After mulling over the circuit in my head last night. I tried to compile a list of facts I know about the failure:
- The batteries were all fully charged in the morning, despite the charger failures
- The batteries with working chargers had ~13.7 volts on them, the failing ones, ~13.4
- There were far more failures in the batteries in the front of the car
- The front batteries are closest to the negative pack voltage
- I plugged in the rear batteries first when testing the chargers
- The rear batteries typically have slightly more charge on them because they get warmer
- I started all rear battery chargers simultaneously on a power outlet strip
- I started all front battery chargers one-by-one by plugging them into power cords with three outlets on the end
- The components crossing the isolation barrier in each charger are: a transformer, an opto-isolator, and three ceramic capacitors (.01 uF at 250V)
- Since all batteries were at nearly full charge, the failure must have happened at the end of the charge cycle, perhaps when the charger transitioned from acceptance charge (14.7V at 3.5A) to float voltage (13.7V)
- Since the front batteries typically finish charging last and I also plugged them in last, perhaps a surge from the rear battery chargers (when shutting off) caused failures in the front battery chargers
- Is suspect that the capacitors at the isolation barrier in the chargers failed because they have a breakdown voltage of 250V. When charging one battery, this is fine. When charging a long series string of batteries (oh, say, 144V), the charger output stage can float +/- 144V relative to the AC voltage on the input stage. 120V AC really becomes 170V DC when rectified. Add this to 144V and you get 314V, which is clearly above the 250V rating in the isolation capacitors.
I'm trying to figure out the best option for now. To drive the car, I'll probably need to re-install all the Belktronix resistive shunt balancer modules. The car would be driveable but it would still take a long time to charge. I don't like the idea of hand-modifying twelve Soneil chargers, but that would probably be what it takes to get them working.
I could send all the Soneil's back and get the Joule chargers again. That is, after checking with the designer that they support 1KV of isolation. The Joule chargers draw 35mA of current when sitting there unplugged. This hypothetically translates to 2857 hours of discharge from 100Ahr batteries or about 4 months until the batteries are completely dead. If I went on a long vacation, I guess I would leave the chargers plugged in on float charge anyway. The Joule chargers also only charge with 6A, which means (despite a bad PFC rating), I might be able to plug in all chargers to a 15 amp AC circuit (The Soneils pull about 18 amps for all 12 chargers).
This is a really bad time because we have so many electric vehicle events happening now. Having a dead EV is not too appealing. I'll ponder this for a bit.
Happy Sunday morning.