TI Fuel Gauge Circuit EVM - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: TI Fuel Gauge Circuit EVM

Author: ipv1

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Test Equipment

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: The EV2400 is a newer model and supported at the time of this writing.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Drivers! Absence of Self-Test capability.

Detailed Review:

The subject of this inquiry is the Texas Instruments EV2300 which is a USB-Based PC interface board for Battery Fuel (Gas) Gauge Evaluation. Combined with the Battery Management Studio evaluation software, it is a powerful tool that allows for communication and configuration of the ‘Smart devices’ offered by Texas Instruments. Devices such as the BQ27510(used in the Fuel Tank Booster Pack) and BQ25703A(OTG Charger) can be interfaced via I2C thereby enabling the relay of information and commands such as charging state, cell control and other useful battery information.

The EV2300 is a relatively primitive piece of equipment as evident from it’s documentation and driver support. The original User Guide was written in the February of 2005 and last revision was made in the May of 2013. Despite this fact, it is still being sold by TI as well as it’s distributors which beckons the question of whether it is usable or not considering that its successor the EV2400 offers the same functionality with additional support and more updated documentation.

Inside the EV2300

As I stated before, the EV2300 is a dated piece of equipment. Under the hood, it relies upon the Texas Instruments TUSB3410 UART/I2C/IrDA Serial port to USB Bridge Chip which itself is an active product. Additionally, a bq8015dbt is used which is a Programmable battery management IC from 2002 and is used for SMBus interfacing.

There is not much to the hardware actually. I am assuming the firmware does the selection of the bus type and that is where things get tricky. The code for it or the protocol used by Battery Studio is closed source and Texas Instruments won’t give it up… I asked nicely  

My Interest in the EV2300

My interest in the EV2300 was a side effect of Texas Instrument releasing the BQ25703A which is a Buck-Boost charger that has enormous potential in portable applications. Texas Instruments was kind enough to supply the EVM module for the same free of cost on my request a few weeks prior to the EV2300 road test announcement.

Both the EV2300 and BQ25703A are shown below.

This exercise is not about the BQ25703A but rather the EV2300 and it’s usefulness in new designs. What follows is my experience with the board and software.

The Driver’s Affair

It is important to note that the EV2300 is an OLD and already phased out piece of hardware. The USB interface is powered by a TUSB321 Chip from Texas Instruments hence requires a driver when working with windows. This is where the fight with the tool begins. The official page for the EV2300 is at http://www.ti.com/tool/EV2300 and there is a link to the User Guide… http://www.ti.com/lit/pdf/sluu159 that was last updated in 2013.

USB drivers are provided at http://www.ti.com/lit/zip/slec003 with a note of caution….

The official drivers support only 32 bit platforms and that too under Windows XP and Windows 7. I went ahead and setup not two but three windows 7 32-bit machines to test the drivers and in my test the driver installation was problematic in 2 out of 3 cases. Why? Because depending upon the service pack, the unsigned drivers were rejected by Windows 7 itself. This was when a major chunk of my time went into and I am not happy with that.

In one case, I had the driver install successfully and still not show up in the device manager!

So can I use the EV2300 with 64-bit windows? Kinda. Your best bet is the thread over at http://e2e.ti.com/support/power_management/battery_management/f/180/t/128220 which has numerous links to drivers updated over the years from 2014 and so on.

http://e2e.ti.com/cfs-file/__key/telligent-evolution-components-attachments/00-180-01-00-01-11-22-05/EV2300a_5F00_Device_5F00_Driver_5F00_Installer_5F00_Multilanguage.exe

There is numerous bits of information about how to make that work BUT the consensus seems to indicate a singular verdict. The drivers suck! Big Time!

The BQ-Studio Application

Lets day you are able to get the drivers working and you finally settle down and download the BQ Studio App which is available for download at http://www.ti.com/tool/BQSTUDIO .  At the time of this writing, the available option was v1.3.54.1 which is the release version.

I hit another snag at this point which is due to the BQ25703A EVM I was experimenting with. It was not in the list!

How is that possible since the EVM documentation clearly states that it should work?

TI, you really need to clean house people cause this is getting annoying.

The solution was finding a test version of the BQ Studio - Version 1.3.80. that can be downloaded from the same site.

With this piece of new software, I was able to talk to the BQ25703A EVM.

Support

The EV2300 is not really supported officially anymore which means no more driver updates and application support may phase out as well. My happiness was short lived with the system. Maybe I messed something up and maybe the drivers flunked out again but at this time, I am unable to use the EV2300 and BQ25703A combo anymore.  There is no way to find the culprit since the software support is abysmal.

Final Verdit

This has to be the most painful review of my career. IF you can get the EV2300 to work, it is wonderful. You can focus on your work HOWEVER, in case you run into an issue, you may find yourself wandering the internet helplessly till infinity.

My verdict in this case is to avoid the EV2300 if possible. Go for the EV2400 which is in production and is better supported for future designs.

Additional remarks

TI can make some part of the EV2300 firmware open source so that we may port it to other hardware. We would still be using TI EVMs, however, it would solve a lot of diagnostic problems. I tried enquiring about it on the e2e forums but was shot down. I am unable to get behind some of these product due to the poor performance to cost ratio.

 

I will try and experiment with other TI chips and EVMs in the future which may prove more fruitful however, after spending too much time with this device, I am not sure I can recommend such activities in the near future. I had such high hopes for this one.

Anonymous
  • I am guessing this activity is meant to clarify why buying an EV2300 is not a good idea. The EV2400 is twice the cost hence many might buy the older version to save some money. Its not unusable, it is just not advisable.

  • I am curious as to why TI would put up an old board, that they are potentially phasing out, for reviewing when that have an updated board already on sale?

     

    Surely the newer board would have been a far more enjoyable experience for all?

     

    Or have I missed something?

     

    Kind regards

  • Negative experience in a support forum is always dreadful. In particular with a road test where you have limited time to finish the exercise. You'd also expect the product support team to be close on the ball during a road test review of their baby.