Problem TC Charger

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Problem TC Charger

Post by Jonathanm »

Dear all,
              I have a 153 volt TC charger. It has sat for around 1 year prior to being fired up. I am helping a friend with a lithium conversion for a Vectrix bike. Anyway we hooked it up to the previously installed 42 LiFe batteries for a test and it started to charge quite well. I was following the battery voltage up to 125 V as the batteries were very low having sat for 1 year being only connected to BMS cell modules. Sadly it charged for only about 2 - 3 minutes. It then clicked and then went black completely as though a main fuse somewhere had failed. The next morning I could get it to fire up but I only get a STEADY red signal led when connected to the batteries. If it is disconnected from the batteries I get the flashing red/green combination - which I understand is normal. I could not find any information on what the steady RED led refers to.

It is 1 year old so I don't know if it is still on guarantee or not?

Does anybody have any idea on where the problem could be and if so any thing that we can check from our side....I have tried to contact the seller of these chargers to see if they can shed any light on the problem.

Thanks for any help that you can be.
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Post by evric »

Jonathanm wrote: ... the batteries were very low having sat for 1 year being only connected to BMS cell modules. ...


Hi Jonathan,

I think you'll find the charger is probably OK and the problem will be with the lithium cells. Having the BMS modes connected for a year has flattened them, possibly below the minimum voltage suggested of 2.5V per cell.. Check each individual cell voltage with a multimeter and if you find any lower that 1 Volt, these may have to be replaced. Any lower than 2.5 Volts also may have some permanent damage internally.

To verify which are OK and which are not, every cell will have to be charged individually with a single cell charger.
EV Power have such a charger for sale. I have not used one, but I know someone who has:
http://ev-power.com.au/webstore/index.p ... v-20a.html

To use the charger, remove the BMS modules from all the cells.

Eric
Last edited by evric on Mon, 03 Nov 2014, 01:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by coulomb »

Jonathanm wrote: It then clicked and then went black completely as though a main fuse somewhere had failed.
That's unusual. Maybe it was showing green but you didn't notice? Sometimes the LED doesn't line up with the viewing hole all that well, and it can be hard to see one of the LED dies (it's a dual colour LED). If the lights truly were black, then that's a charger fault.
The next morning I could get it to fire up but I only get a STEADY red signal led when connected to the batteries.
Most unfortunately, these chargers are not consistent with what the LED patterns mean. A steady red however is not any kind of error code; it means it's at a certain state. This could be completely normal. Often it means it's less than 80% full (though this is a legacy from lead-acid days; you can't tell a lithium battery's state of charge from voltage alone).

What is the voltage when in this red state?

I'd leave it connected to the charger for a while.

There is often a state where the current is low (say 0.1 C) to gently get the batteries started; then the charger will go to the next state to output maximum current, for the "bulk" part of the charge.
If it is disconnected from the batteries I get the flashing red/green combination - which I understand is normal.
Yes, and it indicates that the charger is running normally; no blown fuses (except possibly the output fuse, but the solid red LED indicates that this is not blown either.)

I could not find any information on what the steady RED led refers to.

125 V is an average of just under 3.0 VPC. It's quite possible that all is well, except you dodged a bullet. Leaving the BMS connected to any battery for more than a few months is a bad idea. They should be connected only a few months maximum before the battery is ready for charging. However, I'd follow EVRic's advice and check each individual cell with a multimeter. My guess is that most of them are at 3.3 V at least when charging; my guess is that up to 4 of them are very low in voltage and will need to be replaced. (125 / 3.3 = 37.8).
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Post by Jonathanm »


Thanks for your reply - Agreed - unfortunately not much to do about what has happened in the past. I had in fact lifted the voltage of cells up individually until such a voltage was achieved that the charger would start.   It ran for a couple of minutes and i had the voltmeter on the output watching the voltage increase quite rapidly from 85V up to 125V and then shut down - all the cells that I can access have now all stabilised at around 2.7 - 2.8V each. (after overnight)

The charger still seems quite strange - I left it on charging for 15 - 20 minutes (steady RED LED) and the voltage did not lift at all - it just was not charging
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Format error
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Post by Jonathanm »


That's unusual. Maybe it was showing green but you didn't notice? Sometimes the LED doesn't line up with the viewing hole all that well, and it can be hard to see one of the LED dies (it's a dual colour LED). If the lights truly were black, then that's a charger fault.
I have a feeling there is some sort of hardware fault...

Most unfortunately, these chargers are not consistent with what the LED patterns mean. A steady read however is not any kind of error code; it means it's at a certain state. This could be completely normal. Often it means it's less than 80% full (though this is a legacy from lead-acid days; you can't tell a lithium battery's state of charge from voltage alone).

What is the voltage when in this red state?
It was around 125V but today down to about 118 - around 2.8V per cell.
I'd leave it connected to the charger for a while.
I tried yesterday but only for about 15 minutes - it stayed solid red led but there was no output from the charger - the battery voltage very slowly dropped.
There is often a state where the current is low (say 0.1 C) to gently get the batteries started; then the charger will go to the next state to output maximum current, for the "bulk" part of the charge.
Understand - perhaps I need to be a little patient but the fact there were no lights at all suggests to me not all is well. Also there is a function on the LED which indicates a battery fault. This was not illuminated...
If it is disconnected from the batteries I get the flashing red/green combination - which I understand is normal.

Yes, and it indicates that the charger is running normally; no blown fuses (except possibly the output fuse, but the solid red LED indicates that this is not blown either.)

125 V is an average of just under 3.0 VPC. It's quite possible that all is well, except you dodged a bullet. Leaving the BMS connected to any battery for more than a few months is a bad idea. They should be connected only a few months maximum before the battery is ready for charging. However, I'd follow EVRic's advice and check each individual cell with a multimeter. My guess is that most of them are at 3.3 V at least when charging; my guess is that up to 4 of them are very low in voltage and will need to be replaced. (125 / 3.3 = 37.8).
So far all are around 2.7 - 2.8 volts - I expect it to drop slowly over the next days - due to the BMS cell modules.

Is there any diagnostic that you know to check the charger?



Thanks,

Jonathan
Last edited by Jonathanm on Mon, 03 Nov 2014, 04:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by evric »

TC Charger/Elcon LED Indicators

To clear up the LED indications... The LED flashing sequences in the TC Charger specs are ERROR messages only.

The indications while charging are:

What are the normal LED colors on the Elcon PFC charger?
When the Elcon PFC charger is operating normally, it will blink red 1 to 10 times at the start to indicate your Amp Hour or Cell Count selection, then blink green once and start charging.
Depending on the charging algorithm programmed into your charger, there will be three or four charging stages.
•     The first constant current stage (if the battery is very low) is fast (one second) red blinking.
•     The main charging stage (constant current) is solid red LED.
•     The third (constant voltage) stage is slow (three second) red blinking.
•     The fourth (constant current or pulsing current) equalization stage (if present) will be solid yellow.
•     When charging ends, the LED will turn solid green. If there is float charge, the LED will be blinking green.
If the charger is programmed for CAN Bus control, it will blink red-green-red-green at the start and then wait for a CAN command from the BMS with a blinking green LED. Once it receives a valid CAN command it starts charging and the red LED starts blinking.

This was extracted from the FAQ here:

http://www.elconchargers.com/frequently ... tions.html

Eric
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Problem TC Charger

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Post by jonescg »

There is actually an LED behind that yellow sticker on the 2 kW TC chargers. It too flashes, but I'm not sure whether it flashes errors or what.
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Post by Jonathanm »

Hello Eric - thanks for that - I appreciated the information that you have given to me - but when the charger was solid red there was zero change in voltage and if anything the voltage was dropping. Constant current must surely give an increase in voltage. Non?
Please correct me if I am wrong...
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Post by Jonathanm »

jonescg wrote: There is actually an LED behind that yellow sticker on the 2 kW TC chargers. It too flashes, but I'm not sure whether it flashes errors or what.


Thanks for your post...
It was flashing all the time the charger was running.
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Post by evric »

You mentioned that you measured all the cells that you could get to. You really need to access all of the cells to know what's going on. All you need is one cell to be cactus and that will upset the charger, as they are all in series. This is a major problem which requires access to all cells and my thoughts are, as I said, charge each cell individually, this will verify the condition of each cell. You will have a tend on how long each cell takes to charge and if all are about the same - then all is well.
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Post by coulomb »

jonescg wrote: There is actually an LED behind that yellow sticker on the 2 kW TC chargers. It too flashes, but I'm not sure whether it flashes errors or what.

It's not intended for user interaction. However, it can tell you some information. For example, it flashes twice as fast in state zero (when the output relay is not connected).

So it sounds like it's in bulk charge, but not producing any current.

It might be that it thinks that the battery is full, but that can't be right it it is now at 118 V with no current when it was at 125 V with no current before.

It certainly seems that the charger is faulty.
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Post by Jonathanm »

Thank you all for your comments. Cutting to the chaise - there are either 2 scenarios or a combination of both:

1/The batteries are damaged.

2/The charger is damaged/malfunctioning.

OK what are the symptoms of damaged batteries? Even if damaged will they still climb to the cut off voltage? Is there large internal resistance that will not allow that to occur? Perhaps someone knows this? I have no idea. All I know is that now we have a total voltage of around 118V. Of the 42 cells I could access the measured voltage of each is is around 2.8V. My simple maths tells me that I can then deduct with reasonable certainty that all the cells are in this range. (not 100% sure though)

The Charger..

I now understand that the constant red led is normal during the bulk charge period. But during the bulk charge there is no increase in voltage. I notice on the FAQ page kindly pointed out to me that to test the output fuse you can check for continuity between the small green wire and the large red positive wire. Is this the problem? - the bike is some KM away so I can check this tonight. Is the output fuse something that can be changed/repaired by anyone handy with a soldering iron? i.e. me? The next question - why did it blow?

Sorry for all these questions - I just want to try and get to the bottom of my friends problem and help him get back on the road.
Any input on the above would be very much appreciated..

Jonathan
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Post by coulomb »

Jonathanm wrote: OK what are the symptoms of damaged batteries?
Often zero volts, dead short. That seems unlikely.

Could be high impedance, so the charger could shoot to full voltage with almost no current. But then I think it would terminate charge, not stay red for ages. So also unlikely.
Even if damaged will they still climb to the cut off voltage?
Yes, unless they are all damaged, but then you would be unlikely to see a slowly decreasing 118 V.
My simple maths tells me that I can then deduct with reasonable certainty that all the cells are in this range. (not 100% sure though)
I agree.
I notice on the FAQ page kindly pointed out to me that to test the output fuse you can check for continuity between the small green wire and the large red positive wire. Is this the problem?
I don't think so. If this has happened, then the charger would stay in stage zero, which does not have a solid red LED.
Is the output fuse something that can be changed/repaired by anyone handy with a soldering iron? i.e. me? The next question - why did it blow?
It is checkable by someone handy with a soldering iron, but again with the output fuse blowm, the charger would stay in "battery disconnect" mode, which from memory is the same as state zero (red-green flash, 1 second red, or maybe it's half second, and the same green, no gaps).

What would be really useful at this time is a dump of the serial port. But to do that, you need a serial interface, either a serial to USB dongle, or a serial to Arduino interface like this:

Image

(Thanks to my colleagues in the USA for this sketch.)

Sorry, I really must do up a decent version of this important schematic one day.

If you can do that and capture a few seconds of 2400 bps data, then I can tell you a fair bit about what's going on with the charger.

But it looks like it would be a fair amount of work to confirm what I suspect: the charger needs repair.

Sadly, it's rather difficult to test a charger, without a spare known good pack of approximately the right voltage. And of course, such things are rather rare.

Edit: oops, I forgot to mention that U1 and U2 are opto-isolators, with the "obvious" polarity Image

Edit2: Pins 6 and 7 refer to the 7-pin round connector. Also, it's important that you use a laptop that isn't grounded, or that the pack is well isolated from ground. The common of the 7-pin connector connects through a moderate impedance to the negative of the battery being charged.
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Post by Jonathanm »

Thank you very much Coulomb - this is kind of confirms my suspicions but I wanted to be sure the batteries were not completely bad - I going to plug the charger in later tonight and leave it for an hour or so and see if anything happens.

I have not heard anything from the charger supplier so it would seem that we are going to have to fork out for a new charger...
Thank you very much for the diagram - sadly I don't have the gear, competence or the time to do this...

Again thank you for your help.

regards,

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Post by coulomb »

Jonathanm wrote: ... so it would seem that we are going to have to fork out for a new charger...

Well, they are repairable. I have some parts, and there are people in the USA that have repaired many of them (and not just the official Elcon distributors, either).

Schematics: http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/sh ... schematics
Repair thread: http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/sh ... ing+repair

I've been meaning to start a long thread on AEVA about what we've learned from analysing the firmware, but I'm waiting for the forum software to get translated first. (It's having a few hiccups.)

You're already handy with a soldering iron... care to whip off the lid ("only" some 24 screws) and do a repair over the forum? It could take some weeks, but it might be fun if you can wait that long. Plus save the owner some money. And we know there isn't a catastrophic failure, since the LEDs come on and all.

First it might be best to make sure that the assumption of zero charge current is correct. Can you get a DC clamp meter over a charge wire?
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Post by Jonathanm »

coulomb wrote:

You're already handy with a soldering iron... care to whip off the lid ("only" some 24 screws) and do a repair over the forum? It could take some weeks, but it might be fun if you can wait that long. Plus save the owner some money. And we know there isn't a catastrophic failure, since the LEDs come on and all.

First it might be best to make sure that the assumption of zero charge current is correct. Can you get a DC clamp meter over a charge wire?


Well thank you very much for the offer - I'd love to try my hand at it - hopefully it can be a resource for others. I will go and source a clamp on amp meter.

Look forward to attacking the job!

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Post by Astroboy »

coulomb wrote: ...

Edit: oops, I forgot to mention that U1 and U2 are opto-isolators, with the "obvious" polarity Image

Edit2: Pins 6 and 7 refer to the 7-pin round connector. Also, it's important that you use a laptop that isn't grounded, or that the pack is well isolated from ground. The common of the 7-pin connector connects through a moderate impedance to the negative of the battery being charged.


That circuit seems strange. I am trying to figure out why the optos use the gnd and 3.3v from the Arduino for both sides of the opto?
There is probably a good reason but there is GND on pin 2 and +12v on pin 3 of the charger multi pin connector so i would have expected the charger side of the optos to use those pins.
Other than maybe a voltage level change i can't see what the optos do.
Unless the pins 6 and 7 aren't regular serial pins and are can bus or something like that.
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Post by Jonathanm »

I'll have a clip on AC/DC amp meter within the next days - hopefully before the weekend. But in any event I'll try and hook it up to the batteries again and see if there is anything happening...

Afterwards I'll open up the charger and post some pictures and await any instructions...

Best regards,

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Post by coulomb »

Astroboy wrote: Other than maybe a voltage level change i can't see what the optos do.
Yes, they level shift, and one of them inverts polarity as well.
Unless the pins 6 and 7 aren't regular serial pins and are can bus or something like that.

Not CAN bus really, just optos with 12 V behind them (both a photodiode for receiving, and an opto-transistor for sending). So definitely not RS232. [ Edit: but 2400 bps serial. ]

I'll post a better interface schematic soon.
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Post by coulomb »

Here is the circuit diagram for the serial interface that I use:

Image

The values are not critical; the 15k resistor could be 10k to 49.9k, for example. The 3k3 is normally 5k1; I used what was handy. Any small signal NPN transistor would do.

Image

The RS232 side pin numbers assume a DE9 connector, not the older DB25.
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Post by ohmboy »

A couple of is have had to replace the input fuse, standing vertically in heat shrink on the main board. These have proven to be great chargers especially using CAN control from BMS.
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Post by Jonathanm »

I have the clamp on amp meter - today I shall be doing more tests and hopefully later tonight post some more information. I will also check the input fuse (as mentioned) but apparently that does not seem to be the problem as we have lights...
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Post by Jonathanm »

I have done some tests and have the following observations: I checked with the amp meter and confirm that there is no charge going to the batteries. One thing I did notice is that the yellow LED behind the "Warning sign" was flashing quickly at a rate of 2 or 3 flashes per second. Main LED is steady red as per earlier mails.

Next I have opened up the charger - photos included... tested the 2 fuses that I could see and they both have tested ok. (guess they are output and input..)

Any instructions on what I should do next?

Thanks,

Jonathan

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