Sunday, April 15, 2007

What We Now Know - Impossible Became Possible

Gearing Experiments cause Curtis controller failure. I took "FreeB" (Free Batteries - nickname for our electric pickup truck) to the Step It Up Canada rally, for action on climate change, at the Art Gallery and chatted with Dr. Bass (Vancouver's own Al Gore, a former city councillor, and perhaps next mayor) and former Vancouver councillor Ellen Woodsworth and other acquaintances. CTV shot an news interview on FreeB. Two other TV crews asked for interviews, but I couldn't wait up for them.

Then, went over to the Sustainable Building Centre on Granville Island, and showed FreeB to staff, who requested to see it.

Later, did some interesting gearing/RPM experiments, after which the truck suddenly stopped moving. Waited several hours for two of Vancouver's most experienced electronics and EV gearheads with test equipment. In the meantime, took measurements of the batteries, before and while charging at the Canadian Tire's rooftop parking lot. The cavalry arrived. By a process of elimination, they concluded that the Curtis controller was fried and/or died, likely from the severe workout I was giving it, from the gearing experiment.

So, in my view, the Curtis controller in FreeB was much more fragile than the bullet-proof ones in our Ego-II electric scooters. There seem, to me, a too many failed Curtis controllers out there, and one EV site calls it "low end." However, we have a circuit diagram, and should be able to repair this controller.

Frustrating experience, but highly educational, because while waiting, I observed that our seemingly-crazy 3-node battery voltage-clamper system was working, and that the Zivan NG3 charger (imho a battery-killer) was effectively defanged. Also observed that our assymetrical battery mix of different sizes/types/brands was working as expected, although I came up with a minor tweak idea that should improve power and range slightly.

A thought came to me that, with pack architecture alone, perhaps we may be able to get by without a Battery Balancer actively working during discharge conditions.

Learning a lot that isn't widely known, but I've blown some change on parts, gear, and test equipment, already, on this EV. It's quite an expensive hobby. Today's lessons, for me, included: One cause of a Curtis controller's premature death; and, one situation where the EV's ammeter doesn't show the actual current draw.

My Forest-and-Trees view: The electric vehicle option will be difficult for many people, unless you ruggedize the EV's components like we did. Even at VEVA, the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, most of its officers either don't own an electric car, or have EV's that aren't working, or have EV's that they are going to sell due to frustration with parts and components. In another example, Bayla at Flora Health in Burnaby alleged that his company gave up on an electric minivan (that was made in California and later re-done by CANEV in BC) because its Trojan batteries only provided usable range for a short while. Their female staff were scared to drive Flora's e-minivan because they didn't know how far it would go. At times, even after a full charge, it lost power after just going around the block. (My group knows why Flora's batteries didn't work properly.) So, Bayla says Flora traded in their electric minivan for a Prius hybrid, losing thousands of dollars on their EV project. This isn't the only EV problem story in BC. For example, Spencer Baird of Tofino says he had three Curtis controller failures in five years. My group learned from each story and located the "permanent fix" for each of these problems.

Thankfully, my group was determined to find every solution to make EV's work reliably, for everyday use. It took me two years to solve the six major hurdles to electric biking. We were determined to win, in the electric 4-wheel game, too. And, we did! Now, we've got the world's cheapest vehicle to operate, in daily use! It's on the evening news!

We also figured out how to increase this EV's driving distance by 50% without any hardware changes! Video here.

Rob Matthies


Click below to view
Revived Battery Pickup Truck videos on YouTube:
Stanley Park/Lions Gate Bridge
Crest of Lions Gate Bridge
Ammeter and Speedometer on bridge run
Global TV evening news coverage
Pre-evening news announcement by Global TV

EV Album entry - lists battery breakthroughs


Click here for my EV Diary Part Six


Controller Repair Post-Mortem: After the controller was repaired, and we made some wiring tweaks, the pickup ran smoother and faster. We learned (modified) the following ..
  • Why an electric vehicle with a Curtis controller will seem to lose some speediness after a few months' use, for no other apparent reason. (i.e. a new set of batteries does not improve performance of the electric car or truck.)
  • Why, after several weeks/months of idle, an electric vehicle may not start.
  • Why a Curtis controller may suddenly fail in a humid area.
  • Why novice electric vehicle drivers tend to wreck their electric vehicle's controller.
  • Why a voltage clamper (disspative voltage regulator) may actually weaken a battery.
  • Why controllers are damaged or destroyed during take-off, after a full stop, despite the low current draw showing on the ammeter.
  • How to repair the Curtis controller relatively inexpensively.
  • How to prevent the Curtis controller from getting too much current that it destroys itself.


My Revived Battery Electric Pickup Truck costs only 30 cents per day to operate, including the cost of battery replacement!

After our repairs, fixes, and workarounds:
This vehicle is now in use regularly, almost daily.

Click below to see Shared Vision magazine's photo and description

of the low cost of running this world's first licensed pickup
that runs off discarded (dead) batteries:

See City-TV BreakfastTelevision's
chippy host Tasha Chiu with wind turnbine
and this electric vehicle:


For you to be able to use Revived batteries for an electric car or truck, you'll need more than just the Revival technique. Battery Revival is just one "link" in the "information chain". If you miss just one link, it won't work for more than two years, at the most, if it works at all.

We want to release the complete "information chain" as Open Source. to the pubic.

This information would be really valuable to the EV builders (also called "converters" or "conversion shops") in Mexico, India, Philippines and Europe, including Italy and France.

Personally, I feel that the Breakthrough that allows us to go up hills on only a 50A draw, and, also, the Breakthrough that allows this pickup to run on only 900lbs. of batteries (versus the 1800 lbs. that it is supposed to be carrying) are more important than the Battery Revival Breakthrough.