A Tale of 34.4 Miles

I’ve been meaning to do it for some time now, to make a ‘proper trip’ that spanned the void between my little town and the bustling metropolis of neighbouring Nottingham, but it was only this Sunday last that I finally decided to brave the trip on the ‘new’ bike. Armed with my custom-built, 12-state battery meter, it would also give me some measure of the range of my upgraded beast, and answer some questions about the effect of the new 72V configuration on the bike’s range.

As usual, I decided that I’d drop in on an old biker friend of mine, Dave, from my Sneinton days , but unable to find his phone number I thought I’d just drop by without warning and hope for the best. I’d taken with me a little gift, a framed picture I took back in ’05 of him and his recently departed and much loved Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rufus, both pictured standing in front of Nottingham Castle one sunny afternoon.

The weather was sunny but blustery, and there was a marked chill in the morning breeze as I set out at just past 10.00 a.m. to embark on my epic 16 mile voyage. I had little doubt that the bike would probably struggle to make the full round trip on a single charge, so I took with me the charger and an extension lead, knowing full well that once I’d caught him in, Dave would be more than happy to hook me up for a recharge, while no doubt fiercely mocking my new acquisition as he proudly polished his beautiful Harley Davidson.

My Unofficial EV FYI Sign

I had already, some while ago, contructed a little laminated logo to denote “Electric Vehicle” that I hoped most people would be able to decrypt with relative ease. I’d mounted it proudly under the license plate both as an announcement of my green credentials, but also as a warning to expect some slightly different behaviour, such as the near-silence of the engine and its far from blistering acceleration on the route’s many hill-starts.

The journey seemed so much longer than I remember it being in a car or on a ‘proper’ motorbike, but, well, that’s a moped for you – great as a local runabout, but not so fit for the open road out of town. Still, my new 40mph top-speed meant the journey wasn’t too painful, and most of the inevitable overtaking I was subjected to in the national speed-limit zone was done in a reasonably civilised way, even when those solid white lines punctuating the winding country road forced drivers to occasionally have to hang back single-file and be patient.

The ride, though, was not always comfortable. The tyres were freshly inflated to help preserve maximum range and every bump, crevice and pot-hole jarred right through bones as I did my best to negotiate my way across the less well-maintained stretches of the road. But even in the gusty wind the bike felt every bit as solid as my old vfr400, a testament to the stability offered by the massive intertia of the 47 Kilograms of SLAs that glued the bike firmly to tarmac.

As the journey progressed the first (green) LED started flashing, vanishing a few miles later. This was followed by the second flashing green LED. As I reached the ten mile mark, paranoia crept in about the load on those not-so thick phase-wires and I pulled in briefly at a layby to feel them through the underseat hole by the breaker switch. But I needn’t have worried, they were only mildly warm. I also felt the case on the motor, and – though hottish – felt more like the side of a fresh mug of tea than an oven ring.

Eventually, after forty minutes of driving I arrived in my old neighbourhood of Sneinton and sought out the familiar burgundy door of the street we used to share. By this time the third (orange) LED was on solid and I was getting as far into draining the SLAs as I like to before giving it a good charge. I planned to give it a four hour charge, the 72V equivalent – roughly – of the three-hour boost charge they talk about in the Ego’s publicity blurb. I figured that way, even if the range wasn’t actually improved by the extra batteries, due to technical considerations I don’t fully understand, a four-hour charge should buy me the extra 7 miles (over the 25-ish I expected from a full charge) that I needed to get the 32 miles total that I thought the trip would take, there and back.

But alas it was not to be. The Burgundy door was there but the jungle of plants that usually fill the window were strangely absent. And even more ominous, not a single motorbike of any kind was parked outside.

Peering forelornly into the bare interior I only saw the bare boards of a stripped and abandoned edifice. All that was left of his presence was just a few somber scraps of the stickers that had for so many years adorned the inside of his windows. Amongst them the iconic ‘Think Bike’, slightly dog-eared and sun-bleached. Only this and the horrible ancient wallpaper in the front room gave this place away as his former abode.

I bemoaned the fact that both of us were too intermittent in our reunions to hold onto each others phone numbers for more than a short time. I did at least have a scrap of paper somewhere with his email address on it, so I could learn what had become of him. But I wondered somberly if I hadn’t lost it in one of my paper culling clearouts, possibly convinced that he and his wife would be spending the rest of their lives in that old terraced house.

But my most immediate problem was the 3rd, orange LED on the battery level meter, which would itself go into blink-mode any time soon. I felt like someone out of Logan’s Run and needed a recharge. Fortunately I had considered this contingency when reading the Electromotive charge point network map. Nottingham does indeed have no less than two charge points, both residing next to each other on the white level of the Victoria Centre Car Park. Parking isn’t cheap, but fortunately it was Sunday and so they had an all-you-can-eat price of £4. And let’s face it I had no choice. I didn’t particularly fancy grinding to a halt five miles and a good few hills away from home.

I was not too surprised when the guy at the car park info desk told me that he didn’t think they had any EV charge-points, but I insisted that he did and he duly picked up the phone to call for help. Talking privately on the phone he uncertainly dug into a drawer and pulled out a long blue, coiled connector of some sort and took out some other things. Then he hung up and came outside with the connector, a sheet of laminated instructions and a plastic wand of some sort, directing me to go to the same point on the level directly below, where he would meet me.

He duly met up with me, but then muttered something and wandered away, and I was left looking around for what I expected the charge point to look like. I didn’t see them at first as they were hidden behind the sides of set of lifts, but wandering around the area I eventually saw the two yellow posts and EV sign, went back, got the bike and parked it up beside one of the posts. A little red LED strip on top of each was lit, and a flippable cover on the front with an indentation in the bottom was clearly designed to actually lock plugs in place so that they could not be removed. Good idea, I thought.

Eventually I noticed the guy with the stuff coming back from whereever he went and wandering around looking slightly lost. I called him and pointed him to where the charge points where, hidden from view of much of the floor, and he came over and started trying to figure out how to use the powerpoint. Eventually he figured out that waving the wand over some sensor unlocked the panel and exposed the socket. Then he started fiddling about with the cable he had.

The socket on the post was an ordinary three-pin, and the lead he had I could now see was was an adaptor for a big connector on the end that is presumably the accepted standard for the charge sockets on electric cars. He offered it to me, but I said it wasn’t necessary, as my charger goes into the ordinary three-pin direct. I left the charger locked under the seat with the lead trailing out to connect with the post. The guy waved his wand over the post again, and the panel locked over the plug, the row of LEDs on the charge post turned green and little message came up saying “charging”.

Finally I was set. I said goodbye to the car-park guy, and went into town to kill the four hours I was going to give myself while it charged. The centre was far busier than I thought it would be on a Sunday, almost everything seemed to be open. All except those cool shops like Ice Nine and the other little places around Hockley, presumably because it wasn’t cool to be open on a Sunday. The weather was good though, and I whiled away the time seeing what had changed between my visits. The big council building in the main square was covered in scaffolding, and Nottingham’s underused Hard Rock Cafe had given up the ghost and shut down. Supermarket mini-markets like Tesco metro seemed to be popping up everywhere but little else looked different.

Eventually I made my way back to where I’d parked my bike at about 3 p.m. The meter was back to the full-charge first green LED, but I knew this measurement couldn’t be relied upon straight after its ‘boost-charge’. It was the ‘heavy’ kind of voltage that quicky slides down as the electrolyte solution settles back into a more even mixture.

The journey back was every bit as blustery as the one there, and the LEDs dropped off more rapidly now. By the time I re-entered the boundary of my home town I was down to the last, sixth, red, flashing LED. I’d set the profile on the meter to the most sensitive one, so I knew that the reading I was getting was an over-cautious one. On the ordinary default profile I was still on the solid orange No.4 LED. Both of these indicated that I was down to 11.9V or less per battery and well on my way to running out of power.

When I pulled into the space outside my flat, I was still going strong, though, and there was little of the underpowered feel you get prior to it giving out totally. The odometer said I’d done a total of 34.4 miles, which wasn’t too far off the 31.8 mile estimate given by google maps, but it did make me wonder how accurate the odometer was on these machines, particularly since the bigger wheel on the front would make my bike underestimate mileage in comparison to how it was with the stock wheel. Since it seemed pretty accurate based on my journey, I can only surmise that the clocks usually overestimate mileage by a significant degree. So there’s one way of keeping the mileage lower, bigger tyres!

This all of course raised the question that I really wanted answered, and that is what approximate range I was getting out of my 72V bike per charge. and I reasoned thus: Based on the 8-hour full-recharge time of the 48V model, it would be fair to say that 50% more capacity would equal 50% more full-recharge time. If a full charge for the 72V is 12 hours, then it stands to reason that a four hour charge is a third of the capacity, and therefore range. The approximate range for a full charge extrapolated from the range I got, or would get before it finally conked out at 11.6V (as it did in an earlier test) would therefore be about three-quarters of the range I got with the top up charge.

At the last red LED, flashing, in the over-cautious Mode 6 I was using the voltage is 11.9 – 12. 0V per battery, so based again on the earlier test, I reckon I still had at least 3 miles to go before it began to wind down and die. This gives a projected range of about 37.5 miles, and therefore an adjusted range estimate of just over 28 miles per charge 🙂

I think this is pretty good considering the fact that the blustery weather and hilly terrain were far from ideal, and the stop-starting of the thick of Nottingham must have taken its toll on the range. I’m pretty confident that over flatter terrain on a non-stop carriageway the range could easily top 36 miles. In fact I might at some point set up a ‘proper’ test along those lines. But that’s something for another day…

P.S: There was a spot of good news after my trip to visit my vanishing friend. A couple of days later that elusive bit of paper turned up when I was clearing out my desk draw. I can at least email him now and find out what became of him.

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