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Misc: Charging Systems Alton generator

Chris Launders

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
The recent thread on generators has prompted me to have a look at the Alton that came with my twin and wasn't working, it's a 3 phase direct drive unit (no gearbox) and looks rather fried inside but is showing 0.7 ohm across all three phases and no short to earth, does anybody know what it should read before I try to rig up a drive to test if it will work at all.
Chris.
 

oexing

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Measuring resistance would not help much, the low number of windings has very low ohm readings anyway. I´d just test it by driving it with a hand drill and hook a bulb on it for seeing if performance is acceptable.
Would you care to post a few pictures about innards of the Alton ?

Vic
 

bmetcalf

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
This won’t be much help, due to my so-called memory, but I needed to crimp another terminal on my Alton lead and discovered that I had to scrape the insulating enamel off the end of the lead.
 

Marcus Bowden

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Chris my handsome, Herve' Hamon handed me the latest 3 phase Altons and fitted it and managed to get from home to the French rally near Patric Godet's village but travelling at night so I wasn't generating and battery was fading so stopped and slept under the hedge, Christine wasn't too pleased, recharged battery and made it back to Cornwall via Dover each time. Poor system that was but still running 1 : 2 gearbox type but fitted with filler plug and level plug gears running in oil, took a previous one out with me to the 2007 Australian rally as I was loaning a rap but knew generation was not good did 6k + miles and it is still working back in NZ. They are like any electric drill / angle grinder with a gearbox using grease it flings out , dries out and the Alton nylon gear melts. I changed two for South London members here and order a spare each time.


28007
 

Glenliman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Here's my timeline for Vincent Altons.
Im a bit fuzzy on actual dates, but pretty sure the order of appearance is correct.
In 2005 my original Miller went Afro with its windings when I decided to catch a Harley that had passed by us on a hill.
The high RPM was too much for the old thing.

I had read about the Altons, which at that time were direct drive and single phase. I think these were a reliable unit, but they were said to be a bit low in output at lower rpm, maybe not much better than the original dynamos. 150 watts was the rated output,
but that may have been at 100 mph!
I contacted Alton and talked with Paul Hamon.
He said he had designed a new Alton that was a 3 phase unit and would have much greater low speed output than the earlier single phase direct drive.
I purchased one of these and installed it.
I do not recall this unit having an internal step up trans like the one in Marcus's photo.
That looks like the next iteration ( single phase ) to me.
But I could be wrong, it's a long time ago.
The 3 phase would charge ok when cold but steadily lost its ability to charge as it warmed up.
After 30 minutes of riding the system was discharging at all RPMs.
Paul Hamon and I had lots of conversations as we tried to iron out what was happening.
I changed voltage regs from the Podtronics ( my choice) to the units he provided at that time ( not Podtronics)
Nothing worked.
After several months of struggling with this , Paul told me " There is a problem with the three phase unit and I'm not sure what it is.
I'm giving up on that unit but I have designed a new single phase unit with stronger magnets plus an internal transmission to step up alternator RPM. I'll send you one"

I installed that one (2006?) and it made power like crazy, balanced a 100 watt electrical load just off idle.
I was very happy with the output but at about 5000 miles the gears lost their teeth.
Paul sent me new gears and instructed to clean the unit scrupulously then pack with the grease he had provided.
About 4 thousand more miles down the road the gears went again.
Paul said " I've abandoned the unit with transmission but will send you my new unit that is direct drive, single phase with very strong magnets" This might have been in 2009 or thereabouts.
I have had that unit running for 30,000 miles now and like it a lot. It isn't as powerful as the stepped up unit, but it's plenty powerful. I've also put one of these on the 1360 Special. It's driven off the double toothed primary belt.
The simplicity of direct drive is hard to beat.
I did have the problem with the Ballistic Battery meltdown taking out the whole charging system, but that was my own fault.
Although the seller assured me that the Ballistic battery was a great choice for the bike, they aren't correct at all.
Ballistic is bankrupt, but Shorai now states on their website " do not install this battery in a vehicle with a charging system that produces less than 13.1 volts at idle"
That would be an Alton or most other Vintage bike charging devices, save perhaps a Walkenator which might produce 13.1 at idle.

I recently tried to resurrect the old stepped up unit with 4140 steel gears and gear oil sump, but that failed in a short time as well.

So that is a history of the Vincent Alton as I know it.
When you purchase an Alton today, you pay something for the unit and something for the thousands of hours of design and redesign that it has taken to get to the reliable and powerful unit of today.
With that in mind they are priced quite fairly.

Glen
 
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Little Honda

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Here's my timeline for Vincent Altons.
Im a bit fuzzy on actual dates, but pretty sure the order of appearance is correct.
In 2005 my original Miller went Afro with its windings when I decided to catch a Harley that had passed by us on a hill.
The high RPM was too much for the old thing.

I had read about the Altons, which at that time were direct drive and single phase. I think these were a reliable unit, but they were said to be a bit low in output at lower rpm, maybe not much better than the original dynamos. 150 watts was the rated output,
but that may have been at 100 mph!
I contacted Alton and talked with Paul Hamon.
He said he had designed a new Alton that was a 3 phase unit and would have much greater low speed output than the earlier single phase direct drive.
I purchased one of these and installed it.
I do not recall this unit having an internal step up trans like the one in Marcus's photo.
That looks like the next iteration ( single phase ) to me.
But I could be wrong, it's a long time ago.
The 3 phase would charge ok when cold but steadily lost its ability to charge as it warmed up.
After 30 minutes of riding the system was discharging at all RPMs.
Paul Hamon and I had lots of conversations as we tried to iron out what was happening.
I changed voltage regs from the Podtronics ( my choice) to the units he provided at that time ( not Podtronics)
Nothing worked.
After several months of struggling with this , Paul told me " There is a problem with the three phase unit and I'm not sure what it is.
I'm giving up on that unit but I have designed a new single phase unit with stronger magnets plus an internal transmission to step up alternator RPM. I'll send you one"

I installed that one (2006?) and it made power like crazy, balanced a 100 watt electrical load just off idle.
I was very happy with the output but at about 5000 miles the gears lost their teeth.
Paul sent me new gears and instructed to clean the unit scrupulously then pack with the grease he had provided.
About 4 thousand more miles down the road the gears went again.
Paul said " I've abandoned the unit with transmission but will send you my new unit that is direct drive, single phase with very strong magnets" This might have been in 2009 or thereabouts.
I have had that unit running for 30,000 miles now and like it a lot. It isn't as powerful as the stepped up unit, but it's plenty powerful. I've also put one of these on the 1360 Special. It's driven off the double toothed primary belt.
The simplicity of direct drive is hard to beat.
I did have the problem with the Ballistic Battery meltdown taking out the whole charging system, but that was my own fault.
Although the seller assured me that the Ballistic battery was a great choice for the bike, they aren't correct at all.
Ballistic is bankrupt, but Shorai now states on their website " do not install this battery in a vehicle with a charging system that produces less than 13.1 volts at idle"
That would be an Alton or most other Vintage bike charging devices, save perhaps a Walkenator which might produce 13.1 at idle.

I recently tried to resurrect the old stepped up unit with 4140 gears and gear oil sump, but that failed in a short time as well.

So that is a history of the Vincent Alton as I know it.
When you purchase an Alton today, you pay something for the unit and something for the thousands of hours of design and redesign that it has taken to get to the reliable and powerful unit of today.
With that in mind they are priced quite fairly.

Glen
Were you repairing a puncture, when the Harley passed you?
 

Glenliman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
As much as we love to hate Harley's, there is this company called S&S and they can make a Harley really romp.
I did catch him though, just as the Miller unspooled itself....
 

timetraveller

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
I don't know what voltage a Walkernator produces at tick over as I have never measured it. One also has to be careful to specify the bike. For example on a Comet the alternator turns more slowly than on a twin and on a twin with two front heads and the hollow in the top of the gearbox I can make the alternator turn more quickly than on a twin with front and rear heads and no hollow in the gearbox top. On my own bike, on which most of my testing took place, the ex-Cecil Mills production class racer with 9:1s and Mk 2, tick over is at about 1,000 rpm. At those revs the system balances a 130 watt headlamp bulb and a 6 watt tail lamp bulb with ease. Switching on front and rear indicator bulbs (2 x 21 watt) causes the ammeter to deflect briefly but to recover to zero within a second or so. At higher revs I never see a discharge on the ammeter no matter what load is switched on.
On a Comet one needs to use third gear at 30 mph in traffic to keep the charge above zero. Once out of the 30 mph controlled area then top gear at 40 and above will balance everything tried so far.
I do like to see people experimenting with different things and the idea of using a compact electric motor for charging might well have some merit. I doubt it, but would like to be shown to be wrong. When I started playing around with this many years ago I thought that I could be a smart a**e and I got an alternator off a Honda four stroke outboard engine. I liked the idea that the permanent magnets were in the rotating outer housing and the coils were in the centre. The voltage induced in the windings is a function of the cutting speed of the magnetic field passing the end of the coils and this is faster with the magnets further out from the centre of rotation, i.e. in the outer rotating part. However, the problems with then trying to engineer these two separate components into something that would fit where the original dynamo sits and would be mechanically reliable was more effort than it was worth and would probably have ended up costing more to make than the present system. Paul Hamon has stuck at it and although there has been a history of unreliability with the Altons the advent of the latest rare earth powerful magnets and Paul getting rid of various internal gears has resulted in a system which is reliable, compact and powerful enough for many people. However, quarts and pint pots comes to mind and there is a limit of what can be extracted from a given volume. Given a new start then an alternator working where the ESA is and a starter motor where the dynamo is would be my way of going forwards and keeping most of the original looks. A three gear primary drive, rather than a chain or belt would give some space and a shock absorber built into the clutch would get round the removal of the ESA from its original position.
 

Glenliman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
That sounds right. The single phase first version had been around for quite awhile when I bought the 3 phase unit in 2005.
I can imagine that the first version saw some revisions and modifications along the way as well.

Glen
 

oexing

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
A car alternator is certainly great for those who really need a lot of power for whatever to run. But then for classic looks it is just ab-so-lu-tely no way I´d be willing to throw one onto my bikes - same as for elephant breathers and various contraptions of luggage carriers, ignition coils at the cylinder base - and so on. At my age I am no longer keen on doing long motorbike travelling and if so, instead of ruining the style of a Vincent to turn it into somewhat suitable for travelling I´d rather get me a used BMW twin - or Jap - with all that is required in one package and you are ready to go, no compromises. If you don´t care about horrible looks so you can opt for a BMW or Jap just as well. Don´t see the point why to spoil a Vincent in lots of aspects just to go travelling.
Anyway, putting an alternator at the mag place has a few serious flaws: You´d have to have a gearbox in there to boost the output due to only half speed there. That means the drive inflicts the alternator with high loads - some shock loads too - at same ration as you up the speed in there. Sure, there is no ESA to blame , but the gearbox in the alternator needs extra lubrication, produces noise and with a ratio of, say, 1:3 , it is loaded with threefold acceleration when blipping the throttle. The load from inertia of the rotor is in consequence threefold as well and so all gears in the timing side get a high additional load - which I would not want to have.
Instead of a gear drive in the alternator at the mag position one may find a big three phase motor , bigger diameter than at the old Miller place possible. 90 mm o.d. is about max there I guess, as I will put that size of car magneto there - just. So yes, a starter at the old dyno place may be an option then, haven´t seen one yet.
Speaking for myself, my numbers I have found from REAL load tests with these permanent magnet motors , no gears, look great for me and I will never need more power from them so no need to opt for car alternators. When seeing 14 V at 2100 rpm at the crank with a 100 W quartz bulb connected that is good for me and for a lot more Vincenteers I believe. There seem to be a few reasons why the car type alternators did not catch on a lot more.
To this day I have not seen wattage numbers of non-geared Altons at various speeds. With the B-series engines and cast-in dyno cradles Alton is limited to a small diameter motor due to the 1/2 " offset of drive shaft. I did a little machining for 68 mm motors, 70 mm is about max for the old cases. So my guess, these 68 mm China motors will supply more power than the non-geared Altons - at a fraction of costs. You can have 5 to 10 motors for one Alton, regulator included - great for those who love messing around at the lathe or mill.
ESA drama aside, a low mass of the rotor is a bonus and desirable at the old Miller dyno place, all drama in the primary is really the consequence of the ESA, so the triplex chain induces shock loads into the rotor which adds to the harsh behaviour of this chain drive. My pictures below show internals of the old Miller dyno and brush and brushless type China motors. The Miller has more than one kilogram more weight than the motors. An even bigger brushless is on order, will take another three weeks to arrive here I think. So watch this space for more details.

Vic

P1060999.JPG

P1070002.JPG

P1070005.JPG
 

Little Honda

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Vic,
all your reflections about the gear drive between electronic ignition pick-up at half engine speed and app.
1,3 times engine speed at the generator shaft of the Hegeler generator are purely theoretical. This item has
been tested on a Comet for at least 5000 mls plus some on a twin, but mainly Comet, because in this case
load changes and rev level is always higher, than on any twin.
The durability of gear life is solely a question of engineering. In the Hegeler generator (see pic on his homepage) the internal gearing has been copied from a Vespa drive, which has a very similar construction.
As you probably know, there are in general two gear forms: a) for low friction, like in watches and clocks, and
those for max torque, like in the Vespa drive. Latter ones have a vertical line, going through the touching point of a tangental line on the radius of the tooth and through its radius centre. This touching point depends on the tooth form used and may leed to a track of the vertical line outside the root area of the tooth. The strongest
tooth has a form, which lets the vertical line pass through the middle of the root area without leaving it. In this tooth form, some friction is the price for its strength, asking for good internal lubrication.
As a Vespa scooter drive survives a multiple of possible loads achievable in a 150W- generator, this solution
seems to be a much more reliable and better solution engineeringwise, than charging the middle rolls of your triplex chain by app. 3 times the load of the original Lucas dynamo, using a very small sprocket, coupled to the dynamo by the same flimpsy two bolt coupling of the original drive. Broken middle rolls of the triplex chain
are not rarely seen on dynamo drives of Alton generators.
There are also sometimes complaints about the lack of precision of ignition adjustment, when fitted at the
end of the timing gears, as on the Hegeler device, which is caused by not understanding, how it works and
not asking, why it is working so exceptionally well. At first, some 5 - 6 deg. variation of the ignition point sound
inacceptably high, but may only be evident, when your timing gears are not adjusted to works standards.
Moreover, when you use a strobe light to adust your timing, this is precise to half a degree of crank rotation
in all cases, as in ignition point, all timing gears are unter pressure at the same side of the gears of the teeth
involved, ie., no clearance at all, visible by your strobe light. After ignition, during the next rotation to the
next ignition, it does not matter, if there may be some load changes in your timing drive, as there is no spark.
All those, who have ridden Hegeler ignited engines will confirm, that they run very smoothly with a strong
torque at easy starting and a safe tick-over, and did not have any break-downs, so far.
By these reasons, to my impression, ignition and generator-locationwise, there is no better solution available
at present, than the Hegeler system. Moreover, in consequence, it frees the best location possible for a
starter motor, which is in place of the original dynamo, with no loads on the primary chain and thereby no
reported damages to the triplex chain, so far. But this is another subject.
 

Glenliman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Re the output of an Alton. I haven't measured the wattage but it's enough. Using the standard sprocket drive, you might find that the primary chain takes quite a beating if you are choosing to use a unit which requires more drive.
Due to the one tooth at a time drive, it's best to take what's needed and not much more.
Then again, if you don't use luggage you probably won't be covering many kms, so it may not matter.
Can't agree with the comment about luggage
destroying the appearance of the bike.
A Vincent fitted with Craven luggage out on tour a thousand kms from home is a thing of beauty-
The bike in the photo is about ten thousand kms from home, out on a month of touring the UK
 

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peter holmes

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
A car alternator is certainly great for those who really need a lot of power for whatever to run. But then for classic looks it is just ab-so-lu-tely no way I´d be willing to throw one onto my bikes - same as for elephant breathers and various contraptions of luggage carriers, ignition coils at the cylinder base - and so on. At my age I am no longer keen on doing long motorbike travelling and if so, instead of ruining the style of a Vincent to turn it into somewhat suitable for travelling I´d rather get me a used BMW twin - or Jap - with all that is required in one package and you are ready to go, no compromises. If you don´t care about horrible looks so you can opt for a BMW or Jap just as well. Don´t see the point why to spoil a Vincent in lots of aspects just to go travelling.
Anyway, putting an alternator at the mag place has a few serious flaws: You´d have to have a gearbox in there to boost the output due to only half speed there. That means the drive inflicts the alternator with high loads - some shock loads too - at same ration as you up the speed in there. Sure, there is no ESA to blame , but the gearbox in the alternator needs extra lubrication, produces noise and with a ratio of, say, 1:3 , it is loaded with threefold acceleration when blipping the throttle. The load from inertia of the rotor is in consequence threefold as well and so all gears in the timing side get a high additional load - which I would not want to have.
Instead of a gear drive in the alternator at the mag position one may find a big three phase motor , bigger diameter than at the old Miller place possible. 90 mm o.d. is about max there I guess, as I will put that size of car magneto there - just. So yes, a starter at the old dyno place may be an option then, haven´t seen one yet.
Speaking for myself, my numbers I have found from REAL load tests with these permanent magnet motors , no gears, look great for me and I will never need more power from them so no need to opt for car alternators. When seeing 14 V at 2100 rpm at the crank with a 100 W quartz bulb connected that is good for me and for a lot more Vincenteers I believe. There seem to be a few reasons why the car type alternators did not catch on a lot more.
To this day I have not seen wattage numbers of non-geared Altons at various speeds. With the B-series engines and cast-in dyno cradles Alton is limited to a small diameter motor due to the 1/2 " offset of drive shaft. I did a little machining for 68 mm motors, 70 mm is about max for the old cases. So my guess, these 68 mm China motors will supply more power than the non-geared Altons - at a fraction of costs. You can have 5 to 10 motors for one Alton, regulator included - great for those who love messing around at the lathe or mill.
ESA drama aside, a low mass of the rotor is a bonus and desirable at the old Miller dyno place, all drama in the primary is really the consequence of the ESA, so the triplex chain induces shock loads into the rotor which adds to the harsh behaviour of this chain drive. My pictures below show internals of the old Miller dyno and brush and brushless type China motors. The Miller has more than one kilogram more weight than the motors. An even bigger brushless is on order, will take another three weeks to arrive here I think. So watch this space for more details.

Vic

View attachment 28039

View attachment 28040

View attachment 28041
Some good points have been made here, none of which apply to me, if you have owned a Vincent long enough, in my case coming up to 54 years, there was a time when there was simply no choice to be had other than 6volts of very inadequate, unreliable electricity, riding at night was quite frankly dangerous, before Chinamos, Altons and reworked 6-12 volt dynamos, car alternators were probably the only way to go, I clearly remember 50 odd years ago Harvey Bowden installed a car type Lucas alternator driven off a pulley attached to the outer clutch plate, and I remember the delight Harvey expressed when he was able to blind inconsiderate oncoming car drivers with a dose of their own medicine, it all looked bloody awful, but it was all reversible, and it worked.

Anyone who regularly carries a pillion passenger simply has to go fully sprung, if you want to retain your pillion passenger that is, or you only ride on billiard table flat roads, and there are not to many of those around these days, I have run with a CTG carrier and Craven Dolomites for many years now, that set up got us over the Grossglockner Pass a week ago, two up with luggage and in comfort, despite the fact that Sue had ruptured her achillies tendon the previous evening whilst dancing at the international gala dinner, ( she is now wearing a huge surgical boot and will be out of action for possibly 12 weeks, what a pain, do not dance, it is dangerous)

Elephant trunks in their various guises do look hideous, and although the jury is still out they do seem to serve a useful purpose, I run with one having tried various types over the years, I did use the Ivan Caffrey, or was it Mac Read, bouncing nylon ball valve thing, but the extra metal tubing and the clatter did not sit well with me, I now have a simple atmospheric breather running off the ATD cover, it seems to work, and again is reversible in 5 minutes. I was at the Godet workshop a couple of months ago and was shown a really neat solution to engine breathing using replacement valve caps, almost indiscernible from standard, might look into those at a later date.

Well I have tried other bikes with all these improvements built in, the first was a Yamaha FJ 1200 which did everything OK in an anodyne sort of way, drank loads of fuel though, Sue was not overly impressed, much preferred the Vincent, then came the BMW R100R Classic, I was rather drawn to this bike, last of the BMW Airheads and I liked its classic teutonic looks, wasn't that keen on the flywheel effect, much prefer the way the flywheels effect the Vincent, Sue did not like the BMW at all, I still have both of those bikes if anyone is interested in them.

So a much modified Vincent will remain my everyday steed, all totally reversible when the need arises, not anytime soon I hope, strangely enough all mods do not seem to detract in any way from the admiration the bike gets whilst out and about, it can be be a little irritating when you are all suited, booted and helmeted, and roasting hot and someone wants to chat, but I always try to maintain my accommodating happy disposition, it always reminds me of that old cigarette advert, you are never alone with a Strand, (Vincent)
Cheers Peter
 
Last edited:

BigEd

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
VOC Forum Moderator
Some good points have been made here, none of which apply to me, if you have owned a Vincent long enough, in my case coming up to 54 years, there was a time when there was simply no choice to be had other than 6volts of very inadequate, unreliable electricity, riding at night was quite frankly dangerous, before Chinamos, Altons and reworked 6-12 volt dynamos, car alternators were probably the only way to go, I clearly remember 50 odd years ago Harvey Bowden installed a car type Lucas alternator driven off a pulley attached to the outer clutch plate, and I remember the delight Harvey expressed when he was able to blind inconsiderate oncoming car drivers with a dose of their own medicine, it all looked bloody awful, but it was all reversible, and it worked.

Anyone who regularly carries a pillion passenger simply has to go fully sprung, if you want to retain your pillion passenger that is, or you only ride on billiard table flat roads, and there are not to many of those around these days, I have run with a CTG carrier and Craven Dolomites for many years now, that set up got us over the Grossglockner Pass a week ago, two up with luggage and in comfort, despite the fact that Sue had ruptured her achillies tendon the previous evening whilst dancing at the international gala dinner, ( she is now wearing a huge surgical boot and will be out of action for possibly 12 weeks, what a pain, do not dance, it is dangerous)

Elephant trunks in their various guises do look hideous, and although the jury is still out they do seem to serve a useful purpose, I run with one having tried various types over the years, I did use the Ivan Caffrey, or was it Mac Read, bouncing nylon ball valve thing, but the extra metal tubing and the clatter did not sit well with me, I now have a simple atmospheric breather running off the ATD cover, it seems to work, and again is reversible in 5 minutes. I was at the Godet workshop a couple of months ago and was shown a really neat solution to engine breathing using replacement valve caps, almost indiscernible from standard, might look into those at a later date.

Well I have tried other bikes with all these improvements built in, the first was a Yamaha FJ 1200 which did everything OK in an anodyne sort of way, drank loads of fuel though, Sue was not overly impressed, much preferred the Vincent, then came the BMW R100R Classic, I was rather drawn to this bike, last of the BMW Airheads and I liked its classic teutonic looks, wasn't that keen on the flywheel effect, much prefer the way the flywheels effect the Vincent, Sue did not like the BMW at all, I still have both of those bikes if anyone is interested in them.

So a much modified Vincent will remain my everyday steed, all totally reversible when the need arises, not anytime soon I hope, strangely enough all mods do not seem to detract in any way from the admiration the bike gets whilst out and about, it can be be a little irritating when you are all suited, booted and helmeted, and roasting hot and someone wants to chat, but I always try to maintain my accommodating happy disposition, it always reminds me of that old cigarette advert, you are never alone with a Strand, (Vincent)
Cheers Peter
I have a variety of bikes some more suitable for a particular purpose than others. I've put a "Like" on Peter's post. A like doesn't express my agreement with his post adequately. My comment: "I couldn't agree more."

This is straying away from the"Alton-generator topic" but applies to any mod we might make to our Vincents.
 

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