Electric experiences are in fact memories that everyone of us, that love technology, are holding very dear

If you’ve ever been passionate about science and technology, I’m sure that you’ve tried at least few times to build things that implied electric currents and electricity in general. That’s why I’m also sure that you tried a lot of sensorial/tactile experiences playing with those things.

What I’m trying to say here is that electric experiences are in fact memories that everyone of us, that love technology, are holding very dear, because they belong to a period of time when we start to explore Nature, Physics and the World, in general.

Jonathan Cecil is a Video Producer for Victron Energy, is a great adventurer, permanent in love with technology, with energy. In fact with the bluest part of it. Jonathan (aka Jono) began the collaboration with Victron from true passion and today is creating a lot of the video production for the company. I forgot to mention that before this collaboration Jono worked as a BBC news video journalist and programme producer for many years. He bought and used Victron items in his boat and because of the films he made for his YouTube channel, Victron contacted him.

I met Jono at Victron Energy Training Center, at the end of August, and because he was at the end of the longest visit in Romania I asked him a few questions.

an interview by Marian Costache   

Jonathan Cecil, Video Producer for Victron Energy

You were invited to Romania at the biggest e-karting event, Super Cupa Romaniei la Karting Electric. How does it feel to be at your first trip outside the UK, since the Pandemic?

It feels good and it’s certainly not the last. Lucian Popescu and I were talking about me coming every few months or so.

For the e-karting event this was the first three days setup, qualifies and final races, which was really good. I came here to film the entire event, because Victron Energy were one of the main sponsors.

Did you enjoy the rally? What do you think about those children?

I enjoyed watching the kids enjoying it. That was really nice, they were really happy. There were some tears, as well as happiness, there were quite a lot of tears, but it’s all part of learning and it’s all part of the experience of being in a race. You can’t be a winner everyday.

There was no smoke, no noise, it was a very clean event, nothing aggressive. No engine or oil or fuel, none of that. It was just plug and play. Literally the kids were playing.

We had three very good days of sun, the light was great for solar and for videos. We did quite a range of video types. I was filming on the track, filming the children. We had a 360 degrees camera on the helmet of one of the children and we also had two different drones up. The small drone was very low, so it looks like the children are be hitting it, as they zoom underneath, and we had a bigger drone, right up in the sky, getting views of that beautiful part of the city.    

What more interesting things are you doing, during your visit, at Victron Energy Training Center?

I’ve come out here, for about twelve days, to do a series of tests, on various bits of equipment and film some new equipment, that’s just been released, like Smart MPPT RS, which is able to cope with much higher voltages and currents and also a Lynx BMS, which stands for batteries management system, and it fits within the Lynx distribution range. Which is nice, it’s a neat install and these are new pieces of kit. And then we’ve been putting bits of equipment through their paces, as it were made, stress testing them.   

We have, for example, had a smart lithium battery we’ve first all connected through a BMS, which should look after the system and that worked perfectly. We took the voltage really low and the system stopped the loads and we took the voltage really high and the system stopped charging. That worked perfectly.

Today we took the Battery Management System (BMS) away and dealt with the battery unprotected, as it were. Like riding a bike, without a helmet on.

We took it down low and the warnings came on the battery and than is not really very much to see. The high voltage of the battery can be quite dangerous, without protection, without the battery management system (BMS). So we charge a lithium battery and kept charging and kept charging and the battery (12V) went up from 12,6V to 18,5V, which is very high for Lithium. We kept pumping more charge into it and was recording it with my camera and a number of GoPros. We had a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water ready, just in case.

Water could be good for this?

Yes because it dissipates the heat from the battery.

We kept charging until it got so hot and then it blew up inside. A lot of smoke came out.

The box exploded?                         

No! The box stayed as it was. The lid came up a little bit. A lot of very nasty smoke came out and then, quite quickly after that, it popped again.

So you did a lot of nasty tests, on these pieces of equipment. Do these tests fit with the current situation, in the field?

Victron Energy uses Lithium – Iron Phosphate batteries, which actually are very safe, the safest type of Lithium batteries. Those you see in cars are Lithium – Iron, so they’re more dangerous, if they’re mistreated.

Now we really tested hard today one of Victron batteries. If there’s an install, done by a verified installer, that uses a battery management system (BMS), the battery work perfectly. We put loads of power in and it’s disconnected. We put loads of power out and it’s disconnected. So if it uses the correct equipment you’ll be very pleased with the results. If you mistreat something, then you’ll get the consequences. We suggest that you do not use any Lithium battery without battery management system (BMS).

After that we tried another battery that has a battery management system (BMS) built into it. Again, we put the voltage up high, put it down low, and that worked really well.

What we all said then, is not about voltages and charges, it’s all about temperatures. So we put batteries in the freezer (-25 degrees), we left them in overnight and they got really cold, and they did exactly what supposed to do. They can be used to take loads out of the battery but not to be charged bellow 5 degrees Celsius. Both batteries performed perfectly. Likewise we put them into an oven and heated them up. The smart batteries performed correctly too.

These about batteries, what else did you tested?

On the roof of this building we’ve been testing 8 solar panels, at different directions, different combination of angles. We have 4 solar charge controllers MMPTs in site, the cables are all the same. We try to make the tests equal as possible.

We put some vertical, some flat, some at 60 degrees, some at 30 degrees, and then we left them on a whole day test, so we can see which one perform the best. East and West, parallel vs. series. Every night, at 18:00, a guy is up on the roof and move all the panels around, dewire and position them differently, ready for test the next day, that starts at sunrise and then it goes till 18:00.

In about 10 days we should have some very interesting results, with exact kit, exact solar, exact lengths of cable you can’t get more accurate really.