Product 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.
In this 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 of gasoline.
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.
BTW, the 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 wrecks.
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