Are powerpole connectors a problem?

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reikiman
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I've been using powerpole connectors for years and love them. But I just had an experience that has me questioning them.

My bicycle had developed an issue where the power would cut out while riding. I finally worked out that it was a powerpole connector that didn't connect very tightly. I could hold it in my hand (while riding) and manipulate it and hear clicks as the connection came and went, and the power to the motor would come and go with the clicks. Obviously something had happened to the innards of this connector such that it didn't make a reliable connection.

I made a grocery store run this morning (four bags of groceries in a trailer - leaving the store another bicyclist commented to me I had a regular pickup truck) and couldn't get the connector to work at all. Obviously it was time to stop putting off fixing this connector.

I first tried scraping the inside of the powerpole to roughen the surface thinking maybe there's some scorch marks or some such interfering with the connection. That didn't help.

What I just did is to cut out the whole powerpole business and replace it with a completely different kind of connector. I don't know the proper name - but it's this kind that has a rubber body and ribbed posts that stick into holes. Each connector is hermaphroditic rather than "male" and "female". Connectors of this sort are often used on trailer lights and indeed I bought the connector at an auto parts store in the trailer lights section.

Wired it up and took a ride ... not only is the connection robust now, the bike has more power.

This bicycle has an 800watt controller going to an old wilderness energy BD36 motor rated for 35 amps. Theoretically this should be a powerful combination but it had always been slow acceleration and felt like low power. It wouldn't readily go above 15 miles/hr. I didn't mind too much because it's mounted on my Electra Townie and those bikes are so completely laid back that the slow speed just fit the genre.

Now with this new connector the bike feels peppy, decent acceleration and easy to get above 15 miles/hr.

Obviously the new connector doesn't have the scarring from a couple years of zaps that were inside the old powerpole connector. But this kind of connector also would hold itself rigidly together much better than the powerpole connectors do. I'm impressed and am going to think about using this kind of connector more often in the future.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

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Mik
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

They are crimped, and the only good crimped connection is a soldered one!

I have seen this regularly with the CBAII and CBAIII: They came with Andersons Powerpole connectors, and the test results get botched and are unreliable until the connectors are soldered.

All my Powerpole connectors get a "Tick" once they have been taken apart and soldered; I do not use them un-soldered any longer.

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ArcticFox2
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Mik wrote:

[...]the only good crimped connection is a soldered one!

Hallelujah!

I don't know how many discussions I've argued about for this same thing. A soldered crimp is always better than just crimped, or just soldered.

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reikiman
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Mik wrote:

They are crimped, and the only good crimped connection is a soldered one!

I have seen this regularly with the CBAII and CBAIII: They came with Andersons Powerpole connectors, and the test results get botched and are unreliable until the connectors are soldered.

All my Powerpole connectors get a "Tick" once they have been taken apart and soldered; I do not use them un-soldered any longer.

It's not the crimp end of the powerpole that was the problem. It's the part which slides together.

On the connector pair in question there was a bit of flex. When the connection flipped out usually the connectors could be flexed a bit to reconnect them. But earlier today that trick no longer worked.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

antiscab
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Mik wrote:

They are crimped, and the only good crimped connection is a soldered one!

for your average hobby-ist, this is good advice.

only hydraulic crimpers and apply enough pressure to cold weld.

anyway, pack to the power poles,

were they originally put together properly?

as in, when they aren't plugged into anything, can you move the contact by pulling on the wire?

i have seen many power poles where the contact was not pushed far enough into the connector to get the tab over the spring. the result was the spring couldn't apply much pressure, not enough to make a good contact.

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

reikiman
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

as in, when they aren't plugged into anything, can you move the contact by pulling on the wire? i have seen many power poles where the contact was not pushed far enough into the connector to get the tab over the spring. the result was the spring couldn't apply much pressure, not enough to make a good contact.

Hm.. just took a look. One of the connectors the metal part wasn't as far forward as on the others. However it wasn't loose just not as far forward. That's the likely culprit.

That wire could not be pushed any further forward.

Let me suggest this is a problem with powerpoles - in that they're a little tricky to get assembled with the required precision. They are very convenient connectors, that's for sure.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

Mik
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

antiscab wrote:

...
...

only hydraulic crimpers and apply enough pressure to cold weld.

...
...

I've seen a connection like that in the NHW10 Prius battery: No crimp used at all, just the copper of about 10 wires pressed together into a solid copper block! Looks like it was melted, except for the square sides.

Nut maybe there was a crimp, made from copper, and it welded together with the wires.

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e-doggies
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

reikiman wrote:

... One of the connectors the metal part wasn't as far forward as on the others. However it wasn't loose just not as far forward. That's the likely culprit.

That wire could not be pushed any further forward.

The contact needs to be all the way into the housing until it clicks over the spring. Even though it does not appear loose, it is still not properly installed. If it won't go any further in: check the contact for alignment, check for any solder that is hitting the housing, carve away a little insulation so the wire fits easier into the housing. When correct, it will "wiggle" in the housing, but will not pull out.

Andersons's DO take some care in setting-up. I've used them almost daily for over a year without any problems so far. It's important to have no strain or twist on the wires where they go into the housings, especially when you assemble into plugs.

marylandbob
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

It sounds like you guys are using the SMALL andersons, the ones made for 40 amperes or less. These connectors, which utilize separate positive and negative housings, are NOT as suitable as the larger, one piece GRAY anderson powerpole connectors. The larger, one piece(One housing) connectors have a much stronger "Locking" action, and are better suited to handle the PEAK amperage of an electric bicycle, as the PEAK amperage may be 3 to 5 times as high as the average current drawn, and this current, perhaps as high as 100 amperes in some cases, can degrade the contacts on the smaller 2 piece connectors. I also advocate "crimp and solder" because the solder tends to fill the voids between the wire and contact, where corrosion from MOISTURE can collect, and in time, degrade the crimped connection. If done properly, crimped connections can be OK if kept DRY, but tend to be less reliable in situations involving wetness, especially with stranded wires.--Bob Curry

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mf70
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

There are three subtle elements to the design of PowerPoles that make them worth the extra effort to install.

  1. First electrical contact is at the tip, with a sliding contact that puts the final current path through a part of the contact that wasn't involved in the initial spark.
  2. Contacts are silver plated. Silver is equally conductive when corroded, unlike brass or copper.
  3. Contact pressure is maintained by a separate spring steel element, OUT of the current path.

As mentioned above, if you don't get that "click" when setting the contact into its holder, it's not positioned properly yet.

Thanks for posting this David. Folks need to remember that we need to keep inspecting for solid connections, even if we've got PowerPoles. (I earlier tried the XLS microphone connectors, and had far more problems in the time I used them.) If you can physically touch each connection right after a heavy power draw, you can sometimes spot a warm (failing) junction.

"Marylandbob," I'm sure the larger connectors conduct power better, but that isn't the only consideration in making the choice. AFIK, power ratings principally relate to make/break power loads, not the power transmitted through a mated connector. In the case of my series/parallel connectors, there is NO WAY I could have ganged one of the larger connectors for each battery in the pack for my 700 watt scoot.

Mark

reikiman
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

marylandbob wrote:

It sounds like you guys are using the SMALL andersons, the ones made for 40 amperes or less. These connectors, which utilize separate positive and negative housings, are NOT as suitable as the larger, one piece GRAY anderson powerpole connectors. The larger, one piece(One housing) connectors have a much stronger "Locking" action, and are better suited to handle the PEAK amperage of an electric bicycle, as the PEAK amperage may be 3 to 5 times as high as the average current drawn, and this current, perhaps as high as 100 amperes in some cases, can degrade the contacts on the smaller 2 piece connectors.

Yes Bob, I am talking about the small andersons (aka powerpole). But I don't follow you..

I've never seen a controller rated for n amps to deliver more than n amps.

How can a controller rated for 800 watts (at 36 volts that would be a tad over 22 amps) be delivering more amps than that? I have a cycle analyst installed and routinely watch the wattage and see it delivering 100 watts up to 500 watts or even more if I really crank the throttle. With a 36 volt system (nominal) 500 watts is around 14 amps (the calculator says 13.88888). Since 200 watts was more typical this means the system on my bicycle was routinely handling 5-10 amps.

Hence I don't follow what you've said. Even on my motorcycle (which also has a Cycle Analyst) the amps delivered to the motor do not exceed the amp rating of the controller.

Of course it's important to pay attention to the rating of the connectors, the wires, the controller, and whatnot to ensure that everything is within its spec'd rating.

marylandbob wrote:

I also advocate "crimp and solder" because the solder tends to fill the voids between the wire and contact, where corrosion from MOISTURE can collect, and in time, degrade the crimped connection. If done properly, crimped connections can be OK if kept DRY, but tend to be less reliable in situations involving wetness, especially with stranded wires.--Bob Curry

I do understand how soldering would give a better connection. Of course soldering (or not) is not the issue here.

I have tried soldering powerpole connectors and had a problem with getting the connector to fit into the housing after doing the soldering. The soldered connector was simply too big (physically) to fit into the housing. Maybe I used too much solder..? (it's been awhile) To get a powerpole connector into the housing the part that embraces the wire has to be small enough and the right shape to fit into the housing. The only way I've been able to accomplish that is via crimping and with some really aggressive mashing at that.

Or is the preferred technique to first crimp and then solder to fill the wire?

__________________

- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

antiscab
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

reikiman wrote:

Hm.. just took a look. One of the connectors the metal part wasn't as far forward as on the others. However it wasn't loose just not as far forward. That's the likely culprit.

That wire could not be pushed any further forward.

on all my powerpoles, i have had to put my full body weight on it to get the contact into the connector properly.
those things aren't easy to get in

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

Mik
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

reikiman wrote:

...
...

Or is the preferred technique to first crimp and then solder to fill the wire?

That's what I do with most connectors. First squish them together (usually not with the extraordinarily expensive tool designed for just that one job), then, when it's holding together quite well already, solder it!

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robert93
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Now, about your polarized trailer wiring plug, it can and WILL fail, the common point is the wires as they leave the plug. They usually break there as there is no strain relief. I've used them for years on my custom battery packs for bicycling headlights with good results, much better then RC car plugs. They may make a handy temporary connection, but do NOT trust them for E-bike juice! Emergency use only, then replace with solid rated wire and connectors. XLR mic connectors (switchcraft A3F and A3M) do see their uses in the 24v stuff often enough, but I would hate to trust my own soldering with those, having botched a few mic cable repairs. Thank goodness it was audio I used em for! :-)

marylandbob
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Crimp first, then solder carefully! That is what I do! When I mentioned that an electric motor could draw much more than RATED amperage/power, I was referring to an application that did not involve a current-starved, or excessively limited, controller. Most motors are capable of 3 to 5 times normal power output for significant time periods, if the power source and controller can accomodate the demand! Limiting the input amperage will destroy hill-climbing ability, as the motor will slow down very noticably, if it cannot receive the needed additional amperage. Speed limiting is much better accomplished by limiting R.P. M. instead of current, therefore acceleration and climbing ability will not be adversely affected. My ("WAVECREST Tidal Force") bicycle requires/draws significantly higher amperage on uphill runs, and its controller allows the higher current-I guess this is why it sold for over $2,400.00? If your controller only allows 20 amperes, changing it to one that would allow up to 80 amperes, at least for periods of a minute or so, would very likely improve performance!--Vectrix easily draws 5 times as much amperage for such short periods, when rapidly accelerating, or climbing a sttep hill-makes for a much better ride!--Bob Curry

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mf70
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

The XLR's have brass contacts that erode due to arcing, and are held in position by a light brass finger that can vibrate out of position. I was entirely pleased to move up to Anderson PowerPoles. For audio applications, they may be all right, but they're out of their design envelope for power applications.

Mark

wookey
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

I've been using powerpoles for over a decade. I like them a lot. But, as as been pointed out there can be problems, especially with connectors exposed to the elements, and assembling them right is more subtle than it seems. They are marvellous connectors except for their lack of weatherproofness. I quite often put silicone in the back to keep the worst of the water out.

It's very important to use the right crimpt tool, or understand what to adjust if you are not. Most wrong ones will bend the blade away from the correct angle which makes it a) hard to get in the housing and b) reduce conenction pressure. Bend them straight again before assembly - your connections will be much more reliable. This is probably the source of rekiman's problem. I've had them go green and corroded after a few years (I use them for caving and on bikes that get left in the rain), especially on pairs attached directly to batteries (galvanically-accelerated corrosion). Are they really silver plated, I had assumed it was some lesser coating?

I habitually crimp and solder them, it's just more reliable, even though a good crimpt can be just fine. Recently I stopped bodging, and bought a tool which actually crimps them properly (from west mountian radio, as I failed to find one at a sensible price in the UK: http://www.westmountainradio.com/PWRcrimpRC.htm )

You can get 15,30 and 45A contacts and for moped use it's well worth getting the 45A ones even though they are harder to find. In practice I've found 30A connectors to be adequate for a 50A controller, but there is some minor heating loss. This is much reduced with 45A connectors. I have also used the 75A powerpoles but they are _huge_, generally inconveniently so, and need a really manly expensive crimp tool).

A good UK source for less-common powerpole bits is Torberry Connectors. They have some nice 'backshell' sleeves for paired connectors and handy plastic retainers which hold a pair together, as well as all the bits you could want.

This is a really useful page about crimping/powerpole technique: http://www.flyrc.com/articles/using_powerpole_1.html

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mf70
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Are they really silver plated, I had assumed it was some lesser coating?

Yes (Click on word to get link to PDF)

Mark

Mik
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

Does the silver coating get damaged by soldering?

I noticed a "wave" of surface texture and colour change that moves along the terminal when it heats up and a temperature threshold is exceeded.

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mf70
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Re: Are powerpole connectors a problem?

They certainly bond well to solder. I wouldn't worry about the discoloration; as I said, my understanding is that silver contacts don't lose their conductivity when oxidized, and flux is a pretty powerful chemical. The big problem is properly securing the wire in the socket and securing the contacts in the housing. As others have commented, it's a bear at times.

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