Category: Car

image22One of the new features in version 1.09 is the possibility to collect a time based graph of the charging process. It shows the development of the battery’s energy level, but also the maximum power level the charger is prepared to supply. If the charger is load balancing will show up in this graph. Furthermore, it is very clear how the car, while the SOC goes up, caps the maximum power that can go into the batteries, until it reaches the actual power level of the charger.

In the example here you can see the charger being prepared to supply 31 A over three phases (20 kW), and the car being prepared to take 43kW, but that last number going down as the SOC is going up. It starts capping at roughly 8 kWh in the battery, suggesting a battery temperature of about 12 C and then goes down until it reaches the charger’s power level of 20 kW at around 16 kWh SOC. If you look carefully, you can see the actual DC power following the capping in the last few minutes. The charge was ended there as charging speed bled off and putting in that last 5kWh would have taken excessive time.

The “blips” in the maximum power level we believe is caused by the temperature of the battery pack going up. It is measured with a resolution of 1 degree Celsius, which would explain the choppy line.

You can find these graphs under the Technical menu.

Most of you know the situation. For one reason or the other, you end up with the dreaded RNOD (Red Nose Of Death) and the dash indicates “Battery Charging Impossible”. Worst case that can leave you stranded, and best case you end up with a disabled cruise control / speed limiter and a that blinding orange light in your face. In most cases this is caused by a grounding fault, and these are often edge cases. The natural response is to simply try again and sometimes this works, but very often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, the CC/SL will only return after a successful charge, however short. There is not much we can do there (maybe reset the BCB or LBC through CanZE, I never tried).

There are two things that you really need to know, however strange they might sound.

First, remove the charger cable, lock up the car and wait until the car completely powers down. You can sit in the car if you want. Pay attention to the power down sequence. After about 3 minutes, you will hear a soft click and the little LED in the lock button on the top side of the R-Link will go off, as will the auxiliary power. Then, after about another minute or two, you will hear a second, soft relay click. Then, wait another minute. Then CANbus will go to sleep, but there is no indication for that, just wait out that minute. Don’t touch a thing during this wait. Of course you can simply walk away and time a minimum of 6 minutes, but the key is: no cable, everything locked. After this, the computers, and possibly a few big capacitors in the BCB will be in a cleaner state and charging will often be possible. If there is no real grounding problem, you should be able to start the charger normally. I should stress that simply driving to another charger and not going through this “rain dance” usually does not solve the problem.

Second, in some rare edge cases after above procedure, everything will seem to be fine, no errors, but still, the charging process itself will just not start. In the rare cases I had this, I had walked away and retried without opening up the car. Just opened it’s nose, connected the cable, activated the charger. If this happens, unlock the doors. This will wake up all computers, the dash, etc, and that usually makes it realize that indeed it should be charging. The reassuring “clunk” from the charger and the “click – wheeeeeee” noises from under the bonnet will hopefully make you breathe again.

Another problem might be that by accident a scheduled charge is set. So, if the car refuses to charge, look for that little clock icon in the top row of the dash display.

Finally, as was mentioned in one of the comments, a long press on the start button may help, but I cannot confirm this.

We do our best to make things as intuitive and clear as possible, but sometimes that doesn’t work, or the idea presented simply needs some explanation. The blue aiming bar shown in the driving and braking screens, and soon to be released in the consumption screen too, might be one of those. So, here goes……

The Aiming Bar is always displayed under a Braking Torque bar. Braking Torque is the force of braking. It does not correspond to power, as power is proportional to torque multiplied by speed. In most cars, Braking Torque corresponds to the position of the braking pedal. For the Zoe, this is almost true. Lifting your foot from the accelerator pedal already induces a bit of Braking Torque. Pressing the braking pedal increases that torque.

The Blue Aiming Bar is the maximum braking torque the car can apply using only regeneration. Ideally, you should never brake more than the blue bar indicates: every braking beyond the Blue Aiming Bar is applied through friction braking and the corresponding energy is lost. As I explained earlier, the Blue Aiming Bar is a bit counter-intuitive: at very low speed, the motor cannot regenerate so the bar disappears. At high speed, even a little bit of torque will make the regeneration hit the maximum charging limit of the battery. When the battery is full, there is almost no regeneration at all.

For that reason, avoiding friction braking requires a bit of getting used to. It feels unnatural to “feather-brake” at speed and then apply more and more while speed bleeds off, and it certainly needs stricter anticipation.

Note: this does not apply to the Fluence and the Kangoo, as these cars only use the accelerator to control regeneration. Using the braking pedal applies friction braking only.

Video blogger Alloam, in his latest “Living with my Renault Zoe” episode mentioned something very interesting. A Renault battery engineer basically told him the extra capacity is added most of all because the LiPo’s have a fairly rapidly decreasing capacity (SOH) in their early life. With the extra headroom, they have been able to accomplish two things (at the cost of that headroom no less!):

  • The customer doesn’t experience that rapid capacity decrease in early life. To me that is an argument that is slightly in the “to avoid complaints about customer service, we will not be providing customer service any more” category, but I do see their point. You want to avoid customers complaints about that, especially in early life. But……
  • By not using that headroom, the overall SOH curve is higher than when using it all. That is no surprise really. It is no secret that topping a LiPo to the rim does stress it quite a bit. It was interesting to see the effect in a graph, even while it was unit-less.

Also the cumulative SOH of all Zoe’s graph is quite revealing. Dig in at 08:30

Edit: I had not read the link to the original presentation by Masoto Uriguchi.

With a bit of trouble, it doable to add points of interest to R-Link. In this country, R-Link (Tomtom) while not a bad navigation system at all, is not very pretty usable for the charger networks. User MartijnEV maintains a separate multi-sourced KML with only and all the 22 and 43 kW chargers in the country. It sits happily in Google’s My Maps and downloaded for offline usage in Maps.me on my phone.

Things snapped together as Jana Höffner described the procedure (in German) to put OV2 files in your R-Link and Pieter, who also made CanZE’s icon, found a snappy website to convert KML straight into Tomtom’s OV2 format.

Follow the links to get the gist of it. MartijnEV decided to publish the ov2 files in parallel with the KML. Instructions, with alle relevant links open when you click that yellow PC alike symbol in the far North of the map.

Edit: More generic instructions (in German) can be found in the goeingelectric wiki, including those for Linux.

There are many misconceptions about fast charging. One being that “the battery should be as cold as possible when fast charging”. I mean, when hooking up the battery to a fast charger, all these fans start to run right? So it must be true. Like so many assumptions, unfortunately it isn’t. Zoe’s Batteries are very, very happy when they are over 25C and actually, when they are colder than that, the BMS will rightfully cap the maximum charging power. 43kW fast charging a pack that has been freezing overnight to 0C would almost certainly damage it beyond recovery.

Having said that, overheating the cells, that will still happily charge at a temperature of over 40C **), is a very, very bad idea. Renault implemented a pretty clever solution for that, installing an extra evaporator of the climate system in the air inlet of  the battery compartment, which is why you not only hear the battery fans kicking in, but also the climate control when fast charging.

Which of course leaves the question, why would the car do that when fast charging and the cells are way below that happy temperature of 25C and higher? Well, consider that about 10% of the energy is lost to heat *) when fast charging the battery, that is over 4kW of heat being generated, which is substantial. The car is simply using a pre-emptive strategy, blowing cooled air over the batteries. If that annoys you (those fans can really “take off”), simply put the car in ECO mode before powering it down. The climate system will not kick in now kick in at a much higher temperature. And of course, the batteries will heat up faster. Which might or might not be a good idea really. Some chargers do not appreciate the interruption of the charging process and ECO mode might avoid it.

*) some say full cycle energy loss in LiPo is 3%. While that can be true under ideal circumstances, 43kW (2C strategy) is not that.

**) Masoto Uriguchi, battery engineer at Renault states the batteries are happy up to 60C, but should not be taken above that.

“Granny charging” is used for ultra slow, normal plug charging. So it’s not about charging up grandma, but charging AT grandma’s place, if she lives just a tad over half the range away and no decent public chargers on the way, read: emergency charging.

And there is another reason why I keep it in the trunk: I have had occasions where a flaky grounded charger put my Zoe in the “red nose” mode. I’ll talk about the reset procedure in another post, giving me back my precious cruise control, but one part is: a successful charging session, however short.

Here are two video’s of my home-build. It cost me roughly 150 Euro’s. A “real”, clunky one could easily set you back 400 Euro’s and Renault retails (retailed?) theirs here for more than 700 Euro’s.

 

leds

 

For the technicians: no, this is NOT a fake system that simply puts the proper pilot signal on the CP pin. It is a decent OpenEVSE system, doing all the checks and balances.

LED schematic (thanks to user “seti”)

 

unspecified

I took the liberty of posting a picture of a rebuild that reader “seti” made, see the comment thread below.

Granny Cable1

And another one by Andy Fraser.

Thank you all for rebuilding!

OK, maybe I am a non-friction-braking junkie.

Today, I had a discussion with a friend who owns a Tesla model S. The single motor type, but with the complete performance pack. As we started to talk about braking, we figured the S’s stategy is quite different than on the Zoe and is actually closer to the Fluence and Kangoo. In simple terms, on the S, touching the braking pedal does friction braking, period. Regeneration is applied through not, or barely touching the accelerator. He calls this “one foot driving”.

He also told me the “average” tesla driver doesn’t do any aiming-braking. With that I mean unpowered coasting, letting the motor basically run free. It seems to be popular with Fluence hyperdrivers to avoid the regen-use cycle.  I have to assume this is because hyperdriving is less of an issue with a 80kW battery.

The regenerative braking strategy itself is different too. The Zoe seems to aim at fixed torque, mimicking a traditional car. It is transparent to the driver if that torque is generated through regeneration or friction braking. The S seems to aim at a fixed regeneration power level (up to 60kW, which is lower than the Zoe per kg). As I explained in the previous post, that means increasing torque as the speed bleeds off. When the car reaches roughly 50km/h it seems to switch to constant torque, probably as otherwise the braking would get too brisk and uncomfortable. It is an interesting approach (irrespective to whether it is controlled through a braking pedal or not) as it is the behaviour I am trying to mimic through following the blue bar in the driving screen.

I got an interesting question about the blue “Aim bar” in the new driving screen. Confusion arose how, when increasing speed, the maximum braking torque aim bar actually shrinks, while common sense would dictate it should stay the same or even grow a bit.

Well, common sense is not always right! Assume we are running at a speed where the motor itself can apply it’s maximum braking torque. The power this potential braking would generate is the torque multiplied by the angular velocity. So, as the speed of the vehicle goes up, by definition, the power regenerated with this maximum torque goes up too. Pretty quickly we will hit the limit of the battery: 43kW, and that is under ideal circumstances. At any speed above that, you’d have to actually decrease torque not to go over this maximum, and this is exactly what the power management does and what is displayed through the blue bar..

Consequently, if you “follow” the bar coming down from i.e. 120 km/h, you will find you’ll easily hit that maximum with only a little bit of braking pressure. While speed bleeds off you’ll find yourself braking harder and harder following the blue bar, chasing the maximum power. That goes on until you reach the maximum torque the motor itself can apply. For a short moment, this is a fixed value. As the car decelerates further, now at a constant rate, at constant pedal pressure and with decreasing power generation, it reaches the point where the motor is simply turning too slowly to apply its maximum generating torque and the ability to brake through the motor collapses. I you don’t do anything, the friction brakes will kick in. This is the “traffic light effect”.

Hope this helps.

When time is money (both re. your own time as well as how the operator calculates the rates), the following guidelines will help you, especially in winter. The’re all fairly obvious:

1. Try to avoid fast-charging starting at a high SOC to avoid entering the area where the car squeezes the charging power. This squeezing can start as low as 35% SOC when it is cold. Drive as far as possible to keep the charging power high for as long as possible.

2. Try to charge with the highest possible battery compartment temperatures. As driving increases the temperature substantially, try to fast-charge at the end of a drive, not i.e. the following morning. Fast charging itself also increases the temperature.

3. Quit fast charging as soon as you can. If there is a slow-charger at your destination, just fast charge until you can reach it.  This ensures fast-charging at the highest possible power and trades “real” waiting time (twisting thumbs) against “virtual” waiting time (car is charging for a longer time, but you’re not waiting for it doing nothing).

A rule of thumb is that squeezing from 43 kW starts at 30% SOC plus twice the battery compartment temperature for a Q210, and from 22 kW at 65% SOC plus the battery temperature for an R240. Note that this is for the 22 kWh battery. The 41 kWh battery behaves substantially different, but we don’t have enough data yet.

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