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Old 01-20-2019, 09:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
eq1
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Default Grid charging, deep discharging

Someone PM'd me about grid charging his pack. I responded with kind of a summary of what I think about that stuff these days, including a couple links to some underlying nut n' bolts. I thought it might be useful as a new thread, despite the constant drip of that kind of thing around here already. Mainly, there's a few ways I look at it that seem important to me but aren't usually represented in what people advise to others, such as the limits of grid charging-only, how a healthy pack should actually perform, and the function of deep discharging... Here's most of that response:

In general, I'm not nearly the fan of grid charging that most other IC'ers are. I don't think it does most of what people think it does. Here's a link to a thread where I've posted some graphic representations of the process, grid charging and grid charging + deep discharging. https://www.insightcentral.net/forum...tml#post724378

I feel pretty confident about the general sweep of what's claimed there, though a lot of the specifics are out-dated... The graphics should help you wrap your brain around the bare 'mechanics' of charging and discharging a pack of cells in series... The gist of it is, simply, that if you need to revive or recondition your pack, a grid charge alone isn't going to do much...

As far as what your voltage readings say about the health of your pack? They don't say much of anything. The Insight NiMH cells will settle at a voltage around 1.318V at a wide variety of charge states and conditions. So, your pack voltage suggests just about that -- 159-160V / 120 cells=1.329V per cell. It just doesn't tell us much. We might be able to say that it's unlikely you have a totally failed cell...

You can't tell pack health very well unless you read and/or log pack voltages under load under various circumstances. For example, if you can bring state of charge down below 50% nominal, hit the pack with say 20 amps of assist, with the pack around 60 degrees F, and voltage stays above about 141V, your pack is probably pretty good... If you can bring charge state below 50% and still get about 4 seconds of about 80 amps of assist, at full throttle, your pack is probably pretty healthy... Anything less than these levels suggests some degree of... funk.

This is what's problematic with stuff you see/read at IC: no one looks closely enough at their pack performance to really know how they're actually performing. Most people are like, 'it doesn't neg recal' or 'there's no IMA light' - 'my pack is working great!' No, a great working pack has to hit certain metrics, certain benchmarks, in order to qualify as working great...

This is also what's insidious about the stock management and feedback about IMA functionality in the car - it's next to non-existent, you just don't know how well or bad the IMA is performing unless you dig in and take a closer look. The way the car manages the pack masks both poor management practices and poorly performing packs.

I also think the stock management causes at least some of the degradation/poor performance that creeps in seemingly fairly quickly... It charges too much, too often, too high. From my experimentation and observations over the... years, I'm coming to the conclusion that you almost can't force the pack to operate at too low a state of charge; i.e. the more you do/you can force the car to use lower charge states the better. The problem is, though, I think most packs are probably already too 'crudded-up' to get charge state very low and to have useful power/energy down there, so some initial reconditioning is needed...

Personally, I'm a proponent of 'ultra deep discharge' - very low current, prolonged, as disaggregated as possible (i.e. less than whole pack) discharging, followed by a grid charge. With this strategy I don't think it matters whether you grid charge first or not, as the load used is so small and you're preferably only dealing with at most 12 cells in series rather than 120, that cell reversal isn't an issue... Here's a link to some theory underlying this 'ultra-deep discharging' process: https://www.insightcentral.net/forum...ml#post1206666


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I am reading grid charging threads. I am wading thru the technological boilerplate of them.... I “might” be starting to get a small amount of it.... My charger is in, and on as of 9 this evening. The starting voltage was 159-160 at 299 ma. What does this say about the health of my battery which just sat idle for 4 1/2 weeks? The temperature here is about 45f.
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Old 01-21-2019, 04:59 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I agree with you about deep discharge. I bring the pack down to about 5 or 10v, and then a full grid charge. I only need to do this about once every 2 years to keep the pack running normally. Don't have any detailed metrics as you mentioned.
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Old 01-21-2019, 07:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This is what's problematic with stuff you see/read at IC: no one looks closely enough at their pack performance to really know how they're actually performing. Most people are like, 'it doesn't neg recal' or 'there's no IMA light' - 'my pack is working great!' No, a great working pack has to hit certain metrics, certain benchmarks, in order to qualify as working great...
IMO the data is not readily accessible. I've tried to get more info.. My ECU scanner can access this information but at only a few messages per second, it's not really possible to get great data. Does one of the member diagnostic tools log enough data to do data logging of enough metrics (current demanded, current supplied, etc etc) to create a bunch of data that can be mined for trends? Or are we looking at reading data lines to get commands sent from the ECU to BCM, and reading voltages and currents to see the result of those commands?

Also, has anyone with any significant mileage been able to keep their original battery alive with grid charging and/or discharging, or are most folks on replacement batteries?
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Old 01-21-2019, 09:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree with you about deep discharge. I bring the pack down to about 5 or 10v, and then a full grid charge. I only need to do this about once every 2 years to keep the pack running normally. Don't have any detailed metrics as you mentioned.
What discharge rate/load do you use?

The reason I ask is because it took me a long time of experimentation to see, to somewhat understand, that there's worthwhile gains doing very low current, very prolonged, very deep - "ultra"-deep - discharge. For example, looking at some graphs yesterday, I saw that my old, merely 'super deep' methodology considered something like 200mA down to 0.2V cell-level as sufficient. I was doing cells with a hobby-type discharger that would start discharging at say 1A down to 0.2V, but would then reduce current, holding 0.2V constant, until current reached 200mA. But later I shifted to 'ultra deep' - basically something like a 33Ω resistor at cell-level for as long as it'd take to not have voltage rebounding above about 0.9V max over a 12 hour period after the resistor was removed. 19.5 amp discharge graphs after each of these types of treatments show that the latter treatment produced much better results...

Which brings me to my main point. The main type of "gain" from this ultra deep discharge is obvious (in graphs) only if you're looking at a high rate discharge and the voltage. Capacity alone tells you little to nothing. In other words, looking at, for example, the graphs I mention above, the cells/sticks put out the same capacity both times, after each treatment. BUT, the curve of the second graph, after the ultra deep, is much loftier over the second half of the discharge [edit: actually it's loftier over the whole curve, but especially the second half. Compare first inflection point, after discharge begins, we see about 2.4V for the 'super deep' treatment vs. about 2.45V for the 'ultra-deep']. The cells also track better.

In a nut shell, the ultra-deep discharge can improve the power output of the cells (in addition to capacity - if they're capacity-stunted as well)... I think this is important when it comes to how the pack performs in the car, but it's often/always overlooked: If your cells can't maintain voltage under around the 50% charge state, your pack is quickly going to trigger recals. Etc., etc...

I guess I should post those graphs; this is just one example of what I've seen in other cases... These are 19.5 amp discharges on a stick, with voltage monitored on pairs of cells. Note how the roughly mid-point voltages for the lower pane are about 2.40V to 2.42V, whereas they're only about 2.33V to 2.36V for the top pane...

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Old 01-21-2019, 09:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by eq1 View Post
Personally, I'm a proponent of 'ultra deep discharge' - very low current, prolonged, as disaggregated as possible (i.e. less than whole pack) discharging, followed by a grid charge. With this strategy I don't think it matters whether you grid charge first or not, as the load used is so small and you're preferably only dealing with at most 12 cells in series rather than 120, that cell reversal isn't an issue... Here's a link to some theory underlying this 'ultra-deep discharging' process: https://www.insightcentral.net/forum...ml#post1206666
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Originally Posted by hybriddancer View Post
I agree with you about deep discharge. I bring the pack down to about 5 or 10v, and then a full grid charge. I only need to do this about once every 2 years to keep the pack running normally. Don't have any detailed metrics as you mentioned.
You agree with him, but you do it anyway? Likely that a single low current discharge to 96V (.8V/cell) will get you just as much good with far less risk.

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Originally Posted by *sean* View Post
IMO the data is not readily accessible. I've tried to get more info.. My ECU scanner can access this information but at only a few messages per second, it's not really possible to get great data. Does one of the member diagnostic tools log enough data to do data logging of enough metrics (current demanded, current supplied, etc etc) to create a bunch of data that can be mined for trends? Or are we looking at reading data lines to get commands sent from the ECU to BCM, and reading voltages and currents to see the result of those commands?

Also, has anyone with any significant mileage been able to keep their original battery alive with grid charging and/or discharging, or are most folks on replacement batteries?
Peter's OBDIIC&C permits logging to excel. SoC, pack voltage, current in and out, net Ah, etc.
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Last edited by S Keith; 01-21-2019 at 10:21 PM.
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Old 01-21-2019, 09:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by *sean* View Post
Does one of the member diagnostic tools log enough data to do data logging of enough metrics (current demanded, current supplied, etc etc) to create a bunch of data that can be mined for trends? Or are we looking at reading data lines to get commands sent from the ECU to BCM, and reading voltages and currents to see the result of those commands?
Not sure I understand the second part of your response. But yeah, the OBDII&C is the tool to use to get this kind of info/data. You can log 8 parameters of your choice, such as amps, volts, state of charge, pack temp, whatever, yet I don't think you really need to log to read the health of your pack. You just need to take some quick peeks at the digital readout of amps and volts when you're subjecting the pack to, say, 20 amps of assist... Hit a slight incline, have it in 4th gear, press the throttle moderately, enough to invoke assist, and hold it there - it usually pans-out to about 20 amp assist that's easy to hold. What does the voltage readout say? You'd also be reading pack temp - cooler temps you'll get lower voltages, so you factor that into the interpretation, for instance. You'd look at state of charge (Soc) - as I mentioned, you really want to be able to be under 50% yet still get the full assist values - the more assist, the lower the SoC the better. Etc etc...

But, I don't think the OBDIIC&C is absolutely necessary to get a much better read on pack health. I think just looking at total pack voltage with a multimeter while you're driving would work. Maybe bring the BAT (charge state) bars down, well, at least off the top few bars, hit a slight incline in 4th, invoke assist at modest throttle, and it's almost always around 20 amps or so - 18 amps, 27 amps - whatever, somewhere around there. Look at your voltmeter readout and it should be holding fairly steady above about 140V. Ideally it'd be higher, but 140V is probably a good ballpark, cutoff-type value. Even just noting the change is good - voltage shouldn't drop precipitously; it should be holding fairly steady with only a little bit of gradual decline, as you hold assist as constant as you can...

To get even less technical but not so less useful, you can simply watch voltage a bit when you're holding whatever assist level as steady as you can: voltage should hold fairly steady. If voltage drops like 1 volt, 1 volt, 2 volts and lower still, that's a sure sign your pack needs attention. Good packs hold voltage fairly steady, just a little drop, gradually, and even down to quite low charge state levels... Bad packs - voltage drops obviously, never seems to stabilize. You'll hit say 147V at first few seconds of modest assist, but shortly thereafter it's just drop, drop, drop...

And the thing is, this can all happen - "this" being the drop, drop, drop, etc. - and there really isn't anything the car, the BCM, the gauges, the trouble lights - will do to tell you your pack is in bad shape. That is, until it's really bad...

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Originally Posted by *sean* View Post
Also, has anyone with any significant mileage been able to keep their original battery alive with grid charging and/or discharging, or are most folks on replacement batteries?
I don't know. I have an original battery that 'threw codes' at one point, that's when I picked it up from someone. I've done my things to it and it has, for the most part, been kind of blowing my mind. I've been at this for quite a long time now, and until this particular pack and 'these treatments' I've simply been unaware of the high performance capability of used Insight packs. I mean, I was kind of just throwing this pack together - I had been using a couple of the sticks as a 12V battery for months, for instance, and was thinking I'd be using some sticks from another pack. But then I just decided to keep it all original, despite having what seemed to be a few weak sticks plus the dubious reuse of those 12V sticks along with the others that had no such different usage. Etc. Well, after some treatment, monitoring, etc., this original pack is doing full-blown full assist at like 40% state of charge, for instance, at not very high temps (you can only get true full assist above something like 77F, so I've seen say 90 amps at 77F+, and some lower amount at lower temps, but still high values)... So, I don't know, considering that the pack was failing when i got it, just like so many other people's packs have failed and are failing, I don't see why other people's failing packs can't be reconditioned to perform like mine is... I guess that's partly why I'm bothering to write anything here at all, it makes me kind of sad to see so many people complain about their packs when I'm like going full throttle with a 60 degree F pack at 40% SoC and the pack's not batting an eye...
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Old 01-22-2019, 12:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I have waded through all the threads I have found so far. It’s a bit like reading a foreign language I barely speak. But I’m learning a lot, about large and small Chrystal’s and their relative surface areas available for the electro chemical reactions that make electrons flow and their relationship to battery function, memory, flaking off at the positive electrode etc. etc. etc. you guys are doing the
Deep digging to figure out finally how to effectively keep these batteries alive. And you have been doing it for years the earliest threads start, what five, four years back. You use diagnostic tools I would need training to learn how to use.
I don’t think I am unusual in that I will not go to that extent to maintain my battery or modify my car. But I can read directions and plans. Your threads tell me you right now have it mostly figured out and if I may:
It’s this: the way the car manages the battery doesn’t exercise the battery through its full range of levels of charge from high to low. This results in the electrolytes chrystalysing in ways that limit the batterie’s range of effective operation to a narrow range of charge, say just for example from 50% to 80%
Resulting in only 30-40% of its potential power out put. But the car continues to operate like it expects 70-80% output. This stresses what’s left of the battery and in the end wears it out prematurely. Again I’m a moron when it comes to this. But I don’t think I’m alone. The take away tho, is that at this point you have come to the conclusion that a slow very deep discharge and then a complete charge afterward, done from time to time erases these chemical “memory” effects” to a great degree. Allowing the battery to last a much longer time and perform much better. What I think I see though I don’t begin to see it
In the detail some of you do. Is that you recently brought it into sharper focus than at any time before. What I think, is it might be time to creat a new up dated recipe for battery maintainance for the rest of us. An idiots guide as it were. Something simple, maybe not perfect but attainable and adequate.
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Old 01-22-2019, 04:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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a-hem, I think we're a long ways off from ever figuring out much. I don't think any of 'us' do much deep digging any longer, I know I don't - plus, there's only so deep you can go until you bump into having to know a whole field of study, chemistry, and within that some nuances, weird stuff, that no one has ever spent much time working to figure out... And then this doesn't even include all the stuff you need to know, all the stuff you'd need to do, to figure out what the car electronics and computers are really doing. Etc etc... But, having said that, I do think the ideas at the thread I linked to earlier go the farthest in explaining most of the deterioration phenomena our cells/packs see - and these explanations are based on what I gather are fairly straight forward, common concepts among chemistry people.

The point here is that you probably shouldn't take whatever I write too seriously...

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Your threads tell me you right now have it mostly figured out and if I may, it’s this: the way the car manages the battery doesn’t exercise the battery through its full range of levels of charge from high to low. This results in the electrolytes chrystalysing in ways that limit the batterie’s range of effective operation to a narrow range of charge, say just for example from 50% to 80%, resulting in only 30-40% of its potential power output....
I don't really know what's going on, but I have some semi-educated hunches. The car doesn't use the full range, but I don't think that's the problem, exactly. If anything, it's that the car uses a very narrow range - nothing even close to full - and that range of use is concentrated sort of toward the top, call it 65% to 80%. It might be higher, like 75% to 90% actual, but nominally it's around 65 to 75 or 80. I don't know exactly what the link is between this kind of usage and the deterioration we experience, but it's probably more or less due to what I quote below, regarding 'large crystals'.

In general though, it just seems to me, based on the tidbits of stuff about NiMH that I've read and what I've seen experimenting with charging and discharging sticks, packs and cells, that this chemistry screams for more balanced usage. To my eye, the cells need to be used in the middle of the charge state range most of the time, and occasionally stretched out to the ends - to top and bottom. It does seem to me that, once you can start using a lower and lower charge state range, the more you use it the better. But that could simply be an artifact, a repercussion, of having the cells used in the upper charge state range their whole life. It could be that, if the cells had been used in the middle from the get-go, they wouldn't benefit from concentrated use at the bottom...

Anyway, it's not the electrolyte that crystalizes. sser2 in that linked thread mentions that, among the three or so causes of deterioration he suggests, larger crystal formation is one of them. Here's exactly what he writes about it:

"1. Large crystals of Ni (hydr)oxides with Ni oxidation states above 2. These large crystals form because the battery is never fully discharged in the car. Due to their low surface-to-volume ratio, they cannot support higher discharge currents, but can still support low discharge currents. At low discharge currents, these large crystals will be eventually converted into Ni(OH)2, and this way the larger crystals will be broken up into smaller entities, which, during the subsequent cycles, will be able to support higher currents. Another name for this phenomenon is memory effect."

So, the car concentrates usage in the upper charge state range, whatever parts of the cells correspond to that range get used more, while other parts get used less. Larger and larger crystals form in these unused portions, they support lower and lower currents, which means power output decreases in those lower charge states. This also means that capacity (amp-hour capacity) effectively shrinks - because the car's lower cutoff is in part based on voltage and voltage is now sagging more and more, earlier and earlier, in that lower range. So the car starts charging the pack earlier, more often, and usage gets even more concentrated in the upper charge state range. And the cycle keeps repeating...

I'm not sure this is the big kahuna of failure modes, but it's a big one. Somewhere in the process I think uneven cell usage has to come into play, where some cells perhaps get hotter and wear differently - because imbalance seems to be the more common problem... I think I'd say this is the most glaring problem with the car's management and probably spawns all the other problems that rear their heads along the way to neg recals and IMA lights...

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....it might be time to create a new updated recipe for battery maintainance for the rest of us. An idiots guide as it were. Something simple, maybe not perfect but attainable and adequate.
I might add some material that explains my 'tap-UDD' process, ultra-deep discharge at the voltage tap level. I've thrown some of it out here and there already. I think it's probably the easiest, safest (from a cell-damage perspective), most effective way to recondition. Not much labor input, simple to do, should/seems to achieve what needs to be achieved. It does take a relatively long time though, like a couple weeks of one driving in IMA bypass mode...
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Old 01-22-2019, 12:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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What discharge rate/load do you use?

The reason I ask is because it took me a long time of experimentation to see, to somewhat understand, that there's worthwhile gains doing very low current, very prolonged, very deep - "ultra"-deep - discharge. For example, looking at some graphs yesterday, I saw that my old, merely 'super deep' methodology considered something like 200mA down to 0.2V cell-level as sufficient. I was doing cells with a hobby-type discharger that would start discharging at say 1A down to 0.2V, but would then reduce current, holding 0.2V constant, until current reached 200mA. But later I shifted to 'ultra deep' - basically something like a 33Ω resistor at cell-level for as long as it'd take to not have voltage rebounding above about 0.9V max over a 12 hour period after the resistor was removed. 19.5 amp discharge graphs after each of these types of treatments show that the latter treatment produced much better results...

Which brings me to my main point. The main type of "gain" from this ultra deep discharge is obvious (in graphs) only if you're looking at a high rate discharge and the voltage. Capacity alone tells you little to nothing. In other words, looking at, for example, the graphs I mention above, the cells/sticks put out the same capacity both times, after each treatment. BUT, the curve of the second graph, after the ultra deep, is much loftier over the second half of the discharge. The cells also track better.

In a nut shell, the ultra-deep discharge can improve the power output of the cells (in addition to capacity - if they're capacity-stunted as well)... I think this is important when it comes to how the pack performs in the car, but it's often/always overlooked: If your cells can't maintain voltage under around the 50% charge state, your pack is quickly going to trigger recals. Etc., etc...

I guess I should post those graphs; this is just one example of what I've seen in other cases... These are 19.5 amp discharges on a stick, with voltage monitored on pairs of cells. Note how the roughly mid-point voltages for the lower pane are about 2.40V to 2.42V, whereas they're only about 2.33V to 2.36V for the top pane...

This is the original battery on 2006 with ~138K miles.
I use a pair of 470 ohm, 50W resistors (mounted on a large heatsink). I run them in series at first, then parallel when V< ~70v, so always < 300mA. (Of course, the pack voltage quickly recovers after the load is removed to ~70-100v). I usually grid charge first, discharge, then grid charge as suggested. I, too, found that grid charging alone doesn't do much, but discharging below 20v does appear to help (for me).
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Old 01-22-2019, 05:16 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I use a pair of 470 ohm, 50W resistors (mounted on a large heatsink). I run them in series at first, then parallel when V< ~70v, so always < 300mA. (Of course, the pack voltage quickly recovers after the load is removed to ~70-100v). I usually grid charge first, discharge, then grid charge as suggested. I, too, found that grid charging alone doesn't do much, but discharging below 20v does appear to help (for me).
This sounds about the same as the typical deep discharging that people do, though most people I think have shifted to a 3 cycle approach, with progressively lower cutoff voltages but never very low... There are potential gains with your way and the 3 cycle approach, but I don't think either of them do what an ultra deep discharge at a fairly disaggregated level can do. That's partially what the graphs above illustrate: The 'super deep' discharge is more or less analogous to the typical deep discharges people are doing, though even better. Yet still, it doesn't live up to the ultra deep discharge. The kind of difference illustrated in the graphs I think makes a sizeable, worthwhile difference in how the pack performs in the car.

I think part of what I'm saying is sort of like this: 'There's a process that can fix the cells. This process has a natural start and end point. Most people's deep discharges are part of this process and it can help, often a lot. Same with your process. The ultra deep discharge goes as close to the end of this process as possible, and there's worthwhile gains from going there.'
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