Electrifying A Vintage Outboard Motor

Clamped or bolted to the stern of the boat, outboard motors offer a very easy and (relatively) economical way of powering small craft. The vast majority of these outboards are gasoline powered, with electric models generally limited to so-called “trolling motors” which are often used to move slowly and quietly during fishing. That might be fine for most people, but not [Olly Epsom].

An engineer focusing on renewable energy by profession, [Olly] wanted to equip his small inflatable dinghy with a suitably powerful “green” propulsion system. Deciding nothing on the market quite met his requirements, especially for what manufacturers were charging, he decided to convert an old gas outboard to electric. Not only did he manage to do it for less money than a turn-key system would have cost, but he ended up with a system specifically geared to his exact requirements. Something he says will come in handy if he ever gets around to converting the dinghy to remote control so he can use it as a wildlife photography platform.

Put simply, an outboard motor consists of a gasoline engine with a vertical shaft that’s coupled to a right-angle gearbox with a propeller on the end. Beyond that they’re a fairly “dumb” piece of gear, so replacing the engine on top with something else should be (at least in theory) a pretty simple job. Especially on the small older model that [Olly] decided to use as a donor unit. The 1974 Johnson 2 HP motor didn’t have any tricky electronics in it to contend with; the thing didn’t even have a clutch.

Once [Olly] had removed the old gas engine from the top of the outboard, he designed an adapter plate in OnShape and had it cut out of aluminum so he could mount a beefy 1 kW 48 V brushless electric motor in its place. Connecting the new electric motor to the carcass of the outboard actually ended up being simpler than putting the original motor on, as this time around he didn’t need to reconnect the cooling pumps which would usually pull water from down by the propeller and recirculate it through the engine.

While the mechanical aspects of this project are certainly cool, we’re especially interested in the control system for this newly electric outboard. It uses a 3.2 inch Nextion color touch screen and Arduino Nano to provide a very slick looking digital “dashboard” which can convey motor status and other information at a glance. Unfortunately, [Olly] says the details on that part of the project will be saved for a future post, leaving us with only a single picture of the system’s interface for us to drool over until then.

We’ve seen the occasional seafaring project that made use of an electric trolling motor, and we’ve even seen an electric drill put in some overtime spinning a prop in the water. Converting gasoline boat over to electric is however a rarity. But much like electric car conversions, such projects may become more common as the cost and complexity of powerful electric propulsion systems continues to fall.

[Thanks to Alex for the tip.]

Why Converting Classic Cars to Electric Drive Is A Thing

A vintage British sportscar is a wonderful thing. Inimitable style and luxury, beautiful curves, and a soundtrack that could make even Vinnie Jones shed a tear. However, even under the most diligent maintenance schedule, they are known, above all, for their unreliability. As the value of such cars is tied heavily to their condition as unmodified examples, owners are typically reluctant to make modifications to remedy these issues.

However, things are starting to change. Cities across the world are enacting measures to ban fossil fuel vehicles from their streets, and sales of such vehicles are similarly going to be banned entirely. The automotive industry is preparing for a major pivot towards electric drivetrains, and no carmaker will be left untouched. In this landscape, it’s not just Tesla and Nissan who are selling electric cars anymore. Luxury brands are beginning to deliver electric vehicles, too.

Continue reading “Why Converting Classic Cars to Electric Drive Is A Thing”

Curbside Mower Gets Electric Transplant

There’s few things more exciting to a hacker or maker than seeing a piece of hardware on the curb. An old computer, an appliance, maybe if you’re really lucky some power tools. So we can only imagine the rush that known lawn equipment aficionado [AmpEater] had when he saw a seemingly intact push mower in the trash. The pull start was broken on the gas engine, but where this mower was going, it wouldn’t need a gas engine.

When he got the mower back to his garage, he started on the process of converting it over to electric. Of course this means basically everything but the wheels, handle, and deck would get tossed. But starting with a trashed gas mower still sounds a lot easier compared to trying to figure out how to make or source a wheeled mower deck.

Step one in this conversion was stripping all the paint off the deck and welding a plate over where the original gas engine was. [AmpEater] then 3D printed some mounts to hold the DeWalt tool batteries he would be using as a power source, taking the extra time to align everything so it would have the look of an old flathead gasoline engine. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the mower’s old gasoline gulping days, and an awesome little detail that gives the final product a great look.

The controller is a commercial model intended for electric bikes, and the heart of this new mower is a brushless direct-drive motor capable of 3,000 RPM at 40 A. [AmpEater] reports a respectable one hour run time with the six DeWalt batteries, and more power than his store-bought Ryobi electric mower.

If the name [AmpEater] looks familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time he’s graced us with a mower conversion: back in 2013 he impressed us with his solar-electric Cub Cadet zero-turn. This build isn’t quite as slick as the Cub Cadet, but the much lower cost and difficulty level means that you may be able to follow in his footsteps even if you don’t have his Zeus-level mastery of the electric motor.

As electric mowers have gotten more popular, we’ve seen an increasing flow of hacks and mods for them. Everything from replacing the batteries to turning them into something else completely.

Sealed-System Bucket Loader Cleans Messes in Dangerous Places

 

Cleaning up after a disaster is hard and dangerous. But the ROEBL project is trying to make it substantially safer by removing the human operator from harm’s way. The Remote Operated Electric Bucket Loader had a big double-fenced, cement barrier play area set up at Maker Faire and [Justin Gray] walked us through the project which concluded with a demonstration of the hardware.

For now the operator does need to be on site to see what the loader is doing, but a first-person video setup is planned for the future. Still, removing the operator from the jarring experience of riding inside is an improvement. And the sealed nature of the electric and hydraulic systems mean that it can operate in areas inundated with liquids like water or oil.

The video above has a 90 second demonstration at the end (while we all laugh like children at what really was a giddy display of power being thrown about by a handheld controller). The ROEBL website has a gallery where you can see the conversion process that started with a standard diesel machine.

An Awesome Electric Bike

bike

Converting a motorcycle to electric is always a favorite project of ours, and [Peter]’s build is up there with the rest of them.

The bike is a 2002 ZX6E he bought from a salvage shop. It had been parted out over the years and for $250 this very light aluminum frame made the for the perfect electric conversion frame. After learning MIG welding from his brother, [Peter] cut up a few plates and built a motor mount for his new 4.2 kW power plant.

The controller is a 300 amp IGBT he found on eBay, with an extraordinarily sturdy looking circuit built into an ammo box. The motor from the bike was replaced with 16 60Ah LiFe cells providing 52 volts. [Peter] also built his own battery management system using a Cypress PSoC 3 microcontroller and a beautiful custom PCB.

It’s still a long way from being finished, but already [Peter] has a great looking bike and an awesome weekend project on his hands.