Bafang Headlight Circuit Current Limit

Having just replaced Rev 1 of the amber running light with Rev 3 (about which, more later) on Mary’s Tour Easy, both the front and rear lights began blinking erratically. Given that they have completely independent circuitry, this strongly suggests a power problem.

Herewith, the headlight circuit voltage:

Bafang headlight voltage - two 1 W running lights
Bafang headlight voltage – two 1 W running lights

The voltage should be a constant 6 or 6.3 V, depending on which description you most recently read. That is the case with only one light attached, so the problem occurs only when running both lights.

The four pulses come from the amber LED’s Morse code “b” (dah-dit-dit-dit) with a 85 ms dits; the first dah pulse should be three times longer than the dits and definitely isn’t. The rear light’s red LED stays on continuously, except for two dark dits, so it draws a constant current and does not produce any changes in this trace.

Both lights have 2.0 Ω sense resistors setting the LED current to 400 mA, which corresponds to 250 mA each from the Bafang controller’s 6.3 V headlight circuit. The headlight circuit’s total of 500 mA should work fine, although the “spec” seems to be basically whatever the OEM headlight requires.

The Rev 1 amber light ran the LED at 360 mA with a supply current around 450 mA. That light and the rear light on the back ran fine, so the supply seems to have a hard maximum current limit at (a bit less than?) 500 mA.

The least-awful solution seems to be backing off both LED currents to 360 mA to keep the total supply current well under 500 mA.

UPS SLA Battery Status

The UPS coddling the M2 printer began complaining about a bad battery, so I ran (nearly) all the UPS batteries through the tester:

UPS SLA 2021-10-10

The two blue flubs in the lower left come from the failed battery, with the dotted trace after charging to 13.7 V and letting the current drop to 20 mA.

The red and green traces come from two other UPS batteries installed in 2016, with the dotted traces after charging similarly. The orange-ish trace is from the battery in a Cyberpower UPS bought in 2016, so it looks like all batteries of that vintage fade equally.

Except for another pair of batteries in another UPS that had discharged stone cold dead; it may have been shut down and unplugged during a power outage and they never quite recovered.

After five years, it’s time to refresh the fleet …

Running Light Waveforms: A Closer Look

A test setup on the bench allows a bit more room for probes:

1 W Amber LED - MP1584 pulse setup
1 W Amber LED – MP1584 pulse setup

Some heatsink tape holds the LED to the far side of that oversize heatsink.

The input signal (top trace) arrives from a function generator set to blip the MP1584 regulator’s Enable input at 4 Hz with a 7 ms pulse:

Amber 1 w LED - pulse 200 mA-div
Amber 1 w LED – pulse 200 mA-div

The purple trace is the voltage across the 2 Ω sense resistor. The MP1584 datasheet says the regulator soft-starts for (typically) 1.5 ms, during which the output ramps upward at 600 mV/ms to 800 mV , whereupon the actual regulation commences. The amber LED forward drop adds 2.5 V to the sense voltage, so the regulator produces 3.3 V from the 6.3 V bench supply input.

The cyan trace is the output current through the LED and sense resistor, also ramping up to 800 mV/2 Ω = 400 mA to drive the LED at 1 W.

The furry section shows when the regulator is actively regulating, with the output voltage rising and falling over a small range to maintain the average current (via the sense voltage). Successive Enable pulses may have longer, shorter, or completely missing fur, with no predictable pattern. Increasing the duty cycle doesn’t affect the results, with the fur sometimes extending for the entire pulse and sometimes being completely missing.

I think the regulator can settle in one of two metastable states. The best case has a constant voltage producing a constant LED current, with the sense voltage remaining within whatever deadband keeps the error amplifier happy. When something knocks the sense voltage out of the deadband, the error amp starts the usual regulation cycle, which will stop when the minimum or maximum voltage of a cycle remains within the deadband:

Amber 1 w LED - pulse - detail - 200 mA-div
Amber 1 w LED – pulse – detail – 200 mA-div

The ripple shows the regulator running at three cycles per 20 µs division = 150 kHz, far lower then the MP1584 datasheet’s maximum 1.5 MHz and the typical 500 kHz in the test circuits. Perhaps a low frequency lets the designers use a cheap PCB and not worry about pesky EMI issues.

In any event, during this pulse the ripple amplitude gradually decreased as the output voltage settled at the point where the error voltage variation stayed within the deadband. The typical amp gain is only 200 V/V, so it’s definitely less fussy than something build around an op amp.

For whatever it’s worth, a 7 ms flash from a 1 W amber LED at 4 Hz is way attention-getting in a dim Basement Laboratory. You wouldn’t need an Arduino to produce that signal, even though I like the Morse capability.

BatMax NP-BX1 Status

The Sony HDR-AX30V helmet camera puts far more demands on its battery than the Planet Bike Superflash:

Batmax NP-BX1 - 2021-09 vs 2020-03
Batmax NP-BX1 – 2021-09 vs 2020-03

The four traces on the right show the BatMax NP-BX1 lithium batteries (cells, really) originally stored about 3 W·h when they arrived in March 2020. The four solid traces to their left show the capacity dropped to a little over 2 W·h after two riding seasons. Batteries B and C started out above average and are now below, for whatever that means.

The red dotted trace shows the effect of not using the NP-BX1 test holder for that length of time; those homebrew contact pins apparently needed some exercise.

Panasonic Eneloop AAA NiMH: Four Years of Blinking

Having replaced the Planet Bike Superflash on Mary’s Tour Easy with a 1 W red LED, testing the eight Panasonic Eneloop AAA cells that have been powering it (and the one on my bike) for the last four years seemed useful:

Panasonic Eneloop AAA - 2021-09 vs 2017-04
Panasonic Eneloop AAA – 2021-09 vs 2017-04

The sheaf of curves over on the right came from the first full charge, with the untidy collection below them show the current state after a full charge. This is at an unreasonably high 500 mA discharge.

The overall capacity has dropped by 10%, which isn’t all that bad, but the 10% voltage reduction toward the end of the curves is a Bad Thing for an LED flasher intended to run from 1.5 V alkaline cells. In practice, I recharge the batteries once a week while they are still going strong, but the difference between alkalines and NiMH cells is obvious even at full charge.

Now I can run four pairs through the aging Superflash on my bike …

Tour Easy Rear Running Light: Current Waveforms

There’s just enough slack in the LED wiring to clip a Tek current probe in there:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - regulator wiring
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – regulator wiring

Which reveals the LED current waveform:

Red LED - LED current - 100 mA-div
Red LED – LED current – 100 mA-div

The LED is on continuously, except for the two 75 ms Morse code dits in the upper trace.

The lower trace shows the current ramping up at the end of the first dit, from zero to 400 mA in 1.5 ms.

Clamping the probe around the 6.3 V power supply lead:

Red LED - power supply - 100 mA-div
Red LED – power supply – 100 mA-div

The supply current includes maybe 20 mA for the Arduino running the Morse code program and the current ramps up from there to about 250 mA when the LED is on.

The LED drops 2.6 V at 400 mA, so it dissipates a smidge over 1 W. The 2.0 Ω current sense resistor (3.3 Ω in parallel with 5.1 Ω) dissipates 800 mV × 400 mA = 320 mW.

The dissipation from the Bafang headlight output, including the Arduino, is 1.6 W.

The running light ticks along at the hot side of comfortably warm on the Electronics Workbench and runs barely warm in free air out on the bike, so I’ll define it to be Good Enough™.

Tour Easy Rear Running Light: First Light!

The rear running light definitely has an industrial look:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - installed
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – installed

The front of the light has plenty of clearance from the seat mesh:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - installed side view
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – installed side view

Out on the road, the 1 W LED appears about as bright as automotive running lights:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - tunnel
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – tunnel

The blink pattern makes it perfectly visible in sunlight, although I’d prefer somewhat larger optics:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - sunlight
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – sunlight

In shaded conditions, it’s downright conspicuous:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - shade
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – shade

At any reasonable distance, the 10° beam covers much of the road behind the bike:

Tour Easy Rear Running Light - distant
Tour Easy Rear Running Light – distant

You may not know what the occulting red light represents, but something ahead is worthy of your attention.

The Arduino source code producing the two dits:

// Tour Easy Running Light
// Ed Nisley - KE4ZNU
// September 2021

#include <morse.h>

#define PIN_OUTPUT  13

// second param: true = active low output
LEDMorseSender Morser(PIN_OUTPUT,true,(float)10.0);

void setup()
{
    Morser.setup();

    Morser.setMessage(String("qst de ke4znu "));
    Morser.sendBlocking();

//    Morser.setWPM((float)3.0);
    Morser.setSpeed(75);
    Morser.setMessage(String("i   "));
}

void loop()
{
    if (!Morser.continueSending())
        Morser.startSending();

}

Looks good to me, anyhow.