Experimental Electric Vehicles

April 19, 2010

Zion Upgrades

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 8:23 pm

After completing a conversion such as this, you will look back and want to improve and or change a few things. Either because you want too, or because it does not work and you need too. I have listed the modifications and upgrades made to the Zion motorcycle so far.

– Chain Grease Sheild

I was in a hurry during the last few weeks of building the bike in order to get it working for the TTXGP mid-ohio race that I didnt fully test and refine the motorcycle. After removing the faring in Ohio I realized what a mess the chain made all over my batteries, frame, wiring… So I made a sturdy, simple, and light weight chain grease shield that prevents it from contaminating other components. It is made from Sintra PCV board and attached with small screws and a bracket.


I had read all the features of the Veypor multi-function motorcycle gauge, it sounded very impressive. The key features included, digital and analog speedometer, odometer w/ trip, 1/4 mile timing, 0-60 timing, efficiency, the list goes on… I purchased the unit and initially I was impressed with what I had, everything seemed to work, the speed was calculated off the front wheel via a magnet sensor and the power wires were a simple installation.

Soon later I found the speed reading was erratic at times, the menu’s were hard to navigate and difficult to understand. The two main buttons on the unit had little to no “feel” to them, you weren’t sure if you pressed the button or not, epically if you were wearing motorcycle gloves. I was fairly disappointed with the performance of the Veypor unit, the few things I liked was the bright back lighting and large screen.

I then did some research and found people using these small “Sigma” bicycle speedometers that had accurate readouts and could calculate speeds past 100mph. The Sigma has all of the features of the Veypor other then the 1/4 mile, and 0-60 timing, and constant back-lighting. The Sigma is a simple to use and simple to read gauge that is easy to install and has a smooth and accurate digital speedometer. And for a fraction of the cost of a Veypor unit it can do almost all of the same functions at only about $30, as opposed to the Veypor ringing in at $175.

My conclusion, Purchase the Sigma (or cycle analyst, ill dive into that later) it is smaller, easier to install/use. and more accurate. The only major down fall is the lack of back-lighting due to it being powered off a small button battery, This can be solved with a small LED pointed at the unit for night riding.

-from 60 volt Odyssey, to 72 volt B&B

If you read my earlier post I had some charging issues with the Zion’s 60 volt 20amp charger (china made) When the motorcycle was in its early stages it only had one goal, GO FAST. So I installed 60 volts of high current odyssey batteries powering a Mars “R” motor which is only rated at 48 volts max, I figured Since I was looking at going fast lets push a little more voltage at it, well that motor only lasted about 3 miles until it burned up a couple brushes. I then purchased and installed a Mars “RT” motor rated to handle 72 volts.

Over the winter my 60 volt Odyssey batteries were killed by a faulty and poor quality charger. Since I had to purchase new batteries I figured lets upgrade it to 72 volts, I found the same cell size in a B&B cell called the “HR-22-12” they pack 22 amp hours and 72 volts making the pack 1584KW of power. This compared to the previous Odyssey pack of 60 volts and 17 amp hours making a measly 1020KW of power.

On top of this I needed to find a reliable and higher quality charger to ensure these cells work properly, and last long. I read many good reviews on the performance and longevity of Soneil chargers. luckily they make one for a 72 volt pack that is small and operates off 110 volt AC input. Because of its size and weight I decided to mount it on the motorcycle, now I can charge wherever I park the bike.

-Chain conversion,

The 50 size “original equipment” chain is over kill and I am currently in the process of machining new drive sprockets in 40 size chain to reduce rotating mass, overall weight, and drive train loss. This is the same 40 size chain I am currently using on the E*Speed motorcycle, and I have had no problems with its performance, and have noticed enormous noise reduction compared to the 50 size on the Zion. This modification is not quite finished yet because of delayed parts.

larger 50 size compared to the smaller 40 size chain.

Hopefully this helps in your decision making on your EV project. Dont waste money, learn from my mistakes!

April 12, 2010

E*Speed update

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:29 pm

After a bad day with my other motorcycle last week, the weekend was filled with success.

I received and installed the sprockets for the E*Speed, there is currently a 15 tooth motor sprocket and 45 tooth wheel sprocket making the gear ratio 3:1

-Laser alignment of motor and wheel sprocket for best efficiency and lower noise/wear

As of now I have only rode the E*Speed about 15 miles and I am in the process of making sure everything is working good. So far the motor only gets slightly warm and batteries have stayed very cool, the speed controller has maintained a cool 85 degrees, and this is without the planned vents to help cool it off. I do not have any top speed, range or 0-60 results yet because I plan to finish the body and a few other small items before I can get accurate results.

The motorcycle feels great, the video makes it seem much louder then it actually is, my friends say they cannot hear the bike from about 20 feet away. The acceleration is very smooth using the progressive throttle map supplied by Alltrax speed controllers.

-the faring is under construction, here is a teaser picture

more video, and specs to come soon.

April 8, 2010

Glad to still be Breathing

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 10:06 pm

Well I don’t normally update mid-week like this, but while doing some upgrades to the Zion Motorcycle, I had a pretty nasty accident.

As I stated in a previous post the charger had failed and killed all my odyssey batteries. Well I was in the process of installing 6 new B&B batteries of the same size as the odyssey’s, this was also upgrading it from 60 volts to 72 volts. Well all the batteries were mounted and I was in the process of some of the final connections when disaster struck.

My small 8mm wrench had some in contact with the grounded frame, it only took a split second and the wrench was glowing red, the batteries turned into an Arc welder and flames appeared.

It was so bright that I was blinded for a few seconds. l’m only alive right now because I had gloves, and safety glasses on.

This only proves that an EV builder with years of experience like me can still make mistakes, PLEASE learn from my mistakes and follow all safety precautions, luckily nobody was hurt and only 2 batteries sustained damage. the short only lasted a couple seconds and Im pretty sure the other cells will be allright, they all tested at 13.1 volts after the short.

2 B&B cells that were damaged

This one may not have looked that bad, but the case is bubbling and it is warped, I cannot trust this cell anymore it could start leaking after a few cycles and cause a fire.

This cell was the main arc point

I will post up when I have finished all the upgrades for the Zion, after I receive 2 new cells.

I will now be dedicating an entire page of the site (on the right side bar) to EV safety, This was a big wake up call to me and I will now be even more careful. I want anyone starting an EV project of their own to be sure to know all the safety issues first, so they don’t get hurt, be careful out there.

April 5, 2010

E*Speed Update

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 9:31 pm

Mounting the motor,

In previous goals set for the E*speed the original intention was to have a motor-in-wheel, single sided swing arm. This Idea will be ventured in the future, but because of budget and time constraints I had to make the decision to make a simple swing-arm mounted motor. Hopefully for next season the motor in wheel idea will be implemented.

For now I have calculated the gear ratio to a 15 tooth front sprocket, and 45 tooth rear sprocket, but from experience calculations can only get you so far. I will be using 40 pitch roller chain to find the perfect gear ratio, and then swapping the drive train to a synchronous belt (timing belt) similar to what Buell uses on there motorcycles.

Whenever you start fabricating something on this scale, you should clean the surface of any imperfections that could result in errors. Use a grinding wheel, file, power sander to ensure the surface is flat and true.

next place the motorcycle in a level place and use a sturdy support (hydraulic jack) to hold the motor in place. Ensure the motor is exactly where you need it, make sure the sprockets will clear the wheel and arm. I have found that using leveling lasers in this situation helps quite a bit.

Once the motor is where you want it ti be, start making a pattern with cardboard. Be very accurate with this as it will be exactly what you will trace and cut out of aluminum.

Cut out your pattern, ensure it fits the motor and swing arm.

Once the motor bracket is cut out and finished, it needs to be squared to the swing arm and rear axle of the bike. This is accomplished by leveling the swing arm and using aligning lasers with 90 degree squares to line up the motor shaft with the rear axle. When the motor bracket is in the position where it aligns with everything else then tack weld 3 spots to hold it on. Re-level the swing arm and motor and ensure that everything is still where it should be, Then finish weld the motor bracket.

Once all this is completed mount the swing arm back on the motorcycle, attach the motor and wheel.

Once everything is re-attached start running power wire from the motor to the speed controller, be sure to leave plenty of slack in the wires where the arm hinges. The swing arm will be moving up and down quite a bit and could result in a wire rubbing through and shorting. The wires should be covered in loom and taped to ensure no chafing could occur.

Trim the motor cover very close to the wires, this is a place where you do not want dirt or water to build up in.

When you are all done, attach everything on or around the swing arm. Lower the motorcycle on the ground sit on it, bounce up and down and ensure that nothing is rubbing, bending or chafing, if it is then it must be re-engineered. Once it is all done it should look professional and well built, remember this is a motorcycle and your life depends on your workmanship.

I just sent the sprockets out for some minor modifications at the machine shop. When they arrive I will update with sprocket information.

March 28, 2010

Charger Trouble with Zion

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:13 pm

Spring is upon us in the state of Michigan, so naturally I had to hop on my electric motorcycle and go buzz around town. So I strap on my helmet, jacket and gloves, un plug the charger and turn the key…

Nothing happens.

Very disappointed I started removing the farings and grab a volt meter, the entire 60 volt pack is at an astonishing 19.1 volts, This was bad news.

I had left the charger on the batteries all winter, I occasionally un plugged it, ran the motor checked the pack voltage and plugged it back in. In the early winter everything was working good, in fact so good that I hadn’t checked it in more then six weeks.

I checked the charger fuse, the bike fuse, the extension cord power, but everything was good. So I grabbed my multi-meter to find out that the charger is not putting out any power, in fact the output leads from the charger was a dead short! I knew then that the charger had failed and my batteries had discharged into the charger.

This charger Is a Chinese made charger that is designed for both lead-acid and AGM batteries. It is called the HWCC1B 12amp, It retail’s for $499 from Cloudelectric.com Unfortunately there is not a lot of selection for 60 volt applications, especially if you want 110 volt input, because this was the only one I could find available in a 60 volt configuration I purchased it.

I quickly removed all the batteries in an attempt to save them, I individually charged each 12 volt cell carefully to ensure that it would hold a charge, but with no luck, I could only achieve about 11.5 volts max and after several days it would taper off to almost 10 volts, the charger had permanently killed all 5 of my odyssey PC680 cells.

I then wanted to see if there was any obvious damage inside the charger so I opened it up. Although I didn’t find any obvious damage I did find a nice surprise, the switch that changes the charger from “normal charge” or “balanced charge” was not connected. I looked around for the plug that had fallen off, but there was not one. I examined the switch and there were no scratches or witness marks on the terminals, it looked like it was never plugged in at all! The instruction manual has an entire page devoted to the operation of this switch and when to use it! It wont do much if its just a dummy switch!

This is why this hobby is called “EXPERIMENTAL electric vehicles” sometimes we make mistakes so we can learn from them. I look at every mistake as a time for improvement! Therefore I will be upgrading the motorcycle to 72 volts and installing a Soneil on-board charger. When the parts get installed I will post pictures.

March 22, 2010

Grand Rapids is Getting Plugged in

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 9:54 pm

Grand Rapids Michigan has been my home town since I can remember, Its a very nice quiet city the type people raise family’s in. The city is known for its furniture and medical industry’s, but above all its a very conservative. This is not the technology driven Silicon Valley booming with new inventions and ideas, here in Grand Rapids new ideas sometimes seem to be feared.

This is why I was surprised when recently a friend of mine called me to say he found electric vehicle charge outlets outside a local hotel. I was skeptical at first thinking he found some utility outlets on the side of a building, but sure enough his claim was true.

-Me next to them, proof they exist!

Right in front of the “Country in and Suite” hotel I found three signs and six 110 volt outlets for electric vehicle use. It may not seem like much, but for a town like Grand Rapids this is a big step in the right direction. There is a popular “Malarkys” restaurant and bar right next to the hotel that could take advantage of the parking spots when the hotel is not.

Unfortunately they are only 110 volt outlets, but hopefully as demand grows we may see 110 and 220 volt outlets for faster recharge times.

With the hotel only being about eight miles from my house, i’ll have to ride my motorcycle there and get a free charge, I will probably be the first one to use charge spots in the greater Grand Rapids area.

March 20, 2010

Temporary for sale post

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 3:50 pm

As i have stated before, this website is not intended for this use, but I will advertise electric vehicle parts for sale only because it may benefit you if youre looking for what I am selling! The items are listed on Ebay just follow the link above the pictures.

36 volt battery charger.


If you want to pick them up locally I’ll refund the shipping.

Hopefully these parts can help you in your EV build!

March 7, 2010

A Careful Balancing Act

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 9:21 pm

Linking multiple Lithium battery cells in a series fashion can cause some problems with un-even cell charging. Each individual battery cell is supposed to be at 3.6 volts, although the charger is only charging until the entire pack (24 individual cells in my case) reaches a peak voltage of 86.4 volts (3.6 volts x 24 cells = 86.4 volts).

Unfortunately the charger has no idea if some cells are at 4.1 volts and some are at 2.8 volts. In other words, the charger only cares about the total pack voltage, not individual cell voltage.

If your batteries are allowed to charge over 3.6 volts, damage can occur. Usually it will not happen immediately, but over several cycles. To prevent this from happening you can install these little “Battery Balancers”

These devices attach between the positive and negative of each individual cell, they have a small integrated circuit and two LEDs. The operation is quite simple, the green LED indicates proper battery connection and the cell is above 2.5 volts, This LED is always on. The red LED indicates the cell is currently being loaded by the balancer. In other words if the balancer sees anything OVER 3.7 volts it will apply a small 0.3 Amp load to discharge the cell back to 3.6 volts. The red LED is then turned off and the individual cell voltages are then balanced.

The small green LED only draws .001 amp (1mA), this is about the same as the normal discharge rate of the batteries, therefore you do not need to worry about a parasitic draw when the pack when its not in use.

In this picture the charger just finished charging, and the pack voltage has reached 86.4 volts total. You can see there are a few red LEDs active, meaning that cell is at or above 3.7 volts. I put my volt meter to the cell and it was at 3.9 volts. Since the balancers only draw a small 0.3 amp’s I waited about 30 minutes and they were all back to green, and each of the 24 cells were at a steady 3.6 volts!

I am very impressed with these devices and believe they will make a big difference with pack performance and longevity. And at only 9 dollars a piece they are considerably less then a full battery management system which usually cost about 5 times as much and involve very complicated and messy wiring.

-Schematic for a complex and expensive battery management system, removal of the batteries can become a nightmare with so many individual small sensor wires going to each cell.

When working with many battery cells I highly recommend numbering each cell in order to keep records of there performance. In my case there are 24 individual cells, 4 cells are strapped together to make one “module”. I have 6 module’s that make one “pack”. This method allows me to keep track if I have a poorly performing cell.

Since I had the batteries out of the bike it gave me plenty of room to loom, and secure all of the wiring in the bike. I used several sizes of loom ranging from 1/4″ to 3/4″, several black zip-ties, and wire loom hold down straps to make sure the wires do not chafe and short out.



You must be careful when covering the wires from the handlebars to the frame, this is a spot where chafing and wire pulling can be a factor. Be sure to leave enough slack so the wires do not pull apart, but secure and cover them so they do not short on the frame.

Clean professional looking wire will make your EV stand out from the rest! Never let your quality of work fade, otherwise your reputation will follow.

March 1, 2010

E*Speed Update, Tires, Brakes and Suspension

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:02 pm

When Riding a motorcycle, crashing is the last thing you want to have happen, and doing everything to prevent it is a must. There are a few things on a motorcycle that should never be over looked or ignored.

First being the tires, having a tire blow-out in a car can send you in the ditch. When riding a motorcycle a tire blow-out could result in serious injury and also trashing your motorcycle that you have worked so hard and long on. You must ask your self, is your Life and motorcycle worth spending three hundred dollars on to prevent an accident?

In my case I chose to put the “Dunlop Q2 Qualifiers” on my bike, they claim to have some of the best handling and grip on the track along with a good tread life.

I love driving fast, but if you cannot safely and confidently stop, then you risk your own life and possibly others. If your brake pad liner is under one Millimeter thickness, you should replace your pads and usually your rotor as well. It is also important to flush out old dirty brake fluid with new OEM spec brake fluid, remember never to mix DOT-3 or DOT-4 with DOT-5 brake fluid. DOT-5 is a full silicone based fluid and is designed to work with the special rubber seals of a DOT-5 system and will swell-up seals of a DOT-3/4 system.

Whether you’re on the track or the street your suspension setup is critical to how you plan on riding the motorcycle. The suspension setup on my E*Speed will have a slightly stiffer suspension then most street bikes because it will be driven on the track about half of the summer. Setting the sag of the front forks and rear spring to the weight of the rider will help you ride with more confidence on the track and aid in maneuvering the bike through traffic.

Tire pressure, an easy to over look but very important aspect to proper riding. You should always follow the recommended tire pressure specs per the manufacturer, for my E*Speed (Suzuki GSX-R) they recommend running the tires at 36 PSI front and 33 PSI rear. the manufacturer performs many tests to be sure the tire pressure is the best mix of efficiency, handling, traction, and tire wear.
For best efficiency, it is usually safe to increase the tire pressure about 15%, im my case I would increase it to just under 40 PSI front and rear for maximum range. This will unfortunately wear out the tires faster because you are driving on the very small peak of the tire. It is critical that the pressure NEVER exceed the maximum limits stamped on the tire, exceeding this could cause a blow out when you hit a bump, or pot hole, and will cause unusual and unpredictable handling of the motorcycle.
For track use where turning grip is more important it is safe to decrease the tire pressure about 15%-20% of the manufacturer spec. By doing this the tire has a larger contact patch with the track, and will subsequently handle sharper corners with ease. When track riding the tires will heat up quite a bit, some times several hundred degrees if its a hot summer day, this will cause the air inside to expand and actually “re-inflate” the tire to a higher pressure, it should be checked after each session for proper inflation.

this guy warmed his tires up a little too much!

February 21, 2010

Because Were Not Accustomed to Silent Vehicles

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 8:58 pm

One thing that everyone notices about our electric vehicles is that they are especially quiet, when driving down the road all you may hear is some tire and chain noise. And when parked they are DEAD silent, this is a good thing because it means that they are using almost no energy! On the other hand it is also very dangerous.

-Zero electric motorcycle in a busy city

Last summer My black “Zion” race motorcycle was crashed once in my garage, and was very close to crashing again. The first time the Motorcycle was crashed was when my local news reporter was sitting on the bike shooting a few scenes. He asked me how the bike turns on, so I stepped forward and showed him the switches to turn the bike on, with the lack of a gas engine idle he soon forgot that the bike was still on and preceded to turn the throttle to 100% in a joking manner. He soon found the motorcycle burning rubber, lifting the front wheel up and then tipping over on top of him.
Luckily he walked away with only a few bruises, He exclaimed “I totally forgot it was on, its so quiet!”. This being the first time it happened I thought perhaps it was just him.
A few days later at the Mid-Ohio sports car course for the TTXGP race I was in front of the crowd of people walking around the event, most people gazing at the new futuristic electric motorcycles. I had just come back from a short test ride and was sitting on the bike with my feet on the ground and the bike still completely on. A small gathering of people came around the bike, as I was answering questions another person didn’t realize the motorcycle was on and decided to twist the throttle to 100%, with my feet on the ground and my arms crossed in front of me, the motorcycle proceeded to drive clear under my legs! I luckily caught the very tail of the bike and someone else caught the side. I then knew this was going to become a serious issue.

The general public right now is trained to the sound and feel of an idling gas engine, this input to your brain is interpreted as “the vehicle is on, be careful”. Unfortunately electric vehicles are not what we are accustomed to. After having two incidents with accidental throttle activation I have installed several safe guards on the new E*speed to help prevent this from occurring.

Safety feature #1
-Kick stand switch

This is a simple to install item that will interrupt the “key on” wire to the speed controller. When the kickstand is down the switch is open and the speed controller is then disabled. When the kickstand is up the switch is closed and the speed controller is activated.
This method is one of the best, whenever you are off the bike the throttle is disabled.

Safety feature #2
Throttle active LED

Another simple way to alert the rider that the electric vehicle is active, simply install a small bright LED and be sure it is pointed right at the rider.

Safety feature #3
Use a key to activate the vehicle

This will prevent curious people from turning the bike on, and accidentally twisting the throttle. A good method to make sure YOU are the only person that can activate the EV.

Safety feature #4
Vibrating handlebar and seat

This is a new method I am trying to implement on the E*Speed, I am using very small 3 volt cellphone vibrating motors and attaching then to the handle bar near the throttle and possibly inside the foam of the seat. When sitting on a gas motorcycle that is idling you can feel it vibrate. Installing these will create this sensation on an electric motorcycle. I may program these to only be on when the throttle is off or at zero to keep them from annoying you while riding. I quick tested this theory and you can feel a nice vibration in the handlebar even through your leather riding gloves.

-The red and black twisted wires are coming from the vibrating motor

You may notice I have not done anything that will give an audio or sound output. I did this on purpose because I enjoy the silent ride of EV’s too much. When riding silent on the track you can listen to your tire squeal noise and actually push the bike harder through turns then noisy gas bikes. You can hear when you hit gravel, loose pavement. You can hear cars or trucks near by, other car or bike squealing tires to avoid an accident, the advantages to being silent in my opinion out weigh the need of having to make noise, the saying “loud pipes save lives” is only marginally true, defensive driving saves lives, and being silent gives you an advantage.

Some may not take these safety features seriously, but please learn from my mistakes and dont end up like this guy.

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