I also do this web site. But as you can tell, I'm no web designer. I could spend hours writing and polishing elaborate web pages for you; but they would still look amateurish. I guess I'd rather be working on EVs than on this web site!
So, in order to help YOU work on your EV projects, here is a "data dump" of condensed EV circuits and specs I've collected over the years. I call it...
|Circuits:||Components:||Battery Data and Specifications:|
EV Circuits: The Batt-Bridge Battery Out-Of-Balance Alarm
An EV's pack consists of many cells or batteries. In theory, they are all identical. In practice, they aren't. There will always be a "weak link" somewhere in the pack. That's the cell that limits your range, and limits how much you can charge before damage begins.
But it is difficult to know if you have a weak cell. Total pack voltage won't tell you until too late. The amount of circuitry needed to monitor every single cell can get very complicated and expensive!
The Batt-Bridge is a quick-n-dirty "idiot light" to give you a good/bad warning when any cell in the pack goes undervoltage (dead) or overvoltage (overcharged). It works with all types of batteries; lead-acid, lithium, nicad, or nimh. If it lights up red, back off on the current until it goes out. If it stays on even at zero current, stop driving or charging until you find the problem and fix it!
How it works: The Batt-Bridge divides the pack in half, and compares the voltage of each half. When the two halves are equal (within 1 volt or less), a green LED is lit. If a cell goes dead or begins overcharging somewhere in the pack, its voltage typically changes by more than a volt. This imbalance lights one of two bright red LEDs to tell you which half of the pack is low.
D1 is a standard brightness green LED. D2 and D3 should be ultrabright red LEDs for best visibility. R1 and R2 should be identical resistors, chosen to provide about 10ma at your pack voltage. The current sets the sensitivity and brightness of the LEDs.
Construction: Mount the LEDs in a pilot light holder.
Install it on the dashboard where the driver can easily see it,
and where it won't be washed out by direct sunlight. Mount the
resistors at the battery terminal ends of the wires, so they will
limit the current in case of shorts.
EV Circuits: The Zener-Lamp Shunt Regulator for Lead-Acid Batteries
The Batt-Bridge tells you that some batteries in your pack are less charged than others. With flooded batteries you can overcharge to bring up the low batteries, and replace the water lost in the ones that were already full. But if you overcharge sealed batteries, it shortens their life.
The Zener-Lamp regulator is intended for sealed 12v lead-acid batteries (though it can be adapted for other types). It bypasses excess charging current on full batteries, so the weaker ones can finish charging without overcharging those that are already full. It's a budget regulator, so even cheapskates won't have an excuse to murder their batteries because a real BMS (Battery Management System) would cost them too much.
How it works: Two zener diodes set the voltage above which it bypasses current. 6.2v and 6.8v zeners will bypass above 13v (full charge for a 12v battery). A #PR2 or #43 2.5v 0.5a lamp limits the current, provides a visual indication when it is bypassing, and acts as a fuse in case of overvoltage, miswiring, or component failures. The 10 ohm resistor is a backup in case the lamp fails.
Construction: The zeners get hot! Mount them in large copper ring terminals for #6 wire. Fill the body with a thermally conductive epoxy (like JB Weld) to transfer the heat to the battery terminals. Solder the lamp and resistor in parallel. Connect them to the other ends of the zeners with short wires. Cover the connections with heat shrink tubing and epoxy to waterproof them.
Use: Near the end of a charge cycle, the lamps will begin
to light. Set up your charger to be at a low current (like 0.5
amp) at this time. At this current, each hour you charge puts an
extra 0.5 amphours into the low batteries whose lamps aren't lit.
The pack is balanced when all the lights are glowing to some
degree. This may take many hours on an out-of-balance pack. Once
balanced, subsequent charges should take under an hour to reach
EV Circuits: The Doubler 12v to 24v Contactor Driver
Contactors are expensive, and their coils use a lot of power. This can load down your 12v system, and the coils run hot. The Doubler cuts coil power by 4:1, by using less expensive contactors with 24v coils (common in industrial EVs and the surplus market). It doubles your 12v to 24v to pull in the contactor quickly. It then holds the contactor on with 12v, using only 1/4 the power. This lightens the load on your 12v system, and the coil runs cool for longer life. For example:Albright SW-200 contactor with 12v coil:
How it works: The "Switch" is whatever your EV uses to control the contactor. It can be the ignition keyswitch, a relay, or the solid state output from a controller like the Zilla. When the switch is off, capacitor C1 charges through lamp I1 and Schottky diode D2. C1 quickly charges, and the current falls to zero. MOSFET Q1 is off because its gate is grounded by R1, the contactor coil, and D2.
When the switch closes, R1 turns Q1 on. This grounds the + end of C1, and lights indicator I1. Since C1 was charged to 12v, its - end is now at -12v. D2 blocks, so the contactor coil has +24v across it and pulls in. C1 quickly discharges, and the voltage across it falls to zero. The coil is then held on at 12v by current flowing through the switch and D2. Q1 stays on, so I1 stays lit.
When the switch turns off, the coil's inductive "kick" is clamped
at -24v by zener D1. R1 turns Q1 off, and zener D3 protects the
gate of Q1. C1 now recharges through I1 for the next switch
Construction: A bare PC board, parts kit, and assembled
units are available. The board has holes to mount on an Albright
SW180, SW190, and SW200 series contactors (or equivalent), or can
be mounted separately in a plastic enclosure.
The Cruising Equipment E-Meter and Heart Interface/Xantrex Link-10 are popular high-quality meters used in many EVs. They display the voltage, current, state of charge, amphours in/out, KWH, time, temperature, and other factors. They can also send this data serially to your computer for data logging and analysis. This information is very useful for monitoring the health of your batteries, and extending their life.
However, the E-meter and Link-10 were originally designed for grounded 12v or 24v batteries. As such, they have a few shortcomings when used in EVs:
Adding all of this externally can easily add $200 to the cost of the meter. The Companion is a simple circuit board that includes all these functions (prescaler, isolated power supply, and isolated data output) at a much lower price. It simplifies installation and eliminates wiring errors. It mounts on the back of the meter, without increasing the depth behind the panel or extra little boxes. Build it yourself from the schematic. Bare boards, kit versions, and assembled Companions are also available.
How it works: R1, R2, R3, C1, and D1 are the Prescaler. If the pack is connected to W1, R1 scales the meter to read 0-100v. If the pack is connected to W2, R1-R3 scale the meter to read 0-500v. The meter has a configuration option to show the correct voltage with the prescaler connected. C1 is a noise filter (EV packs can be very noisy). D1 protects the meter from reversed or excessive voltages.
U3, C3, C4, and F1 are the isolated power supply. The heart of it is the Powerex DC/DC converter. It has an 8-16vdc input, and a 24v 100ma output isolated to 3500v. The capacitors filter out noise. Fuse F1 protects against excessive voltage or reverse polarity inputs.
U1, U2, R4, R5, and C2 provide the optically isolated data output. Two optocouplers are used for a symmetric output with equal rise/fall times, to prevent distortion or errors. The resistors limit the LED current, and C1 speeds up the switching for sharp clean edges. The output of the optocouplers gets its negative supply from the serial data output of the PC (which is otherwise unused), and its positive supply from the 12v system that powers U3 and the meter. The data output thus has standard +/-12v RS-232 levels.
Construction: Everything mounts on a 1.9" diameter round PC board. Headers J2 and J3 use wirewrap pins, so the long tails reach the meter's screw terminal strip. U3 is socketed, so it can be plugged in after the screws are tightened. RS-232 connector P1 is taken apart and shortened, to avoid adding depth. Two screws secure it to the meter for additional support. (Note: Even if you bought your E-Meter/Link-10 without the serial option, it will probably have everything for it installed except the RS-232 connector itself. When you order a Companion, this connector is included in case your meter doesn't have one.)
Use: A shielded well-insulated shunt cable connects J2 to the shunt. A prewired 6' cable is supplied to prevent miswiring. The two ring terminals at the end connect to the small screws on the shunt.
The red wire to W1 or W2 should be well insulated, as it connects to the pack. If this wire is long, install a fuse at the battery end in case the wire ever shorts to ground.
The cable plugged into J1 provides +12v power, ground, and serial data output. A 3' cable is provided, but any length can be used. Separating J1 from J2 and J3 and using different connectors makes it impossible to mix up high voltage with the low voltage grounded wiring.
J3 is only used for options, such as a remote temperature sensor or alarm outputs.
High Voltage DC Relays and Contactors
You may have noticed that when you open a circuit (with a switch, relay, contactor, connector, or whatever), you get a spark. A little arcing is inevitable. But if it is not limited, it will shorten the life of the switching device, or even destroy it and leave the load still powered!
Switches, relays and contactors have voltage and current ratings, either printed on them, or listed in their data sheets. They can be pretty confusing! For example, here are the ratings printed on a Potter and Brumfield T92S7D22-12 relay:
Even more ratings are provided on the data sheet. But you don't need to be a contact engineer to understand all of this. It's sufficient to learn the basics, so you can pick a suitable contact for what you want to switch.
UL, CSA, and VDE are safety regulatory agencies. These codes tell you that someone other than the manufacturer has tested this part, and certifies that the ratings are honest. To get agency ratings, the part has to be able to switch the specified loads for 100,000 cycles. If you don't see any agency markings, the manufacturer is free to make up anything he likes. You'll often find absurdly high ratings on parts with no agency testing or confirmation. For example, automotive grade relays have no agency listings, and can only switch their rated loads for 10,000 cycles (or less)!
Let's look at the AC ratings. The higher the voltage, the lower the current it can carry. The first two values assume a resistive load. HP is "horsepower", i.e. an inductive load. Each horsepower is about 1000 watts; so 1HP is 1000w / 120v = 8.3 amps, and 3HP is 3000w / 240v = 12.5 amps. Inductive loads arc a lot more, so the current rating is roughly half as much when switching an inductive load.
Now look at the DC rating. Once you have more than about 30 volts across a contact, it will arc. Thus this relay only has a DC contact rating of 28 vdc at 20 amps. So why is the AC voltage rating so much higher? It's because AC voltages automatically go through zero 120 times a second at 60 Hz (or 100 times a second at 50 Hz). This automatically extinguishes the arc, so it won't last any longer than 8-10 milliseconds.
But on high voltage DC, once an arc starts it WON'T STOP until the contact spacing is very large, the current is very low, or some other mechanism stops it. The arc lets current keep flowing to the load, and also quickly destroys the contact. This particular relay has no provisions for switching high voltage DC; thus the low DC voltage rating.
The voltage rating of contacts in series add, because they increase the total open contact spacing. This is a double-pole relay, so you can wire both 28vdc contacts in series to switch 56vdc. Likewise, you can use a relay with four 30vdc contacts to switch 4 x 30vdc = 120vdc. Just make sure that ALL the contacts open and close at once (i.e. they are all part of the same switch or relay).
It also pays to look at the data sheet. Some switches and relays have higher DC voltage ratings at reduced currents. Schrack relays (now owned by Tyco) often have this data. For example, the Schrack PT570012 (Digikey PB912-ND) is a 4PDT relay with four 6 amp 120vac or 30vdc contacts that the data sheet also rates at 300vdc at 1 amp.
You can also get relays and contactors specially designed to switch high voltage DC. Several methods are used. First, much larger spacing between the open contacts. Second, putting more than one contact in series. Third, blowout magnets.
The Potter and Brumfield PRD-series is a common example. It is often used to switch EV chargers, heaters, and other DC loads up to 20 amps. It has two contacts, each rated at 125vdc that can be used in series to switch 250vdc. To get this rating, it has a blowout magnet, and extra-large contact spacings (see photo). It is available from multiple sources (Tyco, Deltrol, Magnecraft, etc.). The AC versions are far more common, so be sure to get one with the blowout magnet (such as the PRD-7DH0-12).
The smaller Potter and Brumfield KUEP-series is similar, but rated for 10 amps at 150vdc. It is useful for DC/DC converters and other smaller loads. It also has a blowout magnet (see photo), and two contacts pre-wired in series. Again, AC versions are much more common, so look for one with the magnet, like the KUEP-3D55-12.
I normally have these relays in stock for EV projects. If you need one, email me for details.
You often see a spark when you open a switch. A little arcing is inevitable. But if it is not limited, it will damage the switch and shorten its life. It can even cause the switch to fail shorted, and thus leave the load still powered! Snubbers are simple little circuits that reduce the stress on switches, so they can handle more power and last longer. Think of it as a "shock absorber" for electrical circuits. Snubbers easy to add, and provide cheap insurance.
"Switch" means any device used to turn things on and off. It can be mechanical (switch, relay, contactor, fuse, circuit breaker, etc.) as well as solid state (diode, transistor, TRIAC, MOSFET, IGBT, etc.) Solid state devices are especially easy to damage -- just one instantaneous over-voltage event can destroy them!
Resistive Load: The type of load makes a big difference. With an ideal resistive load, the current simply starts when you turn it on, and stops when you turn it off. Suppose we are switching a 10 ohm resistive heater (Rload) across a 100 volt battery (see illustration). The switch voltage (red) is 0 volts when on, and 100 volts when off. The current (green) is 10 amps when on, and 0 amps when off. Simple!
Inductive Load: Inductive loads are very common. They include relay and contactor coils, motors, transformers, heaters with wirewound elements -- even just a length of wire has inductance. Inductors act like flywheels; they fight to keep the current from changing suddenly. Look at the illustration with inductance added to Rload. The current rises slowly at turn-on, as the inductance fights the change. If the load is a relay or contactor coil, this means it pulls in slower. It takes about 3 time constants (T=L/R) for the current to reach its final value. With the parts shown, T = L/R = 10mh/10ohm = 1 msec; so it takes 3 msec to reach 10 amps.
But look at that turn-off spike; it's over 350 volts! The inductor is trying to force the current to keep flowing despite the open switch. It "kicks" the voltage up and up, until the switch arcs or the transistor breaks down. In fact, an inductive load can easily produce peaks over 10 times the supply voltage. Unless your switching device has a huge voltage rating, it will fail.
Also notice the high-low-high-low ringing. Real circuits also inevitably have capacitance. This capacitance works with the inductance to form a resonant circuit that "rings" like a bell when struck by that high voltage "hammer". It causes interference, like a "pop" in your radio, or noise glitches in unrelated circuits.
The most common snubber is the "freewheel" diode (shown in yellow). A diode is connected across the load, oriented as shown to provide a path for the inductive current when the switch turns off. The diode clamps the voltage to no more than 1 volt above the supply (note the step to 101 volts). A diode snubber is cheap, easy, and effective. Use a diode with a voltage rating at least twice the supply voltage, and a current rating equal to the load current. In this example, use a 200v 10a diode.
The low clamping voltage has one drawback: It makes the load current slow to fall back to zero -- it's that 3 msec T=L/R time constant again. If you're driving a relay or contactor, a freewheel diode across its coil makes it turn off slowly, which is bad for its contact life. For a faster turn-off, you need to raise the clamping voltage. There are several ways:
Add a resistor in series with the diode. To clamp at 100v, R = 100v/10a = 10 ohms. When the switch turns off, the coil current diverts to the snubber diode and resistor, producing a 100v drop. The switch sees the sum of the supply voltage and clamp voltage (200v in this example). The total resistance has doubled to 20 ohms, so L/R is half as long; the load turns off twice as fast.
Add a zener diode with the desired clamping voltage in series with the diode (shown at right). When the switch turns off, the coil is held at the clamp voltage until it runs out of stored energy. Turn-off time is about twice as fast as a resistor-diode snubber with the same clamp voltage. The switch sees the sum of the supply voltage and zener voltage (100v + 100v = 200v in this example).
For a clamp voltage greater than the supply voltage, use a single bidirectional zener, ZNR, or MOV. Turn-off is very fast, and you only need one part. With a 150v part, the switch will see 100v + 150v = 250v peak. That's pretty high, so this approach is more practical for low-voltage circuits. For example, a 24v bidirectional zener in a 12v circuit will limit the switch to 36v peak.
Zener diode directly across the switch. This provides better protection for the switch if the power supply voltage is noisy or unknown.The switch is clamped to the zener voltage (which must be higher than the supply voltage). The load is clamped to the zener voltage MINUS the supply voltage. For example, a 150v zener clamps the load to 150v - 100v = 50v. This is a good method when the switch has a definite voltage that you must not exceed (such as a transistor or MOSFET).
Resistor-Capacitor Snubber: Note that the rise and fall times aren't quite instantaneous. Every switch (mechanical or solid state) takes time to open or close. As it changes, it briefly sees both part of the supply voltage, and part of the load current. A mechanical switch will arc during this time, when its contacts aren't quite fully opened. A transistor will dissipate power during this time, when its apparent resistance is changing between on (low) and off (high). How bad is it? Due to the inductive load in this circuit, the switch can be dissipating 100v x 10a = 1000 watts peak!
Diode snubbers clamp the voltage, but don't do anything about the rapid rate of rise in voltage. RC snubbers add capacitors to slow down the rate of rise, to give the switch time to fully turn off before it gets "hit" with the full off-state voltage.
An RC snubber is shown at the right. The snubber capacitor slows down the rise to 0.5 msec, to give the switch time to fully open before it sees the peak voltage. It also reduces the peak power in the switch, by delaying the voltage peak until the current has fallen to a low value. This puts less stress on the switch, so it runs cooler and lasts longer. The RC snubber still provides a fast decay in the load current, so relays and contactors will drop out quickly. It also lowers the LC resonant frequency, reducing noise.
The resistor in series with the capacitor has two jobs: It damps out the oscillations (like padding a bell). And it limits the peak current to charge the capacitor when the switch turns on (that's the green current spike you see at 1 msec).
Finding the "perfect" values for an RC snubber is challenging. For an analytical approach, look here. Or, you can use a circuit simulator, like LTspice. If you have an oscilloscope, or can see the contact, the Edisonian approach works; experiment with different values to minimize the peak voltage and arcing. Luckily, the values are not critical; capacitors from 0.01uF to 10uF, and resistors from 1 to 100 ohms work well for mechanical switches. In general, the higher the current, the higher the capacitance. The faster the switch, the lower the capacitance (so solid state switches use smaller capacitors). Then pick a resistance high enough to limit the peak turn-on current to something the switch can handle, but low enough to damp out the ringing.
RCD snubber: Diodes, resistors, and capacitors can be combined to make especially effective snubbers. The diode provides a predictable peak voltage limit, and removes that nasty turn-on current spike. The RC network slows the rate of rise, and gets rid of the ringing and noise. The most common RCD snubber circuit is shown at the right.
When the switch turns on, the diode is reverse-biased and so does not conduct. The resistor charges the capacitor to the supply voltage. Choose the resistor to keep this current low, so the switch turn-on current spike is negligible. After a few RC time constants, the capacitor voltage equals the load voltage and the snubber current falls to zero.
When the switch turns off, the load current shifts to the snubber. The diode gets forward biased, and conducts. The switch voltage rises slowly, as the inductive energy transfers to the capacitor. This limits the rate of rise in voltage, to give the switch time to fully turn off. When the inductor current falls to zero, the diode again blocks. The snubber resistor then slowly discharges the capacitor back to zero, so the circuit is ready for the next cycle.
The RCD snubber is a good way to maximize the power and life of a given switching device. It provides fast load turn-off, low stress on the switch, low noise, and the part values are relatively independent and easier to calculate:
Across the load, or across the switch: These examples show snubbers across the load. Snubbers can also be placed across the switch, if that's more convenient. But if the snubber fails shorted, it turns the load ON! There are special UL-recognized fuse resistors, MOVs and ZNRs (zener diode replacements), and X-type (across the line) and Y-type (line to ground) rated capacitors for this purpose that are guaranteed to fail open, and not explode or start fires if they fail.
Switching AC loads: The above assumes a DC load. If you're switching an AC load, the snubber circuit has to be bidirectional. Freewheel diodes and snubbers with unidirectional zeners won't work. You have to use RC snubbers, or snubbers with bidirectional zeners, MOVs, or ZNRs.
Parts for Snubbers: Snubbers need to handle high peak currents and voltages. Ordinary "cheap" resistors and capacitors are likely to fail. Types of parts to use:
I normally have these parts in stock for EV projects. If you
need some, email
me with a description of your load and I'll send you the parts for FREE with a donation to the Sunrise EV2 Project. Thanks for reading this far! :-)
No matter what kind of batteries you use, they will perform a lot worse when cold (just like people)! If you install about an inch of styrafoam insulation around your batteries, their own waste heat from daily driving and charging is usually enough to keep them warm. I put my batteries in such a box, with a removable lid. Leave the lid off in the summer, and put it on in the winter. A batt of fiberglass insulation is handy for insulating the lid, as it is nonconductive, won't trap vent gases, and molds itself around the terminals and wiring.
You'll need battery heaters if you don't drive every day, and live in a climate with weather below freezing. With 1" of insulation, you only need about 20-40 watts per square foot of battery area. With less insulation, more heat is needed. A typical battery heating blanket is shown at right. They come in various lengths and wattages, and sell in auto parts stores for $20-$60. It's a plastic bag, with about 1/4" of insulation inside and a long piece of nichrome resistance wire. The wire is attached to a thin sheet of aluminum foil, to hold it in position and (in theory) spread out the heat. The foil is connected to the AC line cord's ground wire in case something shorts.
You can use these as-is, but I've found they are a little too crude to work dependably. There is no thermostat, so the battery temperature is uncontrolled. There is no fuse, so if it gets wet or pinched it can even start a fire! And, it's not all that well protected from moisture or battery acid. For reliable operation, it is better to repackage them, and add a fuse and thermostat.
Here's an inexpensive way to do it. Cut a sheet of aluminum about the size of the floor of your battery box. Take the heater apart, carefully separate the resistance wire, and temporarily tape it to the aluminum sheet. Space the wires out evenly -- if they cross or even get too close to each other, you'll get a "hot spot" that will fail. Connect the ground wire to the aluminum sheet.
Get a 10-ounce tube of high-temperature silicone sealant (intended for sealing furnace ducts and chimney flues) from your local lumber company. Apply it to the wires with a caulk gun. Cover it with aluminum foil or a polyethylene plastic sheet, so you can push the sealant around and squeeze out the air pockets without making a mess. If this heater is for flooded batteries, apply plastic to both sides with the silicone sealant to prevent corrosion and ground fault leakage currents.
Silicone needs exposure to air and moisture to cure, so it will take a long time to fully set. But with the plastic or foil cover, you don't have to wait before handling and installing it. The left photo shows one of my repackaged battery heaters.
Lay a sheet of styrafoam in the bottom of your battery box. Place the heater on top of it, with the wire side down. Now place the batteries on top of that. The wires will sink slightly into the styrafoam, and won't be pinched or damaged by the weight of the batteries. The aluminum will spread the heat evenly over all the batteries.
Let's anthromorphize a bit, and consider lead-acid batteries as alive; like the family dog.
The usual reason you see a used EV that says "needs batteries" is because the previous owner treated the batteries cruelly. Whether by ignorance or laziness, some or all of the above guidelines were violated. But batteries are replaceable, and it usually means you can get the EV "cheap".
But such problems can be cured. A little detective work to fix the problems, and then some tender loving care will go a long way toward getting the longest life possible on the next set of batteries.
Specific Gravity Volts/Cell 6v Battery 8v Battery 12v Battery State of Charge 1.260 2.12-2.15v 6.3-6.45v 8.4-8.6v 12.6-12.9v 100% (full) 1.220 2.06v 6.18v 8.25v 12.36v 75% 1.180 2.03v 6.09v 8.12v 12.18v 50% 1.140 1.99v 5.97v 7.96v 11.94v 25% 1.100 1.97v 5.91v 7.88v 11.82v 0% (dead) 0.030 0.017v 0.05v 0.067v 0.1v <-- maximum variation between cells or batteries Notes: 1. Measure after sitting without charging or discharging for at least 8 hours. 2. AGM and starting battery voltages will be a little higher. 3. Old battery voltages will be a little lower.
typical lead-acid battery life (cycles) Dept of Discharge(%) ----flooded----- ------gel------- -------agm------- (Trojan T-105) (Deka Dominator) (Deka Intimidator) 100% 600 x 1.0 = 600 450 x 1.0 = 450 150 x 1.0 = 150 80% 800 x 0.8 = 640 600 x 0.8 = 480 200 x 0.8 = 160 50% 1500 x 0.5 = 750 1000 x 0.5 = 500 370 x 0.5 = 185 25% 2500 x .25 = 625 2100 x .25 = 525 925 x .25 = 231 10% 5500 x 0.1 = 550 5700 x .1 = 570 3100 x 0.1 = 310 Notes: 1. Cycle life depends on type of battery, depth of discharge, and discharge current. 2. The shallower the discharge, the greater the cycle life. 3. Minimum cost per mile occurs when cycles x DOD% is at its maximum.
The Sunrise EV2 Project, © 2007-2014 by Lee A. Hart.
Created 3/15/2012. Last update 7/7/2014.
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