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It’s a good hurt. Kind of like when you quit hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. EVCCON 2012 mission complete. We’re back in the shop, where we will never be able to find a part or a tool again. But it is just us chickens and things are quiet. I can calmly zero balance the SE180AH cells a few at a time for the Speedster Nippon build. Still fooling around with the Cadillac.

Had a bit of a misadventure. Drove 16 miles out in the country to a friends house for dinner and 16 miles back to a play at the River Campus School for the Visual and Performing arts. TWO BLOCKS out, the Escalade quit and rolled to a stop. No amount of reset would make it go again. We had to call for a flatbed to haul us two blocks to the shop and roll it in the door. We missed the play.

The next morning after it dried out it fired right up as if nothing had happened. Since we are still working on it, EVERYTHING is open and wires running everywhere. I was hugely embarassed at EVCCON even to show the engine compartment. The build quality of the cars there was an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE better this year. Really clean looking cars with great craftsmanship. EV’s really are going the way of the custom car/hot rod thing very quickly. Dale Friedhoff’s just completed Ford Ranger and Fred Behning’s MG TD replica were notable. Just beautiful pieces of work. ANd both appeared to be rolling well. This is the kind of build to aspire to, but nothing I’m particularly good at. I simply don’t have the patience and attention to detail these guys have.

So back to a weekly video on electric cars. In this one, we talk about Leaf a little more. Nathan Knoppenbwerg actually brought one to the show and I confess it was the first I’ve seen directly. More upscale than I expected. Nissan has hired Chelsea Sexton to defuse their battery woes = too little too late I fear. At least two cars have been refunded under Arizona’s lemon law and some people in California have filed a class action lawsuit. I fear the Nissan Leaf will become a poster child for why NOT to buy an electric car and as I predicted, these early cars will in some ways actually set the movement BACK a bit. We need more Dale’s and more Fred’s in the game. The publicity these issues receive will directly reinforce the range issue in the mind of the public. Which is a bit of a mess as the Leaf is a good car and it’s range is in all cases adequate.

It’s BMS and meter may not be. Again, we have unsophisticated drivers talking about RANGE most likely in a car with plenty of it, but with a gage showing empty.

Andrw Palmer DID offer some results that were interesting. Their data collection mechanism on 300 Arizona cars would indicate a decrease in cycle life where at five years at 12,500 miles per year, which sounds like nearly 2000 cycles to us, they would expect 80% of original range. Actual
battery module reporting would indicate to them that in a hot climate like Arizona – more like 76%. That’s about a 5% penalty for heat. That’s too small a sample for two small a number, but I’ll buy it as the best info available. In any event, it is dramatically an order of magnitude better than the suffrage of lead chemistry cells which just dissolve in ambients above 100 F.

While we were gone, Tesla announced their Supercharge network. My vision, described in July, was pretty much on target although I like mine better. The reality is 12 Tesla Model S chargers stacked in a crudely made box in six industrial looking settings around Dalifornia. Two of them with solar panels. But it’s a start.

Our big announcement at EVCCON was of course the Netgain Controls PulsaR. This is a project I actually helped fund and spec but the work went to Ryan Bohm of Netgain Controls and EVSource in Utah. This device is designed to provide a path to fast charge for the DIY conversion space. It is kind of a DC-DC charger with intelligence that you can easily configure for any pack – upfast to a CHARGE voltage of 370volts and at current levels up to 300 amperes. On 180Ah packs, that would get you 80% charged in about 30 minutes.

I’m hearing a lot about fast charging from people with zero experience with it. The level of expertdumb available on topics ill understood and with no direct experience is of course always profound in this space. We have little. BUt I have played with some cells at very high charge rates and can tell you what it is NOT about.

First, you will notice everyone talks about an 80% charge in such and such a time. This is inherent in fast charging. You can charge at 300 amps ok. But when you reach the Constant Voltage phase of the charge cycle, you immediately begin to taper off the charge current to maintain the voltage. At lower currents everything slows down of course. So 30 minutes to 70%, and then two and a half hours to do the last 20%. This is why fast charge just won’t work to fully charge an electric car. In the end, you are chugging along at 10 amps with everybody else.

The second element I look askance at is the very commonly held wisdom that this fast charging is damaging to the cell. I can find no evidence of this. I’ve heard that the charge and discharge are asymetrical in these cells. I have no evidence of that. And no theory on it. You have to deintercalate one side and intercalate the other to charge. And both are equally necessary and subject to the exact same laws of physics in the other direction. This is a bit like self discharge. Show me it does it, and then let’s try to explain it. If no one has any data on it showing it occurs, and no theory HOW it might occur, I have to assume they don’t know squat about what they are trying to talk about.

In some initial measurements with CA100FI cells, we charged at 2C and got a 4 degree Fahrenheit temperature rise to 90% of charge. Then we got 30 degrees doing the last 10% normally. I’m going to do this at a full 3C on the CA40FI cells and actually mark the point where the temperature really begins to rise. In any event I would predict it will be well after we reach our 3.6v CV point.

The DC fast charge mission led to a number of things kind of falling out on the floor in front of us. I wanted to then do a separate box with a simple dirty little AC rectifier in it so you COULD use the charger to do a normal AC charge at the usual rates, and still take advantage of the configuration and control of the charger. Ryan actually found room for a 3 phase 100A rectifier in the box. You don’t have to use 100A. I have a 100A circuit in the garage and will no doubt attempt it to test it. But you can easily configure the charger for any charge current level you like.

The other thing that fell out was direction. If you can charge from up to 500 volts in to your battery pack at up to 370 volts, it turns out to be some contactors to turn that around and charge from the pack in your car OUT to another car at a lesser voltage. One thing I would have LIKED to do was include a boost function to charge from lower to higher both ways. This would really be ideal for example for charging from 48v Solar battery banks for instance. At these current levels, this would require a hefty coil. That ups the weight, the size, and of course the expense beyond all reason. We COULD have done something complicated to use the field windings in a DC motor as the boost coil. But that ties it into a particular motor. I wanted the device to do both AC and DC drive trains of various sizes. So we had to forfeit boost.

Given what I have described, you can easily see that this device could be mounted on top of a substantial stationary battery pack of up to 500v, and it itself BECOMES a fast charging station. You can use it to charge the mother bank from AC, and turn right around and use it to charge DC-DC to any car where you can access the pack terminals. At $3450 for the device, plus say $10K for a battery pack, you are into a very capable fast charge system for under $15,000 that does not require 3 phase and would work very well with Solar input as well. Essentially Tesla’s SuperCharger but without 12 little 10 kW AC chargers. I kind of find it difficult to picture these Tesla MOdel S chargers are being sourced for less than $290 each.

Functionally, a lot happens when you have direct access to the pack. Adding a 53 amp DC-DC converter to do 12v was a matter of real estate and cost. ANd once we are routing OUT to the controller and IN from a charge source, we have measurement full time of the current and voltage all day long. This leads to some interesting instrumentation opportunities. I frankly don’t know where all that will lead.

We EXPECT SAE J1772 Level III DC charging to have CANbus communications. We think ChaDEMo also uses CANbus. And Ryan likes CANbus. So we included Onboard Diagnostics II (OBDII) CANbus as the port to the device. You can tie this directly into your vehicle OBDII wiring and access it through the normal OBDII port under the steering wheel. This is where it gets a little vague. Once that connection is made, if we had the codes and ID’s, we could essentially pretend to be the fuel sender or anything else and you could directly fire your existing instruments.

One of the eye openers at EVCCON was my first view of an Android application called TORQUE. TORQUE allows you to design an instrumentation system by selecting various gage displays and tying them to PID’s (OBDII CANbus source identifiers) and selecting from the commonly used data formats like two byte least significant first (LSB) or others. In this way, Torque can dislpay data from ANY device on ANY CANbus. As there are already good and plenty devices to connect to the OBDII port and transmit either wireless or bluetooth (blue teeth according to Wayne Alexander), this gets very cool very quickly. You could display voltage, current, amp-hours, power in kilowatts, kWh, etc as well as charge level.

It is kind of obvious that this was done from Ryan’s previous work on the Warp Drive Industrial. Indeed that was part of the attraction of asking him how much of a prepaid order for these devices he would find motivational. We liked the red anodized Warp Drive Industrial casing and plug work on it. All terminals are INTERNAL to the box and the cables pass through weatherproof gland nuts. This kind of avoids the Escalade in the rain problem entirely. It also makes it much much safer for prying hands at car shows. If all your wiring is on standard plugs, and all your large cables are terminated internally, it just makes for a much more professional installation.

So it should be reasonably obvious that the device is inherently a motor controller as well. Indeed, contactors and software mark the difference and we might get it down to software. And there’s where a difference arose between us. I wanted to introduce the charger. And perhaps at some later point introduce a charger/controller. Ryan couldn’t help himself and announced a $4500 version with 500Amp controller. That would put an EV in a box and is a great thing in itself. But as I predicted, he’s immediately deluged with requests for a 1000 amp version. I could see this coming. We don’t NEED a 1000 amp charger. And the cost of the semiconductors increases dramatically at 1000 amps. So I’m still going to let you and Ryan sort out the controller spec.

I was after a configurable charger with a path to FAST charge. And I got it. At a price LESS than a little 3kw Brusa charger or a hefty Manzanita. This one will do well over 20kw AC and about 150kw DC. IT knocks out the DC-DC converter. And it gets us on the CANbus and into some serious instrumentation opportunities.

That kind of power DOES involve liquid cooling. But Ryan has made provisions to control and power the pump from within the box. As most controllers are going to liquid cooling, there is no reason the same cooling loop can’t be used for both. You’re not going to be driving and charging at the same time.

The net effect is a device that dramatically simplifies building an electric vehicle. You basically have a charger, a controller, and a motor. Perhaps a fuse and maintenance switch remain. This should allow many more people to build effective vehicles.

It was an EVCCON of sekert stuff. George Hamstra announced or preannounced a line of Korean AC drive trains that could revolutionize the game. EVnetics announced a fast charger though with no prototype or real details. They’re working on it. Perhaps with boost?

HPEVS, who also has a lot of new stuff, cancelled at the last minute. “Something came up.” Something coming up usually means an acquisition. Whether they are acquiring or being acquired is a little up in the air at the moment. Recall they really did the assembly for the ailing WHEEGO. AC Propulsion is in the neighborhood and still looking cluelessly in all directions for life after BMW Mini Cooper. A Curtis distributor, Global is set to vainly introduce an Italian AC motor that will have essentially zero impact on a worldwide scale. But Curtis controllers was itself an acquisition. They are huge in golf carts and forlifts now. And HPEVS wouldn’t cost them much. Easy to take them right into AC for forklifts and golf carts. It would be a MESS for us though. Availability of HPEVS would then be only through Curtis distributors, and we have caught the one in our area, Global, in an outright fraud. Let’s hope it is NOT Curtis.

That brings up the EVTV preferred provider program. I haven’t decided just what that looks like right now. But I’ve personally lost over $30,000 to component fraud in the last two years. The latest was a $9.000 motor sent to Germany and never heard from again. Dale Friedhoff lost $16,000 to the EVcomponents scam, where I also lost over $10 grand. Now Zachary Vex appears to have lost $19,000 paid for a battery pack in April to Julian Cox and Flight Power. Promised a 21 day delivery, as of October Vex has received nothing and Cox is bleating to the community on the NEDRA list that he just “can’t in good conscience send this dangerous pack to this guy.” If you can’t send the pack in seven months, how about the $19,000 in lie of? He couldn’t possibly. It was a custom pack and some how COX is the victim here.

This just has to stop. The bizarre rationalizations of amateurs who shouldn’t be in ANY kind of business anywhere is having a chilling effect on the entire EV space. My iniital take is to form a good guys list and warn all viewers not to buy from anyone who isn’t on it. That’s not 100% assurance, but it would be something.

The other thing we at EVTV are noodling is going to Amazon with our web site. This would increase our costs and your prices. But Amazon handles the payments and will not release thmm until proof of shipment is provided. That’s very awkward for me. But it would be kind of a blue seal of assurance that you would get your product or your money back. So far I’m finding the Amazon interface very icky and very slow. But we may go that way and simply list other vendors who do likewise.