Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The speedometer.

Now, it's time to discuss the instrument console. Due to automotive regulations, every motorcycle needs a back lit speedometer. I wanted a complete speedometer meter kit which included a pickup mechanism. Although there were several analog meter kits I could have used, I thought a digital look would be best for the BugE.

So, browsing the web, I found a complete meter kit at It included the meter and also the pickup mechanism. Originally, I ordered the simple XR-SA meter on the left that had a speedometer, odometer & some bonus indicator lights. It was simple and probably would have done the job just fine. For a battery volt meter, I figured I would use the analog meter for now and then switch to a nicer looking bar graph unit at a later time.

When my meter arrived, for whatever reason, I got the nicer rx-srn meter shipped to me instead of the lower cost meter! It's a really nice looking meter. However, it has an extra feature I didn't need - a fuel gauge on the left side of the display!

It seemed too bad to install a retro looking charge meter from EV parts when I now had such a fine looking bar graph included in the digital unit. Surely, I thought, there must be a way of calibrating that slick looking gasoline bar graph so it would show battery charge instead. Unfortunately, such meters work in totally different ways so I would need a conversion circuit.

So, basically, I need to build or find a circuit that can convert a voltage range from a low charge state of say 45v* to a high charge state of 49V* to be a current flow which would mimic a sender unit current flow for the E-F gauge. This is a tricky circuit for me so I've decided to stick with a temporarily mounted analog gauge for now. Later, when the BugE is on the road, I'll be returning to this feature.
(*Voltage levels may be different)

Other than the unused fuel gauge, it is overall a fine looking speedometer kit. It has wires to allow connection to indicator lights such as brake, hi-beam & turn signals too. It comes complete with a magnetic pickup and even little button magnets to put in the wheels! The meter is programmable and the instructions show show how to set the meter for non-standard wheel sizes if needed. It also comes with a mounting arrangement that allows handlebar or dashboard mounting. (I'll be trying the handlebar mount first)

The speedometer also has some indicator lights can monitor what the real lights should be doing. I'll be using a multi-pin Molex connector on the wire bundle so the speedometer wiring can be quickly detached from the cowl wiring should the cowl need to be removed from the chassis for servicing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mirrors, headlights & front storage area door.

Since the cowl is not mounted to the bug yet, this is a good time to do some little things that will be harder to do once it is mounted to the pivot tube.

The biggest cosmetic change to the 12v system of the BugE is the addition of lighted mirrors. I found some really nice looking EuroSport side mirrors from for arund $18 ea. This model is adjustable so it can be used on either the right or left side. In the photos I've seen on other BugE cars, the mirrors appear to be placed parallel to the lip of the cowl and line up about where the console begins. Since these mirrors are lighted, they have been placed forward about an inch so power wires can pass from them.

As you can see, the mirrors came with spare bulbs and some sheet metal screws. However, I've decided to use some small machine screws instead so the fiber glass is not stressed out as much. When I need to replace the bulbs, this photo reminder will hopefully remind me to press in the two catches on the right side rather than trying to pry off the front. Since the mirrors look so much like they are integrated into the bug, I'm going to try to use the lighted mirrors as primary turn signals. If the lights don't seem bright enough or they don't pass inspection, then I'll be using the small Targa lights that came with the BlueSky kit in the front too.

POST CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION: February 14, 2009 - Found the Eurosport mirror turn indicators LOOK nice from the front. However, the mirrors need to be angled up since the body mount point is too low. Even when this is done, visibility is rather restrictive. I have replaced the Eurosport mirrors with Izuzu pickup truck mirrors. I also installed a separate DOT approved turn signal pair since the new mirrors do not have turn signal lamps built into them.

Now, it's time to attach the storage door to the body. Originally, I bought some cabinet hinges to do that. However, I could not make them work for me. So, rather than making a special trip to the hardware store just for a pair of hinges, I decided to make my own offset hinge assembly.

Upper-Left shows the materials. Some washers that fit #8 screws, (4) 8-32 - 1/2" screws (note: 8-32 1/2" screws should be flat head white 8-32 screws but I used zinc round head because that's what I had on hand at the moment), (8) 8-32 nuts, (2) two inch gate hinges, some counter edging (used about 8" of it) and some stubby flat-head self-tapping screws with big threads.

Top-Middle The next step was making some notches in the BugE door lip. For marking, I used a hinge as a guide, a pencil to mark and a dremil for cutting.

Top-Left Using a Dremil, I removed about an 1/8" of material from one end of the door so it could go over the hinges when opened.

Middle-Left Where to put the holes? Door holes were based on holes in the hinges. Image shows screws drilled through cover and attached with nuts inside. The inside nuts not only secure the screws, but also serve as spacers.

Middle-Middle Image shows hinges being put on. Note, spacer nuts are left on.

Middle-right Image shows securing nuts attached to top of hinge.

Lower-left Fiberglass material is removed using a dremil in the approximate size and the thickness of each hinge.

Lower-middle An 8" piece of counter edging is attached to the hinges with some stubby flat head self-tapping screws. The screw heads mount to the edging such that no screw head is visible.

Lower-right The door is temporally taped shut to the body with masking tape. Then, from inside, the hinge assembly is attached to the door frame. Note, on the Dremil bit, there is a small home made brass collar on it. This is to prevent the drill from going too far and boring out through the walls of the BugE! After holes are drilled, more stubby screws come to the rescue to secure the assembly to the frame of the door. However, the stubby screws are slightly longer than the BugE wall is thick. So, some washers are used as spacers so they don't need to be fully screwed in. (see circled yellow areas)

While inside the storage area drilling holes, I also marked the location of where the door catch mechanism should go. Once I finished mounting the hinge, I opened the door, drilled a small starter hole from inside to out. Then drilled a hole using a 1" hole saw from outside to in. Then added the included tang and the door is done!

The end result?

Nice. (Well, at least I think so)

Parts used (see materials list above)
Tools - Drill (with drill bit kit), 1" hole saw, Dremil (with cutting bit & drill bit) , Shop light, respirator (for fine fiberglass particles), safety glasses, screw driver, adjustable wrench, pencil, marker, metal ruler, wood vice.
Time used - about 8 hours working casually, 4 hours blogging about it.

Lots of assembly time (maybe too much) is spent thinking about how best to record what I'm doing in digital format. Straight assembly should go much faster - especially if the correct parts are used. I'm sure next time I go to the hardware store, I'll see some cabinet hinges that would have been PERFECT to use instead of doing it the roundabout way I just did! Hey, but that's what this project is about. LEARNING!

To do (related tasks):
  • Hot-glue some new weatherstrip around the door since I wrecked the stripping that was originally on the door.
  • Replace the shiny roundhead screws visible on the outside of the door with white flathead countersunk screws.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wiring the 48V motor.

Since adding a reversing switch is a common option, BlueSky provided some supplemental instructions to do this. To mount the reversing switch properly, the instructions recommended jumping ahead to mount the rear fender, seat and battery tray so the switch could pass through the rear fender properly. Now that those steps are done, it's time to go back to the 48V wiring step. The way I would have liked to assemble would have been to purchase pre-made wires and just install them as per the user manual. However, since no wire kits specific to the BugE were available at that time, it's time to do it the hard expensive way.

For the 48V wires, I decided to construct my own battery cables out of a coil of #4 wire. The cables are stranded so they bend very easily. For cutting the wire, bolt cutters work nice. For stripping, I use a razor knife. For putting on ends, I use a hammer crimper that crimps by being hot with a sledge hammer or in my case an axe. Then I wrapped the ends of the wire in electric tape, put some plastic split tubing on it to protect it, then bolted them. Just to make things difficult, two lug sizes need to be used depending on where the cables attach.

The reversing handle, speed controller and DC-DC converter are shown mounted to a cutting board using "L" brackets, ready to mount to the frame with the two bolts on either side of the speed controller. Using a cutting board not only saves time painting but it's corrosion proof too! You will notice that this DC-DC controller is an upgrade from the recommended one. This converter has a higher capacity than the basic one and is also isolated. This means it will be no problem to install a radio or some other high-power 12V accessory. Being isolated, it's much less likely to send a 48V surge through the 12V system should it fail.

Here is an image of the 48V wiring so far with the speed controller assembly lifted into place. Due to tight space, I found the lugs from the speed controller should be attached at right angles, then run under the reversing switch to come up where the battery tray is. To do this required using a Dremil tool to cut out a bit of battery tray although I also could have done so from the switch support instead. (see small square cut out on battery tray - to the left of the switch). To attach the lugs to the copper terminals on the controller and contactor, I use stainless steel nuts which I hope will resist corrosion better than the typical nut.

The wiring is also modified slightly from the plans. Two 48V wires needed to meet at a terminal in the contactor hump. However space was very tight there. So I moved the connection point for the two wires from the contactor lug bolt up the wire to the switch lug bolt. Electrically, nothing significant has changed. However, it's much easier to wire! Clicking on the image will show a larger version of the wiring diagram to show where I modified the wiring.

According to plans, the only thing holding on the motor cover is a strip of Velcro running down the trailing arm. I have found that's not sufficient since it's possible to go over a bump and lose the motor cover. So, I would recommend supplementing the velcro with a bolt as well. Just be VERY careful when drilling bolt holes for the cover. The motor has magnets in it so it's possible metal filings could be attracted to the inside of the motor causing BIG problems.
So, if the motor is already installed, before drilling, wrap the motor in plastic to prevent any metal drill filings from being drawn into the motor vents!

Tools used:
Razor knife
Dremil with cutting wheel
Adjustable wrench(s)
vice/hammer for making bolts
Bolt cutter
crimp tool
axe or large hammer (for crimp tool)

Parts used:
Wire Lugs 3/8 and 5/16 size for #4 wire $50 + shipping - ebay.
Electrical tape (3M brand)
Several lengths of #4 wire from wire spool (spool was $89+shipping)
(12) 5/16-18 Stainless steel nuts for contactor, reverse switch & custom controller bolts.
Around 6 inches of brass all thread to make bolts (since I forgot to pick up some at the hardware store)
Around 3 hours.