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Thursday, June 26, 2008

DIY Electric Motorcycle Kicks Butt, Gets 300 eMPG


A year ago, EcoModder forum member Ben Nelson got an old, non-running motorcycle and converted it to electric drive. He’d never had a motorcycle before and wasn’t an expert with electric vehicles, but in true DIY nature, he learned as he went along.

DIY electric motorcycle The bike was never designed to be a fast, flashy race bike, but rather a cheap and effective way to get around town in style. Ben is currently building an electric car, but by all accounts a motorcycle is a great (and slightly less expensive) step down the road to electric vehicles. In the end Ben had built himself a motorcycle with speed up to 40 mph and a range of around 15 miles, all for less than $2000. The best thing about the conversion is that, unlike many, it is completely street legal, with full registration and insurance.

Here’s what Ben has to say about the costs of this project:

$100 for original cycle
$500ish for motor (used on Ebay)
$300ish for New Alltrax AXE 48v 300 amp programmable controller
$160 EACH for 4 Optima yellow top 55AH batteries.

I am also including in this total cost, a motorcycle safety class, new helmet, a year of insurance, lots of little trips to the hardware store, etc.

So, the total cost for the bike was really only about$1500, with a few new parts (like the controller) that could’ve been found used if you’re running on a tighter budget. Currently, the bike is only using three of those four batteries, as Ben is trying to find out how to mount the 4th battery and up the bike to 48 volts.

Comparing the energy content of gasoline to that used by the motorcycle, Ben’s determined that on average, his bike gets the equivalent of 300 mpg:


This shows that not only is the electric version more efficient, but if you crunch the numbers comparing the current price of gas to the price of grid energy, you’ll see that this motorcycle is not only cool and environmentally friendly, but has the potential to save a bit of money. For more info on eMPG, check out this thread.

electric motorcycle blows upHowever, Ben’s story isn’t all gumdrops and happy endings. One day, while out riding the motorcycle he managed to blow up the controller. He and the bike are fine and he’s got it going again, but when attempting a DIY project like this, especially because it involves a vehicle responsible for your safety, it’s always good to go in with open eyes and be ready for the unexpected. That said, it wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds.

Besides being a great ecomodder, Ben is also pretty good with video. Check out these two that he put together, the first one is his neighbor’s reaction to the electric bike and the second is Ben talking about the project:

For more depth about the building and the tech specs behind this bike, check out Ben’s site and his build thread. More inspiration for EV motorcycles can be found at the motorcycle section of the Austin EV album. You can even find Ben’s bike on there.

UPDATE: I talked to Ben and he told me that he had in fact added the forth battery, and that with that and the system running 48v his top speed has been increased to 45 mph and the range to 20 miles. Sorry for the error!

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