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John Petersen is the executive vice president and chief financial officer of ePower Engine Systems, Inc., a Kentucky-based enterprise that has developed, built and demonstrated an engine-dominant diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain for long-haul heavy trucks that promises fuel savings of 30 to 40... More
My company:
Fefer Petersen & Co.
My blog:
ipo-law.com
  • Progress Update For EPower Engine Systems 48 comments
    Mar 15, 2014 5:30 PM | about stocks: AXPW

    Since many stockholders of Axion Power International (OTCQB:AXPW) are following the progress of our development work at ePower Engine Systems and it's been a couple weeks since I offered any news, I thought a brief update might be interesting.

    Last week ePower bought a used 50-foot dual-axle box-trailer for fuel economy testing because our single-axle box-trailer can't handle heavier loads. As we move into detailed fuel economy testing we'll simply load concrete barrier blocks into the trailer until we reach our desired weight.

    This short video shows some of our baseline in town acceleration testing with a gross combined weight of 40,854 pounds for the tractor, the trailer and a 3,014-pound concrete barrier block. I think zero to 45 mph times of 18 to 23 seconds for a 41,000 pound truck are pretty respectable.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNGfpIanh-8&...

    Yesterday we took the sleeper cab up to Cummins-Bridgeport, the Cummins distributor in Columbus, Ohio, for testing on their chassis dynamometer. Their technicians spent about six hours working to coordinate communication between the engine and the generator and got our system adjusted to a point where we're consistently producing 150 to 160 hp at the rear wheels. That useful horsepower figure is 40 to 50 hp more than we were getting from the John Deere four banger, but it's still 20 to 30 hp below our target of 180 hp which should be enough to haul 80,000 pounds at highway speed over flat and level ground.

    While yesterday's dynamometer testing was focused on coordinating the interplay between the engine and the generator, Jay did ask the technicians to increase the dynamometer resistance to simulate a hill climb. When the dynamometer load was increased and the batteries went to work, our available rear-wheel horsepower climbed to an observed peak of 260 hp.

    The video isn't exactly scintillating, but it does offer a quick insight into our ongoing work.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBE-9izaW8U&...

    Next week we hope to visit Cummins headquarters in Columbus, Indiana to see if they can't help us find the last 30 hp.

    Disclosure: I am long AXPW.

    Stocks: AXPW
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Comments (48)
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  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    John, As always thank you for sharing the progress that Jay and the team are making in integrating and tuning the new engine with the generator/battery package. Am I to assume you have received the revised component you had ordered and were waiting for to bridge the gap between the expected engine output and the generator so they could play well together? And the trip next week to Cummins HQ, if you're successful in getting an appointment, is to tune the system with this new component?

     

    BTW, Thanks for sharing the trailer info. as well. I was wondering why you hadn't yet taken out a fully loaded trailer just to try taxing the system at least for curiosity sake. Not that it would have been all telling since you already knew next steps and were waiting for the revised component to resolve your know issue.

     

    Continued success to you and your group. It's really a pleasure for people that are interested in your mission to be able to follow your progress via shared updates inclusive of reports and videos!
    15 Mar, 05:55 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » We got the new controller installed but the system still isn't integrated as well as we want. Our hope is that a visit to the Cummins head shed with their staff of control system gurus will get us where we need to be. So far, support teams from the local distributor and headquarters have bent over backwards to help.

     

    Our second generation tractor was a very cool but grossly underpowered proof of principle. We want the Gen3 tractor to be a workhorse that can comfortably haul the 55,000 to 70,000 pound loads that are prevalent in the industry.
    15 Mar, 06:10 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2297) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for the update, JP.

     

    I'd love to know more about the hill-climb simulations on the dyno with the batteries kicking in for more horsepower. Sounds like a great way to dial in the software for optimal cross over for battery assist.

     

    As I recall, last week you were reporting the batteries were not kicking in the assist soon enough in some situations, right?

     

    Perhaps not scintillating, but certainly titillating to us die-hard Axionistas.
    15 Mar, 06:15 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    Thanks John. That's what I directionally thought.

     

    More well wishes for a successful resolution on the next step as you tweak in your set-up.

     

    Also hoping Mother Nature is done this season slowing you guys down. I'm being selfish as well on this last point
    15 Mar, 06:17 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » SMaturin> The issue we've been fighting is an over-eager engine that wants to jump in and do all the work of acceleration and hill climbing instead of letting the batteries contribute to the cause. What we're trying to do now is convince the engine that it should relax a little and let the batteries can do their fair share.
    15 Mar, 06:28 PM Reply Like
  • Edmund Metcalfe
    , contributor
    Comments (1509) | Send Message
     
    ISTM, the batteries will only contribute when the engine is disallowed from doing so. With all the new-fangled software tuner controls at hand, (which I can't imagine, but to an old shade-tree mechanic who would have passed out to have the control available nowadays) a simple matter to FIX the engine at a particular rpm. Then what will the battery-pack do?
    15 Mar, 09:13 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » It *should* be a simple matter, but sometimes the gulf between what is and what should be is wide and deep. I'm confident that we'll get it all figured out, but the right answer will no doubt be the last thing we try (because there will be no need to try anything else once we have an answer).
    15 Mar, 09:18 PM Reply Like
  • DRich
    , contributor
    Comments (4597) | Send Message
     
    >JP ... Since no one has asked I guess I just have to. Has the engine sensor ( I'm guessing it watches the armature ) been switched out for the torque sensor? Which shaft will the torque sensor watch?
    15 Mar, 10:07 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » That question is way beyond my pay grade, or at least out of my technical depth. You'll need to visit Florence if you want answers with that level of specificity.
    15 Mar, 10:16 PM Reply Like
  • Edmund Metcalfe
    , contributor
    Comments (1509) | Send Message
     
    Wait, that was two questions. How about the answer to the first? That one is simple.

     

    The second is a good question, too, though, and occurred to me as well. Anything that subdues the engine's responsiveness would be helpful. In the case of climbs and so on, where MORE POWER IS THE ANSWER, you really want the battery-pack to be dominant or it just won't have a chance to contribute.
    15 Mar, 10:23 PM Reply Like
  • Edmund Metcalfe
    , contributor
    Comments (1509) | Send Message
     
    nm, as by your earlier statement, "We got the new controller installed", I'm certain the answer to the first question is "Yes".
    15 Mar, 10:27 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    DRich, I'm guessing you'd be concerned about data that is too raw respecting the overall balance of the system? Lots of dynamics trying to play nice here.
    15 Mar, 10:34 PM Reply Like
  • DRich
    , contributor
    Comments (4597) | Send Message
     
    >JP ... I'd love to go poke my nose under the tent up there is Florence but I think I'd be too interested to not try to be "helpful". Not my rodeo. I'll just stay in the Peanut Gallery and cheer the show on. Besides, I won't be well enough to go anywhere for at least another month and I hope y'all have everything all copacetic by then.
    15 Mar, 11:26 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » We certainly hope that's the case.
    16 Mar, 06:00 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    DRich, Hope you're coming along well. The sooner you can start sticking your nose in where you wish to the better. :)
    16 Mar, 08:26 AM Reply Like
  • jcrjg
    , contributor
    Comments (174) | Send Message
     
    Is 260 hp enough for the areas you are targeting?

     

    Edit: also does the dynamometer give any information on fuel economy

     

    Thanks
    15 Mar, 07:20 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The dynamometer doesn't track fuel burn rates and even if it did the data wouldn't be terribly helpful or informative. For the bulk of the country where the terrain isn't terribly challenging, we think 260 to 280 hp will be adequate for trucks in the 55,000 to 70,000 pound combined weight range while minimizing fuel costs that represent 35% of total truck operating expenses.
    15 Mar, 07:35 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2297) | Send Message
     
    Also, the dyno cannot account for wind resistance as a factor at speed. It simply measures rear wheel power output. As such, it is great for tuning an engine for best power output curves, but not helpful in tuning for fuel efficiency.

     

    Since the ePower combustion engine should be tuned for optimal fuel efficiency, the dyno is needed to tune for power demand from the battery, rather than the ICE, in this application.
    15 Mar, 08:53 PM Reply Like
  • 481086
    , contributor
    Comments (3444) | Send Message
     
    SM, I'm trying to think this through---your comment about wind resistance. On an actual truck out on the road, it's the tires and the drivetrain which feel the loading of wind resistance. Why can't applying increased resistance in the dynamometer be just as valid an analog for wind resistance as it is for rolling resistance and incline PE gain work? I just seems to me that these forces can be summed as scalars-- that they're essentially all the same when it comes to where the rubber meets the road...
    15 Mar, 09:12 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » We think the only fuel economy numbers that will really matter to fleet operators are the ones they generate with their drivers and their loads on their routes. We also think reports that summarize operator generated numbers will be very helpful.

     

    Creating sophisticated testing protocols and computer simulations to generate data that our customers won't believe seems like a foolish waste of limited resources.
    15 Mar, 09:26 PM Reply Like
  • 481086
    , contributor
    Comments (3444) | Send Message
     
    No argument here John, I was just trying to grok SM's thoughts. Maybe he only means that it would be very hard to accurately estimate, and thus dial in, a value for wind resistance at a given speed..
    15 Mar, 09:29 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2297) | Send Message
     
    48,

     

    If one assumes a linear power output of an engine across its rpm spectrum and gear ratios that are uniform, then one could theoretically calculate a wind resistance value into the dyno resistance and use that to estimate fuel efficiency at different speeds and loads.

     

    The real world and geared transmissions are rarely linear, and wind resistance is a function of altitude, temperature, and wind direction. No dyno or global climate model can really factor in all variables to predict real world behavior.
    15 Mar, 11:58 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2297) | Send Message
     
    48,

     

    If one assumes a linear power output of an engine across its rpm spectrum and gear ratios that are uniform, then one could theoretically calculate a wind resistance value into the dyno resistance and use that to estimate fuel efficiency at different speeds and loads. One would need to base the value on wind tunnel testing of coefficient of drag, of course. Gets complicated.

     

    The real world and geared transmissions powered by combustion are rarely linear, and wind resistance is a function of altitude, temperature, and wind direction. No dyno or global climate model can really factor in all variables to predict real world behavior.

     

    A dyno is useful to tune the power band, but would be a blunt tool for fine tuning fuel efficiency.

     

    If I understand the goal of ePower, they want the ICE to run at a constant output that maximizes fuel efficiency. That is likely to be a relatively narrow rpm/power band. Thus, the ICE should never really "feel" the wind resistance. The transmission and battery assist deal with it.
    16 Mar, 12:01 AM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2297) | Send Message
     
    Ok, edits are now double posting. :-0
    16 Mar, 12:28 AM Reply Like
  • 481086
    , contributor
    Comments (3444) | Send Message
     
    Sounds like when pressed, the system's showing a ~100 Hp contribution from the battery bank? Note that's almost 2Hp per battery---and strikes me as solidly respectable. PbC ftw!
    15 Mar, 08:54 PM Reply Like
  • Ikechowanec
    , contributor
    Comments (84) | Send Message
     
    Off topic somewhat, but how is AXPW? Big jump last week .10 to .20. Are we on the way to dollars? I think PIPE is done or almost done and we should be headed up. When are they going to need more funds? are we trapped at this price?
    15 Mar, 09:59 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Several of my recent Instablogs have addressed those issues in considerable depth so instead of rehashing everything here, I'll just refer you to my Instablog archive.

     

    You may also want to check out the "Axion Concentrator" series of Instablogs that's curated by "Axion Power Host" and top Instablog on Seeking Alpha.
    15 Mar, 10:09 PM Reply Like
  • Ikechowanec
    , contributor
    Comments (84) | Send Message
     
    How involved are the fleet operators at this stage. I've found the best info always comes from the people that actually run the equipment. Some early consultation fees vs. late production change orders. Although the downside is you are putting proprietary info out there for all to see. What is epower policy regarding outside people?
    15 Mar, 10:21 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Several fleet operators have told us what they want the tractor to do in terms of hauling capacity and fuel economy. We believe our third generation tractor will be stout enough to satisfy most of them.

     

    When we have a tractor that meets the performance criteria we'll give them the keys and say "Find out for yourself hauling your loads on your routes with your drivers." Until we have a tractor that meets the performance criteria we have nothing to talk about.
    15 Mar, 10:47 PM Reply Like
  • RuggedDC
    , contributor
    Comments (315) | Send Message
     
    " load concrete barrier blocks into the trailer until we reach our desired weight"

     

    How about using the plastic water-filled barriers?
    16 Mar, 12:29 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » They's probably work but we already own a stack of weighed concrete blocks.
    16 Mar, 06:03 AM Reply Like
  • froggey77
    , contributor
    Comments (2769) | Send Message
     
    Rugged
    "How about using the plastic water-filled barriers?"

     

    My thoughts went to a backyard pool. I wonder what a few tons of sloshing water would do to things?
    :-)
    16 Mar, 08:10 PM Reply Like
  • ARGE
    , contributor
    Comments (722) | Send Message
     
    I had a truck drive tell me one time the most dangerous load was not dynamite, but swinging meat (half of a cows hung on hooks), very hard to control in a turn.
    18 Mar, 05:29 PM Reply Like
  • Ikechowanec
    , contributor
    Comments (84) | Send Message
     
    water will freeze and break containers.
    16 Mar, 09:50 PM Reply Like
  • RuggedDC
    , contributor
    Comments (315) | Send Message
     
    The water-filled barriers are ubiquitous around embassies in DC, which is why I thought of them. I'd never given a thought with respect to DC's freezing weather, as the barriers seem to survive...
    16 Mar, 10:52 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    Plastic vessels can be designed to handle freeze thaw events. For example some windshield washer bottle generations in the Toyota Camry were designed at this level as they were mounted in the front wheel well.
    17 Mar, 10:04 AM Reply Like
  • Ikechowanec
    , contributor
    Comments (84) | Send Message
     
    Windshield washer fluid is mixed with antifreeze it doesn't freeze. Water expands when it freezes which is what makes things break. If the tanks are left 3/4 full to allow for expansion the water will slosh around. Ok for embassy barrier, not so much on back of truck. You would need to add baffles. Water weighs 8 lbs a gallon, it will do damage. We are getting side tracked. Like everything, it comes down to cost. Yes water tanks are possible, but John had concrete that was much cheaper.
    18 Mar, 10:46 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    Ikechowanec, If you don't use your windshield washer fluid for too long a period of time the alcohol evaporates off first. Also, too many people use water during the moderate seasons and forget to swap out with washer fluid at the right time. Or Southerners just use water and get the cold snap surprise. Anyway, accidents happen and if the reservoir is buried the cost can be considerable for an oops that happens quite often.
    18 Mar, 05:10 PM Reply Like
  • ARGE
    , contributor
    Comments (722) | Send Message
     
    Thanks John,
    so how long can our batteries deliver that extra HP?
    18 Mar, 05:34 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The string voltage suffers a linear decline as the batteries discharge and so does the horsepower boost, but in Northern Kentucky it's unusual to see grades that are more than a few miles long (a/k/a a few minutes long) so discharge duration hasn't been an issue for us.
    18 Mar, 05:41 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    John, Has Axion recommended a certain cutoff voltage during discharge to respect cycle life?
    18 Mar, 06:25 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » If I understand the energy flows correctly, and that's a big if since electricity still confuses me sometimes, an active cutoff voltage really isn't necessary.

     

    Remember our system architecture feeds power from the generator and power from the batteries into the AC Vector drive where the generator power is converted to DC and the two DC power streams are combined before being converted back into AC power for the drive motor.

     

    I *think* the batteries can only contribute to the cause if the battery string voltage is higher than the generator's converted voltage under load.
    18 Mar, 06:51 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    Could be.

     

    You're using an off the shelf industrial drive IIRC? If so, and you don't suspect any impropriety, could you share a PN? Please don't do so if you feel there is even the tiniest amount of risk to your program. And obviously no hurry. Just interested in what conditioning the drive offers.
    18 Mar, 07:47 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » All I know is that its a 480 volt AC vector drive from the Unico unit of Regal Beloit.
    18 Mar, 08:20 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9461) | Send Message
     
    Thanks John. I'll do a little searching and see what their product range is. Maybe I can find a spec. sheet and wet my interest.

     

    Anyway, It shows how talented people can find uses for technology in fringe areas. All the more reason Axion should share a little more data about their technology and make engineering kits available at some level. JMO.
    18 Mar, 08:37 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The early discussions with the drive engineers were apparently real adventures when Jay told them he thought he could use the DC output as a bi-directional circuit. Suffice it to say the level of skepticism was quite high but it eventually morphed into "well I'll be damned."
    18 Mar, 08:51 PM Reply Like
  • JamesBBecker
    , contributor
    Comments (339) | Send Message
     
    John::That's actually quite genius.

     

    Vector drives take in AC, convert it to DC, and then convert the DC back to a variable frequency AC to run a motor at various frequencies (rotational speeds).

     

    If I understand you correctly, he hooked up the batteries to the DC part of the system. When the drive motor wasn't needing much torque, the DC voltage level would naturally rise and the batteries would be charged. When the drive motor drives harder, the DC voltage level would naturally fall and the batteries would naturally provide power.

     

    The really tricky question is during regenerative braking, when the current goes from the drive motor backwards through the vector controller into the batteries. That's sort of amazing. It probably has to do with the internal transistors being MOSFets which I think are bi-directional. Way over my head though.
    18 Mar, 10:58 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30170) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The electrical flows and controls are out of my depth, but between Jay's experimentation and great engineering support from Unico the vector drive has been configured in a way that gives the drive motor first priority for generator output, pulls power from the batteries on demand, and routes any excess power back to the batteries. When the truck goes into regenerative braking mode, all the power passes back through the vector drive to recharge the battery string. The longest trip we've taken with the tractor is 10 hours from Kentucky to Iowa and while the SOC moved up and down as you'd expect, the SOC at the destination was not significantly different from the beginning SOC.

     

    The engineers all thought Jay was crazy when he first told them what he wanted to do, but it's hard to argue with success.
    19 Mar, 05:05 AM Reply Like
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