After some paperwork adventures we were able to get the first Crystalyte shipment of the season at the end of March and have updated inventory on the store page accordingly. The missing product photos and details will get filled in when we have time. Some points of note:
Pedal First Controllers:
We are now replenishing the supply of sensorless motor controllers, and have a new model on hand with IRFB4110 mosfets for operation up to 72V as well. These controllers without the hall sensor dependency are much more robust in wet or high exposure environments, where the Crystalyte Immediate Start systems have proven somewhat vulnerable. Highly recommended if you don't absolutely need assistance from zero speed.
Lower Cutoff Voltage:
For maximum flexibility we are gradually standardizing all of our motor controllers to have the built-in low voltage cutoff set to 20V, to enable operation with 24V battery packs. Anyone wanting a higher cutoff voltage can readily program in a custom value of their choosing with the CycleAnalyst. The only controllers we have on stock that still have a 30V cutoff are the 36V 20A and the 72V 48A start immediate controllers.
More CycleAnalyst Compatibility:
Both the DC and the sensorless pedal-first controllers have the connector port for Direct Plug-in CycleAnalysts. The sensorless controllers can still pick up the speed readings from the hub, even without the hall sensors. However, the DC motor controller has no information about the wheel speed. For these units, we have made a new model of the CycleAnalyst, CA-DPS, which has the 6-pin port for direct attachment to a motor controller, but which also uses a speedometer sensor and spoke magnet for conventional speed detection from a wheel. This model is also useful for people using brushless controllers with geared or mid-drive motor arrangements.
Rear DC Motors:
There is now a rear DC motor option that fits iin a conventional 135mm dropout spacing and is dished appropriately to accommodate a 7 speed freewheel. We've long felt that the he brushed DC motor systems are of great value and are pleased to have a more complete line to offer. Although the torque is a bit less than the 400 series brushless hubs, they have minimal cogging drag and excellent reliability.
Those who come by and visit our shop space in Vancouver will certainly notice a lot of changes lately. We've managed to expand into one of the adjacent rooms and have taken the opportunity to do some wholesale renovations of area. New flooring, new paint, and when we are done there will be a whole new electronics development lab as well.
As mentioned in the last web update, we did receive the shipment of 4C rated LiFePO4 battery packs. However, we have not put them up for sale yet because our testing has shown a few issues that we wanted to resolve. For those who don't care about juicy battery details, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs
--------------Lots of Tech Content Below----------------
Last year we sampled a number of LiFePO4 battery manufacturers looking to find one that delivered appreciable discharge currents yet also came in a finished looking and robust package. The one that we settled with not only met these requirements, it also came with a fairly advanced switched capacitor cell-balancing battery management system (BMS). This BMS did cell balancing splendidly, but it had the defect that it would continue to bleed a small amount of current from the cells even after the pack was flat and the BMS had cutout. If the battery was drained flat and then stored for several months, the BMS itself could actually end up discharging the cells all the way to zero volts and causing permanent damage.
These were at our request replaced with a new BMS circuit that would have virtually no quiescent current, causing some of the original delays to the shipment. As a downside though, it turns out that the rate of cell balancing with this new BMS is many orders of magnitude less than with the prior circuit. When we began testing the packs from this shipment we were typically only getting between 10 to 11.5 amp-hours out of them, due to the cells not being balanced. By opening up the packs and individually discharging those cells that are more charged than the rest of the pack, and topping up those cells that are running low, we've been able in almost every case to restore a full 12 amp-hours of available capacity. The images below shows a case in point.
The original pack as we received it was only delivering 8 amp-hours. You can see that there is not a very pronounced roll-off in the cell voltage before it shuts off, indicating that it was just 1 or 2 cells at a low state of charge causing the BMS to cutout. After opening the pack up we identified a single cell that was low, charged it up independently from the others in the pack, and afterwards it tested out perfectly. Most of the time it isn't so simple, and there are several cells both low and high that need to be adjusted and a few testing iterations before the capacity to reaches 12Ah.
So what next?
We have been going through all the batteries one by one in this manner and ensuring that each pack is balanced and delivers its rated capacity, and then re-sealing them. However, we still have some reservation about selling these until we are confident that the cells won't gradually go out of balance again in your hands. Ideally the amount of cell balancing by the BMS at the end of the charge cycle is sufficient to counter any natural deviations in cell leakage currents and BMS sense currents, and then this will be so. There are naturally a lot of tests going on at our end and a lot of back and forth with the manufacturer to get to the bottom of it, and we may decide in the end to replace the BMS circuits across the board
--------------- End of Heavy Tech Content ----------------------
Can I buy one?
The answer is yes, but only if you read the above paragraphs and fully understand and accept the implications. There is a small but finite possibility that the battery over time might go out of balance resulting in a reduced usable capacity, and you may have to open up and either service individual cells or replace the BMS circuit down the road if this is the case. We have a slow but steady stream of 24V, 36V, and 48V packs that are coming off the end of the testing/balancing cycle.
Update Apr 14th - Our final testing of the BMS shows that it does do cell balancing at an acceptable rate at the end of the charge cycle, and packs that are out of balance do slowly get better each time the packs is used and then recharged. The only situation we can forsee where the batteries could drift out of balance again is if they are stored for prolonged periods of time without use.
We were hoping to have received fairly large batch of eZee kits by now. At the time we placed the order we decided to pay extra for an upgraded and lighter weight Sanyo brand battery pack that would have a 12 month warranty. Unfortunately, there have been mistakes made on the ratings of the BMS circuits that came with these packs from Sanyo as well, and so eZee has had to return them to be fixed. The latest date for shipping is Apr 22nd, which would put the order here in the middle of May. Given that everything is ready except for the batteries, we are looking at the feasibility of having a small number of kits air-shipped this without batteries to at least provide an option for those who have been waiting, or who were counting on using a different type of battery pack anyway.
Our long-awaited shipment of 12Ah LiFePO4 batteries has arrived and was unpacked this last week. These include 24V, 36V, and 48V configurations all in a tidy and well packaged rectangular layout. We will need another week to rewire all the charging and discharge connector leads, as well as to begin the discharge testing of each pack before sale. Expect them to be posted to our online store around March 26th.
Most of the "Sold Out" signs on our store site will disappear once the next boatload of goods from Crystalyte comes in. There are going to be some new additions with this order as well, including 72V pedal first controllers, spare axles to convert between front and rear hubs, and more of the famous 4110 mosfet 50A motor controllers. Although the ship is scheduled to arrive any day, due to logistical reasons we won't be able to pick it up until March 25th.
The first large batch of eZee conversion kits is completed but still sitting at the manufacturing warehouse, awaiting for a final inspection that all of the customizations and small changes were done correctly. We will have an accurate arrival time estimate when they have shipped, but at this stage it is looking like a few weeks into April.
Who would have guessed that this January 2008 would be our busiest month to date! We certainly didn't, and are running out of stock in a lot of categories. Either ebikers are an active winter riding crowd, or most of our customers come from California, or a bit of both. We are basically out of rear hub motors and 72V motor controllers. Unfortunately for reasons largely out of our control, the next shipment of Crystalyte parts has faced delays and won't get here until around the second week of March.
After a few weeks of fast paced development the next version of the Cycle Analyst code has been released for beta testers. This brings out features such as a serial output stream for data logging and on-the-fly adjustment of the current or speed limits via a potentiometer or other signal source. For more details, see this thread on the endless-sphere forum.