wikispeed is pressing forward on not only improving the SGT01, but also creating a second generation called the C3 (comfy commuter car). They expect it to cost between $15,000 and $25,000, to seat 4, to have a 5-star crash safety rating, and to get 100mpg. That isn’t a dream. The only real barrier between the SGT01 and the C3 is the lack of a roof.

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