Category Archives: Technique

What is the recommended charge current ?

Now that the Charge Doctor 10A V2 is available, the question of charging at 4A or more has been frequently asked. A higher charge current reduces charging time but does it reduce the lifetime of the battery?
Answer: it depends on the battery’s “1C” value.

Electric unicycles use 56V batteries (16 LiIon cells Vnominal = 3.6V), the correspondence between Wh and “1C” value in Ah is given below (for hoverboards or other electric bicycles with 42V or 36V batteries, recalculate 1C = Wh / voltage):

Battery capacity
“1C” value
Example of wheel
130 Wh 2.2 Ah Solowheel, Airwheel, NineBot
260 Wh 4.5 Ah Firewheel 260, Gotway, Kingsong
520 Wh 9 Ah Firewheel 520, Dolphin
680 Wh 12 Ah Gotway, KingSong

If 1C value is 2Ah, a “1C charge” means charging at 2A.

It is a convenient normalisation to determine wether the charge current is too high or not, and thus its impact on the battery’s lifetime.

  • 2C charge is a fast charge. It is not recommended (it can apply in RC model world but on LiPo batteries, not LiIon).
  • 1C charge is acceptable but may decrease the battery lifetime. A lot of electric unicycles have 130Wh batteries (Solowheel, Airwheel X3 et clones, Ninebot E…) so they are charged at 1C by a 2A standard charger.
  • 0,5C charge is a slow charge and may be a good compromise between charging time and battery lifetime. A 260Wh battery (Firewheel 260) is charged at 0,5C by a 2A standard charger.
  • 0,2C charge is considered a very soft charge.

With a 680Wh battery for example, a 1C charge means the charge current is 12A! So a 4A or 6A charge (by connecting in parallel a charger 4A + charger 2A or 2A 3 chargers) remains a “slow” charge. Even seemingly so high currents should not affect the battery lifetime. Of course, preserving lifetime also means avoiding overload and deep discharge, the subject of a previous post.


Fast charge with the Charge Doctor V2

The Charge Doctor V2 has a option with 2-input connectors to connect in parallel two chargers. Owners of large batteries will have more connection options (see table below) and can mount a cheap 4A charger using two standard and ubiquitous 2A chargers.
Image

Image

Connection Total current
Remark
one 2A charger
2 A
two 2A chargers
4 A
one 2A charger + one 4A charger 6 A use thicker wires*
two 4A chargers
8 A use thicker wires*

* for currents above 4A , the charging wires (between the BMS and the wheel’s charge connector) are too thin and must be replaced by thicker wires.

Case study of a Firewheel 260Wh fast charge

The battery is a 260Wh type and is empty (ridden until pedals tilt-up) before data measurements.

One charger connected => voltage = 61.7V ; current = 1.94AImage
Image

Two chargers connected => current = 3.95AImage
Image

The charging curves were sampled using the Charge Doctor’s serial output. The 4A charging graph can be compared to a 2A graph of the same 260Wh battery. Charging from empty to 90% capacity lasts about 1 hour, meaning charge time has been divided by 2!Image

mark capacity/Wh % total capacity voltage /V current /A observation
0 0 0% 67.3 0 one charger connected
A 0 0% 57,4 2,03 start of charge
B 3,9 0% 60,0 3,99 second charger connected
C 152,8 58% 66,3 3,89 end of constant current phase
D 211,0 80% 67,1 1,84 current <2A => one of the chargers has desactivated by itself
E 244,8 93% 67,5 0,70 auto-shutdown by Charge Doctor, cut threshold = 0.7A
F 244,8 93% 67,5 0,81 manual power-on to charge until 100%
G 263 100% 67.5 0,03 charge termination, disconnection
  • Note 1: when connecting the second charger (A-> B), the internal resistance of the battery can be estimated from the voltage jump : R = deltaV / deltaA = (60-57.4) / (3.99-2.03), or R = 1.3 ohms. It’s a rather high resistance typical of LiIon batteries (LiPos have lower internal resistance). This explains the big voltage sag I observe on my Firewheel when accelerating, with the fuel indicator dropping momentarily from 50% to 20%.
    Bigger batteries, eg 520Wh, would probably have much smaller R.
  • Note 2: setting automatic cutoff at 0.7A stops the charge session at 93% capacity, a value consistent with results from a 2A charge. The correspondence between cutoff current and % of charge seems to depends only on battery capacity, not on load current. A ballpark value would be 1A threshold => 90% of charge for a 260Wh battery.
  • Note 3: charging from 93% up to 100% takes as much time as charging from 0% to 93%, so the last drops of charge are usually not really worth it.

Warning: in theory, connecting two chargers in parallel poses no risk to the chargers. At least, on the chargers used so far since I don’t have any negative feedback from the first users. But given the many different charger models, I can not certify 100% that it would work on your specific chargers. So to test it knowingly. Connecting chargers in parallel is a hack well worth trying for frequent riders and/or owners of large batteries> 260Wh.

Warning: Lithium batteries charging is not without risk, all the more with high currents. So do not neglect the usual precautions : do not charge without being nearby, install a fire detector, keep valuables far from the wheel, wait until the battery is cold after a ride before charging… Stick to the precaution rules and don’t let routine induce you into complacency.

Edit 20/03/2016 : add graph Gotway MSuper 850, fast charge with two 1.75A Gotway chargers. Data Thomas T.

Image

Apparently, it’s a 680Wh battery and the 850Wh nameplate value is false !

Airwheel Q3 & clones, how to double battery

Mod by Smallexis from trottinetteselectriques.heberg-forum.fr

The Airwheels Q3 and its clones has big housing and a lot of internal space for a big battery pack. To double the capacity of the anemic original pack from 130Wh to 260Wh, Alexis has soldered individual cells recovered from an spare pack in parallel with existing cells, one by one. He has also shunted the BMS, of course.

Continue reading

BMS, how to make your wheel safer

Most unicycles use bicycles’ BMS (Battery Management System) which has a overdischarge cut-off circuit (T1) to prevent the battery from discharging under the LiIon recommanded voltage. It’s a feature usefull for off-the-shelf bicycles’ batteries but for monocycles, it’s
1) unecessary since the mainboard deals quite well with voltage warning
2) utterly, incredibly stupid since a cutoff by the BMS results in a faceplant for the rider. In other words, the wheel’s designer prefers to protect the battery by hurting the user!!! Many many users have been harmed, especially when the wheel is cold (under 10°C), since the batteries’ internal resistance increases and triggers the cut-off more easily. Continue reading

A2 Generic – BMS shunt

The A2 wheel is a generic X3 clone. The wheeler had a power cut because of a defective cell. After the shunt, no more power shutdown, even if the defective cell has not yet been replaced. All that happens then is a much less powerfull wheel because the defective cell (to be replaced) behaves like a short, leaving a battery pack with lower voltage, though a much more preferable and manageable situation than a sudden cutoff. More evidence of the criminally stupid idea of integrating a cutoff circuitry in an electric unicycle.

P.S. The wheel electronics is accessed from outside, which is a good point ! Mainboard is a X3 generic, with the same ridiculous heat sink which doesn’t sink anything and needs to be added a big aluminium plate.

Shunt by connecting B- to P- :

Continue reading