Monday, November 4, 2013

615 Cycles & Still Grinnin'

Has it really been over a year since I last posted?

Well, I'm still here and so are the lithium cells.  615 cycles in and they are still working.  Ran a capacity test back at the end of June (487 cycles) and got 8.4kWh AC power out of the pack from full.  About 7% down on the 9.0kWh of the previous test at 180 cycles.  I did change the charging parameters in between though; charging to a higher Voltage but doing a very short absorption cut-off.  The net effect is less time held at a Voltage above the float level and I also reduced the float level a bit to prevent any "slow cooking" of the cells in the long sunny summer days (we finally had a summer in the UK - Yay!).

What prompted this posting was my latest toy and a return to storage deficits problems in the winter.
This bad boy is a switch mode 1-30V, 0-30A power supply.  It was about £317 delivered from Germany (but turns out it's a re-branded Chinese Manson unit).

It's survived the tests that have destroyed three other Manson sourced switch mode PSUs (branded as Maplins in the UK).  The 80W Maplins PSUs that you saw me using last year really don't like to have their DC outputs connected to a 24V battery when the output is turned off (or the AC power is off).  The spark of reverse current in-rush to the capacitors in the PSU destroys something in the Voltage control feedback loop and the next time you turn the PSU on, it immediately explodes with white smoke pouring out of the back (over-Voltage on the big capacitors, causing catastrophic dielectric failure and explosion of the caps).

Happily (luckily) the Maas HCS-3602 seems to have passed the two critical tests.  It was subjected to an AC power failure while connected to a 24V battery (the house inverter cut out as there wasn't enough solar power) and today I forgot to turn the PSU on before connecting it to the battery and a big spark of in-rush current went into its DC output.  I turned it on with trepidation, but all was well and it's sitting in the sun charging my spare Ritar lead acid AGM battery at 30 Amps as I write.

I did ask the supplier and the Manson tech support if the PSU was stable with reverse Voltage on its DC output and in-rush currents, but got stonewalled by both of them.  They'll be happy to discover my test findings but I don't see why I should be the one to test their product in the real world and have to trog back to the shop when it unexpectedly explodes.
The Ritar battery pack (formed of two 180Ah 12V blocks in series) has come in handy in the last few November gloomy days.  Just like in Star Trek, when the di-lithium crystals are depleted and they need a bit of power to get out of a pinch, Jim shouts, "Tie in the auxiliary power!".  I decided to "make it so" with these Ritars (mixing my Star Trek generations up now...).

They route emergency power through my old 1kW inverter and then via the new Maas PSU to hold the lithium battery pack at a level just above its low charge point.  When the sun comes up the next day, the solar charger only has to tickle the main battery for its Voltage to rise a bit and then the auxiliary power system cuts out.

I saunter along after breakfast and swap the PSU round to feed from the house 3kW inverter and charge the Ritar pack at a rate the solar array can cope with, using the current limiter on the PSU.  That's how I 'tested' the PSU with AC power failure.  I'd set the charge current too high and wandered off while a lonely bank of cloud came and spoiled the party.

The Ritars might be only good for 600 cycles, if I'm lucky, but as I only use them for a few odd days a week in the winter, that could be a useful way to save on just buying more massive lithium cells.  It's nice to have a "reserve tank" when you cock up your weather prediction and energy use and need to "run on fumes" for a bit.  The Ritar pack can even take a bit more abuse as I don't need to slavishly stick to the 50% DoD rule if only discharging it infrequently.  It will shorten the life, for sure, but even if I halve the life to 300 cycles; at 30 cycles a year (say) that's still 10 years use.

I'd previously tried a scheme like this but the problem was not using a 24V battery (I was tinkering with 12V batteries and a 150W inverter) and not having a high power 24V charger that could shift energy efficiently.

This Maas PSU measured over 91% efficient at 25.5V and 17A output.  It is also power factor corrected, so is inverter friendly.  I measured the DC-AC-DC conversion throughput from Ritar battery to lithium battery at about 78% efficiency (the 1kW inverter only being about 86% efficient, despite its claimed 92% rating).  The PSU barely breaks into a sweat.  It has a variable speed fan but doesn't become a fan heater in the room.
The rear has half decent binding posts to take M6 lugs, but annoyingly the screw tops are captive so I could not use the M6 ring lugs bought and had to resort to cutting off the ends to turn them into fork lugs.  I could only find M6 forks locally that would only accept 6mm2 cable.  I'm using 16mm2 cable to keep the voltage drop down at 30A, speeding up charging and keeping efficiency up (low heat loss in the cables and connections).

This power supply has some interesting features in that it has 3 memories for Voltage and current (that disable the front knobs - prevents accidental changes) and also a remote control terminal that would make it suitable as an AC charger controlled by a BMS that can remotely program the output Voltage, current and enable/disable the output.  The remote terminal takes 0-5VDC control signals and the maker kindly provided the special multi-way plug to fit the socket on the back.


  1. WELCOME BACK, SENIOR BODGER! How are you figuring your cycles? Are you taking the amount of Kwh and the battery capacity to determine how many cycles, even though they are obviously not taken to 100%DOD daily.

    I have a '48V' system. 16- 100aH LiFePo4 Calbs (purchased from EVTV) set up in series. For a 5Kwh bank. 2000 Watt array. 200V Midnite Solar CC. The 8 panels are connected in two strings for 150V@8.7Amps so 150V @18Amps coming into the CC.

    As for the setting, I have the bulk charging it to 55 Volts. Cut out when it gets to 5amps. No Absorption. (Actually, currently I have it set to its lowest, which is 3 minutes. I havent updated the firmware or bothered to sort it out. It should be able to be set to zero but wont do it.) Then goes to Float to hold it at 54V (Set point is 54.1) Stays there all day and compensates for daily usage.

    At the end of the day It drops from the maintained 54 down to 53V or so and there it stays a while until I use it up.

    These voltages seem to work well for me. The system has been running since the 12th of July. Our area has already had three outtages. Just not me personally. :D

    What I was finding if I set the Bulk to 56V instead of 55V was that two cells would try to shoot up to 4V and beyond if I let them. All of the cells were bottom balanced. If I leave it at 55V they stay happy and those two cells will be the higher ones but once it goes to float, they all level out nicely.

  2. What are your current CC Charge parameters? No Equalize obviously. Bulk to? (Mine is 55V/16cells) Absorb? (I opt to have zero although in actuality it gives me 3 mins) and Float? (54.1V , though the 200V midnite controller holds it at 54V)

  3. Nothing so clever on the cycle count. Basically just days elapsed. Each day on a solar battery is a macro cycle and always counts as a 'deep' cycle. From a low SoC at dawn to a peak SoC at some point in the afternoon and back down to the next low at night. Even winter days produce a 0.5 to 1kWh cycle that easily counts as a 'deep' cycle (a change in SoC of 5-10%)

    Within that macro cycle you could have many micro cycles (every time we put the kettle on and discharge exceeds charge rate). But these cells can probably withstand hundreds of thousands of such micro cycles. A kettle boil only accounts for 60Wh of energy (0.6% change in SoC) but it can see the battery discharge and recharge briefly at significant currents (-39A / +85A). Any charge and discharge current puts stress on the crystal lattice that the ions are popping in and out of.

    If you've bottom balanced and one cell is running away *way* before the others, it might be that either that cell needs re-balancing again or that cell is actually much lower capacity than the other cells (manufacturing defect or just wide tolerance binning of the cells - they are capacity graded like solar cells or CPUs, etc.).