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teardowns are a common part of the engineering cycle. Rarely are teardowns performed by the manufacturers (or at
least not made public) since the truth is, they would prefer that nobody know how they do things. I don't blame
them for not wanting their materials and methods known since a lot of money is invested in the process that leads
to the end product. Fortunately for the rest of us, there is no law against performing and publicizing teardowns.
I have a confession: I spent six years doing teardowns of competitors' products at my last job. Electrical
parametric testing including RF performance and even ESD survival levels, identification of components used and
estimating costs, x-raying and decapping IC packages, and even sanding down LTCC substrates layer-by-layer to
determine construction of distributed and buried element values, generating schematics of ICs and complete
assemblies, then writing sometimes extensive reports was my daily routine. It was the best job I've ever had as an
engineer. So, when I see teardown reports and, in this case, a teardown video, my interest piques.
video, a team of Avnet-sponsored
Drive for Innovation engineers and technicians
completely disassemble a Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle. The time-lapse video compresses a couple full days of
work into a little under 5 minutes. It is both instructive and entertaining to watch. The two main features that
struck me are the amount of stuff crammed into the engineless "engine" compartment, and the fortress-like welded
aluminum case that contains the battery packs. Some people have made a big deal over having so much energy stored
in those lithium batteries in case of a collision, but it pales in comparison to the energy stored in a gasoline
tank. That is part of the problem, though - not much energy storage compared to the equivalent volume and weight
As I have said so many times, I would love to have an electric car for around-town driving,
but there is no way I can justify the cost even with the rest of you (taxpayers) subsidizing $7,000 of the cost.
course, teardowns on cars and trucks is nothing new. Companies like Chilton and Haynes have been publishing the
ultimate teardown manuals for decades. If you have ever done your own maintenance, chances are that you have owned
at least one. Exploded parts diagrams and scores of photographs document every detail of how the vehicle is
assembled from bumper-to-bumper and axel-to-headliner. Come to think of it, Avnet might be able to sell their
documentation to Chilton or Haynes to save them work when it comes time to produce their own.
1964½-67 Mustangs represented in these manuals had a nasty problem that would make even unprotected lithium
batteries look tame - the gas tanks were installed in the trunk without any barrier between it and the passenger
except the rear seat. Many people were doused with gasoline and died of severe burns in otherwise survivable