Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

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israndy
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Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

OK, so I got this bike at auction, it was not moving so it only cost $500 (yet registration each year is a significant portion of that price). I hoped it was just a dead battery and when I got it home as documented elsewhere I was able to hook a charger to it and bring the voltage of the pack high enough so the built in charger would charge it.

I rode it for some time but eventually had a breakdown and had to tow it home. I then decided to fix it and upgrade it since I didn't wanna take it apart multiple times.

I got a rack of 19 Leaf cells and tested them last year. Finally got the garage cleared out so I can take the bike apart there

IMG_5107.JPG

I am watching the YouTube videos from Antiscab to figure out what I am doing.

It's a lot harder than I thought, but I managed to get thru it. The two battery packs are too heavy to get out easily so I took the top layer (1/3 of the weight) out of the pack to make the rest easier to remove. I used a Ginsu knife to get thru the glue holding them down. Thought I broke a couple fingers dropping the first pack as it was on the edge of my strength (at almost 60, perhaps it would have been easier if I were still younger), but today I am OK.

I am now testing the original packs to see if I can recover the batteries to make a home battery to run items overnight. Now I am off to the hardware store to get the metal rods I appear to be missing to complete the new pack.

MOSFETmeltdown
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Randy,
Good man.

Yeah, don't charge the leaf cells unless they are under compression.

Cheers, Dave.

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Oops! OK, no issues yet, but I just put the units together, I don't know how compressed they should be. I put the 3/16ths" threaded rods thru and bolted them down, but I don't know how bolted they should be. Do they need to be torqued down or just compressed a bit

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MOSFETmeltdown
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

I did mine up as tight as I could - the reason airlines has fires from lithium-ion batteries is because the phones that burst into flame were fully charged - fine at sea-level, but not at the low pressure at 30,000 feet.

You don't want your Leaf modules popping open.
So long as they can't expand you'll be fine.

FYI My write-up is here: http://tinyurl.com/vectrixfixed

Cheers Dave

israndy
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Oops! Looks like that was too tight, I went to put the interconnects on and the screws wouldn't go thru the holes. I had almost hacksawed off the extra rod, glad I didn't. I backed off a bit, plus I cannot find the end piece (if Tech Data even shipped me one) for the bottom end so a little loose will have to do. Now I got all the bolts in and tested, and it's showing 133+ volts for 19 cells and they should all be discharged after capacity testing, so that should be about right.

IMG_5143.JPG

I removed the interconnects as I don't like working with that much voltage in one place. I'll save them until after I connect the battery to the bike so I don't need the inrush resistor. Add 8v at a time as I add each interconnect.

IMG_5146.JPG

I took the cover off the circuit board thinking there was going to be some burned or charred component, but it looks pristine other than the 125v fuse. Wish I had a 200 on me before I install the battery... Seems like it'll be harder to deal with once I get the battery in. Not that I know how I am going to lift it, I can barely slide it across the floor. A friend suggested putting the bike on it's side and then sliding the battery in, makes sense, then I don't have gravity sucking the weight to the bottom of the bike and watch out if you have your hand in there!!

I'll work on it again later, as I cut myself badly on that circuit board cover, but the gloves won't let me take pics with my iPhone...

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israndy
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Dangit, I went to watch Antiscab's video about re-assembly and he didn't produce one for the Leaf cells...

The good news is so far all my NiMH cells are testing great (except one burned one from the bottom of the pack). Gonna make a giant UPS out of them to run my TV or whatever when the sun goes down and then charge it up when I have solar power again.

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MOSFETmeltdown
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

The Leaf pack is pretty heavy, I'll vouch for that!
I used an engine hoist initially - but if you've read my write-up - you'll know I split my pack into 2, much easier to handle. I sold the hoist, it took up a lot of space.
I had all the interconnects in place and used a couple of crocodile/alligator clips and a small electric heater to limit inrush current.

I was 60 in August by the way!

Shame about the cut hand -
My wife is allergic to petroleum oils/grease, so I've have a 30+ years of wearing gloves when working/playing.
Keeps my hands clean & cuts down. Down-side is the skin on my hands is SO soft.

Consider splitting the Leaf pack with a large core link cable? Much easier to manoeuvre, but you do need 2 sets of rods.

Cheers, Dave.

HarryS
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Good to see that there are still occasional posts on this site. I owned a 2008 Vectrix and drove happily for years until battery degraded. I rebuild a new one from two old i got each cell and that lasted another year or so. Then gave up and sold the bike. No that I am 60 as well, I have some internet in tinkering ns have identified a used 2008 with old NIMH battery about to tackle the same lithium upgrade you guys are doing. I too watched the videos but am a little unclear about the plug and play of the charger. Do you guys use the original charger? I also no longer have my can use cable and adapter and of course not even an old dos computer around anymore. I guess I will need to update the software eventually?

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Yep, stock, silver charger.

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

I was thinking about doing the hoist as the battery is tough to get off the ground, but a friend suggested if I can lift either end, why not place the bike on it's side and then swing the battery into the bay and then lift the other side of the battery and slide it into the bay and then pick the bike up just like if you dropped it while riding.

I am planning on hooking the battery to the motor controller and then putting the connector plates on so that I attach one cell at a time until I have the full battery built, trying not to drop the screwdriver on the bike, YIKES! Already did it once as a test. But this way I don't need to hook a lamp to the one leg of the battery before I connect it so that there isn't a giant arc of power going into the motor controller.

What did people use to extend the negative cable from the motor controller to the far end of the battery?

Any input on this would be appreciated...

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antiscab
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

There are a few leaf conversion videos online done by others already, I don't think I can add much value by putting one up myself
It's great to see so many - long term success of a product relies on a large number of people with repair and maintenance knowledge

I likely won't be doing any more leaf module conversions - the leaf modules available in Australia are all from 2011 - 2012, and are pretty degraded
cells like Samsung SDIs are more cost effective to bring in now, and have way more capacity.

I haven't compressed any of the leaf modules in conversions I have done, I just slide them in one by one, the put in foam packers so they don't move around
In a leaf the bolt downs are more about restraining the battery rather than compressing them
No harm in compressing them, though it does make putting the modules in somewhat more challenging

I dismantled a gen 1 leaf module ages ago, the plastic spacers at the bolt holes take all the compression

That motor controller still has the original mild steel phase terminals - those tend to burn out after a while.
mild steel is a poor conductor, thermal cycling tends to lead to a bad connection eventually
I use copper sleeves - 13mm outside diameter with 5.5mm inside diameter - gives a cross section of 108mm2 of conductor area
I still have a heap of the sleeves

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst 2 x TC Charger & MC
conversion

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

I search YouTube for "Vectrix Leaf" and the only How To video I am seeing are the Ben Nelson ones. The AntiScab videos didn't use the Leaf batteries. If you know of any other videos for the install I would love to see it.

Personally I still like the Leaf cells, used they are REALLY cheap. I never put too many miles on my motorcycles, even the one I drove across country. I figure the cells will outlive my use of the motorcycle.

I bolted the cells together, I got a couple of end pieces with them that fit in the concave side of the battery, but I am missing stuff to hold the other end of the pack, though it seems OK with just using washers to hold it together...

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israndy
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

Wow! I hadn't seen this before, a meter that could handle all the voltage and amperage coming out of our battery with a big pretty display. It's still no BMS or even a battery balance system, but this seems like a good deal:

DT24P DC1000V/0~200A Digital Display DC Power Supply Voltmeter Ammeter Battery Capacity Tester Battery Fuel Gauge Meter US $18.28

Meter Display

There is even a bluetooth app for your phone so you can watch it charge from the comfort of your couch. Now I wonder if I shouldn't get the same meter for my other (still NiMH) bike...

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israndy
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

OK, got the battery installed and balanced (electrically) and I hooked it to the motor controller. Initially I thought I was supposed to use a 10watt 120volt bulb to do the pre-charge of the controller, but my nightlight bulb just sat there on, so I assumed I needed something with more watts. I took a lamp and turned it on and touched one side of it's plug to the battery and the other side to the positive lead from the bike and the lamp lit and went out, I guess I needed to leave it there longer as I still got a little spark when I connected the battery to the bike, but I have a spare fuse if I need it.

IMG_5279.jpeg

Unfortunately I am getting the Temp light and the Battery light now. The battery is about 130 volts but when I plug the bike in it won't charge, it starts to charge but then bails. This was the problem I was having after the popcorn sound from under the seat. I still think that was one issue as I found that melted battery, but perhaps I have another issue, or perhaps I just need to get the firmware upgraded to ignore the missing temp sensors and fans.

I booted my Mac into Windows but I don't seem to have it set up for running the Vectrix Diags any more (it's been at least 5 years). Anyone know where I can get the Vectrix tools to update the firmware and the firmware to run the bike on 19 Leaf batteries?

EDIT: OK, my wife's PC was apparently the one I used to talk to the VX-1, so I got that running, but I still need the firmware to get the error lights to go off

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

OK, it took the ENTIRE day to re-read this site looking for a link to the Laird or info on the Degas firmware to use with the Leaf battery pack I built. The ONLY link I found going back to when the issue first bit me on this bike years ago was on this page:

https://visforvoltage.org/comment/78332#comment-78332

Thanks to @flexy for the link https://www.dropbox.com/s/rb2lx9slvwxa5yp, unlike many links on this site, this one is still live.

And it had only ONE file, but it looked like the one I needed for a 19 battery 38 cell Leaf upgrade, to get the red telltale lights to stop blinking due to the lack of fans and the lack of temp sensors.

I downloaded it and it now shows LION60AH as the identifier of the firmware for my ESD Charger. Good, would have sucked if it failed during the update.

I then plugged the bike into the wall and UNLIKE EVERY TIME I have tried this the last many years (started in 2017) this time the charger ramped up to 10 amps and kept right on charging unlike the videos referenced above.

I still have to do a few full charges to be sure, and I still have to put the bike back together and (find a helmet and) take it for a ride! Just in time for Bay Area summer!

I also have some AliExpress items winding their way to me that will go in the bike, a battery monitor that handles the high voltages and a couple of 20 cell energy transfer battery balancers that I will cascade on the battery. Cannot wait to see how the new firmware will treat the battery, how full will it go, how empty will it go, how will that be reflected on the fuel gauge?

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israndy
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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

OK, so some progress. I got that meter from AliExpress and it took forever to figure out how to mount the shunt as it was not encased in plastic and my battery leads are exposed inside the bike where I wanna mount this. I bought a bunch of plastic boxes but the cable is so big that it always distorted whatever I tried to wrap it in. Finally got it SLIGHTLY working, enough to power it oh (had to tap 12v from the motor controller) but was greeted by "Voltage 149.9v > 72v" with constant beeping and no ability to get to the interface of the device. So I guess they sent me the wrong meter and display. The good news is the dispute seems to have been in my favor and a refund is being processed, the bad is this took a month. So I got another display that can handle 150+ volts (500 actually) from Amazon and it was here in two days.

In the mean time, I just put the bike together w/o a meter and with balance boards, and updated to the Degas software, I still had original Vectrix software, other than the charger that was lithium aware. Plugged the bike in and it didn't charge. OK, I'm sure it's just full.

The next day I did my first real roadtrip. I drove to San Francisco and after 25 miles the meter went to zero, but the bike kept going. I hit the kill switch to check and it was still above 140 volts, but I thought I should top up. I tried my J1772 adapter on a free ChargePoint charger but it STILL wouldn't charge. Oops! Probably should not have gone to zero w/o testing this. Since the voltage wasn't bottomed out I decided to try for home.

This wasn't smart, but I am typically very lucky, and again my luck held out, I drove ALL the way from SF back to Alameda, could easily have failed on the bridge, but instead it failed in front of Carl's Jr. with a 104v pack. So I stopped in and got some grub. When I returned to check the bike it was showing 114v, but my quick math determined that was it for the pack, so I pushed the bike the remaining 3 miles, sometimes rolling down slopes and using the motor to help me up slopes, but Alameda is pretty flat.

I had two battery modules that were below 3 volts (2.88v and 2.84v), but the rest of the pack was in great shape for 50+ miles of driving, almost double my normal range. I plugged the bike in and it started charging just fine. Was it the 240v at ChargePoint that caused it not to charge? Nine minutes later I had my answer as the charge cycles stopped as though the batts were full. The default settings for lithium on the Degas software were for 3.6v per cell max. I looked online and found 4.2v is what Li-Ion can take, so I set the SW to 4.1v (incase batts are out of sync) and charged and it took 3 hours and 7kWhs before charging finished.

OK, looks like the bike is ready to get for real.

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Re: Another NiMH -> Leaf Battery upgrade

OK, another day, another issue. With the full battery (I had one module go over 4.2 volts so I put a battery balancer on it to bring it down) I took off, this time for Marin where my range could be better tested and where I knew there were free chargers I could hit up.

Only by the time I got to Emeryville (my old employer where I did MOST of my riding all these years) I got a Up Rst error and the bike died. Pulling over to check what that means the bike seemed like it was already ready to go. Later I found that means a microprocessor reset, possibly a bug in the Degas software. I pulled back into traffic and got a third of a mile further and was greeted with an HS Hot message. OK, that's also a new one. I struggled to get to the next exit and even more to get to a charger, the error kept returning even when I was going super slow in parking lots.

But it was time to see if the settings change also meant that I could charge at a public charger, I plugged into the Volta charger thru my J1772 adapter and sure enough, it woke right up and started charging. I walked over to my old Apple Store and walked around for a time, wanted to see if the 1200 watt plug adapter was going to overheat. When I returned the charging was still going and the cable was only slightly warm to the touch. I decided to head home to find out what HS Hot means expecting to have to keep pulling over whenever the red light comes on, but I made it ALL the way home.

Looks like the error was saying my Motor Controller was overheating, I was driving full speed for many minutes into a major headwind, so I guess that makes sense, but others have done this install and I read that they all have removed their fans from the bikes as the batteries don't get hot. How do you handle the motor controller getting hot? Where is the heat dissipated? Should I put the fans back?

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