Earth Day: Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are the wave of the future, whether it’s from sucking too much oil out of the ground, or because of improved battery technology. Most internal combustion engines are unsustainable, and if you’re thinking about the environment – or working on an entry for The Hackaday Prize – an electric vehicle is the way to go.
Here are a few electric vehicle projects that are competing in The Hackaday Prize that show off the possibilities for the electric vehicles of the future.

An Electric Ninja

Motorcycles are extremely efficient already, but if you want a torquey ride with a lot of acceleration, electric is the way to go. [ErikL] is hard at work transforming a 2005 Ninja 250R into an electric vehicle, both to get away from gas-sipping engines and as a really, really cool ride. Interestingly, the battery technology in this bike isn’t that advanced – it’s a lead acid battery, basically, that reduces the complexity of the build.

And They Have Molds To Make Another

Motorcycles aren’t for everybody, but neither are normal, everyday, electronic conversion cars. [MW Motors] is building a car from scratch. The body, the chassis, and the power train are all hand built.

The amazing part of this build is how they created the body. It’s a fiberglass mold that was pulled off of a model carved out of a huge block of foam. There’s a lot of composite work in here, and a lot of work had to happen before digging into the foam; you actually need to choose your accessories, lights, and other bits and bobs before designing the body panels.

While the suspension and a lot of the mechanical parts were taken from a Mazda Miata, the power and drive system are completely custom. Most of the chassis is filled with LiFeMnPO4 batteries, powering four hub motors in each wheel. It’s going to be an amazing car.

Custom, 3D Printed Electric Motors

If you’re designing an electric car, the biggest decision you’re going to make is what motor you’re going to use. This is a simple process: open up a few catalogs and see what manufacturers are offering. There’s another option: building your own motor. [Solenoid] is working on a piece of software that will calculate the specifications of a motor given specific dimensions. It will also generate files for a 3D printed motor given the desired specs. Yes, you’ll still need to wind a few miles of copper onto these parts, but it’s the beginning of completely custom electronic motors.

Autonomous Vehicle-Following Vehicle

Humanity has taken one step closer to Skynet becoming fully aware. [Ahmed], [Muhammad], [Salman], and [Suleman] have created a vehicle that can “chase” another vehicle as part of their senior design project. Now it’s just a matter of time before the machines take over.

The project itself is based on a gasoline-powered quad bike that the students first converted to electric for the sake of their project. It uses a single webcam to get information about its surroundings. This is a plus because it frees the robot from needing a stereoscopic camera or any other complicated equipment like a radar or laser rangefinder. With this information, it can follow a lead vehicle without getting any other telemetry.

This project is interesting because it could potentially allow for large convoys with only one human operator at the front. Once self-driving cars become more mainstream, this could potentially save a lot of costs as well if only the vehicle in the front needs the self-driving equipment, while the vehicles behind would be able to operate with much less hardware. Either way, we love seeing senior design projects that have great real-world applications!

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Odd-Looking Mini EV Yard Tractor Is Made From Plywood And Bike Parts

Mini EV Tractor[Ian] likes to build small Electric Vehicles and his most unique project is certainly this yard tractor. During the design phase of the project [Ian] came up with a few requirements to ensure that this vehicle would be useful around the house. First, it had to be maneuverable in tight spaces. This was accomplished by the short wheel base and small diameter front-steering wheels. Next, it had to get great traction as leaving torn-up grass around the yard was not going to cut the mustard. Four mountain bike drive wheels used in the rear double the traction while at the same time distributing the friction over twice the surface area of the grass. To increase the traction even more, the rider’s seating position was intentionally put directly over the rear wheels.

The frame was kept simple by using plywood as structural members. Two 40Ah 12v batteries are set low between the front and rear axles and power the 4 DC drive motors. The motors are connected to the axle by means of sprockets and chains which results in a 36:1 reduction. That’s a large gear reduction and limits the tractor to a top speed of 12 km/h (7.5 mph). Bike tires front and rear were used because they are easily available and are super low-cost. And of course, a tractor wouldn’t be complete without a trailer hitch to tow around plants, rocks, wood or any other general yard debris.

[Ian] makes plans for his mini EV tractor available on his website. If your kid is envious of this electric tractor, maybe you can make him one of these

 

Self Balancing Vehicle Inspired By Bicycles Of Yesteryear

[XenonJohn] is not a newcomer to the world of self balancing vehicles. He was part of the Medicycle team and a semifinalist for The Hackaday Prize. Working on the Medicycle had exposed some opportunities for improvement of the design, the most significant being the single wide wheel supporting the vehicle and rider. The unicycle design was more difficult to learn to ride than that of a two-wheeled nature. [XenonJohn] wanted to make an improved self balancer and this new one will have two wheels that are independently controlled.

Although the finished product looks like it started with a bike frame, the self-balancer’s frame is actually completely custom. The handlebars and banana seat were purchased new as aftermarket parts for old-style bicycles. Powering the two wheels is a pair of 24v brushed motors, conveniently each one came with a 6:1 reduction gearbox pre-installed. The wheels are a complete compilation of parts not intended to go together. The BMX bike rims were laced to mountain bike front hubs. The hubs have provisions for a disk brake but [XenonJohn] mounted a large toothed pulley there instead. A belt then connects the drive motor gearboxes to the pulleys completing the drive train.

The LiFePO4 battery kit was purchased off eBay and puts out 24v and 15AH using eight cells. These batteries alone were a hefty percentage of the projects cost, costing nearly $300. Controlling the vehicle is an Arduino Mega that makes use of the FreeSix IMU library. The Mega receives inputs via I2C from a Sparkfun SEN-10121 board that contains both accelerometers and gyroscopes along with turn switches connected to the ‘brake’ levers on the handlebars. The Arduino then sends commands to the 25 amp Sabertooth motor controllers to keep you balanced as you buzz around town.

Video below.

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[Harrison Krix’s] Marriott Chariot

Atlanta’s Mini Maker Faire had plenty of booths to keep visitors busy, but the largest spectacle by far was the racetrack smack-dab in the middle, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more eye-catching contender than [Harrison Krix’s] vehicle: the Marriott Chariot.

If [Krix’s] name looks familiar, that’s because he’s the master artisan behind Volpin Props, and is responsible for such favorites as the Futurama Holophonor replica and the Daft Punk helmet. (Actually, he made the other one, too).

The Chariot is yet another competitor in the Power Racing Series, an event that keeps popping up here on Hackaday. [Krix] drew inspiration from this Jeep build we featured earlier in the summer, and went to work sourcing an old plastic body to get started. The frame is 16 gauge square tubing, with a custom motor mount machined from 3/16 steel. After welding the chassis together, [Krix] chopped up a small bicycle to snag its head tube and headset bearings. A pair of sealed lead acid batteries fit horizontally in the frame, providing a slightly lower center of gravity.

[Krix] has a keen eye for precision and his build journal shows each step of his meticulous process. But, you ask, why “Marriott Chariot?” and why does the car look like someone threw up a kaleidoscope? Read on beyond the break, dear reader, to learn the Chariot’s origin and to see a video of it winding around the track.

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Electric Bubblegum Board

The Mini Maker Faire in Atlanta was packed with exciting builds and devices, but [Andrew’s] Electric Bubblegum Boards stood out from the rest, winning the Editor’s Choice Award. His boards first emerged on Endless Sphere earlier this summer, with the goal of hitting all the usual e-skateboard offerings of speed, range, and weight while dramatically cutting the cost of materials.

At just over 12 pounds, the boards are lightweight and fairly compact, but have enough LiFePO4’s fitted to the bottom to carry a rider 10 miles on a single charge. A Wii Nunchuck controls throttle, cruise control, and a “boost” setting for bursts of speed. The best feature of this e-skateboard, however, is the use of 3D-printed parts. The ABS components not only help facilitate the prototyping process, but also permit a range of customization options. Riders can reprint parts as necessary, or if they want to just change things up.

[Andrew’s] board is nearing the 11th hour over at his Kickstarter page, so swing by to see a production video made for potential backers, or stick around after the break for some quick progress and demo videos.

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THP Semifinalist: The Medicycle

Despite a seeming lack of transportation projects for The Hackaday Prize, there are a few that made it through the great culling and into the semifinalist round. [Nick], [XenonJohn], and [DaveW]’s project is the Medicycle. It’s a vehicle that will turn heads for sure, but the guys have better things in mind than looking cool on the road. He thinks this two-tire unicycle will be useful in dispatching EMTs and other first responders, weaving in and out of traffic to get where they’re needed quickly.

First things first. The one-wheeled motorcycle actually works. It’s basically the same as a self-balancing scooter; the rider leans forward to go forward, leans back to break, and the two tires help with steering. It’s all electronic, powered by a 450W motor. It can dash around alleys, parking lots, and even gravel roadways.

The medi~ part of this cycle comes from a mobile triage unit tucked under the nose of the bike. There are sensors for measuring blood pressure and oxygen, heart rate, and ECG. This data is sent to the Medicycle rider via a monocular display tucked into the helmet and relayed via a 3G module to a physician offsite.

Whether the Medicycle will be useful to medics remains to be seen, but the guys have created an interesting means of transportation that is at least as cool as a jet ski. That’s impressive, and the total build cost of this bike itself is pretty low.

Video of the Medicycle in action below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.
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