Getting Sideways

More Than Just Pedal Power!

Jason Greenlow

Issue 9, March 2018

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This electric drift trike spends half it’s time sideways, but takes the pedal power to a whole new level!

Using recycled batteries and some creative thinking, Jason has created a one-of-a-kind drift trike for loads of entertainment. We caught up with Jason to find out more!

Thanks for taking us through your latest project Jason. This is your second project to be featured in DIYODE Magazine. Are you perpetually building new things?

It’s good to be back in the DIYODE magazine again. My last build was the Esky power station (Cold Power). My whole life, I’ve loved electronics; my parents use to buy me toys like many kids, but I used to pull them apart to find out how they worked. I rarely knew how they went back together again though - sorry mum and dad!

Oh yes - many of us need to make that apology! Intrigue and curiosity dominated a lot of childhoods! We’re glad to have you back for a second time. Your electric trike is an awesome looking project - what inspired you to embark on this idea?

This time I have built a Drift Trike / Slider Trike. The build was so much fun to create but there were a lot of stops along the way before I could ride it.

Intelligent battery management.

I started off building a scooter because I wanted something electric to hoon around on, but found the frame to be too small for me, so I sold the frame. On TV one night, I saw an electric trike that had a brushless motor on the front hub, and that’s what made me look into building one; but it had to be more cheaper and not the same as the one on TV.

That’s the awesome spirit of DIY - making something better, or cheaper than a commercial unit! It looks like you’ve converted a pushbike to a trike, is that correct, or is it a store-bought trike?

The trike itself is made from a lot of different parts, taken from an old go kart to a push bike; it took a long time to acquire all the parts.

I started with the front forks from a BMX and put a ratcheting hub in the front wheel so you don’t have to pedal, but rather, just rest your feet. This was followed by a disc brake and motor cross handlebars to help keep the trike in proportion, because the standard handlebars looked too short. Then the centre S-bar was welded to the forks and the back frame. And lastly came the rear wheels.

master switch
Power master switch.
reclaimed laptop batteries
Reclaimed laptop batteries.

I took the rear wheels off an old go kart I found, for the rear drifting wheels. To get the PVC off and on, you deflate the tyres and slide the PVC on, before reinflating. The PVC is then held on by tyre pressure. A new chain and front and rear sprocket had to be purchased from a go kart shop, and some minor machining of the front sprocket needed to be done for the sprocket to fit on the brushless motor. Then I fabricated an adjustable bracket to hold the brushless motor, and to tension the chain correctly.

That’s quite a mix of parts! Adding to the mix is your home-made battery pack. You’ve recycled laptop batteries - did you buy them, or scavenge them from what you had on hand?

The next step was the power supply, which is lithium-ion. From my last build (Cold Power) I had plenty of li-ion batteries leftover from old laptops.

It seems like a great way to source Li-ion batteries that’s for sure! Was the brushless motor sourced for this project, or did you have it remaining from something else?

The brushless motor is 70Kv motor from an R/C plane. To power the brushless motor is a 200A ESC (electronic speed controller), which took a long time to find online, so I got two of each for good measure in case something went wrong during the build.

That’s always a good idea if you can do it. Did you have any challenges providing motor control?

The next part was hard - trying to find a way of powering up the ESC to a hand throttle because I couldn’t use a typical R/C receiver for this build. This part took the longest because unless you know where to look online, you will never find it. I stumbled across a device called a servo controller, which can be bought online for around 5AUD - they are used to test R/C servos before putting into your R/C toy, which was perfect for what I needed. There is an analogue potentiometer on the servo controller so some desoldering and removing from the board is needed. In place of the potentiometer I used a hall effect sensor, which changes its output voltage when passing a magnet over the sensor. The hall effect sensor and magnet came as a set in a throttle, also from an online supplier. During the build I kept frying this sensor but JAYCAR sell them, so they were easily replaceable.

Schematic of system
A simplified schematic of the system.
The motor, sprocket, and chain assembly
The motor, sprocket, and chain assembly.

Always handy to have a local source for parts. Sounds like it all went together without a huge challenge - aside from a few fried hall effect sensors! Have you measured a top speed for the trike?

The trike gets up to 30km/h and has plenty of power and torque to drift on the spot.

That’s quite some speed - especially when you’re low to the ground on a trike with a predisposition for heading sideways! Are there any special considerations or protections in place, for the battery pack?

I put the battery pack together with a BMS (battery monitor system) to keep the batteries from becoming under or over charged, and I use a CCC (constant current charger) to charge the pack. Charge time is around two hours.

That’s pretty fast charging, although probably seems like an eternity when you’re keen to get back out there! You definitely overcame some obstacles for a fantastic result. What are you working on now?

I have always got a project on the go, but most often they don’t work or I change projects midway, so I never finish them. Now that the trike is finished I have had a lot of friends ask me to build another one, but I’d rather find an alternate contraption to design and ride or drive.

Perhaps you can start your own production line for electric trikes, alongside laptop battery collection facilities? We look forward to seeing your future projects, Jason!

Jason Greenlow

Jason Greenlow

Mechanic and lifelong gadget enthusiast living in Perth, from Christchurch, NZ.