My First EV
last updated 3/13/1999
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Scooterists, when acting manic
Reach for tools in utter panic.
Blood and sweat flow from fanatic
End result? "Commutamatic".
-"Puddin' Tame," July 1998
And Dave Norton reminds us of "Westheimer's Discovery:"... "A few weeks spent in the lab can
frequently save a few hours at the library."
Commutamatic is an example of a tilting trike. Tilting trikes, like so many microcars or minicars, are odd and
rare. But besides that, they tend to have these characteristics:
- the driver leans as if he or she were on a two-wheeler: the force on the driver is never lateral, only down
into the seat
- the rear wheel, or wheels, are powered
- at least the steered wheel or wheels, and sometimes the drive wheel or wheels, lean into turns
- tilt is controlled by foot pedals, or by automated actuation, or "naturally," like a bicycle or a
- the two rear wheels stay flat on the ground and provide the power
- the front wheel and the entire passenger compartment tilt and steer like a motorcycle
- tilt is controlled by foot pedals, butů
- just as a motorcycle uses steering to control lean (and vice-versa) so does a tilt trike
The most famous tilter it seems is GM's Lean Machine. That, and Jephcott's Micro and Tilt Trike were inspirational.
Away we go.
- Photos and running total time may be seen on the Development
- Totals of costs for new, used, and outsourced parts may be seen on the Accounting
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: it will be made from as many re-used and recycled parts as possible, and of course,
reduce the amount of energy needed for my commute (compare it to a pick-up truck's 16-to-18 mpg). Indeed, this
thing is going to be a monument to cheapness, and a statement about the availability of complex manufactured goods
in our affluent society.
- Small but safe: it will have a complete roll-cage for the driver and passenger. I'll keep it as light as I
can, but its top speed of 45 mph shouldn't be dangerous.
I mentioned Professor Jephcott above. Tony Foale, whom I thank here (thanks, Tony!) and below, got to drive
Jephcott's "Micro." Here is a picture of the Jephcott Micro showing the design, including the tilt. Note
that the rear wheels and the drive unit stay comfortably on the ground while the cabin and the front wheel tip
just like a motorcycle. Mr. Foale took the photo, and Dr. Jephcott is at the controls.
Of course, I had to build my electric snow blower before I could do this. The funny
thing is, I started getting parts for this project about 4 years ago. Bob Batson at Electric
Vehicles of America helped me locate a used DC motor and a charger a while back, and last year he sold me the
Curtis PWM controller. Sometimes a good project takes time to get rolling. Photos,
a description of the steps, and running total time may be seen on the Development Log
Thanks to these fine people:
- Mitch Casto who surfed across my page one day last winter and offered to mail me reprints of articles about
Edmund Jephcott's tilting trike and Micro, and about GM's Lean Machine. I had simply not heard of Jephcott before
- Tony Foale, a noteworthy motorcycle designer who's working on some serious tilt-a-mation himself. Here's a
link to some of his pictures.
- Bob Batson of Electric Vehicles of America. Bob's advice
and support of electric vehicles (in any incarnation) and the fans of those vehicles is inspiring.
- And you may want to visit Robert Q. Riley Enterprises' home
page. He's inspirational!
- Thanks to Dennis and Sandy (and Doug, when he was there) down at Lewis Welding in Sudbury. They are abetting
my insanity by selling me steel stock, and by giving me welding advice. This is not their normal line of business,
and I really appreciate their friendliness.
- A tip-o'-the-hat to Olmstead-Flint, purveyors of belts, pulleys, bearings and shafts. I have spent about $400
with them on drive components over three years. They moved out of Cambridge, but still offer the same great service
and advice in Malden Massachusetts.
More information about this piece of work:
- The development log, part one, the first 60 hours. A step-by-step chronology of
the job, with photos. (For the first time, I am going to keep track of how long it takes to do a project like this.)
- The development log, part two, the next 61 hours. The step-by-step chronology of
the job, with photos, continued. Starts after suspension and just before tilt control.
- The development log, part three, the next, next 60 hours. Step-by-step chronology,
continued. This page begins with the first test drive.
- Accounting. Ever wonder how much it costs to build a tilting trike? Again, for almost
the first time, I am keeping track of the cost of a personal project.
- I have prepared a page on tilting trikes: Tilting Trikes. It includes Jephcott's
Micro, The GM Lean Machine, and others, and links to other tilters, too.
- I have also prepared a page about some pertinent patents on tilting trikes.
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