Turquoise Energy News
Craig Carmichael June 5th
Last month I wrote that I hoped most everything I
was working on would be up and running in a month or two. While good
progress continues, that schedule won't be met.
The Electric Hubcaptm
car drive motor has been done for a while now, and I've made a
"fairing" cover for it (genuine garry oak!). The
Turquoise Motor Controller to turn it has now been assembled.
Although there appears to be a lot of force (judging by all the
vibration), and the wheel has moved back and forth a bit, it hasn't
turned properly yet. I'm now troubleshooting it. A little movie of the
second test is here (for a limited time):
The theory for the wave power unit appears
sound, but my mechanism as built needs some reworking, and it's been
taking a back seat to the other projects. Essentially the short
motions from the small waves available at boat ramps (even on very
stormy days) are largely dissipated in mechanical slack and in
bouncing the trailer, and what's left over isn't enough to overcome
the friction and generator cogging in the mechanism. Here's a movie
clip from my last test:
The batteries are being delayed for another
reason: I've found, and am figuring out details of implementing, a
better chemistry that promises almost three times the energy storage
of Ni-MH from almost the same chemicals!
And increasingly with warmer weather my attention
has been directed towards making lumber from logs on an electric
sawmill I designed and made a couple of years ago, hoping to make ends
meet with some specialty lumber sales. ("V.I. Exotic
Technology Implementation Editorial
The Electric HubcapTM Drive
Turquoise Motor Controller
Site C Peace River Hydro versus Vancouver Island Wave
I'm not sensing much potential commercial interest
in my work. If I still find none here when the designs are ready, I'll
post them on the web with full details for anyone in the world to use
rather than see my work go to waste. The Turquoise Energy MPMG
is already up as a fabulous stand-alone electrical generator that
anyone can make even at home, with the comment that it might make a
great electric car motor, the idea I have since been pursuing.
Do we want to lead the world with these sorts of
technologies, or import them from China in a few years? As long as
inventors and product developers like myself with a track record of
"world's firsts" and "world's bests" fall through
the cracks and are left to fend for ourselves while glossy "pie
in the sky" projects merit awards, bursaries, R & D money and
investment capital, it seems to me western civilization is
handicapping itself. I have never seen our society so reluctant to
entertain and invest in promising, practical looking new ideas,
engines that can drive real change, while, for example, China, India
and others seem to be forging ahead. I think if the computer
revolution was starting out today, no one would take much notice and
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would end up working in some obscure jobs
Everybody seems to be waiting for somebody else to
deliver new solutions to our increasingly serious energy problems,
while those with resources draw up all the plans and budgets to
further the status quo without reference to things that could easily
alter the whole picture if they were encouraged.
For example, ocean wave power could be as big as
river hydro, yet it can start at a very modest scale and be deployed
as needed at perhaps half the capital cost per KWH. Why then the big,
well organized push for the six billion dollar "all or nothing"
site C dam megaproject and no organized effort to harness the wave
power that crashes in continuously from the open Pacific on our wild
island west coast? If we as a society gave it any priority, serious
wave power sites would be on line in two years.
The R & D budget to get it happening could be
one percent of the almost a billion dollars now being spent simply to
upgrade power lines to Vancouver Island.
I could be wrong, but I expect if people were
proposing such things in China, people in authority would be latching
on to them and prudently putting some resources into them, and
factories would be ready to go as soon as the product is producable.
As it is, if once I put the designs on the web, with the lack of
interest here it's entirely possible we'll be importing the finished
products - car plug-in hybrid kits, axial flux electrical motors and
generators, better batteries and wave power machines - and whole
electric cars - from China in a few years. Then western industry will
be left to play catch-up, much like the North American auto industry
vis a vis Japan's.
It is nowhere written that the west has a monopoly
on being at the forefront of progress. Prudence is wise and new ideas
need to be tested, but we need to dare, to err and to progress,
starting within those prudent limits. As a plumber once said to me,
"The only people who never make mistakes are the ones who never
do anything." With our massive resistance toward most any real
change we seem to be losing our place at the forefront of thought and
development in religion, philosophy, governmental and industrial
organization and culture.
HubcapTM Drive Motor
The first electric hubcap was mounted on the car in
April, but testing awaited completion of the solid state motor
controller and batteries. The awaited controller parts (high-spec
power MOSFET driver transistors) arrived in late May and I was able to
finish the controller a few days ago.
Although it hasn't run properly yet, testing at low
voltage shows a surprising energy, expressed as very strong vibration,
and I have little doubt that one motor will be enough to run the car.
The reasons for a second motor on the opposite wheel, then, are: to
balance the thrust, improve and balance the dynamic braking, provide
more traction when it's slippery... and to make the car a real
With the controller in with the motor on the wheel,
all that needs to be mounted inside the car is the dash control panel,
an electric windshield defogger/heater fan (perhaps built into the
dash panel in a production version), and the batteries, which I hope
will either be even smaller and lighter than seemed possible a month
ago, (less than the previous "size of a spare tire") or, by
added capacity, will be good for 100+ Km driving range instead of
30-40 Km. (When the batteries die you have to switch to the regular
gas engine to continue driving.)
The motor doesn't stick out as far as the rear
view mirror. Among other jobs, it really needs the Electric Hubcap
-> Power to Go -> label put on! Though above the wheel rim,
it seems surprisingly low to the ground and I can see some care will
be needed parallel parking at curbs. I'll put on some coil springs
fore and aft that make a noise when they rub, a device once popular
around 1960 as I recall.
Electric Hubcap Motor Factoids:
- The motor per se has no moving parts: only the car's wheel
- The frictionless magnetic link magnifies useful power by
transmitting it all directly to the wheel. It requires no gear
shifting or other attention by the driver, and is virtually
- The RPM with 13 inch wheels is about 10 per one kilometer per
hour of speed, that is, 450 RPM at 45 Km/Hour. Most electric motors
prefer much higher speeds, but the "Hubcap" has good low RPM
torque and power. 120 Km/hour is just 1200 RPM, a stately pace for
most electric motors but a good high end range for the
- There are no connections with or changes to the car's existing
mechanical components and systems.
- When not in use, the motor has no more effect on the car than
any other 40 pounds of luggage.
- The motor sticks out just 4" from the wheel, less
protrusion than the outside rear view mirror.
- A tachometer coil and an IC temperature sensor (AD590) are
built in to ascertain actual speed and to warn of any
- It's air cooled. I have a vague idea it will get pretty hot
driving a car up a mountain. I have an idea for "porous"
polyester casting to improve the stator's internal cooling, that I
hope to try out on the second motor.
- The rotor is a 10 inch steel disk with 12 NIB supermagnets. The
stator, cast in polyester, has 9 coils of 60 turns in 3 phase "Y"
configuration. Magnetic flux is axial.
- A unique design breakthrough is that the stator iron is strips
of nail gun finishing nails in the coil cores. Without even an axle,
it is simple enough to make at home, or the coils could be wound by
machine and just set into place for the casting, for super economical
The six 200 volt, 65 amps power MOSFET transistors
having finally arrived, I've put together the solid state controller
that converts the DC power of the battery into variable frequency AC
power, on a PWB mounted in a chassis made from sheet aluminum and a
couple of nice aluminum heat sinks that have been in my garage for -
um - 30 years. Although I'm a BCIT Electronics Technologist who once
designed and built whole computers, this is my first circuit
design/electronics project in a couple of decades.
In my first few tests, it hasn't turned the (jacked
up) wheel properly. I've been slowly weeding out possible causes one
by one: mistake in the controller wiring? motor coil wired backwards?
other mistake in the motor? no... no... no...
Hopefully I'll have it running in a few days. Then
it will just need properly installing, the batteries, and of course
the logo on the motor housing, to run the car.
The motor controller: a gruelling saga of
measuring, figuring out what to make and how to lay it out so stray
inductance wouldn't fry everything, operating heat would escape and
the heavy #10 power wires wouldn't shred the delicate electronics
during assembly, trips back and forth to stores (often just for a
couple of "trivial" forgotten parts), hours to make a few
chassis holes (mostly owing to threading taps breaking off in the
holes), and finally many hours slaving over a hot soldering
Above it is the cover for the driver's dash
panel, with the main Forward-Off-Reverse switch. A Gas
Engine On-Off switch needs to be added, with the whole unit
powered from the ignition key. Conveniently, one can roughly track the
battery charge simply with the trip odometer, but I'll probably add a
couple of overheat warning lights. Two switches, two warning lights,
and a potentiometer under the gas pedal... I can't think how to make
it much simpler.
How It Works:
The DC power from the battery is converted to variable frequency
three phase AC power, on three power wires that go to the motor to
create a variable speed rotating magnetic field in the stator, the
motionless part of the motor. That field rotates the magnet rotor on
the wheel and hence the wheel. The frequency is controlled by pressing
on (what else?) the "gas" pedal.
Increasing the frequency above the wheel's current speed
(pressing farther) causes acceleration and the motor uses energy from
the battery. Conversely, a lower frequency (letting the pedal up)
causes deceleration, dynamic braking, which generates energy, which
goes back into the batteries.
Frequency will go from 2Hz (2 Km/hour) to 120. At low
frequencies, pulse width to the motor is limited, to eliminate the
current overload otherwise associated with motors at low speeds.
While checking some chemistry details, I happened across a very
intestesting electrochemical redox reaction of lanthanum: La(OH)3 +
3e- <===> La + 3OH- (-2.90 volts).
This reaction complements the usual nickel hydroxide/oxyhydroxide
reaction of the positive terminal, and I had to ask myself "If
lanthanum can produce -2.9 volts chemically and the reaction fits, why
use it in a hydrogen storage alloy at just -.83 volts?"
The fairly similar cell would be about 3.45 volts instead of 1.35
volts (or nominally say 3.25 versus 1.2), and should have roughly the
same amp hours, so 2.7 times as much energy from the same cell!
Correspondingly fewer cells would be needed to attain a given
Electrolyte components to make the reaction work are evidently
potassium chloride and MEK or (probably better) ethanal. I tried it
with one battery and saw it charge up to voltages almost to 3
A major challenge to utilizing such reactions is that water
dissociates above about 2 volts, preventing a number of otherwise good
chemistries from working. My battery rather quickly discharged itself,
and didn't get up to 3.45.
(Lithium cells, which provide 3 or more volts, use non-water
based electrolytes, which are intrinsically slower for high power
applications such as automotive uses, but don't have the 2 volt
problem.) I think a voltage "ramp" can be created across the
electrode separator so that the difference seen by the water at any
given point is too small to dissociate it. For now I'm trying ferric
oxide as the "ramping agent".
If successful, it will mean batteries 1/3 the size, weight and
cost of Ni-MH, and 1/10th the size of lead-acid with way more recharge
cycles, for about the same price. I think it's well worth exploring,
but of course the new chemistry is going to take longer to get going
and may hold unexpected surprises.
Even the old chemistry has unexpected surprises: One reads of
nickel hydroxide as the positive battery electrode material. Delving
deeper, one finds there's two types, alpha and beta. These convert
into two types of nickel oxyhydroxide, gamma and beta. The alpha-gamma
has the more energy, but the gamma doesn't convert back well because
it's almost an electrical insulator, where the desired beta reaction
is electrically reversible because beta nickel oxyhydroxide is
Of course, I just bought "nickel hydroxide powder"
without reference to such fine details, and it seems the chemically
made powder is as much alpha as beta. It seems one can convert it
chemically to mostly beta, by oxidizing it with bleach and then
reducing it again with hydrogen peroxide, in an alkaline environment.
Site C Peace River
Vancouver Island Wave
Here is a quick economic calculation:
- 6.6 G$
||Floods valuable land
||2.2 - 3.2 G$
Site C: floods a large area. It's an all or nothing and high
finance project: it won't make any electricity until it's done. Safe,
reliable and low maintenance once completed.
Wave Power: Consists of floating units just offshore (900 MW in a
single line would occupy major lengths of the stormy west coast),
power poles with multiple equipment boxes attached, at regular
intervals (eg, one per kilometer) along the deployed coastline and
cables under the shore into the sea. It can be done incrementally as
required - each individual shore installation, supporting 10 to 25
floating generators, should cost a few million dollars and soon begin
producing power and revenue. Higher maintenance cost, and floating
units are subject to possible occasional damage in exceptional storms.
(With ferrocement and foam "starfish" or other unflippable,
unsinkable units, maintenance is minimized and damage should usually
be repairable.) Complementary to river hydro: power from rough seas
(on stormy days when power demand is likely to be highest) will allow
saving of river water for calm days.