This week we begin testing the new CALB gray cell, the CA180FI. As I mentioned in the last post, these new cells sport some interesting improvements.

The most minor, and most welcome, is they are labeled with a serial number and a tested Ah capacity. The cells are manufactured on a newer, much larger production line and are much more consistent than the previous SE series. Consistency from one cell to another is probably THE key element in maintaining a series pack successfully. The more closely matched the cells are from the beginning, the less problems you are going to encounter over time. I’m told that 99% of the

new cells test out at between 195 and 200 Ah. In our first shipment of 100 cells, we had two cells marked 194 Ah and one cell marked 201 Ah. So 97%. We found 67% fell between 196 and 198 Ah.

Dimensionally, they were almost exactly identical to the previous SE series and we were delighted to learn that the regular M8 1.25 x 16mm bolts and Nordlock washers work perfectly with the 70mm braided copper straps.






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Unfortunately, in our first test, the random cell was marked 198Ah and we tested it to 190.5Ah. We had charged it quite fully to 3.60 volts and 9 amperes. This is per spec with regards to voltage and termination current. But we did much of the charging at 100A instead of the 0.3C (60A) standard charge rate.


This was a very sharp charge curve. The voltage above 3.50 shot up in about a minute to our 3.60 CV target. But what was more amazing was how very steeply the current had to be dropped to maintain that voltage. Normally, charging at low levels of 15 or 20 amps, you are much closer to fully charged when you hit the magic CV voltage and so the current decline is often pretty rapid to maintain it. But at higher currents such as this 100A, we usually see even a slight decrease in current stabilizes the voltage quite smartly. In this case, with the power supply IN CV mode, and with us manually assisting by turning down the current, it was almost no time down to 9 amps where we terminated. I can actually see these cells challenging some chargers to reduce current fast enough to maintain constant voltage.

Things were slightly more normal on the discharge side. Again, standard discharge rate is 60 amps for these cells and we discharged them at 100A. Why do we keep doing that?

First it makes the test easier. These are very smooth graph curves for a reason. I’m sitting there writing down the Ah and the voltage EVERY MINUTE for about two hours at 100A. At 60A this would be three hours. Secondly, and as important to my way of thinking, is this is kind of how we drive our cars. If I just go drive mixed city freeway driving, I get about 1:45 to 2:00 hours of driving. That means I’m AVERAGING about 100A out of the pack. This is a very rough statement, as there are endlessly variable ways of driving. But in just doing a lot of drives, that is my sense. Your mileage may vary.

We are accustomed to things after 3.00v moving pretty rapidly, particularly at 100 amps. It would appear in this case that they move VERY rapidly at 3.10v. And indeed, CALB indicates that on these new cells, 3.10v indicates 90% discharge.

We also discharged a random new SE180AH cell for comparison. Surprisingly, we got 195 Ah from this cell. Here’s the discharge at 100A chart for comparison.

Frankly, you have to look pretty closely to see that the CA starts slightly earlier, and then falls slightly more sharply, than the SE. Not really much between them.

So aside from consistency and a slightly flatter curve with sharper ends, three of the more interesting claims of CALB:

1. Better cold weather performance.
2. Nearly 70% greater power output.
3. Much greater cycle life.

We’ll probably tackle better cold weather performance next. We can cold soak these cells and do another discharge test to compare them pretty easily.

As to greater power output, that gets difficult. Things in the battery lab get pretty dicey above 400 amps. We start melting things and blowing up test equipment pretty handily as we learned with our A123 tests. We usually have to do a couple of cells in series to maintain sufficient voltage to keep a high current into our loads. We have ordered five of the 40Ah cells. While performance between different sizes does not track exactly, we think we might manage some high current testing of the 40Ah cells. We have demonstrated 8C in a car with the SE cells. But the CALB claims would imply a 12C output of these new CA cells. Even on a 40Ah cell, that’s 480 amperes. We’ll give it a try.

Cycle life testing is something we just haven’t done. It really requires more automation than we are accustomed to using, and more importantly it requires some faith that charging and discharging 24×7 won’t burn down your facility. Unless I want to sleep down in the shop for a month or so, I”m a little hesitant to tackle this. Our Revolectrix Cell Lab 8 does a pretty good job of a charge/discharge cycle and can be automated with a PC. The display, however, shows in milliamperes and they apparently didn’t foresee use on such large cells. We generally find the results truncated and not displaying the two most significant digits after a cycle. That doesn’t do much good. Then too, it is limited to about 35 amps and that kind of heats up the wires. Even standard discharge on a 180Ah cell would be 60 amps. But we might cook something up on one of the 40 Ah cells.

This week we also took delivery of our 1974 VW Thing. And we sport an update from Jeff Southern of Kenesaw Georgia. Jeff is kind of interesting. He’s been kind of a fan of electric cars for some years, but leery of the lead acid battery issues. After watching the show for awhile, he’s taken the plunge – ALSO with a VW Thing. He has the slightly pricier Acupolco edition – normally done in stripes with running boards. And he’s leaped right in. I’m not certain doing a video project on our Thing will add much to what he’s doing. He’s sourced almost all of his components through us and is doing the build essentially exactly the way we would do it – AC50 with Curtis 1238-7601 650A controller, hydraulic brake pressure transducer, and 36 180Ah CALB CA180FI cells. We would probably have gone with 38 CA100Fi’s if we do the build – the THING is only 2000 lbs. But in Kenesaw, he needs the range as it is 50 miles or so to work. So he’s rather jumped in on his first build with both feet and is likely to pioneer some instrumentation that while on the expensive side, could be an eye opener. Quite beyond the Arduino, the industrial process controller he provides tech support for at his day job is endlessly extensible through various sensor cards. He very generously sent us one. My main complaints are that it runs on 24vdc and has a learning curve. In the scope of things, both are pretty trivial. The power requirements are really very low and a 12-24 or 120v to 24v DC-DC converter at those power levels is trivial. Maybe if I slow step on the learning curve, he’ll hook a brother up with his resulting software later and I can skip some of the heavy lifting. He doesn’t’ really sell these things, and they are priced more for factory automation gigs that Arduino aficionados will NOT likely find attractive. But they are also pretty bullet proof. My experience with Arduino is that it pretty much looks for bullets. You have to add a lot of protection diodes and zeners and so forth to keep them from failing regularly. Case in point, the 150 to 10 vdc sensor transducer that provides isolation for his system to measure pack voltage. This thing would likely survive a lightning strike.

We had previously floated Anne Kloppenburg’s Glastron boat first drive. In this episode we show some of his assembly work prior. He’s using a Kostov motor, which we know little about. And he rather went to town on the battery pack, bottom balancing, and the Revolextrix Cell Lab 8.

We continue to innovate at EVTV and I fear some of this will cause some inconvenience. This week we have moved the blog from GOOGLE BLOG to a Word Press instance running on Amazon’s EC2 and Cloudnet – this is where we’ve always hosted our video files proper. But we’re moving the online store there as well and the blog. Amazon now sports a streaming function for video that will let you skip ahead or go back while watching the video just by clicking the timeline at the bottom. We continue to suffer the vagaries of HTML5, JWPlayer, and mobile viewing for Apple iPhone and iPad.

Note that on our main web site screen we have subtly altered some hidden features you might find useful. The video “flipper” at the top continues to require Flash and JWPlayer to work. We think it’s visually unique in that you can flip through the past few episodes and start the video easily.

Below that we typically have six of our most recent videos with thumbnails. If you click the thumbnail, you view that video in the flipper. But if you click the DATE under the thumbnail, you can download the entire high resolution video in the background. Then you can view it at your leisure. We’ve added a function to download the mobile or low resolution version if you click the TITLE. We’ll be posting all future videos in this fashion. So mobile users can simply click the title below the thumbnail to download a 750MB or so version formatted for iPhone/iPad.

Bear with us while we work out the bugs on the new blogger. Another learning curve with WordPress. Our thanks to Christopher Fisher for a lot of hard work and learning curve in getting this deployed on Amazon’s service. I am utterly enthralled with the Cloud services Amazon is providing. The scale, scope and reach of this makes running a web site on anything else look child like. But it’s pretty techie to deal with. I can hardly wait for Christopher to get through the 10,000 pages of really pretty excellent documentation on the subject. We’ll both be retirement age at that point, but it was a great career right?

We have expanded the online store a right smart and now carry the CA series cells from CALB. WE also carry both the Netgain/Solitron drive train and the HPEVS AC-50 equipment. We are attempting to add value with documentation, accessories, and to try to make each function of EV component procurement as easy and complete as possible, while allowing the flexibility you need to build YOUR car YOUR way.
One thing that has always annoyed me was to order one thing online, wait for weeks to get it, and then find out I need ANOTHER little bit for it to work at all? Why didn’t they tell me? Or better, include it in the first place?

There’s a very good reason. Most of the vendors are seeking to display the lowest price, whatever the ultimate cost complete might be. This is because many of the people who build EV’s are just very thrifty people and shop really hard. I fall into this trap myself. The result is that you always get the LEAST they can get by with, and if you want the other part, you can always come back and order again.

The delays are caused by two things. One is that most of the vendors don’t’ actually stock anything. They have created a master web of drop ship agreements with a web site front end. They do very little themselves actually. You enter the order, it gets sent to the real provider of the goods, and so it goes from there. The guy you bought it from doesn’t really know when you are going to get it because he isn’t’ sending it to you in the first place.

The other aspect of shopping hard is that these guys have little margin on their products. Usually undercapitalized in the first place, they get into a weird thing of robbing Peter to pay Paul. They use the new order funds to order and pay for fulfillment of the previous guys order. As they fall further and further behind, the timeline stretches out. They’re not really out to cheat anyone. They are just caught in a financial trap of their own device.

We intend to stock most parts, although we will drop ship some heavier items like motors and batteries in some cases – though we may wind up this month with a larger onhand stock of CA cells than CALB itself in Pomona. ANd we’re going for the upscale machined billet 6061 style stuff while eschewing the often serviceable lower priced items.

Or fixing them. For example I’ve always liked the inexpensive Chennic DC-DC converters. We’ve added a 100A diode and a 100uH inductor to it to prevent the blowups many have encountered from pack dips and ripple. This is a case where it is easy to be too soon old and too late smart. But we’ve already been through it.

The result is I will personally guarantee that you can find almost EVERY piece and part we offer at a lower price elsewhere if you but shop a bit. We’ve been very gratified to see that many of our viewers want to support the show and to ensure it’s economic viability and some of the more savvy have learned the hard way the value of a trusted source for components and support.

But as I’ve said in the past, there are always a few intent on putting the floater in the swimming pool. It’s already come up with a couple of very cunning power shoppers who have informed us that they’ve found better prices on batteries and major components elsewhere, but still want us to do the design consulting for them and they’ll be glad to purchase piece parts we offer that are unavailable elsewhere.

Thanks guys. Where it occurs we’ll just refund the Paypal order and move on. Not everyone in EV land “qualifies” as an EVTV customer. Our mission is to support the guys doing great builds on desirable cars that will further the movement. The guys building thrifty electrojunk just aren’t’ part of our crowd.

We similarly hear from a lot of people who want to attend EVCCON 2012 but isn’t’ there a way to beat the game and get in free or for seven people to share a “bringing the car” discount? Very little here is by accident and very little of it really has much to do with EVTV making money. If you haven’t noticed, I tend to gloss over that part of our operation actually.

We did trade shows for nine years. And since I had to host them, we found that the expenses of taking time off work or your own business, the expenses and arduous nature of travel, the hotels and so forth were pretty horrendous all by themselves – something we could do little to alleviate. But the higher the price we charged, the better we could treat the attendees when they WERE there. That was the concept.

But a secondary result turned out to be much more important. We wound up with a much better grade of people at our events. A lot of the value of the event came from interaction between the attendees among themselves. If you noticed at EVCCON 2011, the result is a very positive group of very positive people, truly enthused over the mission of taking over the world with electric drive, and almost all of them successful and confident people from their own careers and lives already. By far the majority are just FASCINATING people to talk to and spend even a few minutes with is a privilege.

These are players. People who actually do stuff. Who have interesting experiences. Interesting lives. They build businesses. They innovate. They change the world they live in. In a world where the glass is always half full or half empty, they find it is the wrong sized glass in the first place,, and in the wrong place, and made of the wrong materials, and they have a better idea about containing water anyway. And why water? Why not whiskey?

Bottom line is THAT is who I want to meet and hang out with. If it’s elitist to NOT want the event cluttered up by a bunch of loser bottom feeders who whine about the polish on every farthing they dig out of the trash, then I’m elitist. But this “attitude” worked out fabulously for ten years among the ISP crowd, and from our first year at EVCCON, it works exactly the same way again. Sorry, but its great to be 57 and understand how these things work and not be a kid any more.

The reason you had such a good time at EVCCON 2011 wasn’t because of where you were, or who we are. I’m an old fat guy in lime green shoes and Cape Girardeau isn’t Maui. It was because of who you were there with. So kind of a price filtered stone soup.

The end result is our viewers are the BEST viewers in the world. Our customers are the very best of our viewers. And our convention attendees are the very best of our viewers and customers. And it’s a god damned privilege just to be me all day long because of them.

Now if I can just get Peter McWade’s order right ONE FREAKING TIME IN A ROW, life will be good. I think he’s ordered six different times and we’ve never gotten him the right part the first time. As it turns out, We are ourselves truly AMERICAN parts suppliers in the finest tradition.

Jack Rickard

51 thoughts on “CALB CA180FI NEW LiFePo4 CELL”

  1. I like the new web layout, looks great! Also, good to hear about the new resolution options. I usually watch at half size anyway and I can’t stand the 6 hours it takes to download 3GB on my U-suck connection.

  2. Hi Jack,
    Are you going to be selling the 60ah cells in the store as well? If so do you have a price yet? The same questions for 100ah cells.

        1. We’re kind of working on a charger. The problem is of course that the charge voltage on the Elcon’s have to be set at the factory. IF I get a little time, I’m going to build an Arduino/CANbus controller that can control Elcons’ and be programmable. It’s kind of on the “to do” list.


  3. Aloha Jack, great thoughts & writeup! Good luck with the transition to WordPress and moving the website to Amazon.
    I found your EVCCON not being held in Maui comment amusing as I’m leaving beautiful Waikiki Beach, where we live, to travel to the shores of the muddy mighty Mississippi. Guess its the content not the location, eh!!
    Mahalo, Dave

  4. I have a whinge…..

    From the top of the blog page press “Home” and we get directed to the ip# only. This does not display the videos and pops up an error window. No doubt a two minute fix. Will oddly miss the old Google-keeps-an-eye-on-you-blog but this is more suited to today’s wide screen viewing and mature reading. Would like to colour tone the background though.

    Jack, was going to mail this to you but after the changes are your emails still

    All the best!

  5. I like the new blog…

    I am very much looking forward to EVCCON this year. I can’t wait to talk to so many people with similar interests and get different ideas and tips. I hope that I can get the Thing running by then. If my back holds out i should have it running…

    As for the components from EVTV being more expensive. I would argue that they are simply more complete. Also, my time is valuable to me. I can get in one or two clicks what it would take me hours searching for on the web to save a few bucks. If I had to guess I would say I spent a few hundred more sourcing most components from EVTV. However, I got many more thousands of dollars in free engineering, research and development by watching the shows. I am not sure everyone realizes how valuable the testing and research that Jack and Brian do really is….

    As for Jack not being a kid any more….let’s just say I am not so sure about that one….

  6. Maury Markowitz

    I have to wax philosophical for a moment, so please bear with me…

    The EV market in its current state appears similar to the microcomputer market in the mid-1970s. That is, there are lots of very technically minded risk-takers involved, most of whom don’t *really* care if the system doesn’t work in the end – or works and does nothing practical. The journey is the reward (well, one of them anyway!).

    I have in mind a *very* specific application for solar power backup and I’ve been looking for a battery supply. This role needs to be *utterly* plug-n-play – no wiring other than the external terminals, and even then I hope to use a EUROConnector or something like that.

    I’ve talked to companies like PANACIS, but they focus on markets with endless wallets who’s only real concern is paper-measured lifetime. For my market, Dow-Kokam and A123 at $1.50/Wh simply won’t work. But this CA series is $0.43/Wh (according to the prices here), which is another issue entirely.

    So, finally the question. At this point in time, is CALB ready to be installed into a true plug-n-play box? To ask this another way, if I have a box filled with Dow-Kokam’s, can I consider the CALB to be on par in terms of quality? Yes, I understand there are differences in chemistry, but I’m looking well “above” that – essentially is CALB ready for prime time?

    1. Maury:

      I’m a little lost here, but perhaps know too much about it. We’ve known and tested A123 and Kokam cells since 2009. They are NOT the mark to beat in my estimation and never have been. I know they have cultivated that. But the very early Thundersky cells were an order of magnitude better at “plug and play” for electric cars in any event even back then. I have not and probably would not actually do an electric car from either, unless I needed a huge amount of power output (current) from a very small package briefly – drag racing for example.

      We’ve had somewhat more interest in A123 in recent months as they have become available on the CHinese market at much more palatable pricing. But when I jump through heroic hoops to put them in some sort of module that can withstand life in a car, they wind up with barely the energy density of our worst prismatics, and the total cost is higher. They WILL again put out a huge amount of current for their capacity. Still mostly appropriate for drag racing.

      These new CALB CA cells, the previous SE series, indeed the Thundersky cells, ALL are much more plug and play and much less expensive with very good energy density. In a solar application power density just doesn’t come into play unless you are going to enter your building in an drag race. So it’s a no brainer for me. FOr a solar installation, you put these in some kind of cabinet or construction box, strap them up, and hook them up at the ends like you say.

      Again, we balance them ONCE at the bottom – no BMS. As long as you set your charge controller to UNDERCHARGE them slightly, and have some sort of disconnect to keep them from being used BELOW a certain level to prevent over discharge, they would last essentially forever.

      So for my money, no you cannot consider the Dow Kokams and the CALB cells to be “on par” in terms of quality. The CALBS are an order of magnitude superior in every respect. I have a few Dow Kokam cells a viewer contributed. We tested them and they were sufficiently undewhelming we never filmed it for our viewers. Just nothing to report and for the price, frankly absurd.

      The ONLY people we know using these cells in cars are indeed race cars, and THEN only because Dow Kokam sponsored them and gave them the cells for free.

      Jack Rickard

      1. Thank you so much for the reply! And nice to see you again, we crossed paths many years ago in Denver.

        “So for my money, no you cannot consider the Dow Kokams and the CALB cells to be “on par” in terms of quality. The CALBS are an order of magnitude superior in every respect. ”


        As you note, I too have had lots of people put forth these examples as the paragon of battery technology, and dismiss CALB and similar products with a chuckle in their voice. Yet actual data to demonstrate this superiority is utterly lacking. And this has infected me as well – batteries are all about QC when it comes down to it, and “we all know about QC in China”, right?

        So hearing that you have actual experience on this is *very* comforting.

        “In a solar application power density just doesn’t come into play”

        Indeed, I’m going to rate the box for at maximum 250A, and likely only 200A.

        “Again, we balance them ONCE at the bottom – no BMS. As long as you set your charge controller to UNDERCHARGE them slightly, and have some sort of disconnect to keep them from being used BELOW a certain level to prevent over discharge, they would last essentially forever.”

        This raises so many questions in my mind I think I’d like to spawn a thread on it. Is there a more general technical forum I should be looking to?

        1. Acdtually the QC in China on these cells has been vastly superior to anything done anywhere in the U.S.. This is kind of cute why that is. Using Chinese fabrication equipment, they were having a difficult time achieving any kind of consistency in the cell output and it was kind of a labor intensive production process. This is improving now somewhat but it doesn’t appear to matter.

          So while the production line was quite manual, they did a good job of automating the formation process. After a battery is produced, they have to put a charge on it, let it rest a couple of weeks, and then test it. In the process of testing, they would kind of sort the cells out by capacity. We noticed a bit of variation in a shipment, but a much larger one BETWEEN shipments. They were kind of doing a select for us.

          So a bad thing had a good outcome. And quite better QC than you will ever see in U.S. cells. They had to test every cell to find out what the capacity was, because they couldn’t rely on assembly to be consistent.

          Things are changing there now with larger manufacturing capacities and more automated lines. Not sure what the outcome will be. for us. So far the CA series looks great.

          Yes, most battery talk in the U.S. is passed along information reiterated a thousand times with no critical thinking or actual testing of even the most rudimentary sort. The chuckle around here is when we hear from a U.S. battery “expert” advising us of all they know. It’s generally pathetic. The BMS designers are absolutely the WORST as a rule. Some of them selling active products actually don’t even know how to charge a lithium cell or why it is done that way.

          So we have lived BMS free, one day at a time, for nearly four years now. NOt because we didn’t WANT a BMS, but that all of them available were SO bad they were a fire hazard or so expensive we could replace the battery pack for less money.
          At some point, I just lost interest in battery management systems as you normally think of them. We have some broad brush “monitoring” things we do. And we are careful to use chargers that can accurately measure voltage and current and terminate properly. BUt a BMS in the spaghetti wire bleed balacing sense? No. We don’t use them at all.

          The Chinese LiFePo4 cells have a slightly lower energy density than the cobalt and manganese oxide cells, really only marginally so. But we think this is the reason they have been overlooked. They are much superior for automotive or grid applications I believe and quite a bit safer, with much less thermal issues. I think they’ve been overlooked. Cool. Cheaper for us.

          Jack Rickard

    2. Hi Maury,

      I’m using 8x Winston 400Ah LiFeYPO4 cells for a 24V nominal 8kWh battery for my off grid solar system at home. I don’t think there is anything that will be “plug and play” for that energy range, as the battery pack weighs just over 100kg and needs to be assembled on site in a box or cabinet or something. It’s just not practical to make a plug and play power system that big.

      Yes, there is wiring you need to do between the solar charger and the battery and the battery monitor and the inverter to make mains power. That’s inescapable, especially as all solar kit available now is designed for lead acid batteries. I had to make a battery monitor using a nice CellLog device and then use the alarm signal it makes when any cell goes down to 3.0V to shut down the inverter. The built in low voltage disconnect in the inverter is no good.

      Existing lead acid grid tied solar backup solutions are not single box plug and play anyway (not ones that store meaningful amounts of energy at least). They are a charger inverter and a bunch of lead acid cells wired up in your basement on racks and connected to the charger/inverter (ala the Victron Multiplus or Studer solutions).

      Yes, lithium cells are ready for “prime time” but in the right sense… That of a big prismatic industrial cell that is intended for integration into a matching power system. They are NOT a “drop in” replacement for any other type of cell in the same way that diesel isn’t a drop-in replacement for petrol. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for “prime time”.

      They require pre-conditioning before use (charging and balancing) that lead acid cells do not (as they come ready full charged and nobody cares about balancing them, although they should). So they need a bit more manual labour in setting up.

      Lithium cells are also not currently very consumer friendly in these capacities. All lithium cells larger than 20Wh (6.25Ah) are currently classified by the UN as “Class 9 Dangerous Goods” and subject to the full weight of health and safety law for transportation (in the same way petrol tankers are). You need to be a licensed hazardous goods agent to ship them (at least in the EU where the French ADG regulations apply). The same (or equivalent) regulations apply in the US and internationally. Sealed lead acid cells (probably though decades of political lobbying) have mysteriously been granted a block exemption from their normal status as Class 8 Hazardous Goods and may be transported freely despite being more or less as dangerous as LiFePO4 cells.

  7. Would it be possible to make PDF versions of the data sheets for these new cells available on your website? I tried to get them from but there website is screwed up and does not show the new CA cells.

    1. They are indeed curiously remiss with regards to current data sheets for the new CA series. I’ll goad them again on this topic, but it seems they will come when they will come. The ones we HAVE seen thus far have been incomplete and with conflicting data. When something presentable shows itself, we will certainly include it on our web site.

      jack Rcikard

  8. Jack, when you get the 100ah cells in please get our your trusty tape measure and scale and let us know the measurements of these cells, Thanks for keeping us informed and improving the blog site.

    1. They are supposed to ship today. And that is usually a week to get them. So I’m thinking it will be shortly. Of course we will add them to the online store with dimensions, weights, specs, and photos.

      I also have five 40Ah cells we are going to use for power testing to see if these CA cells can really do 12C.

      Jack Rickard

    1. Thanks Larry. Christopher Fisher is doing some fabulous work consolidating our “mashup” of different services on a single Amazon Cloudnet system. He’s kind of a PHP whiz and I finally gave him an EC2 instance for his birthday and he’s partying like a rock star.

      I must say the “look” is a little more cohesive and the speed is much improved. But the big gain is this WordPress Blog. I’m just learning to use it, but so far I like what I see. With a large screen display, it looks pretty good.


  9. Hi Jack,
    Been watching your show for a couple of years and I absolutely love it. I am a bit perplexed on why you insist on graphing charge discharge curves by hand rather than using a volt/current data logger. I have done a couple of graphs by hand and I admit it is one of the most tedious things I’ve ever done. A quick google search brings up dozens of loggers that would work for this. Now that you have a low voltage cutoff on your
    setup, I see no reason for you to baby sit it. I would much rather see you spend your valuable time getting the bugs worked out on the escalade project 🙂

    1. You are right of course Gary. And after this week – FIVE 2-hour sessions standing in the battery lab with no air conditioning writing down voltages every minute on the minute, I’m weakening.

      There are a couple of reasons – none of them really any good. First, each test is usually for something different. By the time I automate it, I pretty much could have had it done by hand. And it’s unlikely I would use that setup next time.

      I had a bad experience with about $3000 of West Mountain CBIII equipment. It wasn’t very trustworthy data wise, but it kept blowing up under our loads. They claimed it would handle it, but they don’t really live it as they are really RC battery people.

      Beyond that, I can’t quite describe it. It is penitence of a strange sort. I gain a “feel” for these batteries. And after awhile, I can put a charger on them for two minutes, cut it off, and watch the voltage recover and pretty much tell if it is a healthy battery or something that is going to be a problem.

      Case in point with the Escalade. I bottom balanced this pack of 57 400Ah cells by hand. Cell 38 balanced, but it just didn’t “feel” right. We discharged the pack quite low and blew a cell when we recharged it – almost right away. I asked Brain to check cell 38. That was the one. We checked all the others and they were perfect. But I kind of knew coming out of the box that this cell was NOT ok, even though it charged and discharged and I was able to bottom balance it. It just didn’t react “normally.” It didn’t feel right. So I marked it. And as it turns out, it failed very early – we’re not even on the street yet.

      So yes, I do things a little manually.

      Another element of this is really for you. I can buy a whole formation test rig from China. But I am trying to show that anyone can test batteries. You DO need some basic equipment, a load, a charger, a voltmeter, an amp hour meter, an ammeter. But this is basic test equipment our viewers can pretty much recognize and/or get their heads around pretty quickly.

      It is my unqualified, but nonetheless strongly held opinion, that there are a LOT of pseudo poseur “battery experts” out there typing themselves smart on how these batteries work with no direct information of any kind, simply repeating and indeed embellishing what they’ve read in other forums. Actually I think I’ve had an effect on this. There is a lot LESS of that now than there was two or three years ago. The forums used to be pretty much FULL of battery nonsense, much less so now. In some ways they have been intimidated by actual information, and when they do post tend to back it up with similar graphs and actual test data. They really did used to just post nonsense and I busted one guy on Endless Fear forum for publishing a graph that was entirely faked.

      So part of this is to show the test, and YOU can validate the SAME test to see if you get the same result. I’m not hooking it up to a magic machine and showing you the results. I’m connecting it to inexpensive voltmeters and ammeters and shunts that anyone can source anywhere and can easily see how to set it up.

      That is NOT to say I discourage automation of battery testing at all. John Hardy is doing some excellent work on the wrong cells but I think coming around to doing some very automated cycle life testing on some useful cells that actually are linked to an online service where you can view the results as they are harvested. But for our show, I tend to show you how to hook up ordinary stuff to do simple tests that can be reproduced and you can personally verify my results without having to master Labview or buy expensive test rigs. I think that makes better video and is more understandable to more viewers.

      Our viewership is somewhat varied. I have to appease veteran engineers with much more smarts and much more experience than I have, and at the same time describe this for those who are struggling to master George Ohms observation. In all modesty, I’ve been in that EXACT position for over 30 years, and if I do say so, I really am one of the very best in the world at pulling that little trick off.

      The result normally is that the experienced engineers find my explanations non-standard using strange terminology not precisely of the shorthand they are accustomed to, but on reflection essentially correct, though they don’t exactly think of it that way. But this allows non-engineers to follow the conversation without having to master the “lingo” of the trade completely.

      I’m also accused of repeating myself. That’s because I repeat myself. It’s mostly because I say the same thing over again, perhaps in a different way. Or perhaps I simply explain it twice. Some times I simply offer the same explanation slightly differently several times. Or reiterate it which minor changes. Or offer duplicate presentations on the same thesis with variations on the theme. You get the point. You comprehend my meaning. I’m sure you understand. As you can clearly see.

      To add chaos to disharmony, not only does EVTV enjoy an audience of varied electronics acumen, but we are viewed in 130 countries, often by viewers for whom English is a second language. I’m also accused of speaking somewhat slowly given the pace of Howard Stern or other New Yorkers on conventional television. Indeed, I’ve heard from more than one viewer that they find EVTV at 1.5x speed much more bearable. Other viewers in Spain, Portugal, and China find it strangely understandable in a way that most TV is not.

      My mission is to take 7.5 billion people, expose them all to EVTV, and then run off all but 7500 of them. Then grow that group to 100,000. I know that seems bizarre in a world where simply more random eyeballs is assumed to be a good thing, but trust me in this case it is not a good thing.

      If you’ve been watching for two years, you are one of my select. And I appreciate your input. But I’m a pretty bright guy and I’ve been rewording technical matters so humanoids could understand them since 1979. there is more done here by reason than by accident, however it might appear. Now what can I do to get you to stop watching and actually DO a project and go drive it, to the delight and amazement of your friends and colleagues? I only succeed when you DRIVE a magnetically powered car.

      And I prefer it is one you’ve built. Why? A pertinent question as more “store-bought” vehicles become available. In doing the conversion yourself, you will be much more knowledgeable as to how and why they work and what the real advantages and disadvantages are.

      We live in a world of TV. But to be frank, it is a surreal world seen through the eyes of a 24 year old blond chicken whose primary intellectual qualifications are an uncanny ability to get through make up and a mic check without a major freaking disaster. As an audience, we find this entertaining, but viscerally we do not actually quite trust it. We know in our thorax that what we see is TV – it’s not real. And we also know that it is “brought to you by” a major corporate interest who’s message has increasingly become disingenuous at best, and too often just blatantly fraudulent.

      Ergo, and with all due irony, Jack Rickard can be dismissed as just another pretty blond, BECAUSE he’s communicating via video.
      BUT YOU CAN”T. You are a real person who is a neighbor, a friend, or even a relative. YOUR findings regarding electric cars are not subject to review. They are from a trusted source, and CANNOT be dismissed. They can rationalize why it would not apply to THEM, but they cannot dismiss it as errant or fraudulent.

      And so you become the local expert on all things electric with regards to cars. Not a single ducat will be withered to move us to electric personal transportation among your circle, without a conversation with you on the topic. As a DIY builder, you have infinitely more authority than a Leaf purchaser. Though a number of our viewers happen to be both – to greater authority yet.

      And through this growing number of flag waivers, rainmakers, and enthusiasts, a tipping point will be reached and the world changed much for the better. I would have it so.

      Ergo I live and yet breathe. Lacking this I would undoubtedly be not only one of the finest whiskey makers on the planet, but also as likely a hopelessly besotted alcoholic, all in the name of quality control.

      Rant…rant…rant…rant…riff…rant. A maudlin Saturday morning if you will forgive me.

      Jack Rickard

      1. “…We discharged the pack quite low and blew a cell when we recharged it…” – silly question – how did you know that you had blown a cell? Did it go open circuit and stop charging? How would you detect a short circuit?

        1. The charger stopped charging and in fact we blew up the charger. Manzanitas cannot be ON into a no load situation, a fatal deign flaw methinks. IN any event, it failed open. I’ve never seen a failed “shorted” cell John. Normally they will be at 0v and not take a charge. This one was taking a charge but then reversed. I’ve seen that.

      2. Jack and Brian,

        I just wanted to say hi from Denmark and tell you how I really appreciate the work you are doing and the way you have made it your mission to drive the EV development in the right direction by presenting to us your own efforts and good as well as bad results thereof. The manifesto above and your reason for not automating the tests really put things straight too.

        I’ve been watching for a couple of months now and am already addicted to the weekly program. In fact yesterday when I got home with our family’s first flatscreen TV and discovered that it could stream directly from Youtube… Well, what program do you think I chose to test it (successfully!) with? 🙂 I will never get the time to catch up on all the past TV episodes, but have started reading a blog entry a day and so we must see how that goes.

        My own EV project is by converting a Mini-el (here’s a random link to a similar vehicle: It’s a small one-seater commuter vehicle with a top speed of appr. 30mph running lead batteries. Together with a mechanical restoration I’m replacing the weak standard motor and rubbish electronics with a proper motor and a sevcon controller, aiming for 40mph. I will keep the 36V batteries at first and then replace them with LiFePo cells at a later stage. Actually I would rather prefer to convert a small ICE car to EV car, but rules here around make it very difficult to modify to other drivetrains than originally fitted. So the Mini-el is just to start out with and get some experience with before jumping to converting a larger (proper!) car. Besides that the Minie-el has history, being one of the few cars produced in Denmark and I thought it deserved to get a second life.

        And I’m really looking forward to hearing about your planned measurements on the Elescalade. One of the necessary consequences of stepping up from Speedsters, VW Things and other older cars and up to the newer ECU-controlled cars is that the ECU expects all sorts of engine related signals to appear if not correct then at least within sensible levels to not upset the ECU. I think that the current problems are mostly due to the ECU expecting the vacuum signal to be a combination of both the engine rpm and load. Think of an old mechanical distributor adjusting the ignition timing from both a spring loaded centrifugal advance and a vacuum actuated advance/retarding and you get the initial specs and what is going on with the mapping in the ECU. I believe that a 3 dimensional mapping in an Arduino or your PLC could get you there, as others have also noted. Exciting stuff, this is!

        Good luck tomorrow, and best wishes from here!
        Peter Boedker

  10. Hello Jack,
    Just thought I would let you know that you HAVE inspired me to do more than just sit back and watch your show. I tend to work in baby steps rather than jump in full bore with a project that is way over my head. A couple of years ago I put together an electric bike, this year I will be converting an old Bolens garden tractor to all electric. And hopefully a couple of years from now I will be doing my first electric car.
    I know a tractor is not anywhere near as glamorous as an electric car, but it will have a lot of similarities to it and will be a great stepping stone.
    You can see some of my sketches here of my plans. Notice a lot of familiar things there? Some Calb 100ah cells, contactors, motor, fuses, dc-dc converter etc. The only missing from this build vs. a car is a motor controller. It won’t be necessary because the motor will be running at a constant speed. The hydrostatic drive will take care of the variable speed. This project will give me the confidence and understanding that I will need to move onto a bigger project. It will also give me a comfort level that I need working with these cells and to see for myself just how well bottom balancing works. For me it’s all about learning something new and different.
    The first video of yours I watched was “A Convenient Response”. What a great video. I recommended it to a couple of my friends and they enjoyed it as much as me.
    I think there are probably hundreds more people just like myself you have inspired, but like myself just lurk in the background and are contemplating doing a EV.
    Hope to see you at EVCCON some day.


  11. Despite being up to my neck in automation, I wholly endorse what Jack says about manual testing. I’m automating because I’m aiming for 2000 cycles which would get noticeably tedious, what with fitting it around sleep, a full time job and all. In the time it took to build and debug my rig I could have done 50 cycles by hand and got both data AND a feel for the cells

  12. For this year at REFUEL 2012 Laguna Seca Mazda raceway (a racing event specifically for electric cars) , the conversions were a small part of REFUEL. There were 5 Tesla S models, as well as several Tesla Roadsters, Nissan Leafs, Codas, BMW ActiveE production cars. My little porsche 914 driving on Bridgestone ecopia prius tires was way out of its league. But what fun getting to drive on a world class race track. Things are definitely changing in terms of interest in electric cars.

  13. Awww Jack! Where was our dire warning on Voltage based BMS’s while running or charging a cold pack? *snigger snort*
    Anyway, I want to see the errors from your accurate devices against a Cycle Analyst because as a logging device its a Godsend.
    All I do is type in say, (Linux, Bash)

    # stty -F /dev/ttyS3 9600
    # cat /dev/ttyS3 > /home/andy/CALB-logging.txt

    Then bung the *.txt file into a spreadsheet. Done!

    First line is Baud rate on the chosen serial port (Linked to the USB signal so any old software can read it). Second line reads the output and appends it to the named file. Standard write speed on the CA is once per second. If less readings are required append every 60th reading.

    Com port/hyperterminal in windows otherwise.

    Outputs are tab spaced and a return and give AH, Volts, Amps, Speed and Distance. Speed can be RPM/10 by making wheel size 1666mm and reading in KmH. The text file needs no modifications to simply paste into a spreadsheet for maths processing and graphing.

    1. Well you’re just a lot smarter than we are Andyj.

      I graduated from Linux, the OS for 13 year olds, about three years ago and several years too late.

      Cycle Analyst? Surely you jest. It’s not even accurate to itself. Keys not debounced. it obviously WAS done by a 13 year old with Linux.


      1. I love kids stuff!!!
        Mine (Ver. 2.5) has no key bounce issues, big clear screen and seems fairly true to my PP3 powered spark tester.

        Just been improving my programming skills with Scratch( for a fully graphical experience on the counters/clocks/calculations/remaining mileage and such.. Serious stuff this computer programming.

        Apple TV. Huh? Raspberry pi. = $25!!! The best future carputer ever made.

  14. Sorry to hear the news about A123 cells. Now I think I may just dump them into a kick butt bicycle. I am not sure I want to invest in 200 more of them. If they become totally unavailable why bother. Now if they just go away and I can get the remaining stock for dirt cheap I may just do that for some fun until they just crap out.

    Glad to see the zero turn is moving forward. We just use our weenie little plug in electric for our mowing needs. Works great but the switches suck.

    1. The zero turn John Deere is strictly a “as we have time for it” project. BUt it really isn’t going to take much. We’re not going to even use a controller for example. It’s a single speed ICE engine now in reality. It runs a hydraulic pump, and if you trigger the electric clutch, the blades. We think we can tune the desired speed just by the number of cells.

      Charger and DC-DC converter will be a little different. Probably use a bicycle charger.

      Jack RIckard

  15. Awesome show Jack & Brian, Love ,love ,love the Apple idea … You guys ,Musk and (maybe) Apple the future of transportation on our little planet. Be Well my friends ! Harley & the Tow’dster

  16. Hi Jack,

    I’ve been following your internet program for 2 years now and I have every episode you ever made, that is I think so.

    Anyways, you and Brian are no different with the Wright Brothers where you continue to explore new ways and means everything that is EV.

    Just to share with you, I just attended the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands last week and EV has a place in being part of the solution to Urbanization problems.

    There was this one delegate from a german engineering firm selling electronic modules that put smarts and safety to road cars and he higlighted that Ev is one of the solutions that the World Cities Summit is looking into to solve problems in transportation.

    He mentioned that his company is looking into a none contact means of electromagnetic induction based charging for cars while you are parked.

    Wouldn’t that be the future?

    He even noted that these charging systems can be part of a roadway where while you are driving, you are getting charged.

    Another interesting item I want to share with you is that there is this local polytechnic (Temasek)here in singapore who has developed a battery management system for LiFePoly batteries with CAN bus interface. I know you abhor battery management systems but if ever you would want to hook up with them, they licence their technology such that you can apply them to your design.

    You can contact them if you like as I’ve mentioned you and Brian to them, Mr Edmund Tang, Deputy General Manager Toyota Tsusho (Singapore) Pte Ltd
    They are partnered with Temasek Polytechnic Singapore

    I also met Mr Tai Choon Seng from Panasonic Singapore and they have a battery bank system that uses the Lithium Ion Protected batteries you featured a few weeks ago for their solar panel systems. You can contact him if you like as I’ve mentioned you and Brian to him as well
    His email address is and he says they can sell to individuals not just to OEMs.

    I wish your EVTV program more power and success.

    If I may make some suggestions with your escalade build, I think, to solve your MAP sensor issue, you need to spoof the signal in terms of current draw of your motor. The MAP sensor tells the ECU if the engine is loaded heavily or not.

    In EV terms, that’s a funtion of current draw by your twin 11 inch motor.

    I’m just not so sure if you can take the current before the Evenetics PWM controller or take the current draw of the actual motors.



    1. Many thanks for the info and links Marl. Very pleased we are well received in Singapore. I visited there in 1975. Beautiful city.

      Yes, wireless charging has some opportunities and I truly believe EV is particularly a solution for congested urban environments. The in road charging is particularly interesting in that it offers other opportunities for data communications, auto steering, and much more.


      Jack Rickard

  17. I just finished installing a pack of 56 CALB 100AH CA-series batteries in my 1997 Solectria Force sedan (originally a Geo Metro). I’m really impressed at the uniformity of these batteries even without a BMS — I used the bottom-balancing technique, taking them all down to 2.75V before assembling into a pack. After charging them conservatively to 3.4V per cell, the voltages only varied by about 0.2V, and after several drives their voltages are all identical! Looking forward to seeing how they perform over time in this car.

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