Thursday, October 4, 2007

Electric Scooter/Cycle

Electric Scooter/Cycle

Electric bikes, mopeds and scooters currently come closest to matching consumer expectations in terms of cost, performance and reliability of any electric-drive vehicle now available.

They also come in a dizzying spectrum of styles, capabilities and prices from inexpensive "toys" to moderately expensive maxi scooters soon to debut in Europe and North America. A handful of prototypes are even powered by miniature fuel cells.

While toy scooters are coming under increasing scrutiny by local law enforcement, statutes regarding adult-sized machines generally coincide with their gasoline moped counterparts on a state-by-state basis.

Speeds are typically limited to 30 mph for all machines in this class, so what is more important is the size of the battery pack in terms of amp hours -- the more the better -- and sustained wattage output of the electric drive motor -- again, more is better (see guidelines below). Distance on a charge is a function of battery amperage, terrain, speed and the weight of the driver (and rider). Expect less than 5 miles out of "toy" machines and up to 25-30 miles for more classic motor scooters

Two words of advice: don't trust the wattage numbers proffered by many Asian clone scooter makers -- they are usually grossly over-inflated. Second, buy as much amperage and wattage as you can afford. You won't be disappointed.

Finally, a word of caution: making a business out of manufacturing electric bicycles and scooters is a daunting undertaking, especially for the North Amercian market where bicycles and scooters are viewed more as recreational diversions than serious commuting/errand running machines, as they are in parts of Europe. The likes of Ford Motor Company (Th!nk brand) and Lee Iacocca (EBike brand) have tried and failed to make a business out of it, as has Wavecrest Labs. Be aware that while these brands offered quality products, they may no longer be supported with parts and service.


750 Watts and Under
In Europe, electric bicycles are limited to no more than 250 watts of electric assist power to the pedals, which must turn. In Canada, the limit is 500 watts, while in the United States, it's 750 watts. Even at 750 watts (1 hp), these vehicles cannot climb a hill without pedal assist. Heinzman Electric Surfer pictured.

750-1500 Watts
American rules with respect to electric "mopeds" require that they be under 2 hp (49cc) and have a top speed of less than 30 mph in order to not fall under more stringent motorcycle laws. In electric scooter terms that translates into vehicles in the 750 (1 hp) to 1,500 watt (2 hp) range, the latter providing sufficient power to climb hills. Ego Scooter pictured.

1500 Watts and Above
Electric scooters with greater than 1,500 watts sustained power come closest to matching the performance of their gasoline progenitors, the classic "Vespa"-type machines popular in Italy. While they can do better than 30 mph, they are typically restricted -- electronically -- to below 30 mph in order to comply with local laws. 2,000 watt machines are usually capable of carrying two adult riders. Pair of E-Max scooters pictured.


Vectrix promises to be the first real commuter-capable electric motor scooter, though its anticipated $9,000 price tag may deter some buyers.

Intelligent Energy's ENV fuel cell motorbike is a concept dying to happen. It is powered by a small portable fuel cell that occupies the place of the fuel tank.


EBike was first electric bike to pair up advanced batteries, quality parts and superb styling. Sadly the company has ceased production.

Wavecrest Tidalforce M750 not only offered the first 750 watt motor available, but it is also totally silent, another industry first. The rear hub houses the motor, while the front hub houses the NiMH battery pack. EV World's publisher rides his regularly to run errands.


The Tweel (a portmanteau of tire and wheel) is an experimental tire design being developed at Michelin. The tire uses no air and therefore cannot burst or become flat. Instead, flexible polyurethane spokes are used to support an outer rim. Handling gains have been cited as a reason to adopt this type of motor vehicle tire. If problems with the prototypes (such as excess vibration and noise at higher speed) are resolved, the first applications for the tire may be in the military where a flat-proof tire would be advantageous to maneuvering vehicles in difficult or dangerous areas.

Currently, the Tweel is being used for low-speed, low-weight applications, such as wheelchairs, motorbikes and construction equipment (for example, a skid loader). Tests on production cars have shown it is within 5% of a conventional tire and wheel's rolling resistance. If Michelin's prototypes go as planned, models for cars may appear around 2016.

The Tweel has been presented in a variety of applications. Eventually it may be able to outperform conventional tires since it can be designed to have high lateral strength (for better handling) without a loss in comfort


Nanotechnology Basics: For Students and Other Learners

"The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big."
Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics

  1. Common Questions on Nanotechnology
  2. CRN Student Research Project
  3. Nanotechnology Education Group
  4. Student Pugwash Nanotech Page
  5. More! More! More!

What is nanotechnology all about?Image

Nanotechnology is the engineering of tiny machines — the projected ability to build things from the bottom up inside personal nanofactories (PNs), using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, highly advanced products. Ultimately, nanotechnology will enable control of matter at the nanometer scale, using mechanochemistry. Shortly after this envisioned molecular machinery is created, it will result in a manufacturing revolution, probably causing severe disruption. It also has serious economic, social, environmental, and military implications.

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, roughly the width of three or four atoms. The average human hair is about 25,000 nanometers wide.

You can see a longer explanation here. And to check out more of those tiny machines, click here.

What's a personal nanofactory?

It's a proposed new appliance, something that might sit on a countertop in your home. To build a personal nanofactory (PN), you need to start with a working fabricator, a nanoscale device that can combine individual molecules into useful shapes. A fabricator could build a very small nanofactory, which then could build another one twice as big, and so on. Within a period of weeks, you have a tabletop model.

Click to enlarge
Artwork by John Burch, Lizard Fire Studios (3D Animation, Game Development)

Products made by a PN will be assembled from nanoblocks, which will be fabricated within the nanofactory. Computer aided design (CAD) programs will make it possible to create state-of-the-art products simply by specifying a pattern of predesigned nanoblocks. The question of when we will see a flood of nano-built products boils down to the question of how quickly the first fabricator can be designed and built.

MOVIE TIME: A short film called Productive Nanosystems: from Molecules to Superproducts depicts an animated view of a nanofactory and demonstrates key steps in the sample process that converts basic molecules into a billion-CPU laptop computer. The 4-minute streaming video is online here.

What could nanofactories produce?


Lifesaving medical robots or untraceable weapons of mass destruction.


Networked computers for everyone in the world or networked cameras so governments can watch our every move.


Trillions of dollars of abundance or a vicious scramble to own everything.


Rapid invention of wondrous products or weapons development fast enough to destabilize any arms race.

How does 'mechanochemistry' work?

It's a bit like enzymes (if you know your chemistry): you fix onto a molecule or two, then twist or pull or push in a precise way until a chemical reaction happens right where you want it. This happens in a vacuum, so you don't have water molecules bumping around. It's a lot more controllable that way.

So, if you want to add an atom to a surface, you start with that atom bound to a molecule called a "tool tip" at the end of a mechanical manipulator. You move the atom to the point where you want it to end up. You move the atom next to the surface, and make sure that it has a weaker bond to the tool tip than to the surface. When you bring them close enough, the bond will transfer. This is ordinary chemistry: an atom moving from one molecule to another when they come close enough to each other, and when the movement is energetically favorable. What's different about mechanochemistry is that the tool tip molecule can be positioned by direct computer control, so you can do this one reaction at a wide variety of sites on the surface. Just a few reactions give you a lot of flexibility in what you make.

MECHANOSYNTHETIC REACTIONS Based on quantum chemistry by Walch and Merkle [Nanotechnology, 9, 285 (1998)], to deposit carbon, a device moves a vinylidenecarbene along a barrier-free path to bond to a diamond (100) surface dimer, twists 90° to break a pi bond, and then pulls to cleave th

Why do some scientists dismiss this stuff as science fiction?

The whole concept of advanced nanotechnology — molecular manufacturing (MM) — is so complex and unfamiliar, and so staggering in its implications, that a few scientists, engineers, and other pundits have flatly declared it to be impossible. The debate is further confused by science-fictional hype and media misconceptions.

It should be noted that none of those who dismiss MM are experts in the field. They may work in chemistry, biotechnology, or other nanoscale sciences or technologies, but are not sufficiently familiar with MM theory to critique it meaningfully.

Many of the objections, including those of the late Richard Smalley, do not address the actual published proposals for MM. The rest are unfounded and incorrect assertions, contradicted by detailed calculations based on the relevant physical laws.

Is nanotechnology bad or good?

Nanotechnology offers great potential for benefit to humankind, and also brings severe dangers. While it is appropriate to examine carefully the risks and possible toxicity of nanoparticles and other products of nanoscale technology, the greatest hazards are posed by malicious or unwise use of molecular manufacturing. CRN's focus is on designing and promoting mechanisms for safe development and effective administration of MM.

If MM is so dangerous, why not just completely ban all research and development?

Viewed with pessimism, molecular manufacturing could appear far too risky to be allowed to develop to anywhere near its full potential. However, a naive approach to limiting R&D, such as relinquishment, is flawed for at least two reasons. First, it will almost certainly be impossible to prevent the development of MM somewhere in the world. China, Japan, and other Asian nations have thriving nanotechnology programs, and the rapid advance of enabling technologies such as biotechnology, MEMS, and scanning-probe microscopy ensures that R&D efforts will be far easier in the near future than they are today. Second, MM will provide benefits that are simply too good to pass up, including environmental repair; clean, cheap, and efficient manufacturing; medical breakthroughs; immensely powerful computers; and easier access to space.

What about "grey goo"?

The dangers of self-replicating nanobots — the so-called grey goo — have been widely discussed, and it is generally perceived that molecular manufacturing is uncomfortably close to grey goo. However, the proposed production system that CRN supports does not involve free-floating assemblers or nanobots, but much larger factories with all the nanoscale machinery fastened down and inert without external control. As far as we know, a self-replicating mechanochemical nanobot is not excluded by the laws of physics, but such a thing would be extremely difficult to design and build even with a full molecular manufacturing capability. Fiction like Michael Crichton's Prey might be good entertainment, but it's not very good science.

How soon will molecular manufacturing be developed?

Based on our studies, CRN believes that molecular manufacturing could be successfully developed within the next ten years, and almost certainly will be developed within twenty years. For more, see our Timeline page.

Shouldn't we be working on current problems like poverty, pollution, and stopping terrorism, instead of putting money into these far future technologies?

We should do both! Development and application of molecular manufacturing clearly can have a positive impact on solving many of today's most urgent problems. But it's equally clear than MM can exacerbate many of society's ills. Knowing that it may be developed within the next decade or two (which is not "far future"), makes preparation for MM an urgent priority.

More! More! More!

Nanotechnology: Get REAL! - An online PowerPoint presentation

Nano Simulation - A way to visualize what is meant by molecular manufacturing

Nanotechnology on an Upward Slope - An online PowerPoint presentation

CRN's Responsible Nanotechnology Blog - Stay up to date every day

Must-See Nanofactory Movie - Four minutes of fantastic future tech