E Bike Up Grades for 2014
More Juice, More Storage, More Information, Bigger Gears. More is Better.
Last year I built the E-bike you see below for me to use as my personal transportation, a “test-bed” for new bicycling accessories and E-bike components and as a flagship model to show off what the EZgo-Now E-bike shop can do for its customers.
Needless to say since it was built as a “test bed” for new products it didn’t stay finished for very long and last fall and early this spring I began to make some enhancements to it. I had originally built it as a 48 Volt E-bike using the EBike kit direct drive system and 4) of the Clean Republic’s bamboo clad 12 volt 10 amp LiFeP04 batteries & it ran as good or better than expected. However, since changing batteries with this type of set up is so easy to do, and I had plenty of extra room in my saddlebags, within a month I had added a 5th 12 volt battery for a little added boost & that’s exactly what I got. I could now routinely reach 30 mph under the right conditions. Although running 60 Volts required no additional changes to anything it was however now running at the bleeding edge of what the EBikeKit Controller had been designed to handle. Between it’s well-built built design and it’s built-in safety margins the EBikeKit Controller, coupled with my “easy-does-it” approach to acceleration and hill-climbing however, it never presented any problems or even so much as got a little warm. This spring however, when I decided to add another yet another 12 Volts making for 72 Volts total, I knew I would have to beef up or change the controller. As is usually the case, one change leads to multiple changes and those changes often lead to something more expensive but in the long run far better than you had originally envisioned. And so it was here. The following is a brief summary of some of the things I did & learned along the way and the wonderful E-bike I ended up with in the end.
Information is paramount
When working on something as critical as increasing the battery voltage and changing E-bike controllers the first place I usually go for information is Endless Sphere.com. A search on Endless Sphere for “E-bike controller upgrade” quickly led me to a guy on the west coast by the name of Edward Lyen who among other things builds high-capacity E-bike controllers. Unless you work on and or follow E bikes you’ve probably never heard of him and that’s okay. He’s been around for quite a while and he is well established in the world of LEV’s. (light electric vehicles) Like many of us he maintains a regular job but when he’s on his own he can usually be found working on or building electronic components for E-bike’s and other LEV’s. (light electric vehicles ) I emailed Ed a few months ago with some questions about upgrading along with my requirements and he quickly replied back with his own questions and a few suggestions. One of the first things that I learned was that my particular controller from EBikeKit.com was not a unit that could be easily or satisfactorily upgraded. So after a few more emails back and forth with specifics, I decided on using his Lyen Edition EC124110.
This controller uses 12) high quality FETs and is programmable through a USB interface cable. ($15) Lyen Controllers are available with 6 to 24 FET’s and range in price from $80-$350 plus shipping. Not only does it easily handle my additional voltage but it makes better use of my batteries existing amperage and because it’s programmable it can be changed as your needs change. To put this in comparison, my stock EBikeKit Controller would deliver about 22 amps under full load to the drive wheel while the Lyen Edityion Controller is currently set at and able to deliver 30 amps to that same drive wheel. This means that even if I had left my batteries alone and replaced only the controller I would have still had a noticeable performance gain especially in the area of acceleration where amperage is King. The base price was $129.00 and with some additional hardware and shipping the total cost came to $156.00. This price included installing the proprietary EBikeKit Controller connectors which I had supplied. Much more about this EBikeKit to Lyen Extreme Modder Controller transplant in a few weeks. Until then to suffice it to say the operation was a resounding success.
Wanting to increase the battery voltage for a little more speed is how this project got started and was, for me, the easiest and one of the cheaper aspects of the entire job. However, for most people this is rarely the case as lithium batteries are almost always pre-assembled into specific sized power packs and cannot be or should not be re-worked or added too. READ-ON… Since my original 48 Volt LiFeP04 battery pack was made up using 4) 12 volt batteries from a group of 12 batteries purchased from Clean Republc last June I simply added one more from that same group as I had done earlier when I went from 48 volts to 60. These are bamboo encased 12 volt 10 amp LiFeP04 SLA replacement batteries. These do not contain a battery management system (BMS) and just how long they will last is up for grabs. see Endless Sphere comments Mixing and matching any type of lithium batteries in this manner however is NOT recommended. Even if you think you know exactly what you’re doing and you test your batteries carefully you still need to be willing to accept the risk of destroying $800′s worth of batteries. So far things have worked out well but that could change tomorrow. That said, my current configuration is now my original 4 CR Batteries (Clean Republic ) placed inside the rear double-decker bike rack and 2 CR Batteries placed inside a LEED Battery Bag mounted under the bikes top tube. As mentioned earlier these batteries could have easily gone in my rear saddlebags but after getting used to the extra room that a set of bags gives you I really didn’t want to give it up. In addition it gave me better weight distribution and a little extra room for some other things such as my headlight battery. The LEED Battery Bag is a great product at a great price (About $39 delivered) & you can read all about it by clicking Leed Battery Bag.
In addition to the Endless Sphere Forum the EBIKES.CA blog and website the makers of the Cycle Analyst (see below) make a great online E-bike simulator. this online tool allows you to, among other things, select and compare battery size, motor size and controllers using various real-world parameters such as speed, terrain, weight and temperature. This information along side of the information you’ll find from searching websites like Endless Sphere can not only help you in selecting the right E-bike or e-bike kit components but can keep you from wasting a lot of time and money on chasing a goal that is simply not obtainable or cost-effective. Click here for the latest release of the ebikes.ca online ebike simulator.
Don’t ride in the dark
Okay, unless your E-bike is purely for recreational purposes or you simply never ever forget to recharge your batteries or never go farther than you know for certain your batteries will take you or your willing to pedal, then you must have some type of battery monitoring system. Well naturally I did. It may not have been state of the art for LEV’s (Light Electric Vehicles) but it was more than adequate and quite cost-effective. When used with my Bell 100 cyclometer it provided me with all of the information I thought I would ever need. (See pictures below) It was a Watts-Up Meter and sells for around $60 delivered. You can read the review I wrote last year in the “My Picks Page” Watts-Up Meter. Primarily built for the RC (radio controlled) enthusiasts hobby market it is well adapted for many other uses not the least of which is E-bike’s. BUT there’s a catch. The E-bikes can’t exceed much over 60 VOLTS. I ran mine for a number of months at 68 Volts with no problems but when I decided to up the voltage to 72 it would no longer give me an accurate reading. It was not harmed in any way it would simply not display over 68.88 Volts. Well this was a problem I had not even considered. After some extensive research I finally concluded that outside of using 2) Watts-Up Meters (one per battery pack) ),a simple DC voltage meter or a combination of meters there is really nothing else out there. So here comes the real budget buster, A Cycle Analyst.
A Cycle Analyst and in my case a V3 Cycle Analyst is the Holy Grail of DC power monitoring systems for the E-Bike & LEV markets. I’ll provide some links to a few detailed articles and reviews on what makes the Cycle Analyst & especially the new V3 such a powerful tool at the end of this section. Later on I’ll also write more about my real world experiences with it and post it in the “My Picks Section” of the EZgo-Now Website. For now suffice it to say that in spite of it’s costing over $200 delivered to any place in the US (It’s built in & ships from Canada) it’s still quite a bargain. To describe the V3 as a fancy battery monitor is doing it a real injustice as far as I’m concerned and if in-fact all you really need or want is something to monitor to your batteries save your money. You can buy voltage meters or DC power meters anywhere from $5-$60. Introduced as the DrainBrain back in 2006 this “universal digital dashboard” has evolved from a capable e-meter to a sophisticated power monitering & management system capable of working in systems of over a 100 volts & more (with optional shunt). Go to ebikes.ca for details on this unit. What I did not know but soon discovered about the Cycle Analyst was what I’ll call the power management aspect of the V3 & how it can greatly improve the overall feel our your E-bike. Since the V3 is a complete digital dashboard not only could I remove my Watts-Up Meter but my Bell 100 cyclometer as well. Its large digital display fit very nicely on the left side of my dashboard mount right behind the headlight and looked very much as if it was designed specifically for my bike. (See pictures ) Because of it’s multi functional capabilities and its ability to work across a broad spectrum of systems it comes with a large array of dongle’s coming from the bottom of the unit. If you’re not using many of these cables you may find them to be a bit of a nuisance but with a little bit of work it is easy enough to work around them and tuck them out-of-the-way. The plus side of this is that some of these cables are for the throttle and e- brakes and as such, depending on your set-up these cables can actually eliminate some of your overall cable clutter. Also the V3, like the Lynn Edition Controller is programmable via a USB interface cable so be sure to leave this one somewhat accessible.
I am not sure I’ve seen anyone else use the term “power management ” when describing the new V3 Cycle Analyst and perhaps I’m using the term a bit loosely but what really put the smile on my face after taking my first ride with the V3 installed and calibrated was how it improved the over-all feel of my E-bike. Prior to the V3 installation I had never thought much about how my E-bike behaved to my inputs. “Twist throttle open – GO, “Close throttle” – SLOW, “Squeeze brake” – STOP, etc. After it was installed however I discovered subtle changes in the incremental movements between WFO & CLOSED. It greatly improved the overall riding experience. I should add that some of this is due to the Lyen Controller as well. I purchased the direct plug-in model (CA-DP) which is their “plug & play” model. It allows you to simply plug the V3 directly into any V3 equipped E-bike controller and everything else then plugs in to the V3. Infineon, Lyen, eZee & Crystalyte Controllers are the ones that I know currently come CA-DP equipped and there are others that will soon follow. If your E-bike controller does not have this plug it will still work using the stand alone model (CA-SA) and a little bit of additional wiring. Because the throttle can be plugged directly in to the Cycle Analyst as can the e- brakes, pedal sensor and torque sensor the Cycle Analyst not only monitors and manages the power output between the batteries and the drive motor but it monitors and manages all of the previously mentioned inputs plus a few optional ones. The V3 is a highly configurable, incredibly complete and easy to use digital dashboard. Because of its complexity however please don’t expect to open this up, plug it in and have it set-up in 15 minutes like your digital speedometer. I spent an hour setting it up initially and I’m still fine tuning it a month later. Although the V3 is not a mandatory piece of equipment like batteries, controllers, hub motors and throttles, it is the icing on the cake that will tie everything else together and make your E-bike feel as if it were designed and built to be an E-bike. Products like the Cycle Analyst Click are what is moving the electric bike of yesteryear into the modern world of inexpensive, highly adaptable and environmentally friendly transportation choices. Please click any of the links below to learn just about all there is to know about the CYCLE ANALYST V3. Check back here or in the”My Picks” section in a few weeks for an update on my experiences living-with and using the V3.
- CYCLE ANALYST V3
- Cycle Analyst v3 Setup
- Unofficial User Guide / User Manual
- Cycle Analyst V3 preview and first beta release NOTE Current Endless Sphere thread.
- V3.0 Unofficial User Guide NOTE: An un-updated PDF file.
- Cycle Analyst; Ebike Battery Gauge Independent review of the older version 2.0 from Electricbike.com
There’s no free ride
Last but not least and completely independent of the previous changes was changing the stock mountain bike gear ratio. I made this change late last year prior to any changes to the electric drive system and you can read a detailed article about it here. Gears Matters Changing gears is not only one of the least expensive and practical improvements you can make to your E-bike but it will also be one of the best improvements you can make when it comes to increasing the efficiency of the man /machine relationship.
Think about it…, Many E bikes and especially the E-bike conversions you and I do in our garages start life as a regular MTB (mountain bikes) or hybrid bike. They have a lot of gears to accommodate a lot of situations but unfortunately none of those situations include being able to pedal your bicycle comfortably past 15 mph. Since even the least expensive E-bike and E-bike kits will propel your bike to speeds past 18 mph mark we end up using much more battery power than we need to in order to cruise at those higher speeds simply because our legs can’t keep up. The fix is easy as you’ll find out below.
Stock gearing for the average mountain bike is along the lines of 42, 34, 24T on the front and 14T to 28T in the back. You can change either one or both. I changed both on mine because changing just one of them other would not get me to where I needed to be which was 28 mph. Either one is fairly easy to do with the proper tools but the rear is usually the cheaper of the two. The first step in doing this is to determine what you have currently and what you wish to achieve with the change. Again this is a fairly easy and inexpensive project but doing the leg-work up front is paramount to achieving the desired results. Please read “gears-matters” to get this leg-work started. It contains much if not all of the information you’ll need to do this job including 3) on-line gear & cadence calculators for determining both riding and pedal speeds. http://ezgo-now.com/gears-matters/. Although it’s not required having a speedometer is a big help in doing this job.
As I mentioned earlier, I changed both the front and rear gear clusters when I changed my gear ratios last year. Read “HOW I CHANGED MY 21 SPEED MTB BIKE” for the specifics of that job. I first replaced the rear Shimano Freewheel 14T – 28T gear cluster with a DNP Epoch Freewheel 11T -28T. This gave me a speed increase in high gear of about 3 mph for a cost of about $30. Next I replaced my 42 x 34 x 24 Shimano front crank set with a 48 x 38 x 28 SDRAM crank set. This gave me a speed increase of about 3.5 mph in high gear high range and about a 2 mph increase in most of the other higher gears for a cost of about $50. Most importantly this change netted me a realistic 7 mph increase in my pedal assisted cruising speeds and a 5 to 10 mile increase in range. My range could no doubt be significantly higher but it seems every time I increase my performance envelope I tend to use it.
First if you don’t already have an E-bike and you are planning on purchasing and or building one to be used as supplemental transportation DON’T believe those “how to build a $250 E-bike articles”or the advertisements for complete kits starting at $399. A decent store-bought E-bike will cost at least $1,300 by the time you get it home and a good E-bike kit with lithium batteries will cost at least $900 delivered. Put that kit on a good donor bike however and take your time building it and it can easily be equivalent to an $1800 store-bought bike AND you will have exactly what you want the way you want it, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of having built it yourself.
Start with good solid & reliable information from independent sources. Regardless of whether you’re buying a complete E-bike or building your own E-bike from a kit or off the shelf components information. DO NOT BELIEVE the hype found on many of the manufacturers websites much of the amazing statistics and videos found on YouTube and elsewhere. DO BELIEVE information found on the websites below. Some of these sites do have affiliations to the products they review but the information they provide gained from their experience within the industry, I feel, more than offsets any of the plugs they give for their products. there are also some that I have overlooked or simply forgotten that are very good as well. As you read through this blog as well as websites below I’m sure you will come across those that I have missed and new ones I do not even know about.a final word of caution however, there are many sites springing up some of which have taken their name from Wikipedia claiming to be how to do anything sites. some of the information I have discovered concerning E bikes is highly in accurate at best and down right dangerous at its worst. “Just cause it’s on the Internet don’t make it so”.
- Endless Sphere
- Battery University
- V is for voltage
- NYCe wheels
- Turbo Bob’s Blog
Good lithium batteries are very expensive. So unless you’re starting with inexpensive SLA batteries that you plan to upgrade in a year or so, think hard about what you might be using your E-bike for a year or so down the road & then buy the highest capacity batteries you can afford. (within reason of course). Doing what I did and adding additional capacity to your existing battery pack is rarely an option for most of us and since lithium batteries will last many years you won’t be wanting to change them in a few months because you need more power or better range. Generally speaking increasing your battery voltage will increase your speed while increasing your amperage will increase your power and range. Although the two will often over-lap one another it’s a good rule of thumb. and just as important as your battery voltage and battery amperage is your C rating. This is what your battery is capable of safely delivering. all batteries regardless of size or type have this C rating. The C rating is the maximum current the battery is continuously capable of delivering at any point during its use. E bikes will typically use batteries with a low C rating of between 1C and 3C. RC (radio controlled) equipment will exclusively use batteries with a high C rating between 20 and 100C. Please note ; Although RC batteries can be used on E bikes the two types of batteries are very different. They are built differently and rated differently and using RC batteries on an E-bike comes with great risk. Both a safety risk and a risk to the equipment. So if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, don’t do it.
Although changing your batteries can be a very expensive proposition changing your E-bike controller is not. And it may be all you need if you already have 20 amp or larger batteries. If your building an E-bike from a E Bike kit the controller will be rated for a certain voltage and amperage and although many of these controllers will safely handle slightly higher currents most will not handle big changes such as going from 36 V to 72 V.Controllers found with most E-bike kits and factory built E bikes are built with safety, longevity and trouble-free operation in mind. As important as this is, it often leaves performance lagging behind and can leave you with unused performance potential you all ready had. I knew this but had never actually had the opportunity to compare two controllers back to back. The results were very enlightening. Not only was the improvement felt using seat-of-the-pants testing, My Watts-Up meter and the V3 illustrated this in B&W. (20 amps versus 31 amps) So when shopping for a new E-bike controller make sure it will not only handle the maximum battery voltage that your planning but will safely deliver the battery amperage that you’ll have available.
More and more of the E bikes coming on the market these days as well as the E-bike kits have some type of battery monitoring system already installed.that does not mean that the need for aftermarket monitoring systems is going away as many of the improvements on this page should indicate.
High quality center mount battery bags are becoming increasingly available and the prices are getting better as my Leed Battery Bag clearly illustrates. No longer are you limited to mounting your bags on the rear rack or inside of rear saddlebags. Center mounted battery bags not only improve the look of your E-bike but they help to distribute the weight more evenly. Shop around and use your imagination and just remember, your batteries no longer have to sit just on top of your rear mounted bike rack. Check with your favorite bike shop, online or off, or try eBay and Amazon.com for pricing, availability and ideas.
- What is the C-rate?
- Battery Types
- Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Batteries
- High Current Batteries that are NOT LiPo
Increase your E bikes range inexpensively by doing more of what your bike was designed for. Pedaling. With a good set of lithium batteries costing several hundreds of dollars increasing your battery pack to gain an extra 5 miles is probably cost prohibitive. Fortunately, changing your front or rear or both gear sets isn’t. Most of the bikes we use for conversions and many store-bought bikes have gear ratios that top out around 15 mph. By simply changing one or both of your gear sets you can more closely match how your legs keep up with your E-bike motor.now when you’re cruising down the road at 20 mph your pedals can do much more than act as a foot rest.Keep on pedaling by getting the proper sized gears for your new electrically assisted riding conditions. With an average top pedaling speed of around 14 – 16 mph, most E-bike conversions and many E bikes allow for this higher speed electrically assisted operation but on battery power alone. This may not seem like such a big deal since all you have to do is back off the throttle a little but that is easier said than done. Once you become accustomed to this faster cruising speed.slowing down to preserve your battery power is difficult.
The future is now, … Grab an E-Bike & enjoy it.