How to manage a battery

Door mux op vrijdag 8 november 2019 12:47 - Reacties (23)
Categorie: Nissan Leaf mods & videos, Views: 8.670

This article is written for

In this article, we will take a very in-depth look at lithium ion batteries used in cars and how they are managed. This includes balancing, thermal management and capacity estimation. Using this information, we can deduce what Nissan did wrong with their overheating Leaf battery packs

What is a battery?

To be clear, we will be talking about lithium-in batteries in an automotive context - BEV batteries. In the automotive sphere, the term 'battery' is generally used to point at the box that sits under your car - which contains much more than just a big electrochemical cell. A battery typically contains:
  • Electrochemical cells ('cells')...
  • ...grouped together in modules containing 2 or more cells
  • Compression frames around the modules or groups of modules
  • Some thermal management (cooling/heating) system
  • Multiple temperature sensors
  • Voltage sensing on each cell
  • Shunt resistors (used for balancing) on each cell
  • A current sensor for the entire pack
  • A big honking fuse
  • Large contactors (the name for really big relays)
  • A precharge resistor and relay
  • A big steel or aluminum housing
All of these components have an important function and basically none can be left out for a well-functioning automotive battery.

Cell grouping and compression frames
Lithium ion cells, like all other electrochemical cells, store energy in chemical bonds. More precisely; they produce a current (and voltage) when converting one chemical into another, and for lithium-ion chemistries, this reaction can be reversed by reversing the current. But however well this chemistry is optimized, you are still dealing with two different chemicals in the charged and discharged state, and different chemicals tend to have different physical properties. One of these properties is density, or how closely-packed the molecules are, and for the most common types of lithium-ion batteries, the active ingredients in the battery tend to take up more space when the battery is full compared to when it is empty. In other words; the battery expands a little bit when charged.

This has big consequences for longevity. When a battery is charged and it expands, it may not expand the same way everywhere. If we take a pouch-type lithium-ion cell like those used in the Nissan Leaf, the pouch tends to bulge outwards on the large faces when charged. In the middle of the pouch, this means the active material is least dense, while on the edges it is closer together. This causes a lower resistance path to form on the edges of the cell, increasing the rate of discharge there as compared to the middle of the cell and heating up the sides a little more. Moreover, the mechanical movement of the middle of the cell will 'mash' the insides of the cell, causing mechanical damage over time. This is why cells tend to have a big metal cage around them, called a compression frame. This frame makes sure the cells stay flat throughout. They also generally make for easy to assemble packages with relatively few electrical and mechanical connecions. The MUXSAN extender batteries use modules with 12 cells in a compression frame, Nissan uses a few different groupings; cells are grouped 2 at a time and then grouped with 6-16 groupings in a compression frame.

And why do we use many cells and not just one? Well, this all has to do with the types of voltages you need to efficiently deliver the power needed to drive a car. Cars have standardized to about 400V, and with li-ion cells being about 4V per cell, you need roughly 100 cells in series to get to that voltage. Moreover, if you would make one giant cell and even if you could run a car off 4 volts - that cell would have terrible thermal characteristics, likely boiling in the middle even with the sides touching a refrigerated surface. It helps to chop up the battery in many tiny bits to increase the surface area and improve thermals.

Thermal management
There are a lot of misconceptions about thermal management, so let's try to reduce them a bit. Batteries are chemical devices, so they have to obey Arrhenius' law of reaction speed. Roughly speaking, for every 10C increase in temperature, chemical reactions occur twice as fast. In batteries, this means batteries will be better able to accept and provide current at higher temperatures - by quite a lot. Here is a table of the internal resistance of Nissan's 40kWh battery as it changes with SOC and temperature:

Looking at the temperature dependence, the internal resistance doesn't quite reduce by a factor of 2 for every 10 degrees, but for some intervals it isn't that far off. Of course, reaction speed isn't the only thing that determines internal resistance. There is also the resistance of the copper and aluminum conductor plates that form the terminals of the battery and some other more complex physical processes that don't scale exactly according to Arrhenius. Internal resistance isn't one 'thing', it is a representation of all lossy processes inside the cell.

But, well, low internal resistance is a good thing, right? Low internal resistance means lower losses, so a battery should be kept at high temperature? 60 degrees, nice and full, that's clearly good according to this graph?

Well, not so fast. IR isn't everything. If only we would have a world where everything is decided by a single number. Higher temperatures means batteries will be more cooperative, but they also degrade faster thermally. A battery is a big bunch of chemical reactions. We prefer the particular reaction that charges or discharges the battery, but many more are possible, just discouraged. At higher temperature, those possibly damaging side-reactions will also go faster and degrade the battery more quickly. This is why there is a bit of an optimum. Around 25C, the battery is both warm enough to be spared of the low reactivity of cold weather and simultaneously cold enough to avoid calendar degradation.

But thermal management isn't just about removing or adding heat to get the temperature to around 25C. As you may know, Tesla heats up their batteries before fast charging - that reduces the internal resistance. But during driving, it keeps the battery colder. Clearly, there isn't one particular 'best' temperature at all times. What really counts, is that the battery is at a consistent temperature! After all, when one part of the battery is at a higher temperature than another - or worse: when one part of a *cell* is at a different temperature from another part - you will get parts of the pack that charge at a different rate from the rest. Or even that degrade differently. This is a big problem in the 40kWh and 62kWh Nissan Leaf, where the top of the pack typically is 5-10C hotter than the bottom. This will cause the pack to degrade and charge unevenly, ruining performance and longevity.

So really, we shouldn't think of thermal management as heating or cooling the battery - we should primarily see it as keeping the entire package at the same temperature throughout. Exactly what temperature is not as important.
quote: practical example: 40kWh Leaf battery losses
The internal resistance causes losses in the cell, and these can be large. Say we have a pack at about 50% charge and 25 degrees C and we accelerate at full power. This is about 400A draw or 200A per cell at an internal resistance of 1.14 mohm per cell or 96x1.14=109.44 mohm. The total losses then are P = I^2R = 2 x 200 * 200 * 0.10944 = 8754W. This is an extreme example, but about 6.7% of the power is wasted in the battery, heating it up.

Well, actually, 6.7% isn't that bad. But this is just the beginning; we're actually doing what batteries like: being discharged at around 25C. How about charging, and how about charging a degraded battery? Here is the degradation characteristic of the 40kWh Leaf battery:

You can see that the initial bit of degradation - from 100% to 90% - is not bad at all. The internal resistance only goes up by 9%, which is practically negligible. The real damage occurs when batteries pass about 88% SOH; internal resistance goes up really quick, almost doubling for every 10% additional degradation. A battery at 80% SOH has an internal resistance of around twice that of the original battery. In the industry, a 100% increase in IR is typically the point at which a battery is considered end-of-life. Nissan considers the batteries EOL at 60%, when the IR has risen to 6.3X as much as new.

When discharging the battery, internal resistance is dominated by different effects than when charging the battery. This usually means that the effective internal resistance (or maybe more accurately: the internal losses) when charging are much higher than when discharging. Nissan doesn't give a charging IR table, but they do give a polarization characteristic with this tidbit in it:

This means the battery has similar losses when discharging at 150A or charging at 62.5A - 2.4x less. This in turn means the internal resistance when charging is approx. 2.4 squared or 5.76x higher, over long time periods.

So let's put all of this together and figure out why the 40kWh Leaf rapidgates (overheats when quick charging). Let's try to charge at 25C again, but with a battery at 90% SOC. This gives us an internal resistance of 109.44 x 1.09 x 5.76=687 mohm. At maximum charging speed - 125A from CHAdeMO or 62.5A per single cell - that translates into 2 x 0.687 x 62.5^2 = 5367W. All of this goes into heating the battery. Say you charge your Leaf battery from empty to full. On average, the fast charger provides 44kW, but in reality the battery only absorbs 44000-5367=38.6kW, so it takes almost exactly a full hour to charge the 38kWh of usable capacity in the battery. In that time, you will have also pumped 5300Wh or 19MJ of heat into the battery!

This heat has to go somewhere, and this is where thermal management comes in. The Leaf has almost no ability to get rid of this heat. At 0.8J/gK of heat capacity and a total weight of about 300kg, the battery will heat up by 1 degree for each 375kJ. 19MJ then means a temperature rise of 50 degrees C! Yes, it is probably nearly impossible to fast charge a Leaf 40kWh battery from empty to full at full speed without it catching fire.

Cell balancing
As we saw in the previous chapter and example, even when charging each cell in a battery with exactly the same current, the cells may not really fill up evenly due to temperature differences. Maybe the manufacturing tolerances cause some cells to have a very slightly larger capacity than others. This means the pack will charge and discharge unevenly. But not just that; the strongest cells will suffer less during (dis)charging, so they remain good for longer than the weaker cells. The strong stay stronger, the weak become weaker. This is a runaway process that will ruin a battery pack in the long term.

So it's really important to balance the cells in a pack. This is done very simply; cells at a higher voltage are discharged very slightly and slowly. This will restore them to roughly the same voltage as the other cells, evening out the pack. This is what balancing (or shunt) resistors do in a pack, and it's a vital part of battery management.

Contactors and fuses
For safely handling batteries, especially in a dirty and chaotic environment like a factory or workshop, it is important that the batteries are completely disconnected from the rest of the car whenever the car is off. This is why there are always big, heavy-duty contactor relays inside batteries. These are special relays designed to safely disengage even when large currents are flowing. If you're familiar with welding - that's just a large electrical current flowing through the air. Air can conduct electricity, as can practically anything else if you try hard enough. Believe me, cars and EV traction batteries try REALLY hard.

Automotive contactors have special anti-welding (yes, they can weld stuck) and arc extinguishing features that make them a safe choice for disengaging the pack voltage from the outside. But now we run into another problem; you can't 'just' engage a battery.

In devices like electric motor controllers, there are very large capacitors that will quickly charge up when exposed to the battery voltage. Extremely quickly. Think kilo-amperes, many thousands of amps, if you don't do anything about it. This current can cause damage to wiring and relays, cause massive electromagnetic interference and will generally ruin your day. This is why all automotive batteries also feature a special extra relay and resistor called the precharge relay/resistor. This resistor limits the flow of current when starting up the car, avoiding damage to the electrical system.

Battery voltage, SOC and SOH

You can't have electric energy without both voltage and current. When no current is flowing through a battery, the battery sits at it's so-called open circuit voltage (OCV). This OCV is lowest when the battery is depleted and highest when the battery is fully charged. Most lithium-ion chemistries are empty at 2.5-2.7V and full at 4.2V. In between, it varies but not necessarily linearly. Older types of batteries (e.g. LMO and LCO) have an almost constant voltage from a state of charge between 20-80%, only dipping significantly below that voltage when really empty and only storing a minor amount of energy when charged to higher voltages.

So batteries don't have a fixed voltage. But a lot of batteries have a 'nominal' voltage, often 3.6-3.8V. This is often a voltage chosen to reflect the average voltage over the entire charge range, often a voltage that works well when multiplying the coulombic charge of the battery (Ah rating of the battery) with nominal voltage to get the total energy (Wh rating) for that battery.

Talking about Ah and Wh; these are quite different things. Ampere-hours or Ah(r) tell you for how long you can discharge the battery at a constant current before it depletes. A 25Ah battery can be discharged at 1A for 25 hours. But its voltage, and thus the discharge power, will change significantly during such a discharge.

A more useful rating is the Wh rating of a battery, which tells you for how long you can draw a fixed amount of power from a battery. A 100Wh battery allows you to draw 10 watts for 10 hours, for instance. When nearly full, this translates into, say, 2.4A at 4.2V. When nearly empty, this means 3A at 3.3V. In electric vehicles, we are usually more concerned with power than with current.

As a battery is charged or discharged, the voltage changes. First of all, this is because of internal resistance; a current flowing through any resistance will cause a voltage drop, and this is no different in batteries. But batteries do weird things as you charge or discharge them. They tend to be really good at supplying or taking current for a very short amount of time - a few seconds - but then suddenly their internal resistance rises substantially. In the long term, they can accept or supply progressively less current, even ignoring the fact that the battery will become emptier or fuller. So it is quite hard to estimate exactly how full or empty a battery is based on its voltage. That can change with circumstances.

Additionally, as we saw in the example a while ago, when charging a battery, it may charge slightly better or worse depending on - mostly - temperature. So it is not quite necessarily easier to determine the state of charge of a battery based on how many Ah it has absorbed or spent.

So how do we determine state-of-charge (SOC)? Well, it's a big educated guess. It is, for all intents and purposes, a matter of software tuning and experience. Various battery management systems will do this differently. But they're not magic and they do make errors. For instance, if you mostly drive your car between say 40-80% SOC and never really completely fill it, nor completely empty it, at a certain point the BMS will have to guess how much capacity is left in that bottom 40% or top 20%. It may be a few percentage points off, which has in the past led drivers of electric vehicles by the side of the road even though they had a few percent left according to the car.

The same goes for state-of-health (SOH). This is how much capacity is left compared to the original capacity of the battery, i.e. how degraded the battery has become. Cars like the Nissan Leaf report this with many significant digits, but in reality the error bars on this capacity are quite large and it is largely a guessing game. You can even see this guessing game in action; on typical drives the BMS will just automatically deduct 0.01% of capacity for each charge cycle, and then once every 20-30 cycles it will recalibrate and do a 'proper' measurement, suddenly chopping off 0.3-0.5% of the capacity.

Oh, and your battery's capacity? It's usually measured at really low discharge rates; 0.2C is a common rate. 0.2C means the battery is discharged at 0.2x its capacity rating per hour, aka it takes 5 hours to fully discharge the battery. For the Leaf 40kWh battery, that would mean discharging it at approx. 8kW. In practice, you are almost always either not drawing any significant current or drawing/charging at much more, so this capacity isn't even reflective of real-world capacity.

Degradation mechanisms

Of course, the big question that every EV owner has is: how do I make sure my battery lasts as long as possible? This goes into the way batteries get damaged over time. The two most important factors are temperature and voltage.

Batteries don't like to be hot for a long time. It's actually fine - comparatively - if you live in a temperate or cold climate and occasionally through subsequent fast charges or long trips heat up your battery a lot. These short periods of high temperature aren't that bad. It's being at high temperatures for very long periods of time - e.g. sitting still doing nothing in a desert climate like Phoenix, AZ. This is all down to Arrhenius again; those pesky side reactions that damage the battery from the inside that do their work that much faster at high temperatures.

But that damage doesn't happen quite as fast all the time. You need the second factor: high voltage. Batteries really don't like to be completely full, because voltages over say 4.0V/cell promote damaging chemical reactions in the battery. This is why so many EVs have the option to charge your battery to 80%; this typically leaves the battery at 3.8-4.0V/cell and avoids the 'danger zone' of high voltages. Again, this doesn't mean you should never charge your battery to full. If you know you're about to go on a long trip, by all means plug in the night before and charge to full. But if you want the absolute best longevity out of your battery, use that surplus energy and leave it at 80% or less when the car is sitting still for long periods of time.

Batteries also don't like to be really empty, but for a different reason. Actually, they're quite fine being empty - really empty, just a few percent remaining, at around 3.0V/cell. The problem is that the BMS in the battery still uses a tiny bit of energy - and in some cases the entire car periodically wakes up to do some stuff and uses energy from the battery. This will slowly drain the battery to a dangerously low level. Draining it too much, below about 2.5V/cell, will also cause irrecoverable capacity loss, although not nearly as bad as overcharging it.

Another reason why low SOC isn't a great idea is because older, degraded batteries tend to be very unbalanced at low SOC. Often, one cell may sit at 3.0V while another is 2.7V, so even though on average there is some energy left in the battery - even a small amount of discharge will cause that weak cell to become dangerously low and lose even more capacity. Moreover, the BMS tends to try to balance out the battery whenever it has time to do so. During a drive or charge, it can't compete with the current flows caused by using the car, but when sitting still for tens or hundreds of hours it'll happily balance the pack at whatever point it's at. But remember; at low SOC, the battery is VERY unbalanced, so balancing it at that point will... cause the battery to be very unbalanced when subsequently charged to full! This is the difference between what's called 'top-balancing' and 'bottom-balancing'; balancing the cell voltages when full and empty respectively. To maximize usable capacity and minimize internal resistance, all EVs use top balancing. Leaving a battery very empty for a long period of time will mess that up and causes apparent capacity loss.

  • Charge to 80%
  • Only charge to full when you need the surplus capacity
  • Do not leave the car at <25% for long periods of time
  • Do not leave the car in hot environments for long periods of time
All this being said; use the car for its intended purpose - don't overdo the babying. A well-designed electric car will do much more for battery longevity than these tips.

So, what does Nissan do wrong?

Now we can go through the history of Nissan's Leaf batteries and find out why they are so bad. In the EV space, Nissan's batteries rank among the very worst batteries, in multiple respects. Their early batteries had poor energy density, longevity and charging performance, and the new ones have only partially fixed the energy density issue - making the rest arguably worse. Why?

A lot of this has to do with history, and actually some really good foresight on the part of Nissan. Around the time they started developing the Leaf - circa 2006 - lithium ion batteries for automotive applications barely existed. A123 and Kokam supplied the bulk of high-spec batteries, but even those wouldn't be enough to satiate their ambitions on the EV market. So they chose to build their own battery factory and called it AESC. AESC in turn chose basically the only chemistry available at the time that had good enough performance for an EV - LMO (lithium manganese oxide). And they standardized on a battery shape that would basically fit in any car; a skateboard-type pack with a hump under the front and rear seats to accomodate more volume of cells. From an engineering perspective, all of these choices were great.

For the time it was developed, the first 24kWh battery pack was fine. It didn't have any kind of thermal management, but considering the modest power demand this was actually fine (for an LMO pack). Battery management was quite advanced for the time, using real-time capacity and performance estimation using table lookup. If I think back at what battery management looked like even in literature around that time - when I was just beginning to delve into the topic for my study - they were doing very well indeed.

But around 2010-2011, two new technologies started to become commercially available in large quantities: NCA and NMC li-ion batteries. NCA in particular combined much, much lower internal resistance with similar energy densities to LCO at the time, as well as a more favorable discharge curve for fast charging. Upcoming competitors in the EV space Panasonic and Yuasa immediately began using these chemistries and produced much better products as a result. Nissan? All I can think is that they were tied to AESC and their technology, tweaking their 24kWh battery offering slightly to cope better with high temperatures, but not really going with the times.

Around 2014 they launched the e-nv200 with the exact same battery modules, but with a fan inside the casing to help with evening out internal temperatures and even actively cooling (albeit poorly) during fast charges. The larger battery casing allowed for more air space inside, improving characteristics even though the battery was otherwise absolutely identical - even the firmware. This paid dividends; even quite intensively used e-nv200s with 60kmi/100Mm on the odometer tend to have 85%+ SOH, something almost unheard of in Leafs.

But Nissan couldn't afford the change in battery shape underneath the Leaf, even though they did increase capacities. It took until 2015 when they launched the 30kWh Leaf with NCA cells - well, mostly NCA. The chemistry change alone accounted for the capacity increase, as well as the much improved fast charging. However, this battery did get a little warmer than the 24kWh. It could have definitely benefited from a fan like the e-nv200.

Time moves on, Nissan needed to compete with the e-golf and other EVs in the late 2010s. They brought out the 40kWh Leaf. Same battery casing, higher capacity, so how did they do it? Well, batteries are constructed out of the active material - the stuff that actually stores the energy, electrodes that conduct the electricity out of the cell and packaging - the stuff that keeps all the gubbins in. They thinned out the electrodes and increased the density and volume of active material to get to the higher capacity. This... massively increased energy density and reduced thermal conductivity of the cells.

This is what eventually led to rapidgate. Mind you, other cars WITH thermal management rapidgated - the e-golf for instance! Nissan must have known this and thought it was OK; after all this issue had already existed for 2 years before the new Leaf came out. The higher inherent internal resistance as well as the increased motor power made it a hot house beyond any other car. And compared to the 30 and 24kWh, the battery shell only got fuller and fuller.

Now we're in 2019. Nissan made the 62kWh Leaf. Almost the same case - they made it very slightly taller so it hangs a little lower under the car. Do you think they increased electrode thickness? Do you think they added a fan inside, or even a heat exchanger? Oh, they increased the fast charging speed to 100kW. Can you guess how that ends?

Nissan engineered themselves into a corner with the Leaf. They started out with great engineering choices - at the time. But then they - either through choice or necessity because of their exclusive involvement with AESC - held onto those choices far beyond the point where they made any sense. High internal resistance, disparate temperatures within the pack and resulting rapid aging, relatively outdated battery chemistry choices and missing thermal management aren't a result of Nissan not knowing what they're doing wrong. It's a result of choices made probably 13 years ago coming back to haunt them.

But, with all this knowledge in hand, we can fix it. MUXSAN will try to fix what Nissan couldn't. Make the Leaf great again!

Elektrische auto's verdienen trekhaken!

Door mux op maandag 13 mei 2019 17:38 - Reacties (22)
Categorie: Nissan Leaf mods & videos, Views: 10.647

Het is tijd om te gaan klagen over elektrische auto's. Nee, niet omdat ze 'te weinig' actieradius hebben, niet omdat ze zo duur zijn, maar omdat ze geen trekhaken hebben. Ik wed dat er genoeg Tweakers zijn die meevoelen met het gebrek aan trekhaak; hoe moet je nu die lading stenen, zand of bouwafval naar de stort brengen? Wat moet je met dat ding dat net te groot is om bij de Ikea in je auto te krijgen? En wat heb je nou aan een gratis aanhangwagen bij de Hornbach zonder trekhaak? Helaas is dit de realiteit voor bijna alle elekrische auto's, en om geen goede reden. Tijd om er wat aan te doen dus.

Mijn excuses voor dit eerstewereldsprobleem. Ik moet gewoon even klagen.


Voordat we naar de video gaan wat backstory. Vroeger - met name vóór ca. 1996 - was het vrij makkelijk om een trekhaak te nemen. Je kocht er gewoon een, en als er niet eentje beschikbaar was voor jouw type auto, kocht je een universele trekhaakkit die overal wel op past. Wel even kijken of je frame langsbalken of dwarsbalken heeft waar hij op gemonteerd moet worden. Je was wel altijd beperkt tot 750kg zonder geremde kar/1500kg met geremde kar en een maximum gecombineerd voertuig-aanhangergewicht van 3500kg. Maar praktisch iedere auto mocht een trekhaak.

Dit is niet meer zo. Auto's moeten nu van de fabrikant een goedkeuren krijgen om een trekhaak te mogen, en er kan tot op de kilo bepaald worden hoeveel de auto dan mag trekken. Daarnaast moet de trekhaak zelf ook voldoen aan een aantal normen, en mag er op een 'ongekeurde' trekhaak (of een auto met 0 trekgewicht) alleen een fietsendrager. Op zich is dit prima; op deze manier kan een hoop beunhazerij worden voorkomen met gevaarlijke trekhaakconstructies of overgewichtige aanhangers. Er rijden al genoeg gekken rond in de wereld.

Maar helaas, waar goede regels zijn, zijn altijd uitzonderingen te vinden die de consument benadelen, en zo ook in het geval van trekhaken. Zo bestaat er de Hyundai Kona; een pittige CUV die verkrijgbaar is in benzine, hybride en volelektrische variant. De auto is identiek, alleen de aandrijflijn en enkele ophangpunten voor o.a. de accu zijn verschillend tussen de uitvoeringen. Ook het achterframe is grootendeels identiek - zeker waar het neerkomt op de delen van de constructie die van toepassing zijn op een trekhaak. Doch, de benzinevariant mag 1200kg trekken en de elektrische... nul. Niks.

Dit is duidelijk geen constructieprobleem, dus wat is het dan? Batterijen of motoren die oververhitten? Batterijen die te snel leeg raken? Maar waarom mag er dan wel 600kg IN de auto gestopt worden, maar niet eraan gehangen worden? Dit is niet logisch.

De realiteit is dat fabrikanten gewoon ontzettend conservatief zijn en niet in het nieuws willen komen als iemand bedenkt met 120km/h de Brennerpas te willen beklimmen met caravan en in de fik vliegt door een oververhitte accu. Ondanks dat ditzelfde vaak genoeg gebeurt met plofmotoren; om niet te spreken van de vele kapotte koppelingsplaten van onze sleurhutlievende landgenoten in de bergen. Er is geen echte technische redenen voor het ontbreken van een trekgewicht op elektrische auto's; het is een angstreflex vanuit de fabrikanten.

Daarnaast moet de auto ook worden gekeurd op actieradius en CO2-uitstoot, en het trekgewicht heeft hier invloed op (omdat dat het combinatiegewicht van de auto hoger maakt). Veel hybride auto's, met name kleine hybrides, hebben daarom ook 0 kg trekgewicht - dit verbetert het verbruik op papier. Bij elektrische auto's, zeker vroegere modellen, zou dit invloed kunnen hebben op de actieradius op papier.

Dan maar naar de RDW?

Bij de RDW kun je dit rechttrekken. Als je een trekhaak kunt vinden met het juiste keurmerk (e-merk), kun je aankloppen bij de RDW in Lelystad en de benodigde tests doen; een hellingproef met volle aanhanger, optrekken, bochtjes draaien, je weet wel. Als dit allemaal goed gaat, zetten ze het trekgewicht van jouw auto op iets redelijks; typisch 750kg.

Ach, was het maar zo makkelijk. Menigeen heeft dit inmiddels geprobeerd, en vrij recent zijn twee tweakers in het Elektrische auto's-topic hier ook mee bezig geweest, met weinig succes. Niet alleen de autofabrikanten werken tegen - ook de RDW is een grote barrière in het bruikbaar maken van elektrische auto's. Zonder officieel trekgewicht op je kentekenbewijs kun je namelijk in de problemen komen als je alsnog gaat rijden met een aanhanger. Je kunt een boete van 120-410 euro krijgen en problemen krijgen met de verzekering als je een ongeluk krijgt met een illegale trekhaak of aanhanger. Ook vervalt je garantie.

Who has time for that

Dus hier hebben we de perfecte samenloop van omstandigheden om mux recalcitrant te maken. Autofabrikant zegt nee, RDW is tegendraads, nou, dan word ik ook tegendraads. Tijd om een trekhaak op m'n Leaf te zetten. Uiteraard alleen om op privéterrein te trekken. Ik zou niets illegaals willen doen, ik ben alleen recalcitrant :)

Muxtronics Onderdelen stopt!

Door mux op vrijdag 15 februari 2019 14:05 - Reacties (28)
Categorie: Techniek, Views: 10.805

Het is inmiddels bijna 3 jaar geleden dat ik een dienst begon om als particulier bij Farnell te kunnen bestellen. Vandaag stopt die dienst. Voor het middaguur vandaag werd ik gebeld door iemand van Farnell over het feit dat vanwege nieuwe exportrestricties het dropshipping-model dat ik aanhoud voor mijn klanten niet meer houdbaar is. Ook verdient Farnell te weinig aan de bestellingen - hoewel dat al langer speelt en totnogtoe geen probleem was

Het einde van een tijdperk

Ik heb het al vaker gezegd in mijn blogposts over Farnell: het is ongelijk verdeeld in de wereld. Bedrijven, zelfs hele kleine bedrijfjes zoals mijn eenmanszaak Efficient Electronics, kunnen bij gratie van hun BTW-nummer en KvK-inschrijving toegang verkrijgen tot allerlei groothandels. Het is een mythe dat groothandels goedkoop zijn - wat groothandels hebben is een extreem breed assortiment. In de elektronicawereld zijn er - en dit is geen overdrijving met hoopjes dubbele onderdelen - letterlijk honderdduizenden verschillende onderdelen die je zou willen gebruiken voor een ontwerp. Als bedrijf kun je daarvoor terecht bij onderdelendistributeurs zoals Farnell, Digikey, Mouser, RS Electronics en nog vele anderen. Als consument niet; je bent afhankelijk van retail, en daar worden vaak maar voorraden aangehouden voor enkele honderden verschillende onderdelen. Zelfs giganten zoals Conrad komen niet in de buurt van de diversiteit van assortiment dat Farnell biedt.

Maar he, ik heb een bedrijf met een account bij Farnell! Wat nou als mensen bij mij een bestelling doe, en ik voer die bestelling rechtstreeks door naar Farnell, die het vervolgens bij de klant dropshipt. Dat is dan ook precies wat ik heb gebouwd in een website genaamd, wat later omgedoopt werd naar Muxtronics Onderdelen.

Na bijna 3 jaar in de lucht te zijn geweest is het echter over met de pret; 1876 orders zijn de limiet. Waarom? Nou, meerdere dingen.

Laten we Trump de schuld geven

Elektronische onderdelen bevatten vaker en vaker zaken als backdoors, cryptografie en andere zaken die overheden graag willen beschermen. Daarom zijn er vele verdragen waarin is opgenomen dat je niet zomaar de bouwstenen van elektronica kunt verkopen aan Jan en alleman; bedrijven zoals Farnell moeten hun klanten screenen om te voldoen aan zaken als de PATRIOT-wetgeving alsook nieuwere wetten die onder Obama en Trump zijn doorgevoerd. Gezien Farnell normaal gesproken aan vaste klantadressen levert weten ze zeker dat het bij een geverifieerde klant wordt geleverd - echter doe ik dropshipping, waardoor mijn bestellingen aan... Jan en alleman worden geleverd, niet aan mij. Dit is blijkbaar recent zo'n probleem geworden dat Farnell dit niet meer goedkeurt. Mijn bedrijfsmodel is daarom niet meer levensvatbaar.

Echter loopt ook sinds het begin van de dienst het feit dat Farnell bijna geen winst maakt op de bestellingen - en ik ook niet trouwens. De orderbedragen zijn grootendeels te laag om UPS Next Day delivery te bekostigen, dus echt duurzaam was het businessmodel niet. De reden dat dit werd gedoogd was omdat het ook niet echt verlies maakte, en een initiatief was dat bij Farnell als positief werd gezien. Achter de schermen is Farnell ontzettend aardig geweest voor mij en mijn klanten, en daarvoor bedank ik ze dan ook uitdrukkelijk!

Potentiële alternatieven

Dan rest nu de vraag: waar haal je nu je onderdelen vandaan? Allereerst is er wel het een en ander veranderd in de afgelopen jaren; het is mogelijk om tegenwoordig bij Europese warenhuizen van traditioneel Chinese grootgrutters veel meer te bestellen dan in 2016 mogelijk was. Ook hebben we in Nederland de besteldienst van Sinuss. Beide geen perfecte vervangingen, maar je kunt in ieder geval de meerderheid van de onderdelen bij distributeurs krijgen als particulier. De nood voor een dienst zoals de mijne is allang niet meer zo hoog.

Nog een optie is het omvormen van mijn dienst naar een Samenkopen/Inkoopacties-achtige aanpak. Om het minimum gewenste orderbedrag te behalen en het bezorgingsadres bij mij te houden kan ik een doorstuurservice beginnen. Uiteraard zitten hier dan wél verzendkosten op en zal het tot wel een week duren voordat je je bestelling binnenkrijgt (i.p.v. de volgende dag). Hoewel dit best een optie is voor mij, heb ik hier voorlopig geen tijd voor om op te zetten en weet ik niet of dit zoveel beter is dan Sinuss. Behoudens een grote roep vanuit de community denk ik niet dat dit gaat gebeuren.

En misschien is het ook beter als ik me voorlopig concentreer op Muxsan en Tindie - mijn primaire bezigheden vandaag de dag. Een eventuele opvolger voor Muxtronics Onderdelen kan ik beter overlaten aan iemand anders. Iemand met meer tijd en de drive om elektronische onderdelen te democratiseren in Nederland. Dit is een bedrijf waarin je - zoals ik heb gedaan - met pure word-of-mouth al tegen de €30 000/jr omzet kunt draaien. Met wat meer advertenties kun je hiermee prima je studie bekostigen of zelfs een - karig - voltijd salaris uit trekken. Geïnteresseerd? Onder enkele voorwaarden deel ik met plezier kostenloos mijn backendcode met je. Die voorwaarden zijn:

- Ik mag mijn code zonder beperkingen en kosten blijven gebruiken en aanpassen. Beschouw het als een fork van een opensourceproject, niet als overdracht van auteursrechten.
- Ik geef geen enkele garanties op welk aspect van de functionaliteit dan ook
- Je gebruikt deze code voor het originele doel, namelijk het aanbieden van een onderdelenbesteldienst voor consumenten, voor minimaal 6 maanden.
- Pay it forward: als je je dienst opgeeft, publiceer je je eigen code of draag je deze over naar een opvolger

Ik kan je helpen met de zaken achter de schermen bij Farnell.

Bedankt aan alle klanten

En dan rest mij nu alleen nog een bedankje aan alle klanten - ruim 500 in de afgelopen 3 jaar! Bedankt voor de trouwe klandizie van sommigen en het gestelde vertrouwen van de grote hoeveelheid eenmalige klanten. Jammer dat het niet langer mocht duren. Misschien tot ziens, misschien tot ziens bij een opvolger, en anders nog een fijne elektronicacarrière toegewenst aan iedereen die bij Muxtronics heeft besteld!

Muxsan update & CAN-uitlezer (2 video's!)

Door mux op donderdag 14 februari 2019 18:59 - Reacties (4)
Categorie: Nissan Leaf mods & videos, Views: 4.511

We hebben weer van alles te vertellen over de extender-accu's in elektrische auto's. Deze blogpost gaat alleen over de grote lijnen, lees vooral de nieuwsbrief om weer helemaal bij te zijn! We zijn nog niet begonnen met het ombouwen van auto's, vooral vanwege productievertragingen in het maken van batterijboxen, maar anderszins zijn we wel goed bezig met allemaal mooie dingen voor onze toekomstige klanten. Daarnaast ben ik ook continu bezig met het ontwikkelen van kleine stukjes elektronica om ons leven makkelijker te maken, want... tja, wat heb je aan het leven zonder elektronica?

Lees vooral eerst de nieuwsbrief

Snelladen en regeneratief remmen

Het grote voordeel van een elektrische auto die kan snelladen is dat je accu niet zo groot hoeft te zijn; op een lange rit maakt het niet zoveel uit of je 100 of 300km op een lading kunt doen, als je 600km moet rijden moet je evenveel kWh laden, en hoe sneller je kunt laden, des te sneller kun je rijden en des te sneller je op je bestemming aankomt. Dus theoretisch is de Leaf helemaal niet zo'n slechte langeafstandsauto; hij kan immers snelladen.

Nouja, dat valt dus af en toe tegen. In de zomer, met name met de 30kWh leaf, kun je op de maximale snelheid bij de meeste snelladers laden van 0-80%. Prima dus. Maar dat is niet de Leaf die onze meeste klanten hebben. Ik en vele anderen rijden rond in een 24kWh Leaf, en met name de eerste generatie is helemaal niet zo snel met laden. Door de gekozen accuchemie heb je, vooral als de accu wat gedegradeerd is en als het koud is, alleen de eerste 25% van je lading maximale snelheid. Daarna zakt het snel af, waardoor je van 0-80% in het winterweer van de afgelopen maanden maar met ca. 20-25kW gemiddeld laadt. Dan duurt het letterlijk een uur bij de snellader om 80% vol te raken, niet bepaald snel.

Dit langzamer laden komt door de hogere interne weerstand en hogere nominale spanning van de accu. De extenderaccu die wij inbouwen heeft ongeveer een 2x zo lage interne weerstand bij deze temperatuur en een lagere nominale spanning, waardoor je langer sneller kunt laden. Dit alles is samengevat in de volgende grafiek:

Klik op het plaatje voor een grotere versie

De hogere interne weerstand zorgt er ook voor dat de auto in dit koude weer vaak de schijfremmen moet gebruiken om te remmen. Dat is zonde; die remenergie wil je in de accu terugstoppen!

Deze beide problemen heb ik de afgelopen weken in één klap opgelost met enkele firmware-aanpassingen aan de MUXSAN-elektronica die met de extender wordt meegeleverd. Ik ben hier ontzettend blij mee, want dit maakt de auto in één klap een stuk bruikbaarder en prettiger in het dagelijks gebruik - zeker voor veelrijders of mensen die met de auto op vakantie willen. Voor de lokale forens is het wellicht wat minder van belang.

Leenauto van Gerrit Bleeker

Menig Tweaker die dit leest zal bekend zijn met Gerrit Bleeker, een dealer uit Purmerend die uitsluitend handelt in elektrische auto's. Gerrit is erg enthousiast over MUXSAN, en wil maar al te graag helpen met onze opstartfase. We zijn al een tijdje aan het dubben over hoe we om moeten gaan met klanten die graag vervangend vervoer willen hebben, en Gerrit kon ons hiermee uitstekend helpen. Aan het einde van deze maand verwachten we een Leaf met Tekna-pakket van hem te ontvangen die wij ombouwen met extender en de komende paar maanden - zolang Gerrit hem niet nodig heeft - aan onze klanten te kunnen uitlenen als vervangend vervoer, proefrit en als proefauto voor nieuwe features en aanpassingen.

CAN-uitleesapparaat en Granny Charger-accessoire

Wij, maar ook onze leverancier, hebben een hoop accumodules te verwerken. Deze accumodules bevatten een BMS dat via de CAN-bus uit te lezen is, waardoor je informatie kunt opvragen zoals individuele celspanningen en het CAN identifier waarmee de module praat. Deze informatie hebben we nodig om te weten welke modules bij welke anderen horen, maar ook om te zien of accu's opgeladen moeten worden. Het is voor de 'flow' in het bedrijf erg handig als we niet een mulitmeter moeten gebruiken om iedere module te meten en sorteren. Daarvoor heb ik dus een uitleesmodule gemaakt, waar ik meer over vertel in deze video:

Aan het einde van de video zit een ludieke advertentie voor een nieuw product, dat stiekem wel iets wordt dat we gaan aanbieden. Ik heb al enkele video's gemaakt over mijn 'betere' granny charger: een laadkabel waarmee je uit ieder stopcontact kunt laden - en waarbij je kunt instellen hoeveel stroom je wilt trekken, tussen 6 en 16A. Om 16A uit een stopcontact te trekken moet de stekker en kabel speciaal worden aangepast. Zo moeten de geleiders minimaal 2,5mm2 zijn en moeten de contactpunten passief gekoeld worden om ervoor te zorgen dat het plastic van een stopcontact niet smelt. Dit is waarom de meeste granny chargers maar 10A leveren.

Op de granny charger die ik gebruik heb ik een kabel van 10 meter, en dat is al erg lang (typische laadkabels zijn 4 of 5 meter). Onlangs kom ik regelmatig bij Sjaak thuis, en hij heeft zowel zijn eigen elektrische auto als de Leaf van de zaak op de oprit staan - en dan is mijn laadkabel opeens te kort. Dus dan maar een verlengkabel?

Nope! Er zijn letterlijk nergens verlengkabels te koop die langdurig meer dan 10A aankunnen. Sterker nog, verlengkabels met meer dan 1,5mm2 geleiders hebben nooit Schuko-aansluitingen (standaard stopcontacten). Dus tja... dan maar zelf bouwen?

Klanten bij MUXSAN kunnen dus optioneel zo'n verlengkabel kopen. Die is niet alleen handig voor een autolader, ook als je zwaar gereedschap intensief wil gebruiken met een verlengkabel kan dit handig zijn. Zorg er wel voor dat het stopcontact waar je de kabel in steekt goed in elkaar steekt!

Je kunt deze kabel uiteraard ook zelf in elkaar zetten; alle onderdelen zijn bij Hornbach te krijgen. Een kabel van 10 meter kost je zo'n 35 euro om in elkaar te zetten.

Why I love English (and other ESL musings)

Door mux op zondag 16 december 2018 10:15 - Reacties (10)
Categorie: Filosofisch gezwam, Views: 6.017

Let's fall with the door in house*: I'm born and raised Dutch, lived in the Netherlands for all my life in a single language household. Apart from mandatory French, German and English language classes in our sort-of equivalent of high school, I have never seriously taken any formal language or anthropology or anything related to what I'm about to talk about. But as with most things in life; experts aren't born out of formal education, they're the product of intense fascination with a subject. For me, the English language - and the entirety of differences and relationships between English and Dutch - is one of those fascinations.

(*) Oh, and that weird sentence I started this blog with? We'll get to that. I'm not mad. Well, I am, but not in that way.

Dutch is practically English

If anybody with formal training in linguistics is reading this, you will be wholly unsurprised by me saying that English and Dutch are two very closely related languages. Languages are a lot like animals; they evolve through various forms of 'genetic drift', growing together through mutual interaction and evolving away from each other through isolation. English and Frisian are very closely related, having come from a relatively recent common ancestor Anglo-Frisian language just a few hundred years ago. Dutch and Anglo-Frisian in turn share a common ancestor in the West Germanic languages around Roman times. But while a fair number of languages have had similar amounts of time to grow quite far apart, geography and empire made sure that the English and Dutch were warring, trading and interbreeding vehemently. This kept languages quite close, especially as the most related languages were standardized in both empires (instead of e.g. Celtic or Norse languages in Great Britain).

Today - excluding creoles, dialects and pidgins - it is generally considered in language learning circles that Dutch is the easiest language to learn for a person with English as their first language. Likewise, English is by far the easiest language to learn as a Dutch-speaking person. But this isn't necessarily because of the linguistic closeness - German is 'genetically' closer in some respects. You thought this was going to be a clear-cut blog? Pff..

Languages are not taught very well in schools
So, here's a huge gripe I have with language learning. I attended what's called a 'gymnasium' in Dutch - no, not a sports hall and not a place to be nude in, although those are both arguably more correct interpretations than what I mean here. Gymnasia in the Netherlands are schools attended by approx. 12-17 year olds that feature a predominantly theoretical curriculum - very little in the way of crafts and technical skills - preparing the pupils for a university education. In addition, a Gymnasium requires pupils to follow Greek and/or Latin courses. Schools that don't require classical language courses are called 'Atheneum' and Gymnasium and Atheneum are collectively known as VWO, our version of prep school. Universities, by the way, are also quite different from the Anglosaxon model; whereas we also have a bachelor-master system, universities are only about the top-2% of education, with most of what is known as 'university' or 'college' in the English-speaking world actually being called 'HBO' here. This is very confusing to people inquiring about the Dutch education system.

Wait, what gripe did I have with language learning? I started off with that sentence, and then trailed off in a treatise of higher education in the Netherlands. Well, this only goes to show that two literally identical words in English and Dutch - gymnasium and university - refer to entirely different institutions. Not a little bit; dig a bit deeper and the entire inner workings of universities in the Netherlands and other countries are so far apart that I can't really fathom why they're still called the same. Yet, when we teach little kids a new language, we often start with grammar, vocabulary and speech. No - actually, that part is fine. We don't just start - the middle and end is still that. Languages are taught as if they are pure means of communication, ways to convey bits of language-agnostic meaning from one person to the other. This is only true for the bare minimum application of language, though. Can I borrow a cup of sugar? What is the time? How do I get to Lancaster Avenue?

This is the 'tourist model' of language, and it majorly sucks balls (an expression you won't learn in school). It will get you only to a point where you can be a hapless tourist in a foreign country. What I want to propose in this blog - and this is actually not that controversial in linguistics - is that language is an expression of culture first and foremost. That is - you can't speak a language without understanding the underlying culture very well and you can't expect to understand a culture without speaking the language. And this goes incredibly far.

You are a shit English speaker. Oh, also, all white people are racist. Make America Great Again.

I'm only going to talk about that first sentence, but the other two aren't just English sentences. If those sentences ring a bell with you, you will most likely have a mental image of a modern feminist or Black Lives Matter advocate in your head while reading that second sentence, and the image of some kind of sentient nacho-coloured flock of seagull haircut that is a president of an actual country when you read that last sentence. Why? Seriously consider the immense weight of cultural context that just four words can have. Not just that; depending on where you fall on the political spectrum you may experience very strong emotions when reading such words. And these emotions, this context, it taints all the words around it.

So... those are just words. Now imagine somebody with a pronounced lisp reading any of those sentences. How has your perception changed? What about a fat person? What if I told you that Bernie Sanders unironically proclaimed 'make America great again'. Oh also, I'm now talking about political things happening in a country I've never been in and don't natively speak the language of.

Now, I assume by now you are either very bored with somebody telling you what you already know - namely that language is not just letters, words, grammar and sounds - or your mind is blown. The meaning of everything in every language is incredibly heavily tainted by culture. And culture changes all the time. None of those politically charged statements I made earlier would have made any sense 5 years ago, yet I bet that almost everybody in the entire world will understand some or all of what I just conveyed.

And the internet, well, it's full of language on steroids. You think you speak English? Try visiting some subreddits for the first time, like Destiny or the_donald and - if you're not familiar with them already - genuinely ask yourself with every headline whether you understand what it says. It's English - if you can read and understand this blog, you can understand the words in those subreddits. But I guarantee that you'll be missing the cultural baggage necessary to truly comprehend what's being said in those subreddits. This is how languages are born; they isolate and specialize. For all intents and purposes, the internet is full of new languages - or subcultures if you like - that share English words but not meanings.

Holy shit

Just as an aside, consider the heading of this paragraph with or without an exclamation mark. So far for this intermission of trivia.

I'm 31 years old now. Somewhere around my 13th birthday, I was already quite technically proficient in English. This was mainly due to the burgeoning Internet as well as subtitled television and film, but of course even then, I must have had a bit of an obsession with language. Being socialized in an environment where boys should do engineering, I never really had a true opportunity to develop this further, but I always had a focus on Engish language learning in my free time.

Languages - at that time in my personal development - seemed like a thing you learned linearly and then you were done. You get familiar with the grammar rules and then you work on your vocab and pronunciation and you're done. I'd be done when I was 20! Then I could start on different languages, like Turkish and Chinese - which seem like very handy languages to learn these days.

But every interested hour I spent on reading, speaking and learning I find that English is a bit of an iceberg of a language. Everybody can master the tip, but there's a mountain to scale (or in this analogy: dive down into) if you want to truly become indistinguishable from a native speaker. English is one of those languages that, through interaction with Europe and the former English colonies, has accrued a massive amount of weird and wonderful vocabulary. In fact, I'd say that English has to be one of the wordiest languages alive today. Compared to Dutch, I have such a wealth of words to choose from to express myself - or should I say a plethora? There are meaningful ways you can mangle - ahem modify - sentence structure to bring completely new meanings to identical words. And centuries of oral and musical practice have brought ways of expressing yourself even more broadly, by way of repeating, leaving out, substituting or abbreviating words. Cockney rhyming slang is one of the most well-known out of those things.

And the metaphors. Oh, how English has a lot of expressions, each of which with its own (sub)cultural context - which has often been remixed through the years. You can spend a decade writing blogs and not even have covered a tenth of the available language space there.

So this is the core of my fascination. I genuinely think English is the greatest language around today. It's of course very personal, but I find my brain almost defaulting to English when trying to express difficult or nuanced ideas. And so, after this entire blog praising a language I don't natively speak you'd expect me to be proficient.

But I'm not. I have a pronounced Dutch accent (that gets worse when I'm tired), I often have problems finding the right words or expressions and even after all these years I mix my US and UK spelling. But most of all, and my driving force behind my continued obsession with language: I keep learning new things every day. Linguists love to dive into the weird and obscure languages of the world and point out that there are hundreds of entirely unique languages spoken in the jungles of Borneo. My head spins thinking about taking on that kind of task. I'm struggling with just English, and I'm loving every bit of it!