January 27, 2007
FAU Jupiter campus: Battery Beach Burnout 2007
 
Part 2-Racing to Battery Beach
 
Here out on the technological bleeding edge, it is easy to fall off. The car is ready to go except that the pack is only half charged and the charger is dead.

First call is to Manazinta Micro, the maker of our PFC50 charger. What a wonderful thing to call a company and have the creator of the unit, Rich Rudman (AKA Madman) picking up the phone to answer your questions.

Our charger is a special unit. It was part of the beta build of the powerful PFC50 line, unit #6 in fact. It is tweaked to provide 450 volts vs. the stock 400 volt.

Rich has me pull the cover and look inside. Based on some idiot lights and ESP, he deduces what is wrong. A control board is dead and it needs to go back to him for repairs. We discuss probable causes. Our suspicion centers around an inadequate heat sink and the placement of a temperature sensor. These are known problems that were fixed in full production units.

Problem identified but what about Battery Beach?

The pack voltage is 358 volts or around 3.77 per cell. Best guess, 50-55% charge. 60-70 miles? I speak to Shawn Waggoner. This is not the first time he has helped us out. If we can get to his house, 58 miles away, he can trailer us the rest of the way to Battery Beach. There we can borrow a PFC charger.

We recruit a friendly Toyota Prius driver to 'draft' up to Shawn's. The Electric Imp will normally use 250-300 Watt-hrs per mile at highway speeds. By drafting another car and keeping our speed to 55 mph, we can drop our power usage to around 200 Watt-hrs per mile.

We go at 6 am Saturday morning when traffic is light. Keeping the Imp within 1.5 to 2 car lengths of the rear of the Prius takes concentration and total confidence in the other driver. The Prius driver uses cruise control and keeps a distant focus so that all necessary transitions happen gradually. With no sharp braking, the trip is peaceful...unless you look in the rear view mirror.

As a professional race car driver I do not know the meaning of 'fear', which is just as well. The speed limit on the Florida turnpike is 70 mph. The average speed, even if you count the rolling 40 mph road hazards, is closer to 80. That means at 55, cars are approaching as if we are sitting still and they are traveling at 25 mph. This would not be too bad except that at least one of three is busy talking on a cell phone. Driving in south Florida is never dull.

 
 


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