I've got some exciting news to report: On a street recumbent with high pressure tires, you can go 30 miles, at speeds between 20 and 30mph, on 18S3P LiPo and still have plenty of juice left in the pack. On Friday, 30 March 2012, I did exactly that, completing a 62.5 mile commute with an 18S3P LiPo pack and a bulk charge halfway through.
This is an unstable bike, but the pannier improved stability perceptibly. Note to self: try putting the batteries in a pannier on the other side to see what that feels like.
I made it the first 31 miles in about 1hr, 45 minutes. I had a chain malfunction (it got jammed between the freewheel and the derailleur hanger) so I spent 20 minutes fixing that, but arrived at work only slightly delayed and none the worse for wear. Here's the view of the bike in the bike rack at work, after completing the 31 mile inbound leg of the trip:
On the trip back, I stopped at the convenience store from earlier photos in this thread and snapped another photo showing the sign with the current gas price as-of 30 March 2012. Compared to that earlier photo, the price digits on the LED display have flipped position: gas that was $3.79 only days ago is now $3.97 today. I'm not saying everyone needs to abandon their cars and ride with me, but I am saying that I sure enjoy not buying this gas today.
Final results of the ride:
Final Efficiency Numbers:
I have already been asked: "Could I make the trip on this bike every day?" Well, I have to admit, the answer is NO. The average speed I made this trip in, about 20mph, is too slow. It takes too long to cover the distance. The bike is not as stable as I'd like (fixable) and the front wheel is too far back (not fixable) making me worried I'll hit something, cantilever over the bike and do a face plant at 30mph.
What next? I don't know. I absolutely hate to give up the recumbent - the comfort is impressive. I made this commute in street clothes with no chafing or discomfort whatsoever. That's the incredible benefit of a recumbent. But for an ebike to work on this route, I need just a little more average speed (closer to 30mph) and probably a suspended bike to manage that kind of speed safely.
But I am happy to finish this thread with the following conclusions:
1) An 18S3P LiPo provides enough power to travel 30 miles in moderately hilly terrain at an average speed of 20 miles per hour.
2) The experience of commuting to work on an ebike is amazing. Although the trip took roughly 2 hours each way, the recumbent was amazingly comfortable, even while pedaling in jeans!
3) Gasoline is seeing rapid rises in price, which make the economics of an ebike even more favorable. I "saved" over $10 on this experimental trip against the cost of the bike and parts.
4) The knowledge and support of the members of Endless Sphere forums were crucial in making this possible! I doubt I could have succeeded so much the first time out without the help of all you great forum buddies! Special thanks go out to Kin, veloman, cell_man, methods, dogman, neptronix, Kinni420, Alan B, DrkAngel, all who have responded in this thread and all who have patiently answered my endless questions!
No matter how you see it, this ebike has been a success, meeting the design criteria of the mission in every way.