Sorry for not writing much this month. After more than a week of successful commuting on the electric scooter, there was the situation on the 7th that brought it to a halt for a week. While waiting for word from Current Motor about the health of the scooter’s battery, I commuted by car instead while finishing up some things at work before taking two weeks of time off before I lost them.
So, despite still not knowing what caused the circuit breaker to trip on the 7th, what I have learned since then is:
- If the system that monitors the battery detects a problem and doesn’t know the cause, it appears to make an assumption about the state of the battery being at 0% (empty), but lets the rider ride very slowly at low power with whatever juice is left in the battery.
- The battery monitoring system continues under its assumption until it learns that the battery has been fully recharged. This cannot happen until recharging is attempted, so between the circuit breaker tripping and plugging the scooter in, the scooter assumed that it was low in power and proactively prevented the rider from aggressively draining what was left by allowing only low acceleration and possibly low maximum speeds (I conservatively traveled no faster than 20 mph) in order to maximize what was left of the battery’s range.
- Storing the scooter with the circuit breaker turned off but the master switch turned on is a recipe for draining the battery, not preserving it. Nothing in the Owner’s Manual explicitly described the consequences of my actions, but it was clear from the reply from Current Motor to my description of the situation that I had made a mistake in not turning both switches off. An inaccurate but illustrative analogy to gasoline vehicles might be to leaving the ignition key in the Accessories position and running the headlights and radio until the car battery died, making it impossible for the engine to be started. To continue the analogy, I should have turned the key to the Off position and taken the key completely out of the ignition so that the accessories couldn’t drain the battery.
- Once the battery was recharged to 100%, the battery monitoring system was able to update its information about the battery’s stat. The dashboard then stopped displaying warnings and instead displayed an accurate charge percentage.
So what is my current situation?
- The scooter’s main battery can be recharged, and I have done so through the normal means: plugging it into the wall.
- The scooter was running well enough to return me home with 75% remaining. I was surprised that it took 25 whole percent to get me home from my parents’ place, 1/3rd of the way to work, when the whole commute normally drains 33% of the battery. However, what I haven’t mentioned yet was that on the ride home, the rear tire was flat. I am a bad boy and don’t regularly check tire pressure. On any of my vehicles. Usually something has to go wrong to make me check. In this case, my parents, who followed me home just to make sure I didn’t get stranded on the road again between two steep hills (in the valley on the left side of the elevation profile of my commute), noticed that my tire was flat. Being stopped at an intersection when I was informed of this, I was on the bike and couldn’t twist around to see the tire very well, so I just though it was low, rather than flat, and pressed on. I did notice a difference in the handling: the scooter seemed to accelerate poorly, had a lower top speed, and rear tire seemed a little sluggish in turns, but until I got the scooter home and measured the pressure, I didn’t really know just how bad it was. The pressure gauge (an analog one) didn’t actually register any pressure at all! I am surprised that I got home without a puncture. The tire was unusually warm after that ride, warmer than the front tire. Probably this low pressure made the motor work harder to get the bike up to speed.
- The scooter’s motor can be run from the recharged battery, which I proved to myself by taking a mile-long ride near my neighborhood.
- The digital dashboard’s battery is, however, still at 0%. The circuit breaker Off, main switch On situation seems to have brought this about. Current Motor says that the main battery cannot be used to recharge the digital dashboard’s memory. Shock! To overcome this problem, they will send me instructions after the holidays for how to recharge the digital dashboard. This makes me wonder how the digital dashboard’s battery lasted this long in the first place. I usually have to recharge my phone every night due to heavy network usage through e-mail inbox synching. What power the digital dashboard draws is likely much less than what my app-happy phone draws, but I still wonder whether there’s some way that the scooter can trickle recharge the digital dashboard’s battery like a car recharges its accessory battery while the car’s engine is running. Still, even though the digital dashboard is out of power, the secondary LCD screen on the dashboard is still able to display battery charge state, speed, and the odometer, so it’s still street legal.
- And finally, I’m taking two weeks of vacation at the end of the year, so there’s no need to commute. The weather’s been kind of wet and depressing, so I haven’t been proactively riding as much as I could have made excuses to, either. Took the car to the town’s post office to mail off some cards, for example. It’s hard to rebuild trust in something that fails you, but I should’ve been more proactive in giving it a chance to redeem itself. That said, and speaking of batteries—I haven’t ridden my Boulevard C50T in over a month, so it might need to get out and stretch its legs a little. While there’s snow in the Cascade foothills, there’s none on the ground locally, and I do still see motorcyclists out and about, so there’s opportunity, even if I’m feeling a little lazy about suiting up.
As an aside, my friend who had a Nissan LEAF for over a year, recently experienced her first battery problem at around this time: for some reason, her accessory battery (the same kind of car battery that a gasoline car has) had died, and as a result, she was unable to boot the LEAF to make it go.
Shock! Why a car full of batteries can’t charge the flat smaller battery from its much larger battery makes no sense to me, either.
My friend’s problem was solved in the same way that you solve this problem in a gasoline car: you jump it (draw power from another vehicle’s battery). Once the LEAF’s onboard computers could boot using the power provided by the jump, it was then able to make a controlled recharge of the accessory battery from the traction motor battery (the battery that makes the car move) after just 20 minutes of being parked in accessory mode. I suppose that an uncontrolled flow of electricity from the traction motor battery to the accessory battery would fry the smaller battery, if not damage the car’s electrical system in other ways.