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I'm thinking of getting a new battery system for my EV conversion. Right now I'm using a Prius Gen 2 NiMH pack in a 6S2P setup (43.2 volts nominal @ 13 Ah), which cost me $144 in December of 2009. I can conservatively pull about 330 watt-Hours, so it works out to 43 cents per Watt-hour.

(Nominally it is 561 Wh for the pack, but there is considerable voltage sag at the end which reduces the amount of energy I can extract). The nominal price/performance is 26 c/Wh….

Let's price out some LiPo solutions….

18650 cell (single)LiPo$42.4 Ah3.7V 8.8 Wh 45c / Wh
18650 cell (single)LiPo$72.8 Ah3.7V 10.36 Wh 68c / Wh
Zippy Flightmax 8000 mAh 6S1P 30CLiPo$888 Ah22V178Wh 49c / Wh
Zippy Flightmax 8000 mAh 5S1P 30CLiPo$748 Ah18.5V148Wh 50c / Wh
Zippy Flightmax 8000 mAh 4S1P 30CLiPo$588 Ah14.8V118Wh 49c / Wh
Zippy Flightmax 8000 mAh 2S1P 30CLiPo$288 Ah7.4V59Wh 48c / Wh
Turnigy 5800 mAh 8S 25CLiPo$1005.8 Ah29.6V172 Wh 58c / Wh
Zippy 5000 mAh 10S 25CLiPo$1065 Ah37V185 Wh 57c / Wh

I checked the prices in May (2013.05.20) and there was no change in prices. But there are some bigger cells coming on the market which might change things. This is from

26650 cell (single)LiPo$7.606.0 Ah3.7V 22.2 Wh 34c / Wh

Tim writes asking how he could charge his 8S2P Prius battery pack used in an experimental EV. My Piaggio is 6S2P and I encountered numerous problems. Here was my response to him:

Using Prius packs are tricky and 8S2P is going to be even more difficult. Here are the problems:

  1. Charging voltage is very high

  2. Even "smart" chargers cannot detect Prius battery delta-V or delta-T to stop charging
  3. No parallel charging
  4. Packs expand on charging

* High voltages

Prius NiMH batteries are internally 6 cells, so a 6S pack is really a 36 cell pack, with nominal voltages of 43.2 volts (but usually hot off the charger at around 50 volts). An 8S pack would be 48 cells, so nominally 57.6 volts with a hot off the charge voltage above 60 volts.

Then the problem is that almost all commercial NiMH chargers go up to 50V (and even those are rare). I had trouble finding chargers for my 36-cell pack. The two I bought were: Astroflight 112D (NiMH version) and the "CH-UN4820 Multi-Current Smart Charger (2.0A) with 3 pins Plug for 36V or 48V NiMH / NiCd Pack."

You will most likely have to split your pack in half so you only charge 4S (24 cells) at a time.

* No parallel charging

First, you know you should never charge in parallel, so you need to add some connectors so you can charge as two 8S1P and 8S1P packs -- or four 4S1P packs. I recommend Anderson 75A power pole connectors.

* Smart chargers can't detect Prius delta-T/V

NiMH batteries are tricky to charge as there isn't a fixed final voltage as with LiIon/LiPo/Lead-acid. Instead, smart chargers usually look for a very small drop in voltage (delta-V) which signals the cell is full; or an increase in cell temperature (delta-T).

Unfortunately, Prius packs don't exhibit a measurable drop in voltage and don't increase in temperature when they are full. This is partly because of their pack design (prismatic rather than cylindrical). Instead, when a Prius pack is full, it bulges due to the increased internal pressure. Not good.

* Packs expand when charged

The prismatic (rectangular) Prius packs will swell and expand when they are overcharged. In order to prevent this, you have to design a strong battery holder that will keep good lateral pressure on them. My own holder (below) uses threaded rod and steel plates to hold the packs together. Even with 2mm steel, the packs have put enough pressure on the side plates to bend them and I'll have to make up new side plates sometime soon.

* How to charge

So how do you charge a Prius pack? I haven't found a smart charger smart enough to charge them using the standard delta-T and delta-V. So instead, I do what the battery management system in the Prius does -- I coulomb count. With my CycleAnalyst, I know how many watt-hours I've used in a ride. For example, for my commute I used 234.23 Wh which is around 5.90 Ah.

Knowing that my multi-current "smart" (stupid) charger has a nominal charge rate of 2.0 amps (and using a wattmeter), I set the charger using a timer to charge for 3 hours. This gives me 3 hours x 2 amps = 6 amp hours.

I have to repeat this twice, one for each side of my parallel chain.

I'm in the process of designing my own charge circuitry that will allow me to automate the coulomb counting. It will measure the output of the battery, then put the same back in (+10% for charging inefficiency). For a backup foolproof end-of-charge detection, I plan on using load cells to detect when the cells are expanding from internal pressure.

Of course, I'm busy with my day-job so this advanced Prius pack charger is still many many months (if not years) away given that a simple charger with a timer does much the same.

I have the Prius NiMH batteries installed and test drove it but the snowstorm of 2009 has put the dampers on harder testing. In any case, here's the new revised bill of materials (BOM) (dated 2009.12):

Base Unit Piaggio Boxer (1971)
- 50 cc 2-stroke internal combustion engine (removed)
Electric Motor HXT 80-100-B 130Kv Brushless Outrunner from HobbyKing
- link to new version of motor
- Tachs: 5600 rpm @ 43.2v nominal (4500 rpm @ 36v; 6000 rpm @ 48v)
- Max amps drawn: 100A @ 43V
- Max watts drawn: ~ 4300 watts
- Speed: 45 kph top speed (at current gearing)
Electronic Speed Controller Castle Creations Phoenix HV-110 (link)
- 110 amps @ 50 volts limit
Throttle Magura 0-5K Potentiometer motorcycle twist grip throttle
Servo Tester (Pot to ESC) Boman Industries Polar-Matic PC-50 (ebay)
Power Monitor Cycle Analyst (link)
Batteries Currently SLA: Prius Gen 2 NiMH
- 6S2P packs (12 in total)
- 43.2 volts nominal @ 13 Ah
- 330 watt-hours (conservative)
- Range: unknown
Power Connectors - Anderson PowerPole 75A on main connections - link
- Anderson PowerPole 30A on sub connections - link
Wiring - 8 gauge stranded copper on main power lines and motor leads
- 12 gauge stranded copper on sub power lines
Lighting - Front lighting using high-power Luxeon LED
- Rear lighting using high-power red LEDs
Low Voltage (12/5VDC) Converters
  1. 12VDC converter using National Semiconductor LM2576HVT-12-ND buck-converter for motor cooling fan, front lighting (via 5vdc) and rear lighting
  2. 12 volt to 5VDC converter using MC34063 Based Switching Regulator for front lighting
  3. Another 12VDC converter using National Semiconductor LM2576HVT-12-ND buck-converter for ESC controller cooling
  4. Quark Pro BEC 3A UBEC for servo tester / RC components
Things I burned out/destroyed
  • E-Sky EK2-0907 Servo Tester
  • Doc Wattson power monitor
  • ELF 100 ESC speed controller
  • Castle Creations Phoenix HV-110
  • Right index finger on burnt out ESC
  • Various burns and scrapes

PriusGenIINiMH.pngI just won a bid for twelve Prius packs! They should hopefully be arriving later this week or early next.

Update: Batteries arrived and ready to be installed!

Each pack is a 7.2 volts 6.5 Ah prismatic NiMH battery with six cells. I'll be configuring them as 6S2P for 43.2 volts 13 Ah. I'm hoping that I can get at least 60% of the SOC from them (80% to 20% as on the Prius). That would be 43 volts, 7.8 Ah or 335 watt-hours.

This is perfect as I'm currently consuming 200 watts-hours each way with the heavy SLAs. The lighter NiMH packs should get my power consumption down even lower.

SLATempest TR35-12 (rated 35Ah)
-- 35 Ah @ 36 volts
-- I don't get 35Ah, closer to 10 Ah due to Peukerts

Specific Energy 35 Wh/kg nominal
Specific Energy 10 Wh/kg derated
360 Wh 1 @ 11.8 kg
3 @ 35.4 kg (78 lb)
NiMHPrius Gen II Battery (rated 6.5Ah) @ 1040 grams
-- 13 Ah @ 43.2 volts
-- derated 60% for a conservative Ah of 7.8 Ah

Module Weight 1040 g
Specific Power 1300 W/kg

Specific Energy 46 Wh/kg nominal
Specific Energy 27 Wh/kg derated
335 Wh 1 @ 1.04 kg
12 @ 12.48 kg (27.5 lb)

It looks like I'll be saving a good 20 kilograms or 50 pounds with only a slight loss in Watt-hours! I will have to bodge up a new battery carrier as the cells need to be kept under compression when being charged.

Revised bill of materials (BOM) (dated 2009.09):

[moved to after the jump]

iMax B6AC charger

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I just bought a used iMax B6AC charger (LiPo/Li-Ion/NiMH) to complement my previous Turnigy Accucel-8 charger. I had trouble finding the user manual but finally located it. I'm posting a copy here just in case anyone wants it: And here's a little comparison table that I drew up comparing the iMax with the Turnigy units:
iMax B6ACAccucel-6 Accucel-8
Max Power50 watts50 W150 W
Max Current5.0A5.0A7.0A
Max LiPo Cells668
Max NiCD/NiMH Cells151527
Max Pb20v20v36v
Power Input100-240 VAC
11-18 VDC
10-18 VDC10-18 VDC

Li-Po batteries have the best power/weight performance of all of the mini battery sizes. If only they'd come down in price more, they'd have more utility. In any case, I'm using small Zippy brand 11.1 volt (3S) 2200 mAh battery packs. The only problem I found is that the balancing connectors on them aren't nearly long enough to reach from my Turnigy charger to my bomb-proof charging container (an old army-surplus ammo case). I tried to see if anyone sold 3S lipo battery connector extensions, but no luck.

Also, my Turnigy charger requires two connections for LiPo balancing -- the main Dean's connector and the balancing connector. This is a pain in the waddle since you can do it with only one connector -- as long as you remain within the relatively low amp constraits of the balancing connector (likely < 5 amp).

To make life difficult, there are apparently four (4) different LiPo balancing connectors in use. My Zippy batteries use the Align standard, which is a JST XH connector. Here's a very handy chart describing the various connectors and which batteries use which connector:

Now that I know that both my Turnigy charger and my Zippy batteries use JST XH, I just had to go to Digi-Key and order the right parts:

1	10	455-2249-ND	CONN HEADER XH TOP 4POS 2.5MM	JST XH SHROUDED HEADER	0	0.13500	$1.35
2	10	455-2267-ND	CONN HOUSING 2.5MM 4POS	JST XH HOUSING	0	0.05700	$0.57
3	100	455-2261-1-ND	CONN TERM CRIMP XH 26-30AWG	JST CRIMP CONNECTOR	0	0.03340	$3.34
4	10	455-2219-ND	CONN HOUSING 2.5MM XH 3POS	JST XH HOUSING 3 PIN	0	0.05700	$0.57
5	10	455-2248-ND	CONN HEADER XH TOP 3POS 2.5MM	JST XH HEADER 3 PIN	0	0.10000	$1.00

Once the connectors arrive, I'll have enough to play around with them for quite a while!

p.s. Bonus, the same connectors can also be used to create extensions for my LiPo battery monitors.

I just had a nice conversation with one of the staff at, which is where I bought my Tempest TR22-12 sealed-lead acid (SLA) battery. I had inquired about a warranty exchange. They denied it but they gave me a really good reason why -- which is why I'm giving them two thumbs up.

The reason my TR22-12 died on my Piaggio is because I had it in a 2 serial 2 parallel configuration with slightly lower capacity Rhino batteries. I had them configured as a bank of Rhinos and a bank of Tempests. The internal resistance of the Tempests is lower than the Rhinos, so the Tempests were discharging faster and this is why one of them failed.

If anything, I should have done a mixed bank of Rhino-Tempest paired with another Rhino-Tempest. This would have protected the Tempests. But in general, mixing different capacity batteries is a big no-no -- which is why my warranty claim was denied.

In any case, my TR35-12 should be good for its purpose so we'll see where to go from there!

All in all, I'm very happy with BatterySpec and glad that they took the trouble to call me to tell me why my warranty claim was denied and why I shouldn't be doing what I had been doing.

I hate SLAs....

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I stopped riding about a month ago because I had severe sciatica. It's getting better now and so I thought I'd get back on the horse. One thing I had noticed last month is that my Piaggio was barely making it to work where previously it had been able to go there with energy to spare. I thought it was simply the cold weather.

For a related project, I bought a relatively sophisticated balancing charger, the Turnigy Accucel-8 150W 7A Balancer/Charger. One of the reasons I got this particular unit was that it could charge up to 36 volts of SLA; 32.4 volts of NiMH; or 8 cells = 29.6 volts of LiPo. Most other intelligent chargers I've seen can't handle this high a voltage. I want to experiment with switching over to NiMH or LiPO but I didn't want to have to take the packs apart to charge them.

One of the interesting aspects of the charger/discharger/balancer is that it has an accurate ampere-hour gauge, so you can tell exactly how many Ah you are putting in -- or taking out of the battery. I used this to test the various batteries I have in my stable and found quite a few bad packs.

What surprised me, though, was that one of the SLAs that I had been using in the Piaggio had gone bad. My original setup was 2S2P or two parallel sets of 2 serial 12 volt batteries:

 Battery 1: Rhino SLA17-12  (rated 18Ah) = 10.508 Ah @ 2A discharge
 Battery 2: Rhino SLA17-12  (rated 18Ah) = 10.485 Ah @ 2A discharge
 Battery 3: Tempest TR22-12 (rated 22Ah) = 12.092 Ah @ 2A discharge
 Battery 4: Tempest TR22-12 (rated 22Ah) = 1.880 Ah @ 2A discharge

Yikes!!! Very bad. And I had used it for less than two months... But no wonder I wasn't getting any mileage. I was going to just replace the battery with another similar sized one when I decided to see how many Ah were in the larger batteries that were in my power scooter.

 BigBatt #1: Tempest TR35-12 (rated 35Ah) = 30.612 Ah @ 2A discharge
 BigBatt #2: Tempest TR35-12 (rated 35Ah) = 30.539 Ah @ 2A discharge

Wowza..... This blew my mind a little.

  • Revelation 1: The big batteries were getting significantly closer to their nominal ratings than the little ones.
  • Revelation 2: Two big batteries had more amp-hours than four little ones == 30 Ah @ 24 volts vs. 22 Ah @ 24v
  • Revelation 3: The big batteries were 11.8 kg each x 2 = 23.6 kg
  • Revelation 4: The little batteries were 6.8 kg each x 4 = 27.2 kg

This all added up to .... it was better to use two big SLAs rather than four little ones because: 1) I would gain 50% more amp-hours; 2) it was lighter; 3) it was smaller; 4) and in hindsight, it would have been much cheaper.

That was easy enough to accept but it meant that I would have to redesign the battery carrier system. This was something I had been planning on doing anyay. More posts to follow.

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