Guest post – Vectrix Motorbike like Space Station – needed swap of NiMh batteries for Li-ion


By John Doyle with Eamon Stack and Barry McMahon – August 8th, 2020

I’m John Doyle. The beginning of my Vectrix story goes like this:
I returned to motorcycling in April 2010 (after a 30 year hiatus) when I saw an Irish Times article on a new motor scooter, the Vectrix VX-1. I went on to purchase the ex-demo bike I had used for my demo ride.

After 3.5 years of ownership, the battery temperature sensor circuit failed having been exposed to water after driving through a flooded road. In turn, this prevented the NiMh battery pack from charging and it died. This resulted in a temporary halt to my EV dream.

John discusses Vectrix upgrade with Kevin McDonald

Early in 2014, I noticed a Vectrix parked on Amiens Street, Dublin. Intrigued, as these bikes are a rarity, I waited to meet the owner who turned out to be Eamon Stack. After a chat we exchanged contact details. It was the beginning of an enduring friendship and meeting of minds in the world of electric motorcycles and cars. It was also the start of putting my Vectrix back on the road. In March 2014, with Eamon’s help, we sourced 40ah CALB LiFeP04 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) cells from Anne Klopenberg in The Netherlands (New Electric) and a BMS kit from Matt Casey in Perth, Australia. (Ireland, The Netherlands, Australia, Poland – the EV community is global). We put my Vectrix back on the road with I creased range.

Eamon and myself are now part of a Vectrix community of 5 EV owners with Vectrix bikes we have successfully converted from NIMH to LiFeP04 and now to Leaf cells.

The Vectrix VX-1 was designed around the millennium and launched in 2006. It is a maxi- scooter similar to the Honda Silverwing or Yamaha XMax and many similar bikes very commonly used by European commuters. The Vectrix, unlike many Asian small electric scooters, was a high-spec bike using quality bike parts like Brammo brakes, alloy frame by Lockheed martin aerospace and Italian forks. Its brushless motor gave 24 BHP of torque (equivalent to 350cc ICE bike) and its regen braking, by reversing the throttle, was revolutionary. Even Eddie Jordan had a Vectrix!

John removes modules from Leaf battery pack

The Achilles heel of the bike was the battery pack – it was designed too early for the Lithium battery revolution and relied on a battery chemistry that was great for Duracell bunnies but inadequate for Vectrix’ big motor. After a rumoured $100m investment, Vectrix went bankrupt, twice and there inventory was purchased by Vectrixparts.com in Poland set up by some emplyees from the original manufacturing plant.

While our early Vectrix conversions were a success, the real breakthrough for Vectrix enthusiasts came when a Nissan Leaf was kindly totalled by its owner. Eighteen modules of a Leaf pack, entirely by coincidence, fit snuggly into the Vectrix battery case and have the right total voltage for the motor. Our latest project has been delivered by Barry McMahon using cells from the battery pack of a Gen2 40kwh Leaf. The BMS for the Leaf modules is designed by Vectrixparts in Poland and the result is a bike with I creased power and range of 160km. This is ​60% better than the original design. Barry and Eamon now drive these beefed-up maxi scooters. Our friend Sean O’Callaghan is currently rebuilding a bike for his friend and plans to put Eamon’s old bike back on the road later in the year.

Our EV community has learned the skills to upgrade the battery of any EV. The two challenges for reliable upgrade: to source affordable Lithium cells and for someone in our worldwide EV community to develop a upgrade kit. As Sean, Eamon and Barry have Gen 1 Leaf EVs, they are keen to upgrade their Leafs. Please read our other article on “Leaf – how to quadruple your range”.

Vectrix with Leaf modules and BMS

Keeping EVs on the road, for as long as possible, is an important aspect to living a more sustainable lifestyle. EVs can outlast ICE vehicles threefold. While the early vehicles suffered from underdeveloped or short-range battery packs, this need not be a fait-accompli with no or excessively expensive options. It is important that the EV community demonstrate the reality that we can upgrade older EV to give them a fully and happy long life.

As we are all also EV car drivers, we share the delights of the EV community with the increased range of new and used EV cars for the public. However, we note that unlike the automaker sector, the motorbike sector has been very slow to design EVs. The only maxi-scooter alternative to the Vectrix is the BMW C-Evolution (BMW’s only e-bike to date). In the mainstream motorbike market, Harley-Davidson have the Livewire and Zero, the Tesla of motorbikes, have a good range of powerful bikes at different levels. Our concerns is that the price premium of EV motorbikes is 50% over their ICE equivalents and there is no Government grant to soften the financial hit.

Four upgraded Vectrix maxi-scooters with Kevin

We invite anyone interested to campaign for the introduction of a €3k EV grant for motorcycles, equivalent to the grant available in UK and most EU countries.