The store is open again and we are picking up the shipments of eZee kits, NiCad batteries, and rear Crystalyte motors over the next couple days. But because of our heavy involvement in preparing and organizing the event this Sunday we will probably not start taking online orders and shipping these goods until after the weekend. When they are showing up as available in our store site then that is the cue that we are ready for orders.
June 12th Update - Both the eZee kits and the Crysalyte parts are online and available now. The NiCad batteries won't get listed until after our discharge testing is underway next week.
We know it may have been frustrating for customers trying to order complete ebike systems from us over the past few months. Things are available then suddenly sold out, and there might be the right motor but no controller, or the right controller but no suitable battery, can't these guys just get it right and keep things in stock? Well, the answer is yes and no. With some items like battery packs it can often take up to 6 months from when we place an order to when it is received and fully tested, and it is hard to know just where things will stand so far in the future with all the recent advances in battery chemistries and the volatile pricing of raw materials. We will do our best with dependable standby's like the venerable NiCad batteries to keep them in stock from now on, though newer stuff like the lithium iron phosphates packs may come and go on a case by case basis until the technology is sound.
However, for other items like the Crystalyte motors and controllers, we have reached a point where if we sold any more we would not be able to offer the same level of support and troubleshooting service to our customers that we are committed to providing. Rather than getting stretched thin, we are only ordering as many of these parts per month as we are comfortable selling. The troubleshooting section of our website was recently updated to include a list of all the more common problems we've encountered with the Crystalyte product line, and it should help explain why we aren't planning to increase our volume even though the demand for these is quite strong.
June is Bike Month here in Vancouver, a time where we can celebrate that cycling is catching on in ways that few people would have imagined 10 years ago. We are participitating in many events throughout the city and would love to see some of you in the ebike community take part as well. These include the VEVA REV! show on June 7th, the Car Free Day on June 15th which has now expanded to include Main Street. We'll be giving the monthly VEVA talk on the 22nd and holding the first electric bicycle conversion workshop in at the new Pedal Depot facility in the last week of June. More information on all of these activities has been put on the events page.
We will be shutting down the online store site from May 26th to June 6th, until our new shipments of battery packs and hub motors arrive in early June and we have a full inventory of parts again. There are exceptions if you want a motor type that we have in stock (e.g. 20" 405, 20" 5203, 16"404) or for the purchase of CycleAnalysts. Otherwise though, it will be best to just hold tight. We don't take advanced payments or pre-orders on parts until we actually have them on hand and ready to ship.
Parts Arrival Updates
For your information, here is the current estimated arrival time for most of the sold out items, but be aware that unexpected delays can be expected. We will make an announcement and list them on our store page again once they are available.
NiCad Batteries: We had a very large batch of 24V, 36V, and 48V NiCad batteries shipped out on May 16th that is expected to arrive around the 1st week of June.
NiMH Battery Packs: The next Nexcell battery shipment containing both 13Ah 'F' cell packs, and 18Ah '2D' packs, is expected to arrive around the middle/end of July.
LiFePO4 Batteries: There will be no further orders of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries until we have fully resolved the balancing and BMS issues with the manufacturer. There are a handful of packs left that still require our reworking to pass QC, and these will be made available on our website only when they are ready.
Crystalyte Parts: Our next shipment of Crystalyte gear (mostly rear 400 series and 5304 motors) is due to arrive early in June, and the following shipment (a whole slate of motors, as well as more 72V 48A controllers) will be 3-4 weeks after that.
eZee Kits: The eZee kits were held up for over 2 months in account of delays with the new Sanyo lithium battery pack. So rather than waiting any longer, we have decided to proceed with the order using the original Phylion LiMn batteries. These are somewhat heavier and we will reduce the kit price accordingly, but we will nonetheless offer the full 1 year warranty. ETA is the 2nd week of June.
Our eZee kits have now been modified with basically every small improvement that we sought. The major changes:
The eZee motor controller now has the 6-pin connector on it for attaching a direct plug-in CycleAnalyst. Using the CA-DPS model, you can now take advantage of the speed, voltage, and current limiting features with the straight forward connectivity of the direct plug-in version, just like our Crystalyte controllers.
Wider Voltage Range:
We have had both the lower and upper voltage controller cutouts removed, so now you can use the stock eZee controller with 24V and 48V battery packs without trouble, greatly increasing the flexibility and choice of battery options suitable for this kit.
Pedal Assist Option:
There is also an additional 4-pin pedal assist connector that can be combined with an optional PAS system. When the PAS sensor is plugged into this connector, the motor will only engage when the pedals are being rotated. It is possible to use this system and replace the throttle with a variable potentiometer, and then have a pedal activated ebike. It also makes the kit legally compliant with regulations in many jurisdictions (such as the EU).
Standard Disc Rotor:
The bolt hole pattern in the hub motor is now the standard 44mm diameter, so the rotors are interchangeable with most off the shelf disc products.
20" Wheel Size:
There is now a 20" wheel option which has been wound for a higher RPM in order to compensate for the smaller wheel diameter.
The throttle pinout is now exactly the same standard as our stock throttles, so you have the option of using our thumb or left hand throttles if the included full twist throttle is not ideal for your handlebars.
After some paperwork adventures we were able to get the first Crystalyte shipment of the season at the end of March and have updated inventory on the store page accordingly. The missing product photos and details will get filled in when we have time. Some points of note:
Pedal First Controllers:
We are now replenishing the supply of sensorless motor controllers, and have a new model on hand with IRFB4110 mosfets for operation up to 72V as well. These controllers without the hall sensor dependency are much more robust in wet or high exposure environments, where the Crystalyte Immediate Start systems have proven somewhat vulnerable. Highly recommended if you don't absolutely need assistance from zero speed.
Lower Cutoff Voltage:
For maximum flexibility we are gradually standardizing all of our motor controllers to have the built-in low voltage cutoff set to 20V, to enable operation with 24V battery packs. Anyone wanting a higher cutoff voltage can readily program in a custom value of their choosing with the CycleAnalyst. The only controllers we have on stock that still have a 30V cutoff are the 36V 20A and the 72V 48A start immediate controllers.
More CycleAnalyst Compatibility:
Both the DC and the sensorless pedal-first controllers have the connector port for Direct Plug-in CycleAnalysts. The sensorless controllers can still pick up the speed readings from the hub, even without the hall sensors. However, the DC motor controller has no information about the wheel speed. For these units, we have made a new model of the CycleAnalyst, CA-DPS, which has the 6-pin port for direct attachment to a motor controller, but which also uses a speedometer sensor and spoke magnet for conventional speed detection from a wheel. This model is also useful for people using brushless controllers with geared or mid-drive motor arrangements.
Rear DC Motors:
There is now a rear DC motor option that fits iin a conventional 135mm dropout spacing and is dished appropriately to accommodate a 7 speed freewheel. We've long felt that the he brushed DC motor systems are of great value and are pleased to have a more complete line to offer. Although the torque is a bit less than the 400 series brushless hubs, they have minimal cogging drag and excellent reliability.
Those who come by and visit our shop space in Vancouver will certainly notice a lot of changes lately. We've managed to expand into one of the adjacent rooms and have taken the opportunity to do some wholesale renovations of area. New flooring, new paint, and when we are done there will be a whole new electronics development lab as well.
As mentioned in the last web update, we did receive the shipment of 4C rated LiFePO4 battery packs. However, we have not put them up for sale yet because our testing has shown a few issues that we wanted to resolve. For those who don't care about juicy battery details, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs
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Last year we sampled a number of LiFePO4 battery manufacturers looking to find one that delivered appreciable discharge currents yet also came in a finished looking and robust package. The one that we settled with not only met these requirements, it also came with a fairly advanced switched capacitor cell-balancing battery management system (BMS). This BMS did cell balancing splendidly, but it had the defect that it would continue to bleed a small amount of current from the cells even after the pack was flat and the BMS had cutout. If the battery was drained flat and then stored for several months, the BMS itself could actually end up discharging the cells all the way to zero volts and causing permanent damage.
These were at our request replaced with a new BMS circuit that would have virtually no quiescent current, causing some of the original delays to the shipment. As a downside though, it turns out that the rate of cell balancing with this new BMS is many orders of magnitude less than with the prior circuit. When we began testing the packs from this shipment we were typically only getting between 10 to 11.5 amp-hours out of them, due to the cells not being balanced. By opening up the packs and individually discharging those cells that are more charged than the rest of the pack, and topping up those cells that are running low, we've been able in almost every case to restore a full 12 amp-hours of available capacity. The images below shows a case in point.
The original pack as we received it was only delivering 8 amp-hours. You can see that there is not a very pronounced roll-off in the cell voltage before it shuts off, indicating that it was just 1 or 2 cells at a low state of charge causing the BMS to cutout. After opening the pack up we identified a single cell that was low, charged it up independently from the others in the pack, and afterwards it tested out perfectly. Most of the time it isn't so simple, and there are several cells both low and high that need to be adjusted and a few testing iterations before the capacity to reaches 12Ah.
So what next?
We have been going through all the batteries one by one in this manner and ensuring that each pack is balanced and delivers its rated capacity, and then re-sealing them. However, we still have some reservation about selling these until we are confident that the cells won't gradually go out of balance again in your hands. Ideally the amount of cell balancing by the BMS at the end of the charge cycle is sufficient to counter any natural deviations in cell leakage currents and BMS sense currents, and then this will be so. There are naturally a lot of tests going on at our end and a lot of back and forth with the manufacturer to get to the bottom of it, and we may decide in the end to replace the BMS circuits across the board
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Can I buy one?
The answer is yes, but only if you read the above paragraphs and fully understand and accept the implications. There is a small but finite possibility that the battery over time might go out of balance resulting in a reduced usable capacity, and you may have to open up and either service individual cells or replace the BMS circuit down the road if this is the case. We have a slow but steady stream of 24V, 36V, and 48V packs that are coming off the end of the testing/balancing cycle.
Update Apr 14th - Our final testing of the BMS shows that it does do cell balancing at an acceptable rate at the end of the charge cycle, and packs that are out of balance do slowly get better each time the packs is used and then recharged. The only situation we can forsee where the batteries could drift out of balance again is if they are stored for prolonged periods of time without use.
We were hoping to have received fairly large batch of eZee kits by now. At the time we placed the order we decided to pay extra for an upgraded and lighter weight Sanyo brand battery pack that would have a 12 month warranty. Unfortunately, there have been mistakes made on the ratings of the BMS circuits that came with these packs from Sanyo as well, and so eZee has had to return them to be fixed. The latest date for shipping is Apr 22nd, which would put the order here in the middle of May. Given that everything is ready except for the batteries, we are looking at the feasibility of having a small number of kits air-shipped this without batteries to at least provide an option for those who have been waiting, or who were counting on using a different type of battery pack anyway.