Monday, June 28, 2010

Trip to Maryland

This past weekend Adrian, Erick, and I took a trip to Maryland to pay Satcon a visit.

At the beginning of the summer we blew out a fuse and damaged a few components on our motor controller. We were powering it with a 12v charger instead of a regulated 12v power supply and had inadvertently given it 20 v.

We gave the guys at Satcon a call and they told us to bring it down. After an hour of probing they were able to narrow the problem down to the relay card. Apparently a diode blew and started shorting everything out. Satcon guys found another relay card in storage, robbed a few components, and then put everything back together for us. We crossed our fingers and turned it on. Luckily for us the laptop was finally able to communicate with the controller.

Let's hope it still works.

The Summer Team

Now that summer projects are well underway, the team is on-site Monday through Friday, and often on the weekends. Check out the team profiles at to meet the engineers that are working hard to finish converting the elEVen this summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Work on the CAN network

Hey Everyone,
My name is Erick, I'm a rising Senior in the Aero/Astro department and I'm pretty awesome. But enough about me, let's talk about what I've done.

I am working on the CAN network for the elEVen. In a few sentences, the CAN network is composed of nodes and communicates between nodes using 3 wires. Those wires are named CAN-High, CAN-Low and ground. When the voltage difference is zero, that is understood as a bit with a value of one and conversely, when the voltage difference is not zero, that is understood as a bit with value of zero. Do this thousands of times a second and you start to get a serious amount of traffic going through these three wires.

As a learning exercise, I am practicing with the Porsche 914 that we have already converted and am putting a few finishing touches on the interfaces. In order to tap in to this network, National Instruments has hooked us up with a CompactRIO with a CAN Module. I installed LabVIEW and have been messing around with it for a few days. After finally figuring out why I couldn't connect to the cRIO and the touch panel, here is the result of a few hours of work:

Once I become more familiar with LabVIEW, I will be able to receive, parse and send CAN messages. This will allows us to communicate vital messages, like the state of charge of the battery pack, vehicle speed, as well as slightly less vital messages, like what radio station you are listening to.

I'm excited to be working with the Electric Vehicle Team this summer and looking forward to all of the projects, which you will hear about through this blog, come to fruition.

Oh yeah, make sure to follow us on twitter!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

elEVen- Summer 2010

Hey everyone, EVT is back at it again this summer working on our 2010 Mercury Milan all-electric conversion.

Last summer the team was able to successfully remove the vehicle's original hybrid drive system and install a 250hp oil cooled 3 phase AC induction electric bus motor (courtesy of Satcon) along with a 20kWh A123 prototype battery pack consisting of 2,700 A123 26650 cells (many many thanks to A123). The elEVen first moved under its own power last August, but the conversion was far from complete.

This summer we have a new crew ready to pick up where last summer's crew left off on the elEVen. The two main goals for this summer are getting the battery pack ready for rapid recharging and making the elEVen street legal. To do this we will need to install an air cooling system for the battery pack, design a charging port capable of handling the huge power flux that rapid recharging will require and interface with the BMS (battery management system) motor controller and the car's own CAN networks through a Texas Instruments cRio programmable automation controller. There are also a whole bunch of other small projects that also need to get done so that the elEVen is the safe and reliable glimpse into what might be the future of automobiles.

Look for more blog posts about what everyone is doing soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Troubleshooting the elEVen Motor Controller

About two weeks ago we tried to communicate with the elEVen motor controller but couldn't get a response forcing us to remove the motor controller from the car to figure out what was wrong.

We laid out the motor controller and all the components it interfaced with on a table in our workspace, first troubleshooting the electronics external to the motor controller. After not finding any problems in electronics outside the motor controller we suspected something was wrong inside.

We went through several troubleshooting procedures outlined in the motor controller manual but still couldn't get it to work. Fortunately for us, the engineers who designed the motor controller were helping us along the way. We thought we had narrowed down the problem to a electronics card inside in the controller that provided the controller with power. After inspecting the card and not finding anything wrong with it we've decided to drive to Maryland to get help from the engineers who designed the controller. Updates on our trip to Maryland coming soon.