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Old 21-06-2017, 15:06   #1
Jd1
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External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

I have a Balmar 614 regulator but am not too happy with this regulator for my specific application. I run Lithium batteries and I have a 200A Balmar alternator. The functionality I would like to have is to adjust charge rate based on alternator temperature.
At the moment I can set my regulator to belt saver mode to reduce charging but that also reduces charging when the alternator is cold and could produce a lot more current. Also, when the alternator heats up too much, the 614 cuts drive in half which is quite drastic.

I would ideally like to drive my alternator as high as possible so 100% when the alternator is cold and then, as it heats up, I would like to reduce drive so that the alternator stays at say 200F and gives me as much power as it can while staying at that temperature.

I would also like something that is user friendly which Balmar has managed to f&^k up supremely in the 614 series. I suppose it's ok if you are setting and forgetting but even that is a pain in the rear.

Let me connect it to my pi and adjust all parameters on the fly .... that way I can dynamically adjust belt manager based on the current battery state of charge and the length of my expected engine run as well as alternator temperature.

Surely in this day and age of everything being computer connected there has got to be a better solution ?
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Old 21-06-2017, 17:53   #2
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

​Google for an open source "Smart Alternator Regulator" or SAR project.

Thomas OW of the Viking Star.
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Old 21-06-2017, 17:55   #3
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

In the meantime, have you tried the more granular "belt manager" or "small engine" mode?

This VR really is as good as it gets these days, state of the art for off the shelf.

Let me know if/when you don't need it anymore.
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Old 21-06-2017, 17:57   #4
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

Found a recent local thread, he's a user here ​ http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/....php?p=2390188
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Old 21-06-2017, 19:34   #5
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

Thanks for the link to Viking Star - very interesting indeed. I wonder though how long it will be before the product is fully designed and thought out.
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Old 21-06-2017, 21:02   #6
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

All such projects are in constant evolution, much better than the alternative of being abandoned.

My impression is, it is ready for production use for the functions intended.

Nice thing with FOSS is you can jump in and figure out with others' help, how to get it to do what you want, in this case maximize output holding a given temperature.

Just have your MC-614 standing by to take over if you're out in the middle of the ocean. 8-)
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Old 21-06-2017, 22:03   #7
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

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Just have your MC-614 standing by to take over if you're out in the middle of the ocean. 8-)
Yes, that's for sure !
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Old 22-06-2017, 04:11   #8
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

How old is your MC-614? Perhaps you got old stock? The code was changed sometime in 2012 or 2013 so that alt temp reductions are made in 5% increments not 50%. Don't feel too bad though many regulators do 100%>0%>100%>0%.... The new MC-614 regulator code will find the "sweet spot" and move up and down in smaller incremental steps compared to the old code...

As for current limiting via belt manager, when I set up boats, with a temp monitored hot run, I can see them attain the thermal limit in as little as 12-15 minutes. The difference in amperage to the bank from using a constant BM setting is minimal but the longevity of the alt is extended and it is added insurance beyond just relying in the temp sensor.. If you really want or expect 200A from a 200A alt you'll need to remotely rectify it...

Remember belt manager is only applying a reduction to the max field potential so when your alt is cold you can still get more out of it than when it heats up.

I liken alternators & LFP to a someone looking at a towing rating on a truck;

"My truck can haul 10,000 pounds, so why did I burn out the transmission towing 10,000 pounds up Pikes Peak?"

LFP is the Pikes Peak for alternators...
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Old 22-06-2017, 04:45   #9
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

+1 to what Mainesail says, especially about the external rectifiers which make quite a difference.
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Old 22-06-2017, 04:54   #10
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

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How old is your MC-614? Perhaps you got old stock? ...
That is quite possible, I did not know there was a revision. My 614 is around 4 years old.
I do not expect 200A but I currently get around 130 amps and I still see errors of excessive temperatures. Having said that, I have not tried to change the max allowable temperature from the factory preset. It bothers me that the 614 reports excessive temperatures - I would much rather see it stay below the magic limit and just sit there and pump out the electrons at a steady (and further reduced if needed) pace. I am reluctant to go to remote diodes.
Is the 614 firmware field upgradeable ? If so then this might solve some of my concerns even though I would still like to be able to talk to the regulator and get/set parameters remotely.

I have looked a bit more into the smart regulator that john61ct suggested and also read the manual. It sounds quite interesting indeed and it is a lot further along than I originally thought.
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Old 23-06-2017, 09:47   #11
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
How old is your MC-614? Perhaps you got old stock? The code was changed sometime in 2012 or 2013 so that alt temp reductions are made in 5% increments not 50%. Don't feel too bad though many regulators do 100%>0%>100%>0%.... The new MC-614 regulator code will find the "sweet spot" and move up and down in smaller incremental steps compared to the old code...
I contacted Balmar. Apparently there have been no firmware updates since 2011 and high temperature is handled by cutting field drive by 50% which is what I see in my system.
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Old 23-06-2017, 10:16   #12
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

But for a given season's average temp, you can set a "standing derate" using the other features at finer granularity.
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Old 23-06-2017, 10:19   #13
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

Note Sterling's high-amp "Alt to Battery" DCDC chargers, and Mark Grasser's VRs may also be worth investigating.
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Old 23-06-2017, 10:38   #14
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

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Thanks for the link to Viking Star - very interesting indeed. I wonder though how long it will be before the product is fully designed and thought out.
I just ordered one - will let you know how it goes.

For the price though, sure worth a punt if you are technically minded.
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Old 23-06-2017, 10:39   #15
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Re: External alternator regulator, smart enough to control from a pi ?

Have you checked out the Mastervolt regulators?
Alpha Pro MB | Mastervolt

We have 2 of these on balmar AT200 and 1000 ah Lithium. External sense and temp sensor.
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