First Charging with Power Supplies

by Ben N on July 26, 2015

Yesterday morning, I got my first chance to charge my cycle with the Mean Well power supplies.

First, I wired the output of the three in series, connecting black to red, black to red with automotive butt connectors with built-in heat shrink. The metal cases of the power supplies are isolated from the DC outputs, so there’s no worries about short-circuiting if the cases touch. The most positive and most negative connections were then attached to a short 125 amp Anderson disconnect repurposed from the Vectrix’s original NiMH battery pack. (The metal cases of the power supplies are isolated from the DC outputs, so there’s no worries about short-circuiting if the cases touch.)
On the AC input side, I connected all three power supplies in parallel, soldered the wires together, and heat-shrinked them.

IMG_4455Next, I cut a piece of plywood a little larger than the power supplies to have something to mount them down to.
After that, I had to open up the Vectrix to get at the battery pack and electric connections. I wired a matching Anderson connector to pack positive and the far side of the Cycle Analyst ammeter on the negative side of the pack, so that the ammeter will track any energy used for charging.

After that, I started experimenting with charging.

Connecting the Mean Wells and plugging them in, the ammeter showed 6.7 amps of charging, which perfectly matches the information on the spec sheet. To start with, I am only using the Mean Wells as a “bulk charger”, there is no control (yet) to turn off the power supplies. I did have hooked up one “Cell-Log” – a tiny display that shows the voltage of individual cells. I checked that while charging to make sure no individual cell would get over-charged. The Cell-Log also has a High Voltage Alarm, which can activate an output, for example, to turn off a relay to disconnect AC power to the power supplies.

IMG_4457The Mean Wells were pulling just over 1000 watts on the AC side.
I also plugged in the Vectrix’s stock charger, which is set to 1500 watts. I have two circuits in my garage, so I ran each of the chargers to its own circuit, as 2500 watts would blow any breaker. With BOTH chargers running, the Cycle Analyst showed 16.2 amps going into the battery.

Several people have asked me about HEAT in the electric motorcycle, whether from charging, or heating of the batteries simply from powering the cycle. I have a non-contact thermometer AND a Flir thermal camera (for iPhone 5). I thought I would try them out to see what type of temperatures the batteries, power supplies, and cables reach while charging.

IMG_4463 IMG_4470To start with, I simply put my hand on the power supplies. They were warm. Not hot hot, but fairly warm. When checked with the IR thermometer, they clocked in at 130 degrees F. On the thermal image camera, they show up as warm but not nearly as hot as some other parts of the cycle – specifically ANYTHING BLACK. It was a nice sunny day. Anything dark colored and in the sun got HOT fast! The back seat of the Vectrix showed up at 166 degrees F! Too hot to hold my hand against!

Turning my attention to the batteries, the orange plastic covers that go over the top of the terminals were slightly warm. (A lot cooler than if they were black!) Not much of the actual cell modules is visible, but what was looked rather cool on the thermal imaging. It seems that the aluminum cases of the cell modules, agains the aluminum battery-box frame of the Vectrix acts as a giant heat-sink.

Other items of note when it came to thermal imaging:
The Mean Well power supplies while charging didn’t get any hotter than my paved driveway in full sunlight did.
The extension cord that I was running to the power supplies actually got hotter than the power supplies did.
Splices in the power cords got hotter than the rest of the cords. You can see this in the one thermal image where the output wires of the Mean Wells come together.

I’ve only done some “bulk-charging” with the Mean Wells so far. It did in fact charge the bike faster, using two chargers instead of one. Of course, I had to use two circuits and extension cords, but both could easily run on a single EVSE J1772 connection (typically 240V, 30A.) or an RV park connection.

Next, I’ll have to start experimenting with turning up the voltage a little higher on the Mean Wells to charge the battery pack to a higher voltage than the stock charger is set to. Theoretically, I can charge my battery pack to 151.2V. (4.2V per cell.) My stock charger is set to charge to 147V, but in reality, checking it against the Cycle Analyst volt meter and my multimeter going straight to the battery pack, I’m only charging to just over 145 volts. I’ll try charging to a higher voltage with the Mean Wells, monitor it with the Cell-Log, and then see how many miles I can get out of a “fuller” battery charge.

My brother and his wife were visiting from out of state, so we had a family dinner at my parents’ house. He took the Vectrix for a ride to check it out. It was interesting to see and hear somebody else riding the cycle. While the bike DOES have a very distinct gear noise to it, it doesn’t carry very far. The cycle is extremely quiet from any sort of distance at all. I had the same experience when a friend came over and rode my electric Kawasaki for the very first time – from a few feet away, there’s plenty of chain noise, but at any other distance, it’s basically silent.

That’s it for now. Til next time, stay charged up!



{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jarkko Santala July 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm

The Cycle Analyst also has a function to drive a relay when a voltage is reached I think. You’ll need to open it up and probably use a Solid State Relay though. Also some CellLogs can measure higher voltages per “cell”, theone for 6 “cells” I think, so you could use one of those to divide your pack into sections, measure those sections and if any of them reach a higher-than-comfortable total voltage, you can tell the CellLog to disconnect a relay. There are also numerous cheap programmable DC voltage meters, which can drive a relay. I’m using on my car, because it has a charger meant to charge a higher number of cells that I have at the moment. Just a couple of ideas on how to control the end of charge. 🙂

2 Mark Raab July 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Hi Ben, thanks for your electric motorcycle work, a friend of mine invited me to work with him on some Vectrix VX-1 scooters, we are having some success with getting a few up and running, these are 2007 models with 40% to 50% of the original (NiMh) battery capacity remaining.
Our latest challenge has a faulty battery charger, one of the silver P001304(part #) chargers.
We swapped with a good charger and found after an overnight charge the readout indicates(just now) 40 miles of range available! So i’m looking for a charger! Have you opened/repaired charger modules? These modules are well sealed so I am looking for opinions regarding the attempt.
Happy to see the use of Leaf batteries, this is something I will consider.
Sincerely, Mark Raab

3 Ben N July 30, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Hi Mark, I’ve had the good fortune of my charger working just fine. So, I have NOT opened one up or taken apart/repaired it.
You might want to check the forum on V is for Voltage

Hope that helps!

4 tim June 23, 2016 at 5:31 am

I’m looking to see where you talk about a BMS for leaf cells??

Are just doing manual balancing?

I’m also looking for one of those BMS that will show all the cells voltage on a smart phone.

5 admin June 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Hi Tim.
For the Leaf Cells, they were in perfect balance when I pulled them out of the crashed Nissan Leaf pack. I’ve been using “Cell Logs” just to be able to view multiple cell voltages at once. There’s a lot of different BMS systems out there. One with a smart phone app interface sounds pretty cool. Try it out and let us know how it goes!

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: