New Charger for my EV

On Sunday morning I returned home and plugged in my trusty EV to feed it some electrons. Hmm, something is wrong. No lights on one of the chargers. Oh, and the charger circuit breaker in the car has popped. Always out for adventure, and being totally incompetent at anything above 5V and 1 Amp, I connected it directly to the mains. The shed lights started to waver ominously. Humming sounds like a Mary Shelley novel. And still no lights on the charger.

Oh Oh. Since disposing of my nasty carbon burner a few years ago I only have one car and it’s the EV. So I needed a way to get on the road quickly.

But luck was with me. I scoured my local EV association web site, and found a 2nd hand Zivan NG3 charger, that was configured for a 120V lead acid pack. I have a 36 cell Lithium pack that is around 120V when charged. Different batteries have different charging profiles, for example the way current tapers. However all I really need is a bulk current source, my external Battery Management System will shut down the charger when the cells are charged.

Using some residual charge I EVed down the road where I met Richard, a nice man, fellow engineer, and member of our local EV association. I arranged to buy his surplus NG3, took it home and fired it up. Away it went, fairly hosing electrons into my EV at 20A. The old charger was just 10A so this is a bonus – my charging time will be halved. I started popping breakers again, as I was sucking 2.4kW out of the AC. So I re-arranged a few AC wires, ripped out the older chargers, rewired the BMS module loop a little and away I went with the new charger.

Here is the lash up for the initial test. The new Zivan NG3 is the black box on the left, the dud charger the yellow box on the right. The NG3 replaces the 96V dud charger and two 12V chargers (all wired in series) that I needed to charge the entire pack. My current clamp meter (so useful!) is reading 17A.

Old chargers removed and looking a bit neater. I still need to secure the NG3 somehow. My BMS controller is the black box behind the NG3. It shuts down the AC power to the chargers when the batteries signal they are full.

Pretty red lights in the early morning. Each Lithium cell has a BMS module across it, that monitors the cell voltage, The red light means “just about full”. When the first cell hits 4.1V, it signals the BMS controller to shut down the charger. Richard pointed out that the BMS modules are shunt regulators, so will discharge each cell back down to about 3.6V, ensuring they are all at about the same state of charge.

This is the only reason I go to petrol stations. For air. There is so little servicing on EVs that I forget to check the air for a year, some tyres were a bit low.

The old charger lasted 7 years and was used almost every day (say 2000 times) so I can’t complain. The NG3 was $875 2nd hand. Since converting to the Lithium pack in 2009 I have replaced the electric motor armature (about $900) as I blew it up from overheating, 2 cells ($150 ea) as we over discharged them, a DC-DC converter ($200 ish) and now this charger. Also tyres and brakes last year, which are the only wearing mechanical parts left. In that time I’ve done 45,000 electric km.