Auto Electrics for Dummies: Scooter Edition
May 8, 2011 3:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm travelling on my Scooter about 1,200 kms (800 miles) over two days. Is there a way I can hitch up a 12 volt (car) or 5 volt USB charger to keep my Smartphone topped up while on the road and using power hungry apps? There is no 12v charger available, although there is adequate space under the saddle to store a work around.

This little duck is flying to warmer climes over the southern winter with the Flashdrake. I've travelled my scooter (a Piaggio 200cc with 16" wheels) on many shorter (~ 400km one way) trips without drama. This time I shan't be carrying any significant luggage (that will be in the car), but I will still be spending a significant time on the bike, with frequent stops for refuelling and unjangling the hands. To help relieve the long periods of silence I intend to listen to internet radio through my mobile phone (HTC T8697), and ideally be 'plugged in' to be aware of when my husband may need to contact me.

I also want to use the GPS and navigation functions.

Alas, the battery won't last for a fraction of the duration of each day of the journey (about 9 hours). Is there some way I can hitch up an external power source to charge it on the road? As a small bike, it doesn't have a 12v car charger, and I don't think that the small battery will permit a charge to run off it.

I don't know anything about this, but figure that there must be a work around available. There is space under the seat which should be empty, and I have 101 pockets in my motorcycle jacket.

posted by Flashduck to Technology (10 answers total)
I did find one product that would appear to do what you want, called the Optimate 3/3SP/4/Accumate Car Size Cigarette Accessory Socket. It looks like a lot of the online stores that sell it are in Europe, but hopefully you can find something in Australia. It does look like that would be pretty much exactly what you need.
posted by jefeweiss at 4:03 AM on May 8, 2011

What you might be looking for (since the vehicle doesn't supply power) is a extender battery. I don't have particular experience with these (beyond a Minty Boost that my brother built), so I don't have particular recommendations beyond looking at the specs on how big the battery capacity is (e.g., the Satechi device is 5200mAh, compared to your phone which has a 1300mAh battery; if the extender is perfectly efficient, you'll get 4x longer life, but I think you'll be lucky to be that efficient although bigger is probably better).

An alternative is to get a big ass replacement battery for your phone. I picked up a Mugen battery for my Samgung Galaxy S. Unfortunately, they only appear to have one that's a bit less than 40% larger, as opposed to 100% larger.
posted by chengjih at 4:07 AM on May 8, 2011

I don't think that the small battery will permit a charge to run off it.

I think you're probably wrong here. The size of the bike's battery doesn't really matter; the bike's charging system continuously recharges the battery and runs the lights, horn, ignition coils, etc. whenever the engine is running. I doubt that your phone consumes enough power for your charging system to even notice that it's there. Assuming the bike's electrical system is 12V, a cigarette lighter - style accessory socket, coupled with an ordinary car charger for the phone, ought to solve your problem nicely.
posted by jon1270 at 4:20 AM on May 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest exactly what jon1270 did. Wiring in accessory sockets is really common on motorcycles. Here is a how-to video, for example, and over in the "related videos" sidebar there are a dozen others. A quick google search suggests that in the US you can buy a "motorcycle accessory socket" (the search term I used) for less than $10. As long as you have a modern scooter that has a 12 volt system (old ones sometimes had 6 volt systems) this is an easy add-on, and the electrical system should definitely be able to handle the load.
posted by Forktine at 5:06 AM on May 8, 2011

I've used accessory sockets for this kind of application. You should be able to find one at any auto parts store...

have a safe ride!
posted by tomswift at 5:42 AM on May 8, 2011

Somewhere in the shed I have a thing which is a pair of clips on one end, and a cigarette-lighter socket on the other end. Combine that with the appropriate 12v 'car' charger for your phone and she'll be apples.

(As has been mentioned above, the size of your battery won't matter if you're using it while the bike is running)
posted by pompomtom at 5:46 AM on May 8, 2011

The size of your bike battery is irrelevant* - the output of the alternator is what is important. If the voltage system is 12v (and several searches suggests it is), the extra draw of a smartphone charger is almost negligible and wiring in a 12v cigarette charger is extremely easy and you could do this without too much drama.

*the main specification for the battery is it's capacity to turn the engine over fast enough and long enough to charge. The bike/car will run entirely on the alternator output once it is running.
posted by Brockles at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2011

*the main specification for the battery is its capacity to turn the engine over fast enough and long enough to charge start.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2011

What model and how old is the bike?

I could well be wrong, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that most PX200Es brought into Australia before the mid 90's were 6 volt, then pretty much everything made by Piaggio after that was 12 volt. Check by having a look at the battery - it should say on it. If it doesn't say, it'll have a model number you can look up on the web.

6 volt will mean you'll need to wire in something like this before attaching your lighter to phone charger.

There's a Jaycar in Belconnen, and I think they might have the converter, the lighter socket, and probably the right charger for your phone. The wiring it all together would fall to you.
posted by Ahab at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2011

*the main specification for the battery is its capacity to turn the engine over fast enough and long enough to charge start.

Damn my fat fingers. Thanks for correcting that.
posted by Brockles at 11:51 AM on May 8, 2011

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