Electric Volkspod Takes You On An Eco-friendly Beetle Cruise

The Volkswagen Beetle is a true automobile icon, and while it may not be the fastest or most breathtaking looking car ever built, its unmistakable shape with those elegant curvy fenders and bulgy lights holds a special place in many people’s hearts. And then it inspires them to build minibikes from those same parts.

[Brent Walter] is well know as an originator of the hobby, starting a little while ago with his Volkspod. Inspired by [Brent’s] work, [Jonah Mikesell] decided to give it his own try, but unlike the original design that uses an actual minibike under the hood, he built an electric version of it, and painstakingly documented every step along the way.

The idea of the Volkspod is to take the Beetle’s two front fenders, weld them together to one symmetric body, and turn it into a small motorcycle. [Jonah]’s version does all that, but instead of taking a whole minibike as core of the project, he only uses a minibike frame and substitutes the engine with a 2000 Watt e-bike motor along with an e-bike battery pack. Fitting the frame within the dimensions of the fender construct required some extra welding work, but in the end, it all came nicely together, and with its red paint job, it kinda looks like something from a vintage post-apocalyptic sci-fi cross-genre movie. Watch him taking it for a spin in the video after the break.

Unfortunately, neither the original Volkspod nor this one has the roaring engine sound of an actual Beetle — which is akin to what the wings of a real-life beetle of similar size would probably sound like. But well, it’s always an option to fake that. And if [Jonah] ever feels the urge of a bigger engine, maybe a washing machine can help.

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1985 Electric Vehicle Restoration

We tend to think of electric vehicles as a recent innovation, however many successful products are not the first ones to appear on the market. We have a habit of forgetting the progenitors such as mechanical scanned TVs or the $10,000 Honeywell kitchen computer. A case in point is [Clive Sinclair]’s C5 electric vehicle from 1985. If you’ve heard of it at all, you probably recall it was considered a stellar disaster when it was released. But it is a part of electric vehicle history and you can see [RetroManCave] talk to [Dave] about how he restored and operates a C5 of his own in the video below. If you want to dig into the actual restoration, [Dave] has three videos about the teardown and rebuild on his channel.

Sinclair saw this as the first shot across the bow with a series of electric vehicles, but it was doomed from the start. It isn’t a car. In fact, it is more like a bicycle with a battery. It seats one occupant who is exposed to the elements. It had a very tiny trunk. It can go — optimistically — 15 miles per hour and runs out of juice after about 20 miles — if you helped out by pedaling. If you weren’t up for the exercise, you’d get less out of the lead-acid battery.

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Fail Of The Week: An Electric Bicycle, Powered By AA Batteries

Very slowly, some very cool parts are coming out on the market that will make for some awesome builds. Supercapacitors are becoming a thing, and every year, the price of these high power supercaps go a little lower, and the capacity gets a little higher. It’s really only a matter of time before someone hacks some supercaps into an application that’s never been seen before. The Navy is doing it with railguns, and [David] is building an electric bike, powered by AA batteries. While [David]’s bike technically works with the most liberal interpretation of ‘technically’, it’s the journey that counts here.

This project began as an investigation into using supercapacitors in an electric bicycle. Supercaps have an energy density very much above regular capacitors, but far behind lithium cells. Like lithium cells, they need a charge balancer, but if you manage to get everything right you can trickle charge them while still being able to dump all that power in seconds. It’s the perfect application for a rail gun, or for slightly more pedestrian applications, an electric bike with a hill assist button. The idea for this build would be to charge supercaps from a bank of regular ‘ol batteries, and zoom up a hill with about fifteen seconds of assistance.

The design of the pulsed power DC supply is fairly straightforward, with a mouthful of batteries feeding the supercap array through boost regulators, and finally going out to the motor through another set of regulators. Unfortunately, this project never quite worked out. Everything worked; it’s just this isn’t the application for the current generation of supercapacitors. There’s not enough energy density in [David]’s 100F supercaps, and the charging speed from a bunch of AA batteries is slow. For fifteen minutes of charging, [David] gets about fifteen seconds of boost on his bike. That’s great if you only ever have one hill to climb, but really useless in the real world.

That doesn’t mean this project was a complete failure. [David] now has a handy, extremely resilient array of supercaps that will charge off of anything and provide a steady 24V for a surprising amount of time. Right now, he’s using this scrapped project as a backup power supply for his 3D printer. That 100 Watt heated bed slurps down the electrons, but with this repurposed supercap bank, it can survive a 20 second power outage.

It’s a great project, and even if the technology behind supercaps isn’t quite ready to be used as a boost button on an electric bike, it’s still a great example of DIY ingenuity. You can check out [David]’s demo of the supercap bank in action below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Smart Electric Bike Controller

One of the more interesting yet underrated technological advances of the last decade or so is big brushless motors and high-capacity batteries. This has brought us everything from quadcopters to good electric cars, usable cordless power tools, and of course electric bicycles. For his Hackaday Prize project, [marcus] is working on a very powerful electric bicycle controller. It can deliver 1000 Watts, it’s got Bluetooth, and there’s even an Android app for some neat diagnostics.

The specs for this eBike controller are pretty much what you would expect. It’s able to deliver a whole Kilowatt, can use 48 V batteries, has regenerative braking, Hall sensors, and has a nifty Android app for settings, displaying speed, voltage and power consumption, diagnostics, and GPS integration.

How is the project progressing? [marcus] has successfully failed a doping test. He lives on the French Riviera, and the Col de la Madonne is a famous road cycling road and favorite test drive of [Lance Armstrong]. The trip from Nice to Italy was beautiful and ended up being a great test of the eBike controller.

London Tries Smart Cities

What’s a smart city? According to Wikipedia, a smart city uses ICT (information and communication technologies) to enhance quality, performance, and interactivity of urban services while reducing costs and resource consumption. Hackers have been using technology to enhance all sorts of things for years.

London is joining forces with cities across Europe to demonstrate smart city technology, mostly in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The project is in conjunction with the EU Horizon 2020 project, which is still soliciting proposals for funding. It seems like some Hackaday readers–especially in the EU–ought to have some ideas worth funding.

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Extending The Range Of An Electric Bike

Cruising around town on your electric bike is surely a good time…. unless your bike runs out of juice and you end up pedaling a heavy bike, battery, and motor back to your house. This unfortunate event happened to Troy just one too many times. The solution: to extend the range of his electric bike without making permanent modifications.

Troy admits his electric bike is on the lower side of the quality scale. On a good day he could get about 15 miles out of the bike before it required a recharge. He looked into getting more stock battery packs that he could charge and swap out mid-trip but the cost of these was prohibitive. To get the extra mileage, Troy decided on adding a couple of lead-acid batteries to the system.

The Curry-brand bike used a 24vdc battery. Troy happened to have two 12v batteries kicking around, which wired up in series would get him to his 24v goal. The new batteries are mounted on the bike’s cargo rack by way of some hardware store bracketry. The entire new ‘battery pack’ can be removed quickly by way of a few wing nuts.

Connecting the new batteries to the stock system go a little tricky and the stock battery pack did have to be modified slightly. The case was opened and leads were run from the positive and negative terminals to two new banana plugs mounted in the battery pack’s case. The leads from the new batteries plug right into the banana plugs on the stock battery pack. The new and old batteries are wired in parallel to keep the voltage at 24.

Troy found that he’s getting about twice the distance out of his new setup. Not to bad for a couple on-hand batteries and a few dollars in odds and ends.

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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