Their heavily modded F-550 truck houses 12kWh of LiFePO4 batteries and a 1.5kW retractable solar array, with a hefty inverter generating the needed AC power. They weren’t too happy with the conversion losses from piles of wall warts that all drained a little power, knowing that the inverter that fed them was also not 100% efficient. For example, a typical laptop power brick gets really hot in a short time, and that heat is waste. They decided to run as much as possible direct from the battery bank, through different DC-DC converter modules in an attempt to streamline the losses a little. Obviously, these are also not 100%
efficient, but keeping the load off the inverter (and thus reducing dependency upon it, in the event of another failure) should help stem the losses a little. After all as [Jason] says, Watts saved are Watts earned, and all the little lossy loads add up to a considerable parasitic drain.
One illustration of this is their Starlink satellite internet system consumes about 60W when running from the inverter, but only 28W when running direct from DC. Over the course of 24 hours, that’s not far off 1kWh of savings, and if the sun isn’t shining, then that 12kWh battery isn’t going to stretch as far.
There are far too many hacks, tips, and illustrations of neat space and power-saving solutions everywhere, to write here. Those interested in self-build campers or hacking a commercial unit may pick up a trick or two.
Despite what some people might tell you, self-driving cars aren’t really on the market yet. Instead, there’s a small handful of startups and big tech companies that are rapidly developing prototypes of this technology. These vehicles are furiously testing in various cities around the world.
In fact, depending on where you live, you might have noticed them out and about. Not least because many of them keep causing traffic jams, much to the frustration of their fellow road users. Let’s dive in and look at what’s going wrong.
[Stephen Carey] wanted to spruce up his car with sound reactive LEDs but couldn’t quite find the right project online. Instead, he wound up assembling a custom bass reactive LED display using an ESP32.
The entirety of the build is minimal, consisting of a GY-MAX4466 electret microphone module, a KY-040 encoder for some user control and an ESP32 attached to a Neopixel strip. The only additional electronic parts are some passive resistors to limit current on the data lines and a capacitor for power line noise suppression. [Stephen] uses various enclosures from Thingiverse for the microphone, rotary encoder and ESP32 box to make sure all the modules are protected and accessible.
The magic, of course, is in the software, with the CircuitPythyon ulab library used to do the heavy lifting of creating the spectrogram and frequency filtering. [Stephen] has made the code is available on GitHub for those wanting to take a closer look.
It wasn’t very long ago that sound reactive LEDs used to be a heavy lift, requiring optimized FFT libraries or specialized components to do the spectrogram. With faster and cheaper microcontroller boards, we’re seeing many great projects, like the sensory bridge or Raspberry Pi driven LED spectrogram, that can now take spectrograms and Fourier transform calculations as basic infrastructure to build on top of them. We’re happy to see [Stephen] leverage the ESP32’s speed and various circuit Python libraries to create a very cool LED car hack.
[Jeff Lau]’s Mitsubishi 3000GT comes with all the essential features you’d expect in a fancy sports car from 1993: pop-up headlights, movable spoilers, and a fully-functional telephone handset in the center console. The phone was fully functional until North America’s first-generation AMPS cellular network was shut down back in 2008, since then, it hasn’t done much but show “NO SVC” on the display. That is, until [Jeff] decided to build a Bluetooth adapter that lets it connect to a modern smartphone.
The easy solution would have been to simply connect the handset’s speaker and microphone to a standard Bluetooth headset, but that would have destroyed the 1990s aesthetic it had going on. So what [Jeff] did instead was construct a plug-in module that hooks up to the phone’s base station in the trunk and communicates directly with all the existing systems. That way, the phone works in exactly the same way it always did: the radio is automatically muted during calls, the buttons on the steering column work as expected, and you can even dial and store numbers using the buttons on the handset.
It took a lot of reverse-engineering to figure out the technical details of the DiamondTel Model 92 that came with the car as a factory option. [Jeff] helpfully documented all of his findings on the project’s GitHub page, making it easy for anyone with a similar system to implement their own upgrades. The main components of the upgrade kit are a BM62 Bluetooth module that connects to a modern phone, a PIC18F27Q43 microcontroller to implement the car phone’s interface and menus, and several analog chips to process the audio. All of these are mounted on a piece of prototype board and housed in a standard plastic enclosure that neatly fits on top of the existing equipment in the trunk.
While the hardware mod is a pretty neat job already, the real strength of this project is in the software. [Jeff] worked hard to implement all relevant features and mimic the original interface as much as possible, even using 1G phone test equipment to simulate incoming calls from the long-gone network. He also added menu features to enable Bluetooth pairing, use voice assistants, and even play games including versions of Snake and Tetris stripped down to match the handset display’s constraints.
More than three years have passed since Tesla announced its Cybertruck, and while not a one has been delivered, the first Tesla truck, Truckla, has kept on truckin’. [Simone Giertz] just posted an update of what Truckla has been up to since it was built.
[Giertz] and friend’s DIT (do-it-together) truck was something of an internet sensation when it was revealed several months before the official Tesla Cybertruck. As with many of our own projects, while it was technically done, it still had some rough edges that kept it from being truly finished, like a lack of proper waterproofing or a tailgate that didn’t fold.
Deciding enough was enough, [Giertz] brought Truckla to [Marcos Ramirez] and [Ross Huber] to fix the waterproofing and broken tailgate while she went to [Viam Labs] to build Chargla, an Open Source charging bot for Truckla. The charging bot uses a linear actuator on a rover platform to dock with the charging port and is guided by a computer vision system. Two Raspberry Pis power handle the processing for the operation. We’re anxious to see what’s next in [Giertz]’s quest of “picking up the broken promises of the car world.”
Dash cameras are handy as they provide a video recording of interactions on the road. However, their utility comes from the fact that they are always recording while driving. This always-on means power draw. [Kuzysk] took it upon himself to cut that power draw by a factor of almost 70x.
He found his existing dash cam from MiVue consumed 3.5mA in idle which works out to be a whole amp-hour every 12 days. The custom version takes just 50uA which means it will draw an amp-hour in two years. The brains of the chip are formed by an ATmega328 and an LM2596M, which is a simple step-down regulator. Interestingly, [Kuzysk] purchased clones and original chips and found that the cheaper clones had a lower switching frequency but a much lower power draw. Programming an Arduino bootloader onto the board is fairly straightforward and [Kuzysk] kindly provides his code. It can detect the ACC voltage that’s on when the engine is on and is powered by a permanent 12v connection to the battery.
The 3D printing revolution has transformed a lot of industries, but according to [Insider Business] the car industry still uses clay modeling to make life-sized replicas of new cars. The video below shows a fascinating glimpse of the process of taking foam and clay and making it look like a real car. Unlike the old days, they do use a milling machine to do some rough work on the model, but there’s still a surprising amount of manual work involved. Some of the older film clips in the video show how hard it was to do before the CNC machines.
The cost of these models isn’t cheap. They claim that some of the models have cost $650,000 to create. We assume most of that is in salaries. Some models take four years to complete and a ton of clay.