How to Build an Electric Motorcycle
The Goal of this project was to convert a classic motorcycle into a clean, quiet, electric motorcycle that would run on battery power and reduce the amount of automobile pollution caused by my short to mid-range driving trips. I started this project after watching ”Who Killed The Electric Car”, realizing that I was 1 of the 80% of Americans that drives less than 20 miles a day. Frist I considered a car conversion, but it fell outside my budget. So after some inspiration from electric motorcycles conversions on EV ALBUM, I thought a motorcycle sounded fun and economical.
So fast forward 4 months, and I now have built the ”Electric Dream”! Clean, Quiet, and best of all not a drop of Gas! Continue reading and I will take you step-by-step through the conversion process.
RANGE: 40 Miles
SPEED: 40mph with current sprocket setup
CURB WEIGHT: 320ish Pounds, around 50 more than original
RECHARGE COST: Less then a Penny per mile
So what exactly is an electric motorcycle?
Basically its a two wheeled motorcycle frame with an electric motor powered by batteries and controlled by a throttle. You have ridden on a electric golf cart? Right? Well if you think of this project as a golf cart on two wheels, and you got the basic concept.
So How does it work?
Batteries power an large electric motor which is connected to the rear wheel via a chain drive, converting electrical energy into machinery energy. Speed is regulated by a combination of a Controller and electric throttle or potentiometer.
There is a lot of great information on current Electric Motorcycle online, but I still ran into some snags and made some mistakes along the way. So I will do my best to cover where I went wrong to save you some time, money, and effort. When the build was over a book called Build your own Electric Motorcycle was published, Needed less to say its a resource I wish I had along the way.
Also, by no means am I an expert. In fact, the only class I failed in college was “introduction to electronics” . In saying that, I am looking forward to any comments or feedback on how to improve my project. ALso I am always interested to see your project, just shoot me an email with some pictures and I will post them for everyone to see.
What You’ll Need and Where to Find It:
A Plan: This is the best question to ask yourself before going out and buying anything. How far, how fast, how much? To get a good idea of this, spend some time on: EV Album – its got 1000′s of Electric Motorcycle conversions with pictures of the bikes and the components used to make them. Option 1 – Buy a kit. There are companies like Electricmotorsports.com that sell a whole kit for around $980. I have already bought the E-tek Kit for my next project, just got to find the Donor bike. Option 2 - Ebay and Craigslist it. Althought this might save you around $200-$300 dollars in the long run…it will take much longer. But if time is on your side, go for it! I did…but I am going with option 1 from now on
1.Donor Motorcycle or a rolling chassis- Check Ebay and Craigslist. Personally, I like to set up an RSS feed from my craigslist search, otherwise I browse for way to long when my ADD kicks in. I found my 1967 Honda Dream(ca160) on craigslist for $275, with frozen motor, but hey, I don’t need that anyway.
2. Electric motor- There are lots of options out there, but I recommend a Brushed 48v Etek Briggs and Stration due to its price, power, and availability on eBay. The original is no longer in production so your options are to buy a used motor or get a clone. Also, if you have a local golf shop go talk to someone there – they are gear-heads too! These guys will like you and they will like your project. So see if they can cut you a deal on an electric motor, there will be plenty of just sitting around.
3. Batteries – again, consult your plan. My plan was 30+ range, so I picked up some deep cycle batteries at walmart for $62 a piece. They are 12v 105 aH. Looking back, I wish I would have gone with some smaller and lighter batteries. I really don’t need the amount of range these current deep cycle batteries provide.
4. A motor controller that delivers/regulates the energy from the battery to the motor. Think of this as a transmission. I found a Curtis 48volt 300 amp controller on eBay for $150.
5. A twist grip throttlethat sends an electric signal to the controller – which determines how much energy is sent to the motor from the batteries. Most popular is the Magura Twist grip, available on ebay.
6. A battery charger to re-charge your batteries for continual (cyclic) use. This will depend mostly on what type of batteries you chose, and what kind of charge time you want. I have gone with 4 Schumacher SpeedCharges, which I found on Amazon. I purchased 4 6amp Chargers that I would put in place of the old gas tank. I like these chargers because there are fast, reliable, and lite. Each units also has a built in fan to keep the charger cool. When I drive my Electric Motorcycle to work (12 miles) it takes about 2 hours to get the batteries charged back up. Pictures to come soon! more on battery charges…
7. A high-current switch or Contractor Buy this on eBay or at a Golf Cart shop. This part makes the loud “click” sound when your turn on a golf cart. (below on the left)
8. A high-current fuse to limit the amount of energy drawn from the batteries in case of a short/failure. Typically = to Control max amperage. I got a pack of two 300amp fuses on amazon for $12 bucks (above on the right)
9. A large gear ratio to reduce the amount of current required when accelerating (this can be accomplished with a large custom rear sprocket and a small front gear/pinion on the motor). My current gear ratio is 3:1, optimal would be 4:1+
Optional stuff: instrumentation, speedo, ammeter, or a way to judge batteries state of charge.
Preparing the Frame
Its time to make sure the Donner Bike is road ready. My bike also had a lot of rust and some body work that needed to be done.
With any old bike its a must to check front and rear suspension, barrings, and brakes. Check out [http://www.dansmc.com/indexindex.htm Dan's Motorcycle repair guide] to address any issues.
Time to put together some way to mount your batteries. Your best bet here is to create cardboard cutouts the sames size as your batteries, and then see what configuration will work best. Cuts done on moving around large heavy batteries. I was able to use some some 1 inch steel from lowes and come up with some pretty steady battery mounts. Remember to keep the battery weight as center and low as possible to help with handling.
Mount the motor:
1) Use the same location as the gas engine using as much of the original frame and existing engine mount as possible. I was able to use 2 of the existing motor mounts, and then added a 1/4 inch 4x8in piece of steal, which is bolted and welded to the frame.
2) Here is an example of a swing-arm mounted motor http://www.evalbum.com/703
Controller, Main Contact, and Throttle:
Its is very important to mount a controller in a place that is going to get a lot of air flow, because these things can overheat and fry if your not careful. Curtis websitehas some really helpful information on how to mount and wire these controllers, this is a huge resource that most of the controller manufacturer offer so find yours and use it. I was able to mount on the side of the frame where the tool kit used to be. This provides easy access and lots of crisp cool airflow. The main contact was mounted on the inside of the frame, close to the batteries and controller. Below is a detail wiring guide, this is probably the most important part of this instructable and the part that gave me the most problems during the build. The main contact should be mounted in a place that is easy to get to. I put my inside the body of the frame, this was a mistake. Hard to get my big hands in there and I can never see whats going on when I am moving wires around.
Throttle should have 3 wire red/blue, brown, and black. You will need to use a multimeter to test which leads give you 0-5k ohms or resistance, these wil be connected to the controller. In my project these where the brown and red wires. Then the black wire need to be connected to battery negative or negative terminal on the main contact.
Batteries should be wired in series this means positive on battery 1 to negative on battery 2 and so on.
Now its time for a test ride.
More to come shortly…Check back regularly for updates.
Here are a few more articles you may enjoy:
- Orange County Choppers Builds Its First Electric Motorcycle …- 18 comments to “Orange County Choppers Builds Its First Electric Motorcycle”. psulli. August 12th, 2009 at 7:37 pm. I love this. I ride moto-bikes. I don’t ride choppers, though. It is great to see OCC take an alternative power project. …
- Build a Electric Motorcycle – Electric Motorcycle build and conversion Build DIY Convert Motorcycle ELECTRIC automotive … to building this electric motorcycle About Lennon Rodgers Links …
- Best Buy Starts Selling Electric Vehicles- Coming to shopping aisle near you: the Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle Would you like an electric bike to go with your new DVR? Best Buy has started selling electric vehicles, including the Enertia electric motorcycle from Brammo, …
- Latest News from Everything PR – Apple’s Price Cuts: the Anatomy of a Press Release Apple’s smart PR campaign: the company focuses the attention on the new product line. No negative innuendos in the press release title, no whining about the recession and how they had …
- <$1k DIY Neighborhood Electric Motorcycle – Fuel Economy … – I’m quite fond of all of the commercially available electric motocross options, but not enamored with the fact that most of them start at price levels.
- Electric Motorcycle conversion – Fuel Economy, Hypermiling … – Electric Motorcycle conversion Last summer, I converted an old, non-running motorcycle to run on batteries and an electric motor. It has sort of been a tinker-along-the-way project. I have never had a motorcycle before, but always wanted to learn to ride.
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