Monday, January 3, 2011

Open Source Civic-EV documents moved

Hi All,

It's been a verrrrry long time since I posted here since I sold the Civic-EV.

Due to Google removing the Files and Pages feature of Google Groups. All files and documentation at the civic-ev Google group has now been moved to the "civicevkit" Google Site:

If you need to access the build instructions or Google Sketch-Up files, please go there now.

Happy New Year for 2011!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Electric Blue

Well, as most of you have seen, there hasn't been a lot of activity for several months on this blog. I sold Electric Blue to my friend Murray (shown above) and he is taking good care of her.

It's time to move on from this electric vehicle conversion hobby and see where life takes me. I have a reservation for a silver Nissan Leaf coming in December, so maybe I'll post my experience with it. Maybe I'll even reverse engineer some of the guts and share it with y'all.

Unless something major comes up, this will probably be my last post.

Many thanks to all of you who have supported me over the years on this project and best wishes to those who are converting, buying or just plain enjoying electric vehicles.

May you be well and happy on your path.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Analyzing PakTrakr Files with PrestoPlot

I took the Civic out for a spin today with my neatly installed PakTrakr and captured some data while pulling some reasonably high currents.

I programmed the Synkromotive controller to limit the battery amps to 250 to help prolong the life of the batteries. It takes a bit of the acceleration edge off while on the freeway at 60mph, but otherwise, the power is just fine for commuting.

After loading the PakTrakr data into Excel 2000 (yeah, I know it's old...), I experience much frustration with trying to zoom into areas to analyze the data further, especially peak areas.

I turned to a freeware plotting program that we use at work for quickly analyzing performance data called PrestoPlot. After loading the comma-delimited-data from the PakTrakr log file into Excel, I removed all but the battery voltage columns and added an incrementing list of numbers as a first column. I can now export this as a tab-delimited textfile from Excel and import it into PrestoPlot for easy viewing.

Here's an exported image (click to enlarge) from PrestoPlot showing the whole dataset gathered from the PakTrakr. The data seems very spikey and I was concerned that some of my batteries were dipping lower than other.

Upon quickly zooming in with PrestoPlot, I was able to see that the big droops on one battery were accompanied by positive spikes on the adjacent battery. Note the green dashed lines in relation to the red dashed lines in the picture above (click to enlarge). Hmm..., sounds like the PakTrakr isn't filtering out noise quite as well as I'd hoped.

In areas where the system is rather quiet, the batteries seem quite well balanced. Perhaps my pack isn't as dead as I thought it was, but it has just lost a bit of capacity. Perhaps putting some 0.1uF capacitors on the adjacent signal lines going into the PakTrakr might help with this.

Not too sure what to do at this point, but at least I get a good clean sampling stream on the serial port under heavy acceleration.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mounting the PakTrakr

It's time to mount the PakTrakr on the dashboard.

Since I have a low-end model Civic, there are several unused accessory plates that I can tap into. Here's one that I popped out just to the left of the steering wheel. I drilled holes in the pop-out plate to match the mounting threads on the PakTrakr as well as a 1" hole to thread the wires through.

After taking off two nuts on the back of the PakTrakr, I decided to disassemble the whole thing just to see what was inside.

Here's the PakTrakr threaded through the pop-out plate with the nuts holding it on.

Finally, the PakTrakr is installed where I can see it reasonably while driving. Most of my information will come from the Link-10 E-meter, but if I want to see any bad batteries, the PakTrakr should display those.

I've routed the signal cable to the PakTrakr. I also routed the serial output cable with a serial extender and a serial to USB adapter around to the passenger side so I can plug my laptop into the Synkromotive controller and PakTrakr at the same time with USB ports. The car is looking much better than it did awhile ago.

One thing I haven't done with the Lifeline traction batteries is to run a conditioning charge on them. Yesterday I ordered a 0-30V 6 amp power supply so I can run a higher voltage charge on each individual battery. Perhaps that will help them regain some of their life.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

PakTrakr Signal Integrity

I finally got to trying out some filtering on the PakTrakr lines today with some pleasing results. I've read several places, that the PakTrakr signal line really needs a 0.1uF capacitor across it to deaden out any extra noise. My series 100 ohm resistor that helped on my previous EV didn't work this time.

I found a tiny 0.1uF tantalum capacitor at work. After bending one lead back on itself and cutting off the excess wires to leave 3/16" sticking out, I simply jammed the two leads into the rear end of the blue plug that attaches to the PakTrakr module. I'm hoping that the pressure between the plastic case and the metal pins will be enough to hold the contact.

After jamming the cap in there, I just wrapped a bit of electrical tape around the whole thing. I think a piece of heatshrink tubing would have been better, but I didn't have any of the correct size.

Here's my first graph of valid PakTrakr data (click to enlarge). I'm really impressed with how well the 0.1uF capacitors cut out all the extra garbage. This plot contains several times where I punch the accelerator and pull 300 noisy amps from the batteries. I still think that the series 100 ohm resistor between the rear PakTrakr module and the front one helps, but the capacitors do the trick.

It seems the PakTrakr modules really don't like to read the voltages on the balancers when they are shunting current around the batteries. Here's what's happening in the graph:
  • For the first 50 seconds, the batteries are charging and the balancers are keeping things even. The top battery on each monitor is measuring way low (12.3V) but my multimeter says everything is fine.
  • From 50 to 120 seconds the charger is turned off
  • From 120 to 130 seconds I start up the controller and get ready to back out for a spin. Whoops! I left my gas guzzler in the driveway and can't get out!
  • From 130 to 330 seconds, I'm parking my gas guzzler. Note that the two batteries that were measuring low are much closer to the average.
  • From 330 to 885 seconds, I went for a quick spin on the freeway and drew 300 amps from the batteries at several points.
  • From 885 seconds to the end, the car was just sitting there as I ran to get my laptop to collect data. Note that all the batteries seem to be at around 12.9 volts now, according to the PakTrakr.
I'm much happier now that the PakTrakr is reading non-garbage data. I can go on much longer runs and see which batteries are giving out first.

Ugh, time to get ready for the week...


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fixing the Batmon Resistors

Well it's about time I get the Civic working again now that the weather seems to be getting warmer. The biggest concern I have with my current system is the Batmon balancer resistors. The existing ones seem to be always on the verge of catching fire.

To replace the existing resistors while keeping the same mounting holes, I cut some 2.5"x3" rectangles of aluminum and bolted some beefier power resistors to them.

Here's the rectangle of aluminum with the larger power resistors. I'm hoping this system has much more thermal mass than the last one and can dissipate more power safely. I used a 1/8" drill and 6/32-1/2" self tapping metal screws to hold the resistors on. The two holes in the aluminum on the upper edge have the same size and spacing as the prior holes that held in the previous resistors.

After I was all done, I had four resistor "packs" to replace. There was clearance issue with the resistors just behind the front grille, so I made a different heat-sink block (shown on the bottom in the picture) to fit the two 6mm bolt holes on the driver's side just above the grille.

Here's the heatsink and power resistors installed just in front of the motor over one of the front-most batteries.

Here's the old power resistor setup. Note the discoloration on the bulkhead from the smoke and excessive heat.

Here's the replacement setup. with the larger resistors and aluminum heatsink.

Here is yet another replaced unit on the driver's side in the rear trunk.

In addition to bulking up the resistors, I also increased the resistance from 3 ohms to 5 ohms. This won't have as much balancing effect, but I'm banking that it will dissipate enough to do a reasonable job while lowering the heat generation. If each Batmon board kicks in at 14.6 volts, my heat dissipation (V^2/R) goes from a worst case of 71 watts to 42 watts. Since the Batmon boards are actually switching on and off quickly, I should never reach the worst case situation.

The next step is to get rid of the noise on the PakTrakr lines. My series 100 ohm resistor didn't work, so I'm going to have to try a few other tricks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seeing the Nissan Leaf in Person

Things have been nuts this week, but I did get a chance to see the Nissan Leaf come to Portland today. It arrived at OMSI this morning and the OEVA got a private session with the Leaf this afternoon.

Here's Nissan's spokesperson who graciously answered all our geeky questions about the car. The Leaf boasts a 100 mile range on a 24KW battery pack. I have a 14KW battery pack and I only get about 20 miles when going on the freeway. The 100-mile range of the Leaf is based on a profile called LA-4 which is mostly stop-n-go city driving around 25 MPH. Nissan did say that commuting on the freeway at 60mph would probably yield a range of 75-80 miles instead.

Here's the requisite photo op with the Leaf showing the charging plugs at the front of the car. The one on the left takes a 440V 50A input while the plug on the right takes the standard J1772 plug that the EV industry has been trying to settle on for years.

I'm still weighing in on giving up on my homebrew Civic-EV and just buying one a Leaf. I still have a few more months to decide.