The finished project is a 1981 Kawasaki KZ440, converted to electric. It is powered by four Optima Yellow Top sealed (AGM) lead-acid batteries, that drive a Briggs & Stratton Etek electric motor. The speed of the motor is controlled by an Alltrax brand "AXE" programmable controller that can run at up to 48 volts and 300 amps. Contrary to popular belief, and electric motorcycle is NOT silent, but is CONSIDERABLY quieter than a typical gas cycle.
The cycle is GEARED to 45 mph, has fairly good acceleration, no clutch or transmission. There's no oil to change, to mufflers to rust off, no air filter, no carbs to tweak, and no gasoline. I designed it for primarily city riding. The top speed and acceleration could be easily changed by swapping out a $20 stock sprocket.
The cycle recharges from the wall, through a renewable energy program, and if there is a blackout, I can actually run my house off my electric motorcycle! In the future, I hope to expand my system to include charging the cycle with photovoltaic solar panels. Real-world range per charge is 23-32 miles, and charging takes less than 10 hours for a full charge. ( A different charger could charge them even faster - see details on the Batteries PDF)
In this Instructable, I'll walk you through the work required with the motor, batteries, controller, and mounting all components, including showing you some low-tech paper and cardboard "CAD" tricks.
But what do you want? You might not even know yet. I always encourage people to take a look at the EV Album. It's an on-line listing of mostly home-converted electric vehicles. Each listing shows the make and model of the vehicle, the cost to convert, the speed and range, and other specifics of each project. You can also search by type of vehicle or brand name.
For example, if you go to http://www.evalbum.com/type/MTCY , you'll see a wide variety of electric motorcycles. Different brand names, lithium and lead-acid battery types, and a wide range of costs of conversion. Likewise, if you want to see Scooters, Mopeds, and Minibikes, you can visit http://www.evalbum.com/type/SCMM
Give some thought to what cycle you would like to convert. Do you like sport bikes? Great! They have a lightweight and strong aluminum frame! Do you like standard? Great! There's lots of those out there and you can show off the motor and batteries. Hang out at biker events with your unique ride!
If you aren't sure what to expect in terms of range per charge and top speed, don't worry, online calculators can help you out.
EV RANGE/SPEED CALCULATOR
Power Use at Speed Calculator
and of course, a
GEAR RATIO CALCULATOR
For more on my electric motorcycle, electric car, and other projects, swing by my blog at http://300mpg.org/
If you are interested in building your own electric motorcycle, but want even more information, more details, and hands-on style instruction, check out the INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO DVD that I created to teach how ANYONE can Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle!
If you are a teacher, and would like to start a class or extra-curricular at your school, I would like to GIVE you a copy! (Click this link for details.)
Step 1: Safety
It may be cliche, but every shop class, repair book, and seminar starts off talking about safety.
The reason why is because IT'S IMPORTANT! Any type of work always has some sort of risk to it. Minimize that risk, and protect yourself by thinking ahead and using proper safety equipment.
I'll hit a few of the basics here, as well as a few you may not have thought of that are particular to this project.
Personal Protective Equipment
Wear your safety glasses, work gloves, and hearing protection. If you already wear eyeglasses, the larger "boxy" type safety glasses work well over your eyeglasses. Otherwise, add side protectors to your existing glasses. If you don't wear eye-glasses, I like the the slimmer style that fit tight to the face. This is the same type some motorcycle riders wear out on the road. Heck, get yourself a nice pair, and they are multipurpose!
Wearing work-gloves will save your hands a lot of cuts and scrapes. Thick leather gloves are durable, but clumsy. Mechanics gloves give you much more dexterity. I prefer these, as I can leave the gloves on while using any type of tool. If you have to take gloves on and off to use a particular tool, it doesn't take long to give up on wearing gloves. Wear welding gloves when welding. Latex or other rubber gloves are sometimes handy for working with fluids or while painting.
Wear hearing protection. During any drilling, cutting, or grinding, you should be wearing hearing protection. Soft ear plugs are cheap and disposable, and pretty comfortable. I like the big "ear-muffs" because they are easier to take on and off than soft plugs are to take in and out. I like having "normal" hearing while I am not cutting and grinding.
Remove jewelry, or at least cover it up. Besides getting caught on a moving part, most jewelry is also extremely electrically conductive. Remove rings, wrist-watches, necklaces, wallet chains, and that big key chain hanging on your belt loop. Don't wear big conductive belt buckles that can also scratch paint-jobs. If you can't or won't remove a piece of jewelry (wedding rings, etc.), cover it up. Wearing work gloves will cover a ring, and a necklace can be tucked inside your shirt.
Clothing. I'm sure you've worked on enough projects that you know what appropriate clothing is. Typically, you want long shirt sleeves and long pants. Don't cuff your pants. Metal shavings, dirt, and possibly hot metal likes to get caught in there. Wear closed-toe shoes or boots, preferably leather, and safety toe if you have them. Natural fiber clothing is also preferable. In a bad situation synthetic fibers can melt (onto a person!) At least wear a cotton T-shirt under your fleece sweatshirt....
Now onto a few things that are more specific to this project.
Motocycles are powerful, heavy enough to hurt if they fall on you, have chains and sprockets, and run on electricity by the time we are done with it.
That brings up a few safety cautions of particular concern:
Pinch Points: Be really careful where the chain and sprockets come together! Always make sure you have the chain guard in place. Build a custom chain guard if the project requires it. I once got my finger pinched between the chain and back sprocket when I was adjusting the chain. YEOWCH! That was just with me turning the back wheel slightly by hand. I'd hate to imagine if the same thing happened with the motor running!
Electric Spark and Shock: Always keep covers on the battery terminals. Never work on the cycle with the power connected. Always have the real wheel off the ground when testing the vehicle. Keep conductive materials away from the batteries. 48 volts is right on the border of what is generally considered low-voltage or not. Risk of shock is fairly minimal, but all electricity should be taken seriously. SPARK is a greater concern. 48V short circuited has the potential to create large sparks that can melt battery terminals and propel molten lead. Always wear safety glasses when working on batteries and battery connections.
I recommend covering the handles of your battery wrenches with shrink tubing. You get a nice snug grip on your wrench and greatly increase its electrical resistance. You could also use electrical tape, but that's just going to make everything sticky eventually.
Lifting and Jacking: Chances are, you will want your cycle elevated. It makes it much easier to work on, as it prevents you from bending over, and working from floor level. I recommend a motorcycle lift. A small, sturdy table can also make a good stand, but it's challenging to get the cycle on and off that stand safely.
Whether using a lift, jack, or stand, make sure the cycle is SECURELY attached to it with straps or some other means. An elevated vehicle could easily become unbalanced while working on it, falling off the stand, damaging the motorcycle or landing on you, your other projects, or someone you love.
Use your multimeter correctly. Many typical multimeters allow for you to test voltage, amperage, and resistance. To test amperage, you have to physically move one of the probes to a different jack on the multimeter. MAKE SURE YOU MOVE IT BACK when you are done with the amperage test. Even if you flip the control on the multimeter back to voltage reading, but forget to put the probe back in the right connection point, the next time you go to test voltage, you will melt the tip of the one probe off in about one billionth of a second. And it scared the bejeezers out of me. I mean you. In theory, if that happened, it would really startle you. So make sure you use your multimeter right.
Don't smoke: Smoking is a fire hazard. Especially when you take the gas tank off.
Don't drink alcohol while or before working on the project. It impairs judgement, and you might do something stupid. Likewise, do not drink, smoke, or do other drugs while RIDING. Go for a ride, come back, and THEN have your beer.