Saturday, March 27, 2010

Works better if I plug it in.

Turns out my charger was in trickle charge mode. 2a@12v. That charge, split between 4 batteries (with the powercheq mods) is not a lot of power to replenish the pack. That suggests the batteries may have simply been under charged on my second set of trips. So, i suspect I had the volts, but not the amps. However, waiting for a full charge has restored the pack.

The adventure into the 12v/powercheq way of charging is just a temporary measure. When my 48v side charger failed (from dropping one too many times) I thought about just getting another to replace it. The problem is, they are over $150! Instead, I'll be trying (4) Black-and-decker 12v-2a mini chargers. These don't charge up fast but four of these are less expensive than another 48v charger. They should also balance the pack when charging. Charging at 8AH, it would take 27.5hours to completely replenish the theoretical 220AH capacity of the pack. However, I don't anticipate drawing down the pack that far. If I drive moderately, I should be OK with overnight charging. Not that this will make a huge difference in my electric bill. The whole charging system will use in the neighborhood of 96W. So, I expect the charging cost on my utility bill would be approximately like leaving my porch light on all night.

The chargers could be mounted in the battery pan or on a shelf similar to the ones in this photo. Why use this particular Black and Decker kit? Each charger outputs 2A (versus normal 1A that most battery maintaners output). Plus, they come with all the cords shown which would save the trouble of putting on molex disconnects for future maintenance. These charger kits are available for $19.95 ea. (plus $4 shipping) from Tyler Tools.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water Bug!

It's been raining quite a bit. So, I again decided to see how the BugE would do. It is very convenient!

The Good. The cowl protects against windchill and rain REALLY WELL on rainy days. Much better than it's shape would suggest. I have not needed gloves nor chaps. Just wearing a sensible coat allows me to arrive warm and dry - even in 35 degree rainy weather! The front brakes work BETTER in the rain. That was handy for two panic stops I did! As for visibility, the "road film" on a car windshields does not seem to be forming on the BugE canopy. A bird did poo on it. However some water/vinegar mix and a microfiber cloth removed it off just fine! On a rainy day, I just take the BugE out of the cycle shelter, unplug it, put on helmet, get in and go! (note, if unplugging in rain, outlet should be GFI) Also, now that people in town have seen it in action, I don't get stopped as often by people with questions.

The Bad. I unfortunately when I constructed it, I didn't seal the cargo area well enough so rain collected in the cargo area. For now, I just drilled a hole in the bottom to let the water flow out but I'll be putting a better seal around the door. Also, the foot well is collecting water from my wet shoes however two small drain holes can take care of that. Also, I've noticed potholes around town are quite large so I need to pay attention to road conditions much more than I would in a 4-wheel car.

The Ugly. Today, I used the BugE for three round trips downtown at rather slow speed (15-20mph). Each round trip was around two miles each (although, I will say, these trips DO have some hills which may be why range seems so low). I did opportunity charge at home, but apparently not enough. On the last leg of the 3rd trip, the needle again went completely limp when my throttle was applied going up the final hill. So, this time, I pulled over and waited a few minutes. The pack recovered enough to make the hill and get me home again. I later found that I hadn't left home with a full charge since it was set to trickle charge mode instead of full charge.

Originally, I charged with a 48V external charger. However, it was dropped one too many times so it doesn't work. So, I'm now charging with an automotive 12V charger and relying on the powercheq modules to even out the charging. I'll eventually be installing 4 individual low profile 2A-12V on board chargers instead of one big charger. Now I know the terrain limits around my area, I should be able to drive without running into range problems.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A test of it's range - lead-acid pack

40 degrees, sunny. It would be a cold day for a regular biker but the BugE protects against windchill so there was no need for gloves or chaps. Just regular street clothing & a helmet.

So, I started out.

2.6 miles from home to walmart, the streets were stop & go for 3 stop signs, then 40mph down a hilly boulevard. Kept up with traffic and even passed a few cars :) I stopped for around 10 minutes, got groceries. Then decided to visit the park. It's 3.8 miles from Walmart. To get there, 40mph down boulevard again, full throttle to climb a hill, then more stop-go back street driving. The majority of the journey, I maintained 30mph with light traffic. When I got there, I decided instead of stopping at the park, I would head home - which I realized was now around 3 miles away on a slight uphill grade! So, the return speed was kept to 28mph, then I slowed to 25mph with needle creeping lower each time as throttle was applied. By the last mile, the needle was completely limp when throttle was applied but I managed to maintain 15mph through downtown where I knew speeds could stay slow. I almost pulled over to let the batteries recover but parking wasn't favorable to that plan. What was really disturbing was in the last 1000 feet when the controller started to turn off, then on. I managed to make it home & do a last climb up the driveway.

I noticed at the last two stops, that turning the headlight off at traffic lights (but not brake light or turn signals) helped the needle creep back into the green zone until it went limp again when the throttle was used.

So, there it is, a variety of driving. I can't say I'm thrilled with the experience of my last mile but "resting" the pack and opportunity charging should allow me to safely stay under this tested range.

My Optimas D45s are now two years old (bought in spring of 2008) and they would spend months not connected to a charger during construction and refits. Plus, there was the shorting incident which took away even more performance. Since shorting two of the batteries, I've no longer been able to reach over 50mph even down hill with that pack. So, I did not expect full performance.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BugE - now road legal in New York!

Finally, FINALLY, after all this time, I managed to get a plate from the NY-DMV!

I decided to take the BugE for an across town trip. OMG! This thing is fun! At first, I was a bit conservative on my route, only going along back roads. However, after getting used to how the vehicle worked, I was soon flying down the main strip with no problems keeping up with traffic! Acceleration remained good through the journey and battery life was much better than expected (probably due to the powercheq modules). I criss-crossed from one side of town to the other and was still safely in the upper part of the green zone when I returned. Both suspension changes work great - even over railroad tracks! Clear skies, nice sunset. Truly a fun ride! I ended the ride with a well earned beer at the local bar.

However, it has all been a bitter-sweet experience. Thanks to New York State, this simple vehicle became needlessly expensive in terms of up-front money and time. Paying sales tax on my own home-built vehicle made of retail parts was a final insult. However, it's over. Now, I just pay motorcycle rates for registration, inspection and insurance (just over $200 for the year). Of course, I also don't need to buy gas either - just occasional batteries. If I go for a different battery technology such as nickel iron, I may not even need to do that again either! Repairs of course are now very affordable and hopefully infrequent too. If I were to use my 200W solar array, it would even be Fusion powered!

So, I've gotta say, after a long journey, the future has arrived!