The minute that I posted that I had the LEAF cell modules in the Vectrix electric motorcycle, people started asking me “But what’s the new RANGE!?!?!”
The answer is that I simply did not know. The only way was to ride the cycle until the voltage got down to the lower cut-off point. However, with a 90 mile theoretical range, that might mean me riding for an hour and a half at 60 miles per hour! Since I originally installed the LEAF cells, I simply haven’t had much time available in good weather to ride the Vectrix….. until yesterday.
In the morning, I made a trip out to Madison, Wisconsin (in our Prius, NOT the Vectrix) to meet up with some folks from the Madison Hybrid Club. I brought with photos of my cycle and got to show them off a bit. The project got lots of good comments.
After I had made it back home, I decided that I finally had a little time available to myself, and the weather wasn’t too bad; overcast, but not raining. So, I donned my gear and headed out on the Vectrix through the city and onto the country backroads. Traffic was light, so it was nice not to worry about tailgaters or other things distracting me from riding and checking my distance and voltage.
Zipping along the country roads, I realized how nice it was to be traveling almost 65 mph and able to smell the spring Lilacs, instead of exhaust fumes.
I was headed in the right direction, so I stopped at my sister’s house. Both she and my brother-in-law were at home. He was doing yard work and didn’t notice me until I honked my horn. He could hear gravel crunching, but not the sound of the cycle itself. Fred has always been interested in big scooters, so I knew he would want to see it. The both of them complemented how nice the Vectrix looked.
As Fred was examining it, he exclaimed “No way, I worked on these!” The cycle has some fancy name-brand parts on it such as Pirelli tires and Brembo brakes. One name brand I hadn’t noticed was the lights, which are the Speaker brand name. It turns out that my brother-in-law worked in a light factory a few years back. They made specialty lights for vehicles. No, not lights for Ford or Chevy, but off-road vehicles, ambulances, and other specially applications. And the line that he worked on was “Line 4″ where they made the most specialty and short-run products.
“What year was this?” He asked. I told him 2007. “These were on my line. I made these.”
Fred had a big grin, seeing a finished product version of the components he had worked on.
While there, we also checked the trunk capacity of the Vectrix, which as it turns out, is more than large enough for a miniature dachshund.
After that, I continued joy-riding the country roads, and headed back the general direction of my house.
I took Breens Road, which curves around a small lake and weaves through scrub oaks. When I got to a stop sign, a sport bike pulled up at the same time on the right. He took right-of-way and I followed him. I had NO PROBLEM keeping up with a “crotch-rocket”. On any curves that we took a little too fast, all I had to do with twist the throttle the opposite direction and scrub a little speed with the regenerative braking – no down-shifting (or shifting at all!) I could clearly smell the other cycle’s combustion exhaust and how much louder it was than my cycle was obvious as well.
I rode past the biker bar (Hogg Alley), it looked like it was a bagger convention. By now, the weather had turned nice. It was a beautiful day. There were lots of motorcycles out and enough classic cars to make me wonder where the classic car show was going on. (I never did find out!)
I also wanted to stop by the new Kwik-Trip gas station. It’s a pretty large regional company (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota), which has been very supportive of alternative fuels, including installing compressed natural gas fueling stations along the interstate. Some of the newer stations also have Electric Vehicle Charging. However, it is NOT Level 2! Instead, there is simply a 20-amp, GFI, 120v outlet with a sign stating ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGE STATION.
I have rather mixed feelings on this. On the one hand- hey free electricity! On the other, it’s only a regular wall outlet. It takes a SIGNIFICANT amount of time for most vehicles to get a useful amount of energy from an outlet like this. But again, at least the electricity is available and free. It might be really handy for somebody in an emergency situation. Also, as far as I can tell, Kwik-Trip did NOT get any tax incentives or any other reward for putting these in. They just started doing it. They also haven’t tooted their own horn over it. I’ve seen essentially ZERO green-washing – no press-releases or anything else saying “Look at us, aren’t we great for putting in these stations!”.
I zipped up to the gas station and headed over near the vacuum cleaner, where the charging outlet was. I backed in, popped the trunk, and plugged the cord into the outlet. I then headed inside for a cup of coffee (Kwik-Trip has good coffee) and a couple of quicky-mart loaves of bread. When I came back out to the cycle, I realized that it was NOT charging! I checked to make sure the plug was pushed all the way in. (It was.) I pressed the TEST and RESET buttons on the GFI. The GFI was fine. I pulled out my Kill-a-Watt and plugged that in. Nothing. No power. There was NO ELECTRICITY going to the ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARING OUTLET! Hmmm. Seems like a design flaw there. On the other hand, I was probably the first person EVER to try charging there, so probably nobody else would have even had the chance to notice there was no power.
The other oddity of this charging outlet was it’s location. It’s right next to the automotive vacuum, which makes sense, because they have already have to run power to that part of the parking lot for the vacuum. However, the spot that you would park an electric vehicle at to charge ALSO has a sign proclaiming RESERVED PARKING VACUUM CUSTOMERS ONLY. Sounds like some mixed signals being sent here. Perhaps you can only charge your EV if you clean it as well!
I let one of the store employees know that the outlet wasn’t working and then headed back home.
On this trip, I noticed a few things. For starters, I was watching the volt meter pretty closely, but the farther I rode, the less I paid attention to it. Range anxiety goes away once you realize how SLOWLY the battery is being used. I also noticed that I could easily catch up with cars, and it’s easy to speed. In the States, we use Miles Per Hour, but the speedometer on the Vectrix has Kilometers Per Hour dominating in bold white lettering. MPH is in much smaller and in a hard-to-read red color on the interior of the dial.
I also realized that riding an electric motorcycle makes me feel like a super-hero. (You HAVE seen AVENGERS 2, right?) Just twist the throttle and ZIIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGGGGGG! Super-powers! Off you go. My yellow riding jacket and Open Revolt t-shirt even feel like a bit of a costume. I may only be a junk-yard Tony Stark, but perhaps that means I can be “Scrap Iron Man”?
At the start of my ride, the battery pack voltage was at 146 volts. At the end, it was at 140V. I figure that the useful voltage range on my setup is between 146 and 133 volts. So, I used about 46% of the battery pack. The trip distance was 43.1 miles. 43.1/.46=93.7
Over a 90 mile range! Can that be right? I have no idea. It sounds high, but even if I’m off by a third, a 60 mile range is still WAY more than I need. Of course, how many amps are being pulled effects range as well. I did about half this trip at maximum speed and half in mixed riding. I think it was a pretty fair approximation of “real-world” riding.
I parked the Vectrix in my garage and did NOT plug it in to recharge. That way, I can just keep riding and see what my real range on a single charge is, even if I can’t do it all in one trip.
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Keep Charged Up!
PS: I did another 20 miles on the bike today, bringing the total this charge to 67.6 miles. My best guess is that I still have about 10% more capacity in the range of the battery I want to use, which would bring real-world single charge distance to about 75 miles.
PPS: On my next charge, I did 91 miles, and used 6.42KWH to recharge.