The E-E Battery Computer Project. Part I

February 10th, 2007

BatteryMonitor1
It’s been a while between posts because I’ve rewritten this one several times, just can’t seem to find the balance to keep it interesting for the technophiles and those a bit more perplexed by elec-trick-imy. So apologies if this doesn’t hold your interest…

The Issues

  1. My lead acid AGM batteries will be damaged if overcharged.
  2. I want to collect data about my batteries, while driving and while charging.
  3. I want everybody to see my data, live on the web – if possible!

The solution

A computer that;

  1. monitors all the individual battery voltages (12 x 12Volts).
  2. monitors the battery pack current.
  3. shuts off the battery charger if any battery is over the recommended maximum voltage (14.7V).
  4. applies a temporary load to any battery that appears to be charging quicker than the rest.
  5. stores the collected data onto a removable memory card.
  6. streams the live data to a standard serial port.
  7. is very configurable.

The progress

So far my friend and brother-in-law, Mark Philips has done a fantastic job of putting together a little AVR micro controller board that does all the logic stuff required for the above.

His micro (well, it’s mine now!);

  1. has an SPI interface that talks to my 16 channel A/D MUX for individual battery monitoring.
  2. has a basic 80 char two line display.
  3. sends the data collected from the MUX out on a RS-232 Com port.
  4. saves the data collected from the MUX onto a SD memory card in CSV format.
  5. has an ISP port for simple reprogramming of the micro.
  6. has its own real-time clock.
  7. has another 13 programmable pins to do lots more I/O stuff with!

Battery Monitor Ports

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The General Takes Charge.

January 10th, 2007

As the world’s largest automotive manufacturer, any post about General Motors over at the Green Car Congress website always causes a flurry of interest but this post about an electric Chevrolet “Volt” generated 114+ comments in just 24 hrs which must be a record and perhaps an indication that this announcement really is something big.
Chevy VoltThere is no doubt that the GM spin masters have been going hard to counter the negative feelings that the doco “Who Killed The Electric Car?” has created. If nothing else, GM are the marketing masters. Here in Australia they have us believing that the GM Holden brand is the quintessential Aussie icon. But this Chevy Volt announcement seems to have just enough credibility to excite us EV desporadoes!

Much of the discussion at the blog is about GM’s choice of hybridisation. Series hybrid vehicles (Chevy Volt), in my opinion, must always be less efficient than parallel hybrids (like the Prius). This is because instead of having the petrol motor drive the wheels directly in tandem with the electric motor (when required) it just charges the batteries (inefficiently) and only the electric motor drives the wheels.

Series hybrids aren’t technically sexy but that makes them cheap to build and that’s what’s makes this announcement smell slightly credible. GM have always been about maximising profit margins, this is why they like to sell us big clunky cars! So it would be typical of them to use second best technology (like most of their vehicles) as long as they have the turnover with big margins.

Fingers crossed. :-)

Drought or Drying Up? – Part II

December 29th, 2006

While driving down to Canberra from Brisbane last week (1,300 km – not in my E-E!) I was shocked by just how dry some of this “wide brown land” is. We traveled via the New England highway which runs parallel with the NSW coast and about 150km inland. Much of the land, for hundreds of kilometers, was almost only dust. As is my bent, all the while thinking “Global Warming… Global Warming…”.

CSIRO Logo

So when I read a rather timely interview by The Australian newspaper with CSIRO climate expert Barrie Hunt, I was very interested. Mr Hunt states quite categorically (“very, very highly likely”) that this drought is not due to climate change but fits within the range of natural variability. He’s studied 10,000 years of climate modeling and says over that period there has been 30 occasions where there has been 8-year or longer droughts (on average = 1 every 333 years).

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I’m dreaming of a green NEM.

December 11th, 2006

One of the most positive discoveries for me on my E-E journey has been the understanding that for just a few cents more per kWh I can purchase “green” electricity from any green generator that’s connected to the NEM.

NEM
The National Electricity Market (this link is a really interesting read) describes the trading of the Australian electricity “pool” created by the generation and transmission of power, which is all interconnected, from Port Douglas in Queensland to Port Lincoln in South Australia (4,000km), including Tasmania.

Of course electricity isn’t really green, black or brown but the technology used to generate it is. So electricity generated by hydro in Tassie or a wind farm in SA or biomass right here in BrizVegas can be extracted from the power point in my bedroom to run the computer that I’m typing into right now!

Yes, I know that I’m easily excited but there it is, my dream; our NEM gradually changing colour over the years from dirty black, to less dirty brown, to pristine green. How? Market forces, supply and demand, you buy it – they’ll make it.

Now I know all the debunkers will chip in here and wail “base load” and “intermittent supply”. My response is; real-cost, hydro and vision.

Roadside Assistance – “Got a flat battery mate?”

December 5th, 2006

When Gary Donaldson, Manager for the Technical Training & Support Unit of the Queensland automobile club RACQ, contacted me about displaying my EV at one of their Technical Familiarisation Evenings for their Road Patrols, Vehicle Inspectors and other technical staff tonight, I was a little apprehensive.
RACQ_Logo
It’s one thing to lightly discuss the technical aspects of an EV with the general public but it’s entirely a different matter to have dozens of automotive professionals poking around the underside of your car asking lots of questions. I was expecting more than a healthy serve of skepticism from those who are well entrenched in the automobile industry but to my surprise the mood was one of polite genuine interest. Some may have thought I’d wasted my time and money but nobody said it or even hinted at it.
RACQ_Vehicle_Inspect
Perhaps they were just being friendly or maybe even some of them saw merit in what I’d done, either way it made for a very pleasant evening despite having to answer the three R’s (Range, Recharge, Regeneration) about a thousand times!

Black Balloons

November 18th, 2006

This is a really cool Victorian State Government ad about CO2 emissions from household electricity consumption.

Black Balloons Ad
It’s pushing for energy conservation i.e. less balloons but just imagine if there were no balloons! It’s as easy as signing up to your local Green Energy supplier and paying a little more (usually about 3 cents more per kWh) for the renewable stuff. Can’t imagine this ad being shown in QueensCoalland!

A New E-E is born…E-Y!

November 18th, 2006

While scanning my website stat’s the other other day I noticed a referring URL to a webpage that had this link; http://electricyaris.com/

Electric Yaris

Here’s some more info on it. (With my fat tyres and heavy batteries I’d love to have that electric power steering.)

Very cool and I’m very jealous, I really like the look of the new Yaris and know it will make a great icon for electric vehicles, makes me want to get back into the garage and start ripping out engines again!

Now That The Heat’s Off.

November 16th, 2006

Snowing in November? Cool, Global Warming is a hoax after all, that’s a relief!

Oh well, now I’ll have to find another excuse to justify all the money I’ve spent on the E-E. How about “I need a lot of batteries for my 10,000 Watt boom box.” ?
What’s that?

Global Warming = climate change = weird weather.

Oh…Rats.

Well, it doesn’t really matter anyhow (Q6) because Australia only emits 1.4% of the worlds greenhouse gases. I strongly encourage those who support this line of thinking to maintain consistency, by not bothering to apply their 0.000008% worth of influence at the next Federal Election.

The E-E’s been Hacked!

November 7th, 2006

Triple J reporter Kaitlyn Sawrey from the Hack team came for a ride to work with me early yesterday morning. She did a great job of interviewing me about my E-E and asked all the right questions. Then somebody’s audio skills managed to clean up my clumsy answers and turn them into something reasonably coherent! I’m very happy with the outcome… Triple J E-E Interview.mp3

Triple J Logo

Triple J is Australia’s very popular Public Broadcasting Network for music, it appeals mainly to those on the climbing side of the age hill. (Is that me?!) Here’s a Wiki on triple J.

My other car is going Green(ish).

November 4th, 2006

On most weekends my other car, the carbon pumper, gets to do the non-commuter type trips. I always feel like I’m stepping backwards (in human advancement terms) when I’m driving it, even though it’s a well put together car (Honda CRV). So it was a great delight to discover today that my regular carbon transfer station (petrol station) had gone Green! I remember reading an article about ethanol a while ago that wasn’t too flattering about the environmental benefits of the ethanol because of all the non-green steps involved in it’s production.

Well, as usual, they just don’t get it. It’s not about the immediate impact on the environment that makes buying ethanol blended fuels important, it’s about encouraging an industry that has the potential to be very environmentally sound. The processing can be “greened-up” as demand grows. It’s a bit like hybrid “electric” vehicles but that’s another story. Anyhow, I swear that my carbon pumper is happier, now that it’s running on something that’s a tiny little bit greener. :-)
E-Gen Logo