Electric Motorcycle DVD Now Streaming!

by Ben N on September 22, 2014

motorcycle vimeo promo

Recently, I’ve had some requests for a STREAMING version of BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE. Frankly, there’s some parts of the world where the mail service is so bad, I simply CAN’T mail a DVD, as it just won’t get there. Also, I’m starting to find some folks who don’t have televisions or DVD players, just a laptop computer (or tablet) that won’t have a DVD drive.

So, I started looking around for what services are out there for a film-maker to release their project through. After a little searching, I decided to go with Vimeo’s On-Demand service.

So, I spent the time do a re-edit of the instructional DVD to create a “feature film” version and upload it. I originally shot all the footage in high-definition, so I’m now able to release it as an HD Film! Right now, it’s a “pre-release” on Vimeo, and will go live on October 1st!

I really hope that folks appreciate the message and it makes it that much easier to get the word out showing how anyone can build their own electric motorcycle!

Please take a look and let us know what you think! https://vimeo.com/ondemand/21223

-Ben Nelson


This weekend, I had a chance to take a Flux Mopeds EM1 electric scooter out for an extended test ride. This is the 2014 model, which features a few upgrades from their previous version, including a higher voltage battery pack, regenerative braking, and improved motor control.

DSC_2588Overall, this is a very likable vehicle. The scooter is technically a “moped”, so keep in mind that it’s in the same class as a 50cc gasoline scooter. That means you don’t need a motorcycle license to ride it, you can park it at a bike rack, and registration is very affordable. (Keep in mind that laws on mopeds vary from one state to another, so check for your local laws.) The scooter comes with a 74V 24AH lithium battery, which is enough to take you 20-25 miles. If that isn’t enough for you, you can get an optional SECOND battery to double your range. My demo unit had both batteries, but I found that in my driving, I would have been fine with just the one.

The EM1 uses a 1500 watt brushless DC rear hub motor. While 2 HP doesn’t sound like a lot, it has a surprising amount of torque, and brought me up to 30 MPH pretty quickly. One of the great advantages of a hub motor is that there’s no chain. That means no chain NOISE and no chain maintenance or replacement.

I had several events that I had to get to this weekend – everything from running errands to attending a family reunion. The weather looked good, so I gave the scooter a workout. I did three maim trips of 14, 17.5, and 8.4 miles. On one of those, I was riding in the dark and intentionally taking a route that included a very large hill. The scooter slowed a bit on the hill, but did NOT feel overtaxed or otherwise negatively affected. The headlight offered fine night illumination.

My first trip was running errands. I went to the post office, library, and auto-parts store. At the post office, I was able to parallel park in a spot that a car wouldn’t have fit. Likewise, the library has a tight parking lot, so I instead parked right at the bike rack. When I was done at the library, it was almost hard to leave because of interest in the cycle from other library patrons. At the auto parts store, I bought 5 quarts of oil and a filter for an oil change on my truck. I simply bungeed the oil bottle to the rear cargo rack.

Other trips on the scooter were to some family events. The cycle is great in city traffic. It easily accelerates and keeps up. Acceleration is very smooth. The scooter is so quiet, I could listen to conversations of pedestrians.

Charging on the Flux is pretty slick. The scooter features a removable battery pack and an external charger. The battery pack weighs just over twenty pounds and lifts right out from under the seat. You plug the charger into the pack and into the wall outlet and then turn it on. The five amp charger will bring the pack to full capacity in less than five hours. In my usage, it never needed more than about two and a half hours to full. At maximum draw, the charger used just over 400 watts. I found this interesting because I happen to have a 400 watt PV solar panel at my house. I tracked my total energy usage for the scooter AND total energy creation from the PV for the weekend. Sure enough, I made more energy with the solar panel than I used on the scooter. I think that in this case, it would be fair to call it a “solar-powered scooter”.

The removable battery pack system allows people to wouldn’t otherwise have access to electricity in a garage or parking lot to be able to charge. For example, anyone living in an apartment or dormatory can simply bring their battery pack indoors to charge. This would be great for charging at work or anywhere else that you spend time, but don’t have access to outdoor electric outlets. If you ride in cold weather, it also means that your battery has been indoors all night and is already toasty warm, too! In short, the removable battery eliminates the need for a garage or public EV charging.

Even with two batteries in place, there’s still just enough room under the seat for the off-board charger. It was nice to have a place for it to keep the charger with me. Although I didn’t need it and didn’t use it, it was still nice to have with for peace of mind. With two batteries and the charger, I had ZERO range anxiety while using the scooter.

List price on the 2014 EM-1 is $2399. (The original version is still available as well at $1999.) For comparison, a 49CC 2013 Honda Ruckus goes for $2,649, and a 2013 Metropolitan base goes for $1999. On the other hand, by going electric you also have no gasoline cost, no oil changes, and never have to learn how to fix a carburetor. EVER.

Fuel Economy:
I tracked my miles and electric use for the weekend and found that I had traveled 39.9 miles on 2.92 Kwh of electricity. Assuming that gasoline has 33.41 KWH of energy in it, that means that I used 1/11.44th of a gallon of gas to go 39.9 miles. Thus, on a gallon of gasoline, I could have gone 456 miles. Hmmm. Not bad. I don’t know anyone driving a Prius getting 456 miles per gallon! To be completely fair, that’s still a little bit of an “apples and oranges” comparison, but it really shows how EVs are champs in the efficiency department!

Overall, it’s really hard not to like the Flux Mopeds EM1. It’s simple to run, fun to ride, and cheap to operate. It excels in the city and solves the “chicken and egg” problem of charging. Two-wheeled EVs are also great for people who still want to keep their gas car, but don’t have room or money for a full-size electric car.

Bottom Line:
The EM1 is appropriate technology for the modern world, an affordable electric that everyone will like. You owe it to yourself to go test-ride one.


Plywood Transmission Adapter Plate

by Ben N on August 13, 2014

I know what you are thinking, and NO it’s not the permanent or final version… I’ve always liked working with full-scale models, templates, and mock-ups. While CAD (cardboard aided design) is often my first go-to, plywood is even better when something structural is needed.

I really wanted to start figuring out what I needed to do to create a custom adapter plate between the Mercedes bell-housing and the Chevy S-10 Borg-Warner T5 manual transmission. The natural answer was simply to make one from affordable and easy to work with materials. Thus, I started making the plywood version of the transmission adapter plate.

According to the measurements I already took, a 1/2″ adapter plate would be perfect for connecting the bell and the transmission. I had some scrap 5/8″ plywood handy, and thought I’d try that for my mock-up.

To start with, I had to figure out how to keep everything centered. Since the transmission has the driven shaft that extends out, I knew I’d have to make a hole for it right away. I marked center on my piece of plywood and then drilled a 1&1/2″ hole in it. (The transmission shaft is1&3/8, but I didn’t have a spade blade that size.)

Tracing the Bell Housing

Next, I set the Mercedes bell-housing on the plywood and outlined it in pencil. I then marked the 6 holes and traced the inside as well.

I was a bit concerned trying to next trace the transmission onto the plywood, until I realized I could simply trace the S-10 bell-housing instead, as that was the same size and shape as the transmission, although considerably lighter weight.

With both components outlined and holes marked on the plywood, I drilled all the holes. I usually have plenty of 3/8″ bolts around, so I would use those instead of the exact correct metric bolts.

Jig-sawing out the center hole

The plywood still wouldn’t fit right on the transmission because of the the raised area in the middle. I’d have to use the jig-saw to cut a circle out of the plywood to fit flush. Once that was done, I was able to place the plywood plate onto the transmission and run four bolts through it.

Now here’s where a full-size mock-up starts really coming in handy. By dealing with actual physical materials, it’s easy to see how they interfere with each other. For example, The heads of the bolts that hold the plate to the transmission do NOT allow the bell-housing to sit flush to the plywood. So, all I did was use the impact wrench to drive the bolt head all the way in to the plywood. For the final version, I’ll have to use flat-head bolts and counter-sink the aluminum plate.

Bell ready to go on the plate

Of course when I went to put the bell-housing on to the plywood I now ran into the fact that only two of the eight bolts would go straight through the plywood for easy mounting. The other four would all end up poking into the transmission. I’ll have to figure out this jig-saw puzzle of bolt direction and installation order before working on the actual metal transmission plate.

At least for the moment, even two bolts holding the bell on would be fine. I brought the transmission over to the engine and got three bolts ready to connect the bell to the engine. It only took two attempts to get the transmission up into place with the end of the driven shaft getting straight in to the crank-shaft. (At least I didn’t have a pilot bearing to find…..yet.) Holding the transmission with one hand, I quickly inserted and threaded three bolts from the bell to the engine.

Engine/Bell/Tranny together for first time, side view

Letting go, I took a step back, amazed that the whole thing didn’t fall apart. At the same time, I was struck with a sense of progress. This project has been kicking around in my head for years now. It’s really WAY outside my comfort zone in terms of skills and abilities. And yet, here I was staring at a diesel drive-line I had put together. I could easily imagine the electric motor and driveshaft coming off the back of the transmission.

I grabbed the shifter and put it through the gears, “vroom vroom vroom” humming in my head like a boy with a MatchBox Car. Finally, I feel like I literally have a handle on the situation. The shifter is the one part of the driveline that you ACTUALLY touch, that isn’t hidden away under the hood and behind a firewall.

As I stood in the garage, with the guts of a project hanging on a chain hoist, I realized it might just be plywood, but that mock-up adapter plate proves that I really can get this all together.

And that feels pretty good.

‘Til next time, stay charged up!


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SuperTruck: Bell-Housing

by Ben N on August 12, 2014

Yesterday, I got to tinker with the transmissions some more for my diesel-electric hybrid truck project.

Not having actually DONE any transmission work before means that this is all pretty new to me. However, since I took the Mercedes transmission apart, it made working on the Chevy S-10′s T5 transmission that much easier.

Only four bolts held the bell on the T5. Frankly, it was as much work getting the odd steel exterior support rods off as it was to actually get the bell housing off. That really only needed to pull four outside bolts, and it was done.

T5, bell housing removedBoth bell housings

With the bell housings off both transmissions, it was much easier to compare and contrast the two. The bell from the T5 is larger and a simpler layout, with fewer bolt holes. The advantage of the bell from the Mercedes 4-speed is that it already matches the engine, including starter location and perfect alignment.

So, it seems like I’m down to two choices.
A) Use the T5 bell housing but use a custom plate directly on the engine for it to mount to, including a location for the starter and making sure everything is PERFECTLY centered, or
B) Use the Mercedes bell housing, which already accounts for alignment and the starter and make a small custom plate between the bell and the T5 transmission.

Right now, I’m leaning towards “B”. I managed to find a thread on DieselBombers where user “deck60″ used a Mercedes diesel with the Mercedes bell housing custom fit to a T5 transmission in an S10. It’s always nice to find when somebody else is doing something similar. It gives me confidence where I would otherwise have no experience on the matter!

The down-side of using the Mercedes bell is that I will have to figure out how to cut into it to install a slave cylinder and likely somehow custom fit the fork that would match the T5.

I also measured the diameter of the tips of both transmission shafts and was surprised to find that they are both 15mm! That means that I SHOULD be able to use a stock pilot bearing, instead of fretting over finding an odd one or making something custom.

Replacing flywheel bolts

I also replaced the flywheel bolts. This OM616 engine was originally mated to an automatic transmission. The bolts to the torque converter are LONGER than those to the manual transmission flywheel. For testing, I simply used 6 of the old bolts, spaced out with oversized nuts. The bolts were long enough that if they were driven in all the way, they would go all the way through the crankshaft and hit the engine.

A friend of mine dropped off some diesel-related items a while back, including some assorted flywheel bolts. They were in fact the correct diameter and thread pitch. I managed to find enough short ones to fill all twelve holes, although four are different from the rest. I think that’s ok, as long as it’s balanced. I spaced them out symetrically. I was a bit surprised when I looked up flywheel bolts that they are $8 each, and the engine needs 12 of them. If this DOES work, I just saved myself $100.

I reinstalled the Mercedes bell housing on the engine. (Two mounting bolts go right through it to hold the starter in place.) With it in place, I set the Chevy’s T5 manual transmission nearby, and then lifted it into place. The transmission shaft slid almost all the way inside. Only the odd mis-match between the bell and the transmission kept it from going any farther.

I measured both the length of the shaft and the depth of the bell to the crankshaft, and found that I should only need a spacer of about 3/8″ to 1/2″. That should be just about perfect for the adapter plate. And FINALLY that’s something I have a bit of experience with too, as a similar piece was needed on the Electro-Metro to connect the electric motor to the transmission. (In fact, I should probably go visit Hot Rod Jim again for some more advice!)

Well, that’s it for now. Next, I’ll be looking for some advice that the Mercedes bell IS the way to go, and then start figuring out how to build that adapter plate!


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SuperTruck: Mercedes Manual Transmission

by Ben N on August 7, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip up to a salvage yard several hours drive away. The reason why is that I finally found a manual transmission that would match my diesel engine out of the 240D.

My original concept for the “SuperTruck” hybrid was to mate up the old 4-cylinder diesel to the Chevy stock 5-speed. Of course, I have NO idea how to actually do this.

On a web forum, somebody asked why I didn’t just use the Mercedes manual transmission. First and foremost, because they have been REALLY hard to find. Most of the old 240Ds were with AUTOMATICS, such as the one I got this engine from. Beyond that, I wanted to use the Chevy transmission because it would be easier to fix and find parts for, cost less, already has the right mounting points for the truck, and has FIVE gears instead of only four. Beyond that, the Chevy transmission also has a nice solid splined output shaft that should be relatively easy to connect to an electric motor. It also has the standard stick shifter that will fit right back in the truck, whereas the Mercedes tranny has an unusual set of three levers and rods coming off of it.

However, I was also a bit stuck on the project. I thought that if I at least had the Mercedes manual transmission to look at, it might give me some good ideas. Otherwise, I might also be able to take it apart and use just certain components from it. When I finally found a Mercedes transmission, I bought it.

So that’s where I am right now. I took a look at the bell-housings on both transmissions. The Mercedes is 5.5 inches deep and the Chevy is 6.5 inches deep. So, if I’m able to pull the bell off the Mercedes and put it on the Chevy, I have a spare inch to work with. That would be taken up by some sort of a custom aluminum adapter plate.

DSC_2461I sprayed down the interior bolts of the Mercedes manual transmission bell housing with some “PB Blaster” and let it soak for a bit. Next, I started removing the bolts with a 17mm socket. To my surprise, the bolts came out pretty easily. On the other hand, the throw-out bearing was rusted solidly in place. I have decided that I really ought to own a puller anyways, so I went to the auto parts store and purchased a three-clawed puller. It worked like a charm.

With the bolts out and throw-out bearing removed, I thought I could remove the bell, but it wouldn’t budge. I could now see there there were four small bolts that held in the collar around the transmission shaft. I removed those and then was able to split the bell off the transmission with a pair of pry-bars.

Finally, I could put the bell housing on the engine. Overall, it lined up rather nice, but not perfect. There were a couple of holes in the engine mounting flange that went to solid metal on the bell-housing. Oh well, it just meant that a few less bolts would hold on the manual transmission as compared to the automatic.

I already have a clutch disc and cover that fit the manual flywheel and Chevy transmission. I’ll need to get some replacement flywheel bolts. (Ones for a manual flywheel are SHORTER than for the automatic version!) I also need a pilot bearing.

Next, I’ll see about getting the bell-housing off the Chevy manual transmission and try figuring out what it will take to make a custom adapter plate to mount the bell-housing from the Mercedes to it.

I always feel good whenever I get a little something done on this project. It’s been slow, and feels WAY over my head in terms of skills and knowledge versus what I’ve done before, but I think the finished project will be totally worth it. I always gotta keep reminding myself that before I built an electric car, I had never built an electric car before either.

‘Til next time, stay charged up!


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