Has my charger died?

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CupertinoTony
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Thanks to all who make this forum work.

My VX-1 stopped charging yesterday, yet powers up normally when the key is on. After spending a lot of time on this forum, I disassembled the plug (no problems), and checked continuity of the cable up to the front where it plugs into the charger (cable is good). Based on a similar thread, I'm assuming this means my charger died. Is this correct?

I've read that there is a newer (Runke "gold") charger, but I'm having troubles finding it.

What should I know/do to get my bike back up and running? Are there instructions somewhere for changing out a charger (didn't see it in the handbook)?

Thanks,
-Tony

PS--If anyone is interested in my Vectrix story (we all have one, right), read on.

I bought mine in May 2007 for $14,000 minus rebates. I mainly use it to commute to work, 29mi/46km one way (over 26 are flat highway miles @ 60+mph/100kmh). I have to plug-in at work, in order to get home, of course. This worked OK for a few months, then it began to go from multiple bars to zero earlier and earlier until I had problems going 29mi. The dealership came and picked it up, did some battery servicing and updating, but a few months later it was doing the same thing. They picked it up again and gave me a loaner. I put about 2500mi on that bike, and its battery started doing the same thing. I got my own bike back and in less than 2000mi, I couldn't make it to work any more. At this point, the dealership stopped selling and servicing Vectrix, and there was no one here in the SF bay area to work on it. I got in touch with Jeff Adams in New Bedford, MA--he arranged to ship my bike to New Bedford and bring me a 2nd loaner.

After a few more months, the 2nd loaner was trashed. Finally, I got my bike back and they eventually picked up the 2nd loaner. They updated the firmware/batteries/who-knows-what-else, and told me I was hammering the batteries by charging immediately after a long hard ride. The new firmware has the delay feature which I set to 3 hours. For the past 2 years I've been doing my normal commute with no serious problems. My bike has over 11,000 miles, and I put over 5000 on the 2 loaners. I feel partially responsible for Vectrix going belly-up, given all the service I consumed ;-). I think I'm ready for new tires, and I'm sure a few of my cells are toast. It would seem I need to learn how to service it myself if I want to continue riding. I'm willing to learn what I need to.

I learned about the li-ion conversion here, and having more range is tempting. Given my commute length and how hard I am on batteries, this might not be a good option for me.

I have video editing skills, basic mechanical skills, and am a software engineer. I am willing to contribute what I can to help other Vectrix owners get the most out of their investments.

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mikemitbike
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Re: Has my charger died?

Hi Tony, maybe the software of the charger crushed? Have you tried to disconect the charger from motorcontroller and battery?
the charger has two plugs at it´s bottom. pull both out waite some seconds and put them back. In my case it worked.

Greetings Mike

CupertinoTony
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Re: Has my charger died?

Thanks for the suggestion. I did the moral equivalent when I unplugged the lead to the battery--the "AC" lead was unplugged at the plug end. Unfortunately, no charging. Some threads seem to indicate that if the bike turns on, then the charger is OK--but the dates are from a few years ago.

heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

The bike will turn on whether the charger is installed or not.

OK - when you plug the charger in, do the fans run? If so, it isn't the fuse inside the charger (the fans are run off the bias supply board, a 12V board that takes the rectified power from the main board).

These things have a nasty habit of cooking a wirewound resistor inside them due to a fault they develop. They are repairable though, its just a real PITA to do it.

moccasin
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Re: Has my charger died?

My charger went out about a year and a half ago. Was scary, because I had just ridden the bike down close to dead, prior to plugging it in. That night, my mom had a stroke, and while we were staying with her in the hospital, I suspect the bike suffered a spike from a nearby lightning strike, because when we got home, my cordless phones were shot, my wireless modem was toast, and I found out later that my bike was no longer charging. Too much going on and help for the bike was 500 miles away, so it had to wait several weeks, and I was concerned that it would drain out too far, but that didn't actually happen.

Eventually my dealer was able to secure a replacement charger from Vectrix under warranty, but because they were officially closed, I had to pay the labor costs and transport it myself. Was glad to do that, because otherwise, I likely would have just parted it out and called it done. New Charger is around $1500. I would not have risked that kind of expense, not knowing what other components might also be damaged.

Best of luck in your quest for repair.

CupertinoTony
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Re: Has my charger died?

@heathyoung
The fans don't run when I plug in--nothing happens at all. I will check the fuse inside the charger. How can I tell if the wirewound resistor is cooked--is it visually obvious? Fixing the thing would be vastly preferable to spending $1,600 (assuming I can get the attention of a Vectrix employee). Any advice on fixing/testing the wirewound resistor?

@moccasin
My cells are also drained right now--good to know there's no harm in leaving them uncharged for a while. Even if I can't fix the charger, this forum has given me the resolve to do what it takes to get operational again.

heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

I'll try to dig up some photos for you, these really are a major PITA to service - you don't remove the main (power) board unless you really have to, as it is potted into a hard white silicon and doesn't like to let go.

You will probably see heat damage when you open the case, the resistor is a white unit that is near the edge of the main board. It goes open circuit and the power supply refuses to start up - its badly under-rated for the task. There are a pair in series, IIRC 1K 5W wirewound (at least one was, mine was too badly burnt to read the value.

The other thing that tends to die in these is the inrush current limiter - they go open circuit. You can bridge them out (bad form) or replace them easily - It is on the filter board, near a relay (which bypasses it after a few seconds)

rah3a
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Re: Has my charger died?

I actually had this same problem with the charger, also with the batteries mostly drained, and wish this thread had been here at the time! Eventually we did end up taking the charger apart, although we didn't know what we were looking for. We found a round white thing near the front of the main board that looked like a fuse. When tested there was no current, so we assumed it was a blown fuse. However, we had no luck finding any specs on it. Also, it's very difficult to get into the charger and we had really kind of trashed it getting it to that point, so I gave up.

However, I was able to purchase a new replacement charger from Scuderia West in San Francisco for ~$900. Looks like they are able to get parts now, it took less than a week from when I ordered.

The bad news is that I had waited about 6 months for this whole process and now it looks like my batteries are toast as well. I had already had some issues with the battery (a couple of shunts in there) so it was not entirely healthy I'm sure. But in any case, the whole pack is now reading about 5V and most of the cells on top are reading a few milliVolts. I'm trying to decide whether it's worth trying to trickle a charge in, but I think it's probably useless.

So now I'm thinking about antiscab's lithium conversion kit. To be fair, I was kind of looking for an excuse to do that anyway, but still...

So, just don't take forever to get your charger fixed like I did.

heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

http://s281.photobucket.com/albums/kk217/Mr_Mik/Vectux/Charger/?action=view&current=dsc_0024a.jpg

The fuses live under the board closest to the front (ie. on the bottom left of this picture)

The PTC inrush current limiter lives on the same board, in the right hand corner.

No fans usually means dead inrush current limiter or dead fuse. I'll see if I get a chance to take some photos to show the charger in an exploded view (figuratively, not literally).

As for the other poster - you may be able to charge the cells with an RC (ie. remote controlled model) charger. I wouldn't be holding my breath though as to the success...

Mik
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Re: Has my charger died?

If you know that there will be lengthy delays, open up the battery and disconnect the blue Andersons connector. That will cut the 8mA continuous power drain from the MC.

But, even if the battery was drained with he MC connected, the battery may well be fine. Charge it slowly with around 300mA initially, for example with a "Special Freddy" charger.

It's great to get some repair info for the chargers - there has been very little available so far.

Could you possibly add in a few photos to illustrate?

Cheers, Mik

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heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

Yep, I'll have to sort out a photobucket account and post some of the photos of the charger I have in pieces on my bench at the moment.

I think it killed itself by cooking the primary (startup) resistor in the amplified zener section for the bias supply. It was open circuit and burnt to hell, I have no idea what its value should be! :) Easy enough to dump about 50W of waste heat in these with a $10 SMPS bias supply.

Its been designed by an idiot unfortunatly, some very naive ways of putting something like this together. The spelling of the word charger as 'carger' on the PCB speaks volumes of the attention to detail on this.

The fuses are a single-use, solder in unit too. You have to desolder the input and output leads to get to this board as well.

Mik
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Re: Has my charger died?

It's been mentioned here a few times that the "cargers" typically fail in a cascading fault fashion: Something lets the magic smoke out in one little part of it - and that causes multiple other events that fry so many parts of the carger that repair is futile.

Have you ever seen the ridiculously complex inrush current limiter they were using? That thing alone had the potential to bring the company down and possibly did, because of it's unavailability (coupled with the order given to Vectrix UK to not disclose that a simple light globe would do the ICL job), which was causing numerous VX-1's to remain parked at dealers and elsewhere with blown main fuses (apparently under-sized at 125A and requiring several hours of work to replace, including lifting out of the heaviest part of the battery!) ROTFLMAO

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CupertinoTony
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Re: Has my charger died?

Here are some pictures of the charger.

DSCF0711.JPGDSCF0710.JPGDSCF0712.JPGDSCF0713.JPGDSCF0714.JPGDSCF0722.JPGDSCF0723.JPGDSCF0724.JPGDSCF0725.JPG

I'm not sure where the fuse or the wirewound resistor is exactly. I've gotten the board loose, but it is anchored by many hard-soldered wires. The top/largest board is anchored solid, despite removing all the screws I could find.

Let me know if you'd like different pictures or angles, or higher resolution versions from photobucket.

Mik
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Re: Has my charger died?

This thread has been added to the Vectrix Collaborative Handbook, please stay on topic!

Great photos, thanks!

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antiscab
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Re: Has my charger died?

CupertinoTony wrote:

I learned about the li-ion conversion here, and having more range is tempting. Given my commute length and how hard I am on batteries, this might not be a good option for me.

What is your commute like?
What speed?
any hills?

LiFePO4 are alot more forgiving of higher temperatures and currents than the original nimh batteries.
The optimum temperature performance wise for LiFePO4 is 60 deg C

Its overcharge/discharge where LiFePO4 is not forgiving (but thats more easily avoided than higher temps).

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

rah3a
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Re: Has my charger died?

In the bottom right picture, there is a white cylinder, just behind one of the red wires and just in front of the blue capacitor, that has copper-looking caps wired into the board. It looked like that might be a fuse, and I had to desolder a bunch of wires to get that board out far enough to take a look. When tested it was open-circuit (no current), so I'm guessing it's a fuse hard-soldered into the board, and mine was blown. I could be wrong, but didn't see anything else that looked like it might be a fuse. Even assuming it was a fuse, we had no way to know the specs to get a replacement. Someone here might know what to buy, but to fix you'd have to be very handy with soldering iron.

heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

That is a fuse - there are 2 of them. They are fast acting, ceramic, sand filled, 15A - under rated for 110V, OK for 240V. I'd be changing them for 20A units if you live in a 110V country.

If you remove the input and output wires, you can get to the board OK - if you cant get leaded fuses, you could modify the board to use fuse clips and silastic the fuse to the board. Make sure that there are no other issues with the charger before you apply power again - the second pop is usually more spectacular :)

A load (ie. 100W incandescent bulb) in series with the power is a good indicator of whether you have fixed it or not. Remove the load (batteries) and power up - if it starts bright, and gets dimmer, then this is a good sign. If it stays bright... you may still have problems. The bias supply on these is idiotic and wasteful (that massive wirewound resistor - gold coloured) provides the 12V rail for the high voltage control board - no boot-strapping here... So your unloaded quiescent current on these is high normally.

Mik
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Re: Has my charger died?

heathyoung wrote:

...
...The bias supply on these is idiotic and wasteful (that massive wirewound resistor - gold coloured) provides the 12V rail for the high voltage control board - no boot-strapping here... So your unloaded quiescent current on these is high normally.

Is this the cause for the 0.5A current draw and heating of the charger when plugged in and not charging?

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heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

Correct. It uses an amplified zener configuration (basically a voltage follower based on a mosfet on the main PCB - instead of the zener shedding heat, the resistor does.

The main board requires a bias supply of 14V at ~65ma, this is produced by a wasteful linear regulator (if you are interested in the sums, try here (http://www.calculatoredge.com/electronics/zener.htm) with the following values:

Max Vin = 340
Min Vin = 170
Output = 14V
Load Current = 70ma

Gives a resistor power rating of 54.5W (!!), which is what the power resistor is used for.

There is a resistor across the output of the main power supply so it has a minimum load when the load (battery) is removed.

There is also another bias supply that generates a 12V rail for the fans and 5V rail for the canbus circuitry, these also contribute to the load. From memory this supply sits across the output of the main supply and helps provide a minimum load.

Its a very poorly designed charger - more of a prototype unit I would say than ready for production.

CupertinoTony
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Re: Has my charger died?

Should I be worried about this burn mark:

DSCF0721.JPG

heathyoung
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Re: Has my charger died?

Thats the wirewound resistor that sometimes goes open circuit.

It provides (yet another) bias voltage supply. Check that it isn't open circuit, and that the solder joint is still servicable (ie not frozen/cold).

Have you checked your fuses yet?

rah3a
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Re: Has my charger died?

I bought a replacement charger from Vectrix a couple of weeks ago. It's a different model than the original charger. Does anyone know if that model is better designed than the original? I'm considering a Li conversion. It would be nice to use the stock charger because then I can still make use of the stock gauges, but if the new Vectrix charger is as bad as the original seems to be, I may be better off returning this one and just replacing the charger with something better (and find another solution for the gauges).

antiscab
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Re: Has my charger died?

rah3a wrote:

I bought a replacement charger from Vectrix a couple of weeks ago. It's a different model than the original charger. Does anyone know if that model is better designed than the original? I'm considering a Li conversion.

The newer model from what I hear is better.
with the Li conversion, if you are using the new version of the charger, you are really limited to 40Ah cells, as the firmware for the new charger has yet to be hacked.

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

tt-tronix
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Re: Has my charger died?

@rah3a: If you want to replace the old ESD Charger with the newer runkie/EVPS type, you must update the Motorcontroller to MC1021 - otherwise the Vectrix will not work. Be sure to run the batteries completely flat (ride slowly at the last few bars) before the first charge with the new charger because it will force 30Ah in the batteries... If they are half full, you can imagine that this will produce lots of heat ;-)

rah3a
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Re: Has my charger died?

tt-tronix: I had whatever charger came with the 2007 Vectrix; I assume that is the ESD charger? That one broke, so I went to the dealer and asked for a replacement charger. I'm not sure what kind it is, but it looks different (just a brass/gold colored squarish box, no label or marking of any kind). Is that the runkie/EVPS type you mention?

I did install the new charger and plugged it in. Nothing happened other than a click from the charger. My battery cells were extremely low voltage so I figured the voltage was just too low for the charger. I'm going to try manually charging this week and will try the new charger again.

Is the MC1021 a whole new motor controller, or is it a firmware upgrade of some kind? How would I get that? When you say it won't work, do you mean the charger won't charge the bike, or the bike won't run, or what?

Thanks!

Alex

tt-tronix
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Re: Has my charger died?

The gold colored box is the runkie/EVPS type and should come with firmware REV4000. MC1021 is a firmware upgrade for the motor controller which is needed in order to work with the new charger firmware.

In your case I would precharge the cells (If you know what you are doing... even if the voltage on the pack is low it is still lethal!!!) and then bring the scooter with the new charger to your dealer, so he can put the update(s) on the bike.

Don't forget to use an inrush current limiter when reconnecting the battery pack!!!!

Good luck!!!

ElectricLou
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Re: Has my charger died?

I agree the charger is poorly designed, but have an idea on what helps to kill it. I had the bike plugged in for a 3 hour delayed charge. It was plugged in for about 2 hours and went out to do some other work on the bike. I could feel radiant heat coming from under the bottom of the charger. The charger was hot enough that you could not hold your hand on it. As you know by now, when not charging the charger cooling fans do not run. This is what helps to kill it, it overheats when in standby with no cooling.

If the afterthought cooling fan cover was not there, the convection current of air would cool the charger in standby by. But with the fan cover and fans not running, it gets quite hot. In fact, when the charger was charging at 10 amps for a couple of hours, it was cooler then when in standby.

We need an easy way to keep the fans running anytime the charger is plugged in. May I suggest you folks that already have your chargers apart, perform this modification. It will be cheaper to replace fans then repair fried chargers.

Mik
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Re: Has my charger died?

ElectricLou wrote:

I agree the charger is poorly designed, but have an idea on what helps to kill it. I had the bike plugged in for a 3 hour delayed charge. It was plugged in for about 2 hours and went out to do some other work on the bike. I could feel radiant heat coming from under the bottom of the charger. The charger was hot enough that you could not hold your hand on it. As you know by now, when not charging the charger cooling fans do not run. This is what helps to kill it, it overheats when in standby with no cooling.

If the afterthought cooling fan cover was not there, the convection current of air would cool the charger in standby by. But with the fan cover and fans not running, it gets quite hot. In fact, when the charger was charging at 10 amps for a couple of hours, it was cooler then when in standby.

We need an easy way to keep the fans running anytime the charger is plugged in. May I suggest you folks that already have your chargers apart, perform this modification. It will be cheaper to replace fans then repair fried chargers.

Using timers to disconnect the charger (and control an ABCool) will not only prevent the charger from heating, but also protect against voltage spikes while the bike is in standby. It's a lot easier than modifying the charger, too.

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tt-tronix
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Re: Has my charger died?

These problems only occur with the old ESD Charger. The Runkie/EVPS type draws only 5W in standby! This is not so much compared with the 50W standby power of the old charger.....

The only drawback of the new charger is a loud fan noise while running.

Apropos current draw: The new charger draws more power (~70W) in cooling mode. That leads to the conclusion, that the battery fans are now driven by the charger instead of the batteries...!?

Tido

kingcharles
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Re: Has my charger died?

tt-tronix wrote:

These problems only occur with the old ESD Charger. The Runkie/EVPS type draws only 5W in standby! This is not so much compared with the 50W standby power of the old charger..

Mine uses 110W in standby, I plug in to 230V see.
Good thing it's never that hot over here.

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rah3a
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Re: Has my charger died?

Wanted to provide an update to my issue. As I previously noted, several months ago my original charger died and the bike sat for a few months with no charge. I finally received a new runkie/EVPS type charger from Vectrix a couple weeks ago and installed it. However, while installing the new charger I measured the entire battery pack at about 5-6V, obviously severely discharged and too low for the on-board charger to work. Because of this I was pretty sure my pack must be shot. However, I finally got a chance to manually charge the bike this weekend. I put in about 6Ah at 1A and that got it to the point where I was able to charge using the new on-board charger last night.

I'm not sure how damaged the battery might be but it got me through my 5 mile commute to work this morning with no problem! tt-tronix noted that I need to get the MC1021 firmware update for the motor controller, which is true. The bike seemed to charge fine, but on the dash where the elapsed time is usually displayed, it was just cycling through random gibberish (although other displays were fine. Also, I noticed driving to work this morning that the battery "fuel" gauge is not decreasing nor is the Est. Range changing. Estimated Range started at 46 miles with a full fuel gauge and neither changed throughout my entire ride. I guess the communications between the MC and the charger are not working right since the firmware is mismatched.

Also, I can confirm that the new charger does indeed have a much louder fan noise during charging (higher fan speed). And, I noticed that when I turn the bike off after riding, the battery cooling fans come on for a while (without plugging in). I am used to the original firmware, so maybe that has been a normal feature for a while.

Next step is to get to the dealer for the motor controller update, and figure out what kind of range I'm left with on my pack.

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