“Ride of the week” - April 6, 2008

Discussion in 'My Ride' started by xcel, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    “Best of all, I did it all by myself, in my garage with no special tools or skills.”

    [xfloat=right]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/546/Ben_Nelsons_Electric_Bike_Conversion.jpg[/xfloat]Ben Nelson - CleanMPG - April 6, 2007

    Ben and the EV Conversion Bike

    Hybrid cars are great. They are comfortable and get great fuel economy, but they still cost more than I can afford and you still need to put gas in it or change the oil.

    Wouldn't it be great if there was something simple that an ordinary guy with no special skills could do to save the environment, save on gas, and have a little fun?

    My background is: Nothing special. I don't know how to weld. The only power tool I own is an electric drill. I took one metals shop class in high school and always liked science. But I do like to hang out at the library and learn things.

    Two summers ago, I saw an electric bike at a Renewable Energy Fair. It was just a kit with the motor built into the front wheel, a simple controller and some batteries.

    I ended up buying a kit. It was great fun, but I wanted more speed, better suspension, etc. At that point, why not just get a motorcycle and convert it to electric?

    I started reading up on the subject and was surprised how many people have done exactly that. You can even buy plans on electric motorcycle conversion.

    I found a beater frame for sale for $100. The engine was dead. The tranny was smashed. The clutch handle was snapped off. The gas tank was dented. Oh well, I wasn't going to need any of those anyways.

    I took out the engine and transmission and stripped it down to just a basic rolling frame.

    I bought an 8 HP Briggs and Stratton ETEK motor used through CraigsList. I mounted the motor to the frame using the existing engine mounting holes and a piece of scrap aluminum plate. I bough a sprocket and chain in the tractor repair isle of the farm store.

    The rear sprocket was custom ordered and bolted right on to the back tire. With 72 teeth on it, it's that largest I could go without having to replace the original chain guard. I started off with a 12 tooth sprocket on the motor drive shaft, and swapped it out to a 14 later.

    The cycle is controlled by a PWM (pulse wave modulation) solid-state motor controller. This is just like what golf-carts use to control their speed. The one I have is programmable. Just plug it in to your computer, and you can tweak the settings all you want.

    The speed is based on the voltage of the system and the gear ratio. I am using three Optima Yellow Top batteries run in series. That gives me 36 volts. Also tapped off there is a small DC/DC converter that runs the lights, horn, and turn signal. Old golf carts used to use 36 volts, all the new ones use 48. This controller can run up to 48 volts, but I don't have any more space to add another battery! I have seen lots of photos of electric motorcycles that have two batteries mounted in "saddle-bag position". Maybe I will get to doing that some day.

    Right now, the cycle has a top speed of 38 MPH and goes about 15 miles on a charge. That's not bad when you consider that work, the grocery store, post office, and lake are all within 3 miles of my house. Plus, I NEVER have to go to the gas station for this cycle ever!

    Registration on the cycle was interesting. I didn't get a title when I bought the cycle. It was just a real old project bike sitting in a guys garage. He must have had eight cycles kicking around in there.
    I dug through the DMVs web page to see what I had to do to get a title and plates for it. For the title, I had to fill out several forms, say why I didn't get a title when I bought it, and take it to the police station, so they could check the VIN, and make sure no parts on it were stolen

    For the plates, it looked like the cycle would be best with "Hobbyist" plates on it. This is for anything unusual other that "collector" vehicles. It covers some restorations, hot rods, home-built vehicles, and a couple of other oddballs. Technically, mine is a "street-modified vehicle".

    One advantage of the hobbyist plates are that I only have to pay for them once. There is no annual registration fee. It's mostly for vehicles that you show off at car shows or run in parades. As part of that, you need to own another vehicle with regular registration, (I do, my beater car) and you can't drive your hobbyist vehicle legally in January. Hmmm - an electric motorcycle in Wisconsin in January? Wasn't planning on riding it then anyhow!

    It rides great. It is dead quiet compared to a regular motorcycle. It is the exact opposite of the "Harley Sound". I can actually hear birds singing while out on a ride. The chain against the sprocket is the loudest thing on the whole cycle.

    Some people say loud pipes save lives. I think looking around and paying attention saves lives. My cycle doesn't even have mufflers. It only came with one, and that's the first thing I took off.

    I haven't done it yet, but I thought it might be funny to put an MP3 player on the handlebars with some little speakers. I could have an engine put-put-put sound effect play on it.

    It is smooth! Unlike a regular cycle, there is ZERO vibration from the engine. At a stop, you can't even tell it's on. I wired up the old OIL light to be a power indicator, so I could tell when the system was on.

    Since there is no transmission, there is no shifting, and no clutch. I converted the rear foot brake to be a left hand-brake, just like on a scooter. It is ridiculously easy to ride. No shifting, no choke, no engine to kill. I can ride as slow as I want. This thing is going to be perfect for parades.

    The hardest part of working on this was all the little things that came with it being such a beater. The wire harness was shot. Several of the connectors were melted. I just ripped it out and built my own. That was a bit tedious.

    I also cut the bottom off the gas tank and put the charger in there. I think I have repainted the tank about three times now. Just trying to give it some interesting character. I already had been painted a couple times, so this last time I stripped everything down to bare metal. I think the final design is going to be metallic green with gold lightning bolts. Green and gold go over pretty well in Green Bay Packer territory.

    Early on in this project, my father said that this was the most hare-brained thing I have ever done. He then added that he just wasn't sure if it was the hairiest or brainiest.

    At my house, we are on the Green Energy Plan with the local power utility. All of our electricity comes from wind turbines, bio-gas, and other renewable energy sources. It costs about a penny a mile to recharge the cycle. I have calculated the equivalent fuel economy as over 300 mpg on both actual energy used and on a cost basis.

    I love the cycle. It's a blast to ride - quiet, smooth, amazing torque. I easily spun the back tire the first time pulling away from a stop sign. I can beat anyone in terms of acceleration, although it does reach that top speed pretty quick.

    For now - it's cheap, clean, quiet, doesn't need gas or oil. It's a good simple alternative to anything else I could be driving.
  2. Earthling

    Earthling Trying to be kind to Mother Earth

    No adjusting valves or balancing carbs/throttle bodies!

    Sounds like a good scooter substitute.

  3. toastblows

    toastblows Well-Known Member

    Bravo dude.
  4. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member

    Nice job! It looks good and it sounds like you are happy. Keep up the good work. H
  5. JusBringIt

    JusBringIt Be Inspired

    Good job on the cycle. And btw dont you mean you have the batteries in parallel. As series would net you the average of the inverse of the batteries...
  6. pdk

    pdk Beacon of Sanity

    I should tell my scooter-owning co-worker about this, she might be interested.

    There are probably many Madison people who'd be interested in one. Now if only there was a common place to plug in.
  7. Maxx

    Maxx He who posts articles

    Nice work! What was the total cost?
  8. HyChi

    HyChi Well-Known Member

    Great job and a great display of ingenuity. I bet you are having a ball when you drive by the gas station. I'd be grinning ear-to-ear! :)
  9. Daox

    Daox Well-Known Member

    I had the pleasure of going over to Ben's house a few weeks ago and taking a look at the bike and even going for a short ride (it was only about 25 degrees out at the time and my hands froze fast). Its a great conversion and very fun. You've never heard a quieter bike. :)

    Putting the batteries in series gives him 36 volts (12 X 3).
  10. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger


    How much did you spend total?

    Nice job!
  11. BailOut

    BailOut My favorite holiday is Earth Day!

    Nice write-up, Ben. :) I hope to be joining you as the owner of an EV motorcycle soon. (My knee is almost rehabilitated enough to pull the engine out of that ZX6 chassis, and the salvage yard guy is getting me a California title so that I can bypass the "old bike bias" here in Nevada and register the doggone thing.)
  12. bradlee

    bradlee Drive Less When You can - Drive $mart When You Do

    Ben has recently joined the ranks of the Milwaukee Hybrid Group and has been quite active since then.

    For those in the area, Ben is planning on bringing his EV Conversion Motorcycle to our meet on April 19th. It'll be a great and interesting addition to our meet.

    We also have several other members that are "tinkerers' like Ben and we're hoping to create some type of a network so they can exchange ideas and possibly work on bigger and better things together.

    The future may belong to the tinkerers.

    Milwaukee Hybrid Group
  13. Ben_Nelson

    Ben_Nelson Active Member

    This was a fun project to work on.

    Whoever mentioned "good replacement for a scooter" is right on. It's easy to ride and great for local zipping around.

    This project sort of snow-balled on me. Total cost ended up being right around $2000.

    Cycle $100
    motor $500
    controller $300
    Batts - $too much.

    That total cost does also include a helmet, a riders safety class, plates for life, and a year of insurance.

    If I did this again, I might either really junk-yard it up to keep the cost down, like this guy.

    or spend a little more to have a really nice looking conversion, like this one:

    This whole thing was just one big experiment. I think it has turned out pretty nice.

    Thanks for all the complements everybody!


    PS - Hi Bradlee and Doax! See you Sat!

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