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Old 03-06-2012, 01:25 AM   #1
JoelWisman OP
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What kind of battery for adventuring, is Lithium up to the challenge?

Probably the #1 thing a bike is towed into a dealership for is dead a dead battery. Stuck injectors, stuck fuel pump, bad rear wheel bearings, yes, those happen too, but the battery and charging system still top the charts as the #1 reason a bike comes out for spring but won't start, or a trip is interrupted.

I am a big fan of batteries and have worked professionally with them for many years. As an EMT in a rural community, when the fire truck or rescue wouldn't start, it was embarrassing at the least. With no money for extra maintenance the job of predicting failure fell to me.

As an industrial electrician, one of my primary responsibilities was maintaining emergency battery powered systems, including a $600,000 dollar UPS for an industrial process that had to shut down gracefully on primary power failure, or we would all die. Ultimately I rose to maintaining, selecting and purchasing these systems and their batteries, but not before I had battery chemistry, charge algorithms, maintenance, and cost per watt coming out of my nose.

Working for Volvo independents, dealerships and ultimate corporate, batteries and charging systems were in every one of our cars. As a technician I tested and replaced batteries and charging systems, with corporate I cut them open and found out the causes of death, when the customer or charging system was at fault, and when we had a manufacturing process or design problem.

Finally, with a few stops in-between, I found myself the shop foreman of a large service department for a motorcycle dealer of a brand known around the globe for battery and charging system failures, none other then BMW.

I am now the proud owner of an Aprilia Caponord. It's a lovely bike with gobs of power and perhaps the industries most undersized battery box for one of the most "power hungry to start" 1000cc V-twin engines.

A little while ago a friend on the forum here sent me a Shorai LiFePo4 battery with a simple request: "figure out how good it is".

Over the next few weeks I hope to find the answer to that and many other questions.


Besides my rugged good looks, I have an engineering grade multimeter, an engineering grade GMM, a 2 channel scope, several other random multimeters, A good fixed load 125 amp load tester, A shit ass Chinese made variable load carbon pile 500 amp load tester, battery chargers coming out my ears, A tiny 180cc Italian scooter, the Caponord, and likely I can gain access to an F800GS and R1200GS to use as test bikes.

I also have an agreement that I can use a refrigeration facility where I can park the whole bike in three separate rooms, one at -20F, one at 0F and another thats constantly 36F. The only hitch is, I can't take pictures in or actually start the bikes in cold storage. Something about him not wanting his customers to know there are motorcycles stored with their perishable goods lol. BUT, I can chill the bike and battery, roll them out to the parking lot and test away before they warm up.


I have seen many static load tests and a thread that is a sort of running diary of lithium battery use, but no real life side by side tests of lithium AND lead acid batteries in simulated or real adventuring conditions.

It may be excessively ambitious but if I can find time, I'd also like to explore battery chargers, something near and dear to my heart, and also charging systems, including the darn low life F800GS stator.

In fact, Id like to explore everything having to do with the starting and charging systems. Tall order but from the volume of failure, well worth it.

So, HELP. Group effort desired. I want to run as many side by side tests as possible. This is what the Shorai LFX18A1 does at this state of charge, this temperature. This is what the lead / acid DEKA ETX14 in those exact same states and conditions. I don't have any other brands or models to test at present, but that could change down the road and an emphasis will be on recording conditions so they can be precisely duplicated down the road.

My questions:

What is the ACTUAL CCA of these batteries.

How many amps can the battery pump out at a given voltage and temperature from OMG cold to room temperature.

How well and quickly do these batteries accept charge? The scooter is regulated at 14.1 volts, the Capo at 14.55, I think (will test), the R12GS at 14.4 volts, the F800GS at 14 volts at idle and 13.8 at speed (freaky and wrong, but it's what they do so lets test it)

What is the REAL amp hour you can withdraw from these batteries and still start bikes? how about when cold?

What about overcharging? When a shunt style regulator breaks, 19 volts is where it usually heads. I'm willing to see how long till the DEKA ETX14 starts gassing at this voltage but I promised to give a working Shorai battery back, so unless someone wants to send me a lithium battery for DESTRUCTIVE testing...... :) we are unlikely to find out what they do. I will however say, I absolutely do NOT take the industry and fan basses statements about LiFePo4 safety at face value.

I have seen ZERO evidence that Shorai, Ballistic, or AntiGravity batteries are susceptible to damage by vibration or shock that an adventurer will experience, and I know the ETX14 is not, but has anyone else heard anything about such?


Many questions and hopefully some answers to follow. I would appreciate any questions my fellow forum members have as well as suggestions of how to test them.

I am ambivalent about LiFePo4 technology. I am neither a fan nor against it in any given application. It seems like a great idea on a race bike, but on an adventure bike used for adventuring..... I am waiting to become convinced either way.

P.S. I toyed with putting this post in the garage. The adventurer who sent me this battery rides an F800GS and much of what I hope to discover is specific to that bike and it's charging system. The info we discover will have relevance to all bikes but it will be more specific to F8's and F650's too, so here the thread sits
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Old 03-06-2012, 01:28 AM   #2
JoelWisman OP
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More here later, like results eventually, hopefully.
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:39 AM   #3
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:17 AM   #4
JoelWisman OP
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A word about test equipment for these sorts of tests, especially on LiFePo4 batteries!

Test tools for battery test 1

Here are all the multimeters I own. I also have a scope but it's accuracy is worthless for LiFePo4 measurements.

Shorai battery voltage

Above is Shorais resting voltages for different states of charge.

Notice that the difference between 40 and 50% state of charge (SOC) is just 12mV for the whole battery and just 3mV on a 4 volt range per cell. This is precision work!

Below are some specifications for various meters. Assuming you are measuring individual cell voltages and that the battery is actually at 50% SOC, you will be able to tell the following from the following meters:

With an ellchepo meter, you are going to be able to tell that the Shorai is a battery.

Bump up to a hundred dollar meter, and you will be able to tell that the battery is somewhere between 30 and 70% charged, IF and only if your $100 meter is within specification, which they often aren't. This goes for battery bugs and the like as well.

Progress to a good automotive technicians meter and things improve, we can now tell that the battery is between 40 and 60% charged.

Many engineers I hang with use the venerable Fluke 87 V, and it is a VERY good multimeter! It is however no better then what I consider field industrial accurate. Using the 87 V resolution comes up, but we are still left guessing weather the battery cell is at a 40% SOC or closer to a 60% SOC. Yes to you 87 V lovers that may or may not be reading this, the 87 V is an awesome meter and more durable then a brick shit house. Yes it probably does have a high res mode that I always had to read the manual to figure out how to engage since it wasn't embossed on the battery cover, but that extra digit just adds something repeatable to look at, not accuracy. The 87 V isn't precise enough to drill down on this battery chemistry.

At the bottom of the list is the freaking expensive $500 Fluke 289, which is the meter I will be using for the bulk of these tests. It's only about 6 months old, but since Fluke no longer ships certification certificates with it's inexpensive tools ($500 is inexpensive in the world of fluke), I had it calibrated at an ISO something or another laboratory. DC voltage accuracy on all ranges from top to bottom was + - 0.0013% !!!!!! ACV was near the limits but it was inside and we won't be measuring ACV on a battery :)

Notice on the pictures of my multimeters there is also a Fluke 867B. It is 17 years old and has never been calibrated. I will also be using the 867B for some tests as it has abilities the 289 does not in displaying things. It is probably the worlds lowest performance scope, but also within its performance envelope, the worlds most accurate.

Before you say "NOT CALIBRATED IN 17 YEARS!" Notice in the picture it is SPOT on reading the same as the recently calibrated 289. I have always had multiple multimeters and have always checked their readings against each other and only calibrated one when it drifted excessively, or when I needed at least one with a current calibration certificate as I did this time.

In everything DC I can find to measure, from 1 mV to 1000 volts, the 289 and 867 agree to the milivolt. This makes me really happy and if my ancient discontinued 867B ever breaks I will cry, but I believe we can consider both "engineering accurate" for these tests.

Notice also the fluke 112 is off displaying " 13.18 " volts when it should be displaying 13.149, well 13.15 since it doesn't have enough digits, which is the first sign it lacks the accuracy, but off 30 mV is bad even for a cheap fluke. The 112 is pretty old, though newer then the 867B but..... You get what you pay for, and in the 112's defense, I was trying to measure the current output from a stun gun one time. This should have been safe. With measuring current you are measuring across a shunt that won't let the voltage get excessive, but silly me, I still had the probes in the voltage jacks, so the meter has never been quite as accurate since seeing something like 80,000 volts.

Also one time when I was measuring for a browned out phase on an old 2000 amp 480 volt pushmatic main panel about 20 feet from an OMG big transformer, the pushmatic picked precisely that second to cross phases and go boom. The resulting plasma ball pushed the meter with my hand still around it, I think, into my face breaking my nose through a face shield. 30 Minutes later when I could see again and after changing out of a now melted nomex suit, I found the meter 50 feet away with the precision resistor busted off the board. I soldered it back on, but the crux of the story is "that meter has been through hell". It will not be used for any of these tests.

The little radioshack wallet meter which is tiny and rides under my seat who's screen you can't read is displaying 12.9 volts. LMAO, NOT a precision instrument! But at $21.99 it's a great thing to have under the seat. Last time I got a call from a Canadian adventurer broken down in Kenya, I would have given anything for him to have this meter with him as it would have saved hours on trouble shooting. It can be found here and if your not going to spend at least $150 on a Fluke, it is what I recommend as it is sort of somewhat accurate, and far more durable then the fancy no name meters with names like Equis, Etech, and Edwin. But here I go advertising for a company I don't hold any stock in and don't particularly even like.

The point is..... I am using good equipment and am going to do my best to get some results that mean something.

Etech EX430: 4.000 V +- ( 0.5 % + 2 )
100$ meter grade: 3.279 displayed = 3.260 - 3.297

Fluke 233: 6.000 V +- ( 0.25 % + 2 )
Good technician grade: 3.279 displayed = 3.269 - 3.289

Fluke 87 V: 6.000 V ( 0.05 % + 1 )
Industrial accuracy grade: 3.279 displayed = 3.276 - 3.282

Fluke 289: 5.0000 V +- (0.025 % + 2)
Engineering accuracy grade: 3.2790 displayed = 3.2781 - 3.2799
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Old 03-06-2012, 05:13 AM   #5
JoelWisman OP
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Houston we have a problem.

I haven't even begun tests yet, and already 2 issues are revealed.

1: Take a look at the BMS receptacle.

Shorai left 2 pins on BMS receptacle!

From the left, pin 2 is bent to almost touching pin 1. Based on how discolored pin 1 and 2 are, they did touch! There is a pin sized slit melted in the receptacle cover, so it can be surmised what happened. It looks like this cover needs to be pressed straight in, not angled shut as one might tend to do since the cover is hinged on the left side.

I doubt the owner of this battery did this as I don't think he has a fancy charger to plug into this port.

No harm as the pins straightened easily, but from the meltage factor, I suspect these pins are unfused and not current limited. Had this short been prolonged, I wonder what would have happened?

The thing that is handy about having a BMS receptacle is, we can measure individual cell voltages as well as the total battery voltage.

I will have to find out more details on this batteries life because these readings are alarming. At the least, it has been sitting on my book shelf for a week, and in transit for a few days before that, but that wouldn't be relevant to a lead / acid battery let alone a LiFePo4 battery.

Total resting battery voltage is 13.149 volts, so between 60 and 70% full. Hmm, wonder why it's not 100% charged? Owner details may clarify and it is certainly not harmful for a lithium battery to be 60% charged. Lithiums actually prefer to be at a 60-80% charge when left standing which is why good lithium chargers have a store mode to keep the battery at other then fully charged, but since the owner does not have one of these fancy chargers........

Next up is the truly alarming part..... From left to right on the BMS receptacle, we can measure individual cell voltages.

Pins 1 and 2 show cell one voltage which is " 3.2965 volts " or about just over 70% charged

Shorai Cell 1

Pins 2 and 3 show cell two voltage which is: " 3.2962 volts " Also just above 70% charged.

Shorai Cell 2

Pins 3 and 4 show cell three voltage which is: " 3.2938 volts " also just above 70% charged but slightly imbalanced.

Shorai Cell 3

Pins 4 and 5 chow cell four voltage which is: " 3.2633 volts " Hello! whats this? between 30 and 40% charged.

Shorai Cell 4

I measured it again, even using my other meter and its real. P.S. the last digit on the meter in the picture is funky cause it decided to settle out from a 4 to a 3 as the shutter was open. 3.2633 IS the #4 cells resting voltage. That's a HUGE imbalance in a lithium battery.

This has a meaning that I will iterate tomorrow, if no one else beats me to it, but for now, I'm torn.

Stuff it in the Capo and see if it will start it?

See if I can induce an F8 rider over here and see if it will start that?

Load the battery and see what that cell does compared to others?

See if the Capos hot charging system will balance the cell voltages back out?

See if the F8's anemic charging voltage WONT balance the cell voltages back out?

Balance the cell voltages manually and commence testing like this was never there?

The last option I am reluctant to do. Many techs first inclination is to beat on or replace something to fix it. To me a problem is like a mystery novel. I want to play detective and know the why as the why is far more significant then the what that fixed it because the whys have a habit of reappearing again and again.

This may be a battery defect, or it may be that tolerances are what they are and an F8 charging voltage isn't enough to keep the cells of a Shorai in balance.

Alright, interview owner tomorrow, r today, but much later after a couple hours of sleep.

After that, not sure. Suggestions and comments from LiFePo4 aficionados welcome and desired
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JoelWisman screwed with this post 03-06-2012 at 05:25 AM
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Old 03-06-2012, 08:00 AM   #6
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Just another data point. I put a Shorai LFX18A1 in my F8 a couple months back. It ran great and the weight savings over the OEM battery as you know is significant. Then after a Death Valley trip where everything was cool I noticed my voltmeter dropping. I slapped it on the Shorai charger but it refused to charge and dropped like a rock over the next day or so. I then contacted Shorai as I had purchased the battery directly from them and they promptly sent me a new battery no charge. Good customer service. Anyway what I found interesting is that while they used to list the 18A1 as a battery option for the F8 on the Shorai website, now they list the LFX21A6-BS12. And this is the replacement battery they sent me. So far so good. But I am watching the voltmeter more closely. I sure as hell don't want to be out in the sticks and have it die and not take a jump.
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:03 AM   #7
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Lfx21a6-bs12

I just bought this battery for my F8 also, but have yet to install it. So do the pins look upgraded from your previous battery?
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Old 03-06-2012, 12:15 PM   #8
Ronin ADV
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toro618 View Post
I just bought this battery for my F8 also, but have yet to install it. So do the pins look upgraded from your previous battery?
The new ones allow you to bolt onto the top or front of the contact point. Otherwise they look pretty similar.
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:59 PM   #9
vtbob
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In your first post you asked about CCA cold cranking amps. You got right to the point! Their biggest weak point!


Looks like you will be having a lot of fun getting some real data. I can't wait.


From my experience with Lithium based batteries. They have much more energy storage capacity per volume and much much more per unit weight than lead acid.

Their very weak point is cold temp operation. When you get toward 0C/322F lead acid typically lose 30%+/-. In my experience Lithium loses more than 50% . I would not recommend using the current technology lithium in cold climates.

How a lithium battery will stand up to shock and vibration is really determined by the internal and package design. To my knowledge there is only a little ad hoc / incidental word of mouth.
(
Lithium battery technology is very young...output capacity improving by over 15% /year (amps/lb or amps/$) as vendors compete very hard and are coming out with all kinds of improvements.

At some point they will have them for us in cold climates...but not today!
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:38 PM   #10
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For whatever is worth

I race single handed sailboats, and use a ton of power that gets regenerated via solar panels and a hydro generator. what REALLY matters is how you charge these batteries, and 14V for a lfpo type of chemistry is not enough to charge them.
The batteries are awesome, they store a LOT of Amps per pound, they sustain voltage until almost dead, they can be cycled thousands of times, etc. but if you do not have a good charger controller, they will die a lot faster than the "regular" chemistry.
I am not a chemistry or electronics engineer, but since my life literally depends on them when racing solo across the ocean, I understand the very specific needs for charging them.
Each cell has to be charged individually and at a very specific voltage.
Unless these guys have a controller that ups the voltage and charges each cell individually, I would not use these types of chemistry in a motorcycle, with a shitty alternator, that I would ride somewhere I would not like to walk back from.
Just my 2 cents.
Again, I love them and they perform flawlessly when properly charged, but they go to crap really fast when undercharged or overcharged, or over discharged.
I can post links to serious discussions on these chemistries, maintenance, etc. if you want, in the solo racing we have been using them for years now.


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Old 03-06-2012, 06:12 PM   #11
JoelWisman OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vtbob View Post
From my experience with Lithium based batteries. They have much more energy storage capacity per volume and much much more per unit weight than lead acid.

Their very weak point is cold temp operation. When you get toward 0C/322F lead acid typically lose 30%+/-. In my experience Lithium loses more than 50% . I would not recommend using the current technology lithium in cold climates.
My experience too, but I'm hoping to quantify it and present it real life. I will be measuring and taking video of cold starts at specific temperatures back to back with lead acid.

I am also interested in seeing what happens if you just plop in a huge capacity LiFePo4 battery. Assuming the manufactures ratings are consistent, something I am not at all convinced of, AntiGravity has some massive capacity LiFePo4 batteries in case sizes that are small enough to fit almost any bike.

If a given LiFePo4 battery looses 50% of its current delivery capability at 0F, getting a battery with double the cranking amps you need should suffice. If it looses 80%, it could get expensive and heavy to be able to instantly start your bike....

I will leave others choices to them, but when I'm going for a ride and it's 0F out, the last thing I want to do is fiddle with the bike as the battery warms up.

Also, since these LiFePo4 manufactures don't seem to be using standardized terms, or rather are misusing them I suspect, I'm interested in seeing if there are different performances from brand to brand as well as how those ratings REALLY stack up to lead acid which IS using standardized terms correctly.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:53 PM   #12
JoelWisman OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astolfo View Post
I race single handed sailboats, and use a ton of power that gets regenerated via solar panels and a hydro generator. what REALLY matters is how you charge these batteries, and 14V for a lfpo type of chemistry is not enough to charge them.
The batteries are awesome, they store a LOT of Amps per pound, they sustain voltage until almost dead, they can be cycled thousands of times, etc. but if you do not have a good charger controller, they will die a lot faster than the "regular" chemistry.
I am not a chemistry or electronics engineer, but since my life literally depends on them when racing solo across the ocean, I understand the very specific needs for charging them.
Each cell has to be charged individually and at a very specific voltage.
Unless these guys have a controller that ups the voltage and charges each cell individually, I would not use these types of chemistry in a motorcycle, with a shitty alternator, that I would ride somewhere I would not like to walk back from.
Just my 2 cents.
Again, I love them and they perform flawlessly when properly charged, but they go to crap really fast when undercharged or overcharged, or over discharged.
I can post links to serious discussions on these chemistries, maintenance, etc. if you want, in the solo racing we have been using them for years now.


Life is a daring adventure or nothing
Yes, absolutely, post links. I am actually pretty familiar with the technology behind the various chemistries of lithium batteries, but can only profit from knowing more, as can everyone else viewing this thread.

As to the racing... Look me up if you ever want crew to double hand I keep trying when becalmed and only become more excited as it builds into a gale. Unlike many, sailing in the un-navigable quadrant of a hurricane or typhoon has always been a desire of mine, so most consider me reliable in all weather conditions.

Spent most of my time on big boats, 36' or longer, but loved my times on smaller boats even more cause they are just more connected to the wind.

I can drive, handle the main, foresail, spinnaker, navigate, predict weather, and fix boats that have engine, electrical, or mechanical problems. Also experienced at putting out fires and stopping flooding after you get the bow sprit of the other boat out of your side. Good with polyester and carbon fiber, never worked with kevlar... I sort of suck on foredeck but not from lack of trying.

Wait, this is a battery thread! But know exactly what you are saying with boat batteries. If you are going to go beyond sight of shore, batteries are pretty important so good sailors know more about batteries then any sport I can think of.

GOD I MISS THE OCEAN! Moving to missouri, sailing is one thing I truly miss.

<untitled> 001
Batteries I installed on a Cascade 36. Motorcyclist and auto enthusiast probably wonder what all the wires are for :)
Notice a temperature probe mounted on one of the battery posts. You can't charge any chemistry right if your charger doesn't know it's temperature.


(J_6-3
Shore power charger, Alternator charge controller, battery combiner, current shunt for battery meter


(J_5-3
What the heck is all of that?


(J_3-2It's the back side of all of this. Master over current protection, isolation switch, kill switch, and power bypass switches.


(J_2-4
Final over current protection and switches.


Swiftsure2005(J_19
All so you can start out like this, hopefully yelling "PORT"


(J_6-2
Progress to this (the boat was nicknamed the vomit commit that year and I received an award for the longest distance and and duration for projectile vomiting in the history of the Swiftsure yacht race. Straight into the a 30 knot wind at dusk, and the trajectory was still flat as the vomit streamed beyond sight.)


DSC_1404-2
Ultimately to finish like this, first place, becalmed without another boat in sight :)



I miss sailing, back too batteries lol
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I love and miss you Jeneca and I'm sorry.

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Old 03-06-2012, 08:42 PM   #13
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how do you

upload pics from your own computer?
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Old 03-06-2012, 08:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astolfo View Post
upload pics from your own computer?
You have to upload them from your computer to a photo sharing sight first. Many are free. Then click share on the picture you uploaded, copy the HTML code it spits out, and paste it here.

Simple once you try it 15 different ways and find one that works :)
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Old 03-07-2012, 06:00 AM   #15
JRWooden
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Cool little experiment you've got going on there Joel!
Like you, I'm pretty surprised at the unequal charge levels on the Shoari ....
Pity there is no easy way to get to the individual cell voltages on the AGM batteries...
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