Craig’s Blog

What is wrong with Craig?

When my dream of opening Van Batenburg’s Garage (VBG) back in 1977 was realized, I was a 26 years old. So much has changed and so have I, but my desire to make my way in the business world hasn’t. For those of you that have trained with me, you may have heard this story.

My minister, Rev. Aaron Payson, gave a great sermon a few years ago. He explained to the congregation that sometimes you will meet someone that you just can’t understand and maybe don’t like.  It is not uncommon to say under your breathe “What is wrong with that person?” Aaron suggested that that is the wrong question. “What happened to you?” is much more informative.  With that in mind let me explain what happened to me.

CVB ChopperIn the fall of 1972 I was “voluntold” that I was going to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to Honda school for a week as the Civic was coming to America. I was a Honda motorcycle mechanic and I was not too thrilled with the idea of hoods and fenders in the way but I went. Something about payments on my Toyota Hi-Lux and an apartment.

What happened to me changed my awareness in a way that set me on this road for life. Honda had invented a unique cylinder head design called the CVCC. See my previous blogs for more on this. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created that year and the automotive industry was either fighting the new regulations (guess who) or designing engines to comply. Honda was doing the latter.

At Honda school, the first four hours on the first day, had nothing to do with the Civic. We all went back to science class and learned about HC, CO and NOx. We saw pictures of smog in Los Angeles and smoking tail pipes. We learned about lung disease and asthma. We were told about the EPA and what was coming. It wasn’t pretty. The job was in front of us was clear; clean up the air. I drank the cool-aid and never looked back.

Honda was “the leader” back then in compliance and innovation when the CVCC engine made its debut. It made an impact on me. Technology doesn’t have to be bad for the planet. Two years later VBG opened up and we specialized in Honda for 26 years.

When the Honda Insight hybrid went on sale that 21 year old kid (now 50 years old) bought the first one sold in Massachusetts (still have it). Cars got a lot cleaner and safer (unfortunately the drivers did not) and my passion for a cleaner planet never died. Today, it is about reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Honda is responsible for me (and a lot of others) in seeing a brighter, better and cleaner world where cars (and motorcycles) are not burning fossil fuels but charging up on sunlight. Honda had a dream and shared it with me over 40 years ago. We still have a lot of work to do.

So that is what happened to me. Now you know “What is wrong with you Craig?”

 

When a Customer Sues a Repair Shop

Sometimes you do something in business that can’t be repeated or duplicated but the story lives on just because it was so unique. At Van Batenburg’s Garage such a story happened. A woman brought in her car and it had, as we say, “hit everything but the lottery”. We xshopput it up on the lift and assessed the car. It had problems. I asked the woman for a $500 authorization knowing the work would be at least that much. She signed on the dotted line and left. Once the car was apart and diagnosed, the estimate was a lot of money. The woman was hysterical and verbally abusive on the phone when given the estimate. So I said bring me $500 cash, we’ll put your car back together, call a tow truck, and get it off my property. She brought the $500 in cash, caused a scene, the car left on the hook.

The registered letter arrived and she was suing me for the $1,000. No surprise there. I offered her $500 to get her to go away. She wanted $1,000. Off to court. I put on my suit and we meet in small claims mediation. It’s unpleasant, as many of you know. I had decided that I was going to give her the $500 back because she was expensive trouble. The thought of it made me nauseous as our shop had done our job. The mediator asked if I was prepared to refund the $500. In that moment I had a brilliant idea. I said “I will do better than that, I’ll make it $1000 but the check must be written to the customer’s favorite charity.”

And so it was.  Months later one of our A+ customers was in dropping his car off. He was a lawyer.  He said WOW what you did was great.  I was perplexed and returned a blank stare.  He said, “you know about the charity check deal with that woman”.  Oh! I said, Thanks!  He said, “sometimes a good story just has a life of it’s own.”

She never got a penny of my shop’s money but some poor kids had clothes and a meal. I had a tax deduction. She has meet her match.

Craig Van Batenburg

April 2016 .. What dangers do lithium-ion batteries pose?

Here is an Interview with a Battery Engineer 

??????????????

Chevy Volt Li-ion Pack opened up

What dangers do lithium-ion batteries pose?

You can get six times the energy density in a lithium battery that you can in a lead-acid battery and two or three times as much as in a nickel-metal hydride battery. Any time you pack more energy into a smaller space, your safety concerns go up. All the lithium-ion systems being tested right now use an electrolyte that is flammable, so one of the safety issues that we are very concerned about is how these electrolytes can burn when the cells have been ruptured. They can also be heated to the point where the electrolytes break down into gases that the cells vent.

What kinds of abuse tests do you perform on the batteries to simulate real-world scenarios?
One of the mechanical-failure scenarios we test is a crush. We’ll take a fully charged cell or a full pack and put it into a hydraulic fixture where we slowly crush the entire pack at a very controlled rate. We have temperature sensors all around the pack and real-time gas analysis to monitor the gases coming out of the cell. We test for flammability by using spark sources around the room to ignite the gases. Sandia also has a radiant-heat test facility where we can take a full battery pack, put it inside a system surrounded by quartz lamps and heat the pack to 932 F in about 60 seconds to simulate the entire pack being suddenly engulfed in flames.

Does your research suggest lithium-ion batteries are safe for cars?
Well, that’s a difficult question, because no one has defined what safe means. The energies that can be released are certainly less of a concern than driving with 20 or 30 gallons of gasoline. Are there scenarios in which the battery may get into an accident or an environment that causes it to burn? Yes, it can burn, but you’re not driving around in a bomb. There are some significant advances going on right now that are making these much safer to use.

Craig’s Note. The above article was sent to us. If you know the author we will post it.

 

March 2016 … Hybrids, Utah and Baby Boomers

Hybrids, Utah and Baby Boomers

Shirley C. Van Batenburg

Shirley C. Van Batenburg

I was born 5 years after WWII along with lots of other people. I grew up in Ogden, Utah and yes I went to a Mormon Church. My Father, Raymond, was a Navy man for 10 plus years and loved cars, mostly Fords. I grew up with a 57 T-bird, a 40s Continental, tan 63’ Galaxie 500 and many other cool cars. Van Batenburg‘s Auto Sales was on Washington Boulevard and I spent my time there as a kid. My Mother, Shirley Caroline Finacom was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and was an East Coast girl. The two of them had six kids, I was sandwiched in the middle. They have both passed away but left me with some valuable lessons. Here are a few things this “Baby Boomer” learned from Ray and Shirley.

1. Push your chair in after you get up from the table.
2. It takes just as long to do it right as it does to do it wrong.
3. It is OK to buy some else’s used clothes.
4. Drive a 4 cylinder car. That is all you need.
5. Go to Church
6. Vote
7. Vets have defended our “freedom of speech”, so speak up.
8. Take care of your grandparents.
9. Take a young person into your home if they are homeless.
10. Keep your car clean.
11. Homework before TV
12. Play Music, Sing and Dance.
13. Bring your friends home to meet your parents.
14. Get out into the woods and enjoy nature.
15. Wear a seatbelt.
I have has many young interns in the last year and I have come to realize that they want more than to learn how to fix a hybrid. They want to learn the lesson above and many more. I hope they enjoy learning as much as I enjoy their discoveries. Running your own business is so much more than making a profit. It is always the people that give it meaning.

February 2016 …. Foster Kids and your Shop

Some Special 17 year olds are looking for a role model.

If you have been involved with auto service (and all the related fields) for any amount of time, finding and keeping good help is always near the top of the list. When I travel and present classes around our great country, I included a slide that speaks to the plight of American foster children. First the chilling numbers. Over ½ million American kids have been removed from their homes for their own safety. Once their parents get their problems under control, their kids can return to a safe and loving home. About 130,000 have had gone through this process but the family is so broken they are removed permanently from their homes and are in need for new families. 29,000 of these kids will never get adopted and will age out of the foster care system at eighteen without being attached to a family of their own. Those are the facts, as sad as they are. Each year it gets worse. You can help. Boys in foster homes over 10 years old have few chances of having a forever family.

famil

The Van Batenburg Family Reunion in 1997. Mike is on the bike.

When Deb and I found out in 1992 that we could not conceive our own children, we were sad, mad, frustrated and lost. After some real soul searching and an education in all types of adoption, it was clear to us there were kids in our area that really needed parents, a home, love, family, discipline, and a future. We didn’t need to go outside the USA to help a child find a home, there were plenty right here.

At the same time Deb and I were working at Van Batenburg’s Garage and preparing a home for what would be two foster/adoptions. Michael was first at age 5. We took him in as our own, adopted Mike and started our family. Will was next at age 15. Now the boys are 30 and 24. Mike is doing well after some very rough times. Will still has lots of issues. It was more than worth it. We didn’t need baby pictures; we just wanted to be parents. Deb and I knew we could do a good job.

At Van Batenburg’s Garage, Mike and Will helped with trash, cleaned up, worked on company vehicles, and did some paper work. Recently Mike and I are working on a 2008 Honda Civic. Working with my sons added more than just a cleaner shop. It helped them learn, helped them develop skills they will need to succeed in the real world, a not so nice place at times. Both of my sons know how tough the world can be and learned at much too young of an age. What they need now is to learn survival and success skills. Fixing cars can do that.

I have an idea. You have been dealing with bad behaviors for a long time. You already know what to do keep young people in line. With the shortage of help at your shop and foster kids needing a home, why not learn more about these teenagers that live in your town, visit with them and offer them a job, a future and maybe even a home. There is more to life than work. Why not make your career a place for foster kids too? What to know more check out FAAT CATS.

Craig Van Batenburg

Christmas, Interns and Puerto Rico

Auto Air Parts in Puerto Rico

Auto Air Parts in Puerto Rico

I just got back to my office after a 2 week vacation, a Birthday and classes in Puerto Rico. What a great month so far. Climate change is keeping things warmer in Massachusetts than normal. The forecast is 60 F (15c) for Christmas. Normal is about 30F (Oc). ACDC had a record breaking year. All the associates at ACDC are doing well. The training center is getting a lot of use. More equipment, a Toyota Camry Hybrid was added recently and we are building lift fixtures for removing EV batteries. One of the best new things at ACDC is our intern program. 10 college students from Holland and the USA spent 6 to 8 weeks at ACDC. Our office is also a home for two students. Pairs of bright young automotive grads (2 to 4 years of college) lived and breathed hybrid and EV technology. No one wanted to go home but now they are much better equipped with some real world lessons.
December 20 is also the birthday of Deb and Van Batenburg’s Garage. I won’t mention the year Deb was born (hint: same as me) but I started my shop in the twentieth of December 1977. 38 years ago. I have lived in the same house for 30, married to Deb for 26 but ACDC (Formerly VBG) has been a rock for me. I have been blessed to work in an industry that keeps me thinking. ACDC has younger people here that keep us all young. Deb is awesome and adds the glue here. I see myself as the “Techie” with a vision of a better planet. And without you, our customers, none of us at ACDC would have the jobs we have. Thanks for your business over the years.
Merry Christmas, whether you are Christian or not, it is a great time of year.

November is National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and thousands of American teenagers sit in foster homes believing no one cares and guess what, they are right. OK, they don’t care enough. How much is enough? Enough to set aside your selfish ways and do something absolutely crazy. Adopt a teenager. That is how much. Nothing else will do, not your money or a visit at Christmas. Not an expensive present, not a lovely letter. These things are OK but after being moved from home to home and everyone that ever helped them was getting paid it is hard to believe in love. The Beatles believed in love but foster teenagers don’t. It is too painful for them.
Deb and I adopted Mike at age 6. He lives in Worcester so I will try not to embarrass him anymore than any father would. We learned a lot about foster kids from Mike and that made us aware of all the Wills out there. Will become our son legally two days before his 18th birthday, but he was ours the day we met him in 1998 and I have never been the same since. I have more patience than before and I have learned how many young men just want a Mom and a Bad, especially a father at that age. Single parent, sure. Gay? Why not.
So, are you tough enough? Loving enough? Secure enough with who you are? It really takes commitment of that “unreasonable type” that

FAAT CATS helps Foster Teenagers find homes and a life

FAAT CATS helps Foster Teenagers find homes and a life

long lasting marriages are made from. This work is not for sissies. It is not for macho men. It is for those that know they can always do more, do better and have something to offer. If that is you go to www.faatcats.org and get in touch. I can help.

Craig Van Batenburg

October 2015 …VW, Diesels and EVs

Let's talk about this over a cup of coffee

Let’s talk about this over a cup of coffee

The “Emissions Defeat Device” was stupid and another case of engineers that can’t accept that fact that oil (Diesel or Gasoline) has no long term future. Someone posted a picture of a Tesla with a caption; “The Entire Car is an “Emissions Defeat Device” ”. The fact is internal combustion is inefficient and dirty. The sooner we stop building oil burning motor vehicles, the better.

Consumers vote with their money all the time (even in elections!) but in the case of cars, today’s cheap liquid fuel say; “Oh! Boy, let’s buy a pick-up with an extra set of doors and call it the family sedan. Weird trunk, poor handling and crappy fuel economy, but heck, let the good times roll”. How long will 2 bucks a gallon last? Who knows? Does it really matter? The new gas guzzlers we buy today will still be driven after the first owner moves onto their next car of truck. Does a new Nissan Leaf owner leave behind a mess for someone else? They will actually help the next owner as an affordable EV will be available at the used car lot in a few years.

Electrical grid production in America is getting cleaner rapidly. More solar on roof tops and fields, wind in the right places and some new smaller hydro. EV sales in September were pretty good with the BMW i3 selling at a very fast pace. Tesla seems to get it right with every step forward. The new Chevy Volt looks great and more range with the Nissan Leaf. Plug-in hybrids are popular. A new 55mpg Prius with rumored AWD as an option.

How does one help a new car buyer see the future impact of their choice? As the owner of a Volt and Leaf I loan out these two cars every chance I get. Getting involved with the EV community and talking to those that will listen will help. Used EVs are cheap right now. Go to CARS.com and look up the prices. Some EV (Mitsubishi i-MiEV) are under 10K.

This will be a long slog. Change never comes easy. We love our big car and trucks, but we will get there. It really is important that we do.

VW has helped the cause a lot. Now the average driver will know that their diesels are dirty and even the mighty VW engineers couldn’t make it clean enough for the USA so they resorted to cheating. They have been cheating since 2008. This German drama will continue to play out behind the scenes and in the media. Electric cars don’t need any help with illegal software, they just need owners to fall in love with them. Those owners of EV I know are having a lot affair and I am one of them. What about you?

August and September … Relaxing

Mike and Craig Celebrating Mikes Marriage

Mike and Craig Celebrating Mikes Marriage

Who said you were not replaceable?

October 9, 1971 was the day my Father died. He was 50 years old and a Lincoln Continental went out of control in the Utah Mountains. It is a day I will never forget, I was 20 years old. My mother raised six children alone. March 31, 2005 was the day my Mother died. I was scheduled to teach a MACS class that night in Boston. Peter Orlando filed in at the last minute; I held my dying Mothers hand. She passed away at 7:05pm. Class was 35 minutes into its course material.

Are you where you need to be? If you are from my generation you have seen a lot change, but family is still family. I attended a funeral for a friend recently. Dale was 50. He had 3 kids and a wife, Jen. Brought me right back to October 9th. A few days later I ran into a shop owner while we were both on vacation at a Museum. They had an outdoor bar so we met up at 4:30 for a drink. It was Mike’s 29th wedding anniversary that day. We did not talk much about shop things. We was an “Up Your Voltage” graduate but even hybrids held little interest to us. It was kids and grandkids. His son was running the shop. I suggested he not call in. I am not sure Mike took my advice, but it was a good 30 minute visit. Deb reminded me he also gave $1,000 to FAAT CATS a few years back when business was booming. Good people. As the summer (in the Northern hemisphere) winds down it is these moments I will remember and cherish. Sure I love these new cars and all the benefits that they create and yes a new EV is an exciting day for me, but not everyone. Family is a topic that most of us enjoy, even when some family members make it tough at times, we just have to love them and practice “Grace”.  You won’t be here forever so do the best you can for those you love.

That’s enough heart, I must go back to work.

June and July 2015 …. Busy Times

electric-cars-or-gasoline-carsIt had been a busy six months and the next six are booked. Why is ACDC so in demand when gas prices are staying relatively low and sales of EMVs are flat? If all you know about the world of high voltage cars and trucks are the headlines then the real story is not getting out. Here is ACDC take on the future of electrified motor vehicles.
Climate change gasses continue to climb, especially CO2. Wars are being fought over oil and US Forces are deployed in areas of the world that any disruption of the oil supply would be bad for America. Our money is still going overseas to buy barrels of oil as we waste that resource driving gas guzzlers back and forth to work without thinking of the wider impact. On the other side Neil Young is touring around the country singing songs to get the baby boomers back in line. He is driving a gas/electric retro Cadillac. In Massachusetts (My home state) there are enough Fast Chargers so that my Nissan Leaf is now a usable family car. Solar panel farms are growing so that we can shut down our largest coal fired power plant in Somerset. Our new Governor (a Republican) put 3,000,000 dollars into a rebate program for EVs and added to the $7,500 of Federal tax credit, a tax payer can buy a new EV (Smart EV) for $10,000 new, battery not included. Level II chargers (known as EVSE) have come down in price (from $1,000 to under $500). The used car market has many off lease EMVs for sale and it is a buyer’s market so many people that could not afford a new EMV can buy a used one. Fracked gas in Massachusetts is under close examination. Wind power is growing at a faster rate than any other new form of electrical power.

16 years ago I was a shop owner and ACDC was a year old. I heard about a hybrid coming to America made by Honda. The Prius had been on sale in Japan for 2 years. Less than two decades ago the only real choice we had to drive was an oil burner, either gas or diesel. Today, we can all move away from that if we want to. Why would you not want to?