Electric Trike





Introduction: Electric Trike

About: Appreciate what you've got, every day will bring something new.

This is a general how-to on building your own electric bike from off the shelf parts. I use this as my 'daily driver' once the snow if off the roads here in the North East US. I have a 16 mile commute and that can take up to 45 minutes in my car on an average day or an hour on a bad day. I clock in a consistent 30 minute commute with this machine (20mph motor power max + my pedaling it up to 30mph). As you can see in the video below, I can roll past stationary traffic.

I also cycle but that takes about 50 minutes each way. With eTrike that is roughly 3.5 hours a week of commute reduced.

In the past I've built standard 2-wheel ebikes but found them both high maintenance for the amount of mileage I do and somewhat unstable due to the high center of gravity.

The Trike setup spreads the extra weight out across three wheels and is uber stable. The major downside is visability but I think that's more a matter of perception. I clock in around 1500-2000 miles a year commuting on this thing and have had 0 issues.

First I'll step through the build from trike kit to adding the motor & battery

Step 1: Base Frame

Trikes can be expensive but I went with the UK designed KMX brand which is both cheaper but also stronger. As with making a standard ebike you want a steel frame for durability. This is what makes converting a KMX frame ideal for this application.

I also swaped out the tires for the largest schwable's that would fit on the rims. I find them an nice balance between durability and grip.

The first step is to lay out all the cabling and base components, and adjust any cable lengths before zip-tying things down. Road conditions may vary in your part of the wood. Here in Massachusetts this bike takes a beating. And on that point..

Check your local laws regarding speed. I think most states require you go no faster that 20mph on an electric bike.


Obviously the faster you go the harder those bumps hit you. My trike has a max top speed of 45mph (which I tested offroad)

Step 2: Adding the Powertrain

I replaced the rear wheel with a 1 kW pancake motor powered by a 20Ah battery based on my commute distance. There are many vendors online, I don't have a particular preference, it's cheaper to buy direct from China but takes longer to ship. You pay an overhead to more local reseller but have better support if you have an issue.

A great forum for the electric bike world is http://endless-sphere.com/forums/

I won't mention the specific Chinese vendor as I did have issues with the vendor getting caught shipping Lithium batteries out of China without the proper paperwork (A common problem it seems). I will say though that everything is made in China and the vendors over there tend to be much better at customer support than they get credit for.

You will want to take everything apart and seal components with a silicone sealant if it tends to rain where you live.

In is instructable captures a refit from the first instance of this trike. After a year of hard riding I've modified the layout to be even more durable. I moved the battery from the rack to behind the drivers seat. I also encapsulated all electrical connections in a watertight compartment.

Step 3: The Cockpit

It's critical to get the cockpit setup just right or you're going to have a bad time. Some tips

You are going to need a bigger crank; I currently have a 60tooth set on the front which covers most of my range nicely.

Leather gloves; with your hands so close to the front tires you will graze skin quite easily

Rearview; you cannot have enough mirrors. Especially useful when you need to move over to let traffic past.

Flag; because you're so low to the ground you need to make drivers more aware. I have about 2000 lumen of light pumping out the back in various forms and recently added blue reflective tape - drivers are tuned to spot blue thanks to police cars.

(note the two images with the trailer are from last year with the battery on the rack)



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    quick question, how many hours do you get on a single charge and how long does it take to charge back up to full?

    1 reply

    I love these tadpole trikes, but due diligence is required to stay alive. Even with the flag, you must assume you are invisible. Zipping past stopped traffic is asking for painful interference when a four-wheeler suddenly decides they're turning right. Also, the larger front sprocket will make up-hill starts really hard, because electrics don't have loads of initial torque. Does your system use pedal-assist? Without some kind of work-out I'd quickly go from fat to fatter. I've pushed 45mph downhill on my trike, and at that speed the steering gets pretty twitchy. Maybe some kind of damper on the steering? Nice work, "radiorental."

    Is it possible to get or find somewhere the design of this trike?

    1 reply

    When you say a 16 mile commute is that 8 each way? What sort of range do you get? Adding up the expenses I would guess you are coming around $1,500 or more for the trike. Still you probably save that much in gas.

    1 reply

    16.7 miles each way. 33mile round trip. The trike paid for itself at around 1600 miles with my back of the napkin calculations.

    very cool. Your driving video made me nervous though. It would be too easy to be hit. That would be a perfect urban vehicle though.

    1 reply

    "It would be too easy to be hit." I agree, if you're not careful.

    This is a route I have traveled for 7-8 years so I know it well, where cars generally make random turns etc.

    I would not not recommend a trike on unknown country lanes.

    do not recommend passing moving vehicles. And, most importantly I do
    recommend traveling during commute hours and not off-peak. Drivers are
    more aware when there's other traffic. I've noticed that on my
    motorcycle/bicycle/trike and even car, other drivers tend to pay less
    attention to their surrounding when traffic is light.

    That all
    said, I've been hit once on this commute on my bicycle and
    a handful of near misses. With 0 hits on the trike so far and no near misses
    that I can recall in roughly the same distance covered.

    It's very counter intuitive but one theory I have is
    that the closer you travel to the speed of traffic then the less
    'passing' there is, the less opportunity for 'interaction' (o;