Experimental Electric Vehicles

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

May 17, 2011

E*Speed Durability update

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 7:48 pm

Its been a while since the last E*Speed update, but that means that I have been busy logging many electric miles during that time. The durability of the motorcycle has been amazing, epically considering this machine was completely hand built as a one of a kind “test mule” electric motorcycle.

At 75 miles
I had a set-screw come loose on the shaft coupler that connected the twin motor shafts together, luckily it was easily remedied with some shaft re-surfacing and using “loctite” thread adhesive to prevent it from coming loose again.

At 92 miles
I decided to experiment with a new (single) Mars motor, the “1003 double brush” 500A motor, this was not because of any problem with the twin motor setup, but because the 1003 motor was not available before. The upgrade made the motorcycle slightly lighter and provided more low end torque, I decided to keep it this way because of the improved weight, aerodynamics, and simplicity.

At 483 miles– Current total mileage, with no problems to report!

The cycle analyst also records how many times you have charged the battery, I have 24 charge cycles on my Batteries. This can be rounded to the figure of 50 charge cycles per 1000 miles.

The expected life of the Thunder Sky Lithium batteries is 4,000 cycles @ 70% dod (depth of discharge) Meaning the batteries will be 70% as effective as when they were new.

If I calculate my real world results of 50 cycles per 1000 miles, this would give the battery pack a calculated 80,000 mile life! Even if it was 3/4 of this figure (60,000 miles) that would be more miles then I have ever seen on a motorcycle.

Thanks to My Brother who has accesses to a very nice (and expensive) thermal camera, we were able to look at the thermal images to ensure proper cooling of the battery, motor, and controller. This information is very helpful to prevent hot spots on the large battery pack. Unknown hot spots on any of the parts could cause pre-mature failure or wear.

-Side view of Motor (brush side) and battery (terminal side)

-Close up of previous picture

-Close up of ME1003 mars motor

The Motorcycle has been a blast to drive, and I am always excited to see where I take it next! The only “on-going” issue I would like to work out is better thermal management of the batteries in cold weather. I have noticed in very cold weather (30~45 degrees F) the battery does not push as many amps in the first 10 minutes of driving, but once the battery has operated for 10 minutes, it is warmed up and operates like normal.

I am thinking of adding thin resistance heaters (similar to the heat pads used to help sore muscles) between the cells that would be wired to the charger therefore keeping the batteries at their optimal temperature. A circuit would activate this heater below a certain ambient temperature threshold to conserve energy, and they would only operate when the motorcycle is plugged in, since cold temperatures only effect it during the first minutes of driving.

Otherwise in temps above 45 degrees they have performed fantastic!

April 27, 2011

Expanding the Grid, one Charge point at a time

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 12:27 am

So often I hear that there is no “grid” or “network” for charging electric vehicles, which is a complete falsity. The reality of it is that where ever there is a building, house, garage, gas station, or telephone pole with electricity we have the ability to charge an electric vehicle. Fortunately for everyone reading this I know you have electricity therefore you have the capability of charging at your residence!


-Lowell MI charge point, ironically behiend the shell gas station

The problem arises when we want to drive an electric vehicle long distance, which will be close to, or further then the battery range allows. Currently people plan their routes to go near family or friends houses where they can charge. But as the EV market grows this will not be possible for all people.


-charge point supplies you with bar code cards, and a complete operation manual

Fortunately a company called “Charge Point” by Coulumb Technology has emerged and is providing the world with public access charging. This will help to revolutionize the electric vehicle by giving EV owners a guaranteed known spot to charge if needed. Most all of the charge points will have both level 1 (120v 16amp) using a standard household outlet, and level 2 (240v 30amp) using the J1772 government standard EV plug. Some of the stations will utilize a “fast DC” charge ability which will apply 240-500 VDC at 125 amps! Although this may charge some EV’s very quickly it may not be possible with all applications.

I was surprised to see that even in West Michigan (where EV’s are very scarce) there are many charge points already installed! I had the ability to drive to the Lowell Michigan, and downtown Grand Rapids charge point stations. I used my key chain bar-code card to open the level 1 charge door and plug in my charger.

The Charge point grid will send you text messages and emails to tell you if the GFI (ground fault interrupter) trips, if you are un-plugged, or if the charge is complete. This helps keep your charging worry free while you’re away. The charge point locations can be found on their website (using a computer or mobile phone app) using the google powered map, it will show whether the station is being used by someone else, and what level charging they are using.

The number of stations keeps growing rapidly, therefore you should keep an eye on the website to see if there’s one in your area!

March 22, 2011

Motor Brush Replacment – A Step by Step How To

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:30 pm

Most permanent magnet DC powered electric motors use Brushes to transmit power from the source (battery) to the commutator. The power then continues to the Rotor that is wound with conductive wire producing a strong magnetic field that will repel the magnet facing it on the inside of the motor case. That is what makes the rotational torque that will power your vehicle.

one of the disadvantages of using a brushed DC motor is that eventually the Brushes will wear down and need replaced, similar to how brake pads wear on disc brakes.

In most cases the Brushes will last VERY long in a properly taken care of DC electric motor, Things that can cause excessive and pre-mature wear includes, running the motor too fast, applying too much power (voltage or amperage) then the motor is specified for, excessive load on the motor, harsh motor conditions like sand, water, dust around the motor. But if the motor is properly sized for the application and occasionally inspected and cleaned with compressed air, the motor brushes will last almost the life of the vehicle.

Unfortunately in my case I learned the hard way, applying too much power for too long caused one of the motor brushes to crack in half, it then jammed in the sleeve causing some arcing to occur between the brush and commutator. I noticed this when accelerating from a stop, I felt a shuddering feeling from the motor, I looked down and saw flashes on the ground from the arcing.

***Important safety note, please carefully read the safety page of my blog before attempting any of these repairs, it is your responsibility to ensure the electrical power is disabled before any repairs are made***

After removing the rear motor cover on the Mars RT ME-0709 , I then un-bolted the brush holder to find the problem.

In a perfect world I could just replace this one brush, inspect the rest carefully, clean up the commutator and its good to go, but unfortunately the only way to get new brushes is to buy an entire brush kit and holder. ($100)

When re-assembling the new brush holder I use a very small application of lithium grease on the inside the brush sleeve to help the brush contact the commutator, using a toothpick helps.

when all of the brushes are greased and re-installed, make sure they easily spring back to make good contact against the commutator. Then use a rag with alcohol to wipe off ALL excessive Lithium grease.

check that all of the brush connectors are properly torqued down, use a paint pen to mark the bolts.

Next you’ll have to clean up the commutator, usually they will look black and nasty when the brush’s are removed. Use a piece of 280 grit sand paper and hold it in place while a friend spins the motor with a wrench or power drill, work your way up to at least 400 grit sand paper, until it looks shiny like the photo above.

using compressed air remove all of the sanding debris, any left will cause the brushes to wear out pre-maturely

Using a rag soaked with alcohol carefully wipe the entire rotor off to ensure all debris is gone.

working from one side to the other carefully push the brushes over the commutator and then bolt it back in place. There is an outside edge that must be placed over the metal case, its very easy to overlook and you could break the plastic holder if you tighten the bolts.

re-install the rear vent cover and the motor power cables and you’re ready to break in the new brushes.

Do not skip this part, breaking in a brushed motor is very important. The goal in the break in process is to make the new (flat) motor brushes wear and conform to the curve of the (round) commutator profile. When you are done both the brush’s and commutator should contact firmly with the same curved profile to ensure the best electrical contact over the most physical area minimizing arcing and wear.

1. make sure there is no load on the motor (disconnect the transmission, drive shaft, or chain)

2. run the motor at about 1/3 to 1/4 throttle for 2+ hours, be sure it is in the direction of usual motor operation.

3. look through the rear vent and inspect for excessive arcing or excessive heat while running (mine never exceeded 110 degrees F)

4. run the motor at 2/3 to 3/4 throttle for about 45 minutes to an hour.

5. repeat step 3

6. re-connect drive train and carefully drive vehicle for the first couple charge cycles.

Hopefully this helps in any motor repairs you may have to fix either now or in the future, this was much easier then expected, it just takes some time.

February 17, 2011

EV’s Making a Cozy New Home for Rodents!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 1:45 am

With new technology comes new challenges, Now that EV’s are getting more popular we are starting to see problems arise that we were not aware of when first engineering them. When most EV’s are plugged in they will keep the battery at a “room temperature” state when charging, this helps the battery perform at its most efficient level and also extends the life of the battery over time. When we experience very cold temp’s through the winter rodents typically will hunt down any warm spot they can find, and unfortunately they seem to be finding the battery area of our EV’s a cozy spot. I have personally heard of this issue happening to other EV owners, and now it has been published, happening to a Chevy Volt owner in Chicago.

When the Rodents (usually mice or rats) find this warm spot they have tended to chew the small wires of our EV’s to make nests, which will cause short circuits and faults to occur. Unfortunately this can lead to a timely and costly repair in most situations, which is not what any of us want!

We have had this problem with internal combustion vehicles as well, but rodents tend to avoid them because the are very noisy, and only stay warm for a couple hours after shut off. Unlike EV batteries which provide a quiet and heated habitat for the little creatures.

So what can we do to prevent this? From the engineering side they could do a better job of covering and protecting the area around the battery, and perhaps better wire covering as well. Another method of protection would be one of these electronic rodent repellents, they work by sending a very annoying high frequency sound that can only be heard by animals. This method could even be implemented on the vehicle from the factory, or as an option.

Either way you look at it this rodent problem is not going away, its just another small speed bump in the road to electrifying the automobile. Lucky for us it looks like it may be a simple solution, but who would have guessed that rodents would be so interested in our EV’s!

January 17, 2011

I Want Your Input!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 11:57 pm

If a production electric motorcycle like this were available today for purchase would you be interested?

Here are close estimates of the Motorcycles performance, and features.

-Range of 60-70 miles
-90+ MPH top speed
-acceleration 0-60 mph in 4.5 ~ 5.0 seconds
-bike weight of only 310 lbs
-Lithium batteries with integrated balancing system
-on board 3.5hr charger
-usually around $1 of electricity to completely re-charge
-digital gauge cluster
-complete LED and HID lighting
-computerized tire pressure monitoring system
-Single speed, no shifting!
-many safety systems integrated into drive system
-almost zero maintenance
-zero emissions means no more smog testing
-price would be around $8500 ~ $10,000 (minus any current state or federal EV rebates)

If you are still interested, or have more questions, please email me.
redvalleymotorsport@gmail.com

December 20, 2010

EV Myth Busting, Battery Cost & Recycling

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 2:58 am

When people hear about how inexpensive electric vehicles are to operate, they usually come back with the rebuttal that after about 10-12 years the battery replacement cost will void your savings.

Nissan Leaf Battery

When I hear this I like to compare this to a cell phone or laptop computer. When they were introduced in the early 1990’s they were very expensive to purchase, they were not the norm, and many people thought they would eventually fade away. That time was the infancy of cell phones and Laptop computers, much like the infancy of electric vehicles today. Although those devices were initially expensive and rare fifteen years ago, now almost everyone owns a cell phone and a computer, because the cost of technology was reduced by demand and production it allowed the common public to afford the advanced technology.

To help put this in perspective, in 2007 the iphone 2G was $600, now in 2010 the iphone 4G is available for $100 (16% of the original price!). So the cost of our expensive electric vehicle batteries today will be much less, and more powerful 10 years from now.

E*Speed Lithium battery

The Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries that are in my E*Speed motorcycle are estimated to last 9-11 years depending on how they are maintained, the cost in 2009 was $2,160 for the entire battery pack. I am going to calculate a “worst case” cost scenario. If we consider after 9 years the battery replacement cost is 40% of what it is now, then the battery will cost $864 in by then, lets also calculate a $250 labor fee to install them for a total of $1,114

Now we can spread the $1,114 for batteries and installation over a 9 year period. Nine years comes out to be 108 months, if we divide $1,114 over 108 months to comes out to be $10.30 per month for a worst case scenario battery replacement cost, This is the same price as 2 beverages at starbucks. This cost can be reduced by properly maintaining the batteries to achieve the full 11 year life, it can also be reduced by installing your batteries yourself (you should be a properly trained EV specialist). Again like the iphone, it was much improved after years of refinement, so in 9-11 years your new battery may be much improved. Meaning that your 10 year old EV may now have a greatly improved range and acceleration!

This is usually when people say “those batteries are going to fill our landfills with toxic chemicals”. This statement is completely false, Most all batteries are 95%-99% recyclable. The chemicals can be removed, separated, and cleaned. The plastic cases can be washed and re-melted into new plastic, the metal terminals and cell plates can be acid washed and re-used. Many new companies, including 2 right here in Michigan are accelerating there recycling process to meet the future needs of EV batteries.

So when someone tells you that electric vehicle batteries too expensive to replace. Just let them know its the same cost as 2-3 gallons of gas a month, and its almost completely recyclable!

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