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Pretty good week last week. Made some progress on the test bench, got Speedster Nippon inspected for the registration process, and updated the Ford Edge which appears to be running pretty well.

If you recall, we had rebuilt the Netgain 11 motor to some degree, and replaced the transmission in the Ford Edge. We also rearranged under the hood A LOT and that necessitated removal of 48 Thundersky cells and a badly constructed battery “rack”.
The SUV, Ford or otherwise, is designed as a truck. It is kind of front heavy and meant to carry loads in the BACK. Putting 48 cells under the hood was always a nightmare. I kind of see why the original builder went there as his work UNDER the vehicle was even more
bizarre. Open battery racks with exposed terminals to the weather. And under a car around here means rain and ice and snow. So we call it the Chinese electric SNOWPLOW and it will be very interesting to see how this does if we get a load.

We had added a box in the rear cargo compartment to carry 76 cells gleaned from the upgrade we did on the original Speedster. Recall these had been run to ZERO on several occasions proving our bottom balance thing. THey have been ALL that has run this 4500lb vehicle since the transmission was replaced.

That left 28 cells underneath not even CONNECTED to anything.

So this week, we charged up the rear pack and then charged up the pack underneath using our Macchina/TCCH combination. We still charge Thundersky cells to 3.6 volts and so that comes to 101v. Interesting discovery. THe TCCH charger had been reporting currents 0.1 amp below what we were requesting over the CAN bus. But on a 43 volt segment in the battery box, it actually CHARGED at precisely ONE HALF the voltage. Oddly, when we went to 101 volts, this cleared up and the charger was quite accurate in reporting and producing current.

Frustratingly, we could get NO ANSWER to this from Mandy Chou, the Chinglish sales rep from the TCCH manufacturer. We also advised her we had one of the three chargers that simply would not communicate and what did we need to do to get a replacement. She alluded to all the expenses of shipping and noted she would knock a little off our next order. We’ve been discussing an order for 20 of the chargers for THREE WEEKS and I have no invoice as yet. Now they are going on holiday for a MONTH and she assures me she will handle all that when she gets back. This is NOT a good company to deal with. Their warranty is a joke and apparently their product quality has slipped significantly as well. After a good bit of work, we finally have a charger solution, and the manufacturer is just completely flaking out on me. Most discouraging. After consulting with the engineers, she assures me she has no idea what the voltage is where this half output occurs. They are still thinking it is something to do with 120/240 after I’ve assured them we tested it both ways, and that is both ways. Failing at 43volts 120 AND 240, and doing great at 101 volts, on either 120 or 240. Of all the Chinese vendors we deal with, these guys are the WORST. Evasive, misleading, vacillating, and very poor at communications. We are likely going to revisit the offer from Brusa to handle their very expensive charger, and let this one go.

In any event, we wound up with the 28 cells underneath in series with the 76 cells in back for 104 cells and a nominal pack voltage of 347 volts.

The problem was, the car would not start. And when we checked the very early red colored Soliton 1 controller, we found an ACD OUT OF RANGE error. The book on the Soliton alluded to “something bad happening internally” with no specificity. But it also listed the top voltage as 342volts. I somehow had it at 360v, which I probably got from the NETGAIN controller and PulsaR.

So we pulled the cover off the bank in back and I reached in with my insulated socket driver to loosen the terminal. But I left a finger on the shiny part, and my other hand on the battery box rail, and got about 347 volts right across the chops. Not a little tickle like through a meter either. I got the full metal jacket version.

So we stopped and chased frame leak. Turned out to be the 3 wire cable to the iota DC-DC converter. The DC-DC converter was toast. And the cable to it was shorted. To frame ground. Yikes.

This is NOT good guys. What I SHOULD have done, before ever touching the terminals of course, was put a voltmeter from the grounded battery box to any of the terminals. Without a frame connection, this usually will indicate somewhere around zero volts. Occasionally you’ll pick up some floating voltage that dances around – 6 v to 26 volts to 9 volts to 18volts etc. You can actually watch the voltage change with the sampling of the meter. This indicates isolation from the frame. If you read 347 solid, that’s not good.

This stuff is curiously unforgiving of momentary lapses. And as we leave the 120v territory for those voltages north of 300, it becomes much more important. You need to do this check EVERY time you approach a pack. Not just when things are going well and you’re not thinking about other problems.

We moved the positive terminal back two cells to 341 volts and the Soliton was perfectly happy and started the car immediately.

This week, we’ll reset the Manzanita Charger, which of course is installed in a place where we can’t possibly get to it to adjust it. This car is hands down the worst example of a vehicle conversion I’ve ever seen. Nothing could be worked on when we got it. It’s getting a little better, but slowly.

And that brings up a topic. We have an EXCELLENT conversion in the Spyder 550. But it suffers the same problem. IT’s really tough to work on. It is really quite a part of the design process to ASSUME you are going to have to replace everything at some point. Building a car no one can work on because you think electric vehicles do not need maintenance or because you think tucking everything in cunning unreachable places makes it look “professional” kind of misses the point. Cars wear. And parts go out. And if not you, SOMEONE is going to have to work on this thing at some point. If you failed to put together a wiring diagram, that will be harder. But if they can’t even reach the components, to the point of being unable to check the transmission fluid level, this is not good.

Surprisingly, once we got all the main work done, the car test drove quite well and even shifted passably well. So we’ll adjust the charger and add a JLD404 and see if we can get it up on its feet to let my wife drive.

We also did do some work on our test bench – largely a battery test box with 73 cells for 243 volts. This gets us above the minimum for the DMOC645 even when depleted to 3v per cell or 219 volts. It think the DMOC645 needs 210v minimum. We put cables with gland nuts on the box, a shutoff switch, a JLD404 meter so we can read current and voltage and amp hours, and a little 500watt Vicor DC-DC converter brick to make 12v. So this will serve as our DC-DC converter as well. We’ll have to reconfigure cables to drop it in half to 120v for Curtis work for example or SOlitons and Netgains.

The battery pack AND test bench are kind of important to our future. We need to test generalized vehicle control units with the DMOC645. But more immediately we are hopeful of having a completed PulsaR to test sometime in February. The main feature of this device is DC to DC charging. WE get this all the time from those wanting to use their solar power systems to charge. And it would allow a fast charge capability here locally. Our “mother lode” can act as a power source to fast charge a vehicle. The PulsaR is the key to this. Much like a pulse width modulated DC controller, it will allow us to charge to a specific voltage and then reduce current gradually to hold it there – in other words to CONTROL a flow of current up to 360v and up to 300 amps. And since it is basically a pulse width modulated SWITCH, it can do so in EITHER direction.

So we could connect a car to the box and charge the car. WE can then immediately change the configuration and use the car to charge another car or back into the box. The trick is that we do not have a boost capability. Boosting a low voltage to a higher voltage, which I very much wanted, requires an energy storage device. Most commonly an inductor. And to do 300 amps, that means a LARGE inductor. It would be fairly enormous, quite heavy, and terribly expensive. Both ChaDEmo and SAEJ1772RevB foresee high source voltages of 500v charging DOWN to cars with lower voltages.
We’re kind of stuck with the same thing. But PulsaR would allow a large battery pack, say 76kWh in an escalade, to act as a service truck for electric cars where you could charge DOWN to any car lower than 192v.

PulsaR does have some other features. A built in DC to DC converter. And a 100A AC rectifier that will allow pretty fast charging from AC if you have a 100A 240AC breaker. We kind of do. So even the Elescalade with it’s 400Ah pack could charge in 4.5 to 5 hours from AC. Of course, I’ll have to have the electric meter to my house spin balanced it will be turning so fast.

The battery pack will of course let us test motors on our bench. It doesn’t have to have a large capacity as we’ll recover 60% or so from the generator which acts as a load. Adequate too for testing the PulsaR though not at the full 360v. But as a fast charge station, the little weeny 100Ah Thundersky cells won’t really cut it. Charging down to a speedster at half the voltage (126v) it can probably do very nearly the 180 Ah. But it won’t add much to an Escalade at 208 charge voltage. In theory, there is a rail on both sides of the box allowing us to add a second layer of 100Ah cells pretty easily for 200 Ah.

One of the big topics this week was of course the JAL Boeing 787 aircraft. Two of them featured battery fires instead of a movie this month. Our FAA and NTSB immediately jumped on the batteries. But the Japanese Ministry of Transportation has had a look and they don’t think so. You’ll not likely here this here in the U.S. except of course on EVtv. But the BBC reports that the batteries have been cleared of all charges (so to speak) and the focus is on the “battery monitoring system.” We call that a BMS and came to the same conclusion from 8000 miles away without actually examining anything but photos. Photos and common sense of course. Let those with an ear to hear, hear.

Tesla has told me they have returned my deposit, though I can find no sign of it. And they’ve also announced they are reaching full production of 400 vehicles per week. So coming weeks will be telling. The SHORT INTEREST in this stock has started tip-toeing for the exits. Recently at 49% of float, they are now down to 36% and the stock is at $37 today with an earnings call on February 11. We laid in a couple hundred futures contracts on the stock this morning. Recall I predicted that as Tesla got closer, the shorts would start tiptoing out of the room. But as the price rose, and the potential losses with it, the sneaking for the exits would turn into a stampeded. I look for Elon to paint a rosy picture with plenty of orders and cranking 400 vehicles a week about the 11th day of February and probably a $45 stock price by then will start the stampede. The price will go to stupid levels in the two weeks following the announcement with the shorts panicking to cover before it reaches $100 per share. Apple will have largely missed their opportunity. I’ll be shorting myself at $100 or $110 as it will undoubtedly settle back down. But he said he was going to make it hurt and I kind of believe him.

I would also look for a general ChaDemo adapter for the Model S even here in the U.S. And we’ve pretty much picked ChaDemo at this point as the winner in the fast charging race. The SAE version is attractive – higher currents for us, and a single, if ugly, connector. But their choice of PLC as the communication standard seems to be designed to make the standard proprietary, while CHaDemo is moving toward an open standard using the much more ubiquitous CAN communications protocol. If Tesla wants to play, they are going to have to publish and make the connectors available. And I think they’ll hang on until its too late and then have to capitulate to ChaDemo’s dominance.

And I guess I DO think fast charge will be important. Largely because it enables intercity travel. It may not precisely match the convenience of petrol, but it will do a close approximation of it at some point. With both Tesla and Nissan pushing it, it’s going to happen. The question is what it will ultimately look like. I would actually prefer the Tesla model, but I’m not seeing a lot of brilliance coming out of Palo Alto these days. There are basically TWO kinds of standards in pretty much EVERYTHING, open and forgotten. I guess H.264 might comprise an exception, but if you take it’s history apart, it doesn’t quite qualify. Despite a huge technical advantage, they’ve let it be cracked pretty much without comment or legal action. Even Apple now supports BlueRay et al.

So even if Tesla DOES sell 20,000 cars this year, Nissan is likely to sell more. There are 154 ChaDemo’s now in the U.S. and about eight Tesla charging stations. If Nissan at all follows through with their now SECOND threat to install these at all Nissan dealer’s, CHaDemo wins.

I’m pretty confident we can get PulsaR to do ChaDemo CAN protocol and it may be in the cards to do a smaller less expensive device incorporating ChaDemo sans onboard charger. This concept actually opens up a long term possibility of having an expensive charger in your garage that does ALL the charging, and a little CAN bus talker and a couple of contactors in the car with NO onboard charger in teh car at all. That’s a significant weight and cost reduction to the car. But if fast charge becomes sufficiently ubiquitous it could happen.

We DID hear from Fiji Electric after this show was taped. Price on tbeir new 3 phase 62 amp 500v ChaDemo charger is $28,000. Quite a bit pricier than the $7500 Nissan is now TALKING about but not actually taking orders for. And that’s the bottom line. If Nissan wants ChaDemo, they have a clear path to winning it is a low priced EVSE and installation in all their dealer locations. All they have to do is execute. They’ve had serious execution issues and an even curiouser propensity to repeatedly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But if they would twice do what they SAY they are GOING to do, the standards war will be extremely brief.

Jack Rickard