The Electric Vehicles Of Electromagnetic Field: The Ottermobile And The Ottercar

If you’ve followed these pages over the last few weeks, you’ll have seen an occasional series of posts featuring the comedic electric vehicle creations of the British Hacky Racers series, which will make their debut at the forthcoming Electromagnetic Field hacker camp. So far these intrepid electro-racers have come largely from the UK hackerspace and Robot Wars communities, but it was inevitable that before too long there would arrive some competition from further afield.

[Jan Henrik] and [Niklas Fauth] are a pair of prolific German hardware hackers whose work you may have seen from time to time in other fields. When they heard about Hacky Racers with barely two weeks until they were due to set off for England for EMF, they knew they had to move fast. The Ottermobile and the Ottercar are the fruits of their labours, and for vehicles knocked together in only two or three days they show an impressive degree of sophistication.

In both cases the power comes courtesy of hoverboard wheels with integrated motors. If you cast your mind back to last year’s SHA Camp in the Netherlands, our coverage had a picture of them on a motorised armchair, so this is a drive system with which they have extensive experience. The Ottercar is based upon a lengthened Kettler kids’ tricycle with the larger variant of the hoverboard motors, and unusually it sports three-wheel drive. Control for the rear pair comes from a hoverboard controller with custom firmware, while the front is supplied by a custom board. The Ottermobile meanwhile is a converted Bobby Car, with hoverboard drive. It’s an existing build that has been brought up to the Hacky Racer rules, and looks as though it could be one of the smaller Hacky Racers.

At the time of writing there is still just about enough time to create a Hacky Racer for Electromagnetic Field. Following the example set from Germany, it’s possible that the hoverboard route could be one of the simplest ways to do it.

Boxes, Form An Orderly Queue Behind The Armchair!

If you have ever been to a hacker camp, you’ll know the problem of transporting all your stuff to your hackerspace village, or to wherever you’ll be basing yourself for the duration. The car park is always too far away, whatever trolley you’ve brought along is never big enough, and the terrain you have to drag everything over feels more like the Chilkoot Trail than a city sidewalk.

[Jan Henrik] and [Niklas Fauth] have an effective solution to all your hacker camp transport woes, in the form of a motorized platform designed to carry a storage box. Underneath the platform are a pair of hoverboard motors and their controller board reflashed with a custom firmware.

You might be now looking at it and thinking “So what?”, for a single platform is handy but hardly a comprehensive transport solution. What makes this one impressive though is that it’s not a single board, instead there is a swarm of them for which they appear to have implemented some form of optical following system which is teased through the video we’ve placed below the break and with this Tweet, but not in detail yet in the wiki page. A neat train of platforms follows the lead one, transporting everything with minimum fuss. What can we say, except “We want one too!”. There is some code to be found in a GitHub repository, should you be interested in having a go for yourself.

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