LED Headlight Upgrade – 1995 Chevy S-10

The low beam in one of my headlights burnt out, and since it’s a 4×6 sealed beam unit, I have to replace the whole thing. I decided to replace both the driver and passenger side at the same time so that they match, and upgrade to LED units by GENSSI (4×6 G3) that also add the ability to have always on daytime running lights (DRL). (As opposed to always driving around with my low beams on.)

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The (1995-1997) Chevy S-10 only has two headlight units and the factory sealed beam headlights (H6545) use a weird plug shape that is not the standard H4 (the ground plug is twisted about 45 degrees). They are rated at 65 watts on the high beam and 45 watts on the low beam, but for nighttime driving I have never been happy with their light output.

original_hp6545 95-97-chevy-s-10-headlight-plug

 

The GENSSI (4×6 G3) that I am replacing them with has a measured power consumption for one unit at 14.4 volts on my bench power supply of 1.8 A for high beam, 1.03 A for low beam, and 0.08A (8ma) for the DRL.  This works out to 26 watts, 15 watts, and 1.1 watt for a single unit. The eBay auction page claimed 25, 20 and 1.1 watts for high/low/DRL, so the measured figures mostly match the online specifications, giving me hope that the specified lumen ratings may also be somewhat correct (Claimed at 2150/1800/57 lumens).

These units cost me $40 each, compared to the  $15 replacement cost for a direct drop in Wagner H6546.  However, the cost didn’t stop there, as I needed to pay an extra $30 for two adapters from the OEM socket to the H4 plug on the LED headlights. I could have just cut off the OEM connector and wired in a H4 socket for less money, but I decided to pay for the adapters to make the installation plug and play as well as retain backwards compatibility. Supposedly LED lights should last practically forever, but if I ever need to replace them in a hurry I want the ability to go back to the OEM 4×6 units which can be picked up at most auto-part stores.

The difference between the LED’s and the original headlights is quite apparent, as the LED’s are a “cooler”  color temperature (white, not yellow) and brighter, which is why I am changing out both headlight units even though only one burnt out.

Here you can see a comparison of the new LED on the left and the original halogen on the right, shining on a garage door in the day and at night.

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I paid an $80 premium for the LED lights as opposed to the cheap OEM halogen replacements. For that $80 I get a cooler color temperature (for a more modern look), more light (better nighttime visibility), minor energy savings,  and the ability to wire in true daytime running lights if I decide to make the effort (not yet connected).

Inexpensive cooling ducts with hardware store parts for my dual chargers

In an effort to counteract overheating, I have added cool air intakes connected via 4″ diameter ducts to the fans on my TSM2500 (CH4100) chargers.

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I used a 4″ flush to the floor “snap-in” PVC floor drain (designed to be cemented inside of a 4″ PVC pipe) spray painted flat black as my intake, connected to a 4″ aluminum flex dryer hose (mostly ran straight through, but the flex hose allowed me to vary the length) with worm screw clamps (a.k.a. hose clamps). The single most expensive part of the install was the 4″ hole saw ($15 on ebay, or $20 at the store). I could have saved $5 by going with a less expensive vinyl dryer hose, but I like the rigidity and appearance of the aluminum.

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TSM2500 (CH4100) Chargers Overheating

Twin Chargers in Box

Now that it is summer, and outside temperatures are reaching 26-35 C (80-95 F), my dual TSM2500 (Rebranded CH4100) chargers are overheating. After about an hour charging at full power, they reach around 74 C (165 F) and shut down. The ThunderStruck Motors EVCC records this as a “normal” end charging event (because the Amperage output goes to zero), and for some reason it triggers a ground fault on my EVSE (perhaps they have a thermal switch that shorts the charger to ground to shut it down, or maybe my JuiceBox Pro 40 is just overly sensitive?)

I guess the overheating is to be expected, as the chargers are in a five sided box (with only the top open) and mounted to a piece of (thermally insulating) plywood. Although there is a tangle of wires in front of them, the wires really don’t interfere with the airflow as much as it looks like from this top view.

In my defense, the charger’s manual (v. 1.05) specified that I should leave a 50mm (2in) gap in front of the charger for proper ventilation and I left around 8 inches. It also noted that the “Working temperature” for the chargers was -25 to 55 C (-13 to 131 F). It didn’t mention anything about thermally bonding the charger to a heatsync.

As a temporary solution, I have re-configured my 80% charging profile to only run at 1.2 kW (8 amps total, or 4 amps per charger on a 128-131 volt pack). This is about 25% of the 15 amp max power that the chargers are capable of in cold weather. At this relatively low power, each charger is outputting just over 500 watts, and even in 32 C (90 F)  weather the charger temperature hold steady at 50 C (122 F).

Charging at one kW may not sound terribly fast (it’s not), but this workaround is actually fine for 95% of my charging needs, as I rarely need to refill more than 8-10 kWh (20-30 miles) per day of use, and L1 charging overnight works fine for most of my needs.

However, I purchased the dual charger setup so that if I was necessity charging away from home I could charge at a 4 kW rate, so I want to make improvements to my cooling so that I can run the chargers at full power (without them overheating after an hour) if needed.

ThunderStruck Motors suggested that I mount the chargers to an aluminum heatsync, which is a good idea, but difficult and costly to implement.

I have decided my first order of business is to drill two 4″ air intake holes into the bottom of my charging enclosure and duct them to the top of the chargers right over the fan using dryer hose. This will allow the fans to draw cool(er) outside air directly over the vanes on the charger, and keep the heated exhaust air from mixing with the cool(er) incoming air. Since the top of the box is open, the heated output air should have no problems escaping, as convection will assist the fans in exhausting the hot air upwards.  If adding intake air vents doesn’t solve my problem, then I’ll worry about making an alunimum heatsync plate to take the place of the plywood.

How far can it go?

Summary: I drove my truck 46 miles on one charge (and had some juice left over).
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When you have an electric vehicle, everybody wants to know how far it can go.
I typically tell them “19,800 miles so far.”

But then you have to answer their real question, which is “What’s your range on a single charge?”. If you have a commercial EV like the Leaf or a Tesla, you can just refer to the EPA range figure for a nice apples to apples comparison. But when you have a conversion EV, the number is unique to your particular vehicle, motor, controller, battery pack and testing methodology. (And changes as the pack ages…)

I used to know the answer to that question for my truck with a (new) lead acid battery pack (“25-30 miles without killing the pack”), but I haven’t fully characterized the trucks’ power usage and range with the new (lighter weight, more powerful) pack made up of Nissan Leaf cell modules. My truck is heavier and has more air resistance than a stock Nissan leaf,  the motor/controller is slightly less efficient, and the (big fat!) tires have quite a bit more rolling resistance. I figured “half the range of a Leaf” would be a good ballpark estimate.

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J1772 to 120 volt opportunity charging auto-switchover

My truck’s charge controller supports the J1772 protocol, and I have added a J1772 inlet I took out of the same salvage Nissan leaf that provided my LiIon battery pack.

I added the J1772 port, the “start charging” button, and a rotary switch to select between different charging profiles, as well as a 120 volt, 15 Amp RV inlet behind a flip up license plate.

When you have one charging inlet, things are simple and safe. When you have more than one, things can get complicated. In my case, I wanted to use the same charger(s) with both inlets. But I shouldn’t just wire them both up in parallel, because that would mean that the (male pins on the) RV inlet would be energized at 240 volts when charging via the J1772 plug, and it wouldn’t be good for somebody to reach in and touch them. Also, if somebody were to try and plug in the J1772 AND a 120 volt extension cable at the same time, they would be connecting a HOT (from the J1772) line directly to the Neutral line on the 120 volts (causing a short circuit). [Having the J1772 inlet energized with 120 volts is also undesirable, although slightly less dangerous, as the J1772 inlet is designed to be “finger safe”.]

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Melted fuse leg

Driving down the road today I smelled a plastic/electrical burning smell, which caused me to stop the truck and run around it quickly checking for any problems in my new Lemelted_fuseaf modules. After verifying that they were not on fire, smoking, bulging, or even warm, I sniffed around the truck and decided the smell was emanating from under the hood, and eventually traced it to near my DC-2-DC converter (which keeps my 12 volt accessory battery charged up from the main 128 volt pack, replacing an alternator on an ICE vehicle). When I checked on the accessory battery voltage, it was 13.8 volts instead of the 14.5 volts that normally shows up when the DC-2-DC converter is working, so I thought that I had blown that out.

As it turns out, the only thing that had melted was the leg of the 30 amp 12 volt fumelted_fuse_holderse I have between my DC-2-DC converter and my 12 volt accessory battery. Note: the fuse did NOT blow. One leg of the fuse melted into the holder, melting one side of the fuse and the plastic holder. The DC-2-DC converter was still working (but no longer connected to the 12 volt accessory system), and all of the 12 volt components were working fine on the redundant battery power.

At the time this happened I had the headlights and fan blower on, so the 12 volt load was about as high as it gets, but I’d been driving around like that for several years without the fuse or holder giving me any problems.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the process of moving wires around for the Leaf Module install loosened up the fuse in the holder and caused a loose connection, and the added resistance heated the connection up until it failed. (Although the fuse looked to be fully inserted into the holder even after it melted…)

I will have to replace the fuse and holder, and I’ll probably zip tie the new fuse into the holder when I replace it.

Default Charging Profile: Charge to 80% capacity (quickly)

Because I have a relatively short commute, and rarely anticipate needing my full 100% pack capacity, I have chosen to charge my truck to an 80% SOC on a daily basis to maximize battery life. One nice thing about the 80% level is that most batteries can be charged at a relatively high rate of speed up to 80%, and then you need to slow down the charging a bit to prevent them from overheating. (This is why DC Quick Chargers will quickly bring an empty battery up to 80%, but then slow down quite a bit after that.)

My first attempt at programming an 80% charging profile was very simple, just set  MaxV to 128.5 and set the TermC (termination current) to 2 amps. This works well, it gets the pack voltage up to 128.5 volts and holds it there until the battery stops accepting much current. The only issue is that it is wasting time, because for a good amount of the charging period the current flowing into the battery is less than the maximum 30 amps (4.0 kW) that the chargers can produce. The charging curve looks like this, with a 3hr 20 min total time:

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Thunderstruck Motors dual TSM2500 & EVCC charger package

As part of the Li-Ion battery upgrade procedure, I needed a charger that could be programmed to work with the Li-Ion modules and my BMS loop system.  I decided on the EVCC (Electric Vehicle Charge Controller) from Thunderstruck Motors paired up with dual TSM2500 ( a.k.a CH4100) chargers. The total system cost just under $1200 shipped, so it was quite economical for a 4.2 kW system. The trade off for the low cost is that you have to wire both chargers up to the battery pack and the J1772 inlet in parallel, requiring you to make two sets of Y adapter cables. Theoretically the EVCC can control up to 4 of the inexpensive TSM2500 chargers, but I think wiring up two is about the most I would want to do, and if you want a high power charger it would probably be better to purchase one or two PFC-3000 or PFC-4000 chargers (which also interface to the EVCC).

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I really like the EVCC, as it supports the J1772 protocol and can monitor my mini-BMS loop both for charging as well as for a low voltage warning when running. It also supports the ability to disable the EV when the J1772 plug is inserted (drive away protection).

The first one I received had a few software/firmware bugs that required me to send it back for a re-flash (one of the bugs made it so that the bootloader couldn’t re-flash it in the field!), but after I received the upgraded module it has been working well and I haven’t noticed any more bugs.

I have it set up with a single charge profile so far, but it actually supports 4 charge profiles that can be user selectable via a resistor network on a rotary switch. I have installed the hardware to select different charging profiles and will be programming them in the future.

The two chargers, EVCC and a few relays (for switching between the J1772 port and 120 volt RV inlet) are attached to a piece of wood that fits into the former front battery bay of my S-10 conversion. Althought I COULD fit two more chargers in there, space would get tight, the wiring would be (more) messy, and I’d be worried about the airflow and cooling. As it is, I’ve found that 4.2 kW charging is plenty fast for me. I can take a 16 mile trip, which is much longer than my daily commute, and be recharged in 141 minutes.

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Lead Acid to Nissan Leaf Pack upgrade process

The main process of upgrading my S-10 Electric Conversion pickup truck to use the Salvage Nissan Leaf LiIon modules took me 3+ days, and I still have a few more days of small jobs to finish before I can call the job completely done.

Day 1:
On the first day I removed all twenty of the existing lead acid golf cart batteries. This involved lifting the main piece of wood under the hood that holds the contractors, motor controller, and 12VDC voltage converter, as well as lifting the bed and removing all of my PakTrakr battery monitoring units. After manhandling 1200 lbs of lead out of the truck (only dropping one battery on its side…) I cleaned up the existing battery bays, replacing some rotted wood and dirty foam.
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Nissan Leaf Modules powering my S-10 Pickup conversion

I have successfully driven my S-10 Electric Pickup conversion powered by 48 modules from a salvaged Nissan Leaf battery pack. I have them wired in series, 16 sets of 3 parallel modules, providing 128 volts with 180Ah capacity (23 kWh).

LeafPackInBack

It took me a full three days of work to make the swap and get the truck to a barely drivable condition. I have the cells hooked up with a warning buzzer on the BMS low voltage loop signal, but I do not yet have the charger fully connected. I anticipate another 8 hours of work to get the charger and pakTrakr system fully set up.

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