Monday, December 28, 2009

Let's go street legal!

The second stage of this project is starting to get underway. I have made an offer on a Ligier JS4 microcar, and I'm in the early planning stages of converting that little car into an electric vehicle. Compared to the electric kart, we're setting a few extra challenges.

First, we want to search and buy the separate parts ourselves without relying on a complete circuit stolen from a different vehicle as with the kart. This time we'll figure out the combination of a motor, controller, batteries and wiring ourselves.

Secondly, we want to build our first street legal car on the smallest budget possible. A microcar is allowed on Belgian roads given that it is not faster than 45kph, its power does not exceed 4000W and its weight (without batteries) is below 350kg. There's no permission or taxes on such cars, but I will need to get limited insurance for the little car.

Given our experiences from building the kart, it'll take a few months to plan and perform the conversion, so I can hopefully start driving the car on the road in the summer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Events

Since its completion, the kart has been in-and-out of the garage quite frequently. At each opportunity to take the kart out on the street we don't miss it. Everywhere we go, we're approached by crowds of interested onlookers, people turn their heads to see our contraption drive around, people smile. Our kart draws attention from very young to very old, and everyone seems to welcome the growing idea of using electricity as a resource for transportation. We're glad that our kart is becoming an example and a first experience for our audience. (yes, taking the kart out is becoming some sort of a performance)

Here's a long post with summaries of events that we attended with the electric kart.

13-16 August 2009: HAR2009

The first trip with the electric kart was to HAR2009, the event that was our deadline for completing the kart. The kart was very well received by the participants/hackers/technologists/nerds/... at the conference. Over 100 visitors tested the kart.



In the picture below, you can see the kart in the camping field in front of our tent.



If you look closely to the front right wheel in the above picture, you'll see we encountered a small problem, a burst tire. A friendly karting center in the neighborhood provided us with new front slicks, for free! We tipped the guy who willingly changed our tires generously, this saved our weekend!



Here's the rear "blinkenlights" light for the electric we constructed while at HAR2009, doing its thing:



I love the following shot of the electric kart. Hiding from the sun behind a towel, I'm trying to get my EEE PC working on the wireless network of the hacker camp site.



Summary: Visiting HAR with the electric kart was wicked. We had a blast with our kart and so did many others.

20 September 2009: Car Free Day in the historical center of Antwerp

On this sunday, the center of Antwerp was car free. People were invited to come onto the streets, but without their car. Well, as our kart is not considered to be a car by law, we took it downtown and drove it around in the midst of a less technically oriented audience (as compared to HAR2009). The response was beyond what we could've expected, people were very fond of the electric kart. We had various chats with many people, took the kart for some wild spins on the usually crowdy downtown streets, and had lots of fun.

Obviously, some hacking was required as well. In the following picture, Tim and Walle are fixing some wiring of the kart at a café on the central market place, smack in the middle of the historical center of Antwerp.



17 October 2009: Spa Francorchamps

Across the street from my house is a garage that specializes in Citroën 2CV cars. Pieter, the owner of the place, has an extremely modified 2CV car that he enters in the yearly 24 hours endurance for 2CV race cars at the Formula 1 circuit in Spa-Francorchamps.



Pieter wanted to take the kart along as a gadget to drive around the terrain. He had a blast, and obviously we (Tim and Anthony) also attended the race to play around with our electric kart.



Here's the kart in a pit stop, in the same place where F1 cars come for their maintenance :)



3 November 2009: Indoor karting

Unexpectedly, Pieter had arranged for us to take the kart into the indoor racing track of Inkart. So I got out of work, drove down to the track and had fun to demo the kart to the track owners.



Everyone who could gave it a try driving it around the track and everyone had experiences to share. Yes, this kart drives very differently because of its non-stop high torque, batteries on more powerful karts unfortunately suck (for now) and no, you don't have the smell and sound of a gas guzzling engine. Developments in technology and the market of batteries are promising and may very soon be changing the whole market of karting as entertainment. It seems that electric karts may just as well become widespread in just a few years' time. We'll keep on evolving and developing our kart to try and get ahead of the hype. Electric kicks gas!



So, what's up next? Electric kart version 2.0? More soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Walle drifting with the e-Kart

Time to step from behind the camera and have some fun ;). Carmen was nice enough to film me testing the kart's drifting capabilities :



We noticed drifting to left is easier than to the right. This might be due to the worn tires. The other possibly is that the weight of the batteries needs some redistributing. This is something to look at together with pimp'ing it with leds during HAR 2009 ;)

Tim has worked out a simple analogue circuit for breaking and head lights.

Second video with even more drifting action from Anthony and me coming soon. Need to capture it from an analogue camera first ;).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Protective hood

After bumping our elbows on the motor a few times, we were very happy to see Dirk bring the protective hood he made for it. A nicely constructed glas-fiber-epoxy-resin-compound-material that fit perfectly...

Here is Anthony fixing it on:

The cart with the hood attached:

And the builder of the hood testdriving this excellent addition. Thx Dirk!


Oh and here is Anthony again enjoying the fact that now increased the safety of the cart... while driving with no hands... hmmm...
video


The observant viewer maybe saw that the batteries now have a cardboard cover... Not quite as high tech as our epoxy motor cover, but it keeps us from short-circuiting a55V17A system which does produce quite some fireworks... (trust us)

To close this post maybee just one more of Anthony actually trying to lose grip and skid, drift and the likes...
video

Photosynth of the kart

Here is an attempted PhotoSynth of the kart... (you will need to install the silverlight plugin) You can click for different angles and detail of the cart.

http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=9F016576-2354-4CB7-8D08-DABE51D48299

As we are getting more and more comfortable with the safety of the kart, we're taking our kids along in the testdrives now...


video

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A few videos of test driving our electric kart!

Finally, here's a video, one of the first test drives of our electric kart, me and Staf doing a little driving for you:




Here's video giving an overview of the kart, where you can see many details of the kart's parts.


Additional construction pictures

Some pictures of the final building session have turned up.

Here I am starting the final build day with some adjustments for the engine-sprocket connector, to allow the chain a bit of space.


Tim (Lucason) joins in on the fun and starts hacking.


Finishing the final details for the first test ride, getting the tires pumped up and the last wires fixed to the frame.

Here I am, during the first test drive. Currently, we can use the foot throttle to speed up, instead of holding the original scooter's throttle, as in this picture:

Here's Lucason with a very suspicious "is this safe?" look on his face, during his first test.


As you can see, more people turn up as we're making progress. I'm pretty sure most of our neighbors know of my project by now ...

Friday, July 31, 2009

The drawing board

Today, we've been playing for about 3 hours with the kart. I've seen the whole neighborhood about 10 times, while driving around for about 10km, on a single charge. The kart is an awesome toy, I've had lots of fun practicing drifting and such :)

Here's something different about the kart. My garage door is covered in blackboard paint, and is the perfect place to do some brainstorming, think out little details, and make miscellaneous notes. Here's a picture of the door:


From top to bottom, you can see a solo brainstorm on how big the threaded wire needed to be to fit the sprocket on the motor, placement of these threads, some small notes on wiring batteries and the length of the chain, some feminine shapes that Els drew because she felt the garage could use a couple of boobs, a sketch of what the battery frame needed to look like, and various drawings by Staf and Louis.

Eureka! It works!

Yesterday, we've had a very successful day getting all the parts together in order to build a first fully running prototype of our electric kart (with the help from Tim and many spectators). We got the whole kart to work quite easily and got a whole bunch of initial test rides out of the kart.

We've had a blast, the kart is lots of fun! As far as building an electric kart goes, I think we have completed this mission quite successfully!

Here's a few pictures of the completed kart contraption:




I don't have any videos of the kart in action here yet, but there were some people that had their cameras so I'm sure we'll have a video up here soon to show the kart's driving capabilities.

I'm very happy with the end result, how well it drives, and that I was actually able to build it myself, with the help of good friends. The idea has been spooking around my head for about a year now, it has taken a lot of brainstorming time, and the actual build has been less than a full-time week.

The kart drives perfectly, just as we hoped for. It has great torque so it speeds up nicely. It's current top speed is about 25kph, as expected. By changing the gear ratios on the transmission we can easily get more speed out of the kart, so that's one of the upcoming todos. We've bumped into some new problems, such as the brakes breaking down on us, and some new creative ideas to pimp the kart, so more action is about to come to the kart.

There's lots of little details that went into finishing the kart, but I'll spend some time explaining these details in later blog posts. For now, it's playtime! W00t!

Hack the planet!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Video of motor in action

Here is the stripped assembly in action, showing the motor, controller, batteries and potentiometer all working together without the scooter:

We have all the parts ...

We now have all the parts for finishing the electric kart.

Yesterday, I bought two sets of chains so we can finish the transmission for the kart. I needed to buy two sets as we have a pretty big transmission and we'll need to connect the chains together to bridge the length between the sprockets.

Yesterday evening, together with Walle, we extracted the minimal circuit needed to run the motor from the electric scooter. Below is a low quality picture of the circuit, it shows (from top to bottom) the batteries (still in their boxes but wired up), our main switch, the controller, the throttle, and the motor in its mounting frame. We found some crazy extras in the scooter, like a simple pushbutton that implements a genuine cruise control, but for now we're going minimal.


Tomorrow, Thursday, we'll be finishing the scooter by integrating these electronics on the kart, aligning the sprockets by chaining it up, and hopefully take it out for an initial test drive out on the street.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rear axle sprocket & initial alignment

I've installed the sprocket on the rear axle, and did some work trying to get it aligned with the sprocket on the motor. Looks good so far, I've installed many bolts on all parts so I can get the remaining wobbles out of the way and the axles and sprockets parallel to each other. Tomorrow, I'll go and get a chain so we can test the alignment and further perfect it.



Tomorrow, I'll join Walle and the remainders of the electric scooter to extract all the cabling and electronics. When that's done we'll have all the parts together for the first time! I guess it'll take another evening's work on getting the electronics installed in preparation for a first test run. We're getting really, really close now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sideproject: Motor cover

Dirk brought in the idea to build a protective cover for the engine. The whole motor will be rotating at 450RPM (that's slow for a motor, but fast enough for the putative cutting off of arms and stuff), and is located just right of the driver. Dirk wants to gain some experience points with regards to creating epoxy shapes and building molds to create those shapes, so covering up the dangerous motor is a great test project for learning those techniques.

Here's a picture of the wooden frame that will serve as the base for our protective cover ...


... and here it is, all wired up, ready to become plastered and covered in epoxy, for the final cover:


Do you notice the armrest? It will feature a cup holder, too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Electric Kart possible future version

This is for version 2 probably (not enough time to get it done for WTH).
But we can use these type of batteries in series (about 32 in series for 48v) they seem to be cheaper and higher AH than lead acid's. But do require a bit of soldering... Also their using a 70000watt motor compared to our humble 500Watts ;)

Please note: This is not our kart!

Batteries mounted

Today, I welded a frame to hold the batteries. Batteries can now easily be mounted onto the kart, and swapped with new packs (we'll get more, new batteries tomorrow) when they run out of juice.


The biggest/loudest/hardest/most daunting parts are now finished. We still need to mount a sprocket on the rear axle (using standard kart parts), align the motor with the rear axle, and get some electronics and cabling on the kart to actually be able to drive it.


The finish is in sight, and I finished all the jobs that I wanted to do this week. Excellent!

Putting things together

I'm putting things together at a steadier pace than I had hoped for. While working on the kart, browsing through the metal parts store and having lots of visits from friends and neighbors (the kart attracts hordes of testosterone driven organisms), we're imagining all sorts of creative ways to build simple and sturdy parts for the kart. I've taken a few days off from work this week, and I feel I'm spending these days well on trying to do something semi useful.

The following picture shows the construction details of how I have mounted the sprocket to the engine. We found a tightening ring that perfectly fits around our engine's drum brake, I've welded some threaded wires to them, perfectly aligned with the existing holes in the sprocket. We're confident it'll be a strong design, the simple construction is a plus.


Here's the kart with it the motor mounted in its frame, and my two little kart-crazy dudes (Clicky-click for more details):


Today, I'll be welding a rack for mounting the batteries to the kart. We'll have the rear axle sprocket on Monday, so we can perfectly align the sprockets by tuning the placement of the motor in the frame.

E-Scooter dissassembly

Here some pictures of the electric scooter dissassembly.
This is the scooter stripped of batteries and engine.


After removing the seat and batteries the controller is now in sight.
This does PWM for the 5 fase 500Watt motor:


Here we have the final part needed for our setup, the
acceleration control and cabling for lights revealed after removing front panels:



Planning on where the motor should go, also we measured the diameter of the
cart wheels and the original scooter wheel. The scooter wheel was 40cm, the karts wheel is
25cm. This turns out to be a good ratio 5/8ts. Or with a 1/1 gear ratio the kart will go 5/8'ts of the scooter maximum speed (roughly 40 km/h so the e-kart will go roughly 25 km/h) but with some extra pulling power (faster accelleration). :


Motor mounted on kart and original scooter batteries for testing in background,
we plan to upgrade these batteries with ones that have a better capacity.




Second gear and chain will be mounted tomorrow together with the batteries.
So stay tuned! Time to get some sleep now ;)

That's all folks!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Construction!

Finally, I've been doing some construction for the electric kart. Here's (part of) my setup out in front of my garage, earlier today. Be reminded that I'm a complete rookie when it comes down to this type of mechanical construction work shizzle.


We have decided not to break the scooter or any of its parts, we just want to use the parts in a non-destructive manner. This requires some extra creativity, but it must be possible not to break the scooter while extracting parts, get a modular system running on the kart and rebuild the scooter with the extracted parts once upon a time.

I've been welding a metal frame to hold our hub motor onto the kart, as in the next picture. This was my first time at trying to weld something useful, it looks more like diarrhea than smooth welding joints. But it sticks. The frame is pretty modular, and is easily and strongly bolted onto the kart's frame. The last job left is that I need to cut grooves in the standing bars so that the motor can rest in them. This needs to be done precisely, such that our motor's axle aligns exactly parallel with the rear axle.


Below is a picture of the motor and a sprocket that we bought from the local karting shop. With Dale's help, we found a ring that tightens perfectly around our motor's built-in drum brake (you can see the ring in the picture, separating the motor and sprocket). I'll weld (6) screw threads onto the ring, which can then be used to fasten the sprocket to the rotating engine with bolts. This seems to be the simplest and strongest solution that we can figure out. (Together with Walle and Dirk I had some discussions about other (flawed?) designs, it's now all upside-down, inside out).


I'm getting more optimistic at getting a running kart by HAR 2009.

Btw, in the process, I've been cutting/drilling/welding/burning my fingers/eyes/balls as well. Nothing lethal, so far.

EXP +10.

Friday, July 17, 2009

We have a scooter, keys, and destruction on our minds

We received the keys to our electric, not street-legal, crap construction, cheap Chinese import scooter.


It looks great in this photo, but it's only worth being destroyed to the bone in order to reuse some essential parts for a new life on our kart's frame. The batteries are pretty much dead, being abused while in stock for too long. We can run for about 500 meters on a night's charge, easily going up to 45 kilometers per hour. But after that, the batteries have already run out of juice.

We'll go and get some new batteries with great amp hours, duct-tape them to the rack at the back of the scooter, and run it again to see whether we get everything good to go out of the scooter and onto the kart. This is quite a remarkable adventure, as the brakes on the scooter are out of order - not that they were any good when we started - but we broke them taking apart the scooter for the first time.

We're trying to get a naked scooter now. We're tearing off cheap plastic panels to access the wiring and electric parts. We're shortcutting useless stuff (like the brakes, heh) and trying to determine the importance of the (few) parts that we need to get a kart running on electricity.

Our first try at really getting an understanding of the scooter's mysterious internals, was to take the back wheel out, which contains the motor, and see how destructive we could get on it. We nearly killed it doing so ... But shortly after forcibly putting the metal parts back together with a hammer, we were riding our brakeless scooter, until the batteries kept dying on us again.

Again, we learned plenty new things. And we're ready for the next step.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We have a scooter (but no keys)

We have picked up our electric scooter yesterday. It's a chinese made "Hao Shun" brand scooter. It sports a set of four 12V batteries under the seat, and a 48V hub motor. The keys to the bike haven't been handed over yet, so we haven't seen it in action yet. Just to make sure everything works, we're not starting to destroy the bike as of yet. Unfortunately, another delay is upon us because of this.

A first problem that needs answering is how we're going to integrate the hub motor, i.e., our motor is embedded in the scooter's rear wheel. This is a common design element in electric scooters (no way this can be done with a gas motor) because it saves energy as there's no friction loss from sprockets or chains in the transmission to the wheel.

In our scooter's motor, the axle is fixed and the wheel with the motor inside rotates. Usually, you would expect a fixed motor with a rotating axle. These are in theory the same things, but there's one difference that needs to be addressed; In the scooter, electricity is being fed to the motor with cables that run through the motor's axle, and not via external connectors to the (rotating) motor block.

As our kart's wheels are smaller than the engine, we'll have to build a transmission from our engine to our rear axle. And since I doubt that we will be able to refit the cables to the engine's block instead of its axle, we'll need to find a way to somehow have a (dangerously) rotating engine with a fixed axle built on top of our kart (e.g., by reusing the fork of the scooter's rear wheel, welded to the kart's engine mount). Additionally, we'll have to fit the rotating engine with a sprocket in order to distribute the rotation to our kart's rear axle and wheels.

So, there's a little bit of progress, and a little bit of extra complexity now. There'll be more to come when we get the keys to our scooter.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time for some progress

Over the last few months, we've been stuck with budget problems. Getting a motor (like an E-tek R), a controller (like an AllTrax AXE), batteries (4 standard 12V car batteries), battery charger and various parts (cables, components) would've easily set us back 1500 euros, which is quite expensive for building a prototype electric car, just for the fun of building it.

But today, we're at the end of a long quest trying to find a solution for this problem. We've found an importer of Chinese electric scooters in Turnhout. His warehouse/garage is packed with a bunch of electric scooters that aren't allowed on the Belgian market, or on Belgian roads as they're not licensed.

This afternoon, we'll be picking up one of these brand new scooters for about a third of the price we would've paid for separate parts, and we'll have a complete kit to build our kart. The scooter will have a motor, batteries, various electronics and wiring, even stuff like a battery charger will be included. So the plan for the rest of today is to go and pick up this scooter, drive a few rounds with it in order to see how great it is, and then, immediately start tearing apart the shiny, brand new scooter. We'll be extracting the electronics from the scooter, get it back to work outside of the scooter's body, and in the mean time we'll research ways to mount it on our kart.

It's a bit of a shame that we'll be destroying a new scooter, but it'll save us quite a few bucks.

More updates will arrive soon, as time is becoming sparse. We have 1 month left before our showcase at Hacking at Random.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Agni Motors

Received pricing and MOQ from Agni Motors today, prices start at 830 euro.
These motors have the best specifications but unfortunately also the highest price tag (brushless etc.). But it is still a resource to remember (prices drop dramatically if we buy 2501 units for instance, to less than 400 euro per unit.)

So for now the ETEK-R motor is the best price/quality solution for our electric kart since it can be found easily for almost half the price on various webshops.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Gas is dead, long live electric!

Somehow, I have to provide reasoning for going electric when I'm telling people about our project to put an electric engine instead of a fuel engine on our homemade kart. It seems pretty obvious to us: Fossil fuel powered vehicles are dead, long live electric! The list of reasons why we believe that electric vehicles are about to reign the world seems endless.

The first reason is so obvious, I'll just mention it without a rant: Burning fuel is bad for our environment. 'Nough said.

We're out of gas. Some people may argue that we still have plenty of gas for a few decades, but on a scale of technological shifts, the fossil fuel era is over. We simple have to shift to a new power source for our transportation, there's no choice here, so we'll do it. We're going to put batteries or fuel cells in our cars while shifting out fossil fuel munching monsters. Even Ford CEO Alan Mulally has stated a few days ago that "In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles." I'm convinced that this will be quite a good projection on the timing of the introduction of renewables. We're still having a big economic crisis on our hands, but we have learned that the situation requires a shift in thinking on many levels, which provides amazing opportunities for the environment and our economy. On her visit to Belgium over the last few days, Hillary Clinton stated "never waste a good crisis," and highlighted the opportunity of rebuilding economies in a greener, less energy-intensive way. Yay, I like the vibe of that statement!

Gas is expensive.
The cost per kilometer for the Tesla roadster is 0.01€ where the cost of a gas powered car will easily be about 25 times that high! So maybe you're happy that the prices of gas have been dropping considerably over the last few months, it's still insanely expensive if you compare it to the newly emerging alternatives. Note that gas is taxed very heavily and the shift away from gas will imply that our governments will experience a pretty big loss in tax incomes.

Fuel powered engines are inefficient. The Tesla roadster averages its efficiency at 92%. The following discussion from salon.com shows that electric cars don't suck down the same amount of energy as gas guzzlers do, even if fossil fuels would be used to generate the electricity and store it in an electric car's batteries. Obviously this example adopts the worst case scenario for the electric car, so it's much better off in all other scenarios.
"According to Tesla, the well-to-tank efficiency of gasoline is 81.7 percent, while the well-to-battery efficiency of natural-gas-generated electricity is 52.5 percent. At first glance, the gasoline looks more efficient, but keep in mind that efficiency is lost in the combustion engine. Because of the fact that the Tesla electric roadster has no internal combustion engine and no conventional transmission, its efficiency is an impressive 2.14 km/MJ. For comparison, the hybrid Prius is 0.68 km/MJ, and a conventional Honda Civic is 0.63 km/MJ. When you combine the well-to-tank efficiency with the vehicle's efficiency, the Tesla has a well-to-wheel efficiency of 1.14 km/MJ, compared with 0.556 km/MJ for the Prius."

So, if the electricity can be provided from renewable sources, electric vehicles are super efficient in comparison with cars that eat fuel.

There's few interesting discussion topics that come up when assuming that everyone has an electric car instead of a fuel powered one. A common argument is the dooming scarcity of electricity when we're switching over to an electric era. I'm pretty reassured that, if this problem would indeed occur, we can easily deal with it. Renewable energy systems encompass a broad, diverse array of technologies that is undergoing a constant influx of innovations. The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources is a few cents per kWh, which is comparable to, for example, coal. The potential cost of various technologies is much lower than that of coal, so the future is bright. Again, the current crisis brings me in an optimistic mood; The shifts in thinking about producing cars and environmentally friendly energy production will be part of getting us out of the current trouble. Only a few days ago, the Swedish government has been proving themselves worthy in how they're dealing the crisis; With looming bankruptcy for Saab, the Swedish minster of trade has insisted that Saab moves away from producing cars and should shift their business from manufacturing cars to producing wind turbines, if Saab wants to receive any support from their government to get out of trouble. A staggering move, indeed. Let's just hope it inspires other governments (Obama, this is your cue) to urgently consider similar moves.

Another common argument about electric vehicles is about their range of electric cars. In the case of the Tesla car, its range is about 350km before you need to recharge it for about 3.5 hours. That's not good for a trip that requires some 1000 kilometers, but, honestly, how often do you need to drive that far? Many families will have a trip once a year that requires such a range, but I'm sure that more than 95% of the people on the road could easily fit their daily range in a few tens of kilometers, so the range of an electric powered car being in the hundreds of kilometers will easily satisfy many people. Also, I'm confident that the range of electric cars will steadily improve as the technology in electric motors and batteries will evolve, although I'm far from being an expert in these fields. Currently, we're stuck in a virtuous cycle where batteries are considered not to be good enough for producing electric cars, and as long there's no mass production of electric vehicles, there's not enough pressure on improving the state of the art. We'll have to break this cycle in the next few years because of other reasons mentioned above and I'm very optimistic that the technology involved with it will take great steps forward as a consequence, greatly enhancing the range of electric vehicles. Prices for great electric cars, like the Tesla roadster, are extraordinary for most of us, but as the future will bring mass produced electric vehicles from big car companies (like Ford, see above), prices will drop considerably.

There are some serious misconceptions and doubts about the performance of electric vehicles. When we see a rare electric car, it's often a slow one. Golf karts, forklift trucks and stupid looking electric vehicles that can't go above 50 km/h are bad examples of what an electric vehicle can do. Luckily, the Tesla roadster tells the story of a really powerful car with amazing acceleration statistics. It goes from 0 to 100 in 3.7 seconds which puts it well in the top 50 fastest accelerating production cars, just ahead of a Ferrari F40. Electric engines provide 100% torque, 100% of the time. Electric karts have already shown that they could dominate fuel powered karts as well, since the acceleration of an electric motor leaves the gas karts at a standstill at the starting line.

Electric is simpler. Building an electric car requires less skill than fuel powered cars. Note that the first electric cars were invented around 1835, more than 50 years before gasoline engines were getting ready for mass production. Electric engines being less complex is our main reason when getting our hands dirty and building our own kart, but it is also a good reason why it should be phased in into any road vehicle. An electric engine only consists of a few components; a few batteries, a controller and a motor. A typical four-cylinder engine of a conventional car comprises over a hundred moving parts. By comparison, the motor of an electric car would just have one: the rotor. An electric engine doesn't easily deteriorate or break down and doesn't need regular maintenance. You don't need to pay the costs of maintaining a fuel powered engine by frequently having to change the oil, coolants, spark plugs or any of the complexities that come along with gasoline engines. Batteries will have to be changed, though, every 100.000 to 150.000 kilometers. All of the technology that has been developed for fuel munching engines can be thrown out, and the end result is a simpler and better performing car. Electric engines are so simple that I, as a complete newbie on this technical level, am very optimistic that I can build, drive and maintain an electric kart on my own, without having to ever grasp how a gas engine works. And I can't be bothered with that knowledge either. I consider fuel powered motors to be ancient technology.

I strongly believe there's plenty of reasons why we'll be going electric on our kart. If we can manage to successfully complete this project, as complete newbies, I'm sure the car companies will be able to swiftly pull of this kind of a stunt as well. More so, I'm completely baffled that our streets are still filled with fossil fuel powered cars when there's such a better alternative, on every level. But I'm confident that change is upon us and the era of fossil fueled road transportation is at its end. I, for one, welcome the era of electric transportation!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A seat and engine mount

We visited the shop of outdoor karting club Antwerp karting, to take a look at some karts, check out some of the gear they're selling and, foremost, to secure a seat and a mount for our engine. We paid just over 100€ for these parts, the Tillett seat and engine mount being second hands (our butts just barely fit in the seat, there won't be much fun for those with bigger asses, unless we can get a bigger seat later on), and some new kits to mount the seat and engine to the frame.

With the seat installed, as in the following picture, we now have a fully rolling kart, which is an awesome milestone. Additionally, you can see the new engine mount that we bought, at the left of the seat. This is a standard mount for karts and can slide over the frame to adjust the strength of the chain that will connect the engine to the rear axle sprocket, later on.


Up until now, all these jobs are quite standard, independent of whether it would become a gas or electric powered kart. Now it's time to take the big jump into the electric world and get going on installing our own idea of what a kart (or any other road vehicle!) power house should consist of; batteries and an electric motor. Since we don't have these components yet, we'll have a short pause in building the kart. Walle will be going to Egypt for a couple of weeks, and I'll use the time to practice my welding skills to get the frame for the batteries and the frame to bolt the engine onto our new mount. And in the mean time, we'll study the next parts to buy, and figure out a budget that doesn't hurt too much.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's a DINO kart

I've been wondering about the brand and model of kart that we got, but couldn't find any obvious helpful markings on the frame. The steering wheel pretty clearly shows the "DINO" brand, but since most things on the kart have gone through more than one life, the steering wheel could've been a hack by a previous owner.

Today, I discovered another "DINO" marking on the brake system, part of which is welded onto the frame. It's unlikely that this has been an add-on by a previous owner, so my bet is that we have bought a kart with a DINO kart racing frame. The model is no longer produced (no surprise there, I'm guessing the frame is somewhere between 10 and 20 years old) so we're still in the dark about the specific model. Any help identifying the model type of our frame would be helpful.

Update: The guy from the local kart parts shop confirmed it as being a DINO kart, probably older than 20 years. He referred to the kart as being "retro", which is kinda cool. We'll be going new skool and old skool at the same time.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Getting closer to a rolling kart

Walle came over today, so we bled the brake fluid. Stafke helped as well. As a result, we no longer have air bubbles stuck in the hydraulics lines. With some further tweaking of the brake pads, they now retract after braking, instead of getting stuck, which they did before. Being newbies and all, we learned completely new stuff with this little job. In the following, Staf (he's 4) demonstrates how the bleeding is done.

The tires got flat over the last few days, which is kind of worrying. I got a compressor and I've inflated the tires to 2 bar.

After some more stripping down decorative and unnecessary parts we're getting closer to a bare bones kart. All we need now is a seat and the kids can pushed around on a smooth rolling kart. The following picture shows the kart in our garage, its usual position is to sit on those two little Ikea tables so we can access all parts easily.

We'll be checking out a kart shop on Tuesday to try and get a seat and brackets to install it. Maybe we can get our hands on an engine mount as well.

Walle will be getting his head wrapped around setting up the circuitry for the engine. The fact that we'll be pumping 4800 Watt through the circuit (100 Ampère at 48 Volt is the normal mode, we could get the motor up to 300A for its peak if we want) is somehow frightening to me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My first little steps ...

I'm a complete newbie at this stuff. I haven't handled anything other than bicycles previously and even then, that's only been at the basic level of fixing flat tires. I'm doing this project to learn stuff and I'm aware that there's still many many jobs that I have never done before and have no clue how to do them. I'm probably not even aware of the majority of these details.

So today, I started off with some basic jobs, tinkering with things to try and get some extremely basic hands-on experience. I figured out how the braking pads can be adjusted, by fastening the nut on the middle bolt of the braking system. I had a go at removing a complete wheel from the rear axle and removed the pulley that was installed by a previous owner. We'll be putting in gears at the other side of the axle later on, as the motor will be placed at the other side anyways. After strategically applying some WD40 here and there, we now have a smoothly rotating rear axle, which is great. Here's the rear axle without its pulley.


Originally, I wanted to get the bubbles out of the hydraulics lines of the braking system. The process to do this is called "bleeding"; while pumping the brakes and opening/closing the outlet at the brake, you can refill the brake lines with bubble-free braking fluid, which I found for 7€ at a car maintenance store. Unfortunately I only have two hands, so I'll hold this job until I get some help from two other hands.

I've been taking a look at where the motor block will be going. The carpenter rule in the next picture roughly shows the size of how big the engine mount will have to be and where it will be located. It will have a pretty big footprint, at about 20 by 20 cm. If we don't want to get rid of the plastic boxes on the sides of the kart, we'll need to access the tube which would end up in the left-middle of the mount.


Next up: getting those bubbles out of the brake lines and finding a seat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alternative Motor

Found this possible alternative to the e-tek motor by Agni used to break the electric speedboat world record. The man who built this motorbike looks/talks a bit peculiar but he did make a bike with very good specs using his motors (rectangular laminations for higher heat dispercion).

Agnum motor and thundersky lithium battery gives 200 miles and range at 60mph top speed.

Here is a video.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A rudimentary to-do list

Now that we have the kart in our garage, it is time to settle on an initial plan of attack, choosing some high priority jobs. Obviously, most of the energetic discussions about the project over the last weekend have revolved around pimping the kart with lights, a boom box, shiny painting skills, and whatnot, ignoring the vital requirement of having a kart that you can actually ride around. So here's an initial plan on how to get it up and running, with some to-dos that need to be done before bringing in the pimp shizzle.
  1. The kart is currently out of a seat. In order to fit in all the (large) components, such as the batteries and the electric motor, it would be wise to know how much space a seat would take up, so we can figure out where to install all the vital components. Putting in a seat is supposed to be an easy and inexpensive first task.
  2. A frame will have to be constructed that allows to attach four 12V car batteries to the kart (2 batteries on either side), providing us with 48V for the motor. But in order to start constructing this part, we need to know the batteries that are to be used, and their dimensions. I think it is best to weld a rack to the kart that can hold a few batteries with tie down straps, and can then be flexibly be replaced by other battery types if this is needed later on.
  3. As for our motor, we would like to use an Etek R motor, which provides us with 4800W of power, consuming 100A to deliver about 10hp or providing 15hp peak power while consuming up to 200-300A. A mount for the engine, in order to be able to attach it to the frame is needed as well. Standard kart engine mounts exist and can be bought quite expensively from kart shops, but they are probably not well suited for fitting our motor to the kart frame, so we'll be welding our own mount there as well, as in the diagram below.
  4. Other parts, like the controller (we're probably going to choose an AllTrax AXE controller), a potentiometer near the gas pedal and miscellaneous wiring -- although equally vital to the construction of an electric kart -- will be a lot easier to integrate in comparison to the batteries and motor. With some wiring, we'll set up a separate motor circuit first and then integrate it when the construction of frames is ready.

If we can finish the above steps, we would have a running kart, in theory. There's probably 200 little details that are going to be in the way of the above installation procedures, but they're there to learn from.

Here's a temporary shopping list of stuff that needs to be integrated
  1. A seat and brackets for its installation
  2. 4 batteries that can deliver about 100Ah over 48V, L-shaped bars (welded into a rack) and tie down straps to mount the batteries to the frame
  3. A motor and some metal plating welded and transformed into an engine mount
  4. A controller, wiring and electronics to make it all work

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Le kart est arrivé près de chez nous

Yesterday, we went to pick up our kart base. We have studied it thoroughly, had plenty of construction ideas and took it for a first test drive, pushing it down the street. During the ride, we broke the seat contraption, so we removed it to make space for a new seat, and removed other stuff (like the gas cable) that we won't need for our conversion to an all-electric kart.

Below are more pictures of the kart (without the side bumpers, and missing its broken seat) in front of my garage. Louis is demoing the steering wheel.



The kart looks like a great base for our own build. The steering and braking looks in a sufficient condition so we don't have to replace it immediately. There's plenty of space on the frame to start our upgrade, putting in new mounts for the batteries and the motor.



Two 12V car batteries will be mounted on either side of the seat, we'll install an electric motor and its drive train to the right and back of the seat, mount a potentiometer to the gas pedal, and do some wiring to get it all up and running. An extra battery will probably be added later on to provide some extra juice for a car radio, bling bling, and a boom box :) We've also had plenty ideas on the finish, and we're planning to repaint it in a shiny black, with plenty of electronics and colorful LEDs to make it look pimp shit. But the highest priorities are obviously in getting it up and running.

As the first steps, we'll have to put in a new seat, check the braking system as it doesn't seem to be perfectly aligned, and get the back axle rolling smoothly, so we'll have to disassemble its bearings, and put it all back together.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A rolling kart

I found this "rolling" kart, which has a frame, wheels, steering and braking installed. It looks pretty beat up, but it's dead cheap. The motor is missing but that is a good thing, I don't need it anyway. Here's some pictures of the kart.


Here's a close-up of the hydraulic brake on the kart:


Before even thinking about mounting new gear to such a kart, there's a first few obvious jobs that need to be done. We'll have to take apart the frame, clean it up, sand it down, repaint it, put the kart back together and fix stuff that needs fixing to get it rolling again. We'll then see what to do next.

I'll be checking it out on Friday. I hope it fits in the car, it looks like a great base to start the build from.

Can we create our own electric kart?

Electric vehicles are receiving a lot of attention, both in our minds and in many minds around the globe. Since a few months, I'm commuting with a beautiful Biketec Flyer T8 pedal-assisting bicycle, about 20 kilometers each day. As I apply force to the pedals, an electric motor provides that amount of force to the bicycle chain as well. It makes the ride lots of fun; getting to speed at stop lights and crossing bridges is lovely.

So now, I'm hungry for more. Now I want an all-electric non-human-powered vehicle. I'm not expecting affordable, great all-electric cars from our failing bunch of manufacturers, so this time we're going to build one ourselves! A small car might be somehow technically possible to conceive, but shop space is sparse, and there's no way we can ever get the car regulated so that we can actually drive it around. Instead of upgrading either a bicycle or a full car, we're trying somewhere in the middle.

A kart has a simple frame and construction. We add a bunch of frames for car batteries on the sides and an electric motor in the back. We add these components, together with a controller and some wiring, and that's that (in theory). OK, we can't get a kart regulated either, but at least a kart takes less space than a complete car and the kart can be transported (by a fuel-munching automobile) to open places -- like parking lots or industrial terrains -- to play with it. But I'm expecting the process of constructing the kart will be a whole lot more enjoyable than driving it around. The fun is in the challenge of getting it to work.

As this is supposed to be a great hack, we'll try to get it built before the Hacking At Random conference in the Netherlands this summer so we can showcase the electric kart at the event.

I'm setting up this blog to keep track of my progress. The project has a semi long term goal, of being ready by August 2009, and there will be interruptions along the line, so plenty of bursts of ideas in the middle of long silences on this blog may occur.