[Author's note, added September 2014.]
It's been going on seven years since I built the motorcycle. I've learned so much working on this project, leading me to also build an electric car and a hybrid. I also now give presentations teaching people how to build their own electric vehicles. When the motorcycle was complete, including a 48V battery pack and welded battery rack, I created an instructional DVD set teaching how anyone can build their own. If you are interested, please take a look at the DVD on my blog at: http://300mpg.org/electric-motorcycle-dvds/. It's also now available as a digital download as well.
Have fun reading this thread. It was a blast to learn how to build an electric motorcycle!
-Ben Nelson 9/24/2014
PPS: Apple computers discontinued their Web.Mac.com web page service, simply deleting the original web page that I created on this project. Because of that, there are some broken links and missing images in this thread. For the latest on this project, please visit 300MPG.org
(Begin original post)
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. I also hated how loud motorcycles are. (Shouldn't they call them ENGINE-cycles!?!?)
I had tinkered around with an electric bike, which was great fun, but then I wanted more speed and shocks. I was also suprised at how car drivers behaved around the electric bicycle. People would pull out right in front of me not realizing how fast I was going.
I sort of figured that if I wanted something that was faster, better suspension, and street cred, that thing would be a motorcycle.
I took a good look through the Austin EV Album to see what parts people commonly used on small projects and e-mailed a few folks for advice.
I picked up a copy of the "Secrets of EL Ninja" book/plans and used it as a rough basis for the conversion.
I wanted to do eveything as cheaply as I could, but I did buy a new Alltrax controller and later, new Yellow Top batteries in place of the tiny AGMs I was using from the bicycle.
The cycle is completely street legal, licensed, registered, and insured.
It was only designed as a short-range/limited speed project, mostly because of what I could fit in it for batteries. It goes up to 38 MPH and the longest I have ever taken it is about 16 miles, with just a little break and tiny bit of charging between the two 8 mile one-way trips.
Both my office and the grocery store are only about two or three miles away each, so even this limited range is plenty.
It's a blast to ride. Easy to steer. No clutch, no engine to kill or restart, just twist the grip and go. It is also quiet. There were a few times I would just hop on and zip off to the grocery store. When I got back, my wife would never know I left because the thing is so sneaky quiet. (yeah yeah - loud pipes save lives. Don't get me started. I may just have to hook up an iPod running engine rev noise or stick a baseball card in the spokes. Maybe use a bicycle bell like on that one crazy Commuta car.)
The motorcycle is stashed in the garage for the winter. I would like to eventually work on a cheap, simple, 4 wheels and a roof vehicle for getting around in non-motorcycle weather. (Yes, another Forkenswift....) I am in Wisconsin - motorcycle season isn't that long.
So basically the cycle runs at 36 volts - I would like to bump it to 48 sometime, just need to find space for one more battery...
It goes 10 to 15 miles on a charge which uses about a kilowatt. That comes to about a penny a mile. I figure if gas is $3.00 USD per gallon, that means I get 300 miles per gallon! (I've also done the math completely based on energy content using a conversion from M.I.T. When I did that, my first ride clocked in at 321 miles per gallon equivalent.)