Home » The Cheapest Car In The World (The Changli) Is Broken And I’m Stumped

The Cheapest Car In The World (The Changli) Is Broken And I’m Stumped

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I want to preface this by reminding everyone that overall, my Changli, the Cheapest Car In The World, has been incredibly reliable. After about a year and a half of ownership, I’ve only really had one breakdown, and I was able to fix that with some electrical tape. This time, though, there seems to be something more significant going on, and I’m a little stumped.

Last week, the Changli was doing just great! David was by for a visit, and my kid Otto and David and I drove that little 1.1 horsepower Chinese electron-burner all over town. Zero problems, just good, honest Changli fun.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I was in Detroit for a week, and when I got back and wanted to take the old ‘Li out, I was met with a pretty basic problem: It didn’t want to move. And moving is something that I personally think is a real desirable quality in a car, even if you wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at my driveway.

It turns on fine, dash display comes on, the voltage shows the expected number of 63 volts, but when I attempt to drive, this happens:

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Hear that weird pulsing? It sounds like some kind of strange, intermittent short, maybe? Like the motor is being stopped and started over and over. I checked back at the motor assembly itself to confirm, and that’s what it seems to be doing: pulsing on and off, I think. Here, look:

It’s funny to me that I still asked my kid to hit the “gas” even though, of course, there’s no gas involved here. The sounds and motion do kind of remind me of a poorly-running small gasoline motor, but that’s just a silly coincidence.

I checked the under-seat battery area again, where the problem was last time, and did find some evidence of a similar issue to what happened before, in the Changli’s one breakdown:

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Something is still causing this wire bundle to heat up and melt things and cause problems. Last time it just melted its own tape off and came disconnected; this time, because of my better-than-factory twisting and taping skills, the bundle stayed together, and instead actually got hot enough to melt through the plastic battery handle, which isn’t great.

The picture up there shows the condition of things after I un-taped and disconnected things. That revealed this:

So, the heat had melted the insulation, and two close wires ended up with bare wire touching, causing a short. I thought this had to be the issue, so I got everything apart, cleaned up, taped up the exposed wiring, and figured that’d be it, but no luck. Still the same pulsing behavior.

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So, now I’m wondering if maybe the short fried something in the motor controller? And, is the motor being pulsed on and off, or is it possible it’s getting polarity reversed over and over?

I tried in forward and reverse, and each time I got a small motion in the selected direction before the rhythmic pulsations began, so I think it’s at least moving in the right direction.

I’m not exactly sure how to diagnose this; I suppose I could try to put 63 volts directly to the motor and see if it spins normally, bypassing all of the controls in between, and confirm that the motor itself is okay.

I can also open up the controller and look for obviously burned/charred/etc. components. I didn’t see any smoke coming from them, or smell anything too odd, though as I type this I think I recall smelling something as we drove last week.

But, like the legendary ads say, it ran when parked. What changed? It’s been pretty wet here, and water conducts, so perhaps that was a factor?

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I may try to reach out to Changli, too. After all, they kinda owe me for all the good publicity I’ve given them, after all. They even have me on their Alibaba page. They can at least hook me up with a motor controller, right? I mean, if that’s what this is.

So, right now, the Changli is just an expensive bed for my cat, Tomato:

It needs to be more than that, I think. If there’s any electrical or EV engineers out there who may have an idea how to best diagnose or fix this, I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments, and if you need more pics or video or whatever, I’ll get it to you!

I use this silly thing a lot, I now realize. I want it running again!

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Warren Vb
Warren Vb
1 year ago

My Changli batteries burned up and boiled over, Where do I get new batteries for this little car 60 v . And should I invest in a battery tender ? The charger is affected by interruptions and starts charging again. Help please.

Scott Mcdaniel
Scott Mcdaniel
2 years ago

Torch, is the roof rack on the General ‘Li actually being held on with zip ties?
Come on, man. For real “utility truck” action you could at least bind it down
with bailing wire.

coalsparks
coalsparks
2 years ago

If you do wind up replacing it, I saw Changli now has a truck where the box has a hydraulic lift and can dump stuff. The concept reminds me of a Tonka truck, but not as tough-looking.

Tesla
Tesla
2 years ago

Have you tried plugging it in?

Denis Konovalov
Denis Konovalov
2 years ago

its definitely mechanical, not electrical. well electrical too, but that’s not what causing the rattle and not moving…
the hub or whatever it is has its cheap metal gears stripped.

too much weight was on the car due to David 😛

Evan Finn
Evan Finn
2 years ago

easy one: LH tire is 1.5psi less than the other side

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 years ago

Odd since the NEC article claims 100V is the cutoff:

The electric code makes a distinction between “high” voltages above 100 volts, and “low” voltages below that. For circuits defined as low voltage, in some jurisdictions, there is no requirement for licensing, training, or certification of installers, and no inspection of completed work is required, for either residential or commercial work. Low voltage cabling run in the walls and ceilings of commercial buildings is also typically excluded from the requirements to be installed in protective conduit.

The precise reasoning for the selection of 100 volts as the division between high and low is not clearly defined, but appears to be based on the idea that a person could touch the wires carrying low voltage with dry bare hands, and not be electrocuted, injured, or killed. This is generally true for 12 volt systems, but becomes more ambiguous as the voltage increases to 100 volts.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Electrical_Code

But I guess it even then it depends:

even within the NEC, the term “low voltage” can mean anything from less than 600V, 50V or less, or less than 30V depending on the section you reference.

https://www.securitysales.com/contributed/power-is-knowledge-how-nec-pertains-to-low-voltage/

I imagine UL and NFPA are the same way.

CarlsonRower
CarlsonRower
2 years ago

Before you troubleshoot the mechanical you gotta take care of the known electrical problems.

1. Disconnect all the batteries and have them tested under load. Seeing the voltage plummet under load in the video I bet you have a bad battery in your string.

Whatever is causing the excess current draw has also severely damaged the wiring so….
2. Do NOT re-use those wires. Do not repair those wires. Do not temporally splice those wires. As others have said. lower voltage = ALL THE CURRENT. Fix the obvious problem correctly that way when you troubleshoot further you know for certain it isn’t your “fix”.

If you want to keep the Changli (please do) then get rid of those power wires and replace them. If get got hot enough to snap then odds are they’re toasted elsewhere as well. Also invest in an appropriate sized automotive breaker so the new wires don’t run the risk of burning/overheating.

3. If the batteries and wiring is happy I would lift the drive axle off the ground and see if you get the drivetrain to move and move without protest.

Bill Sampson
Bill Sampson
1 year ago
Reply to  CarlsonRower

Hi, I have a similar problem on my ChangLi. It stopped running after backing up. All power is gone to all 12V accessories, lights, fans, etc. and the main motor does not run. I checked the fuses and batteries, all good. I have 60 V to the controller area (the 60V to 12V DC box & the junction box under the back seat), but no output from the 12V side. I bought a 60V to 12V DC to DC converter, but when I was installing something odd happened. I needed a 60V (+/-) input, so I found the lines under the back seat and then disconnected the circuit breaker at the battery pack under the front seat to begin working on it. I checked and still had 60V with the main breaker OFF. So, I disconnected the (-) and the (+) cables feeding the breaker and still had 60V. So I disconnected all of the series battery cables between all 5 batteries and then the power was finally OFF. I reconnected one series cable between 2 batteries, BUT left the main cables disconnected and check the power. It was now 49V??? How can this be????? If there was a connection with only 2 batteries connected it should be 24V not 49V. I totally puzzled.

I’d really like to fix this but I cannot find a wiring diagram and do not understand the circuits. Can anyone out their help me???
Bill in Idaho

Flinched
Flinched
2 years ago

Jason – the reason for the failure is quite simple. You are experiencing planned obsolescence from a car manufacturer that couldn’t build a reliable lawn mower. You definitely got what you paid for. Recycle everything you can, throw away the rest.

Ben Novak
Ben Novak
2 years ago

Pulsing and grinding noise, you say? Don’t ask me – my only suggestion would be similar to this classic Peanuts comic (republished today, coincidentally):
Charlie Brown: You think my dad doesn’t know anything about cars? Yesterday he heard a strange grinding noise coming from the engine.
Linus: Don’t tell me he stopped the car and fixed it.
Charlie Brown: No, he just turned the radio up louder so he couldn’t hear it.

Ron888
Ron888
2 years ago

Just a quick comment as i have to be somewhere.
That noise sounds VERY much like a stripped gear. Hopefully i’m wrong

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 years ago

“Jason, just an FYI – outdoor cats are terrible for the environment as they decimate native wildlife and spread disease through their waste.”

By that logic no human should ever be allowed outside ever. Hope you like the great indoors.

Ron888
Ron888
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

We don’t eat small wildlife or shit everywhere outside.From your comment i’m guessing you do? 😀

Kevin Rhodes
Kevin Rhodes
2 years ago

That sure seems mechanical, not electrical. You are drawing huge amounts of current and melting things because the motor is stalling trying to turn whatever is binding.

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 years ago

Jason, I’m happy to make you a lithium pack while you are in there. If nothing else, bring it to CMP for the Champcar race in June and I’ll make you 4 gauge cables.

Juan Butera
Juan Butera
2 years ago

I thought Changli cars were disposable. Aren’t you now supposed to get a new one and discard the old one in an approved manner?

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