The last few days, I’ve been working on a little winter transportation project – THE ICE SCOOTER!
This project got in my head when I saw a pair of ice skates sitting right next to a Razor brand kick scooter at the thrift store. I couldn’t help but think what a scooter might look like with an ice-skates in place of the wheels.
A few days later, I was at the Milwaukee Makerspace, and saw my old salvaged EV scooter on the hack rack. It was missing the front wheel, and the motor controller was fried, but it would make a great frame to convert to an ice scooter.
So I set to work on the project. Adding an ice skate to the front couldn’t have been easier. Just drill a hole through the skate, insert a spacer, and slide a bolt through the front fork and the skate, and then tighten it down with a nut.
It turned out that the motor is brushless DC, which I had really never worked with before. So, I did a little reading up on the subject and then mail-ordered a generic 250 watt 24V brushless motor controller. Unfortunately, the controller used a different style of throttle than what was already on the scooter, so I had to order a replacement throttle as well.
Hooking up the motor controller was pretty straight-forward – 3 wires from the controller to the motor, and a black and red pair to the batteries. Actually, I didn’t even have the right batteries at first, so I did my bench-testing with an old printer power supply at about 28V. Once everything tested well, I reinstalled the motor in the scooter, along with the controller, and swapped out the throttle.
I wasn’t able to find anything in my garage that would work well for batteries, so I bit the bullet and spent money on a brand-new pair. The big upside is that they are exactly the right size and shape for the scooter. I bought two 12AH SLA (sealed lead-acid) batteries. This is a style similar to what you might see inside a UPS. I put both into the scooter and wired them in series for 24V and added a fuse.
Next, I needed a deck for the scooter. Not only would it hold down and cover the batteries, but it gives the operator a place to stand as well. I took a look through my local dumpster (where I have permission to dive) and found a pair of old cabinet doors. They were about the right size to make a deck from. I cut them to size and drilled a few holes to bolt them to the scooter.
With that, I was ready to go out for a spin. I live right outside a city with several lakes. Lots of people ice fish there, and the city plows an area for people to ice skate and play hockey on. I headed out to that section and played with the scooter on the ice for a while. It was a blast! Unfortunately, the lack of traction on the smooth rear tire also made steering pretty difficult. Anything more than the gentlest of turns would make the back end fish-tail right out from under me.
Time for an upgrade.
The next day, I set to work improving the traction. I first tried making a tiny tire chain from zip-ties, but surprisingly, the space between the wheel and the frame really didn’t allow for it. Next, I decided I would instead take apart the wheel, get to the tire, and add studs to it. I only had a half-an-inch gap between the wheel and frame, so I needed something short and simple. I found that 1/2″ self-tapping sheet metal screws were just about the right size. Ones with a domed “pan-head” would minimize friction against the inner tube. I drove 24 screws, one per inch, through the tire from the inside. I then cut a short section of old bicycle inner tube to use as a liner. This makes a flexible barrier between the screws and the scooter’s inner tube. I put the inner tube back in and then reassembled the tire onto the rim and mounted the wheel back into the scooter.
For my second trip out on the lake, I decided to play it a bit safer. I put on my motorcycle jacket, because it has padding at the shoulders and elbows. After a fall on the first trip out, I quickly recalled how painful it is to fall on ice. I brought my helmet with as well.
I was really impressed with how much better the scooter worked on the ice with the tire spikes. I had plenty of fun zipping around. Steering was greatly improved, as the back wheel actually stayed under me. The brakes worked as well, now that there was some actual friction in play.
Battery life seemed pretty good. Tooling around the lake for a half hour to 45 minutes took the batteries from 12.8v each down to 12.5v.
There’s still room for improvement. I still need to wire up a real ON/OFF switch for the motor controller, and I have to charge the batteries one at a time with a 12V charger, as I don’t own a small 24V charger.
Overall, the ice scooter WORKS GREAT! It’s tons of fun and gets me outside and moving around, instead of stuck inside with cabin fever.
’til next time, stay charged up!
PS: The scooter TOWS pretty well too!