Experimental Electric Vehicles

March 28, 2010

Charger Trouble with Zion

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:13 pm

Spring is upon us in the state of Michigan, so naturally I had to hop on my electric motorcycle and go buzz around town. So I strap on my helmet, jacket and gloves, un plug the charger and turn the key…

Nothing happens.

Very disappointed I started removing the farings and grab a volt meter, the entire 60 volt pack is at an astonishing 19.1 volts, This was bad news.

I had left the charger on the batteries all winter, I occasionally un plugged it, ran the motor checked the pack voltage and plugged it back in. In the early winter everything was working good, in fact so good that I hadn’t checked it in more then six weeks.

I checked the charger fuse, the bike fuse, the extension cord power, but everything was good. So I grabbed my multi-meter to find out that the charger is not putting out any power, in fact the output leads from the charger was a dead short! I knew then that the charger had failed and my batteries had discharged into the charger.

This charger Is a Chinese made charger that is designed for both lead-acid and AGM batteries. It is called the HWCC1B 12amp, It retail’s for $499 from Cloudelectric.com Unfortunately there is not a lot of selection for 60 volt applications, especially if you want 110 volt input, because this was the only one I could find available in a 60 volt configuration I purchased it.

I quickly removed all the batteries in an attempt to save them, I individually charged each 12 volt cell carefully to ensure that it would hold a charge, but with no luck, I could only achieve about 11.5 volts max and after several days it would taper off to almost 10 volts, the charger had permanently killed all 5 of my odyssey PC680 cells.

I then wanted to see if there was any obvious damage inside the charger so I opened it up. Although I didn’t find any obvious damage I did find a nice surprise, the switch that changes the charger from “normal charge” or “balanced charge” was not connected. I looked around for the plug that had fallen off, but there was not one. I examined the switch and there were no scratches or witness marks on the terminals, it looked like it was never plugged in at all! The instruction manual has an entire page devoted to the operation of this switch and when to use it! It wont do much if its just a dummy switch!

This is why this hobby is called “EXPERIMENTAL electric vehicles” sometimes we make mistakes so we can learn from them. I look at every mistake as a time for improvement! Therefore I will be upgrading the motorcycle to 72 volts and installing a Soneil on-board charger. When the parts get installed I will post pictures.

March 22, 2010

Grand Rapids is Getting Plugged in

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 9:54 pm

Grand Rapids Michigan has been my home town since I can remember, Its a very nice quiet city the type people raise family’s in. The city is known for its furniture and medical industry’s, but above all its a very conservative. This is not the technology driven Silicon Valley booming with new inventions and ideas, here in Grand Rapids new ideas sometimes seem to be feared.

This is why I was surprised when recently a friend of mine called me to say he found electric vehicle charge outlets outside a local hotel. I was skeptical at first thinking he found some utility outlets on the side of a building, but sure enough his claim was true.

-Me next to them, proof they exist!

Right in front of the “Country in and Suite” hotel I found three signs and six 110 volt outlets for electric vehicle use. It may not seem like much, but for a town like Grand Rapids this is a big step in the right direction. There is a popular “Malarkys” restaurant and bar right next to the hotel that could take advantage of the parking spots when the hotel is not.

Unfortunately they are only 110 volt outlets, but hopefully as demand grows we may see 110 and 220 volt outlets for faster recharge times.

With the hotel only being about eight miles from my house, i’ll have to ride my motorcycle there and get a free charge, I will probably be the first one to use charge spots in the greater Grand Rapids area.

March 20, 2010

Temporary for sale post

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 3:50 pm

As i have stated before, this website is not intended for this use, but I will advertise electric vehicle parts for sale only because it may benefit you if youre looking for what I am selling! The items are listed on Ebay just follow the link above the pictures.

36 volt battery charger.


If you want to pick them up locally I’ll refund the shipping.

Hopefully these parts can help you in your EV build!

March 7, 2010

A Careful Balancing Act

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 9:21 pm

Linking multiple Lithium battery cells in a series fashion can cause some problems with un-even cell charging. Each individual battery cell is supposed to be at 3.6 volts, although the charger is only charging until the entire pack (24 individual cells in my case) reaches a peak voltage of 86.4 volts (3.6 volts x 24 cells = 86.4 volts).

Unfortunately the charger has no idea if some cells are at 4.1 volts and some are at 2.8 volts. In other words, the charger only cares about the total pack voltage, not individual cell voltage.

If your batteries are allowed to charge over 3.6 volts, damage can occur. Usually it will not happen immediately, but over several cycles. To prevent this from happening you can install these little “Battery Balancers”

These devices attach between the positive and negative of each individual cell, they have a small integrated circuit and two LEDs. The operation is quite simple, the green LED indicates proper battery connection and the cell is above 2.5 volts, This LED is always on. The red LED indicates the cell is currently being loaded by the balancer. In other words if the balancer sees anything OVER 3.7 volts it will apply a small 0.3 Amp load to discharge the cell back to 3.6 volts. The red LED is then turned off and the individual cell voltages are then balanced.

The small green LED only draws .001 amp (1mA), this is about the same as the normal discharge rate of the batteries, therefore you do not need to worry about a parasitic draw when the pack when its not in use.

In this picture the charger just finished charging, and the pack voltage has reached 86.4 volts total. You can see there are a few red LEDs active, meaning that cell is at or above 3.7 volts. I put my volt meter to the cell and it was at 3.9 volts. Since the balancers only draw a small 0.3 amp’s I waited about 30 minutes and they were all back to green, and each of the 24 cells were at a steady 3.6 volts!

I am very impressed with these devices and believe they will make a big difference with pack performance and longevity. And at only 9 dollars a piece they are considerably less then a full battery management system which usually cost about 5 times as much and involve very complicated and messy wiring.

-Schematic for a complex and expensive battery management system, removal of the batteries can become a nightmare with so many individual small sensor wires going to each cell.

When working with many battery cells I highly recommend numbering each cell in order to keep records of there performance. In my case there are 24 individual cells, 4 cells are strapped together to make one “module”. I have 6 module’s that make one “pack”. This method allows me to keep track if I have a poorly performing cell.

Since I had the batteries out of the bike it gave me plenty of room to loom, and secure all of the wiring in the bike. I used several sizes of loom ranging from 1/4″ to 3/4″, several black zip-ties, and wire loom hold down straps to make sure the wires do not chafe and short out.



You must be careful when covering the wires from the handlebars to the frame, this is a spot where chafing and wire pulling can be a factor. Be sure to leave enough slack so the wires do not pull apart, but secure and cover them so they do not short on the frame.

Clean professional looking wire will make your EV stand out from the rest! Never let your quality of work fade, otherwise your reputation will follow.

March 1, 2010

E*Speed Update, Tires, Brakes and Suspension

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:02 pm

When Riding a motorcycle, crashing is the last thing you want to have happen, and doing everything to prevent it is a must. There are a few things on a motorcycle that should never be over looked or ignored.

First being the tires, having a tire blow-out in a car can send you in the ditch. When riding a motorcycle a tire blow-out could result in serious injury and also trashing your motorcycle that you have worked so hard and long on. You must ask your self, is your Life and motorcycle worth spending three hundred dollars on to prevent an accident?

In my case I chose to put the “Dunlop Q2 Qualifiers” on my bike, they claim to have some of the best handling and grip on the track along with a good tread life.

I love driving fast, but if you cannot safely and confidently stop, then you risk your own life and possibly others. If your brake pad liner is under one Millimeter thickness, you should replace your pads and usually your rotor as well. It is also important to flush out old dirty brake fluid with new OEM spec brake fluid, remember never to mix DOT-3 or DOT-4 with DOT-5 brake fluid. DOT-5 is a full silicone based fluid and is designed to work with the special rubber seals of a DOT-5 system and will swell-up seals of a DOT-3/4 system.

Whether you’re on the track or the street your suspension setup is critical to how you plan on riding the motorcycle. The suspension setup on my E*Speed will have a slightly stiffer suspension then most street bikes because it will be driven on the track about half of the summer. Setting the sag of the front forks and rear spring to the weight of the rider will help you ride with more confidence on the track and aid in maneuvering the bike through traffic.

Tire pressure, an easy to over look but very important aspect to proper riding. You should always follow the recommended tire pressure specs per the manufacturer, for my E*Speed (Suzuki GSX-R) they recommend running the tires at 36 PSI front and 33 PSI rear. the manufacturer performs many tests to be sure the tire pressure is the best mix of efficiency, handling, traction, and tire wear.
For best efficiency, it is usually safe to increase the tire pressure about 15%, im my case I would increase it to just under 40 PSI front and rear for maximum range. This will unfortunately wear out the tires faster because you are driving on the very small peak of the tire. It is critical that the pressure NEVER exceed the maximum limits stamped on the tire, exceeding this could cause a blow out when you hit a bump, or pot hole, and will cause unusual and unpredictable handling of the motorcycle.
For track use where turning grip is more important it is safe to decrease the tire pressure about 15%-20% of the manufacturer spec. By doing this the tire has a larger contact patch with the track, and will subsequently handle sharper corners with ease. When track riding the tires will heat up quite a bit, some times several hundred degrees if its a hot summer day, this will cause the air inside to expand and actually “re-inflate” the tire to a higher pressure, it should be checked after each session for proper inflation.

this guy warmed his tires up a little too much!

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