Sunday, August 2, 2015

Albany Trip III: Final Stretch

Sunday, Aug 3, 2015
Day 1: Florida, MA to Albany, NY (60 miles)

We were hoping that day 2 would be a piece of cake after the 130+ miles that we put down the day before.  The original itinerary put us in Albany around 2-3pm depending on traffic around the city, and with a 3 hour ride back to Cambridge, we could be back before sunset.  But with the wear that the trike sustained, the team was in for a much longer day.

10:05 - Jarrod leaves
Jarrod started off the day, planning to trade off in 10 mile shifts, hopefully concluding with Roberto bringing the trike into Albany.  We only needed 30 miles to take us across the state line, and a little over 50 to reach the Capitol. 

Successfully making it to Albany required navigating some of the steepest roads through the Berkshires, hopefully giving us valuable data on the regenerative braking, but undoubtedly posing some challenges.  The day almost ended early with Jarrod taking the trike down the steep dirt road leading out of the camp site.  Jacob did well bringing it up the hill, but it was tough going down without building up speed.  In swerving around a pothole, the trailer skidded out behind the trike and nearly dumped the vehicle into a ditch beside the road before Jarrod got it back under control.

10:55 - Loses regen down hill

Another tough moment came several miles later, when the regen controls temporarily stopped working.  Unfortunately, it occurred down a steep hill with no locations to stop and reset the controller.  After nearly a mile of steady descending with just the mechanical brakes holding back the trike and 300lb trailer, the drum brakes heated up enough that the trike wouldn’t stop at the bottom of the hill.  Swerving into the intersection, Jarrod couldn’t get the emergency brakes to work and luckily didn’t get hit by a car before turning it uphill and stopping.

11:15 - Stop, brakes overheating

It was all hands on deck to get the trike back up and running.  After a quick couple repairs and allowing the brakes time to cool, everything appeared to be ok.  The aggressive camber of the front wheels on the tadpole trike had led to visible wear on one side of the tire, so we also took the tires off to flip them around.

It wasn't quite the start we had wanted to the day, but a great team effort got the trike back on the road.  Two hours had passed with only a little over 10 miles traveled, but we were back on the road at noon.

12:00 - Go!

12:20, 149 miles, 86.89 Ah - Cheshire Elementary School

After about 12 miles through farm country, Jarrod passed the trike off to Hanna at the Cheshire Elementary School.  Brakes appeared to be once again fully functional and good to go.

12:25 - Kid driving electric police car!

We finally crossed paths with another electric vehicle! A young kid at the elementary school drove past us in an electric powerwheels police car.  He and his dad stopped to check out the trike for a few minutes, and we were able to make a few more fans!

We were behind schedule, but at least there was a view!  Back on the road, there was nothing but hills, trees, grass, and farms.  Still about 35 miles left to go.

12:46 - Power failure, contractors open

1:25 - Lanesborough, MA
Lunch, ice cream, debugging...

We had only been a bit behind schedule when we hit another major roadblock.  The controller kept losing power while Hanna was driving, and she had to keep resetting the controller.  After slowly creeping down the road, Hanna pulled over into an ice cream stand/country store to regroup.

We called a break for lunch there, and took a look at the wiring in the back.  Roberto and Joey traced the problem back to the main Kelly connector, and after cleaning it out the power appeared to stay on. 

On the bright side, we had a good chance to calm down and get some food.  There were enough curious bystanders that we got to do some outreach and tell them about the project!

There was still plenty of time left in the day, but the slow pace was still concerning considering the 30 miles we still needed to cover.  The problems kept coming too, as Hanna got back on the road but only was able to travel about a quarter mile before once again losing power to the trike.

2:41 - Berkshire Hills Adventist Church 
Re-crimp, check connectors...

We pulled over in a church parking lot to work through the problem and discuss our possible options.  Joey went to town checking and remaking the connectors, trying to diagnose the problem.  We found that a problem was being triggered in the battery management system as the pack was discharging.  With limited options, we decided to bypass the BMS and connect the pack directly to the controller, and we would continue moving forward.

Joey reconfigured the setup and established the correct connections over the contactors.  Slightly concerned with the reliability of the trike moving forward, we decided Roberto and Jarrod would finish out the ride from there.  Jarrod suited up for another quick shift and took it back out.

4:20 - Jarrod leaves church 
26 miles from Albany

The trike gradually became slightly slower, with several steep hills providing a struggle.

5:20 - 12v battery died 

5:25 -Cross border into NY state

6:10 - Roberto takes over at gravel yard

Roberto took the baton again, with 15 miles left to go.  We had assigned him the very first shift as well as the very last, partially because he undoubtedly deserved the honors, and partially because he had the most riding experience in urban traffic.  

6:26, 180.1 miles, 104.1Ah, 58Wh/mile
Reprogram controller, lower minimum voltage

Jacob had to reconfigure the controller settings with a lower minimum voltage cutoff so that we could keep moving, but even when the trike was properly functioning, progress was substantially slower.  With a combination of exhaustion and frustration at the prospect of turning around after coming so close, the gang turned to John, always calm and collected.  Hanna got the picture of him above, appropriately chilling in front of a Johnnycake Lane street sign.   

6:43 - Stop at Rite Aid
Jacob checked the controller settings again in the Rite Aid parking lot, with Roberto just a few miles outside of the city. Roberto had stopped because he was worried about a potential problem with the DC/DC converter, but everything appeared to be fine after a quick diagnosis.

7:26,187.9 miles, 106.3Ah - Last roadside stop
Roberto kept rolling, and was fully prepared to bring the trike in even if he had to pedal to drag the 300lb trailer himself! 

7:39 - Crossing pedestrian bridge

There was one last pedestrian bridge, and once crossing in the bike lane, Roberto had finally made it to the city.  We ran after him on the pedestrian bridge while Alban and John drove into the city, and we all finally made it to the New York State Capitol building.  

8:12 - Albany State House, pictures

As we made sure to get plenty of team pictures, we were as exhausted as we were happy to have finally made it there.  The event turned out to be a great going out celebration for former team leader Roberto, who finished graduate school two months earlier, and had been committed to the team throughout the trike project.   

John was a senior and had just graduated as well, and he had been the only active member involved with the old EVT team.  To commemorate his four years of involvement with the team, we pushed him the rest of the way up to the steps of the building.

Final Trip Statistics
  • 190.7 miles
  • 107.2Ah
  • 11.1kWh
  • 55.9 Wh/mile
  • 7.6% regen
  • 8.25Ah regen
  • 29.6 mi/hr max
  • 15.5 mph avg
  • 11hrs,53 min

As the sun was setting in New York, we packed the trike and trailer back up into Alban’s truck.  With a mere 3% of the energy left in the battery pack, it was time to take it all back home.  John and Alban drove us back to campus, with a celebratory team dinner along the way.  The trip certainly wasn’t a flawless run with the trike, and we had a lot left to process and consider in the ensuing team meetings.  But after everything we’d been through over the course of 2 years and 200 miles, it felt good to be able to say that we finally made it from Boston to New York on a single charge.

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