Introduction: How to Build a 96-Volt Electric Motorcycle

Picture of How to Build a 96-Volt Electric Motorcycle

Like many others I decided to quit waiting for a decent electric road bike at a reasonable price, so I built one out of a spare bike I bought off eBay for about $700. I based mine on a '82 Yamaha turbo because 1) I have the ICE version (hence the spare), 2) I like that it is fully faired so it looks 'normal' and 3) it's a shaft drive and one of my main goal was to make it as maintenance free as possible. Shaft drives weigh a lot more and are not as efficient as chain drives, but they are maintenance free. Here is a picture of the finished product. Like Stryker (who built the 72 volt version) I live close to work so distance was not an issue, but speed and performance were, as I have over 3 miles of a rather steep curvy road to go home on. One big thing to consider when doing this is the finished product. Like Stryker I am using AGM sealed lead-acid batteries because of convenience. But since I like the final product so much my goal has always been to upgrade it to some Li-Ion or Ni-MHyd batteries as soon as the become commercially available. It would shave 100 lbs off and give me twice the range, so it's an investment worth making.

Step 1: First, Find a Donor Bike

Picture of First, Find a Donor Bike

I have an 1982 Yamaha Turbo. It looks like this. I also had a spare-parts bike (that I bought off eBay for ~$700). It was, for the most part, complete but in pieces.

I decided that I was probably not going to use the spare-parts bike for anything so I stripped it.

Step 2: Strip It and Start Finding Spots for Everything

Picture of Strip It and Start Finding Spots for Everything

This is what it looks like gutted. I placed the motor in first and located the controller (the electronic carb for the motor). I am using 12-volt, maintenance-free wheelchair batteries; less range but more charges (& maintenance free). I stuck one of the batteries where the original 12-volt battery would normally go.

It is an Advance DC 6.7" 72 volt DC motor (You can run a 72-volt DC motor at 96 volts, you just have to be careful in your rpm-ratio calculations not to over speed it!)

I used a Curtis 72 to 120 VDC, 300 amp Controller (36,000 watts of power available)

Step 3: Connecting the Motor to the Drive Shaft

Picture of Connecting the Motor to the Drive Shaft

Since the 1982 Turbo is a shaft drive, I had to put a jackshaft and belt drive to turn the drive shaft already on the bike. You really should use a conventional chain-driven bike for conversion. The motor goes in sideways and the drive sprocket just goes right on the motor shaft; much easier (but I already had this bike). Since the drive-shaft to rear wheel was about 2.8:1 ration, I used a 2:1 ratio on the jack-shaft to get an overall ratio of ~6:1. This ratio will be good for mid range power and overall speed, but DC motors have such high-torque at the low end, it will be a bit overpowering for the drive shaft. I turned the controller down to min current and min acceleration.

The only "engineering" part is figuring out where to attach all of the brackets & supports for all of the other components; I used only existing holes on the frame already. It's strictly trial & error.

Step 4: Where to Put Those Batteries!

Picture of Where to Put Those Batteries!

4 of the 8 batteries went on the sides (replaced the mufflers). I hung them with Uni-Strut channels from where the old side-handles used to be). I'm starting off with the cheapest sealed AGMA lead-acid batteries I could buy. If I like the results I will upgrade them to some high-end lead-acid batteries. When the price is right I'll go NiMh or Li-Io.

Step 5: Putting on the DC/DC Converter & Throttle

Picture of Putting on the DC/DC Converter & Throttle

The rest of the batteries were put on some aluminum angles located above the motor. The DC/DC converter hangs on those angles too. (The DC/DC converter takes the 96 volts used for traction and converts it to 13 volts to run the lights & such. It is the '12 volt' battery for the bike). I just wired the output of the converter to the Main fuse on the fuse box.

The motorcycle's twist grip moves a 0 - 5000 ohm pot-box that tells the controller how fast you want to go & how hard you want to accelerate. It behaves just like a normal throttle.

Step 6: Where to Hang the Charger

Picture of Where to Hang the Charger

The charger is designed to be mounted on-board and runs on 110 volts AC (household current). You can get them to run on 220, (and it would charge in 3 hours instead of 6) but it makes it hard to find a place to plug in if you want to 'opportunity charge' at work (or at someone else's house!).

Step 7: Last Step

Picture of Last Step

The only other 'major' component is the Main Contactor. It's an electronic 'throw-switch' that connects all of that battery power to the Controller. It is key-switch activated and runs on 12 volts. (I wired it into the Ignition fuse.) I also have it wired in series with the kickstand switch so that after you turn the key-switch you can only drive away with the kickstand up.

Step 8: A Snazzy Paint Job & We Are Done!

Picture of A Snazzy Paint Job & We Are Done!

After the snazzy paint job I covered the two sets of saddlebag batteries with half of an ABS tub that Vicki & I found at Lowe's. (Improvising being the key word here!) I put an 'Emergency' Disconnect up on the fairing (just in case something shorted out). It's the bright red knob below the left handle bar grip. I also put a 'Charging Complete' light on the fairing under the throttle grip.
It took me about 2 months of spare time to put it together (and I live on a farm so there is not a lot of spare time available). (Who needs TV anyway? It's over rated!)

Anyhoo, here are the 'specs':
-70mph top speed
-15-20 miles range (I don't baby it at all, so I usually see 15 miles/charge)
-Single speed (including the wheels there are only 6 moving parts)
-Cost to charge: 15 cents
-Can out-accelerate most 4-cyl cars.
-Maintenance: Check the pressure or change the tires every few years.
-Fun Factor: Off the gage.


cloud9128 (author)2014-07-15

please guide me as I am working on converting my vehicle to electric vehicle.

Could you assist with the type and power of AC motor, Controller and pedal will be best for use. I have a sedan Honda city 2004 model

trdover (author)cloud91282016-09-01

Hi Cloud, I too am in the beginning stages of converting a vehicle, (motorcycle), to electric. I have very little experience in such systems, however, I Do have the internet, that is my suggestion, read up on lithium ion batteries, and on ac or dc motors, controllers,, the more you read the more you know the correct questions to ask. Just search 'diy electric vehicle conversion'

Disc Dog (author)cloud91282014-07-15

The first place to start is going to this web site and looking at some of the literature and conversion kits they offer:

Between the literature and kit descriptions you will get a better grip on what lays ahead and the amount of $$$ you can expect to spend. That doesn't mean you have to buy from them but at least you will get a quick introduction and education about car conversions. After that I can help you further along.

georgeshtc (author)2010-11-09

hello again mate, just another question about the ev conversion,

motor start and run capacitors are they not required for your conversion?

as you have not included that in your list..

Disc Dog (author)georgeshtc2010-11-09

You only need a motor starter/capacitors if you use a single-phase AC motor. DC motors and 3-phase AC motors do not require motor starters. However, a single-phace AC motor will also need an DC/AC inverter (to convert the DC power of the batteries to AC power) and a 3-phase motor does need a motor control inverter (to have variable speed control). Long story short: Use a DC motor and you don't need those things; you only need a DC motor controller.

aduba (author)2016-11-11

hi am samuel. this a great work.
i just converted my bike to electric but due to my location, i am not
getting the speed controller. can someone help me?.
Tel: 233544470853

DanielT100 (author)2016-05-06

How fast can it go?

Evan Paul (author)2016-03-09

Hello Disc Dog, about those Ni-Mh batteries , you could use the batteries out of a crashed hybrid like a Prius

Disc Dog (author)Evan Paul2016-03-15

Yea, they would work just fine. Also, there are a lot of Chevy Volt packs laying around now that can be broken down and used just as cheaply!

abadfart (author)2015-11-29

don't forget seals and bearings in maintenance. you could steal a little more range with led lights but it would be negligable

Beachley (author)2015-08-31

How many amp hours do the batteries have?

SachilB (author)2014-11-05

would solar charging be a good idea

Disc Dog (author)SachilB2014-11-05

A most excellent idea, you just have to figure out how many panels you need based on how long you have to charge and how much charge you need.

JamesA9 (author)Disc Dog2015-04-06

I think that would take days to charge with hundreds of pounds/dollars worth of solar pannels

pink343 (author)2015-02-23

I hope thats not the battery you plan to use in picture 2. :)

joseph.borrelli1 (author)2014-07-29

so I been looking through forms and DIY stuff like this. My goal is to make a go kart that can get highway miles. But prices on electric motor and stuff is not cheap compared to going gas route and getting 250cc bike and taking parts from there. Is there any cheaper way?

You will never be able to buy new or used EV conversion parts as cheap as gas conversion parts...never. If you only goal is to make it as cheap as possible, and couldn't care less if it runs on electricity or on gas, then go the 250cc route. That being said look for a good, used motor & controller on ebay or craigslist if you want to go electric.

rtysor (author)2014-06-02

You can get the batteries from electric bicycles on e-bay ,but they cost a lot

gluvit (author)2014-05-12

This is awsome

npaisnel (author)2009-01-13

Shame you guys in the USA only use 110 as household for the majority of items. Over here in Europe/UK it is all 240v AC

Disc Dog (author)npaisnel2009-01-13

It really is a crime. The only reason they set it up that way was to make money off the consumer. It's less efficient and the hardware needed to move that twice the amps cost more. But most of use have 220 going to the house and garage, so for EVs we can get by on 220 for overnight charging.

Saftey is also a major concern. 110v is most often not lethal, while 220/240v is far more deadly. It makes sense that most standard household appliances use a voltage that is safe for people. Ive been shocked a number of times by faulty appliances. If they ran on 240v, I might not be here today.

its not the volts that are as deadly, as much as its the current, hence why more people than you would think survive lightning strikes.

astral_mage (author)billiam77872014-03-12

actually its the modulation and the phase of the power. tesla had over 1 thousand amps going thro his body during one of his events. and it didnt even hurt him. and that was ac current as well. since its cheaper to run UN-modulated current thro the lines. if it was modulated it would be more pricy but safer then.

220 is a high enough voltage that it throws you back away from the electrocution.

110 is a low enough voltage that it doesn't, allowing the electricity to clamp you to the hot wire.

The choice to go with 220V in most of the world is for exactly this reason - its harder to die accidentally with 220V than 110V.

Nonintuitive, eh?

rjbatc (author)FurtherThanTesla2012-05-05

I got shocked by 220V two times, the first time when I was about 10, the second time about 16, and I am still here, w/o any problems.

What he said!

astral_mage (author)2014-03-12

on yr ev boat project. dont thro the motor away. dissemble it. sell it 4 parts or whole but never junk it. that motor might pay 4 half or whole of yr conversion set up.

kennsm01 (author)2014-02-24

you put this up a while ago. very impressive. how about an update?

Disc Dog (author)kennsm012014-02-26

In a nut shell moving back on our sailboat put an end to my garage tinkering. I found her a good home outside of Philly to a Vectrix owner who wants to upgrade her batteries. In the mean time I am gearing up to convert my sailboat to all electric and I'll will write an Instructable about it. It will be very much like this one.

Thanks for you inquiry. I appreciate your concerns.

Ares252 (author)2013-04-30

you should make a solar charging station :)

trustsushi (author)2013-03-02

would this motor work?

Disc Dog (author)trustsushi2013-03-03

I'm afraid not. Two reasons: It's an AC motor and needs an AC controller that runs on DC (battery voltage) which are big and expensive, but the bigger reason is that its only 1/2 a horsepower; not enough ponies to even get a bicycle down the road. You are looking for a DC motor that is rated at 72 volts DC (minimum) and at least 3 or more horsepower. It looks to be a 'big' motor but its not. It's designed to run a bench grinder, that's all.

lawsonrw (author)2013-02-22


Did you use a DC/DC Converter? I see on similar instructables that others are using them, calling it safer. Whats your take?

Disc Dog (author)lawsonrw2013-02-25

I checked; it's on page/step 5.

Disc Dog (author)lawsonrw2013-02-25

Yes, there is a DC/DC converter in there. There has to be to run the 12VDC systems off the 96VDC. Look for it somewhere in this instructable.

Jimichan (author)2010-08-11

Hey Kentucky-bum; Ever hear of a tri magnum? Google it! Converting your bike to a trike would give you room for a lot more batteries.

Disc Dog (author)Jimichan2010-08-12

Jimichan, I have heard of them before, and actually helped a buddy build one (gas, about a zillion years ago :-). I had given your suggestion some thought, and I see where Honda has introduced a 3-wheel bike similar to the Bombardiar Spyder, so I suspect that 3-wheel EVs based on that idea are just around the corner. Me, I plan on converting my Toyota Spyder for an 'extended range' EV. I don't mind 20 miles range on my Bike; I only live 5.5 miles from work.

jerhpk (author)Disc Dog2012-10-03

3 wheeled electrics already exist. Not to hijack, but look into Myers Motors. It's not a traditional trike, but it is a three wheeled electric. rqriley dot com also has plans for sale for the 3 wheeled options (tri magnum already mentioned).

Like the job, just can't do it myself.  I work about 20 miles away, and don't have access to outdoor plugs at either work or home.  find a way to incorporate solar panel charging, and I'll be there!  Will definitely keep this in mind, it's already bookmarked.

wooders (author)2012-04-19


I have just seen some battery parts for sale on ebay, Would be pretty easy to make a 96v pack.

swordsmen (author)2008-06-28

Why don’t you use boat batteries instead of wheelchair batteries? Boat batteries can be recharged like wheelchair batteries and they hold more power.

ac-dc (author)swordsmen2012-01-19

Given same battery tech, what it is used for and called is fairly irrelevant, they are basically different battery sizes or different plate thickness to arrive at different capacity.

Similarly you can buy a thick plate (deep discharge) battery in a wide range of sizes regardless of what they are called, though it is often the case that the most popular sizes used cost less.

kagenin (author)swordsmen2009-08-19

I'd imagine that lifespan is an issue. Boat batteries may hold more power, but you won't be able to recharge them as many times as a wheelchair battery before they'll stop holding a decent charge. I would imagine that wheelchair batteries are designed to be as hassle-free as possible (since a disabled person in a wheelchair probably won't be able to do most maintenance of their own chair), while basic boat maintenance requires you to check your batteries on a regular basis anyway. But I'm not 100% sure about these statements, it's just conjecture on my part.

Disc Dog (author)kagenin2009-08-20

Kagenin, Most large, industrial deep-cycle batteries are lead-acid, but not sealed; they are what is commonly referred to as 'flooded'. On average they deliver about 30% more power than a sealed lead-acid battery but require routine maintenance. You must check the water level in them regularly or they die a premature death. But contrary to what you said, you also get about 30% more charges out of flooded batteries (vs. SLAs). I chose SLAs (sealed lead acid) because of the lack of maintenance knowing full well that they will not go as far, nor last as long, as flooded batteries. (The price of being lazy :-)

kagenin (author)Disc Dog2009-08-20

Ah, thanks for clarifying.

ThorsMitersaw (author)2011-12-12

If this is a direct drive, that means you can not coast, correct? And that high speed will always equate to high rpms?

Disc Dog (author)ThorsMitersaw2011-12-12

You can coast, but it's like letting off the throttle with a gas engine with a manual transmission only no compression to slow you down. The electric engine just free spins. And, yep, if it goes more than 70 mph you run the risk of over speeding the motor beyond its rated rpm.

ThorsMitersaw (author)Disc Dog2011-12-13

Would/could it be practical to incorporate the/a transmission of some sort to operate within a wider band?

also, nice choice of bike. never seen this thing before and thought it was pretty fitting. looks vaguely 80's japanese anime scifi

Disc Dog (author)ThorsMitersaw2011-12-14

The '82 Seca Turbo was kind of the first of the 'Star Wars' design with full body fairings...another reason I chose it :)

About This Instructable




Bio: A jack of all trades and a master of many; I was the Sr R&D Engineer and Manager of R&D for a very ... More »
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