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Strongest motor for full time use on trike for x country and local trips?

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    Strongest motor for full time use on trike for x country and local trips?

    Been living/boondocking full time in a pick up truck with a super tiny cabin built onto the frame in place of the old bed. I'm going to build a new tiny cabin on a trailer that can be towed with a recumbent tadpole style trike, and then sell my truck. So, my bike will be my only form of transpo.

    I occasionally travel cross country, sometimes through mountains. My cabin will be built like an airplane, as in, super aerodynamic, and as lightweight and as sturdy as possible. I'm a minimalist to a degree, but still have a fair amount of "heavy" possessions; 3 cats, a dog, all their food, a couple laptops, a full size keyboard, a trumpet, a guitar, all my clothes, bookshelf speakers, books, a screen tent, a longboard, bedding, toiletries, several gallons of water, food, and a handful of other odds and ends. You get the idea...

    I'm going to be pulling quite a bit of weight as far as bicycles are concerned, and I'll need to make it up some pretty steep grades for very long stretches. I want to be able to negotiate any and every mountain range in the US (Rockies, Sierra, Appalachian, etc.) I don't care about speed going uphill, I just care about making it to the top of each peak and crest without ever running out of juice and rolling backwards. Like, if I'm going through the Blue Ridge to Asheville, or through the valley between Nevada and California. I don't care if I have to take little breaks to charge batteries between each individual ascent. As long as I can climb and not get stuck in the middle of an ascent. However, for flat stretches, I would ideally like a top speed of at least 25 or 30 mph. Obviously brakes are a concern too. When I'm going cross country, a range of at least 250 miles a day would be great, but I could settle for 100ish. Granted, I won't always be doing that many every day. It will vary widely. I just want a reliable motor that's going to provide the highest possible range on one charge and be capable of some SERIOUS torque, and last for years to come. I'll utilize pedal assist for long distance of course, but probably just go throttle alone if I'm cruising down to the corner store. I do not have a bottomless wallet, so a balance of economical and performance are my considerations. My budget for the motor and batteries is approximately 2,000, maybe 3/ish.

    Bear in mind, that I am not always going to be traveling long distance or up mountains. I will primarily be commuting to work or running errands around town, with jaunts every now and then to the next town over or something... weekend getaways to the countryside, etc. And, when I am not in "cross country travel mode" I will be leaving my trailer/cabin unhitched at my "home base" for the majority of all my local trips.

    So, ideas? Ultimately, I want to know from experienced and knowledgeable riders, what are the top options for a motor? Could I have multiple? Optimal battery to pair with the motor? How many batteries? Is this even feasible? (That's a rhetorical question) I'm determined to succeed, and nothing will stop me. Think post apocalyptic. Just make it work and keep it simple. Failure is not an option.

    Also, what else, if anything, should I do to customize my trike? (I intend to build a custom fairing for weather and aerodynamics) Can I reinforce my brakes? Are there heavy duty brakes intended for traversing mountains? I'm open to take suggestions on a suitable trike model too, as I have yet to pick out and purchase one. Full suspension would be nice. The catrike Dumont is one I'm considering. Feel free to ask me anything or give me further advice or thoughts of any kind relating to what I'm doing. Thank you all.

    On a side note: I will be powering my cabin/house via solar power, which will also recharge my bike battery/s.

    For lots and lots of available power, basically an endless duty-cycle, and based upon the heavy use you anticipate; I think I would recommend the Cyclone 4,000 Watt motor.

    (Scroll down to the last row of photos--it's the fourth from the left...)

    It's highly efficient (97.6%) and if you went for a 72 volt system, the motor can deliver almost six horsepower, and 95+ foot-pounds of torque. That may not sound like much, when you're used to internal-combustion vehicles, but it's one hell of a lot of power to push through e-bike or trike components.

    I love my Cyclone 4KW. If its half-hour plus immersion in ditch water a year or so ago eventually results in its early demise, I'll gladly buy another to replace it--but it's still running strong as ever for now.

    My Cyclone lives in a 3-wheeled bakfiets project. It has a ton of covered cargo-space, and now that it's all-wheel-drive, it can go a lot more places. It's still a trike, thus prone to tipping-over, so I cannot do a lot of really crazy terrain-angles very easily, but I can haul a lot of weight (in addition to machine and rider, I've hauled 200+ kg's in the box, and had no issues at all even over soft/sandy/muddy surfaces).

    I've got twin hub-motors in the front-wheels, and the 4KW mid-drive Cyclone to power the rear-frame. I've one throttle to operate the front-motors together, and a separate throttle for the Cyclone.

    Perhaps there's an idea or two from my project that you'll be able to encorporate in your plans...

    If you'll be going up and down mountains, maybe your side-wheels could use direct-drive motors--letting you take advantage of electronic/regenerative braking. This may also alleviate stress on your brake-components. I am not sure just how complex you want to make things.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news though... But here it is: I doubt your financial estimates are very realistic for the performance you're looking for.

    I don't mean the motor either--that's actually going to be the easy part! What I mean--is your battery.

    The number-one complaint, the number-one form of consumer regret when it comes to e-bikes and e-bike projects--is inadequate effective range.

    For most projects, I recommend folks plan for 2/3 of their total project budget--be reserved for their battery. Total costs for donor-bike, motor (or motors), controller(s), components, re-lacing for sturdier spokes and wheels--add together all that stuff--and everything else you can think of--absolutely all of it.. Except the battery. Then, you take that already scary-looking gigantic amount--and you double it. Now. That new number--should be the minimal amount to expect to spend on your battery.

    Another way (for most common e-bike conversions) to help folks determine how much battery to buy, has to do with rider-tolerance. Most humans' backsides won't want to sit on a bike-saddle for more than about two-hours (often meaning one hour "there" and one hour "back" again). So--a minimum-capacity battery, should be able to carry rider and baggage, at maximum assist, maximum speed, for two hours (best to also figure in an extra 15% reserve--because your battery will also age--and because it might save you in event of a detour).

    Ooof. I know. It may feel like a punch in the gut. But if you want to avoid "buyer's remorse" --then trust me--you'll take heed!

    Those two "battery estimate" paragraphs apply pretty well to most projects...

    But your project is obviously going to be asking a lot more of your components--will likely consume more energy--and will need porportionately a much larger battery, to give you the performance and range you wish. Plus, you are wanting to make ascents that are going to last a lot longer than a two-hour expected window. So you'll need to aim for still higher standards.

    To give you an idea--based on my machine:

    My 3WD bakfiets is "detuned" to make it gentler on components, and a little less "severe" in terms of control. But even so, at my "cruising speed" (almost 35 kph), I'm steadily pulling about 20A on level ground (it's a 48V system--so that's pretty much a continuous 1000W battery-drain). If I climb hills, that consumption goes up, if I go down hills it drops--but if I assume an average of 20A draw--then clearly what would I have to do, to be sure I can get at least two-hours worth of that assist--is a matter of simple math: 20A continuous, over 2 hours--is a 40 Amp-hours drain. If I factor in that +15% (or so) that means I should be shopping for a minimum 48V 50AH battery (for different voltages, other numbers might apply).

    I have one 45AH battery, which gives me (roughly) my "two-hours range" --but I wanted more. This is my car. So I bought a 2nd battery--of 100AH. It's also higher-discharge, so it'll work much better with the 3WD system. Theoretically, if I combined both these "suitcase" batteries, and the 30AH rack-battery from my city-bike--that'd give me 175AH to work with between charges--providing up to a whopping 300 kilometers range--at "cruising speed" (35kph)...

    But you said you want to go a lot faster, and further than that. And you said you don't want to get stuck in the middle of one of those long climbs... What you ask, is going to take quite a big battery--you'll need a lot of juice.

    Your big "juice-box" is also going to take some time to refill--so if you don't want to have your "commute" turn into a camping-trip for recharging--you better be sure to buy a big enough one...

    How big? Until you get a grasp on how much continuous amperage-draw you're expecting to pull while trying to climb mountains, it's going to be difficult to guess.

    By any form of reckoning, expect the number of amp-hours to be a very large one.

    For what you're talking about, I don't think I'd go with less than a 72V system, with a 200AH (or maybe even larger) high-discharge battery, with a quality BMS. LiFePO4 is the safest battery-chemistry out there--as far as I know... And for that kind of energy--I think I'd choose for the safest possible stuff... Just saying.

    Now maybe you'll also see what I mean about your expected costs being perhaps unrealistic...

    But don't despair, Your project is certainly possible! You can build the machine you want--even if you'll likely need to invest more than you were planning for--into your battery.

    Best of luck!

    Last edited by tklop; 08-29-2019, 04:34 AM.


      Excellent info. Just what I needed. Thank you for the input!


        One of the other options I'm considering is an Outrider USA trike; Either the Transition or Alpha model. It looks like I could save myself a lot of time and effort with one of their products since they come with all the work done ready to ride.

        If I went with the Transition model and chose the 4k watt motor with the 2288 wh battery option, I'd have about a 100 mile range with roughly 40 mph max speed. Price with shipping is about 8,750.

        If I went with the Alpha (approx. 45mph max speed), and again, go with the 4k watt motor but opt for the largest battery (4576 wh), range goes up to about 200 miles! However, price plus shipping for this model with the largest motor and battery option has a total price of about 17,500! (This is quite a bit more than I'd like to spend)

        I've also heard motors from Zelena Vozila pack a serious punch, as well as QS Motors.

        Any thoughts or knowledge on these options compared to your initial suggestion?

        Thanks again.


        • tklop
          tklop commented
          Editing a comment
          I also have heard lots of good things about Q-motors--but up to this point, I still have no personal experience with them. I've been told they have stub-axle motors--which would be perfect for a recumbent trike (in my opinion--and dreams)... If you team up a pair of the strongest ones they make, with a Cyclone 4KW--then you'll have the power you need to take on the mountains. Plus, you'll have regen-braking available. I'm pretty sure you'll want that.

          I feel the most important content in my reply though--had to do with the battery you're going to need...

          And it seems the battery--remains the part you've taken the least interest in. That's okay--I offered my warning about buyer's remorse already.

          But yeah...

          I clicked the links...

          I'm unimpressed.

          It looks nice, in their dark images--but I see nothing there to justify their prices. Since they make no mention, I assume their bikes run 36V systems. Buying an anemic 36V e-bike (or trike) for the price of a premium used car (or small house depending on the locale)--is... Well... At least from my perspective anyway... Nuts.

          But then again--some folks just seem to love to hemhorrage cash. There is no shortage of fools who've eagerly parted with their money--over a Stromer.

          The best battery offering at those links, is impossibly inadequate for what you'll need. As pretty much every other e-bike company does--they too are making overly optimisitc claims of range. It's not a personal attack on them at all, it's pretty much "standard practice" in the industry--to exaggerate. Pretty much all the e-bike companies do it. But truth is, the "outrider" machine will never come close to their estimates--and it's important to keep in mind that nobody else's range-estimates will be worth anything either. If you think about it--there's no way out for the manufacturers. If one decided to be honest, they'd instantly lose their sales to the others! And--if any e-bike maker spent 2/3 of their budget on batteries--they'd end up with happy customers for sure--but their bikes would also have to be way more expensive than everybody else's... So--I don't mean it as an accusation, or blame. It's just the way the industry is--and the industry itself can't really do much about it...

          Luna Cycle is different--perhaps unique--when it comes to this. The're the only bike company I know of who address this capacity-issue directly--when describing their own battery-products. Kudos to Luna for that!

          But all these discrepancies are why I explained different methods to help determine how much battery you'll need--because the batteries supplied by e-bike manufacturers (just exactly like with the "outrider")--are always way, way, way too small.

          Not with a featherweight rider, zero cargo, and rock-hard tires in an indoor velodrome; not with a lot of downhill sections, not even with a stiff tailwind. It's just not happening--you're not going 200 miles on a 36V 4.5KWH battery--and definitely not at their (also ridiculously overoptimistic) top-speed estimate.

          To get that kind of range out of a battery that tiny, you'll have to let go of your 45mph dreams--just abandon the notion of fast (except of course for the downhill-sections--you can enjoy those for free). But otherwise, if you want "range" you'll need to stay under wind-resistance speed (keeping at about 25 kilometers-per-hour or less). If you intend to haul as much as you've described, you'll also have to pedal--very, very hard--and still more bad news: You'll also need to just go ahead and forget about the mountain passes altogether...

          When describing what you wanted out of your project, it's clear that you wish to do pretty much all the most-expensive things--in terms of battery-consumption. You want to go 45 mph--which is truly ridiculously fast--and which means 90% or more of your electricity is just being turned into a 45 mph headwind; you want to have a trike--and you want it heavily loaded--and you also intend to hook up a trailer to it--meaning you've got a minimum five loaded wheels' worth of rolling-resistance; and as if that's not enough--you want this rig to be able to climb mountains without frying your components!

          I like that you dream big!

          As I said the first time--everything you want is absolutely attainable. But to get the performance you seek (or to be able to come anywhere close to it), you are definitely going to need a very, very big juice box. Such a battery will likely cost thousands of dollars. As I also pointed out last time--that's okay--because your battery should absolutely be far and away the most expensive piece of your project; representing at least 2/3 of your total project-investment--including your trailer.

          Not wishing to take away from your goals, I do wish to share some perspective of my own--regarding speed. It's stressful going really fast on a bike--and even more so on a trike because the steering is direct (it's not lean-based). Faster is much more physically demanding on the rider--not to mention all your drive-train components. I've found for myself, that choosing to ride at a lower speed for longer journeys actually translates into much greater endurance for both myself and for my battery; and as a result, I've been able to travel much farther before I needed to stop.

          Above about 45 kph (28 mph) my machine gets so "twitchy" in terms of directional control, that the experience of riding ceases to be an enjoyable one altogether. At that speed too, any bumps I hit are also quite severe--which makes the twitchy steering that much scarier. Through a lot of trips--hurried, not-hurried, with the wind--against the wind, loaded, unloaded--you name it--I've found a few things to be true. One realization was how my own comfort-level affected my endurance (as I just described). Another realization had to do with wind-resistance. It climbs exponentially above about 25 kilometers per hour. Any faster than that, I'm just turning the extra electricity into headwind. Does that realization stop me from going fast? Heck no! But when I've got a longer journey to take, I know I can always choose to go at a relaxed pace, and enjoy a huge boost to my battery's range.

          I'm not suggesting that if you're willing to slow down, that you can afford to skimp on the battery. Don't do that. You'll be sorry if you do. No matter what your riding habits, or what they may one day become--I still recommend buying the same gigantic battery. You'll need it's capacity for mountain-climbing--there's no two ways about it. But once you've had some experience with your rig, you may also discover the joy of being able to slow down on the flats--and go ten times as far between charges.

          It is not just the battery offered by "outrider" which will definitely not be able to give you what you want. I don't believe their motor is going to be able to withstand maximum-throttle sustained punishment for hours and hours--which is what you'll be asking of it when you are climbing up through those mountain-passes. If you want one of those "outrider" trikes to work for you (as sold), then you're going to have to make a lot of other compromises also--when it comes to your desired performance. In my opinion, that would be sad.

          Even if you do decide those compromises are okay--their battery still isn't going to be enough on its own. You'll want to order five or six extras--so you can keep swapping them out--until you finally crest that hill...

          Another valuable suggestion (see replies #5 and #6 below)--is to perhaps supplement your system with solar. You might need to let go of the 45 mph "fast" idea--and you might also need to lighten your load... Maybe pare things down--prioritize... Consider maybe not taking the longboard into the mountains... But if you were willing to make some compromises, esp. when it comes to your expected top-sustained-speed, solar could certainly help you out with range (of course conditions permitting).

          When energy-requirements are very high, like when you're climbing mountains, I doubt solar will be proportionately helping very much. A 72V three-motor system drawing 100A to 150A or more continuous--during your planned long, steady, trailer-dragging mountain-climbs--won't gain much assistance from a few hundred watts of solar.

          But when demands are much lower--like when you're crossing the various flat, open sections of your journeys--that's where I think solar could really provide a lot of benefit.

          If you're intrigued, check out this thread (mentioned by Gr8fun--below)

          You may find some useful ideas there. I've been following that thread for some time--and solar supplementation appears to be a whole lot more effective than I expected. That thread is definitely worth browsing.

          Best of luck--whichever direction you decide to take your project in. Personally, I hope that you don't comporomise too much--and that you share your project details here as you go!

          All the best,

          Last edited by tklop; 09-04-2019, 03:42 AM.

        Batteries need to be recharged. That takes time and place to plug in. I am using a 160watt solar panel on a trailer. This gives me over 1kw per day. Only adds 9 pounds if used as a cover for your trailer. Charge as you go.
        i have on order another 120 watt panel to mount on my fairing.. Another 4.5 pounds. Together in real world that is 1650 watts per day. I have a 1kw, 750 watt and 650 watt battery. That is close to 4 kw of electricity available daily. Top speed is 35 mph when stripped and tuned for speed. Range is variable to human input terrain wind weight tire type inflation etc...
        With mid drive and fairing on long wheel base recumbent i can climb highest incline or go fast on flats comfortably. Lowly 750 watt bbs02. Around 15000 miles on this motor with no problems.
        the panels and genasun controller cost and weigh less then a battery of similar size. Longer life than batteries.


          Gagets4grls on this forum has bike similar to your exoects. He has spent a lot of time and money perfecting solar panels for use on bikke similar to your vision. He shares his experience and design. Quite knowledgeable.


            Thanks again for the great insight! As far as the Outriders go, the high speed seemed like a nice perk, but as I mentioned in my original post, I'm content with a top speed of about 25 mph. So, I have no issues there. And I also had a feeling their trikes were not a great idea if you want bang for buck. Your knowledge confirmed this. I'm also realizing, to my surprise, that I completely forgot to mention I intend to incorporate a solar system on my rig. Probably one panel doubling as a roof on the trike, and another mounted on the trailer. I'll be using it for powering my trailer battery (lights, fan, laptop, etc) and for recharging my trike batteries. Which brings up another question... Currently, in my truck cabin, I've been using a 120ah AGM deep cycle. This has worked since my needs are minimal. For my trike and trailer rig, would it be optimal to abandon the AGM deep cycle type and instead go for LiPo batteries only?


            • tklop
              tklop commented
              Editing a comment
              I think I already addressed the battery question pretty thoroughly.

              You will want a 72 volts battery (or higher).

              You will want at least 200AH capacity (even if divided across two batteries).

              I recommend you choose LiFePO4 chemistry, high-discharge cells. LiFePO4 It is the safest battery-chemistry option currently available, and will provide you with the most charge-cycles. Though a little more expensive than regular Lithium Ion cells, the high-discharge, and those extra cycles, make LiFePO4 the most cost-effective option out there.

              By "High-Discharge Cells" I mean you should select cells that are rated for a higher continuous discharge-rating, than your anticipated peak sustained discharge needs. If you've got three motors, each pulling 100A continuous as you're climbing mountains--then will want a battery and high-quality BMS that can match that--according to their "continuous" ratings (for three 100A motors--that'd be a 300A continuous-rated discharge battery and BMS). Of course the number of amps I threw out there is just a guess on my part. Your motors may consume more than that--in which case they'll need a higher matching discharge-rating. Point is, you need to be sure your battery can comfortably feed your motors all they can eat--and sustain that rate of feeding without overheating, or going over either the battery or BMS's design limitations.

              A battery-manufacturer who knows how to work with LiFePO4 batteries, and who has experience making them for electric vehicles--will have no problem building one for you.

              Your battery will cost you thousands and thousands of dollars--but you will be very happy to pay that--just as I already explained... At least 2 out of every 3 dollars you spend on your project--should go to your battery.

              Why am I writing this reply? lol--you could just re-read where I already wrote all that...

              If you think you can do it cheaper--go ahead and let go of that idea. You are wrong. I am telling you the cheaper way--and it will cost thousands, and thousands of dollars.

              It would be possible to get the same capacity in Lead Acid batteries, but they'd be huge, and horribly heavy. Problem with that, is you already want to haul a lot of weight. Adding a thousand pounds (or more) of lead-acid batteries, will make your rig a whole lot heavier. That means you'll need to find motors with double the power--in order to compensate. By doing that, your useful-range will likely be halved (or worse), and then you'll be back suffering with inadequate range and endurance--to climb the hills.

              The LiFePO4 battery (or batteries) which you will need, will indeed be heavy--but will be a fraction of the weight of lead-acid.

              Bottom line, is that it's not the motor technology--but the battery technology--that even makes any of our projects possible. If we all had to use lead-acid, almost nobody here would be e-biking at all.

              Also--LIPO and LiFePO4 are not the same thing--not at all. RC batteries are available in high-discharge versions, but they're not as safe. They're prone to overheating, catching fire, exploding--lots of bad things. Unless you have a death-wish, I would absolutely not recommend LIPO batteries for your project.

              I get the feeling you do not believe me--but I promise--I really am telling you the cheapest possible way to get the battery-performance you're going to need.

              Best of luck!
              Last edited by tklop; 09-10-2019, 11:03 AM.

            Dont even think lead acid will work. If you have that much weight on your bike there will not be enough capacity left for you to get on. Energy density low, short lifé and substandard performance. Get the new 21 ah luna wolf. That is a bicycle battery. Lead acid works good in fork llifts.


              I'm learning so much. This rig is going to be a powerhouse.


                Worlds most badass trike. Just add motor(s)


                • tklop
                  tklop commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Mmmm... Imagine that beast set up with a pair of those stub-axle Q-motors, and a Cyclone 4KW :-)

                I would be looking at something that sits higher,like the full fat recumbent. If you plan to be riding on the road, I’d want to make sure to be seen.


                • Retrorockit
                  Retrorockit commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I ride a converted Comfort bike with an upright position so I can SEE what's going on. I'm not a fan of trikes on the street. But I guess it depends on where you live. Out in the country with long sight lines it would probably be OK. A lot of trikes have flag poles on them.Preferably with a light. IMHO being able to see helps you know when drivers aren't noticing you. Hard to do on a trike. But some people tour with them just fine. Certainly not suitable for an urban commuter.