Washing Machine Powered Bike

[Ameres Valentin] was looking for a less expensive way to get around after spending in excess of 100 Euros a month on public transportation in Munich. His solution is an electric bicycle powered by a washing machine motor. It’s a 300 Watt motor that runs on 24 Volts, capable of around 3000 RPM. We’re used to seeing hub motors or chain drives on electric vehicle hacks, but it looks like [Ameres] is using a flywheel on the motor shaft to drive the rear wheel of the bike through direct contact.

Inside the saddle bag you’ll find two 12 volt 12 amp hour sealed lead acid batteries which are used in series. It looks like he charges these with a wall wart (that we think might use a switching power supply) modified with a couple of large alligator clamps. A push button mounted on the handlebars makes it go.We wonder if he’s still able to pedal when the batteries are running low? We don’t see a way to disengage the motor from the rear wheel so we’d bet this is something of an issue. Then again, if that charge actually works you’re never far from an opportunity to top off the batteries.

Check out a quick clip of the motor spinning the wheel embedded after the break.


62 thoughts on “Washing Machine Powered Bike

    1. a note re the friction drive…. i picked up a 1988 bikemechine friction drive 2 stroke the sat some where for 30 years .. i installed it on a trek and i found that if the tension is adjusted properly on the wheel there is almost no noticeable wear also i had no problem with it in the rain as long as i got the bike up to 10 mph before hitting the throttle. after over 500 mile on a half worn semislik the tire was hardly worn. the key is getting the tension or pressure correct and not letting the motor do all the work fro a stop…. anyway thought i’d mention it…

  1. “it looks like [Ameres] is using a flywheel on the motor shaft to drive the rear wheel of the bike through direct contact.”

    It’s cool, but not ideal for a bunch of reasons.

    1)The drive roller and tire will wear. Tires aren’t exactly big money, but they aren’t cheap, either.

    2)The drive system will slip when wet. You can prevent this by, say, texturing the drive roller, but the more textured/grippy you make it, the more it will wear the tire.

    3)The motor needs a fairly good system to keep the right contact force against the tire, because the tire changes shape with the road surface, as all pneumatic tires do. Go over a bump, and the tire will expand everywhere else, pressing harder against the motor. That could cause a lot of bearing wear or fatigue on the shaft.

    One other word of advice for people trying this sort of stuff: make sure your system is failsafe in lots of ways. For example, systems that directly drive the chain are very dangerous, because if triggered when not desired, they could turn into a leg/shin-destroying machine!

    1. probably the ones we use here are mostly large and ac, but not in europe.
      the one i had in my apartment in scotland was the size of a large microwave. it front loaded like one, and once started both washed and then dried the clothes in one cycle, and fit just enough for one days worth of clothes for a couple. it was mounted under the counter in the kitchen. kind of convenient actually.
      at 3000 watts i would imagine the motor came from something more like that.

    2. Long story short, it depends. Many modern motors can take AC or DC. It’s also possible that the washing machine he got it out of stepped down from mains to 24 VDC as a quirk of the product.

    3. My former washer had a third horsepower AC motor with half and full speed windings, and had to fill FULL of water twice. That motor was the size of any shop motor, and the txsm was the size of the motor. My new (free) washer has a motor about as big as the one in the photo. I got it dead and went for the aluminimum box and it’s ckt board and found the mains power jumpering with a piece of thin iron strap with 2 prongs that “soldered” to the foil side. Fixed with a solder gun, no pencil heads here.
      Heavy metal things don’t get soldered in the wave process.
      What a wonder! It’s Euro design 1 gallon of water three times to “fill” it so soap is concenterated and you use far less, and the spin wow! That little motor grinds the tumble in both directions then just simpily revs up and up and up. These fast spin rates have clothes near dry with less hard water deposits and any chemicals. It has a set of 6 fets driving the motor no transmision just a spline belt to the horizontal drum.
      These should be adaptable to bike motor BLDC hacks, with a throtle driver etc. It has the torque to move from a standstill and move at high spin fast, 50 or more miles per hour.

    4. I’d agree a lot of modern motors can be run AC or DC, but not generally in large appliances… Most large appliances (washing machines, dryers, furnace blowers, table saws) (budget conscious anyway) run induction motors which do not work with DC. They run quiet because they are brushless (not bldc), and are relatively cheap (but large and heavy), and require very little if any circuitry to drive/run. If the motor is noisy (think handheld drill, circular saw) it’s usually brushed and would work on DC also. ‘DC and Quite’ is usually expensive, usually because of a combination of power supply cost since it’s not running off mains, control circuitry, and manufacturing costs of brushless dc motors (expensive magnets), so it is not generally used except in higher end items.

  2. Considering he’s paying in excess of 100 euros a month I don’t think having to replace a 20 (or so)euro tyre every so often is really going to be an issue for them.

    As already mentioned, wet tyres could still be a bit problematic though.

    I would like to see it being ridden though, it doesn’t look like it turns that fast without any payload and 300w isn’t exactly powerful. I have seen commercial applications for this which start in the 1000-3000w range(although prohibitively expensive!) but I would love to be proven wrong!
    I have also seen kits that attach directly to the chain but employ some kind of hub to save the shin destroying that would normally occur.

    1. Also, the linked article is *very* sparse in details, can anyone work out out how fast 3000rpm would equal in speed? Assuming that the motor is capable of achieving full speed(highly doubtful) and that the bike is fitted with 26″ (very common/likely) wheels? I am less than versed in the art of calculating gear ratios. :(

      1. By my guestimates… the theoretical max would be about 25-27mph. Actual speeds would be significantly less because the motor is shown in a state essentially under no load as opposed to a heavy load of a human rider. [My figures are based on measuring the frequency of the vibration from the wheel spin, and then applying it to the circumference. It’s crude but effective, I think. Different wheel sizes is: 1mph per 1″diameter difference, basically.]

      2. Using rough measurements from the screenshot of the video I make out the flywheel is approx 4″. Would that work out to the same speed?

        25-27 mph is fairly repsepctable! Even with the huge drag factor of human payload + bike, if this thing can even get close to 15 mph it’d consider it worthwhile. I’m quite tempted to try this out for myself as I have all the components on hand.

    2. 300 watts is somewhere around the bottom end of what a pro cyclist would expect to churn out hour after hour, and above what most of us would be able to do for even a 10 second effort. It’ll move 90% of us faster than our legs can.

  3. So there are no laws in germany regarding electric bicycles?

    Where I live the motor has to be 250w or under and it may only run when you are pushing the pedals, else the bike will be classified as a moped, and it will be a beaurucracy hell to get it legally approved for use in public spaces.

  4. Maybe rig it up so that with the flip of a switch the motor would recharge the battery as you pedal. My father had an old racing bicycle that used a motor mounted to the tire in this fashion to charge the batteries for the headlight and brake light.

  5. I’d guess the motor at around 4″ diameter so if the tires on the bike are 26″ and that motor can actually pull 3000rpms with a load AND there is no slippage it would be able to hit 35mph… But since I have zero confidence in any of those variables that is never going to happen.

    1. Unless the cost of a transit pass in Munich has gone up by a factor of 10 in the last 7 years, he’s riding that bike for hours each day to replace a 100 euro pass, so the motor seems like the way to go.

  6. Two problems:

    The motor doesn’t develop enough torque at low speeds because it’s designed to spin fast.

    300 Watts is 50 Watts more than what is legally allowed by the EU, and it doesn’t have a pedal sensor. That’s legally a motorbike, which means he’ll most likely have to get it registered and insured.

    1. More specifically, 250 W max, 25 kph max, no running the motor without pedaling.

      If the police stops you on a hack bike, they have no way of checking that the bike is legal. At that point they can either let you go and break the law, or take your bike until it can be shown that it’s within the regulations and you didn’t cheat with secret switches etc.

      So, in practice, you need a certified kit or an electric bike made by a real company to get away with it.

      I don’t know of any way to get an electric bike offically inspected so you could simply whip out the documents and be done with it. It’s an untested law.

      1. Let me get this straight: “Big Brother” sucks people dry of their meager wages through the application of tax upon tax, then mismanages the funds they collect to the point of regional bankruptcy.

        But none of that is important. What’s important is that we protect western civilization from people with washing machine motors who might dare to bolt one to a bicycle.

        I can envision a European jail now…
        “What are you here for?”

        “Serial murder. What about you?”

        “Me? Oh, I put a 300 watt motor on a bike and didn’t ask for permission.”

        “Holy crap, stay away from me, you psycho!”

        What should we expect next.. a visit from the the Office of the Steampunk Inspector General? Paperwork for compliance with the Case-mod Bureau? Arduino Surcharge?

        It astonishes me that there actually are Americans who think that we should be *more* like Europe.

      2. There’s a legitimate concern though. Bicycles are usually allowed on pedestrian walkways, and so are electric bicycles.

        So you kinda want to limit the speeds and whatnot, so you don’t start to get deadly collisions when some careless kids tweaks out his bike and slams into a granny at 50 kph.

      3. You’re right PI. People should be free to create unregulated powered vehicles without interference from the nanny state. I for one would feel much happier, knowing that the only level of testing should be the builders opinion.

        I’d talk more, but I must get back to bolting a V8 engine to my Rockhopper.

      4. If you dont have a “fuck the police” attitude in germany, a lot of creative potential is wasted. I was born in Munich and also built some electrical powered vehicles (washing machine motors! yeah!) when i was a teenager and it never concerned me what the police might say.
        btw, you wont go to jail for powering a bike with a washing machine motor. maybe a fine of 100€ or so if the police officer is a real asshole.

        also: “fuck the MVG” (munich public transport, europe´s most expensive rides)

    2. Thankfully, where I live (BC, Canada), electric-assist bicycles can have up to 500 watt motors, and top speed of 32 kph (~20 mph) with no pedaling sensor required. But, it does have to cut power to the wheel if you fall off (spring loaded throttle), and come to a stop within 27 feet when braking from top speed :)

    3. the 250W limit is for suspended power output over longer time (so he could use the 300W motor if he had a controler that would limit it to 250W and the controler could even output 300W for accelerating bur thats somewhat a grey area) but of course he would still need a pedal sensor and the 25kmh limit…

      I think the 25kmh limit does not make any sense… I can pedal much faster than 25kmh so will a pedelec have to brake me down if I go to fast ;) ? Or is it ilegal to drive faster than 25kmh with a pedelec?….

      I don’t have anything angainst rules for pedelecs but those rules were made by bureaucrats that probably don’t even know what a bike looks like ;)

      Without rules I would have two 20kw brushless motors from hobyking ;) and that would be quite a stupid idea ;)

    4. What kind of anal retentive SOB is going to make an issue over 50 watts?

      In the US it’s 750 watts and as long as it looks like a normal bike vs a scooter the cops probably will not bother you.

  7. 4″ fly wheel gives at 3000rpm: ~36mph. With the same fly wheel estimate, I guestimate that the motor is really running at ~2200rpm. If the rpm dropped the same amount with a rider, it’d break it down to ~17mph. So, I’d expect real world to be under that.

    1. That’s exactly why they’ll probably just take your bike to the back of the van and haul it to the station. Then you have to prove that it’s legal to get it back.

      They can’t let it slide just because they don’t know if it’s legal or not.

      1. Wouldn’t they have to let is slide unless they knew it was not legal? In US that would be like a cop stopping you because he thinks your window tint is too dark, and ‘oh, sorry, I don’t have a tint meter, so I’m going to tow and impound your car until we can check it’. Granted if he is driving this bike 80mph they would have probable cause that his bike is not legal, but I don’t think 300watts when law is 250 is going put on a show worthy of catching an officers attention… But then again I’m not that familiar with UK law?

      2. Well, the motor is one thing, but the lack of a pedal sensor is another, and the lack of a speed limiter is the third strike.

        Let’s put it this way: if you’re a police officer and see someone riding a non-registered vehicle that is obviously motor-powered, and of dubious nature with washing machine motors on the back wheel, what would you do?

        Checking the tint of a window is more like a “I’m giving you a warning” and write the number plate down. Riding a bike that could be an unregistered and uninsured motorcycle by law is a bit more serious.

    2. well I guess they can’t prove that that white powder is cocaine unless they know enough about chemistry to test it? except that they have little field tests that a monkey could use, not to mention job training. if it becomes enough of an issue, they’ll find a way, the question is whether the cops actually care enough to do that.

      1. Agree, it’d have to either be blatantly not legal or become wide enough of an issue before they would do anything (or if you really piss one off). Neither of which I would think this would qualify as. 300 watts really isn’t much, I used to work at a bike shop where we had a bike with a power meter which measured power output at the rear wheel (commercial system that measures torque at rear wheel, as well as RPM to give you a wattage reading ), and being in good shape but far from a pro biker, I could put out 1000 watts for relatively short periods of time. – So in relation, a motor putting out less than 1/3 of what a human can do alone really isn’t going to turn officials heads in my opinion…

      2. Problem is, there’s so many ways you can do things that the police officers would need:

        A) special training to be electricians to quickly reverse-engineer the circuitry to see that it’s all in order, measure the output with a portable dynamometer etc. (Which is already a huge PITA with mopeds etc.)

        B) to only allow tested standard parts and combinations with known properties and anything else would be automatically rejected.

        Guess which one is more cost effective?

      3. “So in relation, a motor putting out less than 1/3 of what a human can do alone really isn’t going to turn officials heads in my opinion…”

        You aren’t going to accidentally put out 1000 Watts to the rear wheel and slam into someone or dive in front of a vehicle under your own power, unless you had an extremely peculiar epileptic seizure.

        That’s the reason for the power limit – so if something goes horribly wrong it doesn’t catch you by surprise, and 250 Watts is more than what most people can sustain for over an hour so it should be enough for a bicycle.

        Sure, 50 Watts over the line is marginal, but you got to draw it somewhere.

      4. Yep, I have no disagreement with the 250W line, my point was just i don’t think he should really have to worry about the law. I guess I’d have to weigh the penalty of the law against the fun of riding my own contraption. If worst case scenario they keep my bike or $100 fine, I’d probably risk it because if I don’t ride it erratically my 50W power margin over the law is not likely to get me stopped in the first place and I would probably risk loosing the bike or $100 because it wasn’t ‘commercially made’ and not up to a ‘T’ of their particular standards. Then again if they are going to put you in jail or huge fines over riding your own contraption that at a glance would not look completely illegal, I’d probably say forget it.

      5. “If worst case scenario they keep my bike or $100 fine, I’d probably risk it ”

        Except in this case the fines could run up to quite a lot, because it would be seen the same as tricking up a moped/scooter without getting it re-registered into the next higher power class, and that basically results in an insurance fraud.

      6. It’s a whole can of worms anyways if you decide to make your own “motorcycle” and not tell anyone, because you need a lisence to drive one, and you need to be insured to drive one, and the vehicle has to be registered.

        I’m old enough that I don’t need a separate lisence to have a moped, but kids these days under the new law have to have at least an AM lisence to drive one, and simply having a B lisence for cars doesn’t allow you to drive any sort of two-wheeled vehicle beyond a bicycle.

        So you’d be breaking the law three ways till sunday.

  8. Wow, so far I learned;

    1) Euro= Justify the man, and point out that he hasn’t quite gone far enough to guarantee universal safety.

    2) Canada= It’s ok, our man is much smaller than your man.

    3) USA= There’s a man??

    That aside, I wouldn’t have thought to make the flywheel of oakwood, so I guess more of a capstan than a flywheel. Simple, I like.

    If the law becomes an issue, replacing the handlebar switch with a momentary one might help, but if actual safety was a concern a tether switch and dynamic brake relay might be more effective.

    GenII should mount the motor as part of the rack and cover the thing with the saddlebags. Out of sight always looks less hacky.

    1. The law is pretty clear on the matter.

      The motor must cut off at 25 kph, and can’t turn on if the pedals aren’t turning. Otherwise it’s not a bicycle but a moped. The design of the switch is irrelevant.

      All this legal fuckery has to do with people trying to evade taxes, insurance, and safety regulations like having to wear helmets while riding, or having signals on the vehicle etc.

      For example, mopeds were originally motorbikes with pedals added so they’d pass as powered bicycles which had no regulations at the time, so people where whizzing about in all sorts of contraptions just as long as they had pedals. Hence, the necessary distinction between a bicycle and a moped.

    2. Other examples of such idiocy is the Reliant Robin, which is a three wheeled car that is very prone to turning over because it only has one front wheel.

      But it’s classed as a motorbike, so you save 50 pounds a year in taxes.

  9. Nice work on the electric bike. I see how some of these DIY powered bicycle kits will retain the rear wheel’s gear(s) and ratcheting hub assembly and simply lash the new power-driven gear/pulley to the spokes of the same wheel (on the side opposite the original gear(s)). This way you can pedal or coast the bike and still run the boost drive. Now, trying to pedal the thing without a clutched/freewheeling power unit will make you hate life.

  10. Nice hack :)

    We used to have engine kits for bicycles sold here in Sweden 30-40 years ago, they were popular and legal as they were regulated, these new ones arent.

    I ride a bicycle with one of those 50cc 2 stroke kits mentioned by Mike and as far as the law here in Sweden is concerned its an uninsurable unregisterable vehicle, not a bicycle and not a moped.

    Never had a problem with LEOs tho, ive been passed by several cruisers and even had an officer walk by and to have a look at the bike while it was parked.

    Im guessing that its the beard and helmet that keeps them off me, im sure it would be different if it were some snotnosed 14 year old.

  11. A little FYI on UK law regarding electric assist bikes: The laws actually state that if a bike is a *commercial product* ie one you’ve purchased at a shop, then it MUST have a pedal sensor / not run without pedaling, max speed of 15MPH, motor must cut out above 15MPH and the motor is *200Watts* MAX (250watt motors are only allowed with a Tandem or three or more wheels).

    BUT there is a section that states that a *DIY build* (or kit) is not required to have a pedal sensor, the motor is allowed to assist without pedaling and no requirement for a motor cut-out above 15Mph limit (BUT THE 15Mph SPEED LIMIT STILL APPLIES!), and the motor is still limited to 200Watts max. Maximum weight 40kgs (60kgs for tricycles and tandems).

    However a DIY bike can consist of nothing more complex than a motor, battery and a switch. As for the 250W motors often used, as far as I’m aware the “bike” Vs Tandem / trike / quadracycle /etc. (200W / 250W) limitations are not really enforced or checked, so a number of store sold bikes have 250W kits attached though it is technically illegal.

    My source was (a couple of years ago) from a UK .gov website, though the gov website has since been overhauled and I can’t find any relevant pages now. Only one I could find was about type aproval, but that only applies to manufacturers, not DIY builders. I do have a copy of the original txt stored on an old computer somwhere…


  12. Some people in England may remember the Sinclair C5? This electric machine became a joke as it was hyped as a commuter road vehicle that failed to meet expectations. At the time, it was sold as a bicycle and needed no licence. I remember reading the technical details in a Sunday newspaper and it was driven by a motor which came from a well known brand of electric washing machine.

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