Experimental Electric Vehicles

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.

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!


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