Friday, August 10, 2012

Back from the mother ship

...well at least the dealer-ship.

So, the Starship Red Carmeleon had another trip to see its friends at Fisker of Vancouver (a.k.a. The BWM Store).  As usual, the reception and customer care was top-notch, consolidating my view that this is the best after-sales service I've ever experienced from a brand car dealership/franchise.  

I opted for a loaner car this time rather than using their shuttle service, the latter being typically great after drop-off but not necessarily so good at the end of the day when it can be difficult to coordinate where/when to get collected in my experience.  Nevertheless, I'll probably not bother with a 'loaner' next time due to it frankly being a bit of a faff - though I admit that to be a very subjective thing:

First you line up to see the loan controller, then they want the insurance documents out of your car (cue having to cross the dealership to get them), then they take your driver details and check your home address, then they print a contract and have you sign it, then they charge you $500 deposit, then you go to inspect the car (in this case a nice new 3 series BMW).  I was anticipating an classic 'courtesy car' situation where they might check your license and then you drive off.  This was basically a rental car with a $0 rate.  Maybe there's a reason for this (tax code, accounting write-offs...?), but it's certainly not as friendly as a courtesy vehicle fleet.  So, probably back to shuttles next time.

Anyway, prior to this visit I had made a small list of things to be checked/fixed:

  • The infamous Check Engine Light had made a brief appearance in a new flashing form when the periodic ICE conditioning run had occurred recently.  The engine probable hadn't been started for a good month so I put it down to it operating slightly outside of normal parameters as it 'blew out the cobwebs'.  After having sat in the garage overnight, it behaved fine when I attempted to manually start it the next day (Sports mode), so this was clearly a transient issue, but obviously something to get checked.
  • The passenger-side windscreen washer was not functioning.  No fluid was dispensed when the washer pump was run (though plenty of fluid came out on the driver's side).
  • The front wheels had started making a ticking noise when traveling at low speed under steering.  This was most noticeable in a parking garage while negotiating the ramps.  I had noticed other owners posting that this was a known issue and easily rectified.
  • The front grill seemed a little loose (easily displaced backward into the body with finger) on one side.
  • The trunk lid had been bugging me for a while though it being possible to physically close it perfectly satisfactorily only to find the 'trunk open' warning light lit when you entered the cabin and turned on the ignition.
I also knew there was a firmware patch available, so fully anticipated an upgrade.

All these items were dealt with and the patch was performed according to the service report, which was informative and interesting to read as usual.   I noticed the firmware upgrade right away as this update has replaced the analogue clock in the centre of the dash with a digital speedometer.  I like the speedometer, which was previously only available in Sport mode, though to be honest I would really have like a simple way to toggle between these displays.  I'm not sure if there's a way to bring back the clock if you want it - but I'll spend a bit of time looking.  

A couple of the other fixes will need some time to verify: the clicking wheels are apparently fixed with a different torque setting (of something... the wheel nuts?), while the trunk latching mechanism was adjusted/realigned, so we'll see if the sensor now agrees with the latch as to the physical state of the lid!

The windscreen washer problem was apparently due to a kinked hose under the windscreen cowl (actually that cowl was replaced in a prior visit, so maybe it was then that it got kinked, although it had worked fine for some time after that). 

The front grill had apparently needed some fastening clips replacing on that one side.  I'm not sure whether these were missing, were loose/fatigued or had broken, but in any case it supposedly now has new ones.
So once again, everything is (star)ship-shaped and Bristol fashion.

The car was also washed and polished up nicely, though to be honest it had only been a week since it had had a full clean and work-up so there wasn't a great deal of cleaning to do.
Actually, the only slight grumble I would have about the service this time was the very obvious oily hand print on the inside door handle when I got back in the vehicle to drive away.  Unfortunately the cabin appointments in the Karma are a light taupe suede (the "Earth" style) which is all too easy to visibly soil. I can imagine the mechanic, while making adjustments to the trunk latching mechanism, would have returned to the cabin a few times to press the trunk release button... but never mind, no real harm done.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wheel clicking

The Red Carmeleon continues to run well and be a pleasure to drive.

Recently however, I have noticed a clicking sound if the wheel is turned a fair amount and the car is in motion.  This occurs daily as I negotiate the turns in the parkade close to the office.  It isn't really audible inside the car because the Karma cabin is wonderfully insulated from external noise, but if the window is open then it's quite apparent.

I was just thinking that I'd mention this when the car is in for its next checkup, but I've just read that others have been experiencing a similar issue.  Apparently the problem is easy to redress.  So, if the next week isn't looking too busy I might see about getting it in for a correction.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

iPhone app for the Karma

Sorry, I don't have one... but wouldn't that be cool?

Along the same lines as my experiments with the Raspberry Pi, there are lot of interesting data you could get from the car (and indeed the attached charger, assuming it doesn't also send data to the car while charging, which would be even cooler).

Ignoring the really geeky low level metrics, some of the obvious things that would be fun to know are:
  • How many different routes (beginning and ending location pairs) have I travelled in the car?
  • Metrics for each route... average, min, max of: distance, time, cost (electric + gas), electric usage, regenerative braking, temperature, ICE usage, fuel burned. 
  • Charge-to-charge stats (as above, but all activity between charges)
I'm sure Fisker have more pressing issues to deal with, but supporting common devices with apps would be very cool.  Even cooler though, would be to provide an API for developers to access a wealth of information over the USB and bluetooth.  Then developers could go nuts and provide a variety of different tools and user experiences for accessing and using this sort of information.

One of the trendy things happening in consumer computing these days is "gamification".  This is the provision of certain metrics with goals and rewards designed to incent the user to improve some performance.  It is used in fitness, budgeting and finance and other areas where users want to set themselves objectives and measure their improvement.  Gamification taps into some basic psychology - apparently we are quite motivated to beat targets and enjoy some kind of reward for doing so... even it seems when these rewards are exceptionally abstract, even entirely virtual!

Some of the new EVs reaching the market have a very simple in-dash gamification using some simple graphic to indicate how economically the car is being driven.  So far these have included a green 'eco ball' that most be floated up and maintained at a particular level by driving economically (gentle acceleration and braking, basically) and in another vehicle some animated butterflies that appear when the drive is similarly efficient.   Frankly, I'm not a big fan of such in-dash frippery - I really like the modern, elegant styling of the Karma dash and instrumentation (though a few display options would be nice).  However, if the vehicle's operating metrics are available for application developers to access, then we can have a range of analysis tools and gamification options available.

I notice that the Ford Motor Company seems to have embraced "the car as a platform" in just this way.  This seems both useful and exciting, though I don't have any first hand experience with the features they are promoting.  Hopefully the experience is as good as their marketing suggests, and not just gimmicky.

If my plans for extracting Karma data (such as it is available via the OBD-2 port) come to fruition, then I'll probably have a bash at writing an iPhone/iPad app myself, being fairly versant in such things.  One step at a time though...

Monday, July 9, 2012

A piece of homemade raspberry pi

Hurrah!  My (first) Raspberry Pi system-on-a-chip little computer is here.

These things are selling like hot cakes (half a million sold so far, as I understand it).  They have practically been 'unobtainium' due to the demand and the distributors have had to limit orders through a system of registration and invitation.  This isn't the first little 'full featured' ARM-based computer, and there are more new designs and products popping up now to compete, but the Raspberry Pi somehow managed to go 'viral' (as viral as such a geeky thing will ever get) because of three things I think:
  • The people behind it and their stated vision
  • The really small size, but completeness of the hardware spec
  • The really low price
The Raspberry Pi foundation was created to somehow get back to those simpler days of computing when kids could catch the computer bug and experiment with both hardware and software, learning how to program and how to make computers do interesting things like controlling equipment, lights, heaters, making sounds and music, reacting to noises and speech etc.  The Raspberry Pi in fact is supposed to be a similar low-cost, adaptable, platform for experimentation that my generation had in the eighties though the amazing genesis and evolution of 8-bit home computers.   Moreover, the Raspberry Pi hearkens back to a particular British 8-bit microcomputer wonder called the BBC Micro that was specified, designed purposefully for the BBC's computer literacy project in the early eighties and built by a company called Acorn.  This computer was delivered in "Model A" and "Model B" variants, which is exactly what the makers of the Raspberry Pi have also chosen to name their two versions (Model A being slightly simpler and cheaper).

The BBC Micro was truly a breathtaking product in its day.  The geniuses that specified what this computer would be, were so focused on creating a general, highly-adaptable and extensible system that they created a legend.  The only problem with the high-spec of the machine was that it was relatively expensive.  I remember lusting after it, but my allowance (we called it "pocket money") was nowhere near enough to afford the £399 (if I remember right) that was the asking price for a "B".  I had to make do with the £129 Sinclair Spectrum (marketed as a "Timex" over here, and not very effectively by all accounts, given the stiff competition).

The Spectrum was an everyman's machine and probably had the success it did precisely because of my demographic and our lack of disposable income!  While it was a great little machine, the BBC towered over it in sophistication and sheer potential.  These days, I have a BBC Master (the 'version 2' of the BBC Model B) on a desk, not far from where I'm writing this... just for nostalgia really, but also because it's STILL an experimentor's dream.  No other computer I've ever seen has had so many simple hardware interfaces and such great system software to access them.  The Raspberry Pi is indeed an attempt to recreate this in modern times. 

One other little factoid that connects the Raspberry Pi (and that phone you own, and your iPad if you have one, and probably your TV, car and a myriad other devices in your life) is that the Raspberry Pi uses the ARM processor.  Most people know that their PCs use Intel processors.  These chips started out simple enough in the early 70s, but Intel has basically been adding layer after layer of complexity ever since.  While these CPUs give our desktop computers sheer brute force processing power, they consume a vast amount of power to do this and they generate massive amounts of waste heat.  The ARM processor started out with a vision of power with simplicity and has stayed very true to this vision ever since.  Besides being technically able to deliver adequate processing power for less power and heat, which make the chip far more appropriate for small electronic devices, ARM also has a completely different business model: they don't make the chips themselves, but rather they license their designs to companies that make chips.  This combination has created an explosive growth of the technology - it's in practically every device other than desktop computers.  Intel have had major attempts to disrupt this pattern, but so far have not succeeded.

What many people do not know is that ARM started life as a proprietary CPU for a next-generation BBC Micro.  ARM actually stood for "Acorn RISC Machine" (RISC itself being the acronym of "Reduced Instruction Set Computer", the technical approach for limiting the design complexity of a processor).  ARM was a major investment and amazingly visionary for what was still a small household computer manufacturer.  Eventually, Acorn built an amazing new computer around it called the Acorn Archimedes.  Unfortunately, as it so often the case with grand product designs, the computer made it to market too late to dominate, and some highly capable 16-bit machines were appearing from the American market (the Atari ST and Amiga 500).  So, the Archimedes gradually faded into obscurity, along with Acorn the computer maker... but ARM was spun off and did kinda take over the world.  That's also a familiar business story... sometimes the biggest visions win, but not for their original founders.

The BBC Master in my office has gone full circle.  The sheer flexibility of these machines has meant that many have been discovered in the new millennium, still controlling pumping stations or collecting and sending data to other computers.  My computer now sports a completely modern solid state disk, which its 1980's disk operating system handles with aplomb.  However, the other major upgrade inside the case is loaded with gravitas.  The BBC was always designed to support plug-in alternative CPUs.  Back in the day, there were products to add Z80s and even Intel chips as additional processors (the native 6502 process was amazingly designed to retreat into the background as an I/O coprocessor in this eventuality!).  Today, my BBC Master proudly incorporates a modern ARM daughter card.  

Of course, this is supposed to be a blog about a new kind of car.  While it's a bit of a diversion to get into computers, the connection of course is that I intend to host my Raspberry Pi in my Karma.   In a way there's another, albeit more philosophical connection.  The Karma is a BBC Micro kind of product: innovative, slightly ahead of its time, erudite.  It's a risk by some brilliant people on a brand new, flexible, technical platform.  For me, it certainly feels avant garde - exciting to own and be a part of.  Hopefully though the Karma will succeed on its own merits, as its unlikely there's anything like the equivalent of Fisker's "ARM" lurking in the mix.

So, I've assembled all the major components I need to start building out my little in-car data processor.  The internet connectivity is already in place, thanks to the Rogers LTE adapter.  I now have the main pieces to access vehicle data and run software:

The last essential piece will be an 802.11 wifi adapter so the Raspberry Pi can join the OBD Key's ad hoc wifi network to obtain vehicle telemetry (while also connecting to the WAN via LTE).

I have just started playing with the card, by booting it up (the SD card shown has been loaded with one of the available Linux builds specialised for the Raspberry Pi).  Lots of fun to be had in the near future as I learn and experiment more.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scratches, splashes and crowds

This weekend was a beauty here in Vancouver, BC.

We finally got some summer.  Hopefully it has arrived for 'good' now.  It's horribly late, even by Vancouver standards, or perhaps more accurately I should say that we had no spring this year, so seeing any sun at all is horribly late.  In a way we seem to have leaped from winter to summer almost overnight.  That means I'm completely white still, but suddenly accosted with a UV index over 8!

Summer has resulted in the impetus to clean the car so she looks her best, and also the need to use the windscreen washer to clear the inevitable bug splattage.  Both of these activities have resulted in discoveries.

First, I discovered scratches on the hood.  These weren't bad and clearly hadn't stood out egregiously, but they were definite scratches through the clear coat and into the paint proper.  They are localized and by their number, orientation and distribution you can see exactly how they were caused.  Someone at the dealership who was tasked with cleaning the vehicle, while it was on display at the dealership, clearly picked up a rag that had been used for rather less genteel purposes, or dropped their wash rag on the ground.  They then took a few good strokes at 'cleaning' or 'polishing' the hood, nicely rubbing some grit into the paintwork in the process.

Of course, once you've spotted these things, you can't take your eye off them (well at least while your vehicle is under a few years old!).  Consequently, I had to find some way to affect a fix.  With some trepidation I bought a couple of scratch repair kits from a local automotive products outlet.  It's quite clear that most of these products are based on the principle of fine abrasives to dull scratches... though some also provide a clear coat touch-up compound too.  I decided to start with the simpler system, which is basically a tube of toothpaste-like material (and of course performs much the same function).  Working this into the scratches did make a noticeable difference to the definition and visibility of the actual scratches, which was encouraging, so I continued until I thought I'd achieved a sufficient effect.   You then remove the residual paste, and it was then that you could see the unintended consequences for the larger areas over which I had been applying my "circular motions".  This whole area had a noticeably duller appearance and appeared to have a whitish sheen.  It was quite noticeable in sunlight and the area reflected direct light quite differently.

Naturally, one fears the worst on such occasions, but I had figured that there was at least a chance that this effect was mostly down to product residue that wasn't easily removed with a cloth.  Failing this, then it might be a microscopic scoring of the clear coat from the abrasive that changed the lustre of what is an exceedingly deep metallic style paint on the Karma.  I figured that the best approach was a full-system clean and wax.  Consequently I trotted back off to the purveyor of car beauty wares and acquired Autoglym's deep cleaner, polish and waxing products.  I figured the cleaner might remove any residue (if that was the issue) and the polish, which is an even finer abrasive, could probably restore an even lustre and shine if the paint surface was the actual problem.  Wax would be the icing on the cake, so to speak.

You can't apply these products onto hot bodywork in direct sunshine, so I had to wait until late afternoon when the sun had dipped behind the mountain forest.  I then applied the cleanser and polished the whole hood after that, with particular vigour on the scratched and denatured area.  The end result is practically miraculous.  You _can_ still see the scratches, but you really do have to look hard now.  I suspect that another round or two of the Autoglym treatment after subsequent washes will continue to improve things.  In the meantime, the hood is gleaming incredibly.  That stuff does what it says on the tin.  It's tempting to do the whole car one day for an all-over effect.

Onto the windshield washer topic.  The Karma has a simple system compared to must cars I have ever owned, except maybe my Pontiac Bonneville from around 2000.  Rather than having through the hood liquid deliver to spray nozzles (which are often heated in luxury cars), the Karma has tubes to deliver washer fluid to the midpoints of the wipers.  Clearly, this system has some advantages in distributing washer fluid over the windscreen, however probably also freezes up much more readily and given the mechanical stresses of the tubes and how they have to be clipped onto the wiper blades, I wonder if the system is as robust and reliable.  Anyway, in point of fact, the right hand wiper seems to no longer be delivering any fluid today.  Given that I'm getting fluid from the left hand (drivers-side) wiper, which is of course the most important, it's not a critical issue.  I am however going to have to investigate.

I assume there's only one washer fluid pump, so there's probably a blockage or airlock preventing the fluid from reaching the right wiper.  Anyway... we'll see.

Finally, another bit of Karma people-magnet fun.  On both occasions that I have driven the Karma to the aforementioned automotive products superstore I have arrived back at the car after paying for my swag to find a small crowd of people gathered around it.  Today was no exception and had the biggest crowd yet (I'd only been in the store under 10 minutes!).  Perhaps it was the incredibly bright sunshine glinting off the sparkly bodywork, or maybe the eye-catching roof (which does seem to be a factor in grabbing initial attention).  Either way there was a crowd and they had questions as soon as it was obvious I was the owner:

  • What is this vehicle?  Never heard of it.
  • Does the solar roof really work?
  • How far can you go?  
  • Is it as fast as it looks?
  • How does it accelerate with that electric motor?
  • Are they selling these in Vancouver?
While we were talking more people were parking up and heading over... it was like some kind of impromptu auto show in the sun.  

Aside from the obvious issues with being found out doing this, Fisker or their dealerships should seriously pay to have people drive their cars into the middle of auto-retailers parking lots on sunny days.  The attention the car was getting all on its own was insane!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

AM radio defective?

I have already commented about the AM radio being apparently defective on this blog.

I habitually listen to the local AM news radio channel on my commute to/from work and it didn't take me long to determine that the AM radio reception on this channel was far worse than in my old Audi.

This was one of the first pieces of feedback to the Fisker dealership and on the first return to the dealership for new firmware I had them check the radio.  The story was that the AM reception was as good as other vehicles they tried (including BMWs) and in any case the radio was operating as designed.

For most of my drive the AM station I listen to is adequately received, but frankly reception drops to practically nothing when I get into the downtown core.  It's definitely a continued annoyance.

Recently, a post on the FiskerBuzz forums caught my eye.  The poster was asking whether anyone else had poor AM radio reception.  Naturally, I replied in the affirmative.  Alarmingly, one other response indicated that in his case a dealer had specifically indicated that the AM radio was essentially inoperable by design when he took delivery of his vehicle.  The suggestion (at least) was that a suitable AM antenna was never installed.

That's a bit of a shocker, if true.  It could certainly explain my experience.  If the front end of the receiver is having to work with nothing more that the minimal signal from an unconnected antenna, or some minimal circuit/connector acting as an internal antenna, then I could well believe it wouldn't pick anything up that wasn't a booming direct signal.

Obviously, it begs the question as to whether there will be any remediation of this defect, whether it's by design or a manufacturing oversight.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things it's not critical, but as people have said before, when you're shelling out for an expensive luxury car you kind of expect all the basic features to work reasonably and then you'd hope for many things to exceed mere 'average'.

As I'm still enjoying the Karma as much or more than I've ever enjoyed any automobile I'm finding it fairly easy to forgive non-critical issues... and the company and dealership are still keeping me happy with the post-sales treatment in general.  I would eventually quite like a working AM radio though!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mini car show met Vancouver's weather

Well so much for the car show.  Vancouver's late spring weather put pay to that.

I suspect it will be rescheduled for a later date though.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini car show and Raspberry Pi

I've been invited to take part in a mini car show on Sunday - another example of the organic interest that the Karma produces.  I think the weather will be less than hoped-for (d'oh), but hopefully not actually raining.  Currently the forecast is for mixed sun/cloud with occasional showers.  Naturally, I'd like to have the time (and weather) for a quick wash and polish before then.

In other news, my Raspberry Pi is allegedly on its way from the UK.  I wasn't prepared to pay for expedited shipping, so it'll probably need to be lost behind a sofa or somewhere for a few weeks before they finally get it to me.  Should be fun to start seriously planning what I can make it do in the Red Carmeleon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Karma a magnet for interest

I've had a huge amount of interest in the Karma since I've had it.  Guys at work have asked to visit the car, neighbours have come over to have a 'tour'.  At least three people have said they were going to actively do more research or visit the showroom to take a closer look.  That's to say nothing about the number of people who turn their heads (and then bodies) to stare as the Red Carmeleon drives past.  A least a dozen people (that I've seen) have been quick on the draw with their camera phones while I've been stopped at red lights too.

Most people express that their reasons for being interested is the electric propulsion, but they also know that there are other choices in the Nissan Leaf, Chevvy Volt, Ford Focus and others appearing all the time now.  I think it's the combination of electric vehicle and the epic looks that create an interesting intersection here.  If so, then I think that bodes well for the Fisker Atlantic... if this can be offered in the market at an attractive price point.  It's still a little crazy how much premium we have to pay to get electric over an ICE, but I suppose that's just the nature of things this side of the 'chasm' on the adoption curve - all the vendors are still paying down their R&D costs and what higher margins per unit.

By the way, the "epic looks" include the car's interior.  This is universally acclaimed by those visitors who have actually sat in the car.  As it did for me, the interior of the car really impresses with its luxury appointments, overall style and many other little details.  Especially on first contact, the cabin is an overload of graceful lines and colours and I think it's different to most vehicles in feeling upholstered throughout (at least in the EchoChic).  This makes the car feel much more comfy and lounge-like.  More than one visitor also commented on the welcome chimes and startup animations in the dash, which all adds up to a great impression.

From those that have actually ridden in the car, there have been expressions of cabin and ride comfort and comments about the quietness of the vehicle.  The latter is obviously helped by the total quiet of the electric propulsion, but I think the aforementioned "upholstery" makes a difference too in the cabin, and I'm sure the battery compartment also serves as a baffle.

Looks like my in-home charger rebate has gone through.  As noted in a prior post, I was a little unsure if I had covered all the bases in terms of the required paperwork, mostly because the Californian online vendor from whom I purchased the charger doesn't provide a full invoice with letterhead, logo and a bunch of items spelled out as required in the rebate application form.  Nevertheless, it appears that what I have submitted (including an email thread where the vendor says they don't have any other official sales document) has been sufficient for the BC government.  So, hopefully a cheque is now forthcoming.

I continue to really enjoy my Karma every day for my work commute.  I still have 90% of the delivery fuel left in the tank.  As I habitually never exceed the electric range of the vehicle, the only fuel usage has been a few blasts in Sports mode along the highway when I've taken the car out for a fun evening drive, and the few times that the car's management software has decided that its time to run the ICE for a bit.

It's actually a bit of a shock when the engine is started automatically in order to burn a little fuel and condition the engine.  This tends to happen when you've just entered the vehicle and hit the power button - an event that normally has absolutely no physical feedback whatsoever, as you're normally just energizing some circuits for the electric drive.  However, I've noticed that when the engine has not been used for a week or two, it starts with a bit more of a 'lurch', which torques the car a bit causing it to roll slightly on the suspension.  When you're not expecting anything, this feels like a mini-earthquake as the car shudders.  The first time it did this, I thought something had bumped the car, or (in the parkade) that someone most have shut their car door particularly vigourously.  Of course, then you hear the engine running and it's obvious what's happened.   It might be nice if there was a little icon or something on the dash that indicated that the engine was started (or even better, about to be started) for 'maintenance'. Otherwise, there is no indicator at all that the vehicle is in this mode - and the way the engine runs seems to be different to what it does in Sports mode.  I'm not sure what this programmed engine run is supposed to achieve before it is considered to have done its job, but it is normally turned off again by the time I've driven a dozen blocks down the road.  Perhaps it's just a timed thing (e.g. run the engine at and optimum RPM for 5 minutes a month), or maybe they sample telemetry that indicates whether fuel burn, air intake, exhaust gases etc. are nominal.  As usual, as a geek I'd love to know the answers to these questions out of pure curiosity, but I guess they'll remain a mystery.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trim replaced and more on "carpet formers"

I had to postpone the trip in to Fisker of Vancouver by a day, but today the car was in for about 40 mins having its dodgy window trim replaced and supposedly new "carpet formers".

The service was excellent as usual... friendly, professional, organized.  The trim was replaced in less than half an hour while I enjoyed coffee and breakfast pastries.

The remaining time was apparently an attempt to locate the guy responsible for the carpet formers.  Apparently what this is all about is that the initial shipment of floor mats from Fisker were all black.  I had some black ones installed on delivery of the vehicle.  However, apparently the intention was to have more colour coordinated mats and these have since been shipped from California and received at the dealership.    This was all somewhat moot today as the organizer of the mats wasn't locatable right away once the trim had been fixed, but frankly there's also the simple question as to whether I wouldn't prefer to keep the current black ones.  Black actually works quite nicely with the earth (tan) interior.  Moreover, black is probably rather better at hiding mud and stains that are par for the course with vehicle floor mats.  I suppose I'm curious as to exactly what colour mats I'm supposed to have and maybe if this was a darker colour I might like it.  However, black is far from a bad choice.

Apparently the next firmware installment (2.6?) is being readied for deployment, so it will perhaps not be too long before the next jaunt in to have another little upgrade.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Space Dock

Starship Red Cameleon is in space dock on Tuesday for the window trim replacement and to have some "carpet formers" fitted.

As this point I have no idea what a "carpet former" actually is, or why I would want one.  I guess I'll find out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Still no CEL, the next Town Hall meeting

The check engine light has stayed off since the last patch, which is great.

I understand that the most likely reason for an error condition causing it to light was in fact the opening of a door while the vehicle was in its charging cycle.  This is almost certainly the cause of the light in my case, as having just received the vehicle I had all sorts of people wanting to take a look at it while it was parked and charging - not to mention my own forays into the car in order to experiment with and configure the preferences/settings.

Anyway, this is allegedly what was fixed in the last patch that was applied recently to my Karma and I have certainly had cause to enter the car while it was charging since then without seeing the return of the CEL.  So it certainly looks like that's the end of that.

In other news, I have signed up for my first Fisker Town Hall meeting (webinar) since I acquired the vehicle, so that should be interesting.  The meeting is at 1pm (PST) tomorrow (Wednesday 23rd May).  Hopefully I'll be able to listen to at least the first half before my work itinerary interrupts.  I hope they provide lots of juicy info on the continuing development of the Karma... we'll see.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plans for onboard computer

Some more info on what I plan to do with a little onboard computer.

The next-generation, 'starshippy', feel to the Karma inspired me to think about what I could do to get the car connected to the internet and have both location and operational data streamed to the car's own monitoring software and web page.

The centre console provides the perfect little cache for the equipment in the vehicle.  It's almost the ideal size to accommodate a small single-board computer, a LTE wifi bridge and any additional power or signal adapters that might be required.  The console cubby is supplied with 12v, a USB port and the audio aux-in port.  The cubby is lined with a soft material clearly designed to protect the equipment that you're supposed to connect to these interfaces (flash drives, iPods, iPhones etc.).

My basic plan is as follows:
  • Obtain operational vehicle data via a small wireless OBD2 adapter (there are wifi and bluetooth versions of these things available).
  • Obtain internet connectivity via an LTE/wifi bridge.  Power this from the 12v outlet.
  • Acquire a Raspberry Pi single board computer, running Linux.  Power this from the 12v outlet or USB
  • When the vehicle is on, collect a stream of interesting OBD2 telemetry, buffer and then send to a collector hosted on my home server. 
  • Read incoming SMS messages into the LTE/wifi bridge and apply text-to-speech into the audio-aux.
  • Read traffic news/info and announce this in the car via speech synthesis when the car is started
  • Track GPS from the OBD2 (if available) or the LTE/wifi bridge (though I doubt it can fix satellites in the console cubby).  Send this to the home server.
  • Accept messages from the home server and read them out in the car
  • On the home server, implement a web site (I want to learn the Yesod framework for Haskell, so that's a useful intersection) that shows vehicle location and stats and allows messages to be queued for sending to the car.
  • If the charging station produces interesting data, integrate that with the vehicle data.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Charging station

My Eaton charging station arrived yesterday from California.

It doesn't seem to be packed with much padding, so hopefully it has made it through the rigors of logistics without something breaking.  In particular, the actual charging unit itself is just resting on the bottom of the shipping box.

This unit was what the Fisker dealership in Vancouver recommended and indeed helped to order.  It does seem to be semi-official as it is branded "Fisker Automotive".

The supplier was (via the Yahoo! store).

The next step is to find a domestic electrical contractor to install this.  Hopefully that won't cost and arm and a leg (maybe just an arm!).  I'll probably get them to install a few 220V outlets in the garage while they're at it.

I now get to find out if British Columbia's rebate scheme for EV charging stations actually pays out.  This is supposed to refund $500 on the cost of a domestic recharging station.  They seem to be using it partly to find out who is installing the equipment (address and electricity account!).  You have to be installing a charger model on an approved list, for charging a vehicle that's on another approved list.  You need to supply copies of the charger invoice and the vehicle transfer document.  I'm actually not quite in possession of the right invoice at the moment as the order was made via Yahoo and the only receipt I got was an email that didn't include the supplier name/address/phone number etc. that the invoice is mandated to have.  Hopefully the evconnect folks can supply a more righteous invoice for my rebate application needs!

Also, they're just rolling out electrical smart meters in our area right now, which I believe will eventually have the ability to network with specific loads/equipment to get a breakdown of electricity usage - and maybe even allow controlled consumption times.  I doubt these chargers are ready for this yet, but I imagine all this is coming.  You can imagine the electricity companies having schemes to control when different residences' EV charging occurs overnight, offering discounted rates in exchange for this control - so they can better manage the demand on the grid.  I've seen discussion on a UK forum about washing machines, dishwashers and other sundry household appliances all being fitted with the requisite controllers to enable this kind of remote controlled operation.

Hopefully all this extra electric equipment and the radio communications to link it all up doesn't adversely affect one of my hobbies: being a radio amateur.  I haven't noticed anything untoward yet, but I'll have to undertake a survey of the HF bands when the Karma is charging (soon, on the 220V system).  Hopefully there's nothing nasty propagated in RF, or indeed back through the household supply.

I've noticed that the Eaton charger has an RS232 port for outputting diagnostics.  Should be fun to plug a terminal into that, when its all installed, to see what sort of output it produces.  Maybe I'll integrate this data with my planned Red Carmeleon web page.  The latter should show vehicle travel and stats - once I've figured how to source all the data and have received my Raspberry Pi (just ordered!).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chrome window trim - quick update

Fisker of Vancouver are attempting to source a new window trim piece following my discovery and report of the minor bubbling of a small section of the trim beneath the front passenger window.

No news yet on my #2 rough-edge, namely the texture corruption on the touchscreen if you change screens.  Possibly that will simply be fixed and rolled into a new software patch at some point in the future.  I read today that there's another patch on its way already, but I would be surprised if that included a fix for this issue unless they had already been working on it.  I hope there's a way to get the 'release notes' for future patches, but maybe that requires talking in person to a friendly mechanic or service advisor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trunk warning light, window surround chrome

Couple of new issues for this post, albeit minor.

First, I have noticed that the trunk needs a hefty bit of force to both latch it and avoid finding the trunk open light illuminated when you get back to the vehicle.  On quite a few occasions now, I have apparently closed the trunk lid (it latches, looks and stays closed), only to find the warning light on.  Another go at closing the lid invariably fixes it.

Last time I had a sedan (a Lexus GS), the trunk had a pull down latch, so there was literally zero force required to close the trunk effectively.  I'm fine with the less advanced latch, but this odd condition where the lid appears closed, but the sensor shows otherwise, will need to be watched.  It might be that the sensor is miscalibrated or aligned, or maybe the lid can latch in some safe, but not completely closed manner.  I doubt this, but I'll try to take a good look next time this happens.  Either way, the Karma (or at least my Karma) currently requires a surprising amount of lid velocity/force to get it closed and latched correctly at the moment.

I could be persuaded that this force is by design and I would adjust my habits accordingly (suspending disbelief that the amount of force could actually damage the latch or something!).  However, the closed-but-not-quite-enough condition is a bit suspicious.

Secondly, over the last weekend, while taking a few more snaps of the car, I happened to notice that the front passenger door's chrome window surround has some hairline scratches/fractures, some of which had started to bubble slightly.

Look closely and you can see fine lines/cracks running vertically along this section of the window surround
Another angle, showing the bubbles that are developing from the cracks

I think this issue is limited to this one part.  I'm not sure how such an aberration can develop, nor exactly what the material is underneath the chrome finish here.  However, I would imagine that if the material is plastic then there's a good chance that flexing the part after manufacture (such as during installation) might create the hairline cracks, which I would imagine are a precursor to the bubbling.

As far as I could tell, the issue was very localized, but I need to do a really close inspection of all the chrome pieces sometime.

I have already contacted Fisker of Vancouver, and they responded quickly.  Looks like I'll get the Karma in for them to take a proper look sometime soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

No CEL, great ride, fun economy games

Well, it has been a while since the last patch and I can thankfully confirm that the CEL has stayed distinctly OFF.  I have tried cycling between Sport and Stealth mode at various points during a drive, without provoking it at all.

The Red Carmeleon is my regular commute ride and I really look forward to the drive to and from work each day.  Fisker have done a stellar job in making the cabin a very pleasant place to be.   The ride is so quiet and smooth but the car is a distinctly capable performer.

Cornering is actually amazing.  The Karma has the poise and 'on rails' sensation that the R8 had.

While it can't compare to the R8 in terms of overall 0-60, it takes off at a nice pace, thanks to all that torque, and in Sports mode it definitely feels quick.  The other definite thing you notice is the continuous surge of power, with no gear changes punctuating the acceleration.   The R8 was not fitted with a dual clutch, so gear changes under real power were a little rough.

I really like the feel of the suspension in the Karma.  Maybe I was ready for a change from the bone rattling R8 (even when not in sports mode!).  The ride is damped enough for comfort, but you can still feel road.  I can't discern any roll, but there is a little pitch with hard braking.

One of the fun things about having an electric car with the inevitable range gauges, regenerative braking and an indicator for energy flow is that you can play little games with the indicated measures.  I'm really not a fan of all the little graphical trinkets that I've seen appearing in other EVs (green glowing balls, blooming flowers and butterflies!) to motivate you to drive economically.  However, on a regular commute you tend to get an idea of how many indicated 'electric km' it takes to do the journey - so inevitably there's a sense of how any give drive compares to the average or personal best.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A few more miscellaneous photos

A few other photos, highlighting some design details and also some fun shots.

Side exhausts

Karma door sills
Lots of geometry


Yao Ming's eye view 
Unique proportions

Built in hotplates for cooking ;-) 
The 'coy' look

Those diamond details

More diamonds

Very bright reversing light (for camera) and rear speaker

Reversing light

Low-ish profile Eagle F1s

Nothing untoward in the neighbourhood spotted from here 
Photon capturing Fisker logo

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More Karma, er... pr0n (Cabin)

Everyone knows what to expect from the interior of a starship.  Fisker delivers...

Rear passenger comfort
"Earth" colour scheme

Two-tone interplay

Rear centre console

Parcel shelf speaker set 

Oooh... art

The inside curves

No trees were harmed in the making of this wood(!)

The office

Starship control (asleep)

Comfortable pilot's seat

Front console controls - and more leafy artwork

Pilot's office again

Detailing on the door pillar

Front cabin vista (Passenger) I

Front cabin vista (Passenger) II

Front cabin vista (Pilot) I

Front cabin vista (Pilot) II

Eject button with calming artwork

Pilot's hatch

More Karma, er... pr0n (External)

Some more eye candy, thanks to the realization of Henrik Fisker's pen strokes (and team, I'm sure).

These are more external shots, I'll post some cabin shots separately.

Gateway to the soul

Cat's eyes
Proud brand

No yellow-eye removal on my camera


The ever-popular hind quarters

Yet more curves 
All that sparkles... is glass

So much light-play
Iridescence - variations on the theme of red 

Paintwork with depth

A riot of more curves
Starship bow

Fender/wing depending on your tradition

Illuminated quarter panel (rear wing)

Curve Cornucopia
Abundance of wheel for the body to wrap around

The Light of Horus

EVer, so nice