This Month In EV, April 2016

Early on in the month, the team designed and installed a buzzer system in the Datsun connected to the BMS that warns the driver when a cell drops below a specified voltage. This was part of the solution to the problem we faced in March at the Spring Thaw Event where the batteries overheated and reached almost unrecoverable low voltages. Since we lost a few batteries at the Spring Thaw Event, the team put 12 more batteries in the front of the Datsun, bringing the car’s voltage up to around 176 V, the highest it is allowed to be for competitions and the highest it’s ever been in any of our cars. During this time we also reshaped one of the bottom side panels on the Datsun that had gotten a little beat up in one of the autocross runs from last month. We also continued to charge the car in preparation for the Herald Miller Invitational.

In the middle of April, the team traveled to North Carolina to participate in the Herald Miller Invitational, a substitute event created in place of the EV Challenge. To read more about that, click this link: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/the-herald-miller-invitational/.

Towards the end of April, the team charged the Datsun and worked on minor things while also planning events and meetings for the future. We plan on taking the Datsun to the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School’s Award Picnic in May to show off our work to other students, parents, and members of the community.

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The Herald Miller Invitational

The Herald Miller Invitational, a new event created by multiple team mentors to replace the postponed EV Challenge so that the teams had a year-end event to showcase all their hard work, took place April 14-15 at NCCAR. The SVGS EV team met early Thursday morning to load up the car and head down to North Carolina. We arrived with the Datsun around 8:45 and began unloading the car and talking to other team members about their cars and STEM cycles.

A morning meeting took place around 10 to plan out the activities that would take place at the event, taking into consideration what each team wanted to do. After the morning meeting, we broke into groups that mixed members of different teams together to do student-lead inspections of the vehicles. These inspections involved examining the safety, creativity, and ingenuity of the cars to give teams scores out of 200. The Datsun received an impressive score of 192/200.

The SVGS team then set up an autocross course and timing equipment for all of the teams to use. All members of our team drove the Datsun impressively well, getting the best times of the day on the course. Ben got the top two times, Eric got the 3rd and 4th best times, and Emily got the 5th best time. At the end of the day, we set up our car to charge overnight so that we would be ready to continue racing on Friday.

Throughout the day, a reporter from a local newspaper called The Daily Herald interviewed teams and gathered information about the event. To read the article, see our post announcing the mentioning here: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/the-ev-team-was-mentioned-in-the-daily-herald/.

On Friday morning, Eric, Ben, and Byron headed to the main research building to participate in a troubleshooting event while Emily stayed with the car to monitor charging. The troubleshooting event was a class and practice session for teams to use troubleshooting boards to find and isolate problems within circuits.

After the troubleshooting class, all of the teams headed down to the track to participate in an altered autocross course from Thursday. The Datsun performed well again but the best times were earned by West Wilkes High School’s Miata, an incredible car that performed really well. To read more about the WWHS team and their car, check out their website [http://wwhsev.weebly.com/whats-going-on]. To read about Topsail’s team, a great team that brought two cars and a STEM cycle to the event, go to their website [http://www.kickngas.org/].

Throughout the day on Friday, a crew from itsourair.org followed the teams around to learn more about the program, do filmed interviews with members of the team, and get shots of the cars in action. itsourair.org works to put together educational videos and curriculum to be used for education in classrooms all over North Carolina. When the footage is put on their website, we will put up an announcement with a link to their footage from the event.

The team made it home late Friday night and unloaded the car. Overall, the Herald Miller Invitational was a great event and each member of the team had an incredible time. We can’t wait to get together with all of the teams that attended again in the Fall at the EV Challenge.

This Month in EV, March 2016

March has been an exciting month for the electric vehicle team! The team took a trip down to NCCAR in North Carolina to participate in the Spring Thaw Event and also showcased the cars to the community at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School Open House. The article for the Spring Thaw Event can be seen here:¬†https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/ev-spring-thaw-event-2016/ and the article for the SVGS Open House is available here: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/ev-team-at-the-svgs-open-house/.

Aside from the big events that the team has been participating in, the team has been working on fixing the batteries in the Datsun after the overheating problem that was faced at NCCAR. The solution to this problem was to remove the cover that used to be over the main pack of batteries because it held in heat. We will also be checking the temperature more often during racing to determine if further action needs to be taken before problems becomes too serious.

After the Spring Thaw Event, the seat belt for the passenger seat in the Datsun had to be fixed because it came loose. It was an easy fix that only took one meeting to complete.

A main focus of the team has been collecting and analyzing data from the battery management system while the car is running. We have experimented with and decided on shut off values for current, voltage, and temperature to prevent drivers from running the batteries past dangerous points. In addition to creating these shut off points, team members installed a buzzer to warn the driver when the lowest cell drops below 1.5 volts.

EV Spring Thaw Event 2016

The EV team headed to Garysburg, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in NCCAR’s Spring Thaw Event. The event was designed to be an opportunity for teams to get practice in events such as autocross and acceleration. Half the team left for the event around 6:30 PM Thursday night with the Datsun so that they could get to the track early the next morning. The rest of the team joined up at NCCAR around 4:30 on Friday. The Porsche did not join the team on this trip as it is still in the process of being converted from lead acid to lithium ion batteries.

On Friday, the team designed and set up an autocross course for all of the teams to practice on. The Datsun ran well, averaging times around a minute and twenty-five seconds on a relatively long course that included a slalom, chicago box, and 360. In the evening, the batteries started to weaken and when the team checked them they were reaching dangerous temperatures of around 130 degrees Fahrenheit and voltages on about 7 of them had dropped to 0, making them useless.

To handle this tense and upsetting situation, members of the team pulled an all-nighter, working on cooling the batteries, taking out the worn down packs, salvaging batteries, and wiring new packs in. The team also charged the main pack of batteries overnight so that the car could hopefully race again in the morning.

On Saturday, the team spent the morning finishing up the Datsun and getting it to run again. Overall, the voltage dropped from 144V to about 130V with the removal of 4 cells. The team continued to practice on the autocross course throughout the morning, stopping every couple of run throughs to check on how the batteries were holding up both in relation to charge and temperature. The team ended the event with a debriefing of how it went and what needs to be done in the future to prepare for the EV Challenge in April.

Overall, the weekend was a great experience for everyone on the team. Every body got a chance to drive, giving some new members the opportunity to drive the car for the first time. We also had a passenger seat which gave people the opportunity to ride along as the car dodged (and sometimes hit) cones. The team did a great job of keeping positive attitudes in times of stress and hardship when the discovery was made that the batteries had been damaged and was able to put all the things they’ve learned this year to work under a large amount of pressure. The team made connections with members of other teams, talked with people connected to NCCAR, and even got to see a solar powered car brought to the event by a college team.

The team will eagerly continue working on bettering their cars for the EV Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina in April with hopes of bringing a powerful Datsun and a lithium ion-powered Porsche.

2015 EV Neat Rally

The team met dark and early for the 2015 EV Neat Rally at 4:30 am on Friday. We hitched the trailer to the back of the truck, packed up all our gear, and left for the NCCAR facility in North Carolina at around 5:00 am. At the event, the team listened to several seminars including troubleshooting, battery chemistry, sponsorship/outreach, and STEM cycle construction. For official design and safety regulations regarding the STEM cycle, click here. Later in the day, all the teams from the participating schools were scrambled into groups of three for a pit-crew competition which entailed using an air wrench to swap two tires on a jacked car. Members from the SVGS EV team scored first and third place in the competition. On Saturday, the team designed an autocross track for all the schools to practice on in an unofficial competition.  Team members drove the Porsche and gained experience with basic handling, manual transmissions, and even worked our way up to drifting around sharp corners . We departed from the event at around 2:00 pm.

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SVGS EV Team Goes to NC EV Challenge

Team members show off their second place overall trophy from the North Carolina EV Challenge event
Team members show off their second place overall trophy from the North Carolina EV Challenge event

On April 24-26, the SVGS Electric Vehicle team went down to North Carolina to participate in the 2015 EV Challenge at NCCAR (North Carolina Center for Automotive Research). The team competed in events such as autocross, acceleration, range, vehicle design, oral presentation, EV jeopardy, and troubleshooting; the team received recognition in many of these categories. Each team member got a chance to work on their driving skills on the track and expand their knowledge of electric vehicles by talking to members and mentors of other teams at the competition.

The team showed two cars this year: the Datsun 240Z and the Porsche 911. The 240Z performed on ~150V of Lithium Ion batteries while the Porsche ran on Lead Acid batteries. Future plans for the cars include the installation of new battery management systems on both and the conversion of the Porsche to Lithium Ion batteries.

Photo of all the teams and electric vehicles at the EV Challenge
Photo of all the teams and electric vehicles at the EV Challenge

Specific awards received by the team include:

2nd in the modified division

2nd in the autocross

3rd in the vehicle design category

3rd in the acceleration

3rd in the range event