What went well and…
Medicine Lake: My first high summit… after Mount Hood
Electrical – Controller and features
This is a two-wheel-drive (2WD) electric bike, utilizing two asynchronous motor controllers driving two differently sized tires, although using identical hub motors. At the end of the journey I can positivity and clearly state what the real issues were – although on the road, this was much more difficult to pinpoint.
The architecture was one controller driving the second controller; master-slave. It wasn’t my idea, although I probably exploited the concept more effectively than anyone else: I took the signals from the instrumentation of one controller and forked it over to the other. These included Throttle, eBrake, Cruise, and 3-Way. All Ground (GND) was shared except for the DC-DC Converter GND which was isolated – and I kept it that way for those circuits (headlights, stop lights, taillights, blinkies, and indicators). Power from the 5-Volt converter of the Master/Primary Controller pushed the signals to the Salved/Secondary Controller. The issues with this occurred repeatedly when Throttle was in full demand and the bike was under heavy load, such as climbing a hill or pulling out of a curve. Modest loads were not a problem, although in heavy load conditions the voltage would sag on the Primary 5-Volt circuit and would not be sufficient to drive the throttle signal to the Secondary. The result was my rear tire would drop out at a time when it was most desired. This went on for days and weeks until Lyen
suggested a possible cause. After that – I modified my behavior and feathered the throttle instead of asking for WOT – and the problem went away
I also decided to become more efficient and drop-gear when climbing hills, and that had me well into the torquey power-band of 2WD which is just plain fun when rounding low-speed twisty coastal corners through the dense redwood forests!
Regen worked fine for 2WD with both wheels pulling very hard – excessively so in fact after the R12 mod which raised the HVC to 94 volts. However after mating the trailer, both wheels stopped producing regen. I resolved this by disconnecting the pin from the connector where the signals forked over to the Secondary Controller, and regen was restored to the front hub. In San Francisco, Lyen
and I discussed the issue and figured out that the unified eBrake signal from either controller was being overruled by the opposite controller when pulled to GND. The solution – other than pulling the wire from one, was to insert a diode in the outbound direction, likely inside the Controller case, to prevent reverse current. I didn’t have time to affect this mod on the road although thanks to Lyen
I can make this change at a time of my choosing.
Original eBrake switches superglued in place. Afterwards I figured it was better to screw them down.
The other problem with the eBrake was that the Microswitch used to engage the control was flakey. Previously I had used superglue to mount it to the brake lever. However now I had a second microswitch to trigger the brake light circuit. The two switches stacked in this manner were knocked off by the strain of the faring covering it – twice. I think I bought maybe 8 of these switches from Radio Shack between June and August trying to resolve the problem until I found a tiny set of 4-40 UNC screws which I used to fasten and secure the microswitches once and for all at Farfle’s
The Cruise Control worked haphazardly; sometimes the front hub would get the signal and sometimes the rear. On the flat it was difficult to tell if this occurred, however it was readily apparent on inclines. The solution was to try again until the setting was accepted by both wheels. I had the delay set to 1 second, and holding for a bit longer typically made it work. The horn button on the 3-Way Light Switch (the dashboard control adapted for this function) broke off after Bend on the way to Klamath Falls, and I was without Cruise all the way until I got to my folk’s property outside of Johnsville over 300 miles later. I stopped at a Radio Shack in Quincy and picked up a momentary switch which was used to replace the embedded stock unit. Later in the journey the button broke off again, but this time there was enough of a center stub that I could still affect the switch closure.
Cruise Control repaired.
The 3-Way control worked fine. I had three settings which transmuted the 24-Amp Battery/60-Amp Phase Current to 52%, 85%, and 120%, providing speeds of 20 mph, 33 mph, and 42 mph on a flat without wind. The low speed was rarely used. I stayed in medium the whole time except once when I came back from lunch and thought I was traveling a little too fast for my boots and found someone had been toying and set it high. Yesterday out of a lark I set it to high and was pleased to be able to keep up with urban traffic doing 40 mph! I just wanted to test it – that’s all: Still works!
So in essence, I had 2 hp programmed to each hub motor, though I was running at 85% the lion’s share of the time; about 3.45 hp to the wheels when at WOT. No complaints.
The placement of the controllers hanging off the rear suspension and the cabling to them was a continuous source of frustration. First, I had hooked the controller’s metal tab inside the frame and that slightly reduced the tire clearance; when the wheel would flex or the axle would transposed, the tire would rub against the tab when it wasn’t rubbing against the fender. Second, the placement of the controllers interfered with the mounting of the panniers. Looking at the left side of the bike, the left upper corner of the pannier would push against the controller, shoving that little tab into the tire region about an 1/8th of an inch. I applied a field repair on the backside of Lassen which pulled the two controllers together and reduced the intrusion. The real solution though is to find another place to mount the controllers.
The third problem was the battery and signal cabling that routed through the most dynamic part of the bike where the suspension rocked back and forth. I mistakenly believed that the intermittent signals of the dashboard devices, particularly the throttle problems were instigated by the cabling and connectors here. Regardless, this whole nested cabling business requires new thought and routing to reduce the congestion.
Built to last!
Finally, I was very pleased with my Lyen
12-FET 100V-rated Controller which was used to drive the Secondary controller (earlier version of the same design). Both the controllers and the motors never became so warm that I could tell. Once after a good hard climb I felt them, and warm was all they were. The 2WD arrangement is the best for optimum hill climbing and sustained speeds under heavy loads.
Electrical - Miscellaneous
I had installed a DC-DC converter to create the 3.3 and 12 volt auxiliary power for vehicle lighting. It also fed power to a 12-volt USB hub which I used to power my smartphone (sic) and keep it charged. I had pesky issues with the dumbphone; each time I disconnected the power it would go through this silly media scan which would take like 2 or 3 annoying minutes to complete. It also had a habit of requiring reboot every couple of days. Listening to my music was enjoyable at night. And the camera was partly useful, however near the end of my trip the phone decided to randomly delete 1/3 of my photos. When I discussed the matter with Verizon they suggested that I contact Google since it is clearly an operating system error. Sorry – buck stops with the seller. Because my photos were deleted I do not
recommend purchase of the Samsung Droid Charge. As a phone and navigation device, it worked well enough when I had a connection.
Da Black Box!
The other feature under the front faring was da Black Box that the DC-DC converter was attached to: This unit housed the relay which triggered the brake light from the ebrake (never worked and was disconnected). It also had the Left-Right signal indicator relay which did work – perfectly! Lastly it housed the key switch that disconnected the VCC-L to the Controller brains; this worked well too. Alas – I never got around to hooking up plasma cannons or neutering ray guns. There’s always next year!
As motors go – beyond the physical mounting and brake issues, the Ebike-Kit motors that I purchased worked flawlessly, provided ample torque and speed, and generally operated exceedingly well. The issues with the rear motor cutting out could be traced to external factors, and between those two aluminum hub covers they were apparently not at fault at any time.
Battery cabling was for the most part given to be problematic where the connections flexed. I spent a good deal of time trying to plan out my electrical cabling only to find that I had to hack into it to complete the ad hoc migration of batteries forward from the trailer. I found myself pulling every bit of previous battery cabling out of the pile of creativity to manufacture a quick solution that would put me On the Road
. For weeks I wondered if the forward battery pack of the saddle bags were connected properly; the cables were stretched and taught to the extreme limits. Upon return to Redmond after unpacking – it was apparent they remained connected.
Personally, I dislike the Anderson Power Poles (APP). At every connection where there is flexing, there will also be an opportunity for charring. The bullet connectors are better IMO. The next rig I build will likely use those instead. For all my cabling, I ran 10-AWG except at the 8-AWG main bus that unified all the disparate battery assemblies before connecting to the controllers and DC-DC converter. The phase harness to both motors used 10-AWG. The phase wiring through the front hub was upgraded to Mil-Spec 12-AWG, however the rear hub was left unmodified (guessing it’s 14-AWG). The phase wires of the rear hub did become hot enough to melt through the external cable sheath although did not melt through the individual wire lining. The left-side rear pannier did rub against the phase wiring and it was determined that this affected the Hall Effect signals back to the controller, causing the motor to “misfire” and make a horribly nasty grinding sound. Once discovered (at Leggett) I rerouted the cabling and the problem went away for good.
The cabling to the trailer was all good and not ever a problem. However I was not a fan of the huge rat’s nest require to connect the bundle of batteries in each Sears Craftsman tool box; there must be a better way to create compact wiring! I remain convinced that there was 10 lbs. of copper wiring easily between the bike and trailer.
The Charger assembly worked out well enough. Had I known the actual output and duration of charging I would have opted for a higher-wattage unit. One pesky issue that was cumbersome is that the manner in which the wire attaches is not very strong; these units were not designed for portability and as such there isn’t a provision for a cable strain relief. I had to field repair this unit several times when the wires would pull out – wrecking the connection point. Next year I will design an integrated unit with an industry-standard detachable cord.
Other Handlebar Issues
I may have said this before but the aerobars are a bust. The bike was too sensitive to use them, however they look cool! With them in place there is little room for anything else and that meant for difficulty reaching critical controls, such as the shift levers or the people-bell, the latter of which hardly works at all because it is too sandwiched and the level will not ring the bell. The Signal control that runs the Left/Right indicators is also difficult to reach; I have to use my eyes to find it and once set does not automatically reset as would a normal vehicle. The high-powered LED headlights suffered miserably and continuously because the flimsy regulators mounted in the push-button ends faltered and failed to retain their settings. I need to fix this before winter arrives.
The throttle control is sensitive. And actually I had used the Magura resistor throttle for the first few days of my journey when the original Hall-Effect throttle died right before I left. Farfle’s
boss from Bend Electric Bikes
gifted me a nice HE throttle and the resolution was much improved. However – we still do not have a solid throttle control that provides a smooth linear transition between cold stop and WOT without having some artifacts, voids, and surges.
The left and right mirrors worked out well enough. There is no perfect solution, however these bar-end mirrors were about the best that one could hope for. Though I brought the parts along, I never did get around to mounting the turn indicators or blinkies on the trailer. The indicators were of poor construction and the posts of two pulled right out, and I didn’t have another set. I just never got around to mounting the blinkies; I heard several times that someone would have to have been blind to miss my bike on the road.
The panniers were different this year; Ortlieb went cheap and removed some of the fastening ability. I had 9 batteries loaded on each side this time; last year it was double. The handling of the bike was hugely affected by too much weight here and I already had more than I wanted. Adding to that was the weight of 4 quarts of water and Gatorade. To prevent the panniers from flying free I had secured them to the frame with a nylon-poly rope which was an improvement over last years’ strapping. It still wasn’t optimal – though certainly much more of an improvement.
I thought my Brookes Saddle would be the comfort ticket this year, but alas – all bicycle seats are uncomfortable after 50 miles. On a hot day I ended up stopping every 15-20 miles to get off the bike and water-up; to get the blood flowing again in my posterior and to the wrists. Cool days I could go much farther; up to 40 miles without a break.
A rear view of bling!
The most enjoyable bit of equipment on the bike though was the “Diametric Coriolis Inductive Regenerator” aka propeller
. It was the source of many laughs and amusement. Only one person took me seriously after pointing it out, to which upon hearing the description of the unit, replied “Sooo – it’s functional then?”
One born every minute. The best group response was for a good long stretch of road between Ahwahnee-Oakhurst-Coursegold; many people drove by and gave me the thumbs-up sign of approval or waved back out their sunroofs! I still have it mounted; the utility is too good-natured to resist. My Hot Wheels nerf bar came in a distant second: Just before my trip I was eating at my favorite local Teriyaki place when an older guy came in and asked if I was the owner of that electric bike; he looked the bike over and said “I see that the model is ‘Hot Wheels’, but who is the manufacturer?”
Too hot to handle…
In all, about twice a day I would get flagged down and asked about the bike. In that sense – visually, the design was a success! Functionally, it got me from here to there and back again. There were many nagging issues and one flat tire, however – there were also 28 days On the Road
that I shall never forget. It was fun, it was painful, it was hot, cold, warm, windy, still, gusting, dry, wet, foggy, sunny, cloudy, twilight, moonless, moon-shadow, smoky, hazy, clear as a bell, massive, majestic, and starlit. I fought the road, I fought my demons, I fought the pesky gremlins gnawing on my systems, I fought the Chupacabra (at least in my head), but I never fought zombies or vampires even though I was prepared with my trusty wooden stake. I experienced this road trip by myself, with my friends, with my family, with many kindred strangers, and even a few arseholes – but let’s not think about them. I was lucky, I was in love with the freedom of being On the Road
, and I got to share that in real time online with those that enjoined to listen. Perhaps naivety and angst are as valuable as much as wit and wisdom…
In The End, I made it home alright.
Thanks for listening, KF