Turquoise Energy Newsletter #158 - July 2021
Turquoise Energy News #158
covering July 2021 (Posted August 4th 2021)
Lawnhill BC Canada - by Craig Carmichael

www.TurquoiseEnergy.com = www.ElectricCaik.com = www.ElectricHubcap.com

Month In "Brief" (Project Summaries etc.)
 -  The Everlasting Zinc Electrode: Why Am I Just Sitting On the Gold Mine? - Firewood Shed - Vehicle Transmission Efficiencies - Chevy Sprint: Forward-Reverse Switch, Bicycle Speedometer - Lithium Ion Battery Charge Voltage - Solar Installations in Qinghai - Another Floating Tidal Flow Power Unit

In Passing (Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)
 - Food Security: A Constitutional Right to Grow and Trade Food? - Small Thots - ESD

- Detailed Project Reports -

Electric Transport - Electric Hubcap Motor Systems
* Programming for the Ground effect Vehicle RC model
* Chevy Sprint Add-ons: Forward-Reverse Switch, Speedometer, De-clunking the Motor Mounting

Other "Green" & Electric Equipment Projects
* Off grid infrastructure (T12 sockets deficiency)
* Handheld Bandsaw Mill Kit progress
* Greenhouse, Gardening

Electricity Generation
* My Solar Power System: - Daily/Monthly Solar Production log et cetera - Monthly Summaries and Estimates

Electricity Storage * Turquoise Battery Project (NiMnOx-Zn in Mixed Alkali-Salt electrolyte)
  - poor performance testing continued - Trying to make a one-piece copper can from copper pipe

July in Brief

The Everlasting Zinc Electrode: Why Am I Just Sitting On the Gold Mine?

   I got the "everlasting zinc electrode" side of the battery chemistry working using bits of nickel [NiOOH] electrode from a commercial Ni-MH dry cell for the other electrode - in fact quite a while back now. A zinc electrode that doesn't degrade with cycling has been a "holy grail" of battery making for at least 150 years. Countless experiments have been done and dozens if not hundreds of papers and semi-effective patents have been written on the subject. And most researchers have long since given up and looked for other metals.
   After that was going (using positive electrodes from commercial Ni-MH cells), I started working on my "new chemistry" positive electrode: nickel manganates. And at the same time, on making cells with higher conductivity than the experimental flat ones that couldn't stop the electrodes from bulging and losing conductivity. I expected rapid success. But that hasn't come. The nickel manganates formula just doesn't seem to be working the way I expected. (There are still more things to be tried!)

   Finally I've started thinking, that whatever adverse thing(s) is happening in the positive electrodes, nobody else has managed to tame the zinc dendrite problem in the negative electrode for any sort of simple battery cell. Is that not already a success? Is it not already worth a fortune?

   The combination of an osmium doped film on the zinc and a layer of agar gel proved to be the winner. The agar layer prevents the vexing and previously intractable problem of dissolved zinc ions forming dendrites that migrate through the separator sheet and short out the cell. But the current flow was pathetic. Painting the osmium doped acetal ester film on the surface of the zinc brings back the high current capacity zinc had before the agar. (I confess I don't really understand how.) The cell is "moderately alkaline" using potassium chloride electrolyte or a mix of that and weak potassium hydroxide.

   Since the time I started experimenting with gels, experimental gelled electrodes by others have now reputedly lasted 20,000 cycles without deterioration. This one too should last for ages, not just for the 500 recharges advertised in the one brand of available nickel-zinc "AA" cells I'm aware of. So why am I beating my head over trying to do entire batteries where I'm having trouble with other parts, while just sitting on the "mother lode"?

   So the layers of the negative part of the cell are:

1. Copper (or ?) current collector (copper can?)
2. The Zinc (suggested: Zinc paste in graphite foam or graphite foil? 1-3% Zirconium silicate to raise hydrogen overvoltage.)
3. A film of acetal ester doped with osmium powder
4. A layer of gelled agar. I don't know how thick it needs to be. I'm thinking as little as an "eggshell" thickness could work.
5. The separator paper or sheet. Beyond that is the positive electrode and its current collector.

   With 820 amp-hours per kilogram at about -1.25 volts, zinc has substantially better energy by weight than metal hydride. And it's cheap. In fact, typical construction single use manganese-zinc "D" cells are said to hold 12 to 18 amp-hours (or even 20) depending on rate of discharge. (18 * 1.5V = 27 watt-hours), whereas nickel-metal hydride "D" cells only have 8 to 10 amp-hours (10 * 1.2V = 12 watt-hours). Rechargeable nickel-zinc is nominally 1.6 volts (if not 1.7+), so potentially 18AH * 1.6V = 29 watt-hours.
   That means for a 12 volt battery 8 Ni-Zn cells (maybe even 7) are needed instead of 10 Ni-MH, and it'll have over twice the energy storage. If (as is likely) the rechargeable cells weighed about the same as Mn-Zn single use alkaline dry cells:

  29 WH/D-cell (Ni-Zn) / .144 Kg/cell (typical Mn-Zn alkaline D-cell) = 200 watt-hours/kilogram.

   That is on a par with lithium-ion cells. Assuming 15 AH gives 167 WH/Kg - still an impressive figure. In quantity it would be much lower cost than either lithium types or nickel-metal hydride - probably not a whole lot more than throw-away dry cells. That provides much potential for utility level electrical storage and load leveling. (eg, saving solar energy for evening cooking hours.)

   So surely the "forever" rechargeable zinc electrode formula should be worth a fortune all by itself! (So... now what do I do with it?)

Firewood Shed

   I continued making the double sided firewood shed I started in June. With just one firewood space, one ends up stacking new green wood on top and in front of the older dry wood. It wasn't so much that I was enthusiastic about it as a project as that I had ordered 2 cords of firewood*. Next winter might be cold. I might well need it and I needed somewhere to put it. Othen than things like some old metal roofing and concrete blocks, I used entirely the spruce lumber I had cut with the handheld bandsaw mill I made in 2018, including one inch siding boards, which took a lot longer to cut and screw on than plywood. But I put gaps in the siding for air circulation to help the firewood dry out.

* In addition there's 2-1/2 cords now in the original firewood shed: a remnant from last winter and the rest variously acquired, cut, split and stacked this spring and summer.

Shed finished except for the doors. Prefab front porch.
Each side holds almost two cords of firewood.
Escapee chickens came to see.

   Of course the piles of the sizes of lumber I was using (mostly 12 foot 1x6, 2x6) dwindled some, but it wasn't 1/5 of the spruce I had cut with the handheld bandsaw mill in 2018 to 2020. I finished it except for the doors, which are lower priority. The firewood can go in.

   The firewood arrived in three pickup truck loads on the 31st. It got stacked before a day of wind and rain. A little dampness blew in the open doors, but not bad.

Expecting to be warm whatever the weather!

Vehicle Transmission Efficiencies

   I am guilty of not having checked out information - "givens" I was operating under - in a long time and hence I have been working with outdated info. Back in the 1970s(?) someone told me that manual car transmissions were about 70% efficient, and automatics were around 60%. Four-wheel drives (always manual!) also lost an extra 10%, so 60%. (There was of course no such thing as an internet back then to readily check out information one has been given.) Those rough figures were probably for the whole drive train. Probably they were valid at the time, but there have been considerable improvements in recent decades, especially in the last 15 years or so, and especially to automatic transmissions. Car companies certainly had a low bar to jump over for making improvements!
   In some ways, automatic transmissions have an edge because they use inherently efficient planetary gears instead of two "corn cobs" full of helical spur gears all churning and squeezing oil through the gear tooth spaces by rotating against each other at different speeds. These spur gears are all permanently engaged against each other, one fixed to its shaft and the other free-spinning, except the selected gear (only) is locked on both shafts. The faster the engine is spinning, the faster the ones fixed to the input shaft are spinning, and the faster the car is moving, the faster the ones on the output shaft are spinning. And these helical spur gears have unproductive "side loading" forces causing still more wasted fluid friction to the oil on the bearings.
   The killer for automatics was mostly the "slush box" fluid torque converter. (How anyone conceived of churning up liquid as a way to propel a vehicle is beyond me.) However, now those apparently have a clutch to lock them up and are no longer a loss in steady driving. (This locking up is similar to my concept for a 100% efficient variable torque converter but very differently implemented.) And evidently even these are lately being replaced entirely by a "dual clutch" or even "triple clutch" mechanism (which items I haven't looked up). And there have been other improvements to them as well: electronic controls, linked to electronic engine controls, adjusting everything together and shifting gears optimally. The result is that automatic transmissions have become more efficient than manuals, and so manuals have become almost extinct.
   Today's automatic transmission drive trains, it seems, are well over 80% efficient. An article mentioned 84%.

   This doesn't change my essential thrust toward "ultra efficient" electric motors and drive trains. The Sprint's simple drive train should be almost 96%. But I should at least be more familiar with what else has been going on!

Chevy Sprint: Forward Reverse Switch, Bicycle speedometer

   With the car running and using it for odd hauling around the acreage, and also for showing it to people, it was a nuisance and something of an embarrassment to have to push it to back it up. I didn't want to buy a costly high power DPDT contactor relay for a motor that was (presumably) only temporary. But one day I made a special high current "DPDT" sort of switch and wired it in to reverse the armature coils polarity. It worked quite well (somewhat to my surprise), and now by yanking or shoving hard enough on the push-pull rod under the dash, the direction can be changed. The copper pieces do get warm.
   There was a notable "clunk" from the motor supports the first time one presses the electron pedal after reversing direction. (Motor assembly supports were revised on August 4th to eliminate it.)

   Then on the 20th the bicycle speedometer I ordered arrived, and I installed it. With the wheel jacked up in the garage it hit about 55 KmPH. Nice to see what the speed is, but on the short, bumpy trail across the lawn I only got it up to 25 KmPH. I hesitate to try it on the road. (If only it was a side street instead of the main highway!)
   In installing it, the tire circumference is measured in millimeters, and that number is entered as the setting to calibrate the unit. Here I realized in that that a figure I'd been roughly estimating, "10 RPM for each 1 KmPH", can be exactly calculated. The Sprint's tires measured about 1670mm in circumference. That can also be expressed as .001670 kilometers. 1 / .00167 = almost exactly 600 revolutions to travel 1 Km. So with 60 minutes in an hour, 1 KmPH is almost exactly 600 / 60 = 10.0 RPM. My rough estimate was closer than I ever suspected!
   (I've ordered an identical speedometer for the Miles truck.)

Speedometer Sensor: Magnet spinning on CV shaft coupler,
Magnet sensor hanging from planetary gearbox is wired to speedometer on dash.
(Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to enclose under the entire hood area to keep rain & rocks out?)

   A friend came along one day and looked under the hood while I drove back and forth a bit. He showed me by pulling on it how much the motor assembly was rotating under torque pressure, and the "clunk" backing up was something hitting the edge of the battery shelf. I also noticed there was a simple way to improve it with a short, fat steel "L" bar to another spot on the plate, making the connections form a triangle instead of just a line and holding the rear rubber-cushioned support itself at the right angle.

   Much better, but even after all that there still seemed to be a "clunk"! My friend was over again and looked in. It seemed the rear cushion support was still tilting with torque, and the rubber cushioned part was hitting an end stop in reverse, so the metal parts connected - clunk.

(BTW the wooden spindle and base on the right is the lamp.)

[August 4th] I looked at the original transmission bracket and saw it had held the rear cushion mounting at about 45░. Mine was pulling it over to more like 70░, nearer vertical.
   I disassembled the rear mount pieces. I drilled new holes and bent the pieces to sit at a better angle on the mount.

   If it didn't end up at the "ideal" 45░ slope, it was at least closer to 50░ than 70░.

   That seemed to eliminate the main "clunk". There was still a smaller, sharp "tink", always just once after changing from forward to reverse and pressing the pedal. I guessed it was something in the drive shaft, but found nothing. Perhaps this remaining "tink" is in the actual CV joint, or something in the suspension? It hardly seems worth further investigation.

Lithium Ion Battery Charge Voltage

   For some reason after putting the Sprint on charge I looked this up again. I wondered why people were so insistent about charging to the absolute limit voltage of 4.2 volts per cell if 3.95 volts was virtually a full charge. It's so important not to exceed that limit, and some cheap voltmeters, for example on the charge controller, aren't all the precise. I get readings from "39.0" to "39.7" from different displays at the same time. It's nice to have a safety factor.
   But it appears that I may have been looking at a battery discharge curve graph rather than one of open circuit voltage, and charging to only 3.95 open circuit volts per cell could after all be as little as 80% of the full charge potential. OTOH, if one doesn't need the full capacity, charging to a bit less than 100% full is likely to extend the life of the cells. If I need the capacity I may up the charge voltage. That might be if the Sprint goes on the highway, or if there's a long power failure and I'm having trouble running fridge, freezer and lights overnight from its batteries.

The voltages in a discharge graph will be lower than the open circuit voltages.

A graph showing both open circuit voltages and discharging voltages.
(of course the heavier the load, the lower the discharge voltage will be.)

But lest it all seem too cut and dried, the voltages (seemingly open circuit voltages)
also change markedly with temperature.
(which shows one factor decreasing vehicle energy economy in cold weather - and
another reason to leave a safety margin! 3.95V is evidently 100% charge at -10░C!)


On the 16th, the middle of the month having come, I started thinking about my project priorities.

* Firewood shed was almost finished to the point where it could be filled with the firewood
* Cabin hadn't been worked on since early May
* Ground effect craft just needed some more programming before trying to fly it.
* The new chemie battery was about dry enough to try adding some salt electrolyte.
* The bandsaw mill kit idea seemed to have fallen by the wayside for some time.
* So had documenting how to make my Supercorders.
* And then there's assembling the third li-ion battery stack. That would be what was needed to run the truck at this point.

   The list could go on and on, but that was already too much to even think about!

   I figured a couple of good programming sessions for the craft, but it might easily stretch into a week. Could I work a few battery tests in somewhere? Then the bandsaw mill kit, which might bring in some revenue, beckoned.
   By the end of the day the firewood shed was in operating shape. It still needed one piece of wood put up and doors. Then it should keep raccoons out unless they can squeeze through a smaller gap than I think. In the evening for the first time in a while, it really rained. No sign of "wet" anywhere inside or around the walls, except just inside the open doorways. As it seems to be staying "wettish" out, I finished just in time. I know the seller has the firewood outside, now getting wet. Time to get it delivered!

   By the 26th somehow all I had done was another programming session on the craft (and then decided it should be done a different way) and tried out the salt electrolyte in the battery with my typical disappointing results, along with trying to make a one-piece copper battery can from copper pipe.
   But that's when I gave it some more thought and realized that since I already had the really significant result, an everlasting zinc electrode (as I wrote about above), perhaps concentrating on the frustrating nickel-manganates positive electrodes that just weren't cooperating was rather a waste of my time and I should drop the battery work.


   Below to end are a couple of interesting sustainable power projects people have pointed me to this month. There was a video somewhere on Youtube about the Qinghai solar installations. Later I located satellite images of them via Google Maps.

Solar Installations in Qinghai

   Here are a few [Google Maps] satellite images of stupendous Chinese solar power installations - in a northwestern desert in Qinghai [southeast of Shingjiang (or Xingjiang, AKA East Turkestan)] at about 37.3░ north. The area of the broad view is about 17-1/2 Km by 7-1/2 Km.

   These apparently supply much of the power for the entire region. They wash off the panels (monthly?) and the water plus the shade from the panels has caused vegetation to grow, which started to grow over the panels. So they got a rancher (multiple ranchers?) to graze sheep in the installations among the panels. The rancher interviewed thinks it's marvelous: win-win!

   Each tiny black strip below is a row of about 16 solar panels (hard to count at any scale). If that count is correct, there are 768 one meter wide panels from left to right. There seem to be almost 60 rows, which would be 46,000 solar panels in this one field. If they were 300 watts each, that would be over 13 megawatts rating. (Over double the BC Site-C dam project, IIRC, from this one field.) While most fields go east-west to get the maximum daily collection, a few fields have rows oriented north-south, surely to maximize evening (supper cooking time?) or early morning collection.

  Below is a solar concentrating collector (near the right end of the broad first image). Typicly in such installations, mirrors direct sunlight to a concentrating point at the top of the huge central tower, where steam is made to run a steam turbine generator. The mirrors have to automaticly move continually to maintain their aim over the day and through the seasons. With the falling price of solar PV panels this is complex system is probably an obsolete idea. (I understand they're also good for frying passing birds.)
   (The small tower at the lower right may have been the "proof of concept" prototype installation?)

Another Floating Tidal Flow Power Unit

   This Sustainable Marine Tidal System tidal power unit from Nova Scotia seems unique in using multiple smaller propellers, which should make it usable in much shallower waters than the 'two huge propellers' Orbital Marine ones in the Orkney Islands. It looks like it could be a winner. They might be just the thing for Masset inlet on Haida Gwaii. If they don't chop up fish.

One trusts that each propeller/generator can be raised, removed
and serviced individually without it being a really major operation

In Passing
(Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)

Food Security: A Constitutional Right to Grow and Trade Food

   Here is the summary of a declaration recently proposed in the State of Maine, USA, legislature.

"Section 25. This constitutional resolution declares that all individuals have a natural, inherent and inalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume, and to barter, trade and purchase the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well being."

(The full statement continues with provisos to exclude unlawful or harmful acts to acquire food. It also contains a phrase that says everyone has the right to eat well, which is likely to be proven unattainable in the next few years. - still the whole act is all in one sentence!)

   It seems to me that such a declaration enshrined into a constitution or bill of rights would go a long way to correct legal imbalances that in many subtle or coercive ways favor the mass production and centralized distribution of food by a small number of "mega" corporations, which block individuals and families from the potential of making their own local food for their own locality. This impoverishes rural communities financially and increases vulnerability of the food supply everywhere.

   That such a thing is happening may be puzzling to the majority. Can we not plant and harvest our own vegetables? (Even this seems to be under threat these days!) But garden produce is not the only food group. I will revert to a couple of examples I've mentioned before.

* Milk Products  Ostensibly to protect public health, in the early 1970s BC outlawed sale of raw milk. Furthermore, pasteurizing milk had to be done at a government inspected facility where it is done in vast quantities in programmed processes with chart recorders available for government inspection.

   The result was predictable: One cow produces too much milk for a single family, and is too much work and expense to keep one just to throw out most of the milk. So the entire rural population all across BC had to get rid of their dairy cows. Family producers all over the province were prevented from earning local income from their cow or small herd. I recall this being enforced against a family who was selling us delicious raw milk in 1972, from which we were also making butter and ice cream. Today as far as I know there are only a handful of dairy cattle in all of northern and rural BC, mostly owned by Mennonites. All our milk is shipped from 2 or 3 big processors in the big cities, across the entire province, and the processed milk can't be made into butter, cheese, sour cream or buttermilk - making everyone still more dependent on the "factory" dairy processors. And of course, the dairy farms are clustered around the big cities near the processing plants. One presumes that the cattle herds are much too concentrated to graze on their own pastures and so feed must be grown and processed here, there and everywhere, then purchased and transported in. This, instead of grazing the cattle on that land to "harvest" and "process" it themselves, with more local and direct distribution of the end product. From an economic standpoint, what makes more sense?
   As far as public health is concerned, all the transported product is less fresh. I occasionally get migraines from milk direct from the store on the day I bought it (less often than I used to) and have to take a migraine pill, dump the whole gallon of one cup serving bottles I've just frozen, and re-wash the bottles. And I understand that while there have very occasionally been hospitalizations owed to raw milk products, there have been no deaths at all in modern times. Is that sufficient health concern to prohibit what people have done for thousands of years? Even if one considers raw milk unsafe, there are now economical counter-top milk pasteurizers, and doubtless there would be many more and better choices if there was a legal market for them in larger countries.

* Meat  At some time (probably also in the 1970s), it became a requirement that domestic meat be butchered only at a registered government facility. A small grocer I knew in Victoria BC used to butcher his own and always had fresh meat. You could buy your week's groceries there. He closed the meat section and gradually the selection of everything shrank. They sold lottery tickets instead. On this island I'm told Richardson Ranch used to butcher grass fed cattle annually in the fall. Now the cattle must be trucked to a facility on the mainland (just the long ferry ride costs hundreds of dollars and a round trip takes several days), butchered doubtless by others for which the ranch must pay instead of earn, and then (hopefully) the meat is shipped back to the island. How is it that the amateurs who butcher their own deer meat are no longer permitted to trust the experienced ranchers to sell them beef they've butchered?

   A key word missed was "sell". One has the right to buy food, and to barter or trade it for one's own use, but not necessarily to sell it outright to others. That was probably as far as the proposer of the amendment wanted to or dared to go. Still, if the things listed were considered to be "rights", it would be much harder to argue for monopolistic food industries and against local food production and distribution, and laws such as these examples that shut it down by making local production and sale impractical or uneconomic might start to be thought of as government overreach and would be much harder to argue for.

Small Thots

* Obviously my little gardens even with the no-fruit problems are doing better than a lot of commercial farming right now. Practicly every major wheat exporting country's crops are way down this year. Droughts, floods, locusts, mice...
   With corn and soy production down so much in the last couple of years, meat producers have been switching to wheat to feed their herds. Now that too is becoming prohibitively expensive and and the remaining choice is to drasticly reduce the herds so they don't starve outright. And the supply chain is having problems delivering even what there is. Ukraine has wheat but can't get it out to export. Railroads in the US west are shutting down because they're afraid of potentially starting yet more forest fires. Every year the situation looks worse than the year before, and we must be getting close to some tipping point.

* Some in the grocery business are commenting under youtube videos that warehouses are looking rather spacious, grocery store orders are being short shipped owing to shortages and some products are becoming hard to get or have been discontinued. This has in fact been a growing trend for a year or two now. Some are even worried about August; some think things will last until after Christmas. Is it all just fearmongering? Where in the world is there any big breadbasket of crops growing "as usual" this year?

* I just ran across a French word: "Liberticides" - killers of liberty. In my meager understanding of French it usually seems to be applied to what are considered to be unjustified authoritarian laws and edicts. According to an online translator "Liberticide" is an English word, too, but I'm not sure the translator actually knows what it means, or if it's just copying an unknown word straight into the [one word] translation. It seems an apt word to describe some things that have been happening.

* In a today typical piece of oligarchic corruption, a former head of Telus, a monopolistic telecomm company with a corporate culture of greed, fraud and deceit was appointed head of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), the federal government agency assigned as the watchdog over such companies. (He seems to have ordered things done to enrich Telus for which a private citizen would have gone to jail.) This is of course having a wolf for the shepherd. Canadians pay more than any other people for our telephone, TV and internet services, and rules are rigged to keep other service providers out.

   Someone recognized him in a bar, having a beer with the CEO of Bell, a telecomm company with an even worse reputation. We can be pretty sure he wasn't "laying down the law" to Bell but rather they were plotting together how to continue to keep competition out and extract still more money from Canadians. The organization OpenMedia has called him out on it in a full page ad in the capital's newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen.
   If he doesn't respond favorably I hope they ask the government to fire him and suggest a replacement. Can the corrupt be ousted without pitchforks and torches coming out? That's not supposed to be necessary in a democracy - of course, such people should never be considered for holding a position of public trust in the first place.

(Eccentric Silliness Department)

* In any court case there are two sides: the Defense and the Persecution.

* A good Offense requires the best Defense - or the offender will be persecuted.

* The bank lacked liquidity, so we dug a trench around it and filled it with paint thinner. Now it's just another insolvent bank.

* Orders of magnitude as applied to financial currency: one - thousand - million - zillion - gazillion - quazillion ...

* A typical bungalow worth a million dollars today may be worth a gazillion by this time next year.

* A quazillion dollars in 10,000$ bills would stack to the moon and back.

* Food worth 100$ today may be 10,000$ by this time next year.

* It was once feared one could sail off a waterfall over the edge of the world. That was dismissed as ignorance, but I recently found this Google 360░ photo image that proves it's real. (Apparently one edge of the world is in the West Falklands):

* I bought a bag of rock wool insulation to have on hand for when I (theoreticly, some day) get around to making my plastic sheet press, which will (I hope!) probably get too hot for fiberglass. What I'd really like to know is, how do they fleece the rocks to get their wool? :( All the rocks I find are already fleeced. ):

* Once spawn has been spawned, doesn't responding just increase the quantity?

* Burrito: A baby burro

   "in depth reports" for each project are below. I hope they may be useful to anyone who wants to get into a similar project, to glean ideas for how something might be done, as well as things that might have been tried, or just thought of and not tried... and even of how not to do something - why it didn't work or proved impractical. Sometimes they set out inventive thoughts almost as they occur - and are the actual organization and elaboration in writing of those thoughts. They are thus partly a diary and are not extensively proof-read for literary perfection, consistency, completeness and elimination of duplications before publication. I hope they may add to the body of wisdom for other researchers and developers to help them find more productive paths and avoid potential pitfalls and dead ends.

Electric Transport

Ground Effect Craft (R/C Model)

[8th] I had been wondering about the methods for programming and testing the combination motor thrust/steering controls. Turning my attention to the project again at long last, it occurred to me that instead of trying to get it all working at once, I could check the motor outputs by simulating the received radio control joystick commands with the display-controller buttons. The lower two left and right buttons could slew the steering "joystick position" to the left and right, while the two vertical ones in the middle could be throttle up and down. They would directly increment/decrement the "ThrottlePosition" and "SteeringPosition" variables, each 0 to 15, and the display would show the number. As I wrote the code I thought to do a "STOP" button too, that immediately turned off the motors and set 'steering' to center.
   Then the output variables, the strange PWM signals that the receiver puts out, would be fed to the motors to hopefully give the desired effects, and everything tweaked until the motors ran right.
   Then the receiver end could be implemented and feed the same two variables and the display with the motors off, and finally the two could be coupled together when they both seemed to work well.

[9th,10th] I spent especially the day of the 10th trying to get just the pushbuttons to work. It was frustrating dealing with somebody else's assembler and debugger instead of all the fabulous software development tools I had made for myself in the 1980s and 1990s, but which aren't applicable to the new microcontrollers. The biggest problem turned out to be the weird syntax of the "call" (AKA "jsr") instruction. One expects "call readbuttons" to do just that... but no, it's "call #readbuttons". Without the "#" it defaults to some strange address mode that no one would use and goes off into space, and I forgot about that in a couple of places. Then the obtuse debugger made it difficult to track down the problem. But finally it worked and the numbers slewed up and down happily.

[17th & 20th] (Still can't seem to get to this in any hurry!) The model aircraft radio control signals are supposedly 1.0 (full off or full left) to 2.0 (full on or full right) milliseconds, in a fixed period of 50 Hz (20 milliseconds). All very vaguely specified.
   My original intent had been to have timer interrupts to make the output pulses to the motors be between 1 and 2 milliseconds per these requirements, with the second half of the pulse length divided into 16 parts, "off" to "full on". But it finally dawned on me that to divide a millisecond down into 16 parts would mean an interrupt every 67 microseconds. I hadn't paid any attention to the processor speed, but it was megahertz rather than gigahertz and I figured that such a frequent interrupt wasn't "going to fly", so to speak. It would have to be done another way.
   I programmed "Timer A" and got its interrupt working, but only every 20 milliseconds for the 50 Hz, not every 67 microseconds. To determine the speed I divided it by 50 to have a light blink on or off, adjusting that to once per second. I found that running Timer A from the fastest internal clock and dividing by 1 (instead of 8), it only counted to 120 to give the 20 mSec. I had expected a much larger number. (A 67 ÁSec count would be to less than one - not even possible!)
   I decided to use a simple program delay timing loop in the main event loop with a register counting down to get the 67 ÁSec intervals. This would be triggered every 20 mSec by the timer. The control pulses could be up to 2 mSec occupying 10% of the total time. This was obviously going to have to interact with the 1 to 2 mSec receiver pulses that might (inevitably) happen concurrently. Oh well, one thing at a time.

[26th] I was thinking about the asynchronous nature and critical timing of the signals from the receiver while the equally critical timing loops for the transmitter were running. A new strategy came to me. There was 2 milliseconds of receive signal and 2 of transmit. But the period overall was 20 milliseconds. That's 16 idle seconds. What if I simply waited for the receive signal, decoded its length from 1 to 2 milliseconds, and then, knowing it had already occurred, there was plenty of time to send a 1 to 2 millisecond pulse to the motors, and then to do anything else necessary, before the next receive signal. The only thing I didn't know was whether the up-down pulse was synchronized with the left-right pulse or if they occurred randomly (which would throw a monkey wrench into things), or if they were synchronous, whether they were at the same time or occurred at different times. The only way to tell that would be to view the waveforms on the oscilloscope. (Ug!) As long as they're not asynchronous with each other any timings can be accommodated.

I'm copying my wiring diagram into this newsletter for myself, before I lose the piece of paper.
(The socket on the left is on the microcontroller board. The ones on the
right are to the motor controllers and from the radio control receiver.)

Chevy Sprint Add-ons: Forward-Reverse, Speedometer

   And at some point I had sprayed the pivots of the windshield wipers with WD40 or something. When I thought to try them maybe a week later and beyond, they started wiping more easily. On "high" they started going faster instead of slower. I didn't see any smoke from the controls, although I haven't dared leave them on for very long. (But one day it was raining and I actually had to use the wipers! I put in some windshield washer fluid and that worked, too!)


[12th] There were some little details yet to go on the car. First, I moved the 12 volt charging plug arrangement so the isolation diode was on the battery terminal instead of hanging perilously in mid air on a wire by the DC to DC converter. (Oops, no "after" picture?)

   But the big thing was reverse. It seemed a bit silly having to get out and push the car to back it up. In fact as I was actually using the car (if only for hauling lumber and things around the acreage), it was getting to be a nuisance. And a bit embarrassing to "proudly" show the novel, smooth-running car to people and yet have to do that.

   To reverse direction on a series wound DC motor, one must change the polarity of the field coils without changing the polarity of the armature coils, or vice versa. Simply changing that of the entire motor won't reverse it. And the field coils have the same high currents flowing in them as the armature coils.
   As I don't intend to use this motor long term, I didn't want to spend probably hundreds of dollars on a big DPDT contactor relay - or even order and wait for a probably cheaper one from China. But perhaps I could make a heavy duty version of a DPDT "knife switch" with some lever on the dash to flip it. To handle the currents: thick copper plate switch arms, and copper water pipe shaped into clips to connect to. Or maybe it could be a slide switch? I decided on a special flat switch on a plate of plywood.

Okay, 6 bolts sticking up through the plywood, heads all recessed (using flat blade drill bit).
* Two flat copper bars pivoting in unison on bolts.
* 3 contact "clips" of copper water pipe.

Delrin plastic to couple the two moving bars.

Mounting it on the motor plate under the hood.
Brass push-pull rod to "flip" the switch goes into the cab.
(inner end recessed, on passenger side of center hump.)

   It was "sort of" DPDT. It did what DPDT switches are usually wired to do: reverse the output connections when flipped. Two moving bars connect to the two input wires. There are three roughly formed output "clips". The center one connects to one bar in forward and the other in reverse, and powers one end of the field coils. One or the other of the end ones is connected to a bar, to the bar not then connecting to the middle. The two end clips are tied together and go to the other end of the field coils.
   The bars have to move together but they can't be electricly connected. I used a piece of delrin/acetal plastic as a tie bar with a protruding end to pull/push on.
   At the car I noticed that if I mounted the switch on the motor/gearbox plate, I could arrange it so a push rod could go through an existing hole in the firewall, which I could reach to "flip" the switch from the driver's seat. (It was once the hole for the gear shift lever cable.)

   I had it done that day and tried it out. It's not elegant; in fact pretty "makeshift", but it does seem to work if one pushes and pulls hard enough on the rod.

   Then I drove it across the acreage. One bar on the switch got hot, the other only warm. Backing up (starting with a clunk!), both bars got hot. Now I didn't trust driving it. Maybe I could file inside the clips to clean the copper, and bend them for a tighter grip? (It was running fine without a switch... maybe I should have left well enough alone?)
   Later I brought a small file and looked again. I discovered that one of the bolts holding a wire to its bar was loose. (I had checked them all before I started it up, honest!) I drove around again. In a little backing up, nothing got hot. After a "fast" (read, "bouncy") drive with high currents going up the hill, both bars were a little warm, but nothing was hot.

   Let's see... The bars were ~1.7mm thick by 16mm wide, or 27 square millimeters. If it was round wire:
Area = π * R^2, so R = √(Area / π)
√(27 / π) = 2.93 mm. (diameter 5.84 mm)

   That would be about #3 AWG. The wires are #2 or #4, so that's a pretty good match. The heat must be from contact resistance at the connections between clips and bars when carrying 50 to 100+ amps. But they were just warm, not hot like with the loose wire. Considering the roughly shaped copper contact pieces of the switch, it's surely to be expected. I guess everything is fine. I'll continue checking it after driving.
   And I must fasten the heavy wires down properly so they don't rub on anything and gradually wear off their insulation. Maybe even cut some shorter ones, since they're all substantially longer than they need to be.

   I was glad to have started and essentially finished this project and written it up in one day. In retrospect rather surprised. Things that could have been time consuming like the switch design, mounting the switch, and a way for the driver to operate it, just fell into place and it went amazingly smoothly. In spite of starting with somewhat vague ideas, nothing was puzzled over for long, and nothing was done that had to be undone or redone or done differently. I don't suppose putting in a commercial contactor relay would have taken less time. I'd have had to wire up power to activate it from a switch on the dash. (Could I even have found an appropriate one, heavy DPDT contacts and 36 volts DC activated? or perhaps 12 V DC?)


   I've found some of the beeps and whistles of the Nissan Leaf annoying (especially chiming away continually when I get out to open and close the driveway gate), but I'm starting to see their utility, because I've already got out and walked away without turning the Sprint off a couple of times. (Only for short periods... so far! Of course it's not something you'd do with a petrol car.) Maybe I actually should install some annoying reminder beeper for when the door is opened with it running. (Hmm... easier to do if the driver's door switch was working. If the door is open for enough weeks, the cab light comes on. How do I get at that switch?)
[13th] I had a look. A plastic panel unclipped easily. When I had it off I discovered that the whole switch could just be pried right out from outside! It consisted of just one wire that connected to the clip that held the switch from falling out by itself, which was also supposed to connect to the car body. Corrosion presumably had stopped it. I worked it around a bit until it connected.
   In that I discovered that the car already had an annoying beeper when the door opened and the key was in the ignition, or the lights were turned on. That solves that!


   There were nasty clunks when changing direction. I thought this must be the hollow rectangular tube motor mount strut. One can't do up the bolts very tightly on flat tubes - they simply start to crush the tube. (I had used locking nuts to ensure they wouldn't gradually unwind.) So with the reversing torque the bolts were probably slipping up or down or left or right in their slotted holes on the car mount. (That's why I had started with a solid bar. But it bent. A tube has the push strength.) Short pipe piece "washers" for spacers across the inside the tube might (or might not) allow tightening the bolts enough to stop the slipping and clunking.

   I cut 2 pieces of heavy steel pipe to fit just inside the square tube motor strut. I could well imagine them falling to the bottom end of the tube where they would be virtually inaccessible and I'd have to take the bar off to get them out, so I made them just a bit too long. The tube had to expand slightly and I had to tap them into place with a screwdriver and a hammer. I did up the bolts quite tightly.
   But the car still had the "clunk" going into reverse when the pedal was pressed. Now, after pushing and pulling on the motor, I think the rear shock mounting isn't stiff enough. Maybe it doesn't have the same support to keep it from twisting that it had with the original transmission attachments? A little video would be nice since I can't see under the hood when I'm driving. Or I could take the hood right off and set up a mirror like I did once before? (Ug!)
   Anyway it was nice to drive across the acreage and back without getting out of the car. (After all, it was evening and the midges were getting pretty thick!) The next day I hauled a couple more loads of lumber (all done now, I think!) and after four days of miscellaneous trips around the acreage the batteries were down from 39.3 V to 38.6. "Discharged" is way down at 35 volts or so, but I drove back into the garage and connected to the DC solar system to recharge. (used 640 watt-hours - down 7.4% from 8640 watt-hours.)


   Some annoyances keeping it from being really nice are typical of old cars... The rocker panels under the doors are badly rusted, even tho the rest of the car is mostly pretty good. I could see wanting to do a bit of welding on the frame along there, and perhaps replacing the outer surface with plastic - maybe polypropylene-epoxy. And the "Armorall" plastic coating is off half the hood and bubbling up here and there. Aside from rust and damage, nothing looks worse than shiny with a big dull patch and flaking edges.
   The front left wheel looked a bit funny with a hole in the middle instead of a CV drive shaft end nut, and I belatedly realize that I've lost the two front hubcaps somewhere along the way, perhaps when I moved. It looks better with them, but where might I find hubcaps for 12 inch rims these days? So I put both hubcaps on the left side.


[21st] The bicycle speedometer arrived on the 20th, and I set to work installing it in the car. At first I thought of putting it inside the original instrument panel somewhere, and I took the whole thing out of the dash. and removed the original speedometer cable that no longer went anywhere. I thought, what good is the original panel anyway? The speedometer/odometer didn't work, and the engine temperature and fuel gauge were equally useless. Then I remembered it did have the brake light, the useless seatbelt light (who would drive somewhere without doing up their seatbelt?!?) and maybe another light or two on the sides. Another problem was that the two buttons at the bottom of the speedometer had to be accessible, so it couldn't be mounted behind the glass. So that seemed like a whole waste of time, and finally I put it all back together and made an aluminum "L" bracket to mount it on top of the dash, but still below the driver's view.
   I tried my best to route the wire to the sensor by the CV shaft. Both ends were molded in plastic and inaccessible. But it just wasn't quite long enough. So finally I cut it and used some small "XT30" model airplane plugs and sockets to add a two foot extension cord in the middle. Next, how to mount the sensor and the magnet?

   The magnet had to go on the CV shaft and spin. At the coupler I had drilled holes and made the setscrews 3/8 inch instead of the 1/4" and 5/16" ones they came with. I had run out of appropriate length 3/8" setscrews, and one that was too long stuck out. That gave me the idea to put a nut on it to clamp down a mounting. The two-piece magnet was made to screw onto a wheel spoke. I found a brass rod of suitable diameter. Using jeweler's ring pliers I bent one end into a ring/loop to go under the 3/8" nut, and the other around to fasten the magnet onto.
   The sensor was made to tie-wrap to the bicycle fork. I pounded the end of another piece of the brass rod flat until it fit in the slot where a cable tie was supposed to go. Being flat it kept the sensor from turning and seemed to hold it pretty well, so I extended it and made another loop. I put an 8mm bolt through an unused hole in the planetary gearbox and fastened down the loop end. That held the sensor next to where the magnet turned.
   (I should make something to prevent the sensor from sliding off the end of the rod. But the wire going the other way stops it. Later it twisted away from the magnet and became intermittent, so I wrapped some tape around it.)

   Then I set the tire circumference to my estimated 1630mm in the speedometer unit. (I measured it as about 1670mm later with a tape measure - 2.3% off. That's .001670 kilometers, giving almost exactly 600 wheel revolutions per kilometer - and 10.0 RPM per each 1 KmPH.) It being night by this time I didn't want to take the car out. Instead I got the idea to jack up the drive wheel and let it spin. I turned the car on and pressed the electron pedal. I thought since the parking brake only held the rear wheels, brakes on should be good. I didn't really trust the jack not to slip and put the wheel in contact with the floor, so I put my left foot on the brake pedal just in case. Somehow it didn't occur to me immediately that the pedal also operated the front brakes. Duh! The wheel turned, but instead of freewheeling it seemed labored and the currents were very high, like I was driving around the yard. The speedometer gave readings, even up to 30 KmPH. Once it occurred to me to take my foot off the brake, the currents dropped way down and "wide open" got the reading up to 54 KmPH. (If it would actually go that fast on the road, it'd be great!) At highest speeds there was some vibration, which I tentatively attribute to the off-center weight of the long set screw, nut, and magnet assembly. Perhaps I should try putting a weight on the opposite side, held on by a pipe clamp?

   I had assumed that with a backlight in the speedometer, it would be visible in the dark up on top of the dash with no light on it. Nope! The backlight only stayed on for a few seconds after a button was pressed, with no options to keep it on. I guess you're not supposed to go bike riding at night. I'd have preferred AAA battery(s) and being able to keep the light ON to a single use button cell and "conserve all possible power!" owing to that.

   I wonder if I can find something a little more appropriate for the Miles mini cargo truck, which also needs one? (I ended up ordering another one the same rather than spending time on line to check out others. At least I know they work.)

Back of speedometer from the outside

   The next day I did go for a drive across the acreage. It only hit about 19.4 KmPH bouncing across the rough lawn path. After this I stopped a while. I cleaned and vacuumed the inside of the Nissan Leaf, then the Sprint. (Now it can't haul lumber!)
   Later after I had adjusted the tire circumference number I went around again 3 separate times. I "booted it", and hit a "Max Speed" reading of 25.6. The lane was too rough and too short to pick up more speed. (Hitting the corner to go up the hill at such speeds got exciting!) How much faster would it get up to on level pavement? 45 KmPH started to seem less likely. 35 or 40?
   Since the car as configured with this motor surely couldn't make it up my steep driveway from the highway, I had come up with a "cunning plan" to drive out on the highway and go a short distance to my neighbor's (they're usually away) and go up his shallower driveway, then across his long drive and then through his rough grass back to the far side of my own place, linking up with where I've been driving. But did I really want to do it? That section of highway wasn't level anyway, so not the ideal for a "level pavement" speed test. And it would surely leave a track on their lawn for quite a while. Maybe better to just say "project complete" and put it away until I need it around the acreage again -- or can make that new motor at some hypothetical future date.

De-clunking the Motor Mounting

[24th] A friend came over and I took him for the ride across the acreage. When we got back he thought he'd investigate the "clunk" in reverse, so we opened the hood and he looked in while I went forward and back as bit. He showed me by pulling on it that the motor assembly was rotating more than I had realized, in both directions. In reverse, a protrusion in the plate was actually hitting the plywood battery shelf - the "clunk". I could also see what looked like an easy fix: as he moved it, a bolt on the plate upper edge moved almost directly toward and away from the nearby rear mounting. I could just add one more short steel joiner bar from there to the rear support. That would make it form a triangle instead of just a line, virtually eliminating rotation of the assembly.
   Later I went out and made it. Since it would be pushing when driving forward rather than pulling, I used a heavy, thick "L" bracket piece. After expanding its end hole, drilling a new one for the plate bolt and cutting a bit off the bottom side at the end, it fit great. Trying to shove the motor around showed it was much more solidly fixed into place than before.

   But it still had a "clunk". It seems to be coming from movement in the rear shock mounting itself. Apparently the rubber reaches an end stop and the metal parts hit. The attachment angles of the steel straps bears further investigation.

[August 4th] (As this may be the last write-up about the Sprint for some time, I'll put this in with July.)

   I looked at the original transmission bracket and saw it had held the rear cushion mounting at about 45░. Mine was pulling it over to more like 70░, nearer vertical.
   I put a block under the motor to hold it up, and disassembled the rear mount pieces. I drilled a new hole in the lower piece that made it effectively a bit longer, and bent it to sit at a better angle on the mount.

   On the upper piece I drilled an end hole by the corner, higher up and more to the outside to improve the angles and reduce twisting a bit. Then I tried to bend the end across the face to get a more horizontal mounting angle, but the metal was too hard, too thick and too wide and it only bent a bit striking it with a 6 pound maul. Mostly it just jumped around or came loose in a vise. I almost gave up, then thought to cut the whole end narrower with the angle grinder, cutting in half the width to be bent. Then I managed to pound it around with the maul. A couple of other bends through the thickness helped line it up. If it wasn't sitting at the "ideal" 45░ slope, it was at least closer to 50░ than 70░.

   That seemed to eliminate the main "clunk". There was still a smaller, sharp "tink", always just once after changing from forward to reverse and pressing the pedal, that I'd probably missed hearing before. I figured this must be coming from the drive shaft somewhere. I tried tightening set screws on the shaft coupler and found one (the one holding the speedometer magnet!) wasn't properly tight. And I tightened the wheel nut on the CV shaft a bit tighter. These things were to no avail. The sound was the same. Perhaps the remaining "tink" is in the actual CV joint, or in the suspension? (Hey, not my fault?)

Other "Green" & Electric Equipment Projects

Off-Grid infrastructure Components

T12V socket problem

   I had managed to eliminate putting anything covering the ends of the plugs and sockets of the T-plug and mini-T-plugs, because they didn't mate well with even a .8mm end cover on each. But as I was using them, I started getting a bit nervous. With the mini plugs (12V) the blades in the sockets were so little recessed that, while they couldn't be plugged in backward, inevitably people would inadvertently get them wrong occasionally, and the pins might actually make contact. Equipment was likely to get fried.
   Sure enough... I had made the Sprint car plug into its 12V battery so I could easily unplug it and the radio (and whatever?) wouldn't gradually drain it if I wasn't using it. One day when I went to plug in the battery, as I was trying to line up the plug and socket, the plus pin from the battery socket touched the minus pin on the car plug (battery "-" and plug "-" both grounded separately to car body) and there was a spark. It wasn't backward, and I was still trying to line them up, not push them together, but they touched. (No damage.) (Technicly I should disconnect the separate ground wire from the battery - it makes a "ground loop".)
   I decided that after all there had better be some thin sheet of plastic covering the sockets, to recess the pins a bit. So I should redesign the socket shells and the wall plates. Even 1/2 a millimeter should prevent accidental contact. Hopefully it wouldn't notably weaken the fit once plugged in. (But I didn't get around to doing any new socket shells yet.)

   I don't think the T36 larger sockets suffer from this problem, but I should probably try to deliberately connect them wrong in various ways and find out.

MPPT Solar Charge Controllers for Lead-Acid

   I finally found a low cost charge controller that could take the 35-40 volts from a full size solar panel and charge a 12 volt lead-acid battery from it. All the ones I had managed to uncover before that said "12-24V" would only work with a 12 volt battery if the solar panel was under 20 volts - in other words, only with small panels. The description of the the "UEIUA CPY-2420" was pretty vague. It sounded like it might do the job, but didn't specificly say so. It might be just like all the rest.
   Two of them arrived weeks ago. (Ordered April 14th.) At last I got around to testing one, connected to a 305W panel and two 6 volt golf cart batteries for 12 volts. It translated 36 volts from the panel to 12 volt charging voltages fine. I had feared it might either want a 24 volt battery or else put out high voltage spikes (ie, 36 volts) into the 12 volt battery, but the oscilloscope showed that it didn't and its lights showed the battery as "full", or as "low", when it was. And my power monitor showed that it seemed to find the maximum power point of the panel in the late afternoon clouds, current and voltage changing some as I picked up the panel and pointed it in different directions, or if I stood over it and darkened it.
   I didn't want to sell them without checking one out first. Now that summer is getting old, I can advertise 305W panels with charge controllers for 12 volt systems that don't cost an arm and a leg, for off-grid/RV/boat uses. (I ordered 5 more for about 30$ each, my cost.)

Handheld Bandsaw Mill Kit

[28th] I had been struggling in my mind (very occasionally) with how to make the undriven end with adjustments for the band tension and alignment. The whole end had to be free to slide up and down the main backbone. It also was held to that backbone by bolt heads in the track. If the bolts were tight, obviously it couldn't move. If they were loose they always tipped - became crooked and jammed, so nothing moved freely.
   Now a plan finally occurred to me: make smaller holes in the plate and thread the bolts through it. Then put nuts on the top ends above the plate and tighten them against it, leaving slack underneath so that the whole plate would slide easily.
[29th] Since the holes were already drilled too big to thread, I put a nut on each carriage bolt, then put it through the plate and did up another nut on top. It seemed to work well enough, and in fact is probably better for aligning the carriage bolt squares. I had only 2 bolts go into the slots at the outer end so that it could twist left and right to adjust the wheel tracking.
   I came up with the idea to use two short "L" brackets for each rail to adjust the tension. One would be attached to the rail, and the other to the plate. One would have a nut welded to it, and a bolt or threaded rod would be turned to pull the plate toward the right end, tensioning the band. Band tracking would be adjusted by loosening one and tightening the other, adjusting the alignment of the wheel. On the 30th I scrounged pieces of 2 inch by 2 inch angle iron to use for these.

   I added washers to the bolts on the driven end to fix it in place. It could be permanently mounted right at the end of the main backbone with the outside of the wheel sticking out. That gives the most potential cutting width.

Motor end plate

Affixed with bearings and wheel.

   The two rails front and rear to set the cutting depth were a problem. The left end could be bolted to the vertical post with a "U" bolt. The right end has to be free to slide left and right with the right wheel pplate and assembly which will move with adjustments to the band length, tension and tracking.
   I finally came up with the idea to make a "p" (or is it "d" ?) bracket. The "tail" part would have "ears" on it, visualize them going into and out of the paper. U-bolts would go through holes in these ears to clamp it against the post. The bar would be free to slide through the square "o" part while being held not to move up or down. The "o" part should probably be a square tube a little bigger than the rail tube. I was thinking the tail could be cut and bent out of the ends of the tube, but it might be easier to weld on a flat piece.

The left end of the cutting-depth guide rail is the easy end:
just clamp it to the post with a U-bolt.
(Cutting depth ruler markings on the posts would be a substantial asset!)

How to affix the right end so the whole plate can slide left-
right, yet hold the cutting-depth guide rail from moving?

   I thought there must be "square" U-bolts for my square posts and rails. On August 2nd I looked on AliExpress. Sure enough! I ordered a couple of pairs that looked about right; two sizes.


   My strawberries have nice green foliage, plenty of flowers... and not a single berry for two years and very few the two years before that - never a good crop. A neighbor being something of an authority, I went and asked her about it, but her [lack of] strawberries looked about the same as mine. (She only had a couple of plants.) There are various factors, but my best guess at this point is that I got a variety that doesn't fruit well around here. I bought three new plants - that had berries already on them - and I plan to dig up the whole bunch of the old ones and let these ones' runners grow and take root.

Hmm... one tiny apple, two cherries, no pears or apricots between nine trees. Healthy leaves and lovely flowers on most of them this year and hoverflies buzzing like a swarm of bees around the apricot, but nothing. So far in 4 years not a single pear or apricot, 11 apples all off the same tree (7 all off one branch in 2019!), and a handful of cherries. My brother reports similar from his apple trees in Toronto. ??? I dumped some lime and sprinkled some wood ashes around the trees. (They each got a big pile of seaweed a couple of years ago.) Then I removed the wire fences from around them and cleared out all the grass, weeds and ferns that were threatening to envelop them. Maybe that'll help for next year? (Late note: a gardener says to shelter them from the wind off the ocean. There's little doubt that would make a difference, especially to the end two.)
   Of all my fruits only the blueberries are faring really well, and the raspberry canes I planted this spring were having a small crop by the end of the month. I picked a pretty good bag of wild orange salmonberries from bushes growing around the back where I've made the new firewood shed, and there should be some other wild berries later this summer. On the 27th I picked thimbleberries beside the highway and made a "thimbleberry cocaigne" cake.

   For vegetables I had several heads of broccoli early in the month plus a bit of asparagus and cauliflower, and chard and beet greens, and a few peas - mostly from the greenhouse. One tomato so far, from a bought seedling that already had it growing.
   Before the end of the month I bought hedge clippers and trimmed the asparagus so I could walk past it. It's also bending over against the greenhouse roof.
   The corn is up to my chest and even my head, and tassels are forming at the tops. But where are the ears? There's no sign of any. (Please not another crop that grows great except for the crop!)
   The peppers that overwintered from last year in pots under LED lights are making the tiniest peppers - hardly worth it. Perhaps they need fertilizing. Or maybe I don't water them enough? Carrots are doing poorly as usual. I think I don't water them enough when they are first coming up. Tending the gardens and especially watering enough is always a problem for me in gardening since I'm so busy with everything.

   The garden looks wilder every week and really needs a weedeater taken to some parts. But there are some good vegetables growing in it as well. I've picked a pound so far (29th) from a lovely 8 foot tall row of tall peas in the garden, which has entered its "mass production" in the last few days. It'll probably make a kilogram worth, and then some other peas planted later will make some more. (I recently finished eating the ones from last summer that I froze.)

   When I put down enough sawdust, the slugs seemed to leave my vegetables more or less alone. But the quinoa seemed to attract many leaf miners and bugs that simply ate holes in the leaves. By the end of the month they looked pretty chewed up, even as the flowers started attracting hoverflies.
   After losing a lot of beans and things I finally made enough sawdust to spread around the garden. This seemed to work for some weeks. But by the end of the month I guess it was rotting in some and it no longer repelled them, and they were eating my cabbages and beans again, even plants that I thought would by now be too big. (If they can't climb 'em they'll settle for chewing through the stem!)

   In the little garden by the house leaf miners and other bugs (leafhoppers?) are making mincemeat of the quinoa leaves. (Much worse by the end of the month, but the flowers are growing anyway.)

   This was a pile of dirt last year, but with a few potatoes in it. They outgrew all the weeds and made 10Kg of spuds. The deer seemed to leave them alone. So this year I flattened it down and made sure it was well planted, and I started two other patches in dirt piles.

   The 4 hens are laying 2 or 3 eggs per day. So I sell some. The lady says they're the best tasting eggs she ever remembers having. They get greens most days in addition to grit with clam shell bits from the beach, chicken feed, bird seed, sprouted wheat and kitchen scraps. (Welcome to the "Spoiled Chickens Ranch"!)

Electricity Generation

My Solar Power System

Daily/Monthly/Yearly Log of Solar Power Generated [and grid power consumed]

(All times are in PST: clock 48 minutes ahead of sun, not PDT which is an hour and 48 minutes ahead. DC power output readings - mostly the kitchen hot water heater for some months, since its removal mostly just lights - are reset to zero daily (mostly for just lights, occasionally), while the others are cumulative.) Note that the DC is actually power used since there's nothing totaling up the amount incoming to the batteries, which is (unless it's a lot and there's little sun) replaced the following day.

Solar: House, Trailer, (DC@house)  => total KWH [grid power meter reading(s)@time] Sky conditions
Km = electric car drove distance, then car was charged.

30th 1832.30,756.38,(0) => 15.63 [55Km; 85575@21:30] Sunny Again! And warm until end of day; then from ~25░ down to 14░ before dark!

01st 1841.84, 762.13,(.18) => 15.47 [85583@21:30] Sunny! 21░
02st 1851.97, 768.12,(.23) => 16.35 [90Km; 85601@21:00] Sunny Again! 23░ (must have been extra clear?)
03rd 1860.56, 773.37,(.23) => 14.07 [55Km; 85616@21:30] more great weather!
04th 1871.17, 779.74,(.10) => 17.08 [85622@21:30]
05th 1881.68, 786.17,(.00) => 16.94 [35Km; 85637@22:00]
06th 1892.22, 792.63,(.12) => 17.12 [55Km; 85648@23:00] yay sunshine!
07th 1899.87, 797.25,(.00) => 13.37 [85653@21:00] Cloudy part of the day. Much cooler.
08th 1906.67, 801.30,(.22) => 11.07 [85662@21:00] Sunny PM.
09th 1913.49, 805.22,(.13) => 10.87 [90Km; 85687] Cloudy, faint sunshine.
10th 1918.69, 808.32,(.00) =>   8.30 [55Km; oops!] The "usual" cloudy, cool weather seems to have reasserted itself. (A nice summer was looking SO promising!)
11th 1925.12, 812.05,(.00) => 10.16 [45Km; 85705@21:30]
12th 1931.52, 816.03,(.00) => 10.38 [85715@21:30] morr cloudy. But hit 21░.
13th 1936.58, 819.03,(.00) =>   8.06 [55Km; 85732@21:30] Just a bit of sun, briefly.
14th 1941.56, 822.12,(.64) =>   8.71 [85744@21:30]
15th 1944.88, 824.08,(.13) =>   5.41 [85752@21:00] Days are getting shorter bit by bit. And cloudier!
16th 1949.60, 826.86,(.00) =>   7.50 [90Km; 85773@20:00] Wow! Heavy if short downpour toward evening. We needed it!
17th 1957.16, 831.23,(.16) => 11.09 [55Km; 85795@20:30] Some more rain, clouds, and some sun
18th 1964,57, 835.48,(.05) => 11.71 [85805@22:00] Back to cloudy, occasional drops of rain, somewhat sunny patches.
19th 1973.46, 840.74,(.00) => 14.15 [60Km;85826@22:30] Sunshine returns - Yay!
20th 1979.14, 844.07,(.00) =>   9.01 [55Km; 85834@20:30] Sun, rain, sun, clouds
21th 1982.59, 846.00,(.00) =>   5.38 [85847@23:00] AM Cloudy, PM a couple of downpours! (NOT the infamous "rivers from the sky", just a heavy rain. The rest of BC has hundreds of forest fires going and no rain. Firefighters are coming from Nova Scotia and Mexico!)
22th 1986.39, 848.15,(.21) =>   6.16 [85855@19:30] Clouds, wind and rain. (Ug!)
23th 1992.08, 851.48,(.00) =>   9.02 [85Km;85884@31:00] clouds, drizzle, sun for a bit ~noon.
24th 1997.85, 854.96,(.62) =>   9.87 [55Km; 85900@21:00] Pouring rain early AM, a bit of sun, clouds.
25th 2005.30, 859.21,(.28) => 11.98 [90Km; 85923@21:00] Downpour overnight/early, some sun, hazy sun, more rain by evening. ~18░.
26th 2009.22, 861.59,(.00) =>   6.29 [85933@20:30] Clouds again.
27th 2015.88, 865.47,(.12) =>   9.66 [50Km; 85948@20:30] Clouds until evening then clear
28th 2021.47, 868.59,(.00) =>   8.71 [85957@21:00] clouds, brief sun, brief rain.
29th 2024.44, 870.43,(.00) =>   4.81 [55Km; 85974@21:00] Fog, rain, bit of sun.
30th 2031.02, 874.21,(.19) => 10.55 [85Km; 85992@19:30] Clouds, sun, fog.
31st 2036.65, 877.59,(.45) =>   9.46 [86001@19:30] More of the same.


1st  2044.12, 881.88,(.00) => 11.76 [86018@21:30] Some decent sun today - 21░!
2d   2049.77, 885.12,(.00) =>   8.89 [86027@20:30]
3rd  2055.59, 888.71,(.00) =>   9.41 [55Km; 86042@20:00] Sunny only occasionally but hit 21░!
4th  2059.00, 890.91,(.00) =>   5.61 [86052@20:00] Mostly wind & rain. Later sun came out.

Daily KWH from solar panels. (Compare July 2021 with June 2021 & with July 2020.)

Days of
__ KWH
July 2021 (12 panels)
June 2021 (12 panels)
July 2020 (12 Panels)






Total KWH
Km Driven
on Electricity
1105 (Leaf: ~150 KWH)
... + 2.5 Km (Sprint)

Monthly Summaries: Solar Generated KWH [& Power used from grid KWH]

March 1-31: 116.19 + ------ + 105.93 = 222.12 KWH - solar [786 KWH used from grid]
April - 1-30: 136.87 + ------ + 121.97 = 258.84 KWH [608 KWH]
May  - 1-31: 156.23 + ------ + 147.47 = 303.70 KWH [543 KWH] (11th solar panel connected on lawn on 26th)
June - 1-30: 146.63 + 15.65 + 115.26 = 277.54 KWH [374 KWH] (36V, 250W Hot Water Heater installed on 7th)
July  - 1-31: 134.06 + 19.06 + 120.86 = 273.98 KWH [342 KWH]
August 1-31:127.47 + 11.44+91.82+(8/10)*96.29 = 307.76 KWH [334 KWH] (12th panel connected on lawn Aug. 1)
Sept.- 1-30: 110.72 + 15.30 + 84.91 = 210.93 KWH   [408 KWH] (solar includes 2/10 of 96.29)
Oct.  - 1-31:  55.67 + 13.03 + 51.82 = 120.52 KWH, solar [635 KWH used from grid]
Nov. - 1-30:  36.51 +   6.31 + 26.29 =   69.11 KWH, solar [653 KWH used from grid]
Dec.  - 1-23: 18.98 +   .84* + 11.70 =   31.52 KWH, solar + wind [711 KWH + 414 (while away) = 1125 from grid]

Jan.  - 6-31: 17.52 + ------* + 10.61  =  28.13 KWH, solar+ wind [1111 KWH from grid]
Feb.  - 1-29: 56.83 + ------* + 35.17  =  92.00 KWH, solar + wind [963 KWH from grid]
* The solar DC system was running the kitchen hot water tank. Now it's only running a couple of lights - not worth reporting. So there's just the 2 grid tie systems: house and "roof over travel trailer".
One year of solar!
March - 1-31: 111.31 +   87.05 = 198.37 KWH solar total  [934 KWH from grid]
April   - 1-30: 156.09 + 115.12 = 271.21 [784 KWH from grid]
May    - 1-31: 181.97 + 131.21 = 313.18 KWH Solar [723 KWH from grid]
June   - 1-30: 164.04 + 119.81 = 283.82 KWH Solar [455 KWH from grid]
July    - 1-31: 190.13 + 110.05 = 300.18 KWH Solar [340 KWH from grid]
August- 1-31: 121.81 + 83.62   = 205.43 KWH Solar [385KWH from Grid]
Sept.  - 1-30: 110.68 + 65.09   = 175.77 KWH Solar [564 KWH used from grid]
Oct.  -   1-31:   67.28 + 42.55   = 109.83 KWH Solar [1360 KWH from grid -- Renters!]
Nov.  -  1-30:   35.70  + 20.79  = 56.49 KWH of Solar [1301 KWH from grid]
Dec.  -  1-31:   19.78  + 11.31  = 31.09 KWH Solar [1078 KWH used from grid]

Jan.   -  1-31:   25.47 + 18.58  = 44.05 KWH Solar [1185 KWH used from grid]
Feb.   -  1-28:   47.18 + 33.22  = 80.40 KWH Solar [1121 KWH used from grid]
Two years of solar!
March - 1-31:   81.73 +  55.22 + 2.2 (DC) = 139.15 KWH Solar [1039 KWH grid]
April  -  1-30: 161.83 + 112.35 + .44(DC)  = 274.62 KWH Solar [680 KWH from grid]
May   -  1-31: 156.25 +  97.22 + 1.29(DC) = 254.76 KWH Solar [678 KWH from grid]
June  -  1-30: 197.84 + 112.07 + 2.21(DC) = 312.12 KWH Solar [& 448 KWH from grid]
July   -  1-30: 204.35 + 121.21 + 4.06(DC) = 329.62 KWH Solar [426 KWH from grid]

Things Noted - July 2021

* The sunny week at the start of July made it the best month of all I've recorded so far for solar power, if only by a small margin.

* If we were to actually got a whole sunny month here instead a few sunny days here and there, solar power might average say 16 KWH per day of collection in June or July: 16KWH * 30 days = 480+ KWH for a month. The best we ever seem to do here is about 2/3 of that. I would rather live here than in a desert, but a desert, and a more southerly latitude, has the best return on investment for solar power - witness where the huge Chinese solar installations are (Month in Brief).


March 2019-Feb. 2020: 2196.15 KWH Solar [used   7927 KWH from grid]
March 2020-Feb. 2021: 2069.82 KWH Solar [used 11294 KWH from grid]

(See TE News #156 for the two year writeup... which technicly should have been two months earlier.)

Electricity Storage (Batteries)

Turquoise Battery Project
Goal: Long lasting, low cost, high energy batteries

[10th] On a whim I decided to try just salt electrolyte again. How without making a new cell? I removed the top cover of the "C" cell I made a couple of months ago, and immersed the whole cell in water a couple of times to dissolve and dilute out the present electrolyte, the mix of potassium hydroxide and potassium chloride.
   I discovered that the top of the cupro-nickel tab had oxidized off. Rats! Here I thought I finally had found a metal that wouldn't oxidize. It looked like graphite was once again the only thing that would work. And in changing the electrolyte to chloride without the hydroxide, it would probably be the only thing anyway. But inside the electrode, the rest of the metal seemed fine. It was just where it came out the top that it had turned green and corroded away. Maybe if it was well sealed where it came out, it wouldn't happen?

[21st] Well, finally I got to it! I cut off the top of the cupro-nickel electrode under the lid. It seemed quite solid inside the cell. For now I'll go with (more certain) graphite - a 1/4 inch carbon rod. (That's the smallest I have.) I trimmed it to a chisel shape, drilled a 1/4" hole in the lid, and inserted it into the electrode. For all the compaction I had done when I made it, the rod inserted maybe 3/4 inch, at first pretty easily. Then I dripped in some 35% potassium chloride.

   The cell sat at about 290 mV. [10:20 AM PDT] I connected about 1.95 volts from the power supply and it shot up. It started charging at about 70 mA. That soon dropped to 50, but it stayed there. Not high current, but it beats 5 or 10 or 20 mA. When I took it off charge, the voltage dropped rapidly, but was climbing a bit each time. At one point it put out 150 mA if shorted. And then it would start charging at 70 mA again, again dropping to 50 after a bit. By 15 minutes it was at 45 mA, and over 1.5 V when the charge was removed but of course it dropped rapidly.
[11:40 AM PDT] Charging at 40 mA. Held over 1.6 V momentarily when taken off charge but dropped with seconds. Put out 220 mA short circuit current, but only recovered to 1.3x V and started dropping again.
   Okay, still seems leaky as heck whatever the electrolyte. Is there any hope? Whatever I do, I can't seem to make a cell that just sits there and holds its charge.

   I decided that instead of charging it, I would short it out and discharge it completely. Would anything change? [13:20 PM PDT - actually still AM] I figured that was long enough an un-shorted it. Then I connected the charge at barely under 2.0 volts. It started at 220 mA, but was soon down to 70. [13:50] Down to 30 mA. At one point it put out 240 mA shorted for a moment.
   Eventually it was down to 10 or 15 mA. By bedtime it was holding higher voltages for much longer - 1.8+ for a few seconds. But over some days, as seems so typical of my cells, the performance became pathetic and it didn't hold voltage very long.


Next Cell

[27th, 28th] Commercial manganese dioxide - zinc cells in hydroxide electrolyte have "zinc paste" connected to a short piece of wire as the negative electrode. I wonder what would happen if, instead of trying to plate metallic zinc, a thin layer of that zinc paste was applied to the copper can? Everything else could be the same. Better still, how about pasting it into the outer layer of graphite felt, mixed with a bit of zirconium silicate to raise the hydrogen overvoltage?
   Then the layer of agar and the separator sheet, and then a rolled up electrode from a Ni-MH dry cell, in order to reduce the number of unknowns? Those had worked for me before. But in salt electrolyte the nickel mesh current collector will oxidize. I can sprinkle in some conductive graphite powder, with samarium oxide to raise the oxygen overvoltage, between the layers. It won't be very well mixed. (I suppose I could crumble up the electrode(s) and just use the powder without the metal sheets?)

Formed Copper Can

   Not to make a whole extra job, but if I made something to clamp the end of a short piece of 3/4 inch copper pipe, perhaps I could make some rotating tool to expand the pipe in a drill press or a lathe. Hmm... a disk piece that fit inside, and put the pipe in the lathe chuck to turn with the tool stationary, would be easiest since I have the lathe.
   I keep wanting to try out this sort of thing. I cut a piece a bit longer than the C-cell, then heated it red hot to anneal it. (Tempered copper won't stretch or bend well. It would be likely to break.)

   Then I thought of simply pounding or pressing wedges into the pipe. That sounded too simple, but it was probably worth a try. It probably should be expanded a bit at a time, or else the end would probably squash instead of the pipe expanding.  What to use? The only thing I could think of having various close sizes was drill bits. Then I saw my socket wrench set. Aha! I had some odd ones in a tin, too. I found an old socket that was just slightly larger than the pipe and ground the end to a taper so it would go in, then I polished it. I put in an old extension rod and pounded it most of the way through the pipe. I could see the slight bulging as it went. Since I didn't want to expand the bottom and in fact wanted to make it a closed end, I stopped and pounded it back out the way it went in.

   Then I got a slightly larger socket from my set and filed a taper onto it, and polished it too. I dont think the bit I took off the back end should hurt it when using it for its original purpose. I pounded that in like the first and expanded it a bit more. I could push the sockets in by hand after pounding them in, and now the first socket just fell in. The pipe had expanded from 19.67mm to 20.90mm. The wall thickness had gone from 1.3mm thick to about 1.1mm, with a fat spot up to 1.17mm at the seam. The outside went from 22.3mm to 23.15mm and about 23.2 at the seam. The bottom was a bit lop-sided. It needed to be inside complementary wedge shapes to start squeezing it closed as the rest was expanded.
   I measure a C-cell as about 25.4mm O.D. Allowing say 1mm for a cardboard outer sleeve, that means just a couple more expansions of a millimeter or less. If I can make some wedges to have the bottom squeeze closed in the same process, this should be quite workable for prototypes, and hopefully I won't have to do any silver soldering and ending up with leaks.

   I found a heavy round piece with a tapered hollow inside. Some sort of plug for a boat? It was here when I bought the house. It looked about right for starting to taper down the bottom of the pipe. I put the pipe into it and a larger tap, which I thought was a bit too big to go into the pipe if I pounded on it. But it did, expanding the top of the pipe considerably more than I had intended for one pressing. With nothing to hold the pipe straight in the tapered sleeve, and with no proper taper entering onto the die, both the bottom and the top started getting lop-sided. I only went down 1/2 inch, which seemed to be expanded to pretty much the exact desired outer diameter - and a bit more in one direction because of going in crooked.
   I filed a taper in a socket of the size in between the previous one and this "rogue" largest tap, and expanded it to that size full length minus the bottom taper. Then I filed a taper on the largest one, which was a 1/2 inch drive socket extension rather than an actual socket. I also put a metal ring into the sleeve to hold the piece more centered. This time it went in pretty straight. It didn't pound quite as far into the tapered sleeve as needed. I could start with a longer piece of pipe next time. The diameter was perfect, about 24.8mm. Wall thickness was about 1.14mm all around. I was no longer sure where the seam had been.

   Now it was time to start thinking of how to close off the bottom end. Lacking any better idea, I started tapping the end over with a hammer, with the punch still inside. I annealed the end again and continued pounding, but I couldn't get the center hole closed off.
   It was already too short to be a C-cell. Apparently the tube shrank in length as it increased in diameter.
   I gave it another try with a new tube and trying to leave more metal at the end. It came a little closer to shut, but not much. At this point I gave up on closing the end. Then I accidently bent and ripped the tube trying to get the ends perfectly square on the lathe. A hollow copper tube is too soft to put in a lathe chuck!

   So I made a third tube. Using a pipe cutter (instead of the angle grinder with a zip disk) the ends start out square. And this time I used the pipe cutter and a file to square them again after it was expanded. Also I had got tired of pounding the punches through the tube and this time I used the hydraulic press - a smoother process.
   So I was back to punching out a 1 inch flat disk for the bottom and silver soldering it on. (Rats!) At least the new pipe was the right diameter for that to fit on the bottom instead of inside. The soldering went well. I dissolved off the flux (and pretty much everything else!) in hydrochloric acid.
   This time I put water in it, covered it with my lips and blew on the top. (Last time I just filled it and none came out, but when I went to use it it did leak.) I figured if there were any leaks this time the water would come squirting out. None did.

   Finally, I started asking myself why I was beating my head against a wall when I had already, and quite a while ago, solved the main hurdle: the ancient mystery of how to get an everlasting zinc electrode - surely worth a fortune in itself. (see July in Brief)

Haida Gwaii, BC Canada