Riding the Vectrix Home – Almost

by Ben N on March 8, 2015

IMG_2436Since I’ve been working on the Vectrix over at my Dad’s shop, at some point I actually need to transport it home. While I COULD do that with the back of a pickup truck, where’s the fun in that!?

I’d much rather just ride the cycle home. It’s only an 8 or 9 mile trip, and my test ride last week showed that my fuel gauge only dropped by about a quarter with a 4.6 mile ride. So, I SHOULD be able to make it home with only about half a charge…  right?

If only it were that simple. Frankly, I have NO idea the actual condition of the battery pack. “It’s Dead, Jim!” – While I managed to resurrect this pack, I didn’t replace any cells or do any other work on it. I originally thought that perhaps I would try riding the cycle home, and have somebody follow me in a car, just in case I had a problem.

However, it was such a nice day, and hey, I have a cell-phone! So, I got dropped off over at my cycle and just took it from there.

trunk_IMG_2384To start with, I have to say that I really like the TRUNK on the bike. There’s plenty of room for the power cord, an extension cord and Killawatt, a hardcover book, some cleaner and wax, and whatever else you want to throw in there. I had a full charge with an estimated 44 mile range.

I took off, using the backroads instead of the freeway (knowing how speed kills range) and was on roads of 25-35 miles per hour. There’s a point on the trip where the side-road runs into the last bit of freeway, which then turns into the main road in to town. It looks like a state freeway there, but the speed limit is only 45. It’s easier just to merge onto that road than to go around to the other frontage road, so I did.

What I noticed was that I didn’t have the acceleration that I thought I would and my speed topped out at about 45. (I had gone 55 on a side road in my original test ride!) That’s when the red battery light on the dashboard turned on. Yipes. My estimated range dropped to 3.

Three Miles total estimated range! That’s it! I had only gone just under 6 miles and had about 3 miles still to go. The speed limit dropped to 25 right after that and was slightly downhill, so I just kept going until I could pull off the road into a parking lot, in this case, Taco Bell.

My battery gauge was still at about half, but my estimated range was down at 3 and the red battery light was on. I turned the cycle off, then on, to see if the battery indicator would go away, which it did. However, my range also dropped again – to ZERO – and my battery gauge was now at NOTHING.

I was thinking that it was probably NOT a good idea to try to drive the rest of the way. Fortunately, possibly the ONLY public EV charging anywhere between where I started and my home just happened to be at the local organic foods store, which was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Taco Bell. I scooted over and plugged in to the outdoor electric outlet, using my Killawatt, so I could track how much energy I was using. Pack voltage was at 129V.

charging_IMG_2389Inside, I told the owner what I was doing, and bought a cup of free-range organic beef chili and a muffin for lunch. Too bad Taco Bell doesn’t have EV charging, or they could have been earning my business. (No, that’s not true. Food at the green grocery was better anyways.) I ate my lunch, and caught up on my social media while sitting at a sunny table on the south end of the store. My wife was out running errands, and she stopped in. We left together for a while to give the cycle some more time to charge. (Fresh and Green is a neat little store, which you should patronize.)

Total charge time on the cycle came to an hour and 48 minutes, and used 1.22 KWH. With that much energy, at that much time, it means the Vectrix was averaging a charge of about 700 watts, which doesn’t sound right, because the charger usually runs at about 1500 watts. So, the charger was only running half the time – the other half of the time, the cooling fan must have been running, keeping the cells within appropriate charging temperature. This sounds about right for bad cells that would overheat when they discharge and charge. It also means that I only got HALF the charge I could have in that time. (I offered to pay for the electricity used, but was turned down. Instead, I put a handful of change into the donation jar on the counter.)

On the other hand, I still DID put 1.22 KWH into the bike. My experience has been that in city riding, an EV motorcycle can get 10 miles per Kilowatt hour. Sure enough, when I turned the cycle on, I got an estimated 11 mile range. But if a 44 mile estimate only got me 6, then an 11 mile range might only get me a mile and a half! And I was still a little over two miles to home…

Still, I wasn’t going on any section of freeway, although the last bit of road to my house is a 45mph zone. I headed home, taking it slow, and when I got to the 45 zone, there really wasn’t any traffic, so I kept it to 35. I got home with no problems, if you don’t count the jerk in the sports car, who thought coming out of nowhere and then passing on the right is good manners…

IMG_2435It was still sunny and warm when I got home. (The 40’s this time of year is warm.) So I got out my spray bottle and towel to clean off the cycle. I was able to remove the windshield by pulling out the four bolts that hold it on. I have NO idea how a person would get the windshield really clean without taking it off first! The cycle was still dirty from the original ride in the back of my truck from the Twin Cities, Minnesota down to southeastern Wisconsin. Add to that the layer of sawdust from being stored and worked on in my Dad’s shop for the winter, and the cycle wasn’t exactly clean.

After a quick spritz, I also used a little rub-on/rub-off wax, and was amazed how nice the cycle looked. Sure, the batteries are only good for 6 miles, but it’s a nice-looking bike!

I have a lead on a crashed Nissan Leaf in a junk yard and MIGHT be able to purchase the battery pack from it. If so, this cycle with Leaf cells in it would be “the bomb”.

In the mean time, I’ll wait for the weather to keep getting a little nicer, and tool around on the cycle on the side roads. I’ll also have to plug the cycle back in to the computer and see if the software can give me any leads on how I can otherwise improve the battery pack.

Til next time, stay charged up!


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Philip Shufflebotham March 9, 2015 at 4:02 am

Hi Ben, following your vectrix story with interest.

Some Vectrix bikes are coming up on the UK market, most with dead batteries. The advantage over here is that you can ride them on an Auto licence, with one mornings local certification.

I’m noting that your tribulations with batteries to date suggest that at least a car hybrid battery or some lef cells are the way to go.

Keep it up, Philip Shufflebotham, UK

2 Mark R Emery March 10, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Hi Ben

I have also been looking at your outings and thoughts on the bike, they are great, I am lucky to have stripped one of mine down today ,and sorted out the battery, red light was flashing, same as yours, real pain in the neck, we have a 2011 black, Blue 2008 and a spare 2008 bike in silver i bought for bits and spares, I have also bought a great deal of spares that were for sale in the Uk, Motors, frames panels chargers, lights , speedo panels , pretty well 2 complete bikes, etc etc, a lot of the panels are new, hey if you need some help , please call on me, best wishes Mark R Emery , UK

3 Mark R Emery March 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hi Ben

sorry just thought, when you check out the batteries, if you find some are faulty , give me a call, I bought last year 2 sets of spare batts to keep mine on the road, keep well and good luck,


4 Joe Willett March 10, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Ben, are you really considering buying a salvage LEAF pack? I might be interested in going in on this with you for a Prius mod. Contact me.

5 Trev Morgan June 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

Hi Guys,
I just bought a dead 2010 Silver/White vx1 as a project, I am a total newbie to electric and I am in need of help please. If going Thurds on the above post about a car battery I will be happy to contribute.

6 admin June 25, 2016 at 8:15 am

Hi Trev,
Please take a look through all the blog entries I have on the Vectrix upgrade. It’s been a great project. I’ve never worked on one before either. The biggest resource was at the “V is for Voltage” forum. There’s a number of people there who have done Vectrix upgrades. http://visforvoltage.org/forums/vectrix
Also, please take a look at my YouTube playlist on my Vectrix project.

Good luck!

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