I've come across a mint condition 3 wheel Schwinn bike (big tricycle) and I'd like to modify it to be electric driven. My main focus is an efficient electric system and I would like to integrate solar charging at one point.

I'm willing and able to build it myself. I don't need a kit although I'm interested in integrating the most technical advancement within the last few years.

Recently, I spent some time in California and it appears the best and fastest electric bikes have the motor mounted in the front hub to pull the bike. This Schwinn bike has a very large basket behind the seat mounted over the rear axle where I could have larger battery packs.

How can one modify this 3-wheel Schwinn to an electric bike?

Note: It will be used only on relatively flat terrain, in Florida.

closed as too broad by RoboKaren, paparazzo, mattnz, Benzo, Batman Apr 13 '17 at 22:55

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I love electric bikes more than anyone on this board (except maybe Criggie) but this question is way too broad. You're best off asking this at an electric bike forum such as endlesssphere or lunacycle. – RoboKaren Mar 27 '17 at 17:42
  • RoboKaren, thank you for your comment and suggestion. I'm sure an electro-mechanical guru from here can help. I'm also up for hearing what not to do... – Jeffrey Michael Mar 27 '17 at 18:05
  • 1
    Stackexchange isn't that type of conversational forum, so it's ill-suited for what you want to achieve. Your question has already been flagged (by me) as being too broad. I'd suggest you go to the other forums I noted above, or even our own Bicycles Chat. – RoboKaren Mar 27 '17 at 18:11
  • 1
    p.s. Note that the 'best and fastest' ebikes don't use front hub motors, if only because front traction is limited, especially going uphill. The best and fastest ebikes use rear hub motors, mid-drive, or mid-drive combined with front drive (2x2). – RoboKaren Mar 27 '17 at 18:18
  • The close flag is the stick, the answer is the carrot. I think there's a useable question embedded somewhere in there. Right now, I answered in the narrow way that the question should have been originally asked. I'd encourage you to edit your question to narrow it down. – RoboKaren Mar 27 '17 at 18:48

Delta tricycles (trikes in which the two paired wheels are in the back) should either use:

  1. A crank-based motor such as a Bafang BBS-HD (these are usually called 'mid-drive' but this designation makes less sense for recumbent trikes). This would take advantage of the rear differential (if available). If the trike doesn't have a differential, it will pull in the same direction as when pedaled. With a powerful crank motor, this can be quite dangerous as it will either you pull you into traffic (left) or off the road (right). So I would suggest you use mid-drive crank motor on a trike only if you have a differential.

  2. A front hub-motor is better given the complexities of creating a differential for the two rear wheels. This has the advantage of not pulling to one side, but the disadvantage that you can easily lose traction, especially when going uphill (and especially if you have your batteries in the rear rack).

However, beyond this pithy answer, the actual complexities of installation are up to you and the particular motor/kit you choose. We're not a shopping site so asking "What's the best hub motor for a trike" would be ruled off-topic. You should instead ask "What characteristics of a hub motor would I look for if trying to install one in my trike" or "Which wheel should I put the hub motor in on my trike?" or "Should I use a throttle or pedelec for my trike electrification."

Finally, remember you can also always ask specific followup questions ("how would I install a Bafang BBS-HD given my recumbent's raised crank") once you've made the decision.

  • 1
    Covers pretty much everything I could add. Battery choice is even harder now, with heavy but cheap SLA vs light, powerful, and expensive lithium variants. I'd also suggest building the bike so it can still be ridden fully loaded with a dead battery, because it will happen eventually. – Criggie Mar 27 '17 at 19:23
  • 1
    These designs seem interesting: packratworkshop.com/trike8.htm – RoboKaren Mar 28 '17 at 21:45

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.