Experimental Electric Vehicles

May 15, 2012

2nd Indy EV Grand Prix

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:13 am

I was recently invited to come down to Indianapolis for an exciting EV event where many new vehicles would be on display, and actively driving or racing!

I didnt realize how truly enormous the Indianapolis motor speedway is until I actually entered the in-field. I was directed to take the opening lap with many other EV’s around the 2.5 mile oval, I was told to keep the speed under 35mph…that didn’t last long!

After the opening lap we were greeted by many other EV’s in the parking lot, including 2 new interesting trucks with charge equipment attached to them. These trucks were designed by a company called “Real Power” to be a “rescue” type of charge in case you ever did truly run out of power in a very rural area with little to no charging options.

They were outfitted with several level 1 (110v 15a) two level 2 (220v 30a) and one level 3 (480v DC fast charge). Having the level 3 can significantly decrease the charge time which would be important in such a situation where you would require a road side charge.

We all tried charging our EV’s on the truck to prove they could really work in the real world with all types of chargers and batteries.

After this I decided to wander to the 2nd annual EV Grand Prix, this is where several colleges (I think 20 teams this year) duke it out with high performance electric powered go-karts on a half mile track.

I knew several members of the Purdue “EVC” team that built a very unique go-kart to compete in the race. Their Kart was designed with wireless battery reporting technology, High density battery cells, and brute structure for repeated impacts on the track. The cart and team held together extremely well throughout the 100 lap race where more then half (11 teams) were removed from the track due to impact damage, or engineering defects in design.

The race was a blast to watch, it is truly inspiring to see a whole generation of college students get so passionate about a new clean renewable technology like EV’s, it really brings some hope for the future that their experience in these events can make them shape a clean, renewable edge to their product, or part design in the future.

After some close calls with other karts the Purdue EVC team took 1st place and received some prize money for their efforts, but all the teams did great with all the different power-train, battery, and chassis designs it was quite an amazing race to see from start to finish, and I hope even more colleges and sponsors get involved in the years to come.

March 16, 2012

Zero ZF9 Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:52 am

Back in January my co-worker (influenced by me) purchased his first motorcycle, a Zero ZF9. It was promptly shipped to our workplace in a large crate/box, it was like Christmas morning for him. He has now racked over 690 miles in just 2 months!

My very first impression was great, Zero does an awesome job with their motorcycles, the frame looks like a structural component that belongs on the space shuttle. The wheels are perfect, nice finish, just the right width and accompanied with a maintenance-free belt drive system!

My co-worker was kind enough to let me take it for a ride around Chicago (mind you this has been a very mild January/February here). I got a good feeling for the motorcycle, the handling is great, awesome seating position makes it feel like a dual-cross bike with the grip and agility of a sport bike.

As for the acceleration, it leaves something to be desired from 0-15mph where a distinct lag is present. beyond 20mph the motorcycle accelerates swiftly with a predictable feel, this is where the belt drive shines because it truly is beyond quiet!

Here are some areas where I believe Zero could improve upon,

The rear foot brake lever- when depressed the return spring rubs on the frame making an awful sound similar to fingernails on a chalkboard, this could have been solved using a simple rubber cover over the spring or frame.

Charge port placement- I will never understand how this got here, it was placed right behiend the front wheel, where every particle of water, dirt, and dust will accumulate. It is also inconvenient to bend way over and plug the motorcycle in there. And on top of all this, there is a nice spot on the center of the top farring (where the gas inlet would normally be) where the charge port could have been placed.

Lack of any storage- The seat on the ZF9 is large and comfy, and looking underneath the seat there is a large hollow area where a charge cord, insurance card, wallet, etc…could be stored, unfortunately Zero did not engineer a simple hinge and lock on the seat which disappoints me for a $14k motorcycle.

Gas gauge?- Upon activating the motorcycle’s gauges I immediately noticed a gas pump symbol directly next to the battery state of charge gauge. I know Zero had to have completely engineered this gauge to work with their electronics, and to leave that gas pump symbol on there just seems ridiculous.

Rubbish kill switch- The kill/power cut switch on the right side handle bar is defiantly of poor quality. The switch binds and is very hard to articulate especially with riding gloves on, upgrading this would improve the fit and finish of the whole motorcycle.

Rear passenger foot pegs- I know my co-worker was very influenced by Zero over Brammo because Zero advertized their motorcycle with the ability to carry a passenger. Unbenounced to him the motorcycle shipped without and passenger foot pegs, and after inquiring with Zero about the issue he was told It would be several months, and many hundred dollars extra for them.

I realize that Zero is a newer company and are trying their best to make great motorcycles, which there doing an outstanding job with! I hope that they can refine some of these small problems with their motorcycles so there even better in the years to come. Needless to say my co-worker loves the ZF9 and rides it whenever he can, whether it be 40~60 miles to the suburbs of Chicago, or down the road to fetch coffee, it has proven to be an amazing, well engineered electric motorcycle.

January 25, 2012

The Grid Grows, and Overtakes E85

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:43 pm

I actually found this hard to believe, but This data was recently released by the department of energy. There are now more then double the EV Charge stations then E85 re-fueling stations. 2,515 E85 stations, compared to 5,430 electric charging stations!

I know what you’re thinking, “there probably all in California or New York”, well you’re wrong! If you check the Chargepoint network website they are covering the country, even in very small towns. See the list below of Michigan cities and how the charge stations have grown since June of 2011

–January 2012 Michigan charge point stations–
Grand Rapids- 20
Detroit- 95
Holland- 22
Muskegon- 10
Lowell- 2
Kalamazoo- 28
Lansing- 10

–June 2011 Michigan charge point stations–
Grand Rapids- 1
Detroit- 16
Holland- 9
Muskegon- 0
Lowell- 1
Kalamazoo- 3
Lansing 1

These charge point stations are growing rapidly because there incredibly easy to install, there are also many government incentives to install them. Not to mention that if someone is using the station near your business, they are apt to stay in the area and spend money at your restaurant, shop, hotel…

The ease of use has also improved with smart phones, now you can-

- Monitor your vehicle’s charge level
- Be alerted if your vehicle was un-plugged, or you’re charge is complete.
- Use the map to locate stations
- see if the station is currently charging another vehicle

The system is becoming very user friendly and if you are an early adopter, its FREE! yes, for now its free to use, but eventually will start charging a small fee for plugging in.

So if it only took this long to surpass the number of E85 stations, how long will it take to pass the number of gasoline stations? Guess we’ll wait and see.

visit: http://www.chargepoint.net/ and find a station near you!

December 1, 2011

Updated Dash for E*speed

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:29 pm

The old cycle analyst gauge worked well on the motorcycle, the speed was a little sluggish to respond sometimes, but all the data was quite informative. I actually wasn’t planning on doing this upgrade until one day the magnetic speed sensor for the cycle analyst came loose and was hitting my front wheel. from the time I heard the noise until I stopped the sensor was completely mangled.

I decided instead of purchasing a new cycle analyst I was going to shop around, that’s when I found the Koso line of gauges. I decided to use the smaller “dual-sport” style db-01r gauge, it had large back lit speed numbers, with a simple 2 button menu to navigate between trip, odo, and other functions. I also liked that it included the turn signal and high beam indicator (it also has a low oil pressure, and neutral light, but i didnt use them)

I started out by using the old sintra dash material as a template, I then cut out an exact outline of the previous piece without any holes or cut-outs.

After that I cut out the main outline for the Koso gauge, and drilled the 2 holes for the “machine active” light and low beam headlight switch.

Unfortunately the Koso does not have a high voltage gauge to read my battery volts, therefore I purchased a standalone voltage gauge from Ebay and mounted it into a small project enclosure from radio shack. I then mounted this at an angle by cutting out a slot in the Sintra and positioning it towards the drivers face.

After all this was done I wired the gauges to power, and ran the new sensor pickup to the lower fork. Mounted all 5 magnets on the brake rotor and programed the gauge for the proper wheel diameter.

Now I had to make the whole think look really nice, I decided to use some carbon fiber film to apply over the surface, this would cover any small errors and make it look appealing.

here is a photo with all the gauges activated.

Thanks for reading, I hope to fit a few more rides in this season if the weather holds!

October 29, 2011

What Happens if it Gets Wet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 11:02 pm

Its like dropping a toaster in the bath tub…right? Well actually that’s totally wrong. Unfortunately the general public’s view of electricity and water has been extremely skewed, due to many Hollywood movies and myths. The truth of the matter is that distilled water is actually completely NON-conductive! Yes pure water is actually an insulator, but when things are added to the water like salt, dirt, sand, or other chemicals, then the conductivity increases as the amount of impurities increase.

Therefore most rain water (since evaporated) is rather clean and contains little to no impurities and has a very poor conductivity. I decided to try an experiment and leave my motorcycle out in the rain for an entire day, it literally rained for almost 9 hours straight on the motorcycle.

Parked in the rain.

A close-up photo to show how wet the bike was.

I was a little nervous about what could possibly happen, but I was willing to take the risk for the sake of science!

The motorcycle worked great, there was literally not one problem after 9 hours of rain all over the vehicle. Also note that this motorcycle was not designed to be “water, or rain proof”, therefore if there are design improvements to make it even more water tight, there should never be a problem whatsoever with rain, puddles, or moisture.

October 15, 2011

Milwaukee Makerspace

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 9:41 pm

A few months ago while displaying the E*speed motorcycle at the Detroit Maker fair I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Nelson, a fellow EV motorcycle builder, EV car builder, expert camera operator and all around nice guy! He invited me to the first official EV meet at the Milwaukee makerspace. Many EV’s came and they were all quite impressive, but best of all we got to see many EV’s still in progress being built in the Makerspace.

everyone starring at the impressive Lithium powered EL Camino!

I really liked how he installed the entire drive-train under the hood, leaving the bed empty and ready to be used like a normal pick-up.

Ben Nelson’s 48v motorcycle, it is a kz440 that he did a great job converting. He has a website/blog and sells instructional DVD’s on how to convert your own motorcycle or car, I have watched both, there great videos. Check it out- http://300mpg.org/

Ben took my motorcycle out for a spin, I think the grin says it all!

A great photo of 2 electric motorcycles!

Ben also made a great quick video of us riding around the parking lot, check it out.

Thanks to all at the Milwaukee Makerspace, please visit their website, there may be a makerspace in your city too!


September 13, 2011

E*Speed Upgrade: Charge anywhere!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 9:28 pm

I have always been annoyed that my charger for my motorcycle is so large and heavy that I couldn’t bring it anywhere, but finally the company that supplies my batteries came out with a very small (4.5lb) charger that I could fit on the bike!

Unfortunately I realized that I had nowhere to store a charge cord, so I had to make the seat hinge and add a storage spot for the cord.

I used a 6″x6″ electrical box from Home Depot for the cord storage under the seat, I also carpeted the inside of the box to prevent vibrations when riding.

I mounted the charger above the motor and attached it to the battery cradle by welding an “L” Channel and strapping it using 2 crossing velcro straps. The charger is held in very strong and will not vibrate or come loose.

The wiring was simple, I attached the 2 output ends to the battery, negative to the chassis of the motorcycle and positive to the protected side of the 400amp fuse.

The 110v input was a little short (only about 4′) so I extended it to 9′ using a power tool repair cord from Home Depot, there basically an extension cord with only the male plug end.

Now to charge I can plug into any 110v 15amp outlet (basically every household outlet in North America) and it will take me about 4.5 hours to re-charge!

P.S. sorry for the lack of good pictures, my camera SD card was corrupted and lost a lot of the pictures for this upgrade, got a new camera so this shouldn’t happen again.

August 15, 2011

Maker Faire

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:58 pm

A few weekends my brother and I attended one of the few Maker Faire’s presented by Maker Magazine in Detroit Michigan. The Fair was a huge success, the great weather brought out thousands of people throughout the 2 day event. I got to meet many fellow EV builders and enthusiasts, robot builders, and general “makers” of all sort, here are a few pictures of the event.

The E*speed attracted much attention at the fair, many motorcycle riders stopped by to take a look

There was an interview done by Ben Nelson, he himself built both an electric car and motorcycle, he also posts many EV videos on Youtube, I will post the link to the interview when I find it.

There was a small (and I mean small) race track setup for people who modified power wheel’s cars to race on, it was pure entertainment to watch them race. They let me take the motorcycle out there for a few laps.

eventually I took of the side faring to show people the batteries and it drew quite a crowd!

Hopefully I will have some great pictures and video of my next event, the 28th street Metro Cruise in Grand Rapids MI, Hope to see you there!

July 7, 2011

3rd Annual EV Meet and Rally

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 11:12 pm

This is one of my favorite EV events to attend, The Schoolcraft college event in Livonia Michigan, but there is one unique thing about this event, it keeps growing! The first year I attended it was a small gathering of home built EV’s and a few hybrids packed in a small parking lot, by the second year word spread and it seemed like we had many people come to browse through the show and ask questions. This year we had some major companies set up booths, the college had installed charging stations, we had over 65 electric or plug in hybrids show up!

Many people were asking questions about the E*speed, I even had a few people that had reservations for Brammo Empulse’s talk to me.

Chevy Volts were at the show in masses, in This picture the car is being charged for free off a small solar array. This is the cleanest and most simple method to charge an EV.

Bowling Green State University brought the A/C powered electric race kart, this thing was very fast and had quick change battery packs that could be changed in under 6 seconds! In early June there was an electric grand prix in the parking lot of the Indianapolis motor speedway where this kart along with many others competed in a race.

Bright Automotive was there presenting their prototype plug in electric hybrid work van, it is quite impressive and looks VERY functional.

The auto-x went off without a hitch, and was quite a bit of fun for everyone that participated!

I took home the Trophy for Michigan’s fastest 2 wheel EV, for the 3rd year running!

The event was a huge success, and I cant wait to see how big it will be next year! The EV crowd keeps getting larger each year and It is exciting to see how rapidly the technology is spreading.

June 8, 2011

Come See All the EV’S

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:13 pm

Many EV’s and speakers will be at the event this year, it should be very exciting!

I will be there with one, if not both of my motorcycles and there will be a auto-x style race to show off the power of our EV’s

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