May 6

2012 Ford Transit Connect EV, Charging Issues

Ford

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Mark: Well, hello there, internet people, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. And we're going to take a little journey into the pioneering age of EVs with a 2012 Ford Transit Connect EV that had some issues. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing well. 

Mark: So what was happening with this not very common EV? 

Bernie: Yeah, so the owner had a, his main issue was that the vehicle wasn't charging sometimes. It was unreliable. He'd plug it in at night and come back the next morning, the vehicle wasn't charged, which is obviously not a great thing on an EV. You want to make sure you have a full battery of fuel, so to speak, to get on with your days journeys. 

Mark: So 2012 that's about when EV started to get a little bit more mainstream at the very, very beginning. How much range does this vehicle have? 

Bernie: Not a lot. This thing is probably, it's advertised to have about 90 kilometres range and you know, of course those are under good conditions. I noticed in the servicing of this vehicle and you know, when it's fully charged there is an actual range meter, it reads a bit under 90 fully charged. So I guess if you go down a lot of hills, you'll get a little more, you get a little more juice. 

Mark: So what's unique about this vehicle?

Bernie: Well, this vehicle, even though it's a Ford Transit Connect, it's a Ford van, but the EV drive unit is not made by Ford. It's made by a company called Azure Dynamics. It was actually a British Columbia company, British Columbia, Alberta spent some interesting kind of multi-country, I dunno, multinational. It's not a multinational. Never made it that big, but anyways, it was made by Azure Dynamics. They made the motor unit and customized the vehicle. Never made a lot of them, probably. I don't know maybe there's a thousand made, maybe two at the most before they unfortunately went out of business.

Mark: So with this being an EV and an early one, how do you perform the diagnostics on it? They're not using the Ford system, are they? 

Bernie: No, they're not. So if you plug in, it has an OBD 2 Connector, like every other vehicle. But when you plug into it, of course you don't get any information on the EV unit. You do on the ABS brake and that kind of thing, but you don't get anything on the EV. That requires a special scan tool, which we have been able to acquire and very helpful for the diagnosis on this vehicle. So yeah, it's actually a pretty decent little scan tool. It works off a laptop.

And we can get into some pictures here. You can ask me some more questions and I'll get up the picture show. So this is the vehicle here. It' s actually owned by a company called The Silent Gardner. They've been in business for quite a few years, and he started the business before EVs were even popular or electric gardening tools were a thing.

2012 Ford Transit Connect EV, Charging Issues

And I think the technology has actually kind of nicely come up to match his business. You know, back in the day gardening tools like a weed eaters and lawnmowers are electric. But back when he started, I'm sure there were a lot of push mowers and hand tools and things. And so the EV works really well for his style of business. He actually owns two of these vans.

2012 Ford Transit Connect EV, Charging Issues

So a diagnosis scan tool. So as I mentioned there was a charging issue with the vehicle, but there was also a warning light on the dash. There's a light that, it looks like a wrench. On different vehicles and regular connect that that's usually a maintenance warning light. But on this vehicle, that wrench light, there's a problem in the vehicle system. So what we found testing it through our scan tool was that there was a code for an ambient air temperature sensor, and I've just got this big arrow here pointing to the actual reading on the scan tool, which was reading 31 degrees Fahrenheit while it was sitting in our shop and it was probably at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop. So clearly that was way out of whack. And then at some point when I was monitoring it and looking at it, it would go down to minus 40 Fahrenheit, which is usually a clear signal that the sensor is definitely not good.

So that was one part that we replaced. Did a little further testing on the circuit to make sure that it wasn't any other issue and then replaced the sensor. I can talk about that in a couple of minutes. But this is basically, you know, you said, Oh, how do we diagnose things? This scan tool is really kind of critical to the system.

Now, the interesting thing about the charging problem is we actually never had any trouble in our shop charging it. We plugged into our charger. There's two items that kind of effect the charger. There's this module called awake on control module. And there's the charger. You can see two items here, the wake on modules, basically when you plug the charger into the vehicle, the computer gets a signal, hey it's plugged in, let's turn the charging system on. And there's a thing called the control pilot, which is some wiring it's part of, if you look at the pins on a level two charger, or even a level one or two charger, it has these, a couple of the pins control this control pilot.

2012 Ford Transit Connect EV, Charging Issues

So what we noticed right away, as soon as you plug it in, the control pilot comes on. Good sign. Wait command on. We get a little further, that turns the charger on. What we noticed with this vehicle is it actually took about three or four minutes for the charger itself to actually turn on.

So we're still, to make a long story short, we never actually found a problem with the system, but we spent a lot of time learning how it works, because there's really not a lot of great repair information. We do have a manual with wiring diagrams, but fortunately Sheldon had a, from Silent Gardner, had a second one of these vans. We were able to actually plug in to the good van and see how it operated. And we found they both operated just fine. Even went to the point of driving to his house to make sure there wasn't an issue with his charger. He has another EV that he plugs in and never has a problem. Tested it out, seemed to be fine.

So the only thing I can assume is there was an intermittent problem, but we did repair a brake light switch earlier, a couple of weeks before this repair. I doubt that had any difference, but who knows? So make a long story short, we were able to get some good data out of this vehicle, but the air temperature sensor, just to cut things short here.

2012 Ford Transit Connect EV, Charging Issues

This is a, this is the ambient air temperature sensor they use in this vehicle. You know, this vehicle is very customized. This is actually a map sensor. So it does air temperature and pressure. It's from a Ford Fiesta European model only. So a very unique part. You got to do a lot of hard work to find parts for this vehicle, which we can talk about a little later, but this is the ambient air temperature sensor that we replaced. Strangely located, it sits outside just reading the air temperature, but normally these are inside an air box protected from the elements with an air filter. So it's 10 years old. That's had a lot of dust and dirt and water, that it's probably not really supposed to get, but it survived for 10 years before it went bad. So that's our picture show. 

Mark: So a lot of diagnosis, no clear definition of what the charging problem was. How did the van work after the repairs you did do? 

Bernie: Yeah. So as I mentioned, there was that wrench warning light on, the moment we put that sensor in, the wrench warning light was gone. Cleared the codes, did a road test, the lights stayed off. The temperature readings were normal. So that end of it was good. And you know, the thing with the charging is we, we don't know yet still what may have been happening, but at least we learned a lot about the system. We've got good readings now. So should the problem reoccur, we have scan tool readings. I didn't show another screen on the scan tool showing the charging, but eventually when the charger comes on, you can see how much current and voltage is flowing in and out of the charger. So there's lots of information there.

But without the scan tool, it's kind of difficult to tell. There's also you know, because these things like the battery chargers made by this company called Bruce, I believe it's a German company. And if you look under the charger, it's hidden under the vehicle, there's five LEDs on the charger, you think you're supposed to light up, but only one of them comes on and you go, okay, well, are these other ones supposed to come on? Is there something wrong? So having two vans was a real godsend in terms of us being able to define what was right and what was wrong. 

So, if there's anything to be told about the story, you know, we do go through some great lengths to try to figure out these vehicles, to help our clients out. And you know, EVs are, it's an upcoming thing. You know, given 10 years down the road, we'll be working on an awful lot more of these vehicles. Not this vehicle, but other ones. 

Mark: How are these Ford Transit EV vans for reliability and repairs?

Bernie: Well, I think for reliability, they're pretty good. I mean, we actually only have two clients with them. I mean, they're exceptionally rare. But as far as repairs and, you know, just doing a little bit of research, I mean, finding things like chargers, I was able to order the sensor from someone I know in Massachusetts who, who works in the odd one of these. He bought five of them or six of them in a bulk order. So he had one extra for sale. You can find them on the internet from various sources, but things like the charger. I mean, I looked into. Where we could buy one, they're difficult to find. And so I think at some point for those who are committed to these vehicles, customization is going to be the thing to do.

It might be that we can get the charger rebuilt if it needed to be done, or to actually get a different charger and wire it in. So it actually works. I mean, that's what Azure Dynamics did in the first place. So as long as it meets the same engineering specs, it should be something that we do. 

Mark: And finding repair parts is obviously going to be a bit of a challenge on these first-generation sort of EVs that are cobbled together from all over the place. 

Bernie: Exactly. There's not many of these around, I mean, I think Azure Dynamics did some vans, I think maybe for UPS or Purolator. I live right by the airport. There's a Purolator facility there and I see their vans driving over a bridge that I drive over. And I remember seeing Azure Dynamics EV, or they may have been hybrid powered. I'm not sure of them, but they did a few, but the company only lasted for a few years. So they're, you know, it's gone. Sadly.

Mark: If you need some repairs on your older generation or new generation EVs, and you want certified experts who will go the extra mile and make sure your vehicle's repaired properly. In Vancouver, BC call Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website pawlikautomotive.com. You can book on there or give them a phone call (604) 327-7112, if you're in Vancouver. Check out our YouTube channel. Pawlik Auto Repair hundreds of videos on there all makes and models, all types of vehicles from diesels to electric and hybrids, et cetera, et cetera. And of course, on the website itself, all those same videos are up there with the transcripts. You can read them. And thank you so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. And thank you, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching and listening. It's always fun.

Pawlik Automotive
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Mark Bossert

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