Advanced Brushless Power Systems for Small Electric Scooters




Introduction: Advanced Brushless Power Systems for Small Electric Scooters

About: lol robots

Thesis: It is feasible to construct a very powerful, efficient, and lightweight personal mobility device using hobby-grade equipment for under $400. This amount can be drastically less depending on the individual requirements of the builder. This is possible only through the extremely high power density of modern battery, motor, and controller technologies and the extremely low cost thereof in the radio control model hobbies. The advantages of constructing your own personal electric vehicle include educational experience, the ability to self-service, and the ability to customize to your own preferences at will.

I'm a builder and tinkerer by nature, and am always on the lookout for cool parts, devices which can be made better with cool parts, or some times both. During the summer months of 2007, I happened upon a chance to work with both.

As a bit of backstory, I build and compete fighting robots - as in Battlebots and Robot Wars - and as other builders of robots and non-robots may know, the search for the perfect motor is neverending. In June of 2007, I went on a trip to China to visit my aging grandparents... and hunt for parts. As RC hobbyists may know, China is the prime source of the vast majority of model equipment these days - big-branded or not.

So it was in a small hobby shop in a neighborhood of Beijing that I spotted this large outrunner motor. The only word to describe it was "assnormous" - according to the info card, it was a "7050/6" type motor. Translation: 70mm diameter stator, 50mm stator length, 6 turns per stator pole. Real translation: Massive power. It claimed 6 kilowatts maximum, but as overrrated as many hobby parts tend to be, I didn't trust the rating. Many high-quality BLDC motors of this size range can produce up to 10-11 kilowatts of power. They also cost a cool grand or two, not the $100 I ended up getting this motor for. Here's one example.

However, that didn't prevent me from impulsively buying it, since it's bigger than every other brushless motor I had at the time anyway.

Back in the US, I had to figure out what on earth to do with such a gigantic motor. I had no controller for it, no battery system that could possibly feed it, and no application. My personal hovercraft project was ditched a year before. I could not shove this motor into a 12-pound class combat 'bot.

It took a lucky trip to a local flea market to get this project going. On that day, I passed by the usual vendors selling toys when I noticed one had a small electric scooter, about the size of a large Razor scooter.

And it all went downhill from there.

(Update 15 January 2009) Hey guys, I have 31,000 views and 21 rates? Please rate whether you liked it or not, because that provides me with feedback! As always, comments and questions are welcome. Also, I am preparing a writeup on the wheelmotor scooter, but want to get my motor theory a bit more inline before I finish it.

Step 1: Select Your Vehicle

General considerations Just about any wheeled object you pick up these days can be hacked, modded, or boosted to yield a higher power-to-weight ratio. What is particularly exciting about electric vehicles is that this process is comparatively easy, part of the reason why I am eagerly awaiting mainstream electric cars, having reached the age of unlimited desire in vehicular performance.

The basic technology of almost all small EVs - scooter, bike, or car - these days is lead-acid batteries and large DC motors. While the heavy build of these parts increases their relative durability compared to a lighter but more powerful part, performance is often left to be desired.

Hence, most small EVs you may find are amenable to power mods. I focused specifically on an electric scooter since.. well, I had one, but also because they tend to be small and extremely portable. One example of a commercial "mini-electric scooter" is the Roth Motorboard 2000XR, which, while extremely compact, has the performance of much larger vehicles.

Larger electric scooters such as the steel tube-framed pneumatic-wheel types can stand a more massive power system than what you can fit on a Razor-size scooter, but weigh comparatively more. Bicycles, electric or not, are another common conversion base. Conversions aside, you can build an electric powertrain into whatever you please.

Conceptually, however different the physical manifestation, the operation of the vehicles are the same, as shown in the diagram. EVs are relatively simple things at their very basic level.

In the end, the kind of power system and performance you will get is a function of how much money you want to spend and what your goal is. Something to move you around campus or town won't cost as much as the next Killacycle.

My personal conversion was an electric scooter whose primary intended application was as a campusmobile for college. It is a Sharper Image Electric X2 model scooter I bought nth-hand for $10, with leaking batteries, no charger, and a slipping belt drive. It was pretty much perfect.

Step 2: Mechanical

There are several considerations to be made about the mechanics of your ride.

1. Can the stock power transmission system be used, or, if not, what type will it be replaced with?

Most vehicle systems are specifically designed and calibrated to work well a power level dictated by the manufacturer, and can only handle a certain amount of overhead before something detonates. Depending on how severely you decide to upgrade, you might have to rebuild the power transmission - stronger gears, harder axles, wider belts, etc.

Usually, it is easiest to upgrade in the same family of technologies. For instance, upgrading from #25 chain drive to #35 for more strength, or 5mm HTD timing belt from 3mm timing belt. This is due to the similar form factors for similar technologies - a sprocket has much the same profile as another sprocket, and you can get a new timing pulley in the same width and material as the old, but with bigger teeth. Often, less modification of the structure, wheel hub, etc. is required if the method is kept the same.

However, this all depends on how much you want to change or how much you want to build or buy. A more powerful motor could easily accomplish the same task using a one-stage pulley system in the same space where a previous, weaker motor had to use a large gearbox. Many electric car conversions retain the stock transmission since the electric motor develops similar torque to the engine being replaced, while others using high-torque motors often do away with the transmission and only use the gear reduction of the rear differential.

In the case of this scooter build, the stock 150-200 watt motor was well-suited to the all-plastic powertrain it was attached to. However, I knew that the giant outrunner would shear the tiny belt teeth off instantly.

I went to Stock Drive Products and got myself a set of 5mm HTD timing belts and pulleys in 15mm width, which is both a 5mm upgrade in width and a 2mm upgrade in tooth pitch.

HTD type belts have round teeth which are wide at the base, enabling them to transmit significantly more torque (HTD = High Torque Drive) than a standard timing belt (usually of the "GT" series) of similar pitch.

These pulleys required some creative wrangling to fit into the slightly narrow space, however...

2. Does the chassis require modification in order to fit the upgraded battery, motor, controller, etc.?

There were two problems to be solved. Number one was attaching the big pulley to the wheel, and number two was attaching the new motor pulley to the motor.

In the general case, there is a tradeoff between how well your components would work in an optimal situation and how much machining you're willing to do to reach it. If using your desired motor requires rebuilding the entire back end of your vehicle, it might be wise to consider another vehicle, or to save your motor for another project. If you're going totally balls-out anyways, you're probably not the target audience for this article.

Often, this entails picking components which are either similar in size or even smaller than stock. Considering the vast increases in power-to-weight ratio of a BLDC motor to a similar ferrite-magnet, standard-issue run-of-the-mill PMDC motor, this is often a viable solution. Again, realize that an equivalent DC motor that can produce 10 kilowatts of power like the Plettenberg Predator is usually about 8 inches in diameter, a foot long, and weighs over 100 pounds. *

In this build, adapting the new pulleys and belts was not too hard, but did require access to a lathe, which a good friend of mine was able to help with. I planned out a stronger hub attachment than the stock double-d mount for the wheel (which would explode instantly on application of power from the new motor). Also, I enlarged the bore of the motor pulley to fit on the motor, and secured it in place with a pin, which both transmits torque and locates the pulley axially so it does not slide around.

A series of holes were drilled at a measured diameter around the large aluminum wheel pulley's hub such that dowel pins, when pressed in these holes, were able to grip the wheel spokes. This greatly increased the strength of the attachment over a plastic double-D shaft. The hub of the wheel pulley was machined to fit snugly into the bore of a 5" scooter wheel, and a bearing cavity was also machined into it at the right location such at the entire new assembly was able to just drop into the space where the previous wheel-pulley assembly was without its axle spacer. I took up the space which that spacer used in order to add a larger part.

I did need to cut away a bit of the chassis to clear the new wide pulley, but this was just a few minutes with a file.

Next, I needed to find a way to mount the new motor.

3. What is the most effective way to mount new components if they cannot be simply dropped in?

This sort of goes in concert with question #2. While add-on mounting systems aren't as hard to re-engineer as the entire chassis, you still have to make sure you can actually put your new part on. Usually it's the transition from "small" to "large" which is an issue, and not the reverse, but one thing that smaller parts require is adaptor plates, shaft couplers, bore spacers, etc. in order to interface to the rest of the system.

Many motors are face-mounted, which means they have bolts sticking out of the same side as the output shaft, or perhaps threaded holes. They are intended for use in applications where they're directly stuck into the side of something.

Some other motors have base mounts, which are usually welded steel brackets that have bolt holes, for mounting the motor shaft parallel to a surface. Other motors yet have absolutely no mounts - they're designed to be clamped by a circular ring, such as as a hose clamp, into the frame!

The biggest challenge is usually converting between these types of mounts. Large metal angle brackets, with the bolt circle of the motor drilled on one leg and a mounting pattern on the other, are often used to convert base-mount to face-mount and vice versa. Here's one example, which is also often used in large industrial motors, since they make for versatile mounting arrangements.

Base-mount and clamp-mount conversions are also doable, but usually require some more engineering. They can be as simple as a circular cutout of the motor's diameter in a piece of material and a strap or clamp over the motor that holds it sturdily to that base material. Mounting holes are in turn drilled into the base. To convert clamp-mount to face-mount often entails drilling or machining mounting holes into one end of the motor.

Here's a good example of a clamp mount for a high performance DC motor (which also happens to be a great form of EV motor!)

Luckily, in my case, the bolt circle of the large outrunner was just a hair over that of the stock motor. I did not have to do much machining at all, since I only had to cut a bit of material off one mounting hole which was close to the back end of the mount, as seen in the pictures. Effectively, I have a bolt-and-slot configuration which also allows for convenient belt tension adjustment.

The new motor did not have mounting studs, so I had to simulate it using some long allen-head cap screws, washers, and aluminum spacers. This was handy since I had to increase the mounting offset (from face of motor to face of mount) to clear the wider belt pulley. A gallon of red Loctite later and the assembly was bulletproof.

One thing that you have to remember is that most of the time, electric motors do not directly drive their loads. Prime movers in any situation - internal combustion or otherwise - tend to move too quickly and with too little force to be directly applied to their load efficiently, which is why cars come with a pile of gears attached to the engine. The same is true for electric motors. A high performance brushless DC motor will hit speeds of over 20,000 RPM without incident, and the most extreme ones regularly exceed 60,000 RPM. On an 8 inch pneumatic wheel, that's a little bit over half the speed of sound at mean sea level. Fun, right? But it will never get there, and chances are it will not even start you moving. Even the power required to keep a steady speed against wind resistance will overwhelm it at a certain speed.

Most electric motors have an interesting property that their torque-speed curves are linear, with maximum torque at 0RPM and minimum (zero net) torque at maximum rotational speed. The motor will find a happy balancing point somewhere in the middle, the exactly location of which depends on your gearing, wheel size, electrical system capability, transmission efficiency, and a bunch of other stochastic processes. Overall, power does not automatically mean torque, which is what actually gets you moving. So that begs one last question to be asked:

4. Does the gearing need to be changed? A motor that runs far faster than stock might warrant additional gearing to operate efficiently. The stock reduction on the 200 watt motor was 4:1. I decided that since the giant outrunner was an order of magnitude more powerful, that a slightly lower reduction was not going to hurt performance. Also, the largest pulley I could fit in the dimensions given and which SDP had in stock was 3.75:1.

*Note that this DC motor is most likely designed to produce 10KW reliably with minimal heating, while the BLDC motor will require active cooling due to its reduced size. This is a rough comparison with maximum power figures.

Step 3: Electrical

Mechanical bits are no good without the electrical bits to run them. It's a well known fact that batteries are the biggest limiting factor in an electric vehicle. Electrochemical technology alone cannot even begin to compete with the raw chemical energy stored in liquid and solid fuels at this time. Often, a good percentage of the weight of an EV is made of batteries, so if you're converting from scratch, make sure to take this into account. For a small vehicle like a scooter or bike, it's easy to tack on 30% or more of the original vehicle weight just for batteries.

Chances are, you will have to either upgrade or replace any existing electrical system. You've heard the whole talk about batteries - lead acid is cheap and heavy, lithium ion is expensive but awesome, and nickel chemistries float somewhere in between. The usual suspects in electric scooters and bikes these days are still lead-acid - usually the big 7-20AH types, and not particular high-amperage types (Just how many amps can you pull through a little 1/4" tab?).

When upgrading to a BLDC system, it's sort of counterproductive to keep the old, heavy batteries. Although this is easy to say, a good equivalent lithium polymer battery pack to a 12v, 7AH SLA battery (roughly 3 Li cells in series) will still run over $150-200. However, I think the expense is warranted. A high-discharge rated LiPo battery will supply more of its rated capacity at sustained high current draw than an equivalent SLA - the chemistry itself is simply more efficient. You will get vastly improved battery life for an equivalent capacity simply by switching to a chemistry that can stand the discharge characteristics of an EV (heavy burst, moderate continuous current).

At the very least, I would either start with or upgrade to nickel-cadmium cells, of which there is a wide selection. The Sanyo N3000CR cells I used on this build are a classic, and can dump 80 amps continuously. If you want more energy density, look for nickel metal hydride cells. If you want ultimate performance, check out a set of lithium polymer or lithium iron phosphate, which, although even more expensive, won't run the risk of catching on fire.

Not to fear-hype, of course, since LiPos are good at being stable if you charge them correctly. That's a good side-note actually. Buy a good charger if you're switching chemistries! Here's a site that has a slew of single-duty dedichargers. Many of those are OEM for companies like Razor or Currie, and while they don't have all the bells and whistles, tend to be plug-in-and-leave.

Here's a neat section of the RobotMarketPlace that lets you design and order your own battery pack.

Pictured below is the stock 2.8AH, 24v sub-C pack that came with the Electric X2. As you can probably tell, it's neither 24 volts nor 2.8AH any more, as almost all the cells have corroded in some way.

If you resize, you have to resize according to the predicted increase in power. This should pretty much be common sense. If you can afford the space or cost, it might be better to go for something with more overhead so you have space to grow for future upgrades.

For this project, I splurged on a 100 amp, 44v brushless ESC with a programming card. This was a full 100% nameplate rating over anything the rest of my electrical system could support at the time, but with the cost of large lithium batteries falling, I decided to give myself that room to expand.

I investigated several alternatives. One of them cost only $70, but was limited to 10S (about 37 volts), and came without mounting tabs. The rest were limited to 6 lithium cells. There was a decision to make - go with the 6S, inexpensive controllers and save on controller costs and battery charger costs, or go all-out with the 12S controller and as many cells as I could fit into the scooter.

I heeded the old adage "buy right or buy twice" and went with the latter option. Electronics are some of the most important parts of any project, and you should never skimp on them. The worst thing that can happen is to have an overloaded part fail while you're on the vehicle, because unless you have a good contingency plan, Really Bad Things will happen. Especially with R/C hobby equipment, which is often of dubious quality and stretched capacities and ratings, you want to give yourself some space, and never run components at their "maximum" power. Thus is the tradeoff between industrial and hobby parts.

Make sure your new stuff can talk to your old stuff. One of the biggest challenges with upgrading anything is backward compatibility (you software guys ought to know this well). If you are only upgrading one or two parts, for instance, the motor or controller, you will probably need to modify something unless it's a factory OEM part (then what's the fun in that?!). The biggest challenge by far is not interfacing physically, as wires can be swapped and connectors switched, but signalling.

Many stock DC motor controllers on bikes and scooters tend to be very simple devices. They are controlled by a 1 to 4 volt analog voltage, from any source. They often have no microprocessor in them at all, only a series of op-amps which are attached to a PWM generator that directly translates the analog voltage to an output. This 1-4v analog control is a standard in industry, and even large (and smarter) golf kart and forklift controllers use them (see 4QD controllers, famous for driving many Robot Wars and Battlebots entries to victory). With that said, most of the throttles that interface you to said controllers output a plain 1-4v analog voltage, and is usually a big potentiometer with a spring loaded grip, pedal, handle, or whatnot. Simple, rugged, and proven.

When using an R/C controller, the signalling is very different. R/C servo control uses "pulse width modulation", which means the controller is driven by a series of digital pulses. The industry standard is 1.5ms (millisecond) long pulse for neutral, 1.0ms for full reverse, and 2.0ms for full forward, with pulses every 20 milliseconds or so. This is vastly different from what alot of electronics engineers think when they hear "PWM", which can also refer to a fixed frequency with variable duty cycle whose intent is to generate an analog voltage out, after being filtered.

So chances are you have to upgrade your bike or scooter throttle so it can put out a servo pulse. Problem? I have never seen one like that commercially! You will most likely have to rig your own signal interpreter, and there are numerous ways to do it.

1. Microcontroller. If you're down with programmable controllers, you can whip up a very quick servo signal generator using an ADC. The upside to this is that you can also include a slew of other features along with it - variable acceleration curves, battery monitoring, built-in datalogging, whatever. The most flexible option. Take a reading, scale it, and spit out a 1.5-2.0 (or 1.0-2.0, depending on your motor controller's tastes!) millisecond pulse every 20 milliseconds.

2. Commercial servo tester. These usually appear as boxes with buttons and knobs. If you want to operate an EV with it, you want the most drop-dead simplest type - a box with a knob that outputs a 1.0-2.0ms signal. You can then rig this to your own array of levers, springs, and whatnot to make a trottle. Most of these are even 5K potentiometer based, and so you can even rig your old bike / scooter throttle into the circuit.
Here's one example of an ultra-premium one for ultra-premium luxury servos with Corinthian leather. You do not want this.

This is a bone-stock basic one very much suited for throttle conversion.

The downside? Fixed, linear throttle curves and the requirement of mechanical trims. If your throttle neutral isn't the controller's neutral, you're out of luck unless you can physically adjust the throttle's travel limits! If you're a good e-hacker, you could twiddle some components and allow for adjustment, but if you're going that far, might as well go with option 1.

3. Brute-force DIY servo pulse generator circuit out of discrete components. This is the route I took, and I will never do it again.

At the time, I had no programming facilities, but did have piles and piles of components. So I decided to just get some perfboard and make a pulse generator from a 555 timer, which is pretty much the most common IC around.

There are many circuits online for simple servo pulse generators using a 555. Some use two (or one 556) to get a more stable signal. The simplest I found (and the one I ended up using) is here. 7 parts. You could probably make it hard-connection-to-hard-connection and wrap it up in a ball of duct tape.

I got a little more fancy, however, and laid all the parts out on two square perfboards (I didn't have one big one!) and also dropped in a 12 volt DC-DC regulator for future expansion accessories. You could mount this regulator elsewhere or not even use one at all, but I put one on just in case (And to run the underglows which never materialized)

Downsides? Although it's electronically trimmable (by putting a small trimpot on one leg of the main throttle pot), the components will be subject to temperature drift. Neutral in my room wasn't neutral outside, nor neutral in Boston. This is especially true if you are not using precision components. It's complicated, there's more parts to fail and solder joints to mess up. Don't do it (Unless you love putting yourself through pain).

I would really love to see an R/C type controller that can take a straight 1-4v input beucase the their power densities greatly exceed industrial controllers of the same type. How complicated can it be? Most of the airplane controllers I see have fat Atmel ATMEGA32 chips running them, which have onboard ADCs!

Someone want to hack one?

Step 4: Integration

Great, now you have a pile of parts and a vehicle sitting on top of it. Things won't happen unless you put it together, since unlike Transformers, our real-world objcts don't build themselves. Yet.

In terms of tools and equipment, you should have at least some basic EE tools - wiring tools, multimeter, etc. Because much of this is snap-together and COTS, you shouldn't have to do much custom electronics except if you are making a custom throttle interface, in which case things like an oscilloscope (to check for signal quality!), a good soldering station, etc. will be indispensible.

You should also have some shop tools. I've made many things in my garage, whose major tools are a small drill press, 10" compound miter saw, and Dremel. Not even a real Dremel, mind you. Hand tools included a power drill, jigsaw, and circular saw. Basically, you want to be able to put holes in metal and plastic.

(Ask me later about how you can mill with a miter saw and use a drill press as a lathe.)

For precision machine work, you want access to some kind of machine shop. "Precision" in this case means round things or things which need to be very straight - including axles, bolt circles, spacers, gearboxen, etc. The worst sticklers about tolerances are gears, and plain old belts are the best about it, so keep this in mind when you're designing. I had access to a lathe for turning the pulleys. That's pretty much all the machine work this project entailed.

I assume that you carefully planned out your build and didn't go about impulsively buying things that looked shiny, and have a plan for how things will go together. There are really too many ways of building these things that I can't really do a "general theory and guidelines" writeup, so I will just tell my tale.

Installing the batteries was a surprisingly easy task. The ElectricX2 housed its battery pack inside its channel-shaped chassis, and all it took was swapping my pack for the stocker. I found out that given my cell arrangement I could fit a maximum of 27 cells in the channel before hitting the rear brake stop and interfering with folding at the front.

So I did just that. The pack was made in a peak-and-valley config with an odd cell out to fit under the brake stop, giving me space for that last 27th cell. It's an odd number of cells for sure.

Two bits of aluminum angle were bolted into the side of the chassis, with the legs facing inwards, to retain the battery pack from underneath. Conveniently, the peak-and-valley arragement of C cells made for a pack just high enough to allow for some compression fitting with the retaining brackets such that it didn't go anywhere.

I ran the power leads out towards the back where the electricals were.

Bringing the R/C power meter into the mix required running one very long 10 gauge wire to the top of the handlebars and back. The meter took a direct reading from the large wire and didn't use some sort of remote sensing such as a hall-effect sensor, so I had to deal with it if I wanted it up top. This is one thing I'd change in the design - get a real datalogger or one with some remote sensors! 10 extra feet of wire adds system resistance which decreases overall efficiency.

The whole thing was mounted inside the little box that used to house the original power electronics

All other electronics were mounted on two aluminum side plates that were mounted to the left and right of the back end. There wasn't any space left for electronics inside, so they had to be moved outboard! Not exactly weather or bulletproof, but it got by.

Some last-mile things included a spring-loaded belt tensioner to take up some slack (Belts stretch!). I also replaced a missing suspension guide bolt

And violin, instant kilowatt electric scooter.

Step 5: Closing Thoughts

There were a few problems, and alongside them, some more questions.

1. DO YOU NEED THAT MUCH HORSEPOWER?! The new scooter was almost impossible to control. This was due to several reasons.

First and most obvious is that I have a 6KW motor hanging off the thing. It's huge, it's awkward, and it's monsterously torquey , being run near its rated voltage, with batteries that can burst-dump 150+ amps.

Second, the controller does not have a soft-start option. Actually, it does, but only for a split second - before it lays as much current as it possibly can into it.

Third, the wheelbase is small, I'm up high, and so the center of gravity is 3 feet in the air and almost over the rear wheels.

All this combines to give absolutely nightmarish handling - especially when trying to start. I found that the acceleration is so forceful from a standstill that it threw me off almost all the time. The only way I could stay on was to give it a good kick-start, then slowly ease in the throttle. If I did it too fast, I would fly off. Any time I punched the throttle too hard, I would fly off. It's a drag racer, and little more.

Clearly, the motor, even running at 2100 watts (the peak reading on my R/C meter on a good launch when I was actually able to hang on) was much too powerful.

So what should you do? Well, this is one data point. Unless you want a wheelie bar, a 7050 type motor is too huge. I'd say even one of the 63xx series or even a 50xx would do just fine moving this sized scooter with ~5:1 gearing. This 7050 motor is much more suited to a full-blown electric bike .

Alternatively, you could just run a lower voltage, say, 22.2 volts, and be able to run a less expensive electrical system alongside it. Alternatively, you could have a 44.4v lithium pack with a switch that could rearrange the cells in parallel or series - 22.2v paralleled for cruising, and 44.4v for drag racing. I'm not that ambitious.

Besides that, there was also the issue of...

2. How durable can you make it?

I didn't make it durable enough. It did great on smooth suburban Atlantan sidewalks and on my driveway. That environment went completely away as soon as I arrived at MIT in fall '07. The sidewalks were rough, most of the paving was done with cobblestones and tile, and there were more sidewalk ledges to jump.

All this completely destroyed my signal board within the first few days, splitting it into four pieces from the shocks! The scooter has no rear suspension and hard wheels, so each vibration and shock went straight to the components. Loctite was holding half the back end together within a week.

I noticed this first as a weird random resetting every fre dozen feet of riding. Of course, each reset means the ESC would brake the motor hard, and I occasionally had to avoid impending faceplants. On one occasion, it occured over the Harvard Bridge, and I almost flew over the guardrail and into the river below. That would have been really funny....not.

If I were to rebuild it, the signal board would be smaller, microcontroller based, and the DC-DC converter mounted elsewhere. It would reside on rubber shock mounts and be totally potted.

Last but not least...

3. Is it legal? Who cares?! Well, if you're going to be running a turbo-electric vehicle around town, you should note the local electric bike and scooter laws. Most jurisdictions classify these things as "electrically assisted mobility devices" or "mopeds", and have light or helmet laws. Electric scooters especially are in a strange gray-area of the law, since they are small enough to traverse sidewalks but are often blocked from doing so by electrically powered non-medical device laws. I have found that nobody really cares around here, and probably will not care unless I flout it in front of them.

It will depend on how much ass your local law enforcement is, how nanny-like your local government is,and how many old people there are to yell at you to get off their lawn.

This is one more area which I think small but power electric scooters have an advantage in. Stealth . From afar, it would be hard to tell whether or not your vehicle is electrically powered, and if you give it the occasional kick (to save batteries!), nobody will notice either.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to collect running video of this version. Disappointing, since when I was actually able to hang on for full cruising speed, it was blazingly fast. The calculated top speed was about 25MPH, and I probably managed at least 20. This is absolutely heart-stopping on tiny 5" urethane wheels, as one sidewalk seam can kill you.

So that's it. After arriving in Boston, I decommissioned this version of the scooter, and it currently resides in my closet. I'm working on a new version, however, which tries to incorporate everything I wanted to upgrade. Durability, simplicity, stealth, and compact....ness. It will have a large outrunner motor hiding inside the rear wheel (a hub motor) and use lithium ion batteries.

You may read the progress reports at my website under the "Snuffles project " pages, where "Snuffles" is the codename given to this scooter by a female friend of mine. All nasty, powerful machines must have cute, fluffy names, of course!

Step 6: Resources and Links

All in all, I spent probably $400 on this build in total.

$100 of it was for the motor controller
$100 for the motor itself
about $80 for drive components - pulleys, belts, and new wheels.
$30 on a battery charger
At least $50 on random-ass hardware!
$50 on the R/C meter.

I, of course, went as far as my finances then would allow. You can do one better, no doubt!

Here are some resources I found useful.

1. The self-explanatory Electric Scooter Parts. One guess as to what you might find here. Good source of drive components and some electronics, such as throttles.

2. United Hobbies / Hobbycity is a Hong Kong based distributor of hobby equipment. The site is vast and the selection is enormous. The prices are also excellent, and the quality is consistent. They also make absolutely no attempt to hide the fact that their stuff is Chinese in origin, unlike many shameless 'manufacturers'.

Check out their selection of high-discharge lithium batteries and assnormous outrunners!

3. The RobotMarketPlace is a one-stop-shop for more than just robot parts. Their selection of brushed DC equipment is very expansive, and they also have wheels, axles, pulleys, etc, including 5" polyurethane mountainboard wheels and giant pneumatic tires with built-in sprockets (Handy!)

4. McMaster-Carr Supply. Seriously, if you don't know who these guys are, I'll buy a crane from them to lift up the rock you're under. Any and all forms of hardware, drive parts, mechanical bits, and goodies for electrical wiring (Cheap prices on dual-pole Anderson-type connectors!), among 465,000 other things.

5. Stock Drive Products sells stock drive products, among them pulleys, belts, chains, gears, axles, bearings... you name it. SDP caters more towards the precision crowd while McMaster is more big-iron industrial, though their selection overlaps in those departments.

6. EBAY! You can find great junker chasses to start your build here.

7. Your local hardware store or hobby shop! Don't leave these guys out. I was at my local HobbyTown USA in Duluth, GA about every weekend of the build.

8. The EV Album is a database & photo collection of many, many EV conversions, including yours truly. Harvest ideas, anyone?

9. RCGroups has a great section in their forums about Electric Motor Design and Construction if you're into that stuff. I've moved on to building custom motors since they're relatively simple things. The Power Systems forum is great for asking questions about your whole wiring rig.

More to come as I think of it! Have fun, and I look forward to drag racing one of you guys soon.

A picture of the rebuild is below.

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    7 years ago on Step 6

    Any chance you could refresh the links in step 6?


    12 years ago on Step 5

    Why not try to replicate (or just swipe) the throttle system on a corded power drill? (or similar device) Unless your insanely trigger happy you'll get a much smoother ride. (take a look at one of the more quality committed brands, some of the lesser admired brands simply use really sadly wired mosfets and lead heatsinks. :( Needless to say removing that nice stageless motor control.)


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    i think the throttle he has is pretty similar...


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 5

    Drill motor throttles are only capable of a 15 maybe 20 amps at around 12 volts. and that is a half bridge DC brushed motor controller.

    The motors hes using draw far far far much more power. are brushless requiring a 3 phase AC speed controller.

    It just wont work.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    but he can use a rely wich in turn will allow 4 more( WAY MOOORE POWER) to be put to use.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The problem with relays for speed control is they are either all, or nothing. What his throttle needs is either some high current pots, or a digital system linking some form of analog control (probably pots...) To an h-bridge. The only way for relays to work for this in any sort of controlled manner would be multiple relays each with some percentage of the total allowable current, and do it in steps, but that would still probably land him on his ass, and/or wreck the device. As the motor would go from off, to a decent percentage of the power curve milliseconds. (By relays, could use opto-isolators as well, but relays should be cheaper, and probably a bit more robust for this... Opto's as I remember are a bit more fragile... And precise, not good things for this...)


    8 years ago on Step 4

    uill want to protect yr circut boards big tyme unless u like. see big sperks a fire come from them. when they get wet?


    8 years ago on Step 2

    theres a bug in step 3. the first link cannot be found.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    this is my new fav EV instructable. I'd gotten close to a design uisng some huge kW brushless motors but was having trouble with transmission parts. Yours had the link to where I can get pulleys and belts able to handle the load. Now I just gotta find a big motor like that for the price you paid. Probably not gonna find it on this side of the Pacific without significant markup, huh?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    try vacum motors yes they have brushes. but if u do the mods on them u too can convert them to brushless.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    try vacum motors yes they have brushes. but if u do the mods on them u too can convert them to brushless.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Have you tried United Hobbies/HobbyCity? They have great deals on obnoxiously large motors... Or, you could roll your own.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks partially to this inspiration, I finally built the electric scooter of my dreams! Its build page (with warts and all) is at . A few things I did differently - I ended up going with one with pneumatic tires in a common size so there'd be more suspension which I know from experience becomes more critical the faster you go. I also created my own signal board which converts the signal from a regular e-bike throttle to a servo pulse the Phoenix-85 understands. I also added capacitors on the input to ensure the controller won't fail, current limiting so that I could use my existing lower-C-rate LiFePO4 (I want to use it until it dies! Which, by my calculation, will be in 2-4 years.), customized current ramping and also temperature sensing on the motor and controller to protect them from thermal damage. I also ended up doing a battery mod to drop the battery voltage of the nominally 48 volt battery. I plan to add a customized LCD and I'm currently on the look-out for cheap, available serial LCDs(the black on green kind. Apparently, SparkFun is always out.).

    Also, the batteries, custom circuitry and controller are in a back-pack. This keeps the expensive electronics relatively more secure, the scooter lighter(It currently weighs about 20 pounds) and "smaller" and helps shield the electronics from the weather.

    Predictions -
    Range: 10+ miles. Likely around 12 or so, but I'll need to measure it.
    Top Speed: 27 according to my simulator, but I'll be limiting it to 20 since anything faster doesn't really feel safe. Top speed up a 7% hill? 15 mph.

    When I get my battery repaired either tomorrow or the day after, I'll be sure to report actual information.

    BTW, I think MIT's computer-science/electrical engineering program is so much better than University of Washington's(The university I'm currently attending). Most of the theory I learned from OCW's 6.002 seems to be at least "that's 300/400 level!" according to my current "intro to electrical engineering" professor(i.e., 3+ sequenced classes away) and these classes learn in 5 weeks what took MIT 1.5.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    try checking out and yes uill have to wait up to a full month to get them in but. happy parts hunting


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that's some pretty sophisticated stuff. I bet the current limiting also helps prevent Funny Car Syndrome. I always want to put additional electronics on my stuff past the bare minimum to get it moving, but the whole "it works, don't touch it..." always gets me. FWIW, I see you-ve been to my site - I never fixed that ball of wire that was the signal driver on RazEr. Totally am not cut out for EECS :')


    12 years ago on Step 3

    how do you build the circuit for the different power outputs??? please help me


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    just look up charge controllers there a insturctable 4 those as well. im pretty shure of it.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Does anyone know anything about using super capacitors (electrolytic double layer) instead of batteries?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    uill have to use a double out put stylle to power and charge yr caps tho


    12 years ago on Step 6

    Great Instructable! Very informative and well written. What was the cost of the battery pack? I didn't see it in the cost breakdown. Also, as a fellow combat robot builder (just antweights, but they count too ; D), I would love to check out your bots. Do you have a link?