ELECTRIC BIKE KITS
fast, hands-free. As it’s not a reported problem it was most likely an unfortunate combination of motor and bike geometry and probably not peculiar to the Tongxin. Details are just in as we go to press about the next version of the Tongxin kit, known as V3. This will feature essentially the same motor and rackmounted 24 V battery as my test kit, so performance should be very similar. The main difference is that it will be ‘modular’ – so rather than coming as a long ‘snake’ of components permanently attached to the integral battery and controller set-up, each component will plug into the next one in the chain. This should be a great improvement as far as installation goes, and will allow you to dispense totally with the rather pointless pedal motion sensor and brake levers which come with this particular kit.
Who would use it? The Tongxin is not the most powerful motor out there so if you are after pure power you might want to look at the Alien or the high torque version of the Heinzmann. Where it does score is the light weight and silent running, making it the least conspicuous retrofit option. Don’t get the wrong idea though – powerwise it’s no slouch up moderate hills. For an efficient, lightweight kit for long distance riding up nagging gradients and into will-sapping headwinds it has a lot going for it. The light weight also commends it for use on folders.
Specifications Motor weight: Approx 2.3 kg Battery weight: Approx 2.8 kg Battery capacity: 240 Wh – rack mounted Charger weight/recharge time: To be finalized for Version 3 Replacement battery cost: To be finalized for Version 3 Bike requirements: Should fit all standard dropouts Guarantee: 1 year on all components and batteries RRP: Approx £750 Note: Complete Version 3 spec still awaited at time of writing so above details may vary slightly.
VELOVISION ISSUE 32 DECEMBER 2008
ALIEN Installation and assembly of the Alien is similar to the Tongxin system, although it is already ‘modular’ (with plugs between the various components). The rather snazzy looking alloy-cased front hub motor will be familiar to those who know the Ezee Torq E-bike. It came well-built into a sturdy deepsection, double-walled alloy rim which looked more than up to the job. though I suspect few will be familiar with the ‘Hailian’ branding. I connected up the spaghetti junction of wires coming from the controller to the various components (except brake levers and ‘pedelec’ sensor which I left off again – see Tongxin comments) and the motor
survived several hours of driving, heavy rain while riding into the wind with no ill effects at all. In short, a winner in construction terms. The Jack itself is a lovely bike for cross town jaunts, dropping off kerbs and soaking up potholes with its Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. If you don’t need the motor or run out of power it’s still a great bike to ride with that free running motor. The main test was on a 100 mile tour in France, riding around Rouen then down the River Seine to Le Havre. The main difficulty proved getting the bike there in the first place – it was rather a heavy and bulky lump to heave on and off Eurostar and a variety of French trains (especially along with
sparked into life at the end of the ‘dry run’ at a brief flick of the thumb-lever style throttle. The wheel then slipped easily into the front forks of my chosen host bike, the urban-styled 26"-wheeled Dahon Jack. The anti-turn locating washers did need a bit of grinding and filing down for it to sit fully in the dropouts. A solid alloy rear rack goes on next (to house the hefty 36 V Li-Ion battery) before the most fiddly part – clearing the left side of the handlebar so as to mount the battery capacity meter and the thumb throttle. With all of the wires gathered into the nylon zip bag it becomes apparent that mounting the controller and all of its protruding wires at the rear of the bike – as recommended – will mean two cables running the length of the bike across the folding frame joint. A quick trip to the local DIY shop and a bit of soldering later, I had an extended batteryto-controller lead which runs from the front to the back of the bike, allowing the Velcro-mounted controller bag to go on the handlebars, and keeping the wiring more compact. First impressions? I always pedal E-bikes without power on the very first ride, and like the Tongxin, the Alien has good ‘freewheel’ speed when no power is applied. You don’t really notice much extra resistance, just extra weight in handling when throwing the bike around, especially from the extremely sturdy looking alloy-encased battery at the back, which is quite heavy and quite high up. This proved more of an issue when parking the bike – I kept wishing it had a strong centre kickstand. The motor is connected via a kettle-style lead – not very reassuring in theory perhaps, but it ELECTRIC BIKE KITS
touring luggage). But once this was behind us the bike came into its own around the vertiginous valley sides near our base south of Rouen. Again, due to the motor’s gearing, it gives out the most power once you’d got up to about 5 mph. I quickly developed the technique of getting in the right gear for a 10 mph climb and easing the power on as I felt the pedalling becoming harder up the gradient. ‘Alien Jack’ as it had now been christened, made short work of the mile-and-a-bit haul from the local town of Elbeuf back up to our accommodation using this method. It was an average 1 in 10 gradient with plenty of steeper hairpins, and with full throttle and a bit of pedal power it left a very sporty Kalkhoff pedelec bike in its wake. At the end of a 40-plus mile day ride this climb saw the battery reserves just about exhausted – a good range for a bike which stresses robustness over lightness and speed. You’d undoubtedly get more miles per charge from a sleeker, more efficient bike. If you are annoyed by background noise then the ‘angry bee’ buzzing of the Alien motor at certain speeds might spoil an otherwise great experience. I started not to notice it after a short while. The Jack itself proved fine for our subsequent
‘pottering along’ style of touring once we’d left the steep slopes round Elbeuf, though it has no long-distance pretensions whatsoever. Very selective use of the throttle through easygoing terrain saw the battery regularly clocking up 40 miles and more. This was over fairly undemanding territory but with two full panniers and a 12 stone rider on board. Several hours unforeseen headwind just reinforced the value of power assistance, allowing us to reach a hotel with reasonable speed – without electric assist, it would have been one of those truly spirit-sapping days.
Who would use it? I deliberately went for the heavier 36 V system to give a bit more power potential and to provide a step up from the Tongxin option (there is a 24 V option with seatpost mounted battery). Although the battery failed once back in the UK (replaced by Alien immediately with the replacement still going strong) it proved, otherwise, a pretty robust system once the controller and connections were safely tucked away in a solid, waterproof bar bag – my modification as the Velcro bag provided came apart. Although I used the kit on tour it would be excellent
for hilly urban riding – combined with the Dahon Jack’s ruggedness it would make a great load puller for day to day tasks. It could also live with tracks and trails quite easily – but perhaps not extreme rough-stuff style riding, where its weight might make it feel more of a burden than a benefit. The cost conscious will note it’s the least expensive kit tested by quite some way.
Specifications Motor weight: 3.4 kg Battery weight: 5 kg Battery capacity: Approx 360 Wh Charger weight/recharge time: 650 g/4-6 hours Replacement battery cost: £210 post free Total retro-fitted bike weight: 24.7 kg Bike requirements: 110 mm front fork dropout width. 36v kit ready spoked in 26" wheel (24v kit ready spoked in 20", 24" or 26" wheels). Check the profile of your forks with the retailer to confirm they will not foul the hub motor. Guarantee: 1 year on all components and batteries RRP: £419 plus £20 postage (24v kits: £359 plus £20 postage)
The Alien’s battery fits neatly into the ‘shelf’ on the rear rack (BELOW) but the bag for the controller eventually split (LEFT). Richard had soldered up a longer lead so that only one cable needed to run past the main frame hinge, and eventually stored controller and wiring in a handlebar bag (BELOW LEFT).
ISSUE 32 DECEMBER 2008 VELOVISION