An EV Motor Controller Home Build

Many of us will have experimented with brushless motors, and some of us will have built our own controllers rather than using an off-the-shelf part. Doing so is a good way to understand their operation, and thus to design better brushless motor powered projects. Few of us will have gone as far as [etischer] though, and embarked upon building our own controller for a 300V 90kW traction motor.

The tricky part of a high power brushless motor controller lies not in the drive but in the high-power switching arrangements. He’s using a bank of IGBTs, and to drive them he’s using a smaller industrial variable frequency drive controller with its own output transistors removed. He takes us through some of the development of the system, including showing him blowing up a set of IGBTs through having too much inductance between transistors and reservoir capacitor, and then to his final design.

This is part of a project VW first converted ten years ago, and as part of a series of videos he’s produced one going through the whole project. It’s a fascinating breakdown of the parts required for an EV conversion, and the teething troubles he’s encountered along the way.

Continue reading “An EV Motor Controller Home Build”

FET Based Motor Driver Is Better Than L298N

If you want to build a small robot with a motor, you are likely to reach for an L298N to interface your microcontroller to the motor, probably in an H-bridge configuration. [Dronebot] has used L298N chips like this many times. In the video below, he uses a TB6612FNG instead, taking advantage of the device’s use of MOSFETs. The TB6612 may be a little more expensive, but it’s clearly worth it.

You can get breakout boards for the tiny chips. [DroneBot] looks at several ready-to-go breakout boards. They are not drop-in compatible, though. For example, the L298N can operate motors from 4.5 to 46V while the TB6612 can go from 2.5 to 13.5V on the motor voltage. The L298N also handles more current. However, because of its relatively low efficiency, it needs a heat sink. The TB6612 boasts up to 95% efficiency and also has a low current standby mode. Of course, the TB6612 drops much less voltage which is great if you are using low voltage motor.

Continue reading “FET Based Motor Driver Is Better Than L298N”

Spinning ESP32 Display Puts The Customer First

Most of the projects we feature on Hackaday are built for personal use; designed to meet the needs of the person creating them. If it works for somebody else, then all the better. But occasionally we may find ourselves designing hardware for a paying customer, and as this video from [Proto G] shows, that sometimes means taking the long way around.

The initial task he was given seemed simple enough: build a display that could spin four license plates around, and make it so the speed could be adjusted. So [Proto G] knocked a frame out of some sheet metal, and used an ESP32 to drive two RC-style electronic speed controllers (ESCs) connected to a couple of “pancake” brushless gimbal motors. Since there was no need to accurately position the license plates, it was just a matter of writing some code that would spin the motors in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Unfortunately, the customer then altered the deal. Now they wanted a stand that could stop on each license plate and linger for a bit before moving to the next one. Unfortunately, that meant the ESCs weren’t up to the task. They got dumped in favor of an ODrive motor controller, and encoders were added to the shafts so the ESP32 could keep track of the display’s position. [Proto G] says he still had to work out some kinks, such as how to keep the two motors synchronized and reduce backlash when the spinner stopped on a particular plate, but in the end we think the results look fantastic. Now if only we had some license plates we needed rotisseried…

If [Proto G] knew he needed precise positioning control from the start, he would have approached the project differently and saved himself a lot of time. But such is life when you’re working on contract.

Continue reading “Spinning ESP32 Display Puts The Customer First”

Phase Shift Pump Control? There’s An App For That.

The sort of pumps used in the filtration systems of fountains and swimming pools don’t take kindly to running dry. So putting such a pump on a simple timer to run while you’re away comes with a certain level of risk: if the pump runs out of water while you’re gone, you might come home to a melted mess. One possible solution is a float sensor to detect the water level in whatever you’re trying to pump, but that can get complicated when you’re talking about something as large as a pool.

For his entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Luc Brun] is working on controller that can detect when the pump is running dry by monitoring the phase shift between voltage and current. With an inductive load like a pump, the current should lag behind the AC voltage a bit under normal operation. But if they become too far out of phase with each other, that’s a sign that the pump is running in a no-load condition because there’s no water to slow it down.

As [Luc] explains in the project write-up, simply monitoring the pump’s peak current could work, but it would be less reliable. The problem is that different motors have different current consumptions, so unless you calibrated the controller to the specific load it’s protecting, you could get false readings. But the relationship between current and voltage should remain fairly consistent between different motors.

The controller is powered by a Arduino Nano and uses a ACS712 current sensor to take phase measurements. Since he had the ability to toggle the pump on and off with a relay attached to the Arduino, [Luc] decided to add in a few other features. The addition of a DS1307 Real Time Clock means the pump can be run on a schedule, and an HC-05 Bluetooth module lets him monitor the whole system from his smartphone with an Android application he developed.

Since the theme of this year’s Hackaday Prize is designing a product rather than a one-off build, judges will be looking for exactly the sort of forward thinking that [Luc] has demonstrated here. As the controller is currently a mass of individual modules held inside a waterproof enclosure, the next steps for this project will likely be the finalization of the hardware design and the production of a custom PCB.

Battle Tested Current Limiter For Cheap DC Motor Controllers

Running a brushed motor in muddy or dusty environments takes a toll on controllers, with both heavy back EMF and high stall currents. This explains one of the challenge in Europe’s Hacky Racer series, which is decidedly more off-road than America’s Power Racing Series.

In pushing these little electric vehicles to the limits, many builders use brushless Chinese scooter motors since they’re both available and inexpensive. Others take the brushed DC route if they’re lucky enough to score a motor — and then the challenge becomes getting the most performance without burning up your controller. To fix this, [MechanicalCat] has come up with a current limiter for cheap DC motor controllers.

Circuit protection added to motor controller

The full write-up is in the included PDF file, and describes the set-up of an Arduino Nano sitting between throttle and controller, and taking feedback from a current sensor. The controller in question is a 4QD Porter 10 so an extra component is a DC-to-DC converter to provide a floating ground for the Arduino. However, there is also the intriguing possibility of the same set-up being used with absurdly cheap Chinese motor controllers. There is also advice on fitting flyback diodes, something which might have saved one controller in the Hackaday pits last year.

It’s yet to be seen what effect this will have on Hacky Racer competitiveness, however its applications go far beyond that field into anywhere a reliable small DC motor drive on the cheap is required. Meanwhile, if you’re unsure where this Hacky Racer stuff came from, you could start here.

Completely Scratch-Built Electronic Speed Controller

Driving a brushless motor requires a particular sequence. For the best result, you need to close the loop so your circuit can apply the right sequence at the right time. You can figure out the timing using a somewhat complex circuit and monitoring the electrical behavior of the motor coils. Or you can use sensors to detect the motor’s position. Many motors have the sensors built in and [Electronoobs] shows how to drive one of these motors in a recent video that you can watch below. If you want to know about using the motor’s coils as sensors, he did a video on that topic, earlier.

The motor in question was pulled from an optical drive and has three hall effect sensors onboard. Having these sensors simplifies the drive electronics considerably.

Continue reading “Completely Scratch-Built Electronic Speed Controller”

A Faster Grave Digger For Your Child

Children love speed, but so few of those electric ride on toys deliver it. What’s a kid to do? Well, if [PoppaFixit]’s your dad, you’re in luck.

This project starts with an unusually cool Power Wheels toy, based on the famous Grave Digger monster truck. During the modification process, it was quickly realised that the original motor controller wasn’t going to cut the mustard. With only basic on/off control, it gave a very jerky ride and was harsh on the transmission components, too. [PoppaFixit] decided to upgrade to an off-the-shelf 24 V motor controller to give the car more finesse as well as speed. The controller came with a replacement set of pedals, both accelerator and brake, to replace the stock units. On the motor side, a couple of beefier Traxxas units were substituted for the weedy originals.

Acceleration is now much improved, not just due to the added power, but because the variable throttle allows the driver to avoid wheelspin on hard launches. It also makes the car much more comfortable and safe to drive, thanks to the added controllability. Another way to tell the project was a success is the look of pure joy on the new owner’s face!

This was a fairly basic install, very accessible to the novice. These sort of electric vehicle hop-ups are commonplace enough that there are a wide variety of suppliers who sell easy-to-use kits for this sort of work. For that reason, we’ve seen plenty of hacks of this sort – like this modified scooter, or these Power Wheels set up for racing.

Continue reading “A Faster Grave Digger For Your Child”