Lithium Jump Starter Disassembly Is Revealing

High-capacity lithium batteries tend to make everything in life better. No longer must you interact with your fellow human beings if your car battery goes flat in the carpark. You can jump the car yourself, with a compact device that fits in your glovebox. [Big Clive] decided to pull one apart and peek inside, and it’s quite the illuminating experience.

The first thing to note is there is almost no protection at all for the lithium battery inside. The output leads connect the lithium pack inside directly to the car battery, save for some diodes in series to prevent the car’s alternator backcharging the pack. [Clive] demonstrates this by short circuiting the pack, using a copper pipe as a test load to measure the current output. The pack briefly delivers 500 amps before the battery gives up the ghost, with one of the cells swelling up and releasing the magic smoke.

The teardown then continues, with [Clive] gingerly peeling back the layers of insulation around the cells, getting right down to the conductive plates inside. It’s a tough watch, but thankfully nothing explodes and [Clive]’s person remains intact. If you’ve never seen inside a lithium cell before, this is a real treat. The opened pack is even connected to a multimeter and squeezed to show the effect of the physical structure on output.

It would be interesting to compare various brands of jump starter; we imagine some have more protection than others. Regardless, be aware that many on the market won’t save you from yourself. Be careful out there, and consider jumping your car with an even more dangerous method instead (but don’t). Video after the break.

Continue reading “Lithium Jump Starter Disassembly Is Revealing”

A Lemon Battery Via 3D Printing

There are a whole bunch of high school science experiments out there that are useful for teaching students the basics of biology, physics, and chemistry. One of the classics is the lemon battery. [iqless] decided to have a play with the idea, and whipped up a little something for his students.

The basic lemon battery is remarkably simple. Lemon juice provides the electrolyte, while copper and and zinc act as electrodes. This battery won’t have a hope of charging your Tesla, but you might get enough juice to light an LED or small bulb (pun intended).

[iqless] considered jamming electrodes directly into lemons to be rather unsophisticated. Instead, an electrolyte tray was 3D printed. The tray can be filled with lemon juice (either hand-squeezed or straight from a bottle) and the tray has fixtures to hold copper pennies and zinc-plated machine screws to act as the electrodes. The tray allows several cells to be constructed and connected in series or parallel, giving yet further teaching opportunities.

It’s a fun twist on a classroom staple, and we think there are great possibilities here for further experimentation with alternative electrolytes and electrode materials. We’d also love to see a grown-up version with a large cascade of cells in series for lemon-based high voltage experiments, but that might be too much to ask. There’s great scope for using modern maker techniques in classroom science – we’ve discussed variations on the egg drop before. Video after the break.

Continue reading “A Lemon Battery Via 3D Printing”

Shred The Gnar Without Paddling For Waves

[Ben Gravy] isn’t your average pro surfer. For one thing, he lives in New Jersey instead of someplace like Hawaii or Australia, and for another he became famous not for riding the largest waves but rather for riding the weirdest ones. He’s a novelty wave hunter, but some days even the obscure surf spots aren’t breaking. For that, he decided to build a surfboard that doesn’t need waves. (Video, embedded below the break.)

The surfboard that [Ben] used for this project isn’t typical either. It’s made out of foam without any fiberglass, which makes the board less expensive than a traditional surfboard. The propulsion was handled by an electric trolling motor and was hooked up to a deep cycle battery mounted in the center of the board in a waterproof box. The first prototype ended up sinking though, as most surfboards can’t support the weight of a single person on their own without waves even without all the equipment that he bolted to it.

After some reworking, [Ben] was able to realize his dream of riding a surfboard without any waves. It’s not fast, but the amount of excitement that he had proves that it works and could fool most of us. This hack has everything, too: a first prototype that didn’t work exactly right and was fixed with duct tape, electricity used in a semi-dangerous way, and solving a problem we didn’t know we had. We hope he builds a second, faster one as well.

Continue reading “Shred The Gnar Without Paddling For Waves”

Epsom Salts Restores Lead Acid Battery

Despite a lot of advances in battery technology, lead acid batteries are still used in many applications due to cost and their ability to provide a lot of surge current. But they don’t last forever. However, [AvE] shows that in some cases a failed battery can be restored with — of all things — epsom salts. If it makes you feel funny to use the stuff grandpa soaks in when he has a backache, you can call it magnesium sulfate.

You can find a complete explanation in the video below (which includes [AvE’s] very colorful language), but fundamentally, the magnesium sulfate dissolves lead sulfate build-up on the battery plates. The fix is usually temporary because this build-up occurs with other failure mechanisms like plate material shedding and collecting at the bottom of the battery. Obviously, epsom salt can’t repair damaged plates or do any other magic cure.

Continue reading “Epsom Salts Restores Lead Acid Battery”

Fail of the Week: How Not to Electric Vehicle

If you ever doubt the potential for catastrophe that mucking about with electric vehicles can present, check out the video below. It shows what can happen to a couple of Tesla battery modules when due regard to safety precautions isn’t paid.

The video comes to us by way of [Rich], a gearhead with a thing for Teslas. He clearly knows his way around the EV world, having rebuilt a flood-soaked Tesla, and aspires to open an EV repair shop. The disaster stems from a novelty vehicle he and friend [Lee] bought as a side project. The car was apparently once a Disney prop car, used in parades with the “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” theme. It was powered by six 6-volt golf cart batteries, which let it maintain a stately, safe pace on a crowded parade route. [Rich] et al would have none of that, and decided to plop a pair of 444-cell Tesla modules into it. The reduced weight and increased voltage made it a real neck-snapper, but the team unwisely left any semblance of battery management out of the build.

You can guess what happened next, or spin up to the 3:00 mark in the video to watch the security camera mayhem. It’s not clear what started the fire, but the modules started cooking off batteries like roman candles. Quick action got it pushed outside to await the fire department, but the car was a total loss long before they showed up. Luckily no other cars in the garage were damaged, nor were there any injuries – not that the car didn’t try to take someone out, including putting a flaming round into [Lee]’s chest and one into the firetruck’s windshield.

[Rich] clearly knew he was literally playing with fire, and paid the price. The lesson here is to respect the power of these beefy batteries, even when you’re just fooling around.

Continue reading “Fail of the Week: How Not to Electric Vehicle”

Pedal Far With A Solar Powered Tricycle

More and more electric bikes have been rolling out into the streets lately as people realize how inexpensive and easy they are to ride and use when compared to cars. They can also be pedaled like a normal bike, so it’s still possible to get some exercise with them too. Most have a range somewhere around 10-30 miles depending on battery size, weight, and aerodynamics, but with a few upgrades such as solar panels it’s possible to go much, much further on a charge.

[The Rambling Shepherd] had a tricycle (in the US, generally still considered a bicycle from a legal standpoint) that he had already converted to electric with a hub motor and battery, and was getting incredible range when using it to supplement his manual pedaling. He wanted to do better, though, and decided to add a few solar panels to his build. His first attempt didn’t fare so well as the 3D-printed mounts for the panel failed, but with a quick revision his second attempt survived a 50-mile trip. Even more impressive, he only had his battery half charged at the beginning of the journey but was still able to make it thanks to the added energy from the panels.

If you’re thinking that this looks familiar, we recently featured a tandem tricycle that was making a solar-powered trip from Europe to China with a similar design. It has the advantage of allowing the rider to pedal in the shade, and in a relatively comfortable riding position compared to a normal bike. Future planned upgrades include an MPPT charge controller to improve the efficiency of the panels.

Continue reading “Pedal Far With A Solar Powered Tricycle”

Homebrew Battery Discharger

Rechargable batteries are great – they save money and hassle when using portable devices. It’s pretty common to want to recharge a battery, but less common to intentionally discharge one. Regardless, [Pawel Spychalski] is working on a device to do just that – in a controlled fashion, of course.

[Pawel] himself notes that the device isn’t something the average person would necessarily need, but it does have its applications. There are times when working with various battery chemistries that it is desired to have them held at a certain state of charge. Also, such devices can be used to measure the capacity of batteries by timing how long they take to discharge when placed under a given load.

The build is one that takes advantage of the available parts of the modern hacker’s junkbox. An Arduino is used with an N-channel MOSFET to switch a resistive load. That load consists of load resistors designed for automotive use, to allow cars originally designed for filament bulbs to use LED indicator lights without the flash frequency speeding up. The resistors are 10 ohms and rated at 50 W, so they’re just about right for ganging up to discharge small LiPo batteries in a short period of time.

[Pawel] has tested the basic concept, and has things working. Next on the agenda is to find a way to get rid of the excess heat, as the current design has the resistors reaching temperatures of 158 °F (70 °C) in just a few minutes. Use some of that power to drive a fan?

Perhaps you’re working with lead acid batteries, though – in which chase, you might want to consider blasting away the sulphates?