Fully ⚡️ Charged

FULLY⚡️CHARGED

By Tony Donaldson tonyd@hi-torque.com

I’m going to go off on a slight rant to start off the year. There’s something eating at my craw. No, it’s not a big-world-impact kind of protest, but it remains a pet peeve in my daily life. In the words of Peter Griffin (of “Family Guy”), “You know what really grinds my gears?”

This is aimed at the manufacturers: put your name on your charger. That’s right, the name of your bike company, or of the motor manufacturer at least. If you sell bikes with a generic charger, please have the decency to have stickers made with the brand and model on it. Here’s why.

I know that some families have only one or two bikes or scooters, but some have more, and they don’t all match in terms of brand or motor system. We get in many bikes each month, and those chargers that are labeled correctly can easily be matched with their bike. We do keep them in a bag attached to the bike when they’re not being used, but we’re also human. When I took over as editor, I inherited a collection of orphaned chargers and keys. Over the years, this collection has only grown.

 

“Just because a charger’s connector fits into a bike, that doesn’t mean it is safe to use as a charger for that bike.” 

 

The trouble is that just because a charger’s connector fits into a bike, that doesn’t mean it is safe to use as a charger for that bike. If it’s the wrong voltage or amperage, it can damage the battery or worse. I’ve been putting key tags on every key that comes in and also putting labels on every generic charger. I own a label maker, but I choose the cheaper route, which is tearing off a piece of masking tape and marking the name of the bike in my own chicken-scratch handwriting. It goes back to the manufacturer like that. 

Companies like Yamaha, Bosch, Shimano and a few others have their own name on their chargers, and they have proprietary connectors, which helps identify them. We have a Surface 604 Shred in this issue, and it came with what looked like a generic charger, but lo and behold, it had their name embossed on it. 

MAKING CONNECTIONS

The Shred has a USB port on the battery to allow you to connect your phone. It’s a USB Type-A (USB-A), which is fairly universal. It is what started all of the Universal Serial Bus ports. Many e-bike systems have a port in the display to allow you to power your phone and/or upgrade your bike’s firmware, but those ports are often Micro USB or Mini USB. To connect your phone, you need the right cable. On some of those systems, for example, you’d need a Micro USB-to-Lightning cable (for iPhone), which is pretty uncommon. 

This creates a lot of waste, on one hand, because you need a drawer full of different cables for different applications. The European Union has put in many regulations to cut down on e-waste, and I think we might borrow a page from that and strive to cut down on all the different charge cables we have. Going to USB-C is likely the answer. It can be plugged in either way, so you’re never fumbling with which way is up. It can carry 20 volts (100 watts) and 5 amperes, which means it can charge a laptop. Or, perhaps, slow-charge a bike if the electronics on the bike are set up for it. 

It may not replace a proper charger, but for travel it may suffice. You could add a little charge at lunch, using the one and only cable you brought, then charge your phone from your bike using that same cable. You could also help a friend charge their phone, and if all the connectors matched, it wouldn’t matter what phone they had. ν

TALK TO ME

I’d love to hear some great reader stories about how you decided to buy an e-bike, what you love about them, an adventure you’ve had or about some amazing custom build. E-mail me stories and pictures at tonyd@hi-torque.com if you have them, or send them in via fax or telegram.


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