These drivetrains rely on electrical methods to transfer power in place of mechanical. The pedals are used to turn an electric generator, with power then sent to an electric motor which drives the rear wheel. The concept may sound overly complicated, but it does offer some benefits. The generator can change its operation to keep the rider pedalling at their most efficient, consistent rate. There would also be no chain to fall off, get snagged on clothing, or require regular maintenance.
It would make integrating regenerative braking possible, too, allowing the bike to harvest energy when going downhill too. This could be achieved with a storage battery or supercapacitor. As a bonus, it would be very easy to integrate power assist for the rider when tackling tough hills, for example. The lack of requirement for direct mechanical power transfer also means that there’s far more flexibility to design a bike with interesting geometry.
Such drive systems do give up some efficiency, however. All the power conversions between mechanical and electrical energy mean that a “digital drive” would likely only be 58% efficient. This compares poorly to the roughly 95% efficiency of power transfer in regular mechanically-driven bikes. There’s also a weight penalty, too.
Presnetly, there’s only one “digital drive” bike on the market – known as the Mando Footloose. It’s a swooping, folding, futuristic design, that has some feel issues when it comes to pedalling. And, given the added complexity and expense of these systems, it’s unlikely regular bikes or e-bikes are going away any time soon. Regardless, it’s fun to think about the potential for other drivetrain concepts to change the way we cycle. Video after the break.
The story of how [Tony]’s three-wheeled electric scooter came to be has a beginning that may sound familiar. One day, he was browsing overseas resellers and came across a new part, followed immediately by a visit from the Good Ideas Fairy. That’s what led him to upgrade his DIY electric scooter to three wheels last year, giving it a nice speed boost in the process!
The part [Tony] ran across was a dual brushless drive unit for motorizing a mountain board. Mountain boards are a type of off-road skateboard, and this unit provided two powered wheels in a single handy package. [Tony] ended up removing the rear wheel from his electric scooter and replacing it with the powered mountain board assembly.
He also made his own Arduino-based interface to the controller that provides separate throttle and braking inputs, because the traditional twist-throttle of a scooter wasn’t really keeping up with what the new (and more powerful) scooter could do. After wiring everything up with a battery, the three-wheeled electric scooter was born. It’s even got headlights!
If you’re a Hackaday reader, it’s a good bet you could figure out how to convert your bike to use an electric motor. But you might have more important things to do, so a start up company, Skarper, wants to help you with a conversion kit and the folks over at [autoevolution] took a closer look at how it works. The interesting part is that it transfers power from the motor to your wheels through a disc that substitutes for the bike’s disc brake. You can see a promotional video about the product from the company below.
Unlike some conversions, it looks like with this kit you can easily snap the assembly on the bike when you want it powered and take it off when you want it to function normally or if you want to take the electronic part inside with you.
The company claims that the 250-watt motor can to propel a bike to nearly 20 miles per hour. But we’re willing to bet you can’t go that fast and get the claimed 37-mile range. On the plus side, a 30-minute charge will net you another 12 miles and a full charge only takes 2.5 hours. The battery and motor weigh a bit more than 7 pounds. Obviously, you’ll need a bike that has disc brakes.
Cost? About $1,200, so it isn’t quite an impulse buy. Especially if you have the time and wherewithal to roll your own solution. For example, try a skateboard motor. Makes it easier, too, if you have a 3D printer.
It may not look like it in some parts of the world, but electric vehicles are gaining more and more market share over traditional forms of transportation. The fastest-growing segment is the e-bike, which some say are growing at 16x the rate of conventional bikes (which have grown at 15% during the pandemic). [Jacques Mattheij] rides an S-Pedelec, which is a sort of cross between a moped and an e-bike. There were a few downsides, and one of those was the pitiful range, which needed to be significantly upgraded.
The S-Pedelec that [Jacques] purchased is technically considered a moped, which means it needs to ride in traffic. The 500 watt-hour battery would only take him 45km (~28 miles) on a good day, which isn’t too bad but a problem if your battery runs down while in traffic, struggling to pedal a big heavy bicycle-like thing at car speed. You can swap batteries quickly, but carrying large unsecured extra batteries is a pain, and you need to stop to change them.
There were a few challenges to adding more batteries. The onboard BMS (battery management system) was incredibly picky with DRM and fussy about how many extra cells he could add. The solution that [Jacques] went with was to add an external balancer. This allowed him to add as many cells as he wanted while keeping the BMS happy. The battery geometry is a little wonky as he wanted to keep the pack within the frame. Putting it over the rear wheel would shift the center of gravity higher, changing the bike’s handling. After significant research and preparation, [Jacques] welded his custom battery back together with a spot welder. The final capacity came in at 2150wh (much better than the initial 500wh). An added benefit of the extra range is the higher speed, as the bike stays in the higher voltage domain for much longer. In eco mode, it can do 500km or 180km at full power.
It’s awe-inspiring, and we’re looking forward to seeing more e-bikes in the future. Maybe one day we’ll have tesla coil wireless e-bikes, but until then, we need to make do with battery packs.
Your garden variety automotive alternator is ripe for repurposing as is, but with a little modification, it can actually be used as a surprisingly powerful brushless motor. Looking to demonstrate the capabilities of one of these rebuilt alternators, [DIY King] bolted one to the back of a old bicycle and got some impressive, and frankly a bit terrifying, results.
We should say up front that the required modifications to the alternator are quite extensive, so before you get too excited about building your own budget e-bike, you should check out the previous guide [DIY King] put together. The short version is that you’ll need to machine a new rotor and fill it with the neodymium magnets salvaged from hoverboard motors.
Once you’ve got your modified alternator, the rest is relatively easy. The trickiest part of this build looks like it was cutting off the bike’s rear wheel mount and replacing it with a plate that holds the alternator and a pair of reduction gears pulled from a 125cc motorbike. Beyond that, it’s largely electronics.
Naturally, you’ll also need a pretty beefy speed controller. In this case [DIY King] is using a 200 amp water-cooled model intended for large RC boats, though interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem he’s actually running any water through the thing. He’s also put together a custom 1,500 watt-hour battery pack that lives in a MDF box mounted under the seat.
To test out his handiwork, [DIY King] took to the streets and was able to get the bike up to 70 km/h (43 MPH) before his courage ran out. He thinks the motor should be able to push it up to 85 km/h, but he says the bike started wobbling around too much for him to really open it up. In terms of range, he calculated that while cruising around at a more palatable 30 km/h (18 MPH), he should be able to get 100 kilometers (62 miles) off of a single charge.
Supercapacitor technology often looks like a revolutionary energy storage technology on the surface, but the actual performance numbers can be rather uninspiring. However, for rapid and repeated charge and discharge cycles, supercaps are hard to beat. [Tom Stanton] wanted to see if supercaps have any practical use on e-bikes, and built a DIY electric motor in the process.
One of the problems with supercaps is the rapid voltage drop during discharge compared to batteries, which can limit the amount of usable energy. In an attempt to get around the voltage limitation, [Tom] built his own axial flux motor for the bike, using 3D printed formers for the coils and an aluminum rotor with embedded magnets. He expected torque to be severely limited, so he also machined a large sprocket for the rear wheel. He built a capacitor bank using six 2.7V 400F supercaps, only equivalent to the capacity of a single AA cell. Although it worked, the total range was only around 100 m at low speed. When he hooked the motor up to a conventional battery, he did find that it was quite usable, if a bit underpowered.
The controller for the DIY motor was not capable of doing regenerative braking, so he fitted the capacitors to another e-bike that does have regenerative braking. Using this feature, he was able to reclaim some power while slowing down or going downhill. Since this type of charging cycling is what supercaps are suited for, it worked, but not nearly to the level of being practical.
[Dave Schneider] has been chasing an electric-bike build for more than 10 years now. When he first started looking into it back in 2009, the cost was prohibitive. But think of how far we’ve come with the availability of motors, electronic speed controllers, and of course battery technology. When revisiting the project this year, he was able to convert a traditional bicycle to electric-drive for around $200.
Electric skateboards paved the way for this hack, as it was an outrunner motor that he chose to use as a friction drive for the rear wheel. The mounting brackets he fabricated clamp onto the chain stay tubes and press the body of the motor against the tire.
The speed of the motor is controlled by a rocker switch on the handlebars, but it’s the sensors in the brake levers that are the neat part. Magnets added to each brake lever are monitored by hall-effect sensors so that the throttle cuts whenever it senses the rider squeezing the front brake (effectively free-wheeling the bike), while the rear brake triggers a regenerative braking function he’s built into the system!
Sure you can buy these bikes, you can even buy conversion kits, but it’s pretty hard to beat the $88 [Dave] spent on the motor when the cost of purpose-built motors is usually several times this figure. The rest is fairly straight-forward, and besides ordering batteries and an electronic speed controller, you likely have the bits you need just waiting for you in your parts bin.