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Why does an electric car needs so many more chips than an IC car?


TheVat
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I guess this is sort of an engineering question.  I read in the Washington Post today about how the semiconductor chip shortage will hinder Biden's plans to have 50% of all new vehicles be electric by 2030.  As I was reading the section below, something jumped out at me....

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“We will not hit those goals if Congress does not quickly pass the Chips Act,” Raimondo said. “We are wasting time, precious time, every day that the Chips Act isn’t passed and appropriated in Congress.”

Probably the car you drive now has hundreds of chips. The [electric vehicle] that we want you to buy over time has two thousand chips,” Raimondo added in her speech to the Detroit Economic Club. Other countries have subsidized semiconductor manufacturing for years and the United States must, too, she added.

 

“China, Taiwan, the E.U., other countries all around the world, they are not waiting. They are incentivizing and subsidizing the production of chips right now, and they have been for a long time,” Raimondo said.

Two thousand chips??  I seem to be missing something here.  The amount of systems that need control in an IC engine would seem to me to be greater than with the electric car which is, in its mechanical essence, considerably simpler.  (this is one reason why electrics are touted as bringing an era of far less vehicle maintenance and longer road life).  Basically, you have an electric motor that turns a wheel, maybe two motors, one on each drive wheel.  So you need something to control the speed of the motor(s) and coordinate a differential rate of rotation on turns (what I think has been called "an electronic differential").  And you need to check your battery charge.  That's about it.  You do NOT need to regulate fuel mixture, coolant functions, exhaust gases, oxygen intake, firing timing, and myriad other complexities that come with our attempts to have efficient use of gasoline and long engine life as we ride a coordinated series of explosions down the road.

Are we making the new electric cars overly complex?  Giving the driver too much information?  Over-engineering?  Just curious.  

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33 minutes ago, TheVat said:

Basically, you have an electric motor that turns a wheel, maybe two motors, one on each drive wheel.  So you need something to control the speed of the motor(s) and coordinate a differential rate of rotation on turns (what I think has been called "an electronic differential").  And you need to check your battery charge

But you have a lot of battery cells/modules, probably each with a voltage, current and temperature sensor, which are chips. Plus the battery management system.  

 

 

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No computer chips are necessary, for any kind of car.

Electric cars went just fine before there was such a thing as a microchip.

And so did gasoline and steam-powered cars.

And they lasted longer.

1 hour ago, TheVat said:

Are we making the new electric cars overly complex?

We're making everything overly complex.  And, of course, the more components something has, the more things break down. Design it so that no mechnic can get at the defective component without throwing away three still functioning components, and the consumer discovers that it's cheaper to replace the whole car [printer, washing machine, coffee maker, whatever] than try to fix the old one. 

 

1 hour ago, StringJunky said:

I guess bells and whistles is what sells.

Especially if the manufacturer doesn't make a quiet model available. 

And that provokes a question: Are the manufacturers responding to customer demand when they add yet another frill, wrinkle or convenience (with a corresponding price increase)(plus tax, shipping fees and insurance premium) or is the customer trained, through constant, intensive exposure, to expect all those complicated extras? 

This crisis in chip supply is a grand opportunity for a maverick car-maker to produce a pared-down, economical model, so we can see if it's competitive.

Edited by Peterkin
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49 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

No computer chips are necessary, for any kind of car.

Electric cars went just fine before there was such a thing as a microchip.

And so did gasoline and steam-powered cars.

And they lasted longer.

And got what, 10 miles per gallon? Plus a top speed of 30 miles/hour and, as a bonus, were not very safe!

 

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38 minutes ago, swansont said:

And got what, 10 miles per gallon?

25, for the motorwagon, which is not terrible for 1886, though the thing would have been uncomfortable to ride on. The electric ones were better.  And quiet.

Also, I should think at 30mph, anything is safer than at 80mph.

No, the gas-hoggery came much later, with the big V8 engines. Granted, these whales on wheels could go way faster than the speed limit, but they had super tough chassis and skin, and many of them are still on the road.  Still no chips, though.

And then, for a little while, some car makers went sane again.

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Computers are a convenience, not a necessity. Something becomes available, then becomes fashionable, then becomes indispensable -- until it becomes unaffordable, undesirable or unobtainable, whereupon we discover that we can manage without it again. Like cigarettes.

Good design, efficient engineering, well maintained roads and conscientious drivers are all that's really needed.

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I expect manufacturing and distribution will get over it's current problems and there won't be any enduring chip shortages due to growth of EV usage. Or other growing uses; I look around this desk - laptop, mouse, router, guitar tuner, phone (that can have a guitar tuner app). Thermometers, pH meter, clock... Demand is too strong and growing and microprocessor manufacturing is an innovative industry with opportunities..

They may not be absolutely essential (except for all those uses that aren't really possible without them) but they are the best and/or least cost way (and often most reliable) to do so many things that not making use of them seems foolish.

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The bells and whistles are a consumer expectation maybe??  I am reminded of 2001 when I bought a b rand new 2001 Camaro for only $16,000.  For some reason the factory built a model with no bells and whistles.  Nice 5 speed manual transmission, 3.8 liter high output V6 that could go like ____ (0-70 mph and still only in third gear).  But, no remote locks (manual only), manual windows, only a cassette tape radio, manual antenna, manual adjusting seats.  It was just sitting on the lot because nobody wanted to buy it.

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19 minutes ago, OldChemE said:

The bells and whistles are a consumer expectation maybe??

They are now. Before they were invented, nobody complained. Once a new thing - gizmo, convenience, extra little perk - becomes available, the people willing and able to do so pay extra for them. Then the manufacturers, hoping to charge more for all their products, spend a fortune of advertising that links these perks to the perception of success, and the people (usually staring with youngish middle-management) who want to be successful and try very hard to appear successful, buy whatever pricey product a celebrity is endorsing.

When enough people buy it, the manufacturers can lower the price (still above the previous price, but not beyond to average buyer's credit limit) and in a few more years, make some of the desirable features standard - so the buyer no longer gets the option of not having it. For the next model, then, they have to come up with a new 'extra' for the elite wannabes, until that becomes standard.... The consumer is so used to having his gimme buttons pushed, he doesn't even notice.

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9 hours ago, Peterkin said:

We're making everything overly complex.  And, of course, the more components something has, the more things break down.

Do you have any data to support that claim? I ask because when I was a kid through young adulthood I remember cars breaking down regularly, not starting, and being ready for the junk pile by the time they hit 100,000 miles. The biggest issue I can think of with my past several vehicles is a light that went out on display, and all those I got rid of still ran fine when sold with over 150K miles on the odometer.

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8 hours ago, swansont said:

Plus a top speed of 30 miles/hour and, as a bonus, were not very safe!

The urban driving speed in my country is currently 50 km/h, which is only +5 km/h more than 30 miles/hour. Who uses an electric car for longer trips when when you can't easily find plugs/unsure they are in place where you want to go.. ?

ps. Many such speed regulations make no sense and have no real impact on road safety.. They are pushed by politicians who have no idea what they are doing, to pretend that they are doing something..

 

 

9 hours ago, swansont said:

as a bonus, were not very safe!

 

7 hours ago, Peterkin said:

The electric ones were better. 

Electric cars, thanks to the energy stored in their batteries (which is good, if everything is OK), burn like they are "made of paper" after even a basic accident..

 

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10 minutes ago, Sensei said:

Electric cars, thanks to the energy stored in their batteries (which is good, if everything is OK), burn like they are "made of paper" after even a basic accident.

Did they, in 1907? Because those are the ones I was referring to, as compared to the gas-powered cars of the same period. Don't know anything about the new ones, except they seem to be beset with all manner of problems. And i do suspect they're as overcomplicated as everything else now.

28 minutes ago, zapatos said:

Do you have any data to support that claim?

I had a longer post that somehow got lost. The short answer is, No, not at the ready. I don't recall any breakdowns from my youth. (Flat tires, yes! Usually at night, in the rain. I don't miss those.) One VW that needed a lot of coaxing in cold weather, and later, a diesel Olds that was a complete dud.  The oldest car of my acquaintance was a 1947 Plymouth that my father bought in 1957 and had for many years. Built like a tank, made me seasick and guzzled like crazy - but gas was cheap then. The best car of my youth was a 1961 Renault and of my adulthood, a 1984 Toyota pickup (I loved that little red truck!) That would have been a toss-up with the Hyundai Excel hatchback, but for the damn catalytic converter - a complication.  

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6 hours ago, Sensei said:

The urban driving speed in my country is currently 50 km/h, which is only +5 km/h more than 30 miles/hour. Who uses an electric car for longer trips when when you can't easily find plugs/unsure they are in place where you want to go.. ?

There are people that do, and more will do so as infrastructure is put into place. To view this another way, nobody will if the infrastructure isn't there, and then you will limit adoption of EVs.

13 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Computers are a convenience, not a necessity.

Only if you view minimizing gas consumption and safety as conveniences.

13 hours ago, Peterkin said:

25, for the motorwagon, which is not terrible for 1886, though the thing would have been uncomfortable to ride on. The electric ones were better.  And quiet.

Also, I should think at 30mph, anything is safer than at 80mph.

That would be one way of forcing the US to expand rail and mass transit, I suppose, but our system is built on being able to drive from point A to point B, and much of that at speeds faster than 30 mph. And we have lots of vehicles that get much better than 25 mpg.

6 hours ago, zapatos said:

Do you have any data to support that claim? I ask because when I was a kid through young adulthood I remember cars breaking down regularly, not starting, and being ready for the junk pile by the time they hit 100,000 miles. The biggest issue I can think of with my past several vehicles is a light that went out on display, and all those I got rid of still ran fine when sold with over 150K miles on the odometer.

Same here; especially living where it snowed in the winter - cars would rust because they had steel everywhere, and it got attacked by the salt.

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19 hours ago, TheVat said:

Two thousand chips??

Are we making the new electric cars overly complex?  Giving the driver too much information?  Over-engineering? 

 

To return to the topic of the thread,

Let me see,

2 headlights, 2 sidelights, 2 fog lights, 2 reversing light, 2 brake lights, 2 lights, 4 interior lights, 4 indicator lights.

Each of these, being LED will have an average of 10 chips making a total of 200 chips.

Door locks, alarms and ignition keys (do you count the mobile phone if it's a Tesla ?) perhaps another 200.

Air conditioning sensors and controls. perhaps 50

It soon adds up.

 

But yes, I agree, we may well be making cars overly complex.

However a big part of the problem lies in the poor programming of the control systems which mean that many minor faults, some of which may add to safety,  compromise the actual functioning of the vehicle for no good reason.
The problem is exacerbated but the lack of human override capability.

 

 


 

 

 

Edited by studiot
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I think the issue is where the chips are specifically in an EV, not which chips are going to be common to both an EV and ICE vehicle. Lights, door locks, etc. are common to all vehicles.

To me the batteries, the power distribution and regenerative brakes are the obvious candidates when looking at differences between the two types of cars.

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2 hours ago, swansont said:
16 hours ago, Peterkin said:

25, for the motorwagon, which is not terrible for 1886, though the thing would have been uncomfortable to ride on. The electric ones were better.  And quiet.

Also, I should think at 30mph, anything is safer than at 80mph.

That would be one way of forcing the US to expand rail and mass transit, I suppose, but our system is built on being able to drive from point A to point B, and much of that at speeds faster than 30 mph. And we have lots of vehicles that get much better than 25 mpg.

True enough. I wasn't actually comparing cars of today unfavourably with cars of 120 years ago. Just pointing out that they could be made to run without 2000 microchips,

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which might not be such a bad idea to revisit. Maybe not in the same way they did at the turn of the last century; maybe in more clever ways, seeing as we have more information and devices to apply to the task, as well as a more urgent reason to look for solutions.

 

2 hours ago, swansont said:

our system is built on being able to drive from point A to point B, and much of that at speeds faster than 30 mph.

Only, that system is breaking down. I very much doubt Biden's truncated bill is going to fix all the roads and bridges, or that the vast overcomplication of highways and city streets is going to reduce the number of accidents or the amount of frustration, road rage, parking problems, delays, snarls and jams, or mitigate the economic disparities that enable rich people and hamper poor people in getting to their schools, work-places and voting stations quickly and safely.

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The fact of having become accustomed to, or even dependent on, something doesn't make that thing good or desirable.

A crisis is often the precipitating event in a systemic change. Several people I know quit smoking because when they were ill they couldn't - then decided not to resume.

I'm just suggesting this may be an opportune moment to think about a change in direction.

Edited by Peterkin
left out words
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Thanks Studio, Swan, Pete, Zap, et al for opening my eyes a bit on the need for chips, where they lurk, their carbon load, and pros and cons of more complex control systems.   

Like OldChem, I am partial to the zero bell/whistle vehicle (as his minimalist Camaro exampled).  Windows that crank, gears you can shift yourself, nothing beeping or buzzing at you, steering with an actual mechanical connection to wheels, etc.  Good lord I'm a dinosaur.

For urban transit, the least-chip method per passenger (aside from bikes) would be light rail or similar.  Which, sadly, seems to go against the grain of many Americans, and even more sadly seems to have become a partisan issue.   

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3 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Only, that system is breaking down. I very much doubt Biden's truncated bill is going to fix all the roads and bridges, or that the vast overcomplication of highways and city streets is going to reduce the number of accidents or the amount of frustration, road rage, parking problems, delays, snarls and jams, or mitigate the economic disparities that enable rich people and hamper poor people in getting to their schools, work-places and voting stations quickly and safely.

Fixing everything would be an unreasonable expectation. Sadly, the tactic of deriding something for not being perfect is used as an excuse to not do anything to improve the situation, when you don't want to do anything (see COVID, gun control)

The US is stuck with automobiles as the primary mode of transit, including medium-haul (a few hundred miles), so the push to move away from fossil fuels has to be thought of with that constraint in mind.

--

As far as the 1.6 kg of fossil fuels per chip goes, that article is from 2002, and probably refers to a specific type of chip. Newer chips are not just silicon, and fabrication has produced smaller chips over time. They mention a 32 MB chip (!) while memory today is perhaps  as much as 100-1000x larger.

One metric one can use to assess this is that a chip can't use more fossil fuel than the cost of the chip (and probably only a small fraction of it) - these people turn a profit. So one might ask how much these chips cost, because that would put a limit on how much fossil fuel goes into making them. $2000* per car? Then maybe it's using $200 worth of fuel. Depending on how much you drive, that might be a month or two of gasoline in the US. And one of the functions of the chips is improving your fuel economy. These probably "pay for themselves" many times over, in terms of fossil fuel impact.

*scale as appropriate

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

Fixing everything would be an unreasonable expectation.

Of course. That's why I'm reasonably sure it won't be done, and can't be done. So it just seems to me like a good idea to start replacing those unfixable things with better alternatives. There must be some clever people out there, with ideas waiting to be heard!

https://www.nec.com/en/global/insights/report/2020022504/index.html

Some have been waiting for quite a while.

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Something can be done - if people are motivated to do it. Not the same thing everywhere, and it won't be equally effective everywhere, but it's better to try for better and fail than to commit to the status quo and watching our quality of life, as well as our world, deteriorate.

1 hour ago, swansont said:

The US is stuck with automobiles as the primary mode of transit

As long as people are convinced of this, they won't do anything about it. 

1 hour ago, swansont said:

As far as the 1.6 kg of fossil fuels per chip goes, that article is from 2002, and probably refers to a specific type of chip. Newer chips are not just silicon, and fabrication has produced smaller chips over time.

Maybe so, but apparently costs in other than $ have not decreased.

It doesn't matter to most consumers - maybe because they don't know and/or don't want to know, or else, they figure the advantage of being able to lock their from a remote location and making more unnecessary trips for the same cost in fuel is worth trashing Taiwan, or they think if they buy a lot of something, its manufacture will automatically become cheaper and cleaner. But mostly because they don't question how things are. 

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1 minute ago, Peterkin said:

It doesn't matter to most consumers - maybe because they don't know and/or don't want to know, or else, they figure the advantage of being able to lock their from a remote location and making more unnecessary trips for the same cost in fuel is worth trashing Taiwan, or they think if they buy a lot of something, its manufacture will automatically become cheaper and cleaner. But mostly because they don't question how things are. 

 

messed that up purdy good

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There is no going backwards. Too many vehicle capabilities - ICE as well as EV, as well as design and manufacture - now rely on them. Yes, more optional and unnecessary (but not necessarily unwanted) features become easy to add because chips make it easy and low cost but a lot of important functions are possible at low cost because of them. Some of those functions probably cannot be done at all without them.

The nostalgia for good, old, simpler and more reliable doesn't reflect how much manufacturing costs and vehicle reliability have improved, in large part because of computer chips. EV's look like being amongst the most reliable cars currently available; I don't see how the use of chips can be considered flawed.

Between the pandemic upsetting economies and supply chains and vehicle sales recovering better than expected manufacturers (chip and vehicle) underestimated demand but I don't see why this should be a long running problem. It isn't a design problem, just a parts supply problem, that will almost certainly be temporary.

 

16 hours ago, Sensei said:

Electric cars, thanks to the energy stored in their batteries (which is good, if everything is OK), burn like they are "made of paper" after even a basic accident..

Do you have any evidence to support claims of extreme - or even heightened - fire risk?

My understanding is there is less fire risk than ICE vehicles (which contain larger amounts of energy in their fuel tanks than EV's have in their batteries). As one expert on EV safety put it, any EV fire is newsworthy, but ICE fires are only newsworthy if they stop traffic. I also note that not all EV's use battery chemistry that is intrinsically flammable and ongoing battery R&D is a major "industry" in itself; we haven't seen the best of all possible batteries yet.

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2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

Do you have any evidence to support claims of extreme - or even heightened - fire risk?

 

To get this effect, all it takes is for an EV to collide with someone else on the road..

 

2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

My understanding is there is less fire risk than ICE vehicles (which contain larger amounts of energy in their fuel tanks than EV's have in their batteries).

"Do you have any evidence to support this claim"?

Petrol fuels burn when there is ready access to Oxygen (and it's limiting speed of fire), and only vapors.. EV has no such requirements..

Reread my post, I said about catching fire after accident (aka "car crash" when things disintegrate). Not when everything works smoothly..

2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

My understanding is there is less fire risk than ICE vehicles (which contain larger amounts of energy in their fuel tanks than EV's have in their batteries).

It's not even about capacity of energy. But speed in which that energy can be released. ICE car fuel tank burning speed is limited by access to Oxygen..

To have potential fire with accumulator, you just need to plug + to - with plain wire (i.e. "metal piece which accidentally joined them in a crash")..

2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

I also note that not all EV's use battery chemistry that is intrinsically flammable and ongoing battery R&D is a major "industry" in itself; we haven't seen the best of all possible batteries yet.

Don't misinterpret my words, by mistake, or premeditation.. I am fan of EV, unlike ICE..

2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

and ongoing battery R&D is a major "industry" in itself; we haven't seen the best of all possible batteries yet.

..which is irrelevant to our current position..

 

I always thought, you're reasonable member of this forum.. Lost confidence about you, after your today comment.. There are even airplanes which were destroyed by laptop batteries:

https://www.google.com/search?q=airplane+destroyed+by+laptop+battery

 

http://www.forfyre.com/the-lithium-safe-battery-bag-for-the-fire-protection-of-lithium-ion-batteries-that-catches-fire-due-to-thermal-runaway/?lang=en

"A total of 171 incidents between 1991 and 2016 was recorded involving batterys carried as baggage or cargo on airplanes. (recorded by the US Federal Aviation Administration)"

(without any crash, or damage)

 

Edited by Sensei
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8 hours ago, Sensei said:

To get this effect, all it takes is for an EV to collide with someone else on the road..

So every collision results in such a fire?

8 hours ago, Sensei said:

"A total of 171 incidents between 1991 and 2016 was recorded involving batterys carried as baggage or cargo on airplanes. (recorded by the US Federal Aviation Administration)"

So about 7 incidents per year. Some mention shipments of batteries (one mentions a shipment of 81,000 batteries), so this could be out of untold millions of batteries shipped. IOW the odds of an individual battery failure appear to be quite small.

We have no data on whether these were due to manufacturing defects or improper handling, both of which can potentially be addressed.

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18 hours ago, Sensei said:

To get this effect, all it takes is for an EV to collide with someone else on the road..

The video was of a battery pack deliberately set on fire. I agree there is a very high risk of catching fire under such circumstances...

I had a look for info on EV fires and failed to find support for high incidence. Whilst I will take Elon Musk's claim that ICE vehicles are 11 times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla with a grain of salt - there are other factors involved including average age of vehicles - it did appear based on real statistics that haven't been disputed, 5 fires per billion miles vs 55 per billion for ICE. Over what period wasn't clear.

Mostly I found experts unwilling to give definitive answers to whether the fire risk is higher or lower - mostly because not enough data - but they are NOT saying there is any evidence of extreme risk, which they would if crashes have a high incidence of fires.

This is not referring to recent and is specifically referencing fatal crashes - I expect fire risk to be less than this in more modern electric vehicles, due to better design - ( https://www.counterpointresearch.com/electric-vehicles-safe/ ) -

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According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, fire was found in 2.6% of EVs and 4.4% of ICE vehicles, in cases of fatal vehicle crashes. These cases were analysed between 1993-2013 in the US

Don't EV's go through crash testing? Such a vulnerability would be impossible to disguise under such circumstances and would surely earn a zero star rating.

19 hours ago, Sensei said:

I always thought, you're reasonable member of this forum.. Lost confidence about you, after your today comment..

I thought my comment was reasonable. I questioned a very strong statement you made that does not appear to have a sound basis. I asked if you had evidence but a video of setting fire to a battery pack isn't evidence and laptop/mobile phone battery fires seems tangential to fire risk of EV's in accidents - did they catch fire when something collided with them?

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2 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

I questioned a very strong statement you made that does not appear to have a sound basis.

LOL! I also got on his shit list for asking him to support his claims. I think there are enough of us now to form a club. 😆

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