BatMax vs. Newmowa NP-BX1 Camera Batteries: 2022

Two years ago, a quartet of new BatMax NP-BX1 batteries performed about as well as could be expected and, by last fall, had deteriorated about as much as expected:

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

In round numbers, the total capacity declined from 3.25 W·hr to 2.5 W·hr, which means a single battery can’t quite power the camera for the duration of our normal hour-long rides. I do not know what voltage trips the camera’s decision, but the batteries definitely shut down sooner.

So, based on their previous track record, I bought another quartet of Batmax batteries. Being that type of guy, I tested both the old (2020) and new (2022) sets:

NP-BX1 - BatMax 2022 vs 2020 - used-new
NP-BX1 – BatMax 2022 vs 2020 – used-new

The blue traces are the C/D batteries from the as-new tests back in early 2020, the green traces are C/D after two years of use, and the red traces are the “new” quartet after their first charge in the Official BatMax Charger.

It looks very much like BatMax is selling used batteries repackaged as new items, because they are indistinguishable from my used ones. They definitely are not the “Premium Grade A cells” touted in the description.

I returned them for a refund and sent the test results to BatMax; they sent “new replacements” even though I said I would not pay for any future shipments. The batteries had a slightly different wrapper, but the test results were still indistinguishable from used batteries. I offered to return the package and was told that would not be needed.

Just a few more batteries for the blinkies.

So I bought a trio of NP-BX1 batteries from Newmowa, an Amazon supplier with a few more vowels than usual, and repeated the exercise:

NP-BX1 - Newmowa 2022 ABC - 2022-06-29
NP-BX1 – Newmowa 2022 ABC – 2022-06-29

It seems three good batteries now cost about as much as four crap batteries, under the reasonable assumption chargers are essentially free.

Three batteries isn’t quite enough for my usual rotation and, for unknown reasons, one cannot buy only batteries, so in short order I will have two chargers and six batteries.

The consolidated test results:

NP-BX1 - Newmowa Batmax 2022 comparison
NP-BX1 – Newmowa Batmax 2022 comparison

The color code:

  • Newmowa: red
  • BatMax 2020 new: blue
  • BatMax 2020 used: orange
  • BatMax 2022 new: green + lime

I stopped writing Amazon reviews after having a few detailed-writeups-with-graphs rejected for the usual unspecified reasons. As the Finn put it, “You wanna download, you know the access code already.”

Tour Easy: Terracycle Chain Idler Bushing

It turns out that under rare conditions, triggered by fumbling a front derailleur shift, the upper chain section (out of the picture on the top) can whip vertically enough to jam between the Terracycle Idler’s mounting bolt and its longer chain retaining pin:

Tour Easy - Terracycle idler
Tour Easy – Terracycle idler

Whereupon the chain falls off the chainring, jams firmly between the spider and the crank, and brings the proceedings to a halt.

Having finally figured out the cause, I made a simple bushing to fit around the mounting bolt, reduce the gap, and (I hope) eliminate the problem:

Tour Easy - Terracycle idler bushing
Tour Easy – Terracycle idler bushing

Given its rarity, I will need a few more years to verify the solution.

Might get around to cleaning the chain one of these days, too …

Bafang Battery Charge Port: Autopsy

My friends in Raleigh sent a small box with the various tools I made, along with the scorched Bafang battery charge port. As it turned out, none of the tools were useful and the real fix required opening the battery cover enough to remove and replace the charge connector.

A view looking straight into the connector, with the side contact on the top of the image:

Bafang Battery Charge Port - damage overview
Bafang Battery Charge Port – damage overview

Gutting the connector shows why my homebrew shell drill wasn’t going to work:

Bafang Battery Charge Port - components
Bafang Battery Charge Port – components

There’s not much left of the central pin: the nugget hanging on its side is much larger than I expected. Most of the pin melted into that nugget, with a bonus droplet on the near side.

The rectangular chunk (upper right) is the switch terminal, with the tab from the side contact (on the right) welded to it.

Fortunately, none of the mayhem (including a few small sparks during the connector replacement) damaged the battery management circuitry or triggered a shutdown, so the reset tool wasn’t needed.

It’ll make a great 3D printing show-n-tell exhibit, in the unlikely event I ever do an in-person talk

Bafang Battery Charge Port: Mechanical Simulator

Rather than poke things into the undamaged charge port of our battery, I built a quick-and-dirty mechanical duplicate:

Bafang battery - charge port simulator
Bafang battery – charge port simulator

The “center pin” is a snippet of what’s almost certainly 5/64 inch brass tube measuring Close Enough™ to 2.1 mm, with a few millimeters of 3/32 inch tube soldered on the end to simulate the nugget.

The aluminum rod has a 5.5 mm hole matching the coaxial jack’s diameter and depth, with a smaller through hole for the “pin” and a dab of Loctite bushing adhesive.

Then I turned the end of a 3/8 inch acetal rod down to a 5.5 mm bushing that completely fills the jack:

Bafang battery - guide bushing - dummy jack
Bafang battery – guide bushing – dummy jack

It has a 3 mm hole down the middle to aim homebrew shell drills directly at the pin, while preventing a short to the side contact.

The first test looked encouraging:

Bafang battery - shell drill - test results
Bafang battery – shell drill – test results

The nugget in the damaged jack is definitely larger than my soldered brass tube, but this was in the nature of exploratory tinkering while mulling the problem.

Bafang Battery Charge Port: Internal Wiring

Short-circuiting the Bafang battery’s charge port may have done anything from completely destroying the battery management circuit to just welding a brass nugget onto the port’s center pin. The main output to the bike motor remained functional, so my friend used it on rides over the next few days to reduce the charge level.

Meanwhile, I peeked inside the undamaged battery on Mary’s bike:

Bafang battery interior - overview
Bafang battery interior – overview

The battery pack is neatly shrink-wrapped and firmly glued into the plastic shell, with the battery management PCB on the other side of the battery. Some gentle prying suggests it will be difficult to disengage the adhesive, so getting the pack out will likely require cutting the blue wrap, extricating the cells as an unbound set, then cutting the blue wrap to release the wires.

A closer look at the nose of the battery:

Bafang battery interior - front
Bafang battery interior – front

The large red wire entering on the left comes from the motor connector, loops around the nose of the battery, and probably connects to the battery’s most positive terminal or, perhaps, to the corresponding BMS terminal.

The medium black wire from the side contact of the coaxial jack (atop the pair of red wires) burrows under the battery and likely connects to the most negative battery terminal. This is the charger plug’s outer terminal.

The small red wire from the center contact of the coaxial jack (between the medium black and red wires) goes to the charge indicator PCB in the nose of the battery. This is basically a push-to-test voltmeter with four LEDs indicating the charge state from about 40 V through 54 V. The small black wire from that PCB burrows under the battery on its way to the BMS.

The medium red wire from the center contact goes to the BMS.

There is no way to determine how much damage the short might have done, although the silicone-insulated wires should have survived momentary heating, unlike cheap PVC insulation that slags down at the slightest provocation.

Removing and replacing the coaxial jack requires Cutting Three Wires then rejoining them, a process fraught with peril. You must already have a profound respect for high voltages, high currents, and high power wiring; this is no place for on-the-job learning and definitely not where you can move fast and break things.

With this in mind, the only hope is to remove the nugget and see if the battery charges properly.

The trick will be to do this without any possibility of shorting a metallic tool between the center pin and the side contact.

Bafang Battery Charge Port: Whoopsie

The Bafang mid-drive e-bike kits I installed on Mary’s Tour Easy recumbent and a friend’s Terry Symmetry used the “Ultra-Slim Shark” lithium battery, a rectangular lump with a tapered snout:

Bafang BBS02 - Terry Symmetry full assembly
Bafang BBS02 – Terry Symmetry full assembly

The battery has a key lock on its left side:

Bafang battery - lock
Bafang battery – lock

The lock might deter casual thievery, but really prevents the battery from bouncing out of its mounting plate while riding.

The right side has a charge port closed with a rubber plug:

Bafang battery - charge port - closed
Bafang battery – charge port – closed

The cover protects a coaxial jack with a 5.5 mm OD and a 2.1 mm center pin:

Bafang battery - charge port
Bafang battery – charge port

My friend in Raleigh generally removes the battery before hoisting the bike into the back of her car to haul it to a friend’s house for their companionable rides: not lifting an additional seven pounds is a Good Idea™.

A momentary distraction in the middle of that process caused her to insert the brass key into the charging port, rather than the lock. The key put a very short circuit between the coaxial jack’s side contact and the center pin, melting the key tip and welding a brass nugget onto the side of the pin:

Bafang battery - damaged charge port
Bafang battery – damaged charge port

The charger plug normally sits almost flush to the port’s surface:

Bafang battery - charge plug
Bafang battery – charge plug

The nugget keeps the plug out the damaged port, preventing the plug from making electrical contact:

Bafang battery - damaged port - plug
Bafang battery – damaged port – plug

She owned the problem and immediately bought another battery, which tells you the value she places on riding her e-bike.

Verily it is written: let someone who is without whoopsie cast the first shade.

Any takers? Yeah, the way I see it, someone who says they’ve never done anything quite like that is either not doing anything or not telling the complete truth. For sure, I’ve done plenty of inadvertent damage!

Here’s the problem:

  • The damaged battery is the better part of 600 miles away from my shop
  • Civilians cannot ship 560 W·hr lithium batteries through any parcel delivery service
  • Civilians cannot fly or take the train with such a battery, either
  • Driving 1200 miles twice is out of the question for either of us

How would you proceed?

More to come …

For reference:

Basically, it is possible to ship lithium batteries up to 100 W·h.