Experimental Electric Vehicles

July 3, 2013

A New Chapter: Torke Electric Vehicles

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 2:01 am

Flyer Header 1

Everyone that has been following me knows I have a passion of building performance electric vehicles, especially motorcycles. The market is still very open in the power-sports segment for EV’s. I have decided to to launch a company “Torke Electric Vehicles” I specifically called it this because I plan on quickly branching into watercraft, ATV’s, scooters, snow mobiles, etc… The decision to leave Tesla Motors wasn’t easy, I loved working there but I knew I needed to follow my true passion.

We will be launching the company with two models- “Torke Energy” & “Torke Anode”. Both based on the same frame and similar bodies.

The “Torke Energy” will be the higher performance longer range AC powered belt driven electric sport bike

The “Torke Anode” will be the commuter motorcycle shorter range DC powered motorcycle for true entry level EV enthusiast and beginners on two wheels.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 4.12.54 PM

The production ready prototype should be completed by early August 2013 with videos and actual specs to follow soon.

— website- http://www.TorkeUSA.com

Keep tuned for more information

July 2, 2013

Battery Charger Update!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 4:05 pm

Hello everyone, Sorry its been a while since I’ve posted, Life can get crazy sometimes with moving, jobs, family, starting a business (see next post) etc.

But recently I had my Elite power solutions internal 10amp charger die AGAIN! I dont put up with junk parts too long so I decided its time to replace it with a more reliable Zivan NG1 battery.

Zivan NG1

Zivan NG1

I found there was enough space between the controller under the “tank” and the top of the batteries. I started by removing the top battery cell.


I first test fit the charger into the bike by strapping it to the top cell with the same heavy-duty velcro straps I use to retain the batteries in.

NG1 charger strapped to one top battery module

NG1 charger strapped to one top battery module

Wiring up the charger is pretty straight forward, positive to positive, negative to negative. Be sure to wire this so the charger power goes THROUGH the main vehicle fuse and use appropriate wire size for the amperage of the charger. There are on/off relay outputs on this charger to control certain things like lights, aux batteries etc.. I used mine for a green LED light ring for a charge indicator.


positive and negative leads installed in charger plug

positive and negative leads installed in charger plug

After wiring the charger be sure to check it for correct amperage and voltage output.

10.6 amps at 80.7 volts

10.6 amps at 80.7 volts

I wanted a new easier method to plug the bike in, so I decided to mount a waterproof 120v 15amp socket on the motorcycle. This makes life easier by just leaving an extension cord in your garage for charging and carry around a small 6 foot cord for public charging.

hole saw for the new charge port

hole saw for the new charge port


realizing that this panel is frequently removed for inspection and testing I decided to install a 3-prong “weather-pack” connector in-line.


charge-port installed

charge-port installed

I used a 15amp black extension cord and chopped the end off it, then installed a matching round female 120v NEMA 5-15 connector on the end. This makes the connection pretty weatherproof even while charging.

6 foot public charge / travel cord.

6 foot public charge / travel cord.

I then decided to mount a round green LED ring around the charge port to indicate “charging”, and “battery full”


It was attached using RTV glue and hot-melt glue to make it waterproof.

green = charging. off = battery full.

green = charging. off = battery full.

Looks especially cool at night, picture doesn’t do it justice.


February 13, 2013

2013 Muskegon Area Fuel Economy Challenge

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 7:00 pm

This year a friend of mine Kraig Schultz is hosting the first west Michigan fuel economy challenge. It will be held on Muskegon Earth Fair on April 27, 2013.

There will be several categories for vehicles

Human / Animal Powered (i.e. jogging or horse back riding)
Human / Electric Hybrid (i.e. electric bicycle)
Electric Powered
Electric / Combustion Hybrid
Combustion Powered

Each vehicle must have been used to provide practical transportation for at least one person for a total distance of not less than 300 miles during the last calendar year

Vehicles will be from the Muskegon area. Challengers in a 55 mile radius around Muskegon are invited to compete. This area includes Muskegon, Whitehall, Montague, Ludington, Big Rapids, Grand Rapids, Holland, Zeeland, etc.

The competition is judged on either most miles traveled annually, or efficiency via MPGe. Refer to chart below.

there will be prizes too-


also here is a map of the regions charge point stations near Muskegon-


If you cannot do the challenge please come out and attend the Earth Fair at-

Grand Valley University
Michigan Alternative Renewable Energy Center (MAREC)
Viridian Dr, Muskegon, MI 49440

Earth Fair Time: 1:00pm-4:00pm
Admission Fee: Free

For more information or to sign up for the challenge go to Kraigs website-


see you out there!

January 21, 2013

FCEV vs. BEV … The debate continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:31 am

I have been involved in several long debates within the alternative energy community about the advantages and disadvantages of both FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) ans BEV’s (battery electric vehicle)

I want to make a quick post with the important factors of both of these systems, and their applications in the real world.

In sence both of these power-trains are rather similar. The FCEV is essentially a BEV but instead of a large battery, it uses a much smaller high voltage traction battery (sometimes no battery) with the addition of a membrane fuel cell energy converter (Proton exchange membrane) on board that mixes 2 gases, usually hydrogen and oxygen (other gasses can be used, but these are by far the most common) and creates a reaction where bonds are broken and atoms are traded to form another substance, usually water is the by-product. During the reaction of breaking these covalent atomic bonds, energy is released. We can capture most of this energy using a fuel cell device, use it on demand, or store it in a battery until needed.


Now lets look at the in’s and outs of using hydrogen on board a vehicle as a FCEV.

-Acquiring Hydrogen- You may be thinking, where am I going to re-fuel my fuel cell car with hydrogen? And honestly its a very good question, there are only a handful of actual re-fueling stations available at this moment, mostly in California and you pay a premium (about $4.00 a gallon equivalent to gasoline)

-Fuel Reformer- But their is another option, using a fuel reformer. This will allow you to re-fuel your vehicle with gasoline, diesel, or natural gas (depending on its design) and then it will use a very complex system to convert it to hydrogen gas on-board your vehicle to feed the fuel-cell. The disadvantage is this reformer uses energy as well, bringing the total efficiency down even further then 80% and also forcing you to purchase gasoline (and isint the goal of alternative fuels to avoid using foreign fossil fuels?)

-Efficiency- Some of the best fuel cells that are commercially available are only 80% efficient. (only 80% of the hydrogen energy is actually captured) where BEV’s are usually upwards of 90% efficient with its on-board energy.

-Cost- one of the currently available FCEV’s the “Mercedes-Benz F-Cell” can be leased in only certain areas for $849/month! Full review here- http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-reviews/first-drives/2012-mercedes-benz-f-cell. Given that current BEV’s are fairly expensive, but the price has come down a lot over the past few years. Note the new lower price of the 2013 Nissan Leaf at $28,800!


-Rare metals- Most current designs of fuel cells require the use of very pure platinum in its construction. This is a very rare and expensive metal for something to be intended for wide spread adoption. Advancements in using less platinum, and shaping it differently has come a long way, but it’s still necessary. Lithium batteries require some special materials too, but luckily they are in abundant supply and getting more common due to their current demand.

Fuel cell enclosure and membrane

Fuel cell enclosure and membrane

-Complication- The well-to-wheels operation of the FCEV goes something like this.

1. Electricity > Electrolysis process > Hydrogen gas storage > Transportation > Compression to vehicle tank > Fuel Cell membrane exchange > Electrical Inverter > Electric drive motor > Wheels 

—or using a fuel reformer—

2. Oil drilling operation > Transportation > Refinery > Transportation > Fuel reformer (gasoline to hydrogen conversion) > Fuel Cell membrane exchange > Electrical Inverter > Electric motor > Wheels

compared to a BEV’s well-to-wheels goes like this.

1. Electricity > High voltage storage battery > Inverter > Drive motor > Wheels

It takes energy to perform every step listed above (>), reducing the overall efficiency. if you notice also in the FCEV number one, the cycle begins as electrical energy and ends as electrical energy. The hydrogen is just a “carrier” of energy in this method making MANY inefficiencies during the process, where as a BEV uses direct electricity during the entire process, eliminating many inefficiencies.

-Time of re-fueling- This is the only area where the FCEV shines, it can be re-fueled rather quickly in minutes. Where as the fastest BEV charger can return 150 miles in 30 minutes (Tesla supercharging station) still fast, but not as fast as the FCEV.


Understand that I am not intentionally trying to dismay the use of fuel cell vehicles, I think anything that is more efficient then our current ICE engines is great. And any invention that can operate on a non fossil fuel is great! Although the FCEV has some serious infrastructure and efficiency issues currently it doesn’t mean that in the future these can be advanced and improved. These inefficiencies of FCEV’s compared to battery electric vehicles can sometimes be overlooked for the quick re-fuel time in cases like the trucking, and construction industry where downtime in unacceptable, and fossil fuel usage is currently way too high.

prototype FCEV semi-truck

prototype FCEV semi-truck

December 8, 2012

Compressed Air Power, Is It Real, or Just Hot Air?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:57 am

All of us are familiar with air, and most of us are famaliar with the power of compressed air. Its easy to see the potental energy in compressed air by going to any local auto shop and watching the air tools they use exert extreme energy. Compressed air is ecentally stored electrical energy, much like a battery, just in a different form.

The idea of using compressed air as a vehicle energy source has always intrigued me. Recently a company in Australia built a working prototype of a motorcross air powered motorcycle with fairly impressive numbers!

air power

Link to the article – http://phys.org/news/2012-11-yamaha-frame-bike-scuba-tank-dyson.html

I do see a few flaws in the current idea of trying to impliment air powered vehicles.

First I wouldn’t say there “easy to fill” since there’s pretty much no infrastructure, Other then scuba filling shops which will charge 10~15 dollars to refill a tank to the stated 2,900 psi, because no household or even professional shop compressor can reach that pressure. Also with current technology the tank would have to be physically removed and placed in a bath of water to keep it cool during filling.

As for cost to “fill-up” at an average $12.50 (some scuba shops I called) would make the operating cost 20 cents per mile. Even a decent 250cc gasoline motorcycle can achieve about 7~12 cents per mile at $4 per gallon gas. This is where EV motorcycles (and drivetrains) shine, it costs about 50 cents to fully recharge my motorcycle, including the 15% inefficiency of the charger. Condescendingly enough my motorcycle also has a 60 mile range, therefore it achieves an efficiency of .008 cents per mile!

Like the hydrogen engine and fuel cell idea, it unfortunatly seriously lacks infrastructure. If someone gave you a hydrogen or air powered vehicle tomorrow, where would you fill it? But electricity is everywhere, literally every building and house has it right there to charge batteries or capacitors for your transportation. And with the rapidly expanding charge point, blink, and chademo network, high power, fast recharging will soon be available at every popular mall, theater, and restaurant (like in California already) and that’s if you require a charge!

air power motor

Although infrastructure for compressed air energy would be vastly easier then the others to implement since it only requires the installation of a high pressure air compressor and electrical hook-up. Where as crude oil, hydrogen, ethanol, and natural gas requires refinement, compression (sometimes), and physical transportation to stations. Using energy to transport energy, which is poor use of energy and very inefficient.


There have been some interesting ideas of mixing the EV drivetrain with an air powered generator that could be filled rapidly at stations, probably more likely to be on a car since there’s more room for that multilple energy systems.

In conclusion, Currently electric vehicles have far better efficiencies, infastructure, and energy storage. I would perfer to see the contuning integreation and development of air energy storage for vehicle power. I believe it has vast advantages over current energys derivered from crude oil becasue it of its renewable factor combined with a simpler infrastructure to construct.

November 7, 2012

End of Year Review: E-Speed

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:51 am

This is the second summer season of riding the E-Speed motorcycle, it has been through a lot more charge cycles, and conquered more miles!

I started the season with 1,133 miles in April, and have finished with 2125 miles, so the total mileage of this season was 992 miles. Thus far the 60 mile range seems to remain solid, with no noticeable range degradation.

-The 2125 miles equates to-

18 dollars of total electricity usage.

47.2 gallons of gas NOT burned.

944 pounds of C02 NOT emitted into our air.

20 full battery charge cycles.

0 dollars given to foreign oil companies.

1 very happy EV owner!

I did have two issues with the motorcycle this season,

-Kickstand switch failure-

Occasionally the motorcycle would shut off on very light bumps, I quickly diagnosed it as loose contacts internally in the switch. A simple switch replacement fixed the problem.

-on-board battery charger failure-

Perhaps because I was one of the first to buy this charger, I may have received a faulty one, but never the less it failed on me and unfortunately because of the method I use to measure capacity on my motorcycle where I always reset the amp-hour used when I assume the battery has been fully charged, but in this case of charger failure I was assuming wrong, and I was left stranded about 10 miles away. This luckily will not happen again because of much better designed SOC measurement systems available now which will be implemented on the next motorcycle! The charger has been since replaced and been operational thus far.


I also had the pleasure of riding with a (cute female) passenger many times this season, I was curious how it would effect efficiency and acceleration, but surprisingly it wasnt too bad, I lost a small amount of Wh/Mile and getting on/off the motorcycle is a little tricky. But it certainly doesn’t take away the efficiency or fun factor at all!

Although one thing I have learned on this motorcycle, is that its ground clearance is too low. I have scraped the front edge of the farrings on bumps and pot-holes around town. My next motorcycle will have a slightly higher ground height clearance to overcome such obstacles.

Thus far the motorcycle has been extremely reliable, enough so that I consistently used it for my work commute and errands around town. I attended two very fun and eye opening EV events to answer questions and display the bike. Hopefully we get another Indian summer like last and can ride through December!

Stay tuned for the next bike build…

October 9, 2012

Far From “Zero” Miles

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:43 am

As you may remember I did a post about my co-workers Zero ZF9 motorcycle he purchased. Its a fantastic electric motorcycle with many fine features. He has continued to drive it as his primary vehicle rain or shine, equipped with a custom smart phone bracket he now can navigate easily anywhere in the city or suburbs.

I am impressed to hear in the time of 8 months he achieved 5000 MILES on the motorcycle thus far! Since I work with him I have heard first hand of any problems he has had, (I am sort of his personal mechanic) which has only been the throttle cut off recall issue, solved by some sealing of control boards inside the battery to prevent moisture intrusion.

Here is the Proof!

August 14, 2012

Its a Blast!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:04 pm

So after talking with many EV motorcycle enthusiasts I have found that the new Zero ZF6 and ZF9 have become a favorite among the community. Fortunately my co-worker owns one and I have had the luxury of getting to drive one many times and even work on it! Its truly a great motorcycle and I want to bring such a motorcycle to the DIY’ers around the world. Theres many people in the world who would love to have a motorcycle that’s smooth, belt drive, silent, but want to build it themselves to save money and customize it to their own needs.

I have come to the decision that converting a Buell Blast motorcycle will give me the ability to have such a motorcycle, although after tear-down I noticed a major problem, and probably why many people havnet done such conversions. Where most motorcycles the swing-arm is attached to the frame, the buell engineers decided to attach the suspension component to the engine making a tricky problem for the average EV converter. Luckily I am not the average converter, and love a challenge!

Therefore my next project here will be the conversion of a Buell Blast, with the adaptation of a complete electric conversion bracket that will be produced by myself for others to purchase and convert their very own Buell Blast.

Finding these Buell Blasts is a cinch, there are many of them available on the market because there usually considered a “beginner bike” by many motorcyclist therefore often traded for more powerful motorcycles.

Here lies the problem, note where the swing-arm mounting tube is hanging in space attached to nothing. This is where a complex bracket system is needed to simultaneity mount the swing-arm and the electric motor on the chassis.

Although crude, I was able to place the Mars electric motor and swing-arm in the desired positions. now I need to make them stationary so brackets can be fabricated to make this permanent.

Thus far I have completed the CAD part of the project (cardboard aided design) where I get a vauge idea of the size, shape, and orientation of the aluminum plates needed. From here I can make prototype templates to increase accuracy and eventually leading to the final product.

More pics and info to come as the prototype conversion bracket is built.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in purchasing a Buell Blast conversion bracket, please email me!


Thanks, and happy converting!

June 27, 2012

An EV Toolbox Must Have

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 7:48 pm

I usually don’t post something about ONE tool on here, but being involved with EV’s for many years I always wanted a better way of crimping those high voltage/current lug ends on the high voltage wires, I finally came across this thing,


It can crimp from wire size “0” – “14” gauge, I did notice the dies seem a bit small, I used a gauge “2” on my 4 gauge lug ends and it worked perfect.

It is an incredible tool for the price of $65.00, but dont think you can run out and purchase this at your local harbor freight, I think its an online only item according to the employees at my local Harbor freight store.

The dies slip in and out with ease, and snap in so they dont fall out.

It all comes in a nice case to keep your dies organized in. If youre planning on, or already building EV’s purchase one, you wont regret it!

June 18, 2012

Livonia Michigan EV Meet and Auto-X

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 9:51 pm

Four years ago I was invited to attend a small EV show in Livonia Michigan, it was the 1st annual “electric auto association” (EAA) meet in Michigan. Not knowing what to expect I packed my things and went. Small it was, but I could tell by the dozen or so people that showed up there was a lot of passion and excitement surrounding these EV’s. Four years later the show has multiplied ten fold, large companies like Ford, Fisker, Mitsubishi etc are coming and setting up displays with their latest technology, along with all the many of home brewers like me!

Our booth with Kraig Schultz and his 2 motorcycles, one being his older dustbin farring bike upgraded to 72 volts (pretty fast now!) and his second prototype Delta-11 dual position motorcycle. In the picture, Nick Helmholdt, Kraig Schultz, and Tony Helmholdt (me)

Mitsubishi was there in force giving many people the chance to test drive and ride in an electric car, I’m not so sure about the styling, but I’m glad a manufacturer as large as Mitsubishi is getting involved.

Now for a little more stylish EV (well sorta) on the market, the Karma Fisker, its essentially a large more complex and faster chevy volt, its a plug-in hybrid with 4 doors 4 seats.

I will say, this claim of having “4 seats” is a little stretch, the rear legroom looks rather tight, even for my 10 year old niece!

A fellow Detroit area resident drove his 2011 Zero electric motorcycle to the show and impressed us all, their motorcycles are very well built, and impressive all around in design and function.

Probably one of the single best EV conversions I have ever seen, this Porsche was so well made that not only did it look almost completely UN-changed from stock inside and out, but it operated the same. you could hand the keys to a teenage girl and she wouldn’t know the difference between this EV Porsche and a gas one other then the fact one was easier to hear the music.

Bowling green state university showed up again with their student built and raced electric karts, these things are fast! pure acceleration and zero bells and whistles, they are very purpose built! Although not street legal they were by-far the fastest things on the auto-x.

And for the 4th year running my motorcycle has taken the award for Michigan fastest 2 wheel EV!

Check out the video-

I want to Thank all the people who put the show together this year, it was fantastic and I look forward to coming back next year, also a big thanks to my brother Nick who has consistently been a huge help and great company at the last 4 years of shows in Livonia.

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