Did I accidentally piss on a sacred idol? Have I offended a mighty shaman? Have I backed down on a pixie in my driveway? I had to Something like that because how else to explain my bad luck?
First of all, a stupid deer and my Pao met, quickly and violently, and now my once foolproof small inexpensive electrical box, the Changli, let me down for the first time in over a year of ownership. What have I done to deserve this?
Does Elon Musk do this to me with some kind of shittification beam from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit? I should probably check it out.
So here’s what happened: TThe other night I took out the Changli for a quick run to the grocery store. A craving for Rice Krispie treats was detected by the other two members of my family, and it was made clear that this was a dire situation. So, okay, I’m always happy to have an excuse to really open up the Changli and leave those 1.1s (is it really plural? It’s more than one, but less than two. Hmmm.) galloping horses.
Halfway to the store, I felt a strange little jerk while I was driving; I was on a flat stretch of road, with the pedal on the ground – in Changli, the pedal is always to the ground if your goal is forward movement, but the car has continued just fine.
Shortly after, I started to smell something like ozone, with maybe a hint of burning, and I started to worry. Soon after, the cabin began to fill with smoke and the Changli lost power.
The battery indicator fell to a bar, then a blink block, then empty, followed by the dashboard shutting down and full force fading away. I pulled off the road and got out of the car, looking for the source of the smoke.
I lifted the seat, which exposed the battery compartment, and found the source of the combustion:
These were the pieces of cardboard that the Changli factory used as a kind of cheap – well, really, free – insulation between the battery posts and the seat.
We show it quite clearly in our technical explanation of Changli, and at the time, I thought it was kinda funny and clever. An interesting and extremely economical solution. I realize now that this is also kind of a terrible idea.
Why? Because cardboard burns and batteries can get hot. If you get a short or some other fault like I did that causes the battery terminals to heat up, it’s probably not a good idea to have what is effectively an ignition directly in contact with these terminals. . Some kind of flame retardant material would have been much better, but sure, it would have cost real money. Maybe they could at least coat the cardboard with a thin layer of asphalt or something?
So yeah I had a fire start about three inches right under my ass. Not great.
I had to call my wife and ask her to drive the Tiguan to me, and I used a tow strap to hitch the Changli behind the VW to pull it residence. I rode in the Changli to apply the brake, because the tow strap is flexible, and let me tell you that riding about three feet behind the Tiguan, at night, at speeds up to, oh, 20 mph, was absolutely annoying. .
The Changli only has small drum brakes on the rear wheels, so I was constantly afraid of hitting the rear of the Tiguan. I was on the speakerphone with my wife all the time, and had many conversations like this:
Me: To slow down! Holy shit, please slow down! I feel like I’m about to slam on you!
Spouse: I drive at 10 miles an hour!
Me: Truly? We feel much faster. I see nothing. It’s better. Hhow fast are we going now?
Me: Its good. How fast are we going?
Spouse: (obvious disgust in voice) Eight.
We made it home safely, and despite locking the Changli’s rear wheels a few times, everything went well.
I’ve had a bit of time to watch it and try to figure out what happened, and here’s what I’ve found so far: The batteries themselves look good. I checked the voltages with a meter, individually and collectively, and all read exactly what I expected: just over 12 volts for individuals and 64 volts for the entire setup.
Yes Tthe batteries themselves look good. I checked the motor controller and the junction box which is quite a bowl of wire ramen, but nothing seemed fried. I then checked around the battery compartment by the source of the small fire, and I think I found the culprit:
Ah. Yeah, that doesn’t sound great. It looks like these two wire bundles have shorted against each other. Now was it because of some crappy isolation and grouping (not shocking, pun intended, weirdly), or was the insulation compromised because the wires were overheated? I am not sure.
Either way, it looks like a pretty close to the mark failure for the Changli. if it is true it turns out the problem was some crappy electrical tape.
I guess the next step is to take the wire bundles, cut off all the damaged pieces, carefully reassemble everything, and guess what happens?
Maybe I’ll get lucky, and this short film was causing all the problems. Maybe the other fried components that I can’t even see? Maybe this is the opportunity I need to do some upgrades?
I guess we’ll find out. The Changli has been incredibly problem free in the almost a year and a half that I have had it. and required almost no maintenance so I guess it deserved a breakdown.
Hope this is an easy fix. I actually use this ridiculous thing!