I spent most of 2012 on the road interviewing engineers. Here are five of the coolest stories.
In the middle of it, someone emailed me, asking "Isn't it like
watching grass grow?" She was referring to three days of
methodically tearing apart a 2012 Chevrolet Volt as part of our
Drive for Innovation teardown series.
It was quite the opposite. In fact it went really fast.
We had skidded to an icy stop at Munro & Associates outside
Detroit in early January. Cold, doesn't begin to describe the
temperature, but we got a warm reception from Sandy Munro, his wife
and his Chief Teardown God, Al Steier. We set the car in Sandy's
cavernous shop, cluttered with equipment, and broken-up hulks of
cars, trucks and planes and had it prepped for three days of
These guys do automotive teardown analysis for a living so it was
second hand, in, in 2007, we had used Steier as our CTG for a Toyota
Prius analysis at Embedded Systems Conference.
What we found was amazing and we've laid it all out in text,
powerpoints and video on our teardown sub-section. But
the most amusing part of the three days came after day 2, when
Steier and team had dropped the 370V LiOn battery out of the Volt's
Roz Cooperman, the flamboyant woman hired to run the time lapse
photography, gathered with the team to check out the battery. She
began conceiving shots of the battery teardown that would occur the
next day. In theatrical fashion, Roz started pointing animatedly to
this part of the battery and that, her many bracelets and rings
clinking and swinging dangerously close to the cells.
"Roz, don't get so close," Steier said quietly. Roz ignored him for
the longest time until Steier said more forcefully, "Roz, suit
yourself, but I will see you on the other side long after you fry
Later, Munro told a story about working decades ago in a Canadian
power plant. An arrogant manager one day ignore safety protocol in
the battery room and poof... all that was left of him was an ankle
bone protuding from a smoldering shoe and his wedding ring.
Here's what Steier
and John Scott-Thomas of TechInsights learned in their teardown