I’ve been on the lookout for cheaper alternatives for VESCs and Kellys and I ran into the SmartESC project. It’s a firmware mod for M365 scooter controllers that makes them programmable via the vesc tool. The controllers themselves can be had for as low as $10 used, and its a matter of reflashing the vesc with an ST-link programmer to install the firmware.
The controllers were originally designed for lower wattage (250-500w) hub motors at 36V. They do work up to 12s without issue out of the box, and supposedly can be hardware modded for 13s up to 20s by changing caps and resistors. I’ve sucessfully ran motors on a half charged 13s without blowing anything up yet. I think they are a bit undersized for a BOMA silver can, but the size is right for Ryobi motors and other smaller ones. The downside is the sensorless operation isn’t quite flushed out yet. Kobalt uses the same motor as Ryobi with hall sensors, but they’re harder to find. The controller seems to do fine with about 60 phase amps in my limited bench testing thusfar.
Other downfalls with the controller is it can only be programmed and communicated to via UART, so it requires some sort of intermediary Arduino or other signal processor, and it’s not very waterproofed. However, I think the price is right and it could definitely be useful in the series. I wanted to share it here in case anyone else was looking for similar, and hopefully get some smarter folks than me to get involved with the project and make some improvements.