ESP8266 Keeps An Eye On Your Batteries

There are many more things to know about a battery than its voltage and current output at any given moment, and most of them can’t be measured with a standard multimeter unless you also stand there for a long time with an Excel spreadsheet. The most useful information is battery capacity, which can tell you how much time is left until the battery is fully charged or fully discharged. [TJ] set out to create a battery data harvester, and used the ubiquitous ESP8266 to make a fully-featured battery monitor.

Measuring battery capacity is pretty straightforward but it does take time. A battery is first benchmarked to find its ideal capacity, and then future voltage and current readings can be taken and compared to the benchmark test to determine the present capacity of the battery. The ESP8266 is a relatively good choice for this kind of work. Its WiFi connection allows it to report its information to a server which will store the data and make it available for the user to see.

The first page of this project details building the actual module, and the second page outlines how to get that module to communicate with the server. Once you’ve built all of this, you can use it to monitor your whole-house UPS backup system or the battery in your solar-powered truck. There is quite a bit of information available on the project site for recreating the build yourself, and there’s also a video below which shows its operation.

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Hackaday Links: April 5, 2015

[Dino] found something pretty cool at Walmart. It’s a USB Lighter; basically a car cigarette lighter that’s powered by a battery and charged via USB. A few bucks will buy you a battery, charge controller, and USB plug that will deliver over 2 amps at 3.7 Volts.

Speaking of battery chargers, here’s something from [Thomas]. He works in a hospital, and the IV pumps have a terrible charging circuit. After a few dozen chargers, they’ll give a battery error on the screen. They’re not bad, only unbalanced. [Thomas] made a simple rig with a Tenergy battery charger to rebalance the packs. No link, but here’s a pic. It beats paying $34 for a new battery pack.

Those Silhouette Cameo blade cutters don’t get enough respect. You can make vinyl stickers or an Arduino-themed pop up card.

Retroreflective spraypaint. Volvo has developed something called Lifepaint. It’s for bicycles and bicycle riders. Apparently, it’s clear when you spray it on, but if you shine a light on it – from a car’s headlight – it will reflect back. Any cool ideas here?

The Art of Electronics, 3rd edition, is finally out. Didn’t we hear about this a few months ago? Yes, we did. It’s shipping now, though, and there’s a sample. It’s chapter nine, voltage regulation and power conversion.

Ah, April Fool’s. I’m still proud of the Prince post, but there were some great ones this year. RS Components had Henry the Hover Drone, but we really like the protoboard with ground planes.

The market wasn’t always flooded with ARM dev boards. For a while the LeafLabs Maple was the big kid on the block. Now it’s reached end of life. If only there were a tree whose name ended in ~ino…

Hacklet 39: Battery Power

3296371398740598106[robin] has a Red Camera (lucky!), an absurdly expensive digital video camera. As you would expect the batteries are also absurdly expensive. What’s the solution? Battery packs from cordless drills.

Cordless drills are interesting pieces of tech that can be easily repurposed; there are huge battery packs in them, big, beefy motors, and enough hardware to build an Automatic Cat Feeder or a motorized bicycle.

What if those old Makita batteries don’t charge? That usually means only one or two cells are dead, not the whole pack. Free LiIon cells, but you need to charge them. Here’s a single cell charger/boost converter that will do the trick.

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A problem faced by amateur radio operators around the world is the lack of commercial power. Plugging a portable shack into a wall will work, but for uninterrupted power car batteries are everywhere. How do you combine wall power and car batteries for the best of both worlds? With an In-line battery backup module.

9k=All of the projects above rely on charging a battery through wall power, and sometimes even that is impossible. Solar is where we’re headed, with solar LiPo chargers, and solar LiFe chargers. That’s more than enough to keep a smartphone charged, but if you want to go completely off the grid, you’re going to need something bigger.

[Michel] has been off the power grid 80% of the time since he installed his home PV system a few years ago. How’s he doing it? A literal ton of batteries, huge chargers, and a 5kW inverter.

 

Replacing Dead Battery Pack Cells Saves You Some Coin

No one will deny that cordless drills can be super convenient. Sure, they need to be charged once in a while but that’s not a big deal. The big deal is when the batteries no longer hold a charge. Buying a new battery pack from the drill OEM is not cheap. If you need several, it’s almost cheaper to buy a new drill/battery combo.

It is not uncommon for only one cell is bad in the battery pack. Getting a replacement cell makes economic sense. And at about $1 per cell, even replacing all of the cells in the pack is way cheaper than the alternatives. [ksickafus] had a battery pack that did not work and not only did he replace all the cells, he wrote a great instructable about it.

The process started by removing the cells from the plastic container. Since they were soldered together they came out in one unit. The cluster of cells was then laid down on a piece of paper and the perimeter of each cell was marked to document the cell orientation. Next, the leads connecting each cell to its neighbor were noted on the same sketch.

The new cells were then laid out on the template to make sure they were in the same orientation as the originals. [ksickafus] uses braided shielding as his new tabs to connect the cells together and learned from experience that flux is necessary for this type of repair. Once everything is soldered up, it’s time to re-assemble the cells in the plastic case and give it a charge. If you do this at home, make sure you keep an eye on it the first time so nothing goes wrong!

If replacing NiCd’s with NiCd’s isn’t cool enough for you, maybe popping some LiPo’s in your drill would be up your alley.

Fix a Broken DS by Removing a Screen

There are apparently a lot of broken Nintendo DS Lites out and about on eBay, and [Fede] has gotten his hands on one. His idea was to essentially turn one of these DS Lites into a SS (single screen?) (.es, Google translate) by modding the case, and he’s done it with pretty spectacular results.

If you’re going to do a case mod, you should go all out. To that end, [Fede] started by taking everything out of the DS and tossing the original 1000 mAh battery in favor of a 4000 mAh battery. From there he is able to shoehorn the two PCBs into the case with the speaker in between, which he notes doesn’t sound as nice as the original but works well enough.

After reshaping the plastic case in a few subtle ways and putting a few layers of paint on it, [Fede] now has a single-screen Nintendo DS for €2 plus parts and paint. While we’ve seen similar mods before, we’d be interested to see this one in action; some DS games don’t utilize the second screen as much as others, so perhaps this wouldn’t play every DS game perfectly, but for the price it can’t be beat.

MacGyver, Jedi Knights, Ammo Stockpiles, and Candy Crush

Everyone’s favorite machinist, tinkerer, YouTube celebrity, deadpan comedian, and Canadian is back with a tale of popping a few benzos, stumbling around Mexico, and wondering why everyone else on the planet is so stupid.

The hero of our story considered the feasibility of one hundred and eighty-sixth trimester abortions as he stood outside a Mexican airport watching a stockbroker complain about the battery in his cellphone. Meanwhile, cars drove by.

Here’s how you charge a phone with a car battery and an ‘ol Dixon Ticonderoga.

To charge a battery, all you really need to do is connect the terminals to a power source with the right voltage. A cell phone battery needs about three volts, and a car battery has twelve. You need a voltage divider. You can get that with a pencil. Take out a knife, get to the carbon and clay wrapped in wood, and wire the battery up. Make a cut a quarter of the way down this rather long resistor, and there you will find something around three volts.

Does it work? Yeah. It works even better if you have some tape to hold wires onto the cell phone battery when charging. Is it smart? It is if there is no other conceivable way of charging your cell phone. Should you do it? Nah. Video below. Thanks [Morris] for the link.

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Fixing a Toyota Camry Hybrid Battery for Under Ten Dollars

[scoodidabop] is the happy new owner of a pre-owned Toyota Camry hybrid. Well at least he was up until his dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. He did some Google research to figure out what all of the warning lights meant, but all roads pointed to taking his car into the dealer. After some diagnostics, the Toyota dealer hit [scoodidabop] with some bad news. He needed a new battery for his car, and he was going to have to pay almost $4,500 for it. Unfortunately the car had passed the manufacturer’s mileage warranty, so he was going to have to pay for it out-of-pocket.

[scoodidabop] is an electrician, so he’s obviously no stranger to electrical circuits. He had previously read about faulty Prius batteries, and how a single cell could cause a problem with the whole battery. [scoodidabop] figured it was worth testing this theory on his own battery since replacing a single cell would be much less expensive than buying an entire battery.

He removed the battery from his car, taking extra care not to electrocute himself. The cells were connected together using copper strips, so these were first removed. Then [scoodidabop] tested each cell individually with a volt meter. Every cell read a voltage within the normal range. Next he hooked up each cell to a coil of copper magnet wire. This placed a temporary load on the cell and [scoodidabop] could check the voltage drop to ensure the cells were not bad. Still, every cell tested just fine. So what was the problem?

[scoodidabop] noticed that the copper strips connecting the cells together were very corroded. He thought that perhaps this could be causing the issue. Having nothing to lose, he soaked each and every strip in vinegar. He then wiped down each strip with some steel wool and placed them into a baking soda bath to neutralize the vinegar. After an hour of this, he reassembled the battery and re-installed it into his car.

It was the moment of truth. [scoodidabop] started up his car and waited for the barrage of warning lights. They never came. The car was running perfectly. It turned out that the corroded connectors were preventing the car from being able to draw enough current. Simply cleaning them off with under $10 worth of supplies fixed the whole problem. Hopefully others can learn from this and save some of their own hard-earned money.