Experimental Electric Vehicles

March 23, 2015

Blast from the past, Chapter 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:12 am

Compounding on top of the other problems already existing was the kickstand. The previous kickstand for the Buell Blast was mounted on the left side of the engine. So now I had to devise a way to mount a new kickstand on the bike.

Luckily I had saved a used kickstand from a friends 2012 Zero ZF9 motorcycle. The bolt had broken, Zero sent him a complete new one, and I replaced the bolt giving me a nice aluminum kickstand! (yay)


As I expected the kickstand would not be long enough. I simply found another piece of square aluminum to fit over the kickstand after cutting off the “foot”. I then drilled a hole and installed a bolt to keep it in place.

I traced the Zero kickstand flange on the Aluminum motor mount (which is very sturdy) to mark holes and drill for bolts.


I then slightly tipped the bike to get an idea of how long the stand should be, then trimmed at an angle the square aluminum.


After the kickstand was completed and working, I realized it was next to impossible to get down with my foot while sitting on the bike. I installed a very long 4.5″ cap-head-bolt with aluminum sleve so my foot can properly actuate the kickstand.  I then welded a pad on the bottom and painted the whole thing silver to match. The kickstand works flawlessly!

Mounting the batteries.

Although this looks difficult, it really is not.  This battery mount is simple because its only holding 2 battery modules.  It was constructed using 1″ 6061 aluminum 90 degree angle, and 1.25″ 6061 flat stock from http://www.speedymetals.com.

pre-assembled the battery pack and jacked it into place using a motorcycle/atv jack from Harbor Freight. This allowed me to put the battery exactly where I wanted it and fab up the mounts.  Note the front mount towards the handle bar is simply a bent piece of flat 1.25″ flat aluminum with clip on threaded inserts.



It was constructed like all of my other battery frames, making a “basket” on the bottom and using the metal to support the sides, front and back up to the mounting points.

I was having trouble getting good lateral support on this battery mount, so I used one large threaded rod with 2 nylon stop nuts and aluminum tubing to act as a spacer.  This made for one very supportive mount pictured below.


More to come, stay tuned.

January 20, 2015

Blast from the past, Chapter 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:49 am

Chain Challenges… Starting this project I really wanted to somehow keep the rubber drive belt (like stock Buell’s and Zeros) But unfortunately the gear-ratio or “belt ratio” was WAY off from what I needed to have for the new electric motor. This meant I’d have to find a new smaller front drive pulley and a new toothed belt. I soon found out that was like trying to find a a rainbow colored unicorn.

I starred at the parts and realized that converting the whole system to #40 drive chain and sprockets wouldn’t be hard at all. BUT there was no way of adjusting slack out of the chain. Neither the Motor or the rear wheel was adjustable. So here’s what I did, and it works flawlessly!


Here are the sprockets used on the Buell. The rear is an 80 tooth steel #40 sprocket. The front is a 23 tooth #40 sprocket with a 7/8″ bore and 3/16″ keyway to fit the Montenergy motor shaft.  These were acquired on McMaster.com


Here is the stock pulley cog on the Buell rear wheel. Just remove it and set aside.

IMG_2147 IMG_2149

Here is the new 80 tooth rear sprocket lying on-top of the existing stock Buell wheel.  As you can see the bolts will allow for just enough chain side clearance.


Carefully lay the old pulley cog flat and exactly centered on top of the new 80 tooth steel sprocket.  This will give you the 5 drill marks and center cut-out area for this new sprocket.

IMG_2179 IMG_2161

I simply used a drill press for the 5 mounting holes and a jig-saw for the large center opening. It took about 3 metal blades and 20 minutes of hand jarring cutting, but it will work.  When mounting to the wheel use 2.5″ long allen bolts, washers, and 1.75″ aluminum stand-off’s to make the sprocket align with the front motor sprocket.


Now the auto spring tensioner.  Like noted before, I have NO way of adjusting chain slack.  So I decided to take a page from Buell’s book and use a constant spring tensioner.  Here are the parts involved, a 17 tooth idler sprocket with 5/8″ bore (McMastercarr.com) a 5/8″ bolt with smooth upper shaft, and fabricated swing-arm.


Now bolt it all together and mount it to the bottom of the motor mount. The remaining 4 small holes are for a spring tensioner that will be attached.  Remember to use a spacer and/or washers to align the idler pulley in-line with the drive and wheel sprockets, otherwise chain binding and excessive wear/resistance will occur.  Use a straight line carpenter laser if available.

 Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 1.17.04 AM

NOTE: I didnt get a photo of these, but remember to install TWO 5/8″ thrust washers (McMastercarr.com) between the motor mount and the bolt head attaching it.  This allows for the swing-arm tensioner to operate freely.  Grease it with thick chassis grease to keep water out.


When you’re all done the new drive system should look like this. Now wrap a chain on and its ready to go.  I also discovered that you can manually push the tensioner upwards causing chain slack, and carefully “walk” the chain off the motor sprocket and simple and easy chain removal.

November 15, 2014

Blast from the past, Chapter 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:58 am

Chapter 2, Fabricate face and rear motor mounts

I then decided that the best option to mount the motor would adding two plates to the swing-arm mount.  Using cardboard I mocked up where the motor would be sitting and made templates. I was sure to include the chain tensioner and spring mounts (see next chapter) I then cut them out with cheap 1/4″ thick particle board to ensure all was correct.

Best picture I have of the swing-arm bracket. Also the ME1003 DC motor sits on a jack in position.

Best picture I have of the swing-arm bracket. Also the ME1003 DC motor sits on a jack in position.

Wood motor mount installed, note how it overlaps the existing swing-arm mount.

Wood motor mount installed, note how it overlaps the existing swing-arm mount.

Using a jigsaw, patience, clamps, and a hole-saw I cut the mount out!

Wood -> Aluminum

Wood -> Aluminum

I then had to drill large 3/8″ holes through the frame and long bolts for extra stability and structure that the engine previously provided.

Note the 10" long allen bolts with 2" aluminum spacers for proper alignment of the mount.

Note the 10″ long allen bolts with 2″ aluminum spacers for proper alignment of the mount.

Finished and clear-coated motor mount.

Finished and clear-coated motor mount.

Here is the REAR motor mount. It is basically the same as the front mount but cradles the motor with a high temp rubber edge, and a high strength hose clamp to ensure it engages and seats in the mount via wrapping around a stud at the apex of the cradle.

see how the mount cradles the outer permitter of the motor keeping it stable.

see how the mount cradles the outer permitter of the motor keeping it stable.

Top is the rear motor mount, bottom is the front (motor face) mount. Small triangle is chain tensioner (chapter 3) large triangle is battery mount.

Top is the rear motor mount, bottom is the front (motor face) mount. Small triangle is chain tensioner (chapter 3) large triangle is battery mount.

Blast from the past, Chapter 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:33 am

Its been a while since I’ve had time to tinker in the garage.  I finally got around to throwing some parts at this Buell Blast.  Seemingly a simple lightweight motorcycle conversion it turned into a mechanical challenge rather quickly.

Day 1, Boy that Purple is ugly...

Day 1, Boy that Purple is ugly…

Upon disassemble of the gas bike I soon realized this wasn’t going to be easy.  The complete rear swing arm AND kick-stand were attached to the engine block.  This quickly made things challenging as the bike was basically in 2 parts.

Bike in 2 pieces, this was un-planned.

Bike in 2 pieces, this was un-planned.

Chapter 1, Re-attach swing-arm

First and foremost I had to figure out a way to re-attach the rear swing arm.  Using levels, lasers, and good ole’ rulers I situated it perfectly with the main frame based on previous measurements and pictures I had taken.  I then used cardboard and cut out templates to make a very stout bracket aluminum welded bracket.

Aligning the frame and swing-arm

Aligning the frame and swing-arm

The original swing-arm bolt would NOT work as it was clamped on one end (no head or threads)  I only had two holes in my bracket. I found a very large metric bolt on McmasterCarr.com with two nuts used to lock the proper tension on this shaft.

Wood jig to hold swing-arm in place for measurements.

Wood jig to hold swing-arm in place for measurements.

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…

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