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Documentation for BionX System on eRowBikeX

Note that as of roughly 2018 all official BionX company units (primarily Canada and Germany) have ceased business and, apparently, disbanded their stock, IP, and other assets. There seems to be no entity (this is being written in early 2019) that is officially doing maintenance or selling replacement parts. Existing stock has a way of finding itself to market, but it's hit or miss at this point. We decided even before this BionX bankruptcy to not use its system for eRowBike development, largely because the firmware remained too proprietary for us to make the tuning adjustments we felt were necessary, even after the company provided some support in our efforts. This was also the case for deprecating the Shimano Steps mid-drive unit, at least for now. The basic issue is that the manufacturer obviously designs their product for use with "pedals" -- which we don't use on our RowBike projects. So far we've had the best results when combining 'open source' hardware components with Grin Technologies products, as we are continuing to do with the eRowBike1 development. Grin (Justin) is extremely adept, as well as willing, to make the best current technology accesible for our e-assist vehicle prototyping projects ("thinking outside the box").

 

 

eRowBikeX -- BionX Resources
Bionx CanBus Battery Rebuild Options? Endless-Sphere thread, 2015 to current

 

 

BionX Hardware

The older BionX hardware, typically through 36V battery packs, uses the I2C protocol on the "comm" (data/signal) cabling, while the newer 48V systems use the Canbus protocol (change to canBUS was 05/2009??). The green and white wires are SDA and SCL for I2C, and High and Low for CanBus. The BionX hub motors all have proprietary controllers built into the motor housings, and include firmware (read/write registers) that read the motor's internal strain gage(s) and deliver proportional power -- depending on the assist level settings in the console, which also has firmware and a microprocessor in it. While the battery is "smart" and also includes a PCB with firmware, it apparently isn't crucial to the system's basic functioning, other than providing regulated 5VDC on the red and black comm wires to run the PCBs, and, of course, report its own SOC status to the console.

 

 

Motor

Alan, on ES: The BionX, as with nearly all ebike systems have a top "target" motor speed that is a function of voltage times the motor constant, Kv. [The target speed (V * Kv) is a no-load speed] That top speed is motor RPM, not MPH. Once you are above the voltage * Kv motor speed, there will be no assistance from the motor. The greater the speed difference between the motor RPM and the target speed (V*Kv), the greater the current. When the motor is turning slower than.the top/target speed, then the battery will discharge, and when the motor is faster than its target speed, the battery will be charged.

There is a strain gage torque sensor built into the rear hub which the controller (also built into the hub motor) reads to determine proportional assist. The hub motor *must* be specially aligned within a required 5 degree range to the notch in the axle facing directly downwards. The reason for this is that the torque is measured by the pull of the bicycle chain on the top of whichever sprocket of the rear cassette is currently the gear being used. The harder the chain is being pulled on the sprocket, the greater the amount of assist provided.

photo of BionX motor with washer puller

In the photo above we see a 1960's era VW steering rod puller being used to loosen the special BionX washer which is used to orient the axle in the correct angular relationship to the top of the rear freewheel cassette. The rectangular "bump" fits into the rear dropout slot, and when the axle nuts are tightened, the special washer is tightened into place via a taper fit on the axle. This operation needs to be performed every time the hub motor is installed into a different bike frame where the geometry angles are different.

Alan on ES says: "First, make sure the axle notch is perpendicular to chain center. On most bikes the pedal rotation axis and the rear wheel rotation axis are at the same height off the ground, so the chain center would be perfectly horizontal. Therefore, the axle notch should be vertical (straight down). I'm not sure how your tricycle is set up, but if the chain is not horizontal, then the notch should be not be vertical." []See more of Alan's comments in the software sections below.

I think Alan would define "chain center" here as a straight line between the bike's bottom bracket (pedal shaft) and the rear wheel (motor) axle. The BionX motor's "axle notch" would vector away from that line at a 90 degree angle, facing downward towards the ground. You can test the torque assist by clamping the rear wheel against rotation and then applying a pulling force on the chain. If the controller is issuing a command to the motor to provide assist, it will add small bars in the display on the console (the inverse of regen seen in the bar display on the left side).

Motor: converting to generic BLDC

"BionX - How to fix the motor" thread:
Post by justin_le Nov 04 2018

Rony wrote: Nov 04 2018 10:21am Hello, thanks for reply. Any suggestions where I can buy a new one (or used one) ? Maybe someone here has some boards for sell ?

Justin: Presumably there is someone out there who has a pile of controller PCB's from the BionX liquidation auction this past summer, and with BionX no longer in business there will surely be lots of used / broken kits being sold or discarded which you could scavenge the motor controller board. That's what you should do if you wanted to keep this as a BionX bike (with the same console and battery etc)

But now that you've got it open like this I would seriously consider liberating the motor from the BionX platform and instead bring out the 3 phase wires and 5 hall wires to an external cable. Then you have the freedom to use literally any 3 phase BLDC ebike motor controller, and you'll also be able to use any model of battery pack too. It'll be much more versatile as an ebike down the road. We've done this with a BionX PL350 that was donated to our shop which also had a broken internal controller. See the phases connected to the yellow, green, and blue motor cable.
photo of BionX motor opened up
It's now a fun and peppy setup running at 1500 watts peak and with Statorade to enable much higher power levels than the original system without the overheating risks.

 

 

Battery

There is a thermistor/temperature sensor inserted between the cells of the pack, and if the pack exceeds ~140F the battery is completly disconnected electrically from charging and discharging. Using the pack without the onboard BMS would eliminate this protection. The BionX system does regen, with the display showing you how much by way of a sliding bar graph. Above a certain speed, or it the battery is too full, the regen goes to a resistive load (dump) instead of the battery. The amount of regen I've experienced with BionX is much more conservative than what can be achieved with Grin technology.

Blown BionX Battery

The photo below shows the rear connector of the BionX 48V downtube mount battery connector. Note the blackened positive terminal on the right side, which *vaporized* the barrel material on making the connection to the system. The male positive pin on the battery mount also sustained severe welding damage. The cause is not yet known,. The battery's internal 30A automotive type inline fuse is intact, suggesting it took less than 30 amps to make the connector disintegrate and result in an open circuit. There is no visible damage inside the battery case, and except for some minor corrosion where the five control wires are soldered into the BMS board, everything looks good. At the time the battery was mounted to its rail and resulted in this damage, it was fully charged via the factory charger and the charge port green LED ring lit when touched. The display was still working fine after the positive terminals vaporized, although (obviously?) no power was delivered to the motor.
photo of BionX battery
This happened in mid-winter in Minnesota, with some exposure to moisture and salt, so environmental issues may be the cause. The text in the photo saying that's the "likely" cause is pure guesswork. I did keep connectors clean and protected with dielectric grease. All wiring except that going directly to the motor has been inspected and there are no open or short circuits. This leaves the possibility of a fault condition (dead short?) in the motor itself or the power wires going to it. I'll look at that as soon as the temps go above zero again. [I did, and the motor power/comm cables all check out OK. Resistance measurement on the motor's power wires reflects reasonable resistance values, changing during readings, suggesting caps in the circuit being measured.] The following shows the "male" half of the connector, which also sustained severe damage to the positive power pin.
photo of BionX battery
After the damage was done, the battery still seemed to be a happy camper, with the green LED ring and small beep behaving as if nothing had happened. So the title above about a "blown battery" is probably misleading. Battery pack voltage remains at a healthy 52.* volts and shows no tendency towards self-discharging. The display did show an "Error 63"...

After replacing the "blown" D-sub connector with a good one from an older 36V pack, I stuffed everything back in, making sure the BMS card with securely slotted into its dedicated recesses in the bottom and top portions of the case. Now the green LED ring around the charge port no longer lit up -- in fact, the battery appeared to entirely dead. I remembered something about "waking up" a BionX battery if the voltage had gotten too low or if it had gone into "Deep Sleep" mode due to non-use, so I looked into that. Googling "how to wake up a bionx 48 volt battery" returned some hits that said to do the following:
Connect the charger. The battery can be mounted on the bicycle or removed. The touch port LED will blink green and beep 4 times as the battery turns back on. It will then start charging.
Since I knew this battery was fully charged and therefore not suffering from low voltage, I hoped it was the deep sleep condition that the battery was in, vs "dead". I knew the cells were good, so if the battery is now dead it's due to a bad BMS or bad connections.
The following explains what causes the battery to enter deep sleep mode:
A fully charged battery will automatically enter Deep Sleep after 2 months, while a partially discharged battery will enter it in increasingly faster time frames.
Online site with BionX info: https://newwheel.net/questions/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=10846261

Source: https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=75347 says:
photo of BionX battery dsub connector from ES
To see if the battery can be switched on (these are suggestions gleaned from a variety of sources, many on ES) Since the system is 'normally' turned on from pushing a single 'power button' on the (G2) console, it should be doable via just the signal/data "comm" wires:
-- turning the battery pack on is done by temporary shorting the "wake" line to ground.
-- Initial waking up the battery requires temporarily connecting two of the pins on the hirose connector. [we know this works because a user reported having a short in his comm cable between console and battery, and that kept turning his system on again and again]
-- connect (short, bridge) pins A1 (the Negative big power wire socket) and 3 (the signal pin socket on bottom row right, closest to A1 ground socket)
A Canbus battery should beep 3 times (newer 48V systems);
An I2C battery should beep 4 times (older 36V systems)

Result? Per the very option above, I plugged battery into charger and it came back to life. The green touchport LED lights up again, it beeps, and the console will turn the system on/off again. It does display a "wrench" icon and error code 60, however, with the motor plugged into the system.

- the canbus battery only puts 12v on the comm cable to the motor

 

 

Cells Used in 48V pack: NCR18650PF

This peek into pack shows the cells used.
photo of BionX battery cells

 

 

Wiring, cables, connectors

 

 

BionX Battery Connectors

The following picture shows both the male and female D-sub connectors used to connect both the 36V and 48V batteries we have encountered. This set was 'harvested' from a 36V battery found orphaned at a LBS here in the Twin Cities. Both the cells and BMS were alive, but age and capacity of the pack are unknown. In addition to the red/black main power wires and the five smaller control/data/signal wires, the connector shows two wires used for the 6V lights/accessories circuit. It *appears* that the positive of the 6V circuit (6VDC+) is soldered (passed through) to the D-sub connector shell, while the 6VDC- is connected to the negative/ground of the main (traction) battery. The connector's shell is NOT connected to any grounds. We used the battery side (female) connector to repair the 48V battery shown in the section above.
photo of BionX d-sub connectors

BionX Connector Pin Definitions

The following is a German language PDF showing the functions for each of the wires in the BionX connectors for a "TinyCAN D-sub 9 pin connector going to the stock Hirose HR30-6.

 

 

BionX Console Connectors


photo of BionX console connectors

There are two connectors on the console/display bracket.
1. A 6 pin Hirose HR30 "Canbus communication" connector that is keyed and spring locked. It connects to the mating connector coming from the battery. [Hirose connector HR30-6P-6S(71); Mouser part number 798-HR30-6P-6S71]
2. A standard coax 5/2.1mm DC power "barrel" connector, which connects to the +/- and throttle buttons (G2 Throttle) typically mounted to the handlebars.

 

 

Software configuration

Alan on ES, posted in 2010

... this is from memory, there are two settings that will get your assistance at the level you want (after making sure the notch is set right!). I believe they are 0007 and 0008. The first determines, if I recall correctly, how readily the power will be applied. If that is set too sensitive, then the bike may take off before your feet are fully on the pedals! You don't want it to engage under a few MPH for safety. I don't see from your post that this is a problem, but I think the factory default is a bit too high, and you may find this will help. [Actually this is the "Minimum Speed" setting below.]

The 0008 setting is a double setting, an A and a B value, which determine how sensitive the torque sensor is, and either your notch is too far off, or this setting is way too low for you. If this is set too high, your feet will get less workout on the pedal than your thumb will on the throttle! The B setting (I think) determines how much power is applied for a given torque input. This can be made so high that a level 1 assist will give you more power than the default value does for level 4 [Alan is talking about the console/display setting level here; 300% assist at level 4].

I found that default settings for level 4 is virtually useless, unless I did not want any exercise; might as well use the throttle. Level 3 is very aggressive, and level 2 is more than I typically want. However, I found level 1 was barely more assist than compensating for the weight of the system itself. I wanted to do most of my riding between 1 and 2, so I bumped up the 0007 and 0008 settings to get exactly what I wanted, and now I ride about 90% of the time at level 1. Sometimes I go to 2 or 3 near the end of my ride just to cool down. I rarely use the throttle.

I'm guessing the BionX system is optimized for a 40-60 RPM cadence.

 

 

System Profile: Custom

Note that by setting all the amplification factors to their maximum values, it's possible to have the motor kick in even without applying the throttle or pulling on the powerlever. These values should be programmed while the Rowbike is on a test stand.

  1. 0007: ("Overall gauge multiplier") 2 [what I'd call "Assist level"]

    Alexandre suggests increasing this to 2
  2. 0008a: ("Gain A"): 2 [what I'd call "Gain"]

    Alexandre suggests increasing this to 2
  3. Gauge filter (1234): 2 [what I'd call "PAS averaging"]

    Alexandre suggests increasing this to 2, but he might be thinking we want to "average" the power strokes to have the Rowbike maintain a relatively constant speed -- which we may or may not want. One approach is to have the motor respond/assist immediately to any pull (torque signal) on the powerlever, but also to stop any assist as soon as the pull stops.
    4 = system start quickly but stop quickly -- try this first
    1 = system start very slowly but stop more slowly. ("What helps to compensate for the slow RPM.")
  4. Minimum Speed: 2

    Alexandre suggests reducing from 3km/h to 0.5km/h. This means that you barely need to have the Rowbike be rolling before assist kicks in (or the remote throttle as well). We want to have assistance from a "dead stop" if possible to do it safely.

On Sep 9, 2015, at 9:30 AM, Alexandre Coulombe wrote:

Thank you Scott for your time today.
Please understand that we never did a Rowbike, and we will need you to do some testing.
There is different setting that I would like you to play with at first.

On the right side in BBI will find system profile, please select Custom and then play with those 2 setting.
1) Overall gauge multiplier (0007): try to increase to 2
2) Gain A (0008a): try to increase to 2

That should really increase the power even with low arm power. Please be aware that we multiply the signal from the torque sensor. By having it to the maximum for 0007 and 0008a, the signal from every other aspect than pedal assist will also by amplify. It could result with auto assistance, but the only way to know is by testing. If you feel that power appears even without pedaling, please start reducing the 0007 and 0008a.

Once you have selected the best fitting, I would like to adjust the filter that will adapt the responsiveness of the system. As discuss over the phone having a Rowbike instead of regular pedal reduce from 60-80 rpm to probably more around 30 RPM.

Still into the same menu, you could ajusst the Gauge filter (1234)
4 = system start quickly but stop quickly
1 = system start very slowly but stop more slowly. What help to compensate for the slow RPM.

I'm not sure what would be the magical number for that bike, I would expect level 2, but by testing it, you will find the best configuration.

Last setting is the min speed. You will find that setting bellow the console into BBI. For that type of bicycle I would reduce from 3km/h to 0.5km/h. Once again that is only suggestion, and please validate it before making it try to an end users.

Scott and HJ please call me for any questions.
Regards, Alexandre Coulombe

 

 

Everything you ever wanted to know about BionX... by Calf that is dead » May 05 2007 ======================================= ScotterMonkey Joined: Aug 08 2008 5:16pm Re: Everything you ever wanted to know about BionX... by ScotterMonkey » Mar 01 2009 10:39am 0007 : Sensor sensitivity: Set to 3.0 or less if you get too much "on/off" 0008 : Extra assistance: Set "A" to 4.0, Set "B" to 3.0 (when it kicks in) 3773 : Max speed (assist), set to OFF (0) 3775 : Max speed (throttle) , set to OFF (0) 3776 : Speed motor will start, set to LOW (1) 2006 : Brake sensor, set to ON 1234 : Sensor speed signal , set to 3 1970 : Configuration backlight. Set to OFF 1976 : Motor direction. Set to 1 (forward) 2001 : Set to km/h 2002 : Generative braking, set to max (64) 2003 : Activate battery remain display (toggle) 2004 : Set the clock to current time 2005 : Set wheel size to 2075 2007 : Polarity throttle, set to 0 3771 : Set wheel size to 2075 3774 : PR ? set to ON 3779 : Time and Distance remaining display, activate if not active already. Menu code 5000 to reset console Menu code 3772 to set console to diagnostic mode Menu code 0041 to activate 12C. Unknown setting Press and hold Mode for 5 cycles of backlight toggles to reset battery. Will beep rapidly when reset. Hold Mode button 2 seconds for backlight Press Chrono and +A or -G to set display contrast Press Chrono to select display type. Hold Chrono 2 seconds to reset data Press and hold Mode and +A to arm alarm With 0007: 1.0 is too low and the controller often doesn't detect the cyclist pedaling. Set to 3.0 allows detection of cyclist earlier and more sensitivity to changes in cyclist torque output. Diag mode (menu 3772) allowed me to find that the "B" option on menu 0008 is best to be set to 1.0 rather than 25. This is the speed where extra assistance kicks in. If this is the case, it's probably better to have it kick in at a lower speed. The assist power (upper left digits in diagnostic mode) were higher with the 1.0 value and seemed to climb faster from a complete stop. #3779 adds 2 more modes to the normal "chrono" display which can be useful if you want to see how much longer and how much further you can go (estimate). Maxed out #2006. When I use the regen brake (with the mag switch) I want it to brake as much as possible. Axle bolts must be between 40 and 50 Newton Meters tight.

 

 

Remote Throttle

This unit is mounted on the handlebars and connects to the G2 main unit via the longer "red" wired DC coax jack, and the shorter "white" wired DC coax connector which goes to a NO (normally open) magnetic reed switch held in stick-on foam on the the brake lever - which also has a permanent magnet mounted to the brake lever.

I'm going to substitute a pushbutton switch mounted on top of the brake lever, just as on the eRowbike, which will act as the "electric brake" activator. According to the BionX documentation, shorting the two wires going to the brake sensor cuts off the power to the motor and activates the regen at the level programmed into the unit at the time. Pulling the manual left and left brake levers simply activates the mechanical rim brakes as on a normal RowBike.

 

 

Remote eBrake

This unit is mounted on the left side of the handlebars and connects to the G2 main unit via the shorter "white" wired DC coax connector. This is currently red pushbutton switch, replacing the NO (normally open) magnetic reed switch held in stick-on foam on the the brake lever. When the button is pushed, the motor power is cut off and the Rowbike goes into "regen" braking mode. The amount of braking you get depends on the system configuration, including the number of bars on the left side of the G2 console. ES member, in 2007 (referring to programming register): I also maxed out #2006. When I use the regen brake (with the mag switch) I want it to brake as much as possible.

Note: Regen current goes primarily into the battery, and if the battery is fully charged, the regen braking force will be reduced to whatever the system can dissipate via a resistive (dump) element -- which isn't very much. Also remember that regen generates as much heat in the system as does generating power, since electrons moving through the coils in the motor don't care which direction they're moving in. BionX systems monitor the motor's core temperature and start dialing back power assist whenever the motor temperature rises beyond a certain level. This is equally true for either pedal assist or throttle use.

 

 

 

 

Our Contact at BionX (OBSOLETE!)


Alexandre Coulombe, Sales Manager Canada & Emerging Markets | BionX International
2995 Boulevard Industriel, Sherbrooke, Qc J1L 2T9 Canada
Office+1-819-563-1035 ext 250 Toll free +1-866-620-1109 ext 250
Cell +1-819-434-2453 Toll free +1-866-879-4912
Alexandre.coulombe@bionxinternational.com | www.ridebionx.com

 

 

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