Monday, October 14, 2013

The basics

I wanted to use my car less.

I'm not against cars, I love Porsches.  But there are several reasons I would like to use a car less, centered mostly around connections.  So I started looking for bikes with big luggage racks, and ended up with cargo bikes.  Of course it would have to have an electric motor, as I live in Vermont, which is not flat, and I wanted to carry a load.  And I've lived 27 years off grid, as well as working on Solar Hartland for the last three years, so it might as well have solar panels.

I asked many people for donor bikes, started shopping for parts, and then built a bike.   I thought a blog about what happened, the results, and the next plans, might be a good idea.

My first solar electric cargo bike in the Hartland Fourth of July Parade.

The first cargo bikes I saw were trikes, with a box between two front wheels.  They didn't look like much fun, and also the roads around me are mostly narrow, so I decided to stick with two wheels.  This was supposed to be a car substitute, I wanted to lean into corners going fast.

The next searches found longtails, because I was looking for regular type bikes with electric motors:
Surly Big Dummy longtail with load.  (unsure of photo credit, probably one of the owners of Xtracycle.)

There are several manufacturers making longtails in the US Pacific northwest area, and the design was a good fit for my needs, so the project seemed all set.  Turning to the electric motor however, trouble set in.  There were two kinds of motors!
The motor on the left has gears and a slip clutch, the right motor is direct drive.

The geared motor has more push for loads, and it's slip clutch allows you to coast.  The DD motor gives you regeneration- it makes electricity to put back into the battery when going down hills.

To make matters worse, I then discovered the bakfiets style bike (Dutch-  bak=box, fiets=cycle):
These seem to be used for hauling kids around.  (photo credit Babboe company)

The longtail seemed to be better for me, but all the blogs chose the bakfiets.  And the motor did not have a clear cut choice,  The obvious answer was to build one of each.