Sunday, June 9, 2013

Speedy ELF

The ELF is really fast!  Now that I've been measuring using the iPhone Speedometer App, I've been able to gauge her performance.  Yes, I'm convinced the ELF is female.  It's pretty obvious, isn't it?

The last few rides I've really been impressed at the amount of power the motor has.  This is especially evident when climbing steep hills.  I was in a hurry on Thursday night so  decided to try driving on 29 up the hill between Lockwood and Southwood.  The ELF maintained a good 20 mph all the way up the hill.  I remember trying the same hill on my bike and dragging along at about 6.   This is why I always ride on the sidewalk on the bike.  

Here are a few screen snapshots of the Speedometer.  The first was on a flat surface just pedaling.  Alright, I might have used the motor to get up to speed and it was probably a gradual down hill but this is about the right speed for just pedaling.  It was also before I got my fancy new clipless pedals (see pictures below).

The question everyone always asks is "how fast does it go?"  I found a nice flat road with a good smooth surface and let her rip.  The ELF got up to 25 mph and stayed there.  I'm pretty sure the governor is keeping it from going above that but the motor certainly could handle faster.

The fastest I've gone on the ELF is around 33 and this screen snapshot of 31 was while pedaling down the hill going north on Route 29 between Southwood and Lockwood.  I'm pretty sure that on a longer and steeper hill she would go faster but so far this is my record.

The trip summary for my ride into the office indicates that the distance was 10.04 miles and the average speed was 12.5 mph.   I was taking it pretty easy on this morning and not trying to break any speed records.  The speedometer app stops measuring when you come to a stop so the average only includes the time and distance measurements while moving.

Per the request of one blog comment I've taken a series of pictures and videos of the ELF.  The first one here shows my brand new Shimano clipless pedals.  I took the ELF for a test drive with these last night and they really make a big difference in the amount of power I can generate from the pedals.  I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's commute!

The disk brakes are still making some noise, especially when backing out of the driveway, but they seem to have settled in and mostly work noise free.  I've had to adjust the cables near the brake handle a couple of times as they've stretched.  If you look closely at the left side brake you can see the electric wire going to the brake light sensor.  This little sensor uses a magnet attached to the brake wire and I've had to re-attach the sensor a few times since it keeps popping out of the strap.  I think I need to add another strap to keep it from popping off.  Anyway, as you can see from the picture of the rear brake light below, it's working fine now.

Here's a nice shot of the motor from the side.  I've been trying to keep the chain from rusting by applying chain oil after every rain.  I've got a little stack of bricks that I put under the frame on either side of the back wheel hub and then I run the motor slowly while dripping oil on the chain.  This works really well, but I needed a second person to hold the throttle.  I'm thinking of using a clip or rubber band to hold it in the future.

Here's a shot of the pedal side chain (and dog).  I've been oiling that one (not the dog, the chain) by sitting in the seat and pedaling backward while dripping oil on the chain with a paper towel on the frame to catch spray. 

Solar panel connection on the roof.

Yes, the brake light works!

Here's the magic power box hiding in the storage bay.  You can see the green light glowing when the power is plugged in.   Everyone on the ELF team at Organic Transit signed my ELF as a reward for participating in the Kickstarter campaign.  Nice!

Here are a few shots from behind the battery looking forward.  When I want to charge the battery in the sun I disconnect the gray power cable and leave the green and red charge cable connected.  That way there is no draw on the battery from the electronics.

The little black squares can be rotated to adjust the seat angle.  There are 4 sides to a square (in case you didn't know) so that means there are 4 different seat angle options.

The throttle is that little thumb lever on the right hanging down from the handle just under the bell.  The nuvinci hub CVT is controlled by turning the handle on the left with the (upside down) indicator of what part of the hill you're climbing or going down.

Here's a shot taken through the windshield looking down.

The Nuvinci hub has two cables and here you can see the parking brake lever locked in place.


  1. Much thanks for all the ELF photos and the video. One question how sturdy is the storage lid compartment? I love to travel with my 25 pound dog. Can I put him on the lid without breaking it?

    Thanks Kickstarter Kim#31 waiting in the Florida Keys

  2. Really enjoying your posts. As a future ELF rider, am finding them very informative.

  3. Kim - The lid of the storage compartment is made of corrugated plastic so it might not be the best choice for your application. However, you can easily remove it and replace it with something stronger since it's attached to the body using Velcro. The storage compartment is very strong so you could attach a piece of plywood or heavier plastic or maybe some kind of baskets on either side of the storage bay.

  4. Love the Pics and your posts! Can you let us know how far you are going on a 10ah battery?

    1. My commute is exactly 10 miles and includes 3 large hills and some pretty rough terrain/roads which I take very slowly. I tend to use the motor sparingly but always up the (larger) hills. I've done most of it with the lights on with no problem. I don't know how much power is left in the battery when I arrive, but it takes about 2 hours to charge so it's probably pretty close to empty. I've heard from others that they can go about 15 miles on the 10Ah battery.

  5. Any news on the app for reading battery, etc.?

    1. No. I'm not sure but I think it may require a hardware upgrade. You might check with Organic Transit to see if they have an update on that.

  6. Thank you for posting this! I now see I have hope for installing a larger/second battery! I just have to sell my Motorcycle and I'll put my order in! The battery that comes pre-installed is just enough to get me to work and most the way home, so I'm going to need a little extra juice...juyt in-case the sun is not shining enough, I'd like the have the option to take a battery into work with me and charge it in the break room.

    Do you know what voltage they have the ELF running at? I would guess 48V?

    1. Yes, it's a 48Volt and mine is the 10AmpHour version. I understand that you can get a 25AH one which would increase the range considerably. You can certainly take the battery into work and charge it in the break room on a regular 110 volt plug.

  7. Just read a blurb about the Elf this morning in The Week magazine, very excitedly started doing some online research, and came upon your excellent blog. The one thing I haven't been able to determine, however (and which you might have mentioned in a part of your blog that I haven't read yet) is how the steering works. I can see linkages from the steering bar to each wheel to steer the wheels simultaneously. What I'm wondering is if the wheels remain vertical to the ground while turning or is there some kind of lean factor built in as well.

    I live in Austin, a relatively bike friendly city, and if I thought the Elf could function almost as a second "car" for trips/errands in the rain (I have a Zuma electric bike for the non-wet weather), my wife and I could become a one-car, two-bike family.

    A man can dream.

    1. David, both wheels lean in at the top when driving straight. The wheels are mounted on the end of a steering rod which is angled inward at the top and outward at the bottom in a direction that is 90 degrees to the center of the bike. So when steering to the right or left, the effect is to reduce the lean since the spin of the wheel becomes more upright. I'm not sure why this is necessary, but it must help with turning.