A Visit to EnerTrac Corp.

19 01 2010

I grew up in New York.  Out on Long Island specifically, and a good portion of my family still lives there.  As I write this, i’m in NY again because we’ve taken our new daughter Mira to my sister’s house in Rockville Centre to see her great grandmother and other family members in the area.  One extra added benefit of this trip is that Rockville Centre is less than half an hour car ride from Farmingdale, NY.

Why is Farmingdale important?  ‘Cuz that’s where the EnerTrac office and shop is located, and I had been emailing Mark Gelbein to setup a time for a visit to look around, get some instructions about the motor, and generally just say hi.

Josh and Mark Gelbein from EnerTrac Corp.

I showed up on Friday afternoon (Jan 15) to meet Mark Gelbein and also ended up meeting his son Josh who also works at the shop. A family business that’s building stuff that helps the environment.  Nice!

I showed up a bit late because i got lost getting myself to the Southern State Parkway, but Mark was there to greet me.  BTW, Mark is a super nice buy and so is his son.  They showed me around the shop and what they were working on.

The shop is a long garage amongst other garages and industrial like workplaces. Upon entering, i noted a couple of things:

  • the Electric Lifan GS200 which Mark took to the TTXGP Mid-Ohio event last year (and was the bike i was reading about in the endless-sphere forum that made me want to pick the EnerTrac Motor)
  • Lots of shop tools
  • a whole boatload of boxes with motors in them.

We talked about the motor, how he got started, and they showed me my motor in a VF500 swingarm.  At that point, it wasn’t hooked up though.

After looking around the shop for a while, Mark offered to let me ride the Lifan.  I was giddy about it, though since i haven’t been riding much lately, i didn’t want to go very far with it.  I ended up riding up and down the street that the shop is on a handeful of times.  WOW, it was SUPER DUPER FUN! 🙂

I noted a couple of things about it while riding…

  • The throttle was very smooth.  My only electric moto comparison is my Electric scooter.  The throttle on the scooter is much more twitchy.
  • The motor actually makes bit of noise when going at slow speeds.  I can’t quite describe the noise, it seemed similar to my scooter so it’s probably normal, but a little bit louder than i expected.
  • The bike handled great.  Again, since my major riding experience has been on my scooter, i was expecting the motorcycle to handle a bit more heavily.  It didn’t.  It had a very nice balance and feel to it.  I was tempted to go for a longer ride… 🙂
  • the acceleration was pretty good.  I didn’t get a chance to floor it from a dead stop, but i think it’ll be quite enough for my needs.
  • The brake setup is different from what i had planned on doing with my bike.  Mark has the bike setup so there is an auxilliary plate attached to the rear brake pedal.  Pressing on the rear brake engages the regen, cuts out the controller, and also starts to engage the rear brake pedal like normal.  So coasting is possible by releasing the throttle, then by lightly touching the rear brake pedal, the regen is engaged.  There’s a spring-loaded, variable thumb switch on the left side that controls how much regen is applied, starting at 10% and increases as the switch is engaged more.  This setup seemed to work well.  I may consider doing something like this too…
  • Did i mention it was super duper fun. 🙂

When i returned the motorcycle, i had that “EV Grin” ™ all over my face.  I certainly am hooked.

We talked more about all sorts of EV stuff ranging from ev tech, to batteries, to motor designs, etc.  At one point, they offered to hook up my motor so i could see it go.  that’s in the video below, after some time to get it wired up, it ran smooth and the brake even made less noise than the video he sent to me.

One of the cool things about working with EnerTrac is that (for now), they are working so closely with their customers.  They made some adjustments (dish, created spacers, etc) specifically for my application.

One of the things that we talked about was charging, and some of the difficulties with getting the pack balanced.  A little background here…Mark is a bit different than most who use Lithium based battery packs in that he does not use a BMS for charging or discharging per se.  He’s got a set of 6 “chargery” Lithium pack monitors (each can monitor 6 cells, and he’s got 34 in the lifan), as well as a CycleAnalyst.

The Chargery monitors will alarm if any cell goes under the low voltage setpoint.  This does not have any hookup to the controller, so the alarm requires the operator to have enough discipline to reduce the load so the cell doesn’t bottom out.  On the charging end, he says he stops charging when the first cell gets to 3.9V.  I know there are going to be some who will say that’s too high, and that 3.7 is the max he should be charging to, but the TS cell documentation say 4.25V max, so it’s up for debate.  Also, since the first cell is at 3.9, all other cells are guaranteed to be less than that.

Ok, so back to difficulties charging.  Mark’s supposition is that full balanced charging is difficult due to a couple of factors:

  • batteries are very sensitive to temperature (for both charge and discharge)
  • batteries heat up during use (especially discharge),
  • packs of prismatic cells like the thundersky pack are difficult to cool since they require compression, thus making it difficult to get air or liquid between them

Given these factors, it makes packs difficult to charge (in a balanced and full manner) unless you let the temperature of the pack balance out by leaving vehicle overnight.  We discussed cooling options (maybe not cooling per se, more like making sure the batteries in the middle of the pack “see” the same environment than the batteries on the ends of the pack).  It was an interesting disucssion.

We also talked about the history of the EnerTrac MH602/603, and some other projects they’ve got going on.  All in all, i had a great time and i was happy to have made the trip.  I can’t wait to get my motor and start putting it in my bike.

’till next time…

more pics from the shop are below…




2 responses

22 01 2010

dude that is so cool you got to meet the guys from Enertrac, im so jealous!! lol. and you even got to take a peak at your motor too, thats awsome!!

22 01 2010

hee. yeah. it was a ton of fun. it was nice that they’re so close to my family in ny.

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