East Midlands Berlingo project

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berlingouist
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East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby berlingouist » Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:19 am

Hi, I am moving my Berlingo thread to here.

Hey all,

I am a newbie to electric cars but have a history in others (see my intro bio on welcome thread "Newbie with a Berlingo") and will soon be the co-owner of a Berlingo Electrique van with about 8000 miles on the clock (and around 8 years old at a guess). Unfortunately it seems that the batteries have not been looked after properly and it will not charge beyond about enough energy to provide a 5 mile run, and both the owners and the local specialists say that it is dead and so was to be sold for scrap.

A mate and I think there must be something we can do to save this van in some way or form given that it is such a low mileage vehicle, and such a useful one at that so we have offered the scrap value (ie not much!) and are going to bring it around to my place to have a proper go at recommissioning it and giving it the respect and maintenance it deserves.

Now, I don't yet have the full story, but I am sceptical to say the least of some so called specialist reports, and so want to do a full analysis of what we have here so we can make a plan to go forward.

Reading the forum here show a litany of problems that can occur and so what I first want to compile is a list of all the things we should check. Also, while I have access to the owners, what questions should I be asking about its history to help in a diagnosis?

It seems getting an evLite is the go (or if anyone is near Nottingham can assist with one for a day or so) and then plan from there.

Once we know what we have then we will look at options. Replacing the batteries with original items doesn't seem that viable cost wise, availability wise, or eco-wise that our current limited research shows and so will be looking at other options too. I just don't want to throw them out quite yet (I mean dispose of correctly) if not necessary.

It just may be the van is scrap, but I cannot believe it yet. Even then it could donate a lot of parts for another ev project that we would then consider as the next step. Yes the motors aren't made any more but only 8000miles it should be good for some to come, and all the other bits should come in handy.

So hello, and any list of what we should be checking for a thorough diagnosis would be greatly appreciated. Also what questions to ask for the previous owners to get a complete picture as possible would be very handy too.

Thanks

Dik



Hello Dik. Welcome aboard.

It sounds like you have done some homework already, and are prepared to fix this van rather than "charge up and hope". It also sounds to me like the previous owner may not know much worth asking him about. The original van on good NiCads did 40 miles all the time, and 60 if you are really careful. Taking out all 4 battery boxes and checking all 27 monoblocks will tell you how many bad ones you have, and hence whether a couple of new NiCads will fix you up or if a complete change of chemistry is called for. There are easier ways, but if you are down to 8 miles per charge I fear you may have bigger problems than a single bad monoblock.

GrumpyB is the expert. He has resuscitated more vans than anyone else now, I think. The EVlite duplicates the function of the Citroen diagnostic tool, Actia/Lexia. Choose for yourself which you want to use.

_________________
Tim Crumpton


Thanks Tim for your reply.

Yes we are not under any illusions here but we can hope they may have missed something.
If we cannot get the current batteries going then we will plan the next steps and that just may be converting to lead acid to keep her up and running for a few years and learn the joys and pains of ec motoring whilst we save for a new set of what we can only hope are ever cheaper new batteries or maybe pick up something from a new ec car wreck.

To me the important thing is to stop this going to the wrecker and somehow keeping it on the road for now so it doesn't decompose further. We are all doing this for sustainability after all and throwing out an otherwise perfectly good car with so much embodied energy doesn't cut it.


Dik

highend
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby highend » Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:12 am

hi!

your Berlingo will be fine. You have to remove all battery boxes and check batteries.
if it drives - the only problem is battery.
I've also sent you priv message

and don't let it to be wrecked - would be a big shame!

berlingoian
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby berlingoian » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:04 am

Hello...
I will be in the Nottingham area within next week or 2, if you still need to borrow the EVLite then let me know....

Grumpy-b
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Grumpy-b » Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:28 pm

If its been misused or not watered or left for a long time, I always water the batteries before doing the maint charge, You will get some weep through on the vent pipes but I think its worth it. Heres why.
The idea of the maint charge is to get the cells to a temperature and charge condition where the plates have absorbed as much eletrolyte as possible and what left is as hot and expanded as possible. But, if the plates are excessively dry, this cant happen anyway, but if the plates are exposed and get a decent current through them then they can get mishaped and short so destroying the cell. So if in doubt I fill them first then do the maint charge and then do the final top up. I think the worst I have seen was around a half litre per 6v cell the plates would have been seriously exposed, that also would mean that the plates havnt been able to take part in the full electro chemical cycle so wont be fully charged.
During a normal maint charge where perhaps 10ltrs are used, you also cannot get the cells fully charged as parts of the plates will have been exposed as above. Just not so bad. What a maint charge does do is get all the cells back to a common voltage, assuming they are not duff. If they are then no maint charge in the world will get them back into fully working order. I often find the best performance is the charge after the maint charge.

Grumpy-b

highend
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby highend » Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:45 pm

Grumpy-b wrote:If its been misused or not watered or left for a long time, I always water the batteries before doing the maint charge,


I know one story from a man in Austria who destroyed all 20 Nicads in his Saxo Electrique because of that.
He filled water, then started maintenance charge.... then later electrolyte mixed with water went out thru pipes and all batteries were dead..... So I assume there is both risk doing that charge :/

What about balance charge and filling water then? Maybe less risk in both ways?

Grumpy-b
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Grumpy-b » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:05 pm

Doing maint and balance does a very similar thing, but the maint goes on for up to 72 hrs, maintaining the temp over the post charge period. Idont see how the cells can be damaged by the watering before the maint charge. Electrolyte and water is mixed through the system, if the cells do let a small amount of electrolyte out that is flushed out as the final watering is done. Its not going to significantly weaken the electolyte. If the cells are very dry doing the maint charge is very likely to cause serious cell damage thats a much greater and more likely scenario.
What would be a good idea would be to get the van/ cells as warm as possible before doing any filling, and heat the water before putting it in I wouldnt go higher than 40c though. That way the heat expansion from the maint charge wont be an issue.
I used to put warmed water in mine when I did the maint charge in the winter, but in normal situations its really not worth it.

Grumpy-b

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Flying John
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Flying John » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:28 am

I think the damage is done the next time you use the van and the battery charge is depleted.

The problem with this method is that as you drive the vehicle after topping up in this way, is that more electrolyte is available as a liquid the flatter the cells become. Therefore as you drive the next time, you spew electrolyte out of the overflow tubes, this weakens the concentration of the electrolyte. The more often you do this the less and less concentrated the electrolyte becomes and the cells will hold less and less charge until they are useless.

I think the only way you may get away with this is topping up immediately after the van goes into its own balancing charge routine after 10 or so charges , but risky and goes completely against the charging regime that SAFT call for in the STM 100 specifications.

John

Grumpy-b
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Grumpy-b » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:51 am

This is about trying to salvage a set of cells that are already failing with unknown condition and doubtful past maintenance. SAFT dont even consider that such conditions will be seen, so no this doesnt match with SAFT instructions, but neither does not bothering to do maint charges. A maint charge is deliberately getting the cells hot through over charging and in doing so uncovered plates will bend and so are more likely to short. If they short in an uncovered state they will cause the hydrogen in the airspace to explode. So its a question of making the best of a bad situation. Im not suggesting this be done every Maint charge. Just in the sort of situation there is here. Put in 40c water and the expansion will be limited any loss of electrolyte will be small.
Or try and find another set of well maintained cells.

Grumpy-b

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Flying John
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Flying John » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:40 pm

Yes I agree anything is worth a try for cells that are Kaput. You need to get them into a known condition.

The way to do this is to discharge completely, ending up with a short circuit across the two terminals (not straight away, gentle discharge 1st). Once this is done empty the potassium hydroxide solution and rinse the cell with distilled water to remove any particulates.

The correct concentration of potassium hydroxide solution should be used to refill the cell making up the strength of the old solution after filtering. A wet NiCd is not too bothered if the concentration isnt absolutely the same as it was, but some new may be needed during the top up. The battery should now be charged gently (no more than 5 Amps const I) until about 80% capacity.(16hrs aprox). Then the battery may be charged at about 1 amp for a further day, after this top up with distilled water.

If it were mine I would then do a measured discharge at 5 - 10 amps and repeat this discharge charge cycle before trying a high current discharge ( 30 - 50 Amps) and monitoring the terminal voltage. If the battery fails under this load then it is probably no good at all.

My experience is with wet Aircraft Ni-Cd cells which were often recoverable using this method.

I'm not sure about the assertion that the maint charge is deliberately designed to make the cells hot. Infact after the maint charge normal part of the cycle the cells are "pulse charged" purposely to avoid overheating and overcharging, giving less than 50% cycle to allow gas recombination in the cell, but enough charge to bring any cells that are out of balance , back in line.

John

Grumpy-b
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Re: East Midlands Berlingo project

Postby Grumpy-b » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:12 pm

These are very different from Aircraft cells, and reconditioning isnt something that SAFT even suggest. The separators are the main failure with these and excess heat will help the plastic material to get holed. Yes the Maint charge is designed to get the cells hot, it only takes about 18hrs to complete but will keep the charge going for up to 72 hrs. You are supposed to do the watering within 30 mins so that the cells dont cool down, and thats at any time diuring the 72 hrs and after the maint charge itself has taken place and hopefully balanced out the cells and the plates having fully absorbed the max electrolyte.
These are not Aircraft Cells and unlike Aircraft cells which are designed to be "Reconditioned" these are not, so I would not suggest anyone drain them out and re fill them. The Internals of the Aircraft cell is much higher quality and probably costs 10 x as much per cell. They are also not traction batteries so are not designed to pass 200amps+ under discharge.

At the end of the day, if you have a set of cells that are seriously failing, with watering light on (Or even the bulb removed) with over 1000 hours on the meter you have a problem. They need some care, they need water, they need charging. But above all they dont need more damage, high charge rates or high discharge rates to cause the plates to bend where they are uncovered.
I can only say what has worked for me and what has saved a few sets of badly abused cells from further damage, and enabled them to go on for longer.
I have seen many packs where no maint has takenplace, with holes I could put my fist through, and two or three cells welded together where the plates have over heated, these were all seriously low in fluid level and to have done a maint charge on them would have destroyed the rest completely. Its a risk, but in my view one worth taking and more so than trying to do a miant charge on a dry pack. If the cells are not covered in electrolyte then the charge cant happen anyway except on the little bit that is covered. SO you wont actually do anygood in terms of balancing out the pack, let alone balancing the cells within each monobloc.


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