The life electric

For those of you tuning in for the electric bit of this blog I guess this is feeling like an episode of “Lost” where all the twists and turns don’t give you the payoff you want.

Well I’m pretty close to finishing the Elation kit now. I just wanted to get the basic bike up and running before adding the motor. In the next few days hopefully. In the meantime I though I would like to review my experiences with electric bikes thus far. If you want more details on electric bikes in general check http://endless-sphere.com/forums/.

About 2 years ago I moved into inner west Sydney about 3-4ks from the city after 6 years living 20ks to the south west. Living out there I used the train as much as I could but the location of my boys school, near the city, made this option difficult so I ended but driving a lot, and sitting in heavy traffic on the M5 freeway a lot too, bikes were really not a good option for transport other than maybe the local shops. So the new house is about 2ks from my boys school which is a fine walk but that then leaves me at the mercy of public transport to carry on to my work in nearby suburbs. So even with only 2ks to school I again ended up driving a lot more than I wanted to.

I tried riding a skateboard for a while and combined with public transport this works pretty well. Also a normal bike without electric motors could work too. But I work in a medical office environment with no showers etc in my workplace and lets be honest once you have tasted the convenience of stepping out of you cool clean car into work, riding to work and needing a shower at the other end in order to function in polite company, leaves a bit to be desired.

I think climate change really is an inconvenient truth and that 80% of people will not sacrifice their own comfort even if they understand all the risks climate change poses. People need to be convinced on other grounds like their own hip pocket and their own convenience.  I suppose, to be honest, I’m no different and need more motivation than moral superiority to do the right thing

So a couple of test rides to work on my old cheap Kmart style Malvern Star bike proved the principle (albeit with a few cans of deoderant!) and the search was on for an electric bike. I considered the Elation kit at the time but I didn’t have a suitable bike to put it on. So after a bit of research I decided to purchase a” Greenewheels” bike through ebay. Its hard to trace the origins of these bikes other than all coming from China however it is very similar to a Whisper brand bike with a Bafang geared hub motor. It has a 36volt system and is a neat and tidy looking ebike.

The purchase went smoothly and the bike arrived in good condition just needing pedals etc fitted. Charged it up and it was great! The motor on the flat with no pedaling would sit on a solid 28-29kph. It was a dream. My son would ride on the cross bar in front, which I padded, and we could chat and joke, and I was at work in no time after a not so sweat inducing ride.

No license no insurance no traffic jams plus I’m getting a little exercise everyday. I would have paid 3 times what I did for this thing….except then it began to break down and no one wanted to know.

First it was little things like quickly worn break pads, no problem I upgraded these. Then some broken spokes which were of a particular size, got em eventually from the original supplier and worn bottom bracket bearings, the originals were very poor quality.  In the process I went to at least 6 different bike shops who varied in their reaction from just can’t help to almost open hostility when they found out the bike had an electric boost.

Business wise this just confused me. OK, I didn’t buy a bike from them but that’s not to say I wouldn’t at some future time if they tried to help me with this.  Sometimes they did help, a bit, but the attitude was tough to take. The least attitude I got was from Cheeky Transport in Newtown, whom I have used for parts of the latest, many thanks to Nick.

Overall I think bike shops must have it too easy or something because they sure don’t seem to want my money.

OK so now the big problems began. The Hall effect sensor wiring on the motor melted and I needed a new motor (can be corrected with a sensorless controller too)  and about 10 months later the battery needs replacing. To be honest I think I cooked the battery by running it too low for the first few charges, shortening it’s life. But for me this just shows that owning an ebike is not as straight forward as a car or motorbike. At the time I just didn’t realize this could be a problem.

Anyway these are all things that with help from the net (endlesssphere.com) I was capable of fixing myself but if I didn’t develop these skills then the bike would now be junk with no local repair option.

Why did I persevere at all? Ebikes are great to ride, simple as that.  People who make negative comments most likely haven’t ridden one.

But unless like me you like staring into an electronic abyss of melted wiring, spending hours on the net sourcing obscure parts and repair information, then I can’t recommend them, at this point, to the average commuter. I hope this changes sometime soon with local shops embracing ebikes as a new sales stream rather than turning up their nose at them.

Its not all bad this bloke seems to have had much better luck with his almost identical bike. http://blog2.zog.net.au/category/electric-bikes/greenewheels/

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7 Responses to “The life electric”

  1. ZOG Says:

    Hi,

    I’ve got a greenewheels bike as well but so far I’ve had pretty good luck with it.. but maybe I do have a fairly gentle ride to work as some other posters on my blog have had issues.
    I have the older style with the front disc brakes, I’ve replaced them with Avid brakes (major improvement!).
    The bottom bracket on mine also eventually wore out. But i think basicly bikes getting serious use just have to be treated as consumables.. they will wear out! Workmates with more expensive ebike builds also going through parts, though they ride harder and further than I do.

    • keller74 Says:

      Thanks Zog, Your Blog and Endless Sphere comments were what finally convinced me to get the Greenewheels. I’m not down on the Greenewheels bike. I still think its great but really it is a step above a kmart quality bike with a motor and I would fully expect a kmart bike to need lots of maintenance if ridden the way I ride it. I guess I just don’t think ebikes are quite ready for the masses in their current form, especially with most local bike shops having zero interest.

      Never fear my greenewheels will be back on the road soon! I have solved the melted hall sensor wiring with a sensorless controller from ecrazyman and am going to order a new Ping battery soon. I asked if he could build a battery to fit in the greenewheels battery case and he could but only at about 7.5AH. so I think I’ll just get a 15AH and figure out some way to mount the bigger battery.

  2. Jessie Says:

    Hi,
    I have had a greenewheels bikes for about 18 months now and am loving it. I did have to replace a few minor consumables as Zog mentioned also but the bike motor/battery has not missed a beat for me. What strikes me is that you do say you have had heavy loads and travelled up steep hills. To me it points to the fact you have constantly overloaded both the battery and the motor. Heavy loads can reduce battery life and hill will stress/heat up the motor. Also you have broken some spokes which also points to this as well to a heavy load. I have some moderate hills on my route and the bike eats up those hills easily. I weight 78kgs and probably carry another 7kgs of cargo at times. I do think that every kilo on these kilos makes a huge difference.
    Anyway i did enjoy reading about your project. Keep it up.

    • keller74 Says:

      Thanks for your comment. Great to get another view on the Greenewheels with success. Yeah, I am 95kilos in my socks and my son at least another 20Kgs plus baggage, so sure I was overloading the poor old greenewheels and since then I know a lot more about overloading batteries etc (I think the motor sensor wiring was just not good quality though, the motor itself is still running fine).

      I think my main point was not to critique my overloaded greenewheels, I still love it and have kept it going fine, but to moan about lack of support when something does go wrong. These things will need some major repair sooner or later. For the general non tinkering public to take up ebikeing it will need to be like a car or motorbike, with affordable and available service and repair options. Otherwise people will buy these bikes, have them brake down at some point, and be left with a bitter taste in their mouth which will push them back into their cars.

      I guess for the price I could just consider the whole bike disposable but I think that defeats at least one of the points of ebikeing, using less resources. Anyhow all this of course has lead me to my Mundo project!

  3. IR² Says:

    G’day all,

    Just stumbled across this blog, great reading! I bought a greenewheels bike with the optional 13Ah battery late last year, so read all the above with great interest.

    The bike has been great, commuting the 12km each way to work from the inner west of Sydney, had a few of the same issues mentioned above, the botttom bracket, loose spokes, problems with the headset missing a locating cone, some other build quality related issues etc.

    I managed to achieve 1800km in about 4 months of commuting, and about 75 charges before i experienced a failure of the very complicated onboard BMS within the battery case. This is the Battery Management System assembly, a twin double sided circuit board that manages charging and discharging and general health of the 10 3.6V Lithium cells within the case. The battery no longer charges and will be experiencing damage as not good for them to remain in a discharged state. The battery cost me an extra $250 for the 13Ah one so it’s replacement value is probably around $700

    As far as I can work out, a temp sensor within the case vibrated loose and a live broken wire from this sensor strayed across some components and fried them.

    Keller74, I’m very interested to hear that you had gone through a battery, you wouldn’t happen to still have it lying around? Although yours was likely the 10Ah unit, it’s just possible that the BMS might be the same as my one, I would be keen to have a look at it if so and if the same would be keen to buy it from you, as I am having a lot of trouble getting a new one, and have been off the road for several weeks now.

    If you could let me know, this would be very much appreciated.

    • keller74 Says:

      Gday, Nice to hear of someone else in Sydney gone ebike, I rarely see another.

      Regarding your battery, firstly your welcome to mine (10AH I might keep the casing as I might be able to use this again) however having read your post I’m not sure I don’t have a similar problem? My problems is that when I charge the battery it gets to a point (very quickly now) where the charger just continually flicks on and off. Maybe my BMS is fried too? I suspected my charger but at least my simple multimeter said the output this was fine. What are your symptoms?

      Other alternatives which come to mind are charging your battery cell by cell as a very temporary measure, lots of remote control toys use 3.6volt cells and you might be able to get a cheap charger or two.

      My plan for my bike is to get a battery from Ping.com. He has told me he could build a battery into the existing case however it would only be 7.5AH. His standard 10AH battery seems like it would fit on the greenewheels (although not in the original case) and the 15AH is too high, but would fit if the triangular plastic controller box was relocated.

      Post up here as a reply first as there are likely others interested in our problems, but I’m get you my phone or email if you still want to get hold of my battery.

  4. IR² Says:

    Thanks for the response Keller74 🙂

    Your symptoms are different to mine, my charger simply behaves as though the battery is fully charged, i.e. you switch it on, red led is lit and yellow led turns to green in three of four seconds and stays that way.

    Sounds like yours just may have one bad cell out of the 10 in there, and the BMS is detecting the abnormal behaviour and shutting down charge to all cells, then it tries again to get the celll to accept charge and the cycle continues. Likely your charger is fine, mine reads 42.9V open from memory, however it might just be charger related.

    Sounds like we live not too far away from each other, I would be happy to bring my charger round and test your battery on it to rule that out, and also let you know what I have learned about these batteries to see if I could help.

    Have you measured the individual cell voltages yet? this involves unplugging the internal charging plug, long black 10 pin unit with 9 blue and 1 red wire. You measure the voltages on these with the other probe on the charging common wire, forget the colour of that one but can check this if required.

    You should see approx 33 to 38 volts on one end of the connector, and each pin you move along you should see a drop in voltage of about one tenth of this max voltage, i.e. if you start with 33V (discharged state) you should see a drop of 3.3V per pin, and the last pin should have 3.3V on it. If any deviate from this number by even a small amount, there will be a balance problem. For eg if you saw a 2.5, there would be issues with that cell.

    True, there could be an issue with your BMS causing this problem, they are VERY complicated animals, with a couple of opto-isolators and a charging chip per cell (10 circuits), charging and discharging cutout Fets, temp sensors, a quad nor gate chip and more on the boards.

    In any case would like to investigate as I am tearing my hair out trying to get another BMS. I can’t for the life of me work out how the charging current path works in these things, have no circuit diagram, and the design is pretty mysterious.

    If you could e-mail through some contact details, that would be much appreciated.

    Mark.

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