Most of the electric motors we see these days are of the electromagnetic variety, and for good reason: they’re powerful. But there’s a type of motor that was invented before the electromagnetic one, and of which there are many variations. Those are motors that run on high voltage, and the attraction and repulsion of charge, commonly known as electrostatic motors.
Ben Franklin — whose electric experiments are most frequently associated with flying a kite in a thunderstorm — built and tested one such high-voltage motor. It wasn’t very powerful, but was good enough for him to envision using it as a rotisserie hack. Food is a powerful motivator.
What follows is a walk through the development of various types of these motors, from the earliest ion propelled ones to the induction motors which most have never heard of before, even an HV hacker such as yours truly.
[John Dingley] describes his Electric Beach Luge Project as an exciting mashup between “a downhill luge board, a kite surf buggy, a go-kart, and a Star Wars Land Speeder” and it’s fresh from a successful test run. What’s not to like? The DIY experimental vehicle was made to run on long, flat, firm stretches of sand while keeping the rider as close to the ground as possible. The Beach Luge is mainly intended to be ridden while lying on one’s back, luge-style, but it’s also possible to lay prone in the “Superman” position.
The whole unit was built from the ground up, but [John] points out that the design isn’t particularly complicated. There is no fancy self-balancing or suspension involved and steering is simple. A tube bender and a welder took care of making the frame. The rest is mainly used go-kart parts obtained cheaply from eBay, driven by a 500W 24V electric motor from an old Golf Kart. Like a luge sled, the goal is for the vehicle itself to interfere as little as possible between the user and the earth to make the experience as visceral as it can be.
You can see it in action in the two videos embedded below, but even more videos and some great pictures are available on the project’s page. [John] says it’s great fun to ride, but feels it could use twice as much power!
As a hacker, chances are that you have built a homopolar motor, as you only need three things: a battery, a magnet and some copper wire. There are zillions of videos on YouTube. This time we want to show you [Electric Experiments Roobert33]´s version. Definitely a fresh twist on the ubiquitous design that you see everywhere. His design is a bit more complicated, but the result makes the effort worthwhile.
The homopolar motor was the first electric motor ever built. Created Michael Faraday in 1821, it works because of the Lorentz force. This force acts on any current-carrying conductor that is immersed in a magnetic field which is perpendicular to the current. These motors really have no practical applications, but are an excellent way to learn basic aspects of electromagnetism.
In this setup, there are two conductive rings placed above a wooden base, connected to the battery terminals. Neodymium magnets are connected by a conductive rod that pivots in the center of the rings, closing the circuit and allowing the flow of current. Then the Lorentz force makes its magic and pushes the rod and magnets in a circular motion.
Very clean and well-edited work, as are other videos by [Electric Experiments Roobert33]. You may want to replicate this nice motor, or you can also make the simpler version to start experimenting.
It sounds like the name of a vehicle in some sci-fi tale, but that fiction is only a short leap from reality. Light Rider is, in fact, an electric motorcycle with a 3D printed frame that resembles an organic structure more than a machine.
Designed by the Airbus subsidiary [APWorks], the largely hollow frame was devised to minimize weight while maintaining its integrity and facilitating the integration of cables within the structure. The frame is printed by melting a sea aluminium alloy particles together into thousands of layers 30 microns thick. Overall, Light Rider’s frame weighs 30% less than similar bikes; its net weight — including motor — barely tips the scales at 35 kg. Its 6 kW motor is capable of propelling its rider to 45 km/h in three seconds with a top speed of 80 km/h, and a range of approximately 60 km — not too shabby for a prototype!
If have ever gone snowmobiling, you may have thought about how to revive that thrill in the more confined atmosphere of an urban environment — to say nothing of their utility. In anticipation of heavy snowfall over the winter in his hometown, [Ben] stripped the essence of the snowmobile down as an emergency vehicle and reshaped it into the Snow Bike.
This compact, winter transportation solution uses an e-bike controller, a chopped up ski, and a heavy snowblower track and a large RC plane motor for power all strapped onto a modified mountain bike frame. The motor mount is machined aluminum, the track rollers milled out of spare plastic — though they later had to be modified as they tended to get clogged by snow — and the front ski is simply bolted on using some 3″ square tubing.
Due to its small size the Snow Bike looks about as stable as a pocket bike, so perhaps some training tracks and or skis might help in deeper powder. [Ben] also notes that the present motor doesn’t have much power so the rider needs to keep it at full throttle to push through the snow. That said — seeing this thing smoothly cruising around in several inches of snow makes us wish we had one of our own.
If you’re anything like us, chances are pretty good you’ve got at least one underused piece of fitness gear cluttering up your place. Rather than admit defeat on that New Year’s Resolution purchase, why not harvest the guts and build an all-terrain hoverboard for a little outdoor fun?
The fitness machine in question for [MakeItExtreme]’s build was a discarded Crazy Fit vibration platform. We’re not sure we see the fitness benefits of the original machine, but there’s no doubt it yielded plenty of goodies. The motor and drive belt look stout, and the control board eventually made it into the hoverboard too. The custom steel frame was fabricated using some of [MakeItExtreme]’s DIY tools, which is what we’re used to seeing them build — check out their sand blaster and spot welder for examples. A couple of knobby tires in the center of the board let the rider balance (there’s no gyro in this version) and power is provided by a couple of 12 volt AGM batteries. Sadly, the motor was a line voltage unit, so an inverter was needed. But it was the only part that had to be purchased, making this a pretty complete junk pile build.
See the video after the break for build details and a few test rides. Looks like it can do 20 mph or so – pretty impressive.
[dmalhar] was digging around in his bins for motors and found one with missing brushes. Being resourceful (and not able to find another motor), he managed to tear apart a SATA cable and form the pins into brushes with just the right amount of spring. Yes, this looks like a cheap motor, but in the moment of necessity availability wins, and this hack is truly commendable. If he had used a paperclip, MacGyver would have been proud, but the SATA cable pins make us proud.
Normally the brushes of DC motors are made with a graphite or some other material which provides a small amount of resistance so that when the motor is spinning the brushes will provide a gradual shift of current from one commutator to the next. Also, the softness of the carbon makes the brush wear down instead of the commutator, and in large motors the brushes are replaceable. In cheap motors the engineers design the brush material around the expected lifetime of the product. In [dmalhar’s] case, the motor just got its lifetime extended by a while.