LEAF Batteries are in the Vectrix!

by Ben N on April 20, 2015

IMG_3018Well, this past Saturday was a big day for the Vectrix upgrade project!

I got the battery in and the Vectrix IS NOW RUNNING ON NISSAN LEAF CELLS!

In my last video, I showed you how I got the battery together – 18 LEAF cell modules sandwiched together with spacers and threaded rod. This time, I installed an ammeter shunt, wired up the pack, got the batteries actually INSIDE the cycle, connected power, hooked up a Cycle Analyst, and got all the covers and trim back together.

To start with, the Cycle Analyst bike computer that I purchased uses a shunt, which needs to go on the negative end of the battery pack. I had some scrap fiberglass angle material and decided that it would be good to mount the ammeter to. I measured the fiberglass, then cut it and drilled a hole so that it would be mounted to the top two threaded rods of the battery pack.

IMG_2988 IMG_2989Next, I mounted the ammeter shunt to the fiberglass angle  with a pair of 1/4-20 bolts. To electrically connect pack negative to the shunt, I repurposed one of the original Nissan LEAF pack bus bars. I removed the orange protective cover, bent the bar to shape, drilled a hole in it to match the shunt, and added a section of heat-shrink tubing. Then I connected the bus bar from pack negative to the shunt, and tightened down both bolts.

IMG_2991On the positive end of the pack, I planned to reuse one of the LEAF pack main power cables. I also needed to attach a very small wire to the positive end to power the Cycle Analyst. I noticed that the original Vectrix NiMH battery pack used the same size bolts as the LEAF cells, and that a few of the terminal bolts were tapped for tiny screws that mounted the temperature sensors. I removed one of those bolts and used it to attach the cable to the LEAF pack. The tiny screw in the head of the bolt will later be the power connection for the bike computer.

IMG_2995I was also trying to decide if I wanted anything between the cells and the bare frame of the scooter. I had some fancy “Tool Box Anti-Slip Material” and cut some out to fit the bottom of the box. I also cut a piece to go in the far front of the battery box and held it in place with some 3M Super 77 spray adhesive.

That was about the time that my new friend, Nick, showed up. Nick also has a Vectrix, the same make/model/year/color as mine. Essentially, he has THE EXACT SAME BIKE. He purchased 18 of my LEAF modules from the pack and is planning on doing the exact same upgrade I am. By showing up and lending me a hand, he’s also learning how to do this on his own cycle.

IMG_2998With an extra set of hands there, it was time to put the battery in the bike. We hooked the lifting strap on to the battery, connected that to the chain hoist, and started lifting. With the cycle centered under the hoist, we got the battery right where we needed it, and then lowered it back down, making sure that the pack was ALL THE WAY FORWARD in the compartment, and not letting the extra bit of threaded rod hit on the motor controller or anything else.

There’s only a very small gap on either side between the battery and the frame. I took an old political sign (corrugated plastic) and cut a pair of one-foot by one-foot pieces to slide in on either side of the battery.

After that, we ran the positive cable along the metal bracket that was on the top edge of the battery, and zip-tied it down. I even happened to have “High Voltage” Orange zip-ties! We connected the black negative cable from the motor controller to the other side of the ammeter shunt and tightened it down as well.

The next big moment is “Pre-Charging” before making the final connection to the pack, in this case the positive cable. I had a 100 watt / 120V lightbulb which I used to complete the circuit BEFORE connecting the positive cables. This lets the capacitors in the motor controller fill more slowly than they otherwise would, preventing a blown fuse or worse. After that, it was just a matter of tightening the connections, making sure they were insulated, and then protecting them from physical vibration (which mostly consisted of zip-tying things in place….)

To wire the Cycle Analyst, I threaded the cord through the glove-box hinge, through a frame grommet hole, and into the battery compartment. The Black and White wires connect to one side of the shunt, and the Blue wire to the other side. That only left the Red wire, which had to be all the way in the FRONT of the battery box. I stripped out the red wire, only to find that there was also a yellow and green wire cut off and hidden inside. Pulling on one of those wires was an easy way to split open the cable sheathing. I had another cord which was two conductors. I stripped both ends of both conductors of that cord. I then crimped the red bike computer wire to that cord, and then a very small ring terminal to the same end of the other conductor. That way, I could add a switch to the opposite end of the cord to turn the Cycle Analyst on and off. I screwed down the small ring terminal to the positive end of the battery pack on the fancy little temperature sensor screw on the + terminal. Both the Cycle Analyst and its power switch are temporarily going in the glove box until I decide where I want to permanently mount them.

After that, it’s just the less exciting process of reinstalling the battery cover, trunk switch, trunk release plate, trim cover, and seat. I DID remove the fans from the underside of the battery box cover. The LEAF cells do NOT heat up the way the original Vectrix NiMH cells did, and the upgraded charger software actually disregards the fans and the temperature sensors.

The project still isn’t done. Items of note that still need work are upgrading the main fuse from a 125A to 200 amp and connecting the BMS wire harness to some sort of connection that I can use to hook up a balance charger. Neither of those had to be finished this weekend, and were’t stopping me from going for a spin around the block. I hopped on the scooter and took it for a very mild ride around the neighborhood. Everything seemed to work fine. The Cycle Analyst was on and working, even though it’s temporarily stuffed in the glove box and still needs calibrating.

After the ride, I plugged the cycle in to charge and was AMAZED as how much quieter it is without those two  large fans under the seat.

That’s it for now! There’s a local Clean Transportation event tomorrow that I wanted to have the cycle ready for, and I’m feeling pretty pleased to have met that goal. You can still look forward to more on this project as I figure out how to balance charge the cycle, mount up the Cycle Analyst, and eventually put a new fuse in there.

Til next time, stay charged up!
-Ben N

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Vectrix Range Testing
May 10, 2015 at 12:00 pm

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay Donnaway April 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Big congrats on the fast progress, Ben. I just hope Ron Johnson doesn’t press charges for desecrating stolen property! To think that his next election might be lost in the interest of protecting salvaged batteries in an eco-scooter has got to be high heresy….

2 J. Trellue May 9, 2015 at 4:41 am

This is a great idea for these bikes, but I have to wonder the whole reason behind it? Was it just to upgrade? Was there a problem withe the original batteries or is it that you hope to get a longer ride. What things have you noticed on the charging differences of the “old” vs “new”. Thanks for the informative videos, keep it up.

3 Massimo June 4, 2015 at 6:58 am

Hi, I have been riding my Vx-1 (formerly Li+) for 2600km with the AESC (Nissan-Nec or “Leaf”) cells. The battery pack configuration is akin to yours (36s2p). I am currently experiencing an almost meaningless cell unbalance. For the sake of completeness, my battery pack still uses a couple of fans (altought not required). When unplugged in the morning (fully charged) the dashboard shows no unbalance at all (Low 4.14V, High 4.15V, being the charger cut-off set on 4.15V). After few kms the unbalance (at rest) reaches some 0.04V while it rises up to 0.07V when some 20A is drained. These days are hot in Southern Italy: (30 C) that may cause the unbalance (never experienced in winter/spring). Nothing serious at the moment. Just to share opinions.

4 admin June 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

It sounds to me that your batteries are pretty balanced at the top end. I suppose that the concern would be if the cells were unbalanced at the top end so that the charger would OVERCHARGE one of the cells to get to your full pack series voltage. You might just want to check the voltage of the cells right as the charge is finishing, jut to be sure. What are you using to monitor your cell voltage?

5 Ben N June 5, 2015 at 10:54 am

The original batteries were completely dead when I bought the motorcycle. They needed to be replaced anyways.

6 Massimo June 8, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hi, the dashboard can be switched to the “technical mode” before I start to ride (by using the left breake): thus I continously monitor low/high cell voltage, current drain and battery pack voltage while riding (that depends on the software version installed,being mine the one updated on fall 2012). I do check the low/high cell voltage at the end of charging too, together with the final “charging code” (EC049 ==”finished normally “, so far).

7 Fredrick G. Ramsden June 29, 2015 at 2:11 am

I would like to do this conversion to my 2007 Vectrix. Has anyone used the pack sold by auto hybrid center? Seems like a fair deal for new batteries. Can you tell me how you upgraded the charger firmware for the new batteries. I’d love to run around on my Vectrix again.

8 Massimo July 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

No experience on hybridautocenter. As to the firmware, check the “download ” section at vectrixparts.com
Good luck

9 Eric Schutt July 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Ben!

This is extremely exciting to read about your success here. I would REALLY appreciate if we could talk briefly, as I can REALLY use your help.

Please hit me up on email if possible.

Regards-
Eric

10 Ben N July 29, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Hi Eric, good talking to you on the phone. Always nice hearing from locals. I’ll send you an e-mail for follow-up.
-Ben

11 Simon Jones April 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

Hi,
Is the distance on a single charge better with the Nissan leaf battery cells?
Simon.

12 Ben N April 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

Better than what? The original NiMH batteries that were in the Vectrix? Theoretically, the original battery pack should have had something like a 40 mile range. Of course, I got a good deal on the bike because the battery pack was dead. After I “rejuvenated” the original battery pack, I was able to get as far as 9 miles out of it. Real-world riding on the Vectrix with the Nissan Leaf cells has been a 60+ mile range.

13 Simon Jones April 6, 2016 at 8:16 am

Hi..I did mean better( as in distance) than the original NiMH batteries. You say “The project still isn’t done. Items of note that still need work are upgrading the main fuse from a 125A to 200 amp and connecting the BMS wire harness to some sort of connection that I can use to hook up a balance charger.”[unq] I have a vectrix VX1 and am looking to see the best way to improve on distance per charge. I get between 40-50 mile real-world riding. How much did the Leaf batteries cost?
Thank for any advice.
Simon.

14 Ben N April 6, 2016 at 9:19 am

Hi Simon. Please make sure to check out all the OTHER posts and videos on the project. That should answer some of your questions. Take a look at the blog entries from spring through summer of 2015. I posted links to a few entries below.
For range, I had gotten as far as 90 miles on a single charge, but that was multiple short trips at in-town speeds. On my Loop the Lake trip, I was looking at 60 some miles per charge, real-world riding, including highways speeds. I reused the original BMS wires from the LEAF for the Vectrix pack to go to some very basic BMS units.
The entire Leaf Battery pack, from a salvage yard, cost me around $2800. I used one third of the pack, and sold the other two thirds, making my out-of-pocket costs pretty close to zero. (But it was a fair amount of work taking apart the battery pack, having buyers lined-up, etc.)

Range Testing: http://300mpg.org/2015/05/10/vectrix-range-testing/
Some real-world travel: http://300mpg.org/2015/05/29/1st-mini-road-trip-on-the-vectrix/
Instrumentation: http://300mpg.org/2015/05/27/5289/
Charging: http://300mpg.org/2015/07/26/first-charging-with-power-supplies/

15 Tom Warlow June 11, 2016 at 9:31 am

Hi Ben, I’m about to embark on my own conversion using the leaf cells, I just wondered if you reprogrammed the new controller software before or after you fitted the new cells?

16 admin June 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm

On the Vectrix, I upgraded the software for the controller and charger AFTER installing the Nissan LEAF Cells, but BEFORE charging them with the Vectrix internal charger. For one thing, I needed the battery in place just to TURN ON the motorcycle to do any of that programming work.

17 tim June 23, 2016 at 1:48 pm

what do people use for BMS for there leaf or volt packs?
for like a golf cart kinda thing?

18 Brian Mazur September 11, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Hi Ben,
I ‘inherited’ a VETRIX bike. Unfortunately the batteries are dead and I have not been able to source new ones. From your site I gather that there are no suppliers of suitable battery assemblies. I have a couple of choices, either to fix the bike or sell it, would rather fix it. Are you able to provide any information on suppliers (preferable) or experts that can get it going?
regards
Brian

19 BenN September 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

Hi Brian,
Please take a look through all my posts on working on the Vectrix, that should give you a good start. The best place for info on Vectrix’s is at the “V is for Voltage” forum. Look through there. There’s several folks who have done Leaf Cell upgrades on their cycles. Read through all those and it should give you enough info to do your own upgrade.
http://visforvoltage.org/forums/vectrix

20 Brian Hall December 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Hi All, I just got a 2007 Vectrix and put 18 leaf modules in. What a great , fun bike this is! I have the old Nimh cells if anyone wants them, many are still good. Also I have not upgraded the software yet, wondering if anyone in norcal has the usb to can adapter I can rent from them? I am thinking of installing our ( thunderstruck) BMS , it’s beta now , it will have the ability to use level 3 , dc fast charging. I think i can get this pack mostly full in 30 minutes. Wondering if anyone uses the stock temp sensors with a leaf conversion. Thanks for the help, your website is great.
Brian Hall

21 Tom Preble April 27, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Hello all. I have a white Vectrix VX 1 with dead Nimh batteries. I loved the bike before it totally died. I think it has 640 miles on it. No help anywhere. I am quite handy and capable and safe with electricity. Is there some sort of Instruction Manual I can buy to guide me through installing Leaf Lion batteries in my Vectrix? I can do such things myself, with a guide. I just wish I had a list of materials required, and a guide to putting it together in my Vectrix, here in Colorado Springs. Your thoughts? Thank you,
Tom

22 Glen April 28, 2017 at 8:31 am

Anyone have any current info on acquiring batteries for the Vectrix?

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