My Electric Neighbour

March 31, 2011

Guest Bike – The E-Ped City

The E-Ped City, aka the “Zhejiang Haoren”

Just over the course of the last week, some poor soul with a brand new scooter started posted some bewildered SOS messages to the Electric Motoring Forum. Apparently, his new e-bike, which he introduced to us as the e-ped city, had started misbehaving shortly after he got it. Knowing nothing about them, he needed a hand figuring out what was wrong. Despite our advice, though, it seemed that things just kept getting worse and worse. The bike did initially work, but then it seemed to grind to a halt. didn’t appear to charge, and finally lost all power to the 12V circuit.

It was only at this point that I noticed the name of his home town in his post details. This guy – called Nigel – turned out to be just down the road from me, just a short, five mile run out of town.

I was quite intrigued to hear about this bike, as my own model is the only one that I’ve encountered first hand. The link he posted showed a lovely, retro-looking thing. It was advertised as a 60V e-bike with a 1200W motor, a range of 35 miles and speed of “40mph+”.

The ludicrous claims made on the widespread marketing blurb for my own, original 48V Ego Scoota had taught me to be extremely sceptical about the extravagant claims made for these machines in their factory form. A typical 60V scooter with an SLA bank will typically tootle along at just over 30 mph , and the range – like that of the one claimed for my own bike – would probably be overstated to the tune of 60% or so. Perhaps in the ideal conditions of a planet with no atmosphere and a perfectly smooth, level surface, a scooter like this might hope to get achieve this range, but only if it was piloted by a small, trained monkey. 😀

Nonetheless the problems he was having were intriguing and I now knew my way around these types of bikes well enough to be able to help figure out what was wrong. I quite fancied the chance to have a look at it, and so, on a sunny Monday afternoon I offered to come out and have a look at his bike to see if I could perhaps help. It would also be a great chance to take some snaps and see the layout of a completely different animal to the one I’d been upgrading and tinkering with these last few months.

Unsurprisingly Nigel was only too happy to have someone round who actually knew how these things worked, so an hour later I found myself in Nigel’s back yard being protected from an excitable dog!

The most immediate problem was that the 12V system, which had been working fine until he ran the lights for a while to drain the batteries a little, was now completely dead. The obvious suspect here was the converter, which might be dead or have some kind of lose connection. So first stage was for us to take the thing to pieces to try and find it, and also to check out the batteries on the way.

The breaker switch on his bike is under the seat stuck to the side of the compartment, rather than mounted at the back of the bike with the controller. This makes it easier to get at them to replace, though, if they get burnt out by those big sparks from too much use.

Under these seat is the battery bank arrangement – four on the main bank on top, and one more further forward. The batteries were a little smaller than the 28AH ones on my bike, but I couldn’t see any markings on them. The documentation later said they were “20-24AH”.

The other problem that Nigel had reported was with the motor stuttering and almost completely losing power, which may have just been a case of drained batteries. However checking the voltage showed a very healthy 66V or so. Also, the charger he’d got rigged up by a long extension lead was quite clearly working, delivering the usual 72V or so to the system as it was running. So what ever it was that was going on here seemed to rule out the batteries.

Towards the rear is the controller, but no converter. The cables were all very familiar, but the phase wires and main power connectors are both housed in large, yellow threeway connectors. The throttle cable and hall sensor are like the ones on all controllers I’ve seen, housed in three-way and nine-way mini connectors.

This completely standard setup is great news for prospectively upgrading this bike, though, as an extra battery and uprated controller can bring this bike closer to reaching the speed and range advertised.

Only one connector here was one I couldn’t make sense of. The single, brown-to-blue one in the two-way that I thought at first must be the ‘high’, 12V+ brake cut-off. However disconnecting it didn’t stop the cutoff from working, and the fact that the 12V system wasn’t working anyway must have meant it was working in some other way. Probably there’s a ‘low’ wire serving this system somewhere.

The phase wires and hall connector

But where was that converter? Nigel had taken apart most of the bike before inspiration struck and I pulled off the foot mat. There was a little compartment there with the converter housed inside, with a couple of fuses attached. It was the typical configuration, with the high voltage red input, and a yellow 12V output both sharing a common earth (black).

The 60V-12V DC Converter in a compartment under the foot-pan

The fuses were intact (tested for continuity), and checking the high voltage input wire via the back of the connector showed the expected 66V. However nothing at all was reading from the yellow wire, indicating a dead converter.

In our excitement about discovering this, though, we’d forgotten about the minor issue of the motor being almost without power. It was spinning when on its stand, but barely had enough juice to propel itself along at all with a rider on board.It had to be either the controller or the motor, I figured. But it was highly unusual to have two components like this fail simultaneously.

The only other issue was that the bike had come as a kit, which he’d had to assemble himself with few useful instructions. The wiring for these bikes, though, where it needed to be connected is usually fairly self-evident, and the bike  had been working fine up until the previous day. Alas, I was kind of stumped, and sadly concluded that he’d be better off getting the vendors to take care of it, as clearly a brand new bike shouldn’t be conking out in such a weird way so soon after arriving. 😦

One more item of note is the speedometer (N.B: main display in kmph), which is definitely designed to raise expectations to dizzying heights! While the Ego Scoota’s speedo red-zones at 40 mph and only goes up to 50, this one goes all the way to a mind-boggling 80 mph! Just a tad optimistic, methinks 🙂

Scooter speedo hutzpah is taken to new heights with the E-Ped’s instrument display!

After breaking the bad news, I think we both agreed it was time for the vendors to pick up the pieces here. With nothing more to be done, Nigel showed me the hen coup he has in his back garden. This little sanctuary hosts more varieties of chickens that I even knew existed, and provide him and his family with with a steady supply of eggs. With the way supermarket prices are going, it may well even pay for itself in time!

No battery hens here! – Nigel’s urban farm

He was kind enough to put together half a dozen for me to take with me by way of thanks for at least attempting to help him sort this out. Thanks, Nigel! 🙂

Green eggs and ham, anybody? Six different varieties from Nigel’s feathered friends

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Zenid’s Shop

March 11, 2011

Click here for Zenid’s Shop!

Open for business. Zenid’s Shop

[EDIT]: At the time of writing, I was just starting to stock 72V controllers. I’m now also selling 48V, 60V, and 72V chargers, converters, switches, and CellLogs. Click here for the shop.

It was always annoying to me that it is practically impossible to find new controllers for sale in this country. All the vendors – on ebay and elsewhere – appear to be based in China, which means a three or four week wait while our orders crawl across the planet to arrive on our doorstep.

This can be especially inconvenient if you rely heavily on your bike and suddenly find yourself with a kaput controller. If this happens then you’re out of luck, and it’s a case of doing without until your can get your hands on a replacement. It’s for this reason that I took the precaution of buying two of these, rigging both up with the appropriate connectors so that they were plug-and-play and ready to swap out in the event that one of them finally gave up the ghost and failed.

In the interests of trail-blazing the UK e-biker cause (and possibly even making a few quid out of it) I recently took a gamble and bought a big batch of these things. Keeping a ready supply of these around, I thought, should come in handy to the growing contingent of e-scooter owners who aren’t willing to settle for the soggy and disappointing performance of these bikes as they exist in their original form.

The ‘Hua Tong’ 72V Controller

They’re exactly the same brand (“Hua Tong”) as the first one I got from China which I am now using as a spare (see controllers).  In the tradition of these units, apparently,  the black/green wires of the throttle three-way connector are reversed, but can be switched before dispatch for buyers who want one less thing to do during their upgrade. These controllers are now for sale at Zenid’s Shop, for as long as they last. They don’t get much fresher than this either, at the time of writing these units are just three weeks out of the factory!

As fresh as they get!

I’ve set up a Zenid Shop link at the start of the categories menu which points to this page, so that the shop can be accessed from links at the top (there doesn’t seem to be any way of linking it direct from the categories menu). There’s also a proper link in the resources section.  I’ve called it “shop” in apostrophes simply because a proper shop doesn’t usually just sell only one item [apostrophes removed now that I’m selling more stuff!]. I’ll add anything else I might stock there in the future, or just shut it down if it’s a sorry failure…

I’m also considering getting in a batch of the 72-12V Thunderstruck converters, so that – similarly – people don’t have to suffer the three week wait (in my case, two months, with the first unit lost by the US Postal Service) to get the bits they need for their upgrade. Let me know if you think this is a good idea, here, or at zenid@zenid.com, as I’ll only do it if enough people seem to want them.