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Light Electric Utility Vehicle

A rugged low-cost solar electric utility vehicle platform for the developing world

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Transportation is major issue in the poorest areas of the world. Places like where I live in South Sudan often have limited physical infrastructure and most vehicles can't deal with the terrible roads. Specialty off road vehicles are also outside the means of the average person. I am attempting to build a solar powered electric utility vehicle that can deal with these harsh environments, and create a transportation solution that is available for everyone.

The vehicle should be: Rugged, low cost, and easy to build and repair

The basic design of the vehicle is a two seater buggy with cargo space in both the front and rear. The vehicle has fully independent a-arm suspension, and each wheel is powered by a hub motor.


Why a Utility vehicle?

This is not a car nor is it a replacement for a car. This is a smaller vehicle that is part light tractor, and part utv. The top speed is much lower than a car, but it is designed for an environment where roads severely limit top-speed anyways. This vehicle is designed to fill specialty roles that help people's everyday life. This includes transporting people over rough roads, moving goods throughout towns, bringing agricultural goods to market, as well as serving as a light tractor. It can also be used as a ambulance, which is of special interest to me as I work at a mission hospital. For myself, I want to use it to transport materials and tools around the compound that I live at, and use it as a mobile power station for tools. I believe this system has value for both people from the developing world, and those who work there.

Why Solar Electric?

I choose to build an electric vehicle for several reasons. First is that at a basic level an electric vehicle is mechanically much simpler than an ICE. There are much fewer spare parts. Fuel networks are also much less reliable in the developing world. For example currently South Sudan is in a fuel shortage where petrol has only been available few times a month. This drives up prices which have gone up to $30USD per gallon. I wanted to be able to charge the vehicle with solar. There are very few practical solar vehicles, but the start and stop for long times nature of a utility vehicle lend itself perfectly to this technology. An electric vehicle is also a moving power bank, and this means that once you arrive where you are going your vehicle can power tools, or equipment. It can also be used as a business to charge phones and other devices, or be built out with additional technology like a solar fridge which can be used for business or humanitarian work.

How would it be made?

People who live within the developing world are far from helpless. There are incredible craftsman and makers that are able to repair or build almost anything using mostly scrap that they find. This project is about harnessing their ingenuity and abilities to tackle the problems within their own countries. I am releasing this project under the CERN Open Hardware Licence v1.2. I hope that people throughout the developing world could make similar vehicles following and modifying these plans. I am trying to source as much of the parts locally as I can. So far the only items I have brought from outside are the solar panels, charge controller, batteries, motor controller and motors. All other items I have found available in South Sudan. A lot of the components I am using are spare parts for Chinese and Indian mass produced motorcycles which are very common here. The basic design of the vehicle is an articulated frame which rotates around the point of articulation. This reduces stresses on the frame, and keeps all wheels in constant contact with the ground. The frame is 30mmx30mm hollow section skinned with 1mm sheet. This makes a strong light frame that can be welded later for repairs or modifications. Each wheel has its own motor connected by sprocket. Each wheel is mounted on a trailing arm suspension.

What would it cost?

I think I will spend bout USD $3500 on this vehicle. Almost USD $2000 of that is for solar panels and batteries.

Will you release plans?

The point of this vehicle is to make it build-able by local people in the developing world. This requires plans that are very different than just posting some 3d design files. I will be creating step by step build instructions for the entire vehicle, but this represents a huge time commitment. I will be going back to Australia in November for the birth of my first Child, and will have several months where I can spend time developing these plans. I also have the next month where I can torture test the vehicle to find any parts that need improvement.

What it left to do?

The vehicle is fully functional at this point, though I was unable to get a replacement...

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  • 4 × Electric Motors MY1122ZXF 650W 24V DC brush gear motor
  • 2 × Batteries 200ah 12v Tubular gel lead acid
  • 4 × Wheel assembly complete wheel assembly with sprocket for Senke 125cc motorcycle
  • 4 × Solar panels 95W Tenesol monocrystalline
  • 1 × Solar charge controller Tracer 4215bn 40a

View all 18 components

  • Mk3 in Action

    Chris Low04/08/2016 at 08:22 0 comments

    A quick video of testing out the vehicle before we loaded it on the container.

  • Mk3 "Finished"

    Chris Low04/08/2016 at 02:17 3 comments

    I have been working really hard to finish up the mk3 prototype while I have been back in Australia. This has been a pretty intensive process as this is a completely different vehicle from the earlier prototypes. In a few short months I have had to design, source components, and build this new vehicle in order for it to be put on a container headed to South Sudan. Making it a bit more difficult was the fact that I didn't have access to much in the way of tools. The whole thing was made outside under the shade of an McDonald's billboard I set up for protection from the sun and rain. The only tools I had were some basic hand tools, an angle grinder, a borrowed cordless drill, and an old stick welder. Everything is essentially done except for some adding some light, my BMS, and the panels which are already in South Sudan. I will try to write some logs about specific components, but in general the drive train consist of 4 1000W QS Motor hub motors controlled by 4 Kelly KLS sine wave controllers powered by 60AH 16S GBS LiFePO4 batteries.

    Here are some photos of the build unfortunately I was rushing so things were

    not very well documented:

    Inspecting the new hub motors. The rims are from a wrecked Holden. I had to modify them a bit to properly fit the 60.1mm center bore.

    In the process of building the attachments for the motors. Found a new friend who bored out the steel and added the keyway.

    Building the upper a-arms. Not shown is the huge amount of time that was involved in calculating things like king pin inclination, caster, camber, and lots of other steering geometry I had to learn as I went.

    My "workshop" under an old McDonald's Billboard. I am taking these back to South Sudan to make light roofing structures.

    Working on the suspension.

    Frame just about complete.

    early rolling testing.

    Programming the motor controllers.

    The right petal is the accelerator. Te left controls the regenerative braking. The handbrake controls the disk brakes and acts as the parking brake.

    Mechanical linkage to the brake cylinder.

    Just needs the panels.

    Simplified controls. Battery Shutoff, keyed switch, and a forward neutral reverse selector.

    I had to change springs to beefier 400 lb/in.

    New family car.

  • Updates

    Chris Low02/14/2016 at 04:39 1 comment

    I have been a bit distracted lately because my wife and I just had are first child. I am busy teaching him the finer details of hardware hacking, but I am worried he may not be picking things up as quick as I would like. ;) We have gone back to Australia for the delivery, and will be out of South Sudan until April. I have decided on a total redesign of the vehicle. The last version took some serious damage when it broke loose in the back of the truck it was being transported in. It gives me the perfect excuse to make some much needed improvements. My aims are to maximize efficiency and robustness. I have taken a number of ideas from the Luka EV project which can be found here on Hackaday. The guys behind that project have been hugely supportive and helpful. Their project is ambitious, and I think will really push forward EVs, and small builder manufacturing.

    I have switched to using hub moters, Lifepo4 batteries, a more traditional rack and pinion steering system, and long travel a-arm suspension. Hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to post new updates on the progress. Just wanted to let people know this project lives on.

    Chris

  • Loading Up

    Chris Low10/27/2015 at 07:47 0 comments

    Just a quick video of loading up the SUV in the back of the truck to start my journey up to Yida Refugee camp. I got to make good use of the winch which worked well, but sounds awful. Enjoy.


  • PID CONTROL

    Chris Low10/26/2015 at 18:37 0 comments

    One of the most difficult elements of this project to get right has been the PID loop to keep the vehicle tracking straight. Without it the vehicle can easily veer off course. I think the process of tuning the parameters took several years off of my life.

    The first part was getting information about what the angle between the front and the back. I started out by creating a sensor using a ratiometric hall effect sensor and neodymium magnets.

    This worked pretty well, but it was an incredible hard to set up. The output was very non-linear, and in the end I had to create a complete lookup table for all of the potential values. This was an incredibly cheap way to get absolute position feedback. It cost less than two dollars. As a long term solution it doesn't really work with what I am trying to accomplish because it would be really hard for someone to set up if they didn't know what they were doing. I also had to rebuild the center pivot which means I had to remove the sensor.

    I then used a normal 10k pot. It worked for a while, but wasn't rugged enough and it failed. Unfortunately I didn't have any spares. I gutted a servo motor and used it as a pot. This has worked quite well so far.

    I use this measurement to as the input of the PID loop. The setpoint comes from reading the joystick on the wii nunchuck. The output controls the turn parameter of the sabertooth controller.

    Tuning this loop was pretty scary. There is a lot of power in these motors. When the parameters were out of wack it has a tendency to turn violently, There are some good dents in a couple of places from the sudden stops.

    Now it is running pretty well, but I will try and tune it for a bit stronger response in the future.

  • Body

    Chris Low10/26/2015 at 16:12 0 comments

    I have now finished the body, so I will give a brief overview, but mostly show off some photos. The biggest additions are a dumping bed and a built in toolbox.

    Here is the mounted toolbox. It is a nice size for the space available, and it is really nice to have lockable storage. The rubber tube connecting the two haves contain wiring. I ran it through two motorcycle inner tubes for abrasion protection and to keep water out. Sorry everything is really dirty. I was running a sander off the batteries earlier in the day and got sawdust everywhere.

    All the storage in the vehicle is designed to be waterproof.

    The rear bed tilts for dumping loads and for access to the rear wheels and motors.

    The bed rests at about 90 degrees to the ground. I hinged it closer to the center point instead of the end so it tips with less effort.

    The areas in the back are used for storage. They fit these buckets which can hold things like ropes or extra tools. It is ice to have a place for them that is out of the way. There are some different wheels on the vehicle for this photo. They turned out to be terribly weak and I shattered two of them. I went back to the original wheels and lowered the suspension about 80mm to lower the center of gravity.

    I made the back by first welding the hollow section frame. I then cut out the panels from a 1200x2400x1mm sheet of steel. I score the places where I want a bend, and then bend it with a hammer.

    I then weld each sheet in place by burning through the sheet with the rod. The resulting bond is really strong, and it is a very fast process.

  • Entertainment System

    Chris Low10/26/2015 at 15:23 0 comments

    While this is a utility vehicle, I thought it would be nice to be able to play music, so I decided to add a radio of sorts. When I started looking at options I realized that with the way people go through phones it is pretty easy to find an older model that is just looking for new life. I found an old ZTE T81 Android phone that someone had given me a while back. The phone was locked in Australia, and needed to be back there to be unlocked. While it didn't work as a phone, it is basically a ready built entertainment system.

    I built an enclosure for it by cutting up an old Halogen work light. The glass was replaced with a piece of mahogany. I cut out a space for the phone using a jig saw. The only real tricky part of the build was adding a external button to turn the screen on. The screen is turned on by a button on the top which was not accessible when it was mounted. I soldered a wire to a momentary switch to simulate a button press.

    The phone is powered by an LM2596HV buck converter wired into a usb chord. A small amplifier and a pair of 3w speakers finish out the enclosure. I also wired in a pair of old led down lights to act as headlights which can be dimmed with a 200k pot. The results turned out pretty nice. I would like to write an android app that connects with the an Arduino via Bluetooth to display system information like battery voltage and current, which would eliminate the current LCD screen.

  • ​Thoughts on the Hackaday Prize

    Chris Low10/22/2015 at 20:07 4 comments

    It is a real honor to have my project selected as a finalist for the 2015 Hackaday Prize. As others have said it would have been incredibly difficult to pick the top ten from the 100 semifinalists. This is especially true when you look at the huge range of projects that were represented. It can't be easy to choose between projects that try to solve such a wide range of problems. One project may be much simpler than another, but it may be done very well. Some people are struggling to come up with answers to problems that are incredibly complex, while others are working to create rock solid products along a much more well tread paths. There is also the added complexity of the huge range of individuals or groups that have taken part. Some projects have been taken on by groups that are working on there projects as professionals, or as a businesses, some as loosely affiliated groups of individuals that only know each other through this contest, some who are working completely by themselves, and everything in between. I don't really know how you would weigh those factors for a competition like this. Is the competition only about the product or idea that comes forth, or is there any consideration for the story of how everything got built.

    I am thankful for the competition because without it I would not have finished the vehicle, or at least got it to the point it is now. There are simply way to many other things going on in my life right now. My wife and I are expecting our first child in late December, so my wife just had to fly back home to Australia, because she couldn't fly later in the pregnancy. I am staying in South Sudan for another month to try and set things up for when we come back early next year. We are trying to move to Yida refugee camp on the border to North Sudan to work with the almost 100,000 refugees from the Nuba mountains that live there. Yida happens to be one of the least accessible places on the planet. It is only accessible by road for several months of the year in the dry season, and even then the road is so dangerous it is only traveled by armed convoys. Food is airdropped to the camp, and people get in and out via a dirt airstrip.

    I am hoping to travel up to Yida early next week, and take the solar utility vehicle with me. It should be a pretty interesting trip. I am going to load up the SUV along with tools and materials into the back of a heavy truck I have been fixing over the last few weeks. We will drive the truck to the capitol city Juba where I have some contacts with some Russians who fly an old Antinov cargo plane up north. I was given an old shipping container up there that I am hoping to convert into a house. It should be a really good test of the SUV as I will be using it as both transport, and as a power source for tools and welding.

    It has definitely not been easy finishing up the vehicle, and there is certainly a number of things I will improve in the future, but I am thankful for the competition for keeping me focused so that I could get this thing done. I hope it can help me to work with people here, and inspire others to try something similar. I haven't finished the building plans yet, but I will have several months once I get back to Australia that I can hopefully use to create a set of plans so that people can build their own. I hope the next month of testing will also show me some areas for improvement. This is obviously a very hardware oriented project, which I think makes it harder to open source. It is easy to release a pcb design, or a piece of code. It is just a mater of git commit, git push. With Hardware a lot more effort needs to be put into creating something that someone can gain meaningful information from. As this project is aimed at people in the developing world it requires more than just 3d files as well. This vehicle has been built using a lot of techniques I learned from people I the developing world, but explaining how to hammer out different metal shapes is not an...

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  • BOM

    Chris Low09/20/2015 at 19:48 0 comments

    So here is a general breakdown of the items I have used, and the cost to make a basic vehicle. Total cost is about $3500. I am pretty happy with that number considering there are no fuel costs, and what the vehicle is capable of.

  • Control System

    Chris Low09/20/2015 at 18:26 0 comments

    Up to this point I had been running the vehicle with an rc transmitter. It was a simple solution, but certainly not practical in the long run. I wanted a system that was simple and cheap, and could be made as modular as possible so that it could just be bolted on to vehicles made by local people. I decided not to reinvent the wheel when it came to interfaces. I liked the feel of the wii nunchuck, and it gave me the buttons I needed. I already had one out here, for another project, so it was donated for the cause. Unfortunately the cheap ebay knockoff versions are not as 5v tolerant as the Nintendo original, and I seemed to have lost the I2c chip. This wasn't a big deal, because I didn't need the accelerometer, so I rewired it and just read the joystick and buttons with the Arduino.

    The Arduino sends control codes to the Sabertooth 2x60 motor controllers via serial packets. The button button will activate a PID control loop when pressed which will control the angle at the pivot point to control turning. Right now there is a pot at the pivot point, but I hope to move to some kind of hall effect based angular position sensor. The other button is for a horn which is turned on with a mosfet.

    I wanted to keep the drive as simple as possible to avoid anything weird. All the other non critical components are controlled by a second Arduino. This Arduino connects to the sensors which include 6 ds18b20 temperature probes to measure temperature for all motors and batteries, an 3 Allegro Microsystems ACS758 current sensors. It controls output to lights, two case fans, and accessories via mosfets. Its main function is to display all of this information on a 20 x 4 LCD screen, and set parameters for things like temperature alarms, and fan on temps.

    The programs are still works in progress, but they are functional. The code in its current state is available in the github repository along with pinouts and my wiring layout.

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Discussions

hugs wrote 09/22/2016 at 20:09 point

Chris,

I love your project and I want to build one for driving around my neighborhood! (I live in Chicago, so I'm very curious about experimenting with making a "weather-proofed" version of your Mk3.) Can you post more info about the Mk3? I'm specifically interested in where you sourced (or if you have specs for) the rack and pinion steering, the wheel suspension springs, steering wheel, and the seats. Also, any more info about how you built the disk brake system? Lastly, size dimensions of the overall vehicle (width, length, height) would be a huge help. Thanks again for creating such a cool project. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

hayden wrote 03/13/2016 at 09:04 point

This is a very inspiring story, I loved the bit about the hacker space ! It also led me to read about the Luka car, and i was very impressed with that too. Best of luck to you with your V2

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MW Motors wrote 11/15/2015 at 07:35 point

Hi Chris,

Well  done on coming third in the competition.  Keep up the good work. Best regards. Maurice

  Are you sure? yes | no

Chris Low wrote 11/15/2015 at 09:00 point

Thanks Maurice, 

I really thought Luka was going to take the top spot. It was certainly the most impressive and polished product. Maybe it was a little too well done, as it kind of pushed the boundary of what I would call a hack vs new product development. It is a super impressive project, and I really hope you continue to pursue it as I have learned a ton. By the way where did you source your motor mounts? Were they a custom cnc part? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

MW Motors wrote 11/15/2015 at 09:28 point

Hi Chris,

Thanks.  The motor mounts are designed & custom made by us. The design is somewhere on the github link. 

LUKA is probably a bit too complex for HaD prize.  No one would have the range of skills to reproduce it so we did not expect to win.  There is no way we could have done things like build instructions for a production car in the time-frame of the competition..     For me, the car is much more important than the competition (if you know what I mean).  It really can change the way cars are made in the future..  I am happy the competition is over.  I am deeply anti-marketing so making things like the videos where we are supposed to ''sell'' the project felt all wrong..  I am somehow conflicted by ''open'' & ''selling''.  Open means showing everything ''warts & all''.  Selling means putting as much spin as you can on a set of facts.  I was not really willing to go down that road in the videos. 

I am delighted Patrick won & you came third.  That is 2 people I was in touch with in the top 3 so I am very happy this morning..   Keep up the good work.   I hope your wife is well & that all will go well with the birth!.  Best regards. Maurice.

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tapan sarkar wrote 11/06/2015 at 20:19 point

this is great idea , 

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MW Motors wrote 10/26/2015 at 15:00 point

Hi Chris,

Your video for the finals is great.  Well done..  You got it done a few hours before me!..

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markaeric wrote 10/06/2015 at 01:04 point

A worthy project! All I can suggest is to keep simplifying, as I'd imagine cost is the primary factor. I found that, personally, all projects start out overly complex and then eventually distill into "maximal minimalism". I don't know what the situation is there, but is it possible that used automobile starters or alternators (wired up as a motor) are cheaper/easier to obtain? 

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Chris Low wrote 10/07/2015 at 00:22 point

I agree with the idea of continuing to keep simplifying. There are so many elements of the vehicle I have redone/redesigned in order to make it simpler or easier to build. I originally looked at starter motors, but they are inefficient and not rated for continuous duty. An altermoter is a potential, though you loose power in the rotor not having permanent magnets. Control becomes a bit more complicated, though there is the potential for field weakening. 

The reality out here though is I would pay more for a used alternator than the motors I am using. One good thing is you can use an alternator with a blown AVR which is no longer useful as an alternator. 

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Chris Low wrote 09/29/2015 at 02:40 point

BBC did a nice write up about this project which made it up on their homepage.

http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20150928-from-south-sudan-the-worlds-most-important-suv

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MW Motors wrote 09/29/2015 at 16:13 point

Hi Chris,

This is so cool.  Well done !.  Best regards. Maurice

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MW Motors wrote 08/26/2015 at 11:40 point

Hi Chris,

Can you tell me a little more about the CERN open hardware license. 

http://www.ohwr.org/projects/cernohl/wiki

 I would like to use it for the LUKA EV.  Do I just say 'Luka EV is licensed under CERN OHL 1.2"' or do I have to do something like register the car at CERN ?

After reviewing the site above, I am none the wiser about how to apply the license to LUKA EV...

Any guidance you can offer is greatly appreciated...

Best regards.  Maurice

  Are you sure? yes | no

Chris Low wrote 08/26/2015 at 19:17 point

Hey Maurice,

I am not completely sure myself. I am under the impression that one just states that they are releasing everything under the license, but I really don't know for sure. I have never tried to use it before now.

Cheers

Chris

  Are you sure? yes | no

MW Motors wrote 08/27/2015 at 06:05 point

Hi Chris,

OK, Thanks.  Someone at HaD must know how this works so maybe we will get an answer....I might try a .stack post...

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rollinns wrote 08/19/2015 at 16:01 point

Great work, very cool to see the locals excited, and even building the next version with you.  

For a low friction suspension pivot, could you just use the rear suspension fork and pivot right from the donor motorcycle?

If not, could you flip a motorcycle steering head (steering stem, whatever it's called locally) on it's side for a solution that would wear less?

My guess is that once people find a use for this, it will get used until it dies several times over.  Things here seem to get used really really hard and then repaired to "de ga je" spec and rarely more.  In Haitian Creole, "de ga je" means Make It Work.  Hopefully, the locals will know how to tell when those bearings need attention and may even be able to implement some preventative maintenance before it breaks down on the job. You could bolt the suspension pivot on top of the bottom frame rail so the frame can act as a skid plate.  

What are you plans for brakes?  Here your vehicle would be very useful moving supplies up and down hills, brakes would be nice to allow it to creep down the hill instead of letting the vehicle set it's own speed.

Have you considered adding a way to easily connect the solar panels to charge other battery banks?    Also maybe a 12v socket for a communications radio, cell phone charger or FM radio.  I don't know about your country but Haitians LOVE to have music while they work.

Keep up the great work!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Chris Low wrote 08/21/2015 at 16:52 point

Thanks. I know what you mean about things being used and fixed over and over. When I started I assumed it would be easy to find old motorcycles for donor parts, but I found very few that available because people just find a way to keep them running. All the motorcycle parts I use are new spare parts.

I don't have it set up to charge other batteries with the solar directly, but I use an 300 watt rc charger off the batteries that can charge my drill batteries as well as other lead acid batteries.

I will definitely put something for charging phones and a radio. It is huge here as well. I don't know if you have it there, but there are few places with power here and people make businesses charging phones. I hope this could also be a use for this vehicle. 

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rollinns wrote 08/26/2015 at 18:52 point

Since there are probably no motorcycle junk yards there, you might see if you can get some junky motos cheap from the police.  Here, the cops like to pull over the moto drivers and check for all the correct paperwork, they confiscate the motos of those who lack it.  The larger police stations here have truck loads of motos sitting outside, just rotting in the sun every day.  Since you don't care about the paperwork, you might be able to partner with your local metal fabricator (welder) to buy some of those old bikes and the local fab shop can keep all the parts not needed for your vehicle(s).  It wouldn't surprise me if the police require you to disable the bike in their presence (due to the paperwork issues), by cutting the frame, cutting a huge hole in the fuel tank, etc.  This won't be a problem as long as you carefully plan your cuts.

We live in Port-Au-Prince, we have grid-power most nights, almost never during the day.   This works great for us since we have solar power.  The local electric utility rotates the power among all the areas of the city over 24 hrs, so our friends 10 min away in a different area of the city are on during the day and off at night.  I'm guessing you get your power from a generator and an inverter with a battery bank.  We do, but it's nice to have the grid-power to recharge the batteries at night and keep the hours off the genset.

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Chris Low wrote 08/26/2015 at 19:29 point

It is funny how similar things are around the world. There is a huge stash of old bikes at the police station. I actually asked about them a while back, but they told me the only realease them at certain times for auction.

The compound I live on has a 15kw solar array so most of our power comes from that. I have a very small house that is separately powered by a couple of panels. We also have generator backup. 

We probably have the most reliable power in South Sudan. Much more so than the rest of Yei our town, which only has power in the day when they have fuel.

By the way currently the vehicle does regenerative breaking through the motors, which is a very strong breaking force. The wheels also have built in breakes, which I want to use for a parking brake.

Thanks for the ideas.

Chris

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LWATCDR wrote 08/14/2015 at 17:57 point

Have you thought of a simpler version that is a trike? Two wheels in front with differential throttle steering and the rearwheel is just a caster? Make the suspension solid and spring the seat like old motorcycles, tractors, and even old horse drawn wagons? It would be cheaper to build and could be almost as useful.

Your current design with the remote screams one thing to me. Landmine clearance.  Use the remote and have it two a metal bar dragging chains the try and set off any landmines on a road or a path. If you have a civil war my guess is you have landmines to deal with.

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Chris Low wrote 08/15/2015 at 07:23 point

you are right about the landmines they are a huge problem out here. I had thought about using this vehicle like a lite tractor and having it remote to allow people to open up new gardens without the risk of landmines. I think there is a real place for a simple trike setup, but my experience with one that was similar is that it is really difficult to find a path without potholes for three separate wheel tracks.

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LWATCDR wrote 08/18/2015 at 13:08 point

I did not think about the pothole problem. How about a simple quad with the two front wheels powered and fixed and the two back wheels castering?

  I think you would need different tires for a tractor or maybe even some tracks? I would think the motorcycle tires have too much ground pressure.
Or maybe you could get a company to donate some garden tractor tires to you.

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Chris Low wrote 08/18/2015 at 16:31 point

If you had a small platform two drive wheels and casters would work pretty well. That is basically what a power wheelchair does.

For tires it depends on the conditions. Thin tires will cut through if there is anything solid underneath. A lot of off road guys prefer skinnier tires for everything but sand and really deep stuff. The nice thing this has going is that it has huge ground clearance. Way more than a landcruiser. So it can sink quite a bit before getting to frame.

Thanks

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Rollinns wrote 07/09/2015 at 13:13 point

Great work, I live in Haiti, so I have somewhat of an understanding of the limits of resources available.

We have cheap chinese motos all over the place too, have you considered using the handlebars as the controller, since the locals will be readily familiar with operating them?

I also fully understand bad roads, have you considered handles sticking of the sides?

The handles could be used to help get it unstuck, while also serving as tie down points,  I'm thinking you could make them out of what Americans call Rebar, I'm not sure what it's called there, but here in Haiti, unfortunately a lot of different profiles of steel stock are called rebar so it can get confusing.

Are the areas in front of and behind the rear wheels fully enclosed spaces?  If so could they be used to hold spare parts like a tire patch kit, battery cable, ropes, etc.

Keep up the great work!

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Chris Low wrote 07/09/2015 at 16:23 point

Thanks for the suggestions. I really like the idea of welding on a rail to pull it out of the mud. I am still trying to test the control scheme, but I have a bunch of other projects at the moment, and I just got my solar panels to build a canopy.

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Toulon wrote 06/12/2015 at 22:39 point

Can you provide more details on the tire rim assemblies? Great work please keep the updates coming.

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Chris Low wrote 06/13/2015 at 16:04 point

I will be providing full plans once I work out more of the problems while prototyping, but essentially the wheel assembly is exactly as it would come off the back of a motorcycle. The tire, rim, hub, brake, sprocket all came basically assembled as if you pulled it off a motorcycle. The only real difference for me is the bolt that acts as the axle is pinned through a single hole for this vehicle instead of a slot like on a motorcycle. On a motorcycle this is for chain tensioning, while I am tensioning the chain with a movable motor mount. 

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The Big One wrote 05/21/2015 at 16:06 point

Excellent work, it looks like something like this can be very useful.

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Starhawk wrote 05/20/2015 at 17:35 point

This is really cool. Good luck to you!

If I may ask, as an ignorant American (lol) -- how do you not have a postal system? That's a major and basic government function missing there, or so it seems to me.

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Chris Low wrote 05/20/2015 at 17:40 point

Yeah, I am actually an American as well, I just work in South Sudan. To be fair probably not having a working postal system is the least of the problems here. Topping the list is probably the ongoing civil war, and the fact that the South Sudan pound has lost half its value in the last month.

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Starhawk wrote 05/20/2015 at 17:47 point

Ouch, good point.

I was actually reading up on the country on Wiki as you commented -- is it just me or is this part of the world a total mess? I kind of hate to put it that way, since I'm sure that most folks there, just like most folks here, are simply trying to survive and make a living for themselves... but there sure does seem to be a lot of war and suffering in that general area.

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MW Motors wrote 05/20/2015 at 21:34 point

There is not much Government, not to mind Government services.  Chris, the project is great, well done !

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castvee8 wrote 05/18/2015 at 22:23 point

Very nice work. That has to be so frustrating to not have a post office!

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MW Motors wrote 04/15/2015 at 19:40 point

Thank god for alibaba (aliexpress).  The logistics sounds seriously hard.  It will be interesting when you get around to fitting the motors.  Keep on truckin'....best of luck...

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Duane Degn wrote 04/03/2015 at 05:15 point

Thanks for sharing your project with us. I think the photo of your vehicle with all the kids on it is my favorite photo on Hackaday.io. 

I hope things go well for you and I look forward to seeing your progress.

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MW Motors wrote 04/02/2015 at 15:53 point

Very good idea.  Nice to see you are trying to recycle local material.  Maybe post some pics of the terrain this is supposed to go over? Does it have suspension?  What type of load do you want it to carry (other than the 30 kids !)

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Chris Low wrote 04/02/2015 at 20:13 point

Thanks for your comment, your ev project looks great. I love trying to use recycled materials, but I have to balance that in this case with what can also be sourced again for repeat-ability. I am looking at low speeds probably less than 25 kmh. for my own projects I am looking for something to move my tools around the compound I live on, or move a few hundred kg of cement or soil. Looking out further I think moving crops from fields and goods from town would be really useful. I also work at a hospital, and I have thought about the potential of a small ambulance. Other than the ability of the frame to rotate at the center so all four wheels are always on the ground I don't have suspension at this time. If I can get away without it it really saves on complexity. I'll post a photo of what the local road looks like (or did until I recently had access to a bulldozer.)

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