Rethinking the project

Posted on January 23, 2009


After 1 year and 2 months, I have very little to show for results.

There is this software framework that produces sketchy models of wheel-motors which have no guarantee of real-world performance. And a web site full of interesting bits of information, a few intelligent discussions, and a handful of very nice and techie web friends. But the car still burns around 9 Litres per 100km, and there are no electric traction motors aboard. And I ride it every day to a job that consumes my time and strength.

I talked to investors, but they were too small and frightened for me and my project. I’d talk to bigger investors, but I’m too small and frightened for them ;).

The first semester of my M.Sc. in E.E is over. I learned a lot about electric machines, but still not enough to actually build a high-efficiency and high-performance one with minimum confidence. For that, at least another semester must go by. Meanwhile, I’m all over the place in my Uni, and talks about a large and interesting project (which may allow me to work full-time on these areas – but not in my personal project) have begun.

So, anyway I cut it, it doesn’t look like I will be able to convert my gas-guzzling car into a HEV or EV anytime soon. I need another approach.

  • Resolution one:  Get an electric car now. This way I start saving the planet (and my wallet) today, instead of tomorrow. Put my actions where my mouth is. It also has the advantage of leaving the big fossil-burning hunk of metal parked somewhere where I can actually disassemble it and start some hardcore tinkering. I’d gladly settle for an electric motorbike, but my wife would divorce me if I got one (if you know the traffic and the road conditions here in Lisbon, you understand her fear of being left a widow with a small child if I rode one to work every day). And an electric bicycle is even more prone to manslaughter than a motorbike. So a car it must be. And the occasional uphill bicycle ride to work, when my strength allows it.
  • Resolution two: Subcontract the HEV project as much as possible. When time permits, get some suppliers in line for the main systems, leaving me as the system engineer or integrator. Saves time, and should increase the probability of actually getting things done. John already offered to make me a pair of custom in-wheel motors (or at least the core of them) and the reason he hasn’t already is because I’m lacking the time to honor the commitment.
  • Resolution three: maintain the framework as a separate project. I like the way the “motorfemmulator” scripts are going, and if I do get the big break I’m going after through the Uni, I may just get the time to bring this framework to a whole new level of feature richness and usability. But it cannot stand in the critical path of my HEV project anymore. I’ll be glad if someone else takes advantage of it (as Pierre has done).

Maybe I’m being too ambitious in wanting to redesign my career, save the environment, and contribute to open source technology all at the same time, but that’s just the way I am… 😉

EDIT: Oh yeah, I almost forgot – AND HAVING FUN AT THE SAME TIME!!!!  😀

No pain, no gain.