Hackaday Links: September 26, 2021

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Dealing with breakdowns is certainly nothing new for drivers; plenty of us have had our ride die in mid-flight, and experienced the tense moment when it happens in traffic. But the highly integrated and instrumented nature of the newest generation of electric vehicles can bring an interesting twist to the roadside breakdown, if the after-action report of a Tesla driver is any indication.

While driving on a busy road at night, driver [Pooch] reports that his Tesla Model S started beeping and flashing warnings to get to the side of the road right away. [Pooch] tried to do so, but the car died, coasted to a stop in the middle of the road, and engaged the parking brakes. The bricked Tesla would have been a sitting duck in the middle of the road but for a DOT crew who happened to be nearby and offered to provide some protection while [Pooch] waited for help. The disturbing part was the inability to get the car into any of the service modes that might let it be pushed off to the shoulder rather than stuck in traffic, something that’s trivial to do in ICE vehicles, at least older ones.

In other electric vehicle news, Chevy Bolt owners are turning into the pariahs of the parking garage. General Motors is telling Bolt EV and EUV owners that due to the risk of a battery fire, they should park at least 50 feet (15 meters) away from other vehicles, and on the top level of any parking structures. There have been reports of twelve battery fires in Bolts in the US recently, which GM says may be due to a pair of manufacturing defects in the battery packs that sometimes occur together. GM is organizing a recall to replace the modules, but isn’t yet confident that the battery supplier won’t just be replicating the manufacturing problem. The social distancing rules that GM issued go along with some fairly stringent guidelines for charging the vehicle, including not charging overnight while parked indoors. With winter coming on in the northern hemisphere, that’s going to cause a bit of inconvenience and probably more than a few cases of non-compliance that could end in tragedy.

Fans of electronic music might want to check out “Sisters with Transistors”, a documentary film about some of the pioneering women of electronic music. Electronic music has been around a lot longer than most of us realize, and the film reaches back to the 1920s with Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and continues on into the 1980s with Laurie Spiegel, whose synthesizer work has been speeding away from Earth for the last 44 years on the Golden Records aboard the Voyager spacecraft. Hackaday readers will no doubt recognize some of the other women featured, like Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, who cobbled together the early Dr. Who music with signal generators, tape loops, and random bits of electronics in the pre-synthesizer days of the early 60s. We’ve watched the trailer for the film and it looks pretty good — just the kind of documentary we like.

We’re big fans of circuit sculpture around here, and desperately wish we had the patience and the skill to make something like Mohit Bhoite or Jiri Praus can make. Luckily, there’s now a bit of a shortcut — Geeek Club’s Cyber Punk PCB Construction Kit. These kits are a little like the love child of Lego and PCBWay, with pieces etched and cut from PCB stock. You punch the pieces out, clean up the mouse bites, put Tab A into Slot B, and solder to make the connection permanent. Each kit has some components for the requisite blinkenlight features, which add to the cool designs. Looks like a fun way to get someone started on soldering, or to build your own skills.

And finally, another nail was driven into the coffin of Daylight Savings Time this week, as the island nation of Samoa announced they wouldn’t be “springing ahead” as scheduled this weekend. Daylight Savings Time has become a bone of contention around the world lately, and mounting research shows that the twice-yearly clock changes cause more trouble than they may be worth. In Europe, it’s due to be banned as soon as all the member nations can agree on normal time or summer time.

In the case of Samoa, DST was put into effect in 2010 on the assumption that it would give plantation workers more productive hours in the field and save energy. Instead, the government found that the time change just gave people an excuse to socialize more, which apparently upset them enough to change the rule. So there you have it — if you don’t like Daylight Savings Time, start partying it up.

33 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: September 26, 2021

      1. I tried to look up information on how to do that, but initially couldn’t find anything.

        It turned out, I needed to search for “Daylight Saving Account” rather than “Daylight Savings Account”.

  1. The total integration of motor vehicles has its benefits when things all work well but when things go wrong – everything goes wrong.

    But like centralization of of any entity – it has its advantages but takes failure to a whole new level.

    I live electric cars and hope to own (build ) my own one day. But like most “green” proposals work well on a small scale but don’t pass muster when it comes to use in the general population – they scale well and you end up with a new set of environmental problems that result in no net gain.

    May the death of DST come swiftly

  2. When the battery connection of my traditional car became loose, I found myself stuck in the middle of the street with the car in park, and no way to shift out of park. Fortunately, I was able to solve the problem before too many cars were honking their horns behind me.

      1. Yes, such a method exists, but it is very non-intuitive. For my car, you must pry off a cover next to the shift lever to expose a button that releases the shift lever. (I only discovered this now by googling it.)

  3. Oddly enough Clara Rockmore happened to the aunt of noted music supporter Bob Sherman. In fact her sister was Nadia Reisenberg who I know of as a great pianist, and teacher. And the reason why I know of Clara was in connection with her playing of the Theremin. That’s right classical music. Bob Sherman is active on WQXR for his work in promoting young people to continue be the best at being musicians. (Real musicans!)

  4. Man, those two EV horror stories just drive home the fact that: 1. EVs are still not ready for prime time. 2. EVs cost waaay to much for normal people (but the Rich can afford EVs, especially with all the taxpayer-funded government subsidies they get). 3. Instead of being Green, EVs just move the source of pollution from the tail-pipe to somewhere else (out-of-sight, out-of-mind).

    1. There’s definitely more thought required with some of the interesting failure modes. LG could test their cells more thoroughly, the tesla apparently suffered a high voltage isolation failure at the motor. Does that mean when pushing the vehicle any metal bodywork isn’t grounded as motor regen voltage is going into it? I don’t know, I’m just wondering why they wouldn’t allow shifting and pushing in that situation. Is the e-brake handled by the motor?

      As for the rest of it:
      1) Better to figure this out now with early adopters so when everyone’s driving one they’re reliable

      2) Wait for the used markets to catch up. In the UK you can get an EV for 4-5k and they’re about 10 years old. The cheapest petrol cars are ~15 years old so still some depreciation to go on the EVs. That’s ignoring that they’re 24kwh models, we’re a way off the 70+kwh models being that old.

      3) Depends heavily on your country’s energy mix, in my region in the UK we’re mostly wind and nuclear with about 30-50% being natural gas. EVs have far fewer emissions overall with that energy mix. Even if you’re using 100% coal though wouldn’t it be better to have fewer stationary sources of pollution? You stand a much better chance of dealing with it using exhaust cleaning systems there than on each individual car where every kilo of added weight matters. Those power plants aren’t at street level spewing fumes into tiny tim’s face either.

    2. 3. would be a great win *if* it did not come with the cost and other downsides. Also you can’t really power cars directly with nuclear or hydro. Wind, coal or solar are theoretically possible, but impractical.

      1. Indeed there’s no free lunch, we can quantify and weigh the options. Depends on how you think about it but I don’t see any common car as directly powered. Even a petrol car doesn’t refine its own oil, it relies on stationary pumps, refineries and stations. Your energy source is off-vehicle. The final conversion step is the only thing on-board and the engineer in me is disappointed in the efficiency of that step :P

    3. The running of EV’s pollution wise is entirely down to the grid you connect them to – but should always be better than ICE – even the dirty coal power plants have effective enough scrubbers on them to outperform a small ICE vehicle engines in harmful gas emission and are by far more efficient fuel in to energy out – so its still better than ICE for miles on the road all things considered..

      Those battery issues are really just poor engineering, which happens in all types of car – wasn’t that long ago something as simple as the carpets being awful was jamming the pedals up so the cars became unsafe, shit and outright dangerous airbags are still out there – its what happens when you are building to a budget, and throwing in parts on faith they are actually made to spec etc.

      The being locked in drive/brakes stuck on type thing can also happen to anything – and any computer controlled car, which is most modern ones, if that is what the onboard computer says its what happens not really much that can be done about it – actual direct manual control on many cars doesn’t exist anymore… Which means that same thing is bound to happen to somebody, or with the age of insecure infotainment wifi-access points type crap on the CAN bus maybe even be made to happen…

      1. More importantly it’s easier to change out a power plant than all the individual vehicles. Mind much like the change to HDTV, there’s a one-time movement from ICE to EV. Then the rest is improvements on both ends.

  5. “In Europe, it’s due to be banned as soon as all the member nations can agree on normal time or summer time.”
    This looks like a brexiteer snide… I think atm there are much bigger problems to tackle.

  6. Sisters with Transistors seems neat but the conspicuous absence of Wendy Carlos of “Switched on Bach” fame, is sorely disappointing.
    She was a pioneer of electronic music in the 70s and 80s, bringing the synthesizer to a wide, mainstream audience, and scored A Clockwork Orange in 1971, 10 years before “The Incredible Shrinking Woman”.

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