MattB's picture

My E-Bike Experiment

My E-Bike experiment started two years ago while recovering from back surgery. I spent lots of money on crazy gadgets that I didn’t need while I was home on disability. Many of the stupid things I bought turned out to be a big waste of money but the E-Bike was not one of them. The E-Bike retrofit kit has turned out to the best purchase that I’ve made for a variety of reasons.

First, I needed the exercise of bicycling but don’t like climbing hills or overexerting myself. In other words, I’m a fat lazy guy that would rather have an electric motor powering my bicycle than my legs. I still get a little exercise starting from a stop and climbing small hills. The more energetic I feel the more I’ll pedal.

Second, the E-Bike saved me from buying another car for almost a year. The E-Bike may turn out to be the best and most convenient way to get back and forth from work on days when it’s not raining or too cold. The second reason turned out to be the reason why the initial expenditure of $300 was well worth it. I’ve since spent another couple hundred bucks on chargers and batteries. This $500 compared to the payments on a car, insurance, gas, wear & tear costs is a fraction of what I would have spent in a year commuting to work. Even though my work is not far from home and I could walk for free, the E-Bike is a convenient and fast way to get across town.

The biggest problems that I’ve had with the E-Bike have been related to the batteries. I’m now considering a more expensive replacement for my heavy SLA batteries. The problems that I’ve had with the batteries are as follows: Because the three 12V 10Ahr batteries weigh over 30 Lbs., the load on my bicycle rack is heavy enough to break the screws that hold the rack to the frame and I’m constantly retightening and re-securing the battery pack to the bicycle rack. A lighter Ni or Li based battery in a triangle between my legs on the bicycle frame would work much better for the bumps and jumps getting around town. After a few months, my 36V charger stopped charging the batteries properly. I bought all new batteries and ended up buying three separate 12V chargers which seems to work better to cycle the batteries. I got a medium 6A charger without a float and it caused two of my SLA batteries to expand and melt down. The casing spewed forth hydrogen sulfide rotten egg smelling gas all over my apartment. Now, I know why they say to charge the batteries outside. Smart chargers with a float that maintains the battery after reaching full charge is the right answer. After spending a couple hundred dollars on SLA batteries and various chargers, I’ve now got three batteries that work well, a backup set of three batteries and the three 12V smart chargers that I use to keep the batteries topped off all the time. At work, I use the 6A charger to boost the batteries between trips. It’s a hassle to always be connecting and disconnecting chargers but the only way I could make this easier is by spending a bunch more money that I’m not ready to spend yet.

I have learned quite a bit about battery technology, wiring 12V batteries in series and considered getting a job with a company that deals with fuel cells. Since new forms of energy production and storage are going to be the next new frontier of technology. Recent innovations in battery technology, the demand for electric cars and price of gasoline is forcing this technology forward. Soon, we will have fast charging batteries that can propel our E-Bikes with more and more extended ranges that may even cost less than the ones that we’re buying now. Unfortunately, for now, the E-Bike market isn’t big enough to get good battery development moving. We’ll have to pick up the pieces after GM and some other companies try to make their electric cars more efficient. It looks like one of the best batteries to use for now based on weight, range and cycle life is either a NiCAD, NiMh or Li battery. These batteries are very expensive and because the technology is new, wasting money on something that’s not proven is not a good idea.

My dream E-Bike is a little faster and goes a little farther on a charge than what I’m currently using. I’ve done some research and a good 48V faster hub motor and controller along with a good set of NiCAD batteries with a smart 48V charger that I can cycle 1000 times, will run me a little less than $1000. I think I’ll use the tax refund, that the government is borrowing money to pay me, for this next purchase.

Right now, my E-Bike propels me around town at 15-20 MPH since I’m a big guy and those batteries weigh a ton. I figure with 48V instead of 36V, lighter batteries, and maybe loosing a few pounds as my current batteries get drained, I’ll be able to get twice as far, twice as fast. Maybe I won’t get twice as fast, but possibly a little faster and farther than my cheaper setup.

Several years ago, I had a friend die in a motorcycle crash and my wife has never let me entertain the thought of getting a gas powered motorcycle. Little does she know that my bicycle conversion is the closest thing to a motorcycle since I got rid of my Honda 250CRX and Yamaha YZ400. I don’t know if I would enjoy a gas powered motorcycle as much when the speed limits around town are 25MPH.

The U.S. law has capped the E-Bike speed at 20MPH as a legal limit but I know now, after reading many testimonials online, that people are going to 48V and 72V with faster and faster hub motors. I’ve seen some youtube videos of people clocking over 40MPH and without any resistance over 50MPH. I can imagine that with larger permanent magnets and more voltage from longer lasting lighter Li batteries that people will be pushing the limits of what is safe with a complete disregard for the legal limits.

After reading somewhere online that somebody boosted their BD36V to 48 Volts and it worked just fine, I tried the higher voltage out with my E-Bike. WOW! What a difference. The max speed is just about right for my bike at 25MPH. The range is a little better. Four SLA batteries weigh a ton and I’m probably going to destroy something with this much weight on my bike, but for now it’s a lot of fun. I’ve reinforced the bike rack holding four 10 amp/hour batteries stacked in a 2x2 cube. The batteries are strapped to the rack with three nylon straps and a strong bungee cord. My bike takes quite a beating at higher speeds over railroad tracks and bumps in the road but it’s a mountain bike that was originally built to take some abuse.

If you enjoy that feeling of wind in your face all the time like your riding down hill on the flats, the strange looks that you get passing people that are peddling their tail off and the lack of maneuverability like your riding a heavy motorcycle, then this is definitely the invention for you.

?? slowing down the controler speed ??

Any one out there know how to slow down a controler to 180 cpM ??? a high torque bldc 24" diam at the gap ??

jstept's picture

The Rezistor build continues

I haven't blogged in a while, but it's not because I haven't been making progress. It's just that when I get free time, I'd rather spend it building than typing and uploading photos. Here's a summary of what I've been doing:

I had to reconfigure LiFeP04 battery pack 1 so it fit better in the space below the seat. This involved cutting the tape that held it together, cutting and resoldering some of the links between the cells, and extending some of the wires to the BMS.

I got some perforated angle, some hinges, and a bunch of nuts and bolts, and built a rack for battery pack 2 under the left cowl. Originally I was thinking this might have to be welded to the body, but I don't weld, so I ended up drilling some holes in the body. I don't think it looks too bad. It sticks out a bit underneath, but still looks better than an exhaust pipe.

I took apart the taillight and replaced the tiny bulb (it didn't have a brakelight) with some LEDs mounted in a piece of acrylic. It screws in very nicely to the existing taillight mount. I wired a couple of resistors in series with a bypass so it functions as a brakelight as well.

I figured out places to mount the main components. The main fuse holder, contactor, and 12V converter are screwed directly into holes I drilled in the body. I had a piece of angle left over from the B2 mounting, so I screwed that to the body where the fuel tank was, and I'll bolt the controller to that. B1 fits pretty well right in the space in front of that, and I don't think I'll need to build any special mount, maybe just a big rubber bungee to secure it to the angle.

The old horn runs on AC, so I bought a new DC horn from (interestingly they are in Boulder Creek, CA, where my mom lives) as well as a keyswitch. The Chinese horn was much less expensive than a DC Vespa horn. I cut some notches around the edge of the horn so I could secure it into the horncast with screws. The previous owner gave me a new horncast along with the old one, so in the photo you can see the old on the left and new on the right.

The brake parts I ordered from Ptown Scooters finally came in this week, so I was really glad to get those. I'm reusing the original front and rear drum brakes, so I needed new cables and rear shoes. As I mentioned before, this scooter never had a brakelight (or turnsignals, or speedo...) so Steve at Ptown found me me some brakelight switches that install in-line with the cables, and I think these will work out nicely. Thanks, Steve!

I got the missing bracket for the center stand, so I finally installed that. This makes work a little easier. I also got bolts for the seat attachment.

The old switchpanel was a mess, so I built a new one out of three layers of 1/8" black acrylic that I superglued together. The rectangular rocker switch on the left is for forward/reverse, the round rocker switch on the right is the turn signal, and the red button is the horn. The LED blinks red along with the turn signal. I bought the turn signal blinker at an auto parts store.

Most of the rest of the work is wiring. Today, using an unbent coat hanger, I pulled the rear brake cable through the wiring channel in the body, along with several wires for throttle control, forward/reverse, and lighting (including white LEDs for reverse, the housing for which I have yet to build). Pulling the wires was a total PITA; I'm really glad that's over.

Yes, still ugly. And the Vespa doesn't look so great, either. I've realized at this point that this is really going to be two projects: the conversion and the restoration. I've never done a scooter restoration before, so I'm not really sure how far I'm going to carry it. I suppose it depends somewhat on how much fun it is to ride when I'm done.

Oh, and I got married. Huge thanks to my lovely wife for her continued patience and support as I finish the project!

reikiman's picture

Fitting the Fairing to the Lectra

Today I got the fairing out and tried fitting it to the Lectra. Last week I measured things and drew pictures on paper, but this week it was made a little more real.

First.. this is what the fairing looks like, the picture was taken the day I picked it up. We loaded it on my motorcycle trailer and strapped it down sitting in the rail.


Next.. this is what the Lectra looks like. The batteries are being held in place with nylon straps, they're sold as "battery straps", rated at 400 pounds, the upper batteries have two straps, and the straps are long enough to wrap around twice. It seems to be doing a good job holding the batteries in place.


I have been keeping the fairing beside the garage under a blue tarp. First thing I had to do was drag it into the back yard, unscrew it from the wood 2x4's it had been bolted to, then hose it off.


Then I used a jigsaw and cut off the flash from both halves of the fairing.


Then finally I brought the bike out front in the driveway and brought both halves of the fairing out and tried fitting it in place.


Right now it looks like I should cut the fairing in half, just behind the peak. The front half needs to be located such that the peak is at the same position as the handlebars. However that makes the nose quite a ways out in front. And there's a question how to have the headlight work through the fairing or whether to mount some kind of headlight on the fairing.

But I'm thinking to first do the back half because it looks like it will be easier to do the rear half. There are fewer problems with mounting the rear half of the fairing..

I also bought some PVC tubing for mounting the fairing following the general idea outlined on these pages:

With the rear half of the fairing I'm planning to use two struts on each side, take off the seat and plastic that's there right now. I'll attach the t-joints to the frame using hose clamps but it's not entirely clear how to connect the PVC pipe to the fairing piece. I've also bought a trunk and am planning to mount that to the frame in place of the rear part of the seat area.

: Re: a list of all ev' s out there so I can compare and choose

can we assembile a list of evs by watts , speed , range type of batt . type of controler and contact address., Support and Service and trust rating etc>> No exclusions ! A way for the newbie to choose his EV and learn the advantages and foibles of each .

JCinStaunton's picture

1981 Yamaha 650 XJ Conversion

First I have 2 motorcycles. Both are Yamaha 650's that I bought off ebay. I went to ohio for this bike...

Love the way it looks :) Just had to have it. Only thing needed is the carbs cleaned. They are being done now at the shop.

Went to Ct. for the parts bike. got to visit my brother when I was there and stayed over for the night.
This is the parts bike.

A week ago I decided to convert the parts bike, and would put parts aside for the first one so I took a couple hours and stripped it down.

First I took off the seat, tank and side covers, then the exhaust and carbs and the battery box and air box came off. I set them off to the side.

Took off the harness and then found I had to remove the headlamp to get the harness off the rest of the way.. Started to slide the engine out but it wouldnt move, there was an obstruction up front so I started to unscrew that and oil dripped out. I drained the oil and removed the air filter. (can you tell this is the first time I ever worked on a motorcycle? normally I send it to a shop, but I have a book now and am learning more all the time). I slid the engine out and it caught on the kickstand which went down as I lowered it. I wiggled the engine off the kickstand and was done with the hard part. I went to move the engine and found I could only lift it a couple inches off the ground so the kickstand must have saved me from dropping it when I slid it off. I moved the engine aside and here is what I had...

I couldnt pick up the engine to move it so I ended up moving it a little at a time to the side of the driveway and it is still there with a wash tub over it til a friend comes over that an help me pick it up. I put all the parts in the shed, put the seat, gas tank, and sidecovers back on and it's ready for the motor, controller etc and batteries.

Now Im on hold while I raise the money to get the parts. I found a kit with all the parts I need already to go, it will be about $1600 total I have a link for that on my post. Then the batteries look like they can be anywhere from $300 to $1200 depending on what I go with. Think it will have to be the cheap batteries for the first round, then later on when I get money again I can upgrade them.

I want to thank all of you folks who gave suggestions and links in my post, and told me about making a blog.
This is my third try to get the blog in. First time it didn't submit because of a bad connection or something and when I hit the back button to try again it said page expired. Second attempt I was almost done and a cat jumped up here and closed my window. I am now going to select all and copy in case something else happens when I hit submit so I dont have to write it all again LOL.

reikiman's picture

Fairing first thoughts

Today I studied the Fairing and the Lectra and am looking at ways to attach the Fairing to the bike. To remind y'all -- Along with my Lectra came a "full" fairing whose design was derived from a motorcycle which achieved 470 miles/gallon efficiency in a contest in the mid 1980's. The fairing is sold by Craig Vetter.. the idea is one way to achieve long(er) range is to increase the aerodynamic efficiency, and that link takes you to a page that shows approximately what I have and what I'm trying to do.

What I have in my back yard is a bubble made of ABS plastic. It is approx 80" from end-end, 45" at the highest point, it's black, etc. There's no obvious way to mount it on the bike, but it is in a very aerodynamic shape and I really want this to work.

The first question is.. how to mount a fairing on a motorcycle. Craig sent me a nice drawing and I also found some other resources about bicycle and motorcycle fairings. It seems the velomobile crowd have tried a lot of ways to achieve this same sort of goal. Here's a few links

The idea for mounting the fairing to the frame is .. you use pipe components, modifying them for the purpose. A T-joint provides a nice base. You cut in half the main part of the T and strap that to the frame using hose clams. Then into the remaining part of the T you insert a pipe and cut that pipe to the length necessary to connect with the fairing. You attach the fairing to this pipe via a mount of some kind. And make sure to have enough of these to hold the fairing in place. The above links show some recumbent bicycles with cloroplast fairings ...

At Orchard Supply I found the following kinds of pipes: a) Galvanized Steel, b) ABS Plastic, and c) another kind of plastic. The ABS plastic seemed the strongest but the narrowest pipe is 2" diameter and is larger than needed for this project. The Galvanized steel is stronger than the ABS plastic, but it's also pretty heavy. There was some narrower plastic and copper pipes but these seemed to be real flexible, and it seems to me the fairing should be held by rigid tubes.

The diagram below is an attempt to show the rear portion of the fairing. I am planning to split the fairing in two halves, and I'll sit in the middle. For the rear I plan to buy a motorcycle trunk and mount that on the back half of the seat, then mount the fairing such that it covers the wheel and meets with the trunk to form a smooth seam. The grey rectangle represents the fairing and it's see-through only so you can see the underlying parts. The actual shape is not rectangular but I couldn't figure out how to get Illustrator to deform the rectangle right. The wheel is also not bright red but it gives you an idea of the size. The motor is mounted on the swingarm just in front of the wheel. The components are drawn to scale FWIW.

I'm thinking to do the rear half of the fairing first. The front half of the fairing needs to surround the front fork and front wheel and looks to be a more complicated job to get mounted.


reikiman's picture

Drag Coefficient, Range, and doing More with Less

Phase 2 of my Lectra project is coming. Phase 2? Read back in my blog in previous Lectra Conversion Diary entries for more details. In Phase 2 I have a full fairing which is meant to make a shell around the entire motorcycle and make it extremely aerodynamic. The idea is to explore vehicle efficiency as a way to increase range.

I've been doing some research .. Cabin scooter and faring design resources from around the Internet .. Go-one Velomobile .. Velomobiles .. 5th generation civic hatchback - improving aerodynamics .. Basjoos Tells All About His "95 MPG" Aerocivic .. and it seems that there can really be a lot of gain from aerodynamics. I came across a couple forum websites where people are discussing ideas on improving aerodynamics of gas cars and other ways to increase gas car efficiency, and they're getting good results. Yeah, they're still 100% addicted to oil but at least they're doing something about the underlying problem and they are getting good results.

Yesterday I did a bit of measurement so I could have a baseline to compare future performance. I found a simple way to ... Measure the drag coefficient of your car ... If you click through to the instructables site you'll find formulas and a spreadsheet. I haven't run the calculations yet, but I've got some numbers. The process is very simple. You take your car or motorcycle or whatever, accelerate up to approx 70 km/hr (45 miles/hr) speed, and then start coasting (in neutral) and measure how long it takes to coast to a stop and speed at various intervals during the coast-down. The formulas in the spreadsheet are able to tell you the actual drag coefficient number. But there is an interesting pattern even without having yet done the number crunching.

I went out with three vehicles (below) and made several runs with each. I have an ipod with a Belkin voice recorder attachment, and during the coast down I called out the speed at 40/35/30/25/20/etc miles/hr intervals. This afternoon I listened to the audio and wrote down the time points for each of the speeds. Making several runs lets me get an average and to account for differing wind conditions (there was little wind) or terrain (it's very flat around here) etc.

1999 Chevy Tracker: 40->10 miles/hr takes approx 60 seconds

2004 Honda Rebel 250: 40->10 miles/hr takes approx 40 seconds

Lectra: 40->10 miles/hr takes approx 25-30 seconds

The idea is that the more quickly the vehicle coasts to a stop, the greater the wind resistance, or put another way the worst the drag coefficient. But this also measures rolling resistance.

I'm a little surprised the Tracker came out the best here. It's shaped a bit like a box, with very little in the way of aerodynamic niceness to it. But on the other hand motorcycles do have these bits hanging out all over the place ..sooo...

The Rebel has a windshield.

The Lectra, since it doesn't have a transmission, that may have introduced some electrical or mechanical drag. With both the Tracker and the Rebel I could put them into neutral (both have manual transmissions) and coast properly, but the Lectra doesn't have a neutral because it doesn't have a transmission.

I think the weight of the Rebel and the Lectra is comparable. The Lectra is a lot shorter than the Rebel, but it has 220 lbs of lead acid batteries on board.

Oh yeah, doing more with less...

That is a phrase Craig Vetter said during his DVD discussing the motorcycle efficiency contest and the fairing I have .. he says he got the phrase from Buckminster Fuller, who he 'followed around' for a couple years. When I heard that phrase come out of Craig's mouth it crystallized for me an idea I've carried for years.

What makes compact fluorescent light bulbs interesting is they emit the same number of lumens by using less electricity. That is doing more with less.

A vehicle that's more aerodynamic can move and use less energy to achieve the same end. I think the Honda Insight, for instance, gets most of its fuel efficiency gain from being small, light, and aerodynamic. The Geo Metro after all got 60 miles per gallon without having a hybrid drive train. Mini-experiment: the wrath of roof racks is a meditation on the negative effect of roof racks on fuel efficiency.

Popular science and Portland

See this is why I love Oregon ;)
Portland was ranked #1 for America's greenest city

"The PopSci folks looked at electricity use, transportation habits, "green" living, and recycling habits".
"It says half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation. And it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council".

I am suprised that San Francisco ranked number 2 on the list!

reikiman's picture

The three wheeler could be running soon

One of my vehicles is a three wheel motorcycle...


I got it 1 1/2 yrs ago through an ebay auction, meaning I did not build the thing. I started to register it last year but during that process the thing stopped working. So for the last 9 months it's been sitting idle while I've focussed on the Lectra. It's been this big white elephant sitting in the driveway to walk past and occasionally think about and get frustrated. I tried several times to get it running but.. no luck.

This afternoon I decided to wire up a controller to the motor completely bypassing the existing wiring. And.. it runs. Yay.. meaning, now that the Lectra is pretty much finished I can spend a few cycles on this trike and get it running too.

Let's see how many electric motorcycles I can own...


Free guide to electric car charging extension cords We sometimes need to lengthen the charging cord, and need to know how to do so safely.

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