Vectrix Repair Work Continues

by Ben N on December 17, 2014

Last week, I had some time available to work on the Vectrix. It was an hour or so at a time over a number of days, and frankly, I’ve been more excited about the vehicle than actually blogging about it, so here’s a whole bunch of an update all at once!

The first step was to simply start taking the Vectrix apart – removing the seat, covers, lots of plastic trim, and finally the actual battery box cover.

At that point, I removed the batteries. With no overhead crane or house available, I bolted a chain to the pack and lifted each half out, one at a time.

Next, was seeing if I could charge them. The pack was dead. It was at about 2 volts for THE ENTIRE PACK. The only good news there is that a friend of mine who knows more about batteries than I said that NiMH can survive that, whereas lithium can not. I set to work charging the batteries, but with them having such a low voltage, the “smart” NiMH chargers I was planning to use didn’t even recognize that they were hooked up to the batteries and refused to charge.

As an alternative, I dragged out my big dumb multi-voltage charger. It’s good for 12v up to 72 volts and has a selectable 5 and 10 amp output. How much current actually goes through depends on the voltage selected and the resistance of the batteries. I set the voltage and current controls to the lowest setting and connected it to the rear battery pack. After letting the batteries “soak” for a while, the pack voltage raised a bit, and didn’t immediately plummet the moment the charger was turned off. I changed the charger up one click on the voltage control a resumed charging. The battery voltage continued to climb over several hours as I monitored the pack using a “Watts-Up” DC meter, which tracks key data such as total amp-hours that have passed through it.

I checked back the next day on the rear battery pack. Overall pack voltage was about where I expected it to be, but on testing individual cells a few were still WAY too low. Uh oh. Looks like some bad cells. I still haven’t opened up either of the battery packs to their component level of three layers of cells, so I was just testing the top-most layer. But if there are bad cells in the top layer, there are likely more in the other layers…

While working on a bulk charge of the front battery pack, I set to work to see if I could get the Ford Escape Hybrid salvaged NiMH cells to work in the project. I had already individually charged them. I laid out the 5-cells-in-series sticks on the floor and started hooking them up with their original buss bars. Once I had about 125V or so, I connected them to the Vectrix’s main + and  – battery cable connections, using jumper-cables, and pre-charging the motor controller board through a resistor (a light bulb) first.

I taped up the connections, crossed my fingers, and turned the key.

Nothing happened for a moment, then all the lights on the instrument panel came on and the speedometer animated a full sweep of its arm all the way up and back to zero. After the boot-up test, trouble lights for temperature and battery stayed on, as did the “your kickstand is down” indicator.

The funny this is that this cycle ONLY has a side stand. Apparently, the center double-stand was an OPTIONAL accessory. Well, I sure would have liked to have it to safely raise the back wheel off the ground for testing. Instead, I had to use a car jack to precariously perform the same task, balancing the cycle in the air.

I could then flip up the side stand. Of course the back wheel still didn’t spin. I set the kill switch to run, and then FINALLY remembered reading in the user’s manual that you have to press the left, then the right hand-brake as a start sequence to ACTUALLY turn the motor on. “GO” finally apeared on the screen. At that point I gently twisted the throttle…. and….. it spun! Whooo Hooo! The rear wheel spun! After a few gentle low speed tests, I took it up to full speed and back. The cycle also features regenerative braking, so I twisted the throttle the other way and the wheel INSTANTLY stopped spinning. With no cycle weight pushing the wheel, the regen was amazingly effective! I also tested reverse, which worked as well. Spinning the wheel did sound a bit noisier than I thought it would. It might be time to add some oil to the planetary gearing. Unfortunately, they never designed an oil add port to this cycle – that was a later service bulletin modification!

DSC_3503The instrument panel still had error lights on it, including a “buSULt” error code. The battery meter and estimated range both read zero. I also tried plugging in the charger, which didn’t seem to like the Ford cells.

With the power on, I also checked the head-light, tail-light, turn-signals, horn, and any other electric accessory I could think of. They all worked fine. I rather like the horn – pressing it momentarily produces a soft chirp – good for alerting pedestrians in a parking lot – but holding it a moment longer produces a full-on “Outa-my-way!” blast of noise.

The next day, I managed to get the original batteries up on boxes so that they were close enough for the temperature sensor cables to plug back in. When turning the cycle on, the temperature error light finally stayed off, as did the battery error light. Seemed like that was only temporary though. I think that error light is mostly for a battery pack being out of voltage range, and I’m still manually charging the Ford cells, and am afraid they might not all be good.

At this point, I’m pretty excited that the cycle actually runs. It does look as though the only problem with it was the battery pack. With the odometer on, I can see that it has about 1000 miles on it. Plenty new in my book – and WAY too few miles to have a battery pack problem, but that’s what these NiMH Vectrix’s were notorious for.

Hmmmm. So what’s next now? I might try hot-wiring the original batteries back to the motor controller. That way I can see if the batteries work after manually charing them. That might even let me test the cycle’s built-in battery charger. I still have to figure out a few other things about the cycle that aren’t mentioned in the users manual. I DO have a Service Manual of sorts – a series of .DOCs and images downloaded as a zipped file from the internet.

I’ve also been pretty excited to see several YouTube videos showing people upgrade old Vectrix’s with lithium batteries, including using NISSAN LEAF cells, which seem to fit perfect!

So, til next time, stay charged up!


PS: The cycle also has a CANBUS connection on it. I mail-ordered an adapter cable, and hope to be able to use it to have a laptop connect to the Vectrix to check error codes, load firmware, and otherwise talk to the cycle’s computer.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rob December 20, 2014 at 5:54 am

Hello Ben.
Interresting project.I have a 2010 Vectrix myself.There are hardly any specialists left who can service them.And the few left,want to get out of business.
So,in the future,i have to do it by myself.Do you have software/firmware to read out the faultcodes,and were did you get it.

Greetings Rob from the Netherlands (Europe).

2 Ben N. December 22, 2014 at 11:16 am

Hi Rob, I just got the software from another user on the V is for Voltage forum. Looks like that’s where most of the Vectrix people are now. I haven’t gotten a chance to use the software yet, I’m still trying to get the CAN to USB adapter I have to connect to my computer.

3 Rob December 23, 2014 at 7:39 am

Yes,I know that website.
I just got a phonecall from the former dealer/specialist that my scooter is repaired.Finaly !!
Faulty software destroyed the charger,en therefore also a few cells.The frontpack was OK,the backpack had 5 faulty cells.
Also the frontbrake disk was vibrating while braking.So a new disk and pads.The sidestand was bent,and craching (Oops,did not notice).And he had a middlestand for the scooter.It was an expensive extra back then (229 Euro’s excl VAT !).
So now the bike is OK.But I don’t want to depent on that specialist anymore.
He said that he quit the hunt for parts,and advised me to say goodbye to the Vectrix VX-1.He advised me to buy a BMW C-Evolution.Something with a big company and support,and a decent parts-supply.
Unfortunatuly,I don’t grow moneytrees……..
Anyway,tomorrow I get my scooter back.

Merry Christmas and greetings from the Netherlands.

4 Antony August 31, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi Ben I was impressed by all your posts and videos. I ended up getting a vectrix but it auto shuts off.. Can you recommend a shop?


5 admin August 31, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Sorry, I can’t recommend you a shop specifically, but the guys at the V is for Voltage forum have been great for helping keep the Vectrix’s alive!

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