Thursday, November 29, 2012

Workcycles Fr8 eZee electric conversion part 2

Well I finally got round to finishing off the bike conversion. Last post I hadn't figured out how to conceal the battery, controller, etc from view to make it less pinchable and be able to charge the battery easily without the need to undo screws, etc. Well I found the solution and here's how it works:

The controller and battery go in the bottom of the crate. The controller is screwed down and the battery is nice and snug, wedged between bits of wood.

I bought a 2m XLR 3 pin extension lead to go from the battery charge point and cut off the female end. Then I asked a friend to weld this to a plate with a female socket. Here's the view from the back.

The plate is then screwed on to the back of my crate which allows me to recharge the battery without the need to remove the false floor covering the battery.

The final touch was a dust cover to keep dust and moisture out. It's a very snug fit which makes it hard to remove so I only put it on when riding in the rain (about twice a year in Perth!).

It works a treat. I can charge easily and the goodies in the crate are safe. I can't see anyone going to the bother of unscrewing 4 screws to get a 36V battery, but maybe when peak oil really hits I will look into further security measures.

I've been happily riding it around for months now but hadn't found a light set up I was happy with. After nearly getting cleaned up at a roundabout by a taxi a while ago with Quin on board I resolved to get a very bright front light.

My original thinking was to set up a bottle dynamo to avoid the need for changing/charging batteries, however I couldn't get one to fit. I bought a Nordlicht dynamo but due to the Magura hydraulic brakes and the bracket installed on the front left fork of the Fr8 it wouldn't fit. So then I tried it on the rear but it either interfered with the integral lock or would potentially be vulnerable to being knocked by Quin on the rear seat. So then I bought a left version of the dynamo but that didn't work either, even with 2 types of bracket. So I gave up on the dynamo idea. My next thought was rechargeable battery operated LED lights such as the Phillips Safe Ride. I looked at the price and the inconvenience of needing to charge them and decided against them.

Then I saw exactly what I wanted, a 36V light which runs off the eZee battery I already have on board and need to charge anyway. The best one I found was the 1,000 lumen 36V light sold by Glowworm in Sydney (it's listed as the L700 but now comes even brighter), paired with a Spanninga 36V rear light. The lights will reduce the assisted range of the bike at night but this doesn't bother me too much since I tend not to ride long distances at night anyway. Safety is the priority with lights in my view. This combination is great, but not cheap. The front light is $180, the rear $40, plus $11 postage. But I think my life and that of my son are worth a bit more than $231 so what the heck. Here's how I installed the lights:

Firstly I figured out the best position for the front light. The options were:

1) On the handle bars. No good, the light beam just hits the front box.
2) On the front forks. No good, the light sits on its side and the beam shines in the wrong direction, plus it looks silly.
3) On the front box. Good, it's highly visible to oncoming traffic and easy to install. Also looks wicked.

The bracket the light comes with is metal. First I attached a small piece of jarrah (local hardwood) to the front of the crate. I bent the bracket a bit to raise the light beam higher. Then I attached the bracket to the crate with a 1/4" threaded 60mm bolt, with a washer and locknut at the back which sit underneath the false floor of the crate. This makes it nice and sturdy and neat.

Underneath the crate I cable tied the cord for the light, this makes it easier for me to remove the light when needed.

When the false floor is replaced the nut, etc are not visible and cannot be tampered with.

With the front light installed I turned my attention to the rear light. The Spanninga has a pair of screws spaced 80mm apart which fit the Fr8 perfectly.

Then it was simply a question of running the cable from the rear light to the front light and attaching it with cable ties. How many cable ties are there on this bike? I'd say there would have to be at least 50, but most are surreptitious and not too ugly. My best cable route was down the rear rack, past the bottom bracket, up under the tube and into the crate. I asked for 2.35m of cable and this was plenty. Then it was just a question of plugging the input cable of the front light into the controller and then there was light!

The front light can easily be removed by unplugging it, which I will do when I leave the bike unattended in town. I'd rather not have a $180 light pinched that's for sure. I'm really happy with the setup, the front light is super bright and has 2 settings, bright and very bright. The rear light is tidy and functional. I was disappointed when I discovered that it wasn't possible to turn it off with the bike running, but when I heard that it uses less than 1W of power I wasn't too worried. It would take 500 hours to drain my battery with this light so it will hardly affect the range of the bike at all.

Lastly I put a universal drink bottle cage on. This model is great when there's nowhere to screw one on, which is the case with the Fr8.

Of course I've installed a bike computer, the Cateye Velo 8. It's a basic model, but does all I need it to. Most importantly I get the odometer figure to go into the transport spreadsheet.The Fr8 has 1,600km on it now and we are traveling 13km a day less by car compared to last year!

I was quite amused to see an ad for a new electric bike recently. It's called the Faraday Porteur and they market it as "The ultimate electric propelled utility bicycle", which is funny because personally I don't see a lot of utility in the design (see this great article on what makes most dutch bikes 'utility' bikes). It's also funny because I think I now own the ultimate electric propelled utility bicycle myself and it's not a  Porteur, it's a retrofitted Workcycles/eZee Fr8...


  1. Hi Adam, I have had exactly same idea as you had: Fr8 with a wooden box in front rack and a battery hidden there. And now I found your blog with all the insights! Great. There's one thing I wonder: Fr8 gets real front heavy with a motor and battery both attached to the front. Does that influence riding experience a lot? Think of slippery / icy road – can you safely do turns? Here's a Finnish article of Fr8 motor installation in the middle of the bike:

    1. Hi, great minds think alike eh?! Sorry for the late reply. I can't comment on slippery/icey conditions since we don't get them here. All I can say is that it handles really well for me and I like the fact I have the rear rack free for seat and panniers. I'd love to read the finnish article but alas haven't got round to learning the lingo yet...
      Cheers, Adam