Lynn (my better half) and I want electric bikes. I have wanted one since I was 12, when I used to live in one of the few towns in Cheshire in the UK with a reasonable number of hills (well one great big one rising out of the middle of the town!). This was way back in 1967, a couple of years after I had built my first skate board, and after I had stuffed the gears up on my 5 speed bike and was slogging around on a single speed!
Lynn is a more recent convert, probably from listening to me researching them for the last 10 years or so, and bouncing ideas off her occasionally. We both had a quick test ride of an Ezee 20″ model in the car park of a cycle shop, and that was maybe the real turning point.
We both have been cyclists on and off since we were kids, when we first started living together we bought his and hers Raleigh 5 speeds, and more recently we bought a pair of Giant Elwood comfort bikes, as befits our age and dignity!
After researching and putting it off for a number of years, we got a little bit of money together and decided to get on with it. But what to buy?
I didn’t really want someone else’s idea of what an electric bike should be. Suppliers like Ezee make some fine bikes, and everyone I see with one is really happy, but we already have two bikes, we don’t need to buy two more! Ezee make a nice conversion kit, rear or front drive, any wheel size, some nice options on battery size and accessories, so we decided we would try to go that way. Because of the style of bikes we have, with aluminium forks, front suspension, and most of the rider weight over the rear wheels, I did not want front wheel drive. Most of the good bikes made, but not sold in NZ appear to be rear wheel drive, which made me more certain that was what we wanted.
So we contacted the NZ Ezee supplier with our order and a couple of questions regarding areas such as fitting 7 speed freewheels or cassette gears, and motor cutoffs with our brake set up. As we didn’t get a reply for 7 days, I contacted the supplier again, and was told that there were none in stock, none would be coming for some months, and that was the way it was! I contacted Ezee directly, who appear to have contacted the NZ supplier, who then came back with the option of ordering the kits I wanted, but I would have to pay the courier fees. The next offer was to include my order in with an order he was putting in and he would absorb the fees. During the whole process he was trying to get me to change my orders to front wheel drive, because that is what most people prefer (and what he had in stock). In the meantime, none of the questions I had asked had been answered, so I had started researching the possibility of other suppliers.
Our local e-bike maker was very helpful, but thought that a kit was not what I really wanted and I would be better off buying one of his ready built bikes! As a grumpy old bastard, I decided that the middle man was about to be cut-out!
Looking around the web it seemed that the 8Fun motors built by Bafang in China were being used by many builders (including our local e-bike builder) so I started looking at getting these directly from China, and found a site called Elifebike.com which seemed to supply most of what I required, and as I was taking a big risk with whoever I bought the stuff off, decided to order from this supplier. The order went in on the 17th Feb, and the packages are starting to arrive! So the time has come to start recording the process.
What we ordered
Motors – both of us are having Bafang 36V/48V CST (cassette freewheel) motors laced into 700C wheels. The supplier is also providing Shimano 7 speed cassettes just like the ones on our existing bikes, so replacement will hopefully be straight forward.
Controllers – we have gone for simple 36V/48V 350W 9 Mofset controllers, with pedal assist, inline brake, and thumb throttle sensors. LED type control units will be used at first, and we have ordered a couple of twist grips in case we decide to go that way. We will be using controllers cases to protect it all.
Batteries – two 36v 15AH Headway DIY battery kits, with 12S 30-60amp BMS (battery management systems). These consists of 12 3v LiFePO4 cells, the BMS and some connector plates and support blocks. Chargers are included, but cases for the batteries aren’t.
The rest is up to me. What do I have to sort out before we get on the road? Some sort of container for the batteries, some sort of carrying method for the batteries (racks, front or rear), most of the wiring inside the battery and between the components. Jaycar looks favourite to supply cables and connectors that don’t come with the kit, and Super Cheap Autos have a “Safe Case” which is almost exactly the right size to hold the twelve cells and the BMS! The internal dimensions of this case are 170mm wide, 225mm long and 150mm high. The box tapers slightly, so it is 180mm by 230mm at the lid. It has rounded internal corners which may affect the cell placement and require some spacers under the cell pack. More on this later, including photos of the battery build.
So far the spend is about NZ$2300 to convert two bikes, but there are a few sundry costs still to come (connectors, racks, new tyres etc). I am expecting about NZ$1300 per bike. I was prepared to spend about $2300 per bike buying kits in NZ, so if all comes off, I will be very pleased.
Exciting times ahead then!