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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
UPDATE: You can find pics of chargers that I've completed and shipped here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hybridgridcharger/sets/72157625202616417/with/5152223063/

I've recently lost my job, and I need to make some income until my next gig rolls in. I've built three chargers so far, one in my signature and two that were shipped out today.

The chargers are built using recycled computer power supplies for cases, and can be made custom if the person desires so. Note that this might incur extra cost, as I may need to buy and gut a perfectly working power supply, or buy an LED fan to give the preferred color, etc. Please reply here or drop me a PM if you are interested in this - there are many options.

I'm not an electrical engineer, but my charger has been running strong for many months, and is based on Mike Dabrowski's original 350ma design. It is superior to other chargers in the sense that it uses a fan for the charger itself, as well as powers the pack fan (which is very important if you're in a hot place like me). I also use Mean Well power supplies, and not cheap Chinese knock-offs.

This is essentially a pack balancer/overnight charger. It will take many hours to recharge a fully depleted battery, but has been ample for me, as it helped me pull 115MPG over 1200 miles for my daily 25 mile commute (when I had a commute :().

I'm selling 100% complete kits that will require no soldering. Connections to the HV battery are pre-made, including diodes and are fused. Additionally, an external fuse is used on the case for the AC side to allow for easy replacement if it is blown from a power surge (versus opening the case to replace). Connections to the fan are made via included splice terminals. As of the current design, the only tool you will need is a basic ratchet or wrench set (plus a torx driver to remove the battery box - I can help find if needed), and a tool to crimp four solderless wire connectors/two splice connectors. A multimeter is highly recommended, and can be included at a very low cost if necessary.

I've done the math, and if someone were to purchase all of the parts necessary, not including a power supply shell (case), it would cost $130 or more from Jameco.

For this run, I'm asking $250 USD, including shipping ($15-20) for the kit. These orders must be placed by October 15th, when I will be ordering the parts. A $100 deposit will be required to cover my investment in parts by that date, and forfeit if the buyer backs out and the charger is unable to be sold to another forum member.

As of now, all critical parts are in stock, but I will update if there will be any delays. I hope to place the order before the 15th, receive the power supplies, dedicate a "build day" once received, and ship them all out at once - for recept (knock on wood) by Halloween.

This is the cheapest that I'm aware of that a full kit has been sold for on this forum. I don't believe it will match Mike's upcoming $500 kits in fit and finish, but it will reliably charge and balance your battery!

Additionally, if anyone would like to buy a "do it yourself kit", I could arrange to send all necessary parts at a very reasonable price. It would require that the person have a power supply or other suitable case available, as well as a method to secure the power supplies. Only someone who is skilled in working with electronics should consider this. I'm willing to help as time permits, but may be in a new job before long. Post here or PM me if you're interested.

I will be making an instructional video on how to make the connections within the next few days, and I'll make sure to post it here. Honestly, the most difficult part should be taking off the stupid battery cover! :D

I will need to put together some kind of a liability waiver, as I cannot handle the financial burden of a lawsuit, just as Mike does with MIMA kits. If you are concerned about the safety of this type of charger, please ask questions here or read up in the forum.

Feel free to ask questions here, email me or drop a PM, if you prefer.

PS: An Insight II charger may be available shortly, depending on whether I can get into an Insight II trunk, or find reliable instructions. It would cost a little less, as it would require one less power supply. If one is brave enough to handle the connections themselves, I would be happy to build and configure just the charger itself.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Note that the cases may vary, due to availability of power supplies. The two I shipped yesterday used 80mm fans pulling across the power supply, where as this one uses a 120mm fan (pretty but overkill).


Grid Charger Battery Compartment Pass Through by Artric, on Flickr

Here you can see the entry point into the battery box. It uses an existing ventilation hole, no drilling, etc is required. the four connections shown must be made with included connectors by the purchaser (very easy). I also include heat shrink tubing to cover them.

Note that the wire comes from the bottom of the battery box, squeezes inbetween the styrofoam on the left hand side, and hides underneath the left carpeting piece when not in use - perfectly stealth! I'll get pics of this today or tomorrow when I make my video and reassemble the car.


Grid Charger Fan Connections by Artric, on Flickr

This is where the two splice connections give 12v to the pack fan. All wiring is included and these connections are very easy to make. Note that they are made toward the front of the battery box, as to not require any of the cable's covering to be removed closer to the fan.


Grid Charger Battery Connections by Artric, on Flickr

Here you can see the positive and negative connections. The top shows the negative connection, which includes a diode under the heat shrink tubing. The bottom includes a diode and a soldered in micro fuse.

In my case, I used a ring terminal which is pretty difficult to install and tighten without removing the battery, but I have since found the correct terminal to install it in a much easier fashion as has been done on previous kits (a spade connector with an extension that acts as a non-intrusive tap).


Honda Insight Grid Charger by Artric, on Flickr

In this pic, you can see inside of the charger. Disregard the little red circuit board. I used that to split connections for my fans, and it was later determined unnecessary and discarded. Underneath it lies the LPC-20-350 constant current power supply.

All of the other power supplies are held in by screws, as the case is measured and drilled. The LPC-20-350 is held in place by extremely strong double-sided tape that is meant for outdoor use (it's been holding up my garage door opener for years and years).

The green wiring that I'm using is from a modular ULTRA power supply. I have also used this on the other two chargers, but am running low. I may purchase more, use existing pre-wired power supply connections, or make them from scratch with molex connectors in the future (which may knock a step off of the installation process).

I honestly didn't take a picture of the other two before I sent them out. They essentially look like a regular computer power supply. They are in grey boxes, and you can't see into them, and they have one wire coming out of the side to go to the battery, just as mine does. As I mentioned, I'm being green and using items that would otherwise be thrown away. I've pretty much used up what I have, so I will be buying dead ones from computer forums that I frequent and other locations.

However, I'm happy to make accommodations for anyone that wants to have a case powder-coated (have a friend of a friend who does this), or have an LED fan of a certain color, any special wiring, etc. I can even purchase a nice-looking power supply and gut the internals for use, if necessary. They are usually around $30 on sale.

For an idea of what different computer power supplies look like, check here at Newegg.com: fancy power supplies at Newegg.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Can your charger bring to life and balance a dead HV Batt from sitting over 2 years unused?
I haven't tried it. It's possible, but by no means guaranteed. Mike Dabrowski could give better info on this, or Hybrid-Battery-Repair.com.

One thing you could do is see if Mike would let you rent his charger ($30 for shipping, etc, $470 refundable deposit), and see if that does the trick. See 99mpg.com. Otherwise, Hybrid-Battery-Repair.com would have tons of info for you, and if the pack is dead, they would be the experts who can fix it for much cheaper than buying a new one. You might even find info on how to do it yourself, if you're so inclined.

Good luck! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I received some really good questions via PM from a forum member, and tried to explain everything in simple enough terms. I thought it might be a good idea to post my response here, as it might help others. Feel free to chime in if you see anything misleading, inaccurate or have more to add.

Anonymous said:
I was reading through your postings and seems like it suppose to help the battery to charge quicker?
I really want to clarify this because I still don't have clear understanding of it. After reading all the tech terminologies, I got more confused what it simply does.

So, if you could, give me a very simple description of the functionality of the item.

Also, does it need any modification or drilling hole to place the items on car? Would the coverings and all other stuff fit back to its position well?
How much more efficient is it with the kit without the kit?

Hi [Anonymous],

Let me preface this by saying that I can get long winded, so if anything doesn't make sense below, feel free to continue to ask questions.

The grid charger has serves a few different functions. For the average Insight driver, one of the best things it does is condition the battery.

Over time, as batteries charge and discharge (the battery pack consists of a large number of D cell NiMH batteries), the batteries can come out of balance. This means that some may be lower than others, and may limit the usable charge of the battery (you will reach the low end voltage faster, while you still have some cells that have juice left). This can also potentially mean that the weaker cells can be damaged over time.

This essentially extends the life of the battery pack by charging all cells at once at a very low rate. This brings all cells up to a level point, essentially "balancing" the pack. That's why you'll see low power chargers like this known as grid charger/balancers.

In some cases, these chargers have been able to bring batteries that are no longer functional "back from the dead", but those that are too severely damaged (consistently giving codes) may not respond as well.

The rate it charges at is 350ma, which is very low. This means that you can leave it plugged in without risk of hurting the battery (unless you are charging in full sun in a very hot environment, which is ill-advised). It also means that it takes a long time to charge a completely depleted pack. A very small amount of heat is given off when the batteries reach their full juice, but it is easily dissipated by the pack fan, which is run by the 12v power supply in this kit. That also runs the fan on the charger to keep the unit running well for years. They technically don't need it, as they can run up to 70C, but I'm sure this will help extend their life.

Theoretically, the pack holds 6.5Ah of charge. In real life, most don't use very much of that, unless they've installed MIMA, which allows full control of the electric motor, and therefore allows the user to deplete most of the energy. I don't have exact numbers, but even in that circumstance, only 4-5Ah (closer to 4, I believe) is drained from the battery.

Doing the math, that means that a completely drained battery will take as much as 12-15 hours to recharge (hence the "overnight" terminology you might hear). In my experience, using MIMA to drain most of the juice from the battery, I would plug in in the evening (7PM or later) and be full when I leave the next morning (8AM). If you don't have MIMA, then it's unlikely that you will have this much drained from your battery pack. The lowest a stock car will go is three bars, and that actually is a very significant amount of battery power left (try searching three bar bug to learn more).

On that note, if you do park with a small amount of bars and fully charge your battery, your car will need some time to readjust or recalibrate to notice the extra juice. The battery pack must reach either 168v or 170v for it to do so (forget which off the top of my head). Some are lucky, and their battery will charge to this voltage, allowing them to recalibrate in the driveway without turning on the car. In my experience, I have to drive down the block, while the battery receives some charge, and it then stops charging after maybe .3-.5 of a mile and does what is known as a "positive recal" where the bars climb to the top.

Even if you don't do a "positive recal", such as if you have to stop your charging cycle to run an errand, the juice is still there, it will just not show on the battery gauge until it does a self-recalibration. Aside from not seeing the amount of juice you have left, the only other downside is that when the car is at three bars, it will limit the amount of assist you can get. In actuality, this is not usually a problem, as when hypermiling, it is plenty to get me up and over the hills that I encounter while staying in Lean Burn mode. To get full juice without MIMA, one must put their foot to the floor anyway, which is not efficient at all (bad design, really).

I hope that I haven't gotten too off topic, but I want to give you as much information as possible :).

The grid charger can help you save money whether you are using MIMA or not, because letting the car charge the battery is simply inefficient. I can cruise along at 100+MPG when I'm hypermiling, but if I need to charge the battery, it will drop me out of "the zone" (lean burn) for the extra force necessary to charge the battery. Essentially, you are wasting gas for something that you could instead use a very small amount of electricity for (the charger takes about 60w, the same as a low incandescent bulb). A full charge of the battery is about 1KWh (assuming it is really empty), which is $.10 - $.20 depending on your electricity costs. When your car reaches three bars on the low end while driving, it will start to charge until it's full. This can mean a difference of 20MPG or more - what a waste! Check the numbers for yourself when you get a chance.

If you are using MIMA and attempting to hypermile... well, the results can be wondrous! :) Before MIMA and grid charging, I tried my hardest and ran out of gas at 971 @ 92.1MPG miles on a full tank. Afterward, I hit 1117.9 @ 103.6MPG and finally 1203 @ 115.1MPG with gas to spare! When you get that high, each MPG you obtain is harder and harder - like taking a 11 second car and making it at 10 second car at the drag strip. MIMA alone is great, but is really annoying without a grid charger. You tend to take, take, take, but you then lose MPG when you have to put it back. The grid charger is a must have in that scenario.

As far as installation, there is no drilling required (I hate drilling). In fact, the only thing that is permanently modified is when splice connectors go into the two fan leads (which is hardly noticeable). If your battery is under warranty and you have a problem, you could easily remove the kit and leave no significant trace. The wire enters the battery box through existing holes at the bottom, which I believe are for ventilation. Everything fits back together afterward. The kit is completely non-intrusive. It can then be reinstalled with simple connections that can be bought at Wal Mart or Radio Shack.

In fact, the charger can be removed at any time, and the connection point hidden under the carpet. It uses a standard molex connection that is used for older computer CD Rom and Hard Drives. I'll show more when I get my video together soon.

On that note, the additional things I recommend with the kit are a decent extension cable (depending on where you plan to charge) and a multimeter. For me, I bought a 100ft cable so I could charge at work! This contributed highly to my amazing tanks I mentioned above.

The multimeter is used to measure the voltage of the battery to tell where you are in the charge cycle. To do this, you simply take the leads, plug them into the rear of the molex connector, and set your multimeter to DC Volts setting at 200. Take the reading you get and subtract about 1.5v. That's your current battery voltage. You'll soon learn how to tell when yours is full, as it will reach a highest possible number, then drop (aka sag) a little bit. For me, it's about 169.5v (from the multimeter) max (less when it's hotter, but I've never tried it in the winter - and I'm in FL).

I hope I've given useful info but not TOO MUCH. If so, my apologies. Again, feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to clarify.

All the best,

Art
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi Mike!

I can make one that would work for both. To my understanding, they work at a base 100v (I could be wrong, some civics worked at the same voltage as the Insight I, so someone correct me here), meaning that they actually use one less power supply (~$15). The charger should work from one car to another, just the connections would need to be changed from the battery to the molex connector where you would connect the charger. This means that if you continued to own both cars, you could move the charger between both! :)

I haven't made one for either yet, but I am working with an I2 owner so I can send a complete kit and get proper measurements & wiring routing instructions, etc. I'm going to get this October run out of the way, but if you think you'd be confident in making the connections and routing wires, I would be happy to send you all of the components you would need to do so. I could also send you materials to connect to your future I2 for a very reasonable price, once I collect that data.

If you were willing to make the connections yourself and provide me with all of the information that I need to make kits for that generation of Civic, I'd be very happy to give you a significant discount for your trouble - let me know before Oct 15th if you'd like that!

Also, I have been meaning to research other forums and suppliers of battery kits to see if they have significant instructions on how to connect their supplementary packs to the stock pack. What I envision that I'll be missing is exact wire terminal sizes, lengths of wire needed and other small details.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat over the phone. I'm just about to publish a video that shows how I connect it in the Insight I.
 

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Hi Mike!

I can make one that would work for both. To my understanding, they work at a base 100v (I could be wrong, some civics worked at the same voltage as the Insight I, so someone correct me here), meaning that they actually use one less power supply (~$15). The charger should work from one car to another, just the connections would need to be changed from the battery to the molex connector where you would connect the charger. This means that if you continued to own both cars, you could move the charger between both! :)

I haven't made one for either yet, but I am working with an I2 owner so I can send a complete kit and get proper measurements & wiring routing instructions, etc. I'm going to get this October run out of the way, but if you think you'd be confident in making the connections and routing wires, I would be happy to send you all of the components you would need to do so. I could also send you materials to connect to your future I2 for a very reasonable price, once I collect that data.

If you were willing to make the connections yourself and provide me with all of the information that I need to make kits for that generation of Civic, I'd be very happy to give you a significant discount for your trouble - let me know before Oct 15th if you'd like that!

Also, I have been meaning to research other forums and suppliers of battery kits to see if they have significant instructions on how to connect their supplementary packs to the stock pack. What I envision that I'll be missing is exact wire terminal sizes, lengths of wire needed and other small details.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat over the phone. I'm just about to publish a video that shows how I connect it in the Insight I.
I PM'd you, more than willing to help with the HCH II compatibility.
 

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Hi Artic,

Since you are using the schematics, background information, accumulated Insight knowledge, and general expertise of Mike, I was wondering if you plan to acknowledge that by paying him some sort of royality? Don't you think that he deserves some sort of compensation, since you're making about $120 in profit. I mean I've made a charger from his schematics, but I certainly don't plan to make a bunch of them.

I just sort of think that if you're going to make a profit on somebody elses sweat and expertize, you could soften the impact on his business by acknowledging his contribution to your 'product'.

I just hope that Mike doesn't say to himself, well if I give out all this free information and somebody starts making the stuff and selling it, then maybe I won't give out any information, or limit it. Have you given any thought as to how his reaction might effect the 'quality' and 'quanity' of info that he publishes on this forum? After all this is sort of and 'open source' forum and you're using the info for personal profit...

What do you think?
 

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I was just reading the new posts (I've been off line for a while due to personal committments), and see in the original grid charger/balancer thread that Mike has posted
"I see that I will have some competition from Artric with his grid charger. For people that want a simple solution, and cannot wait any longer, that may be the way to go. I can't see going through all this work and then selling just the controller to him, so that will not happen. I may be generous with information and my telephone and e-mail support of the insight comunity, but I am not stupid enough to help my competition, Sorry Art."

Artic, I sure hope that 'you haven't screwed the pooch' so to speak.
 

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It's a difficult one, all the accumulated info on here is in the public domain and open to anyone to do what they like. Someone could start churning out BCM Gauges, MIMA systems or Chargers or set up an IMA battery recon service based on the info on here, and there is nothing we can do about it. Luckily though the markets are pretty small.

I could have happily continued churning out chargers like pineapples which probably would have killed the market for anyone else but I stopped for two reasons a few months ago.

1) They took up too much of my time and I got bogged down and diverted from my other projects. From Mikes posts we can see he has had this problem, juggling several projects which has lead to the delay in him finishing his charger. I've had a lot of enqs since I stopped making mine, with people virtually begging me to produce them. It's difficult to say people should wait if they need their car for work and are having battery problems the charger may solve. The demand is there I hope both work out OK.

2) Litigation. The chargers are a potential litigation nightmare, and those who make them are exposing themselves to considerable risk whatever the disclaimer says. Certainly in the EU you can't just have a disclaimer and avoid the consequences if it all goes horribly wrong. If someone is electrocuted and the device in question is not approved/tested/certified like all other plug in psus and electrical equipment in your house then your doomed. The more you sell the higher the likelihood of a serious problem. I have my fingers crossed about the ones I sold as I built them all myself to hopefully a good standard. But i'm still worried about them and it's the main reason I dropped them.

Whatever happens i hope we all continue to work together for the benefit of the Insight community. Having spoken to Art and seen his video I can say I don't see any evidence of a deliberate desire to annoy or poach anything.
 

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I was just reading the new posts (I've been off line for a while due to personal committments), and see in the original grid charger/balancer thread that Mike has posted
"I see that I will have some competition from Artric with his grid charger. For people that want a simple solution, and cannot wait any longer, that may be the way to go. I can't see going through all this work and then selling just the controller to him, so that will not happen. I may be generous with information and my telephone and e-mail support of the insight comunity, but I am not stupid enough to help my competition, Sorry Art."

Artic, I sure hope that 'you haven't screwed the pooch' so to speak.
Art's offering is at the lower end of the price/performance spectrum albeit still offering good value. Mike's is significantly more money for more performance/options. Can't see they're really competing that closely with each other. Sure, they're both chargers, but at different ends of the spectrum. Just my 2 cents.
 

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It's Great to Have Choices

My 2C on the subject:

Would you hire an electrician to wire your house that did not understand basic electronics?

Ray, Guess you did not learn from your engineer system issues?
Now, now Mike, You know I luv ya and respect ya. I fully intend to buy your charger also when you're ready to distribute them so you know I'm a fanboy! As to my late lamented Enginer experience, what can I say? Hope springs eternal;)
 

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Be nice guys. I want to thank everyone who does this stuff as we would be without the benefits of more mpg for the i1 and getting around on a bad battery that was just out of balance for the other Hondas.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Likewise, Art. I'm in for this. My check is winging it's way toward you. IMHO a very reasonable price for a useful add-on. Best of luck.
Ray, thanks again for your support, and likewise for everyone who has supported me thus far. I promise not to let you down!

I'm glad the video is useful, and hope that I can find time to produce a more professional piece before any kits are received.

I just made a trip to a local specialty electronics store and found a ton of items that I thought might be hard to find, and a lot of little things that will help see that this kit remains solid for years to come.

I'm excited for the second half of this month, and even moreso when they start getting installed! :D
 
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