Electric Moped. Blade Runner Inspired Space Bike.




Introduction: Electric Moped. Blade Runner Inspired Space Bike.

When I was 17, I read an article in Wired magazine that claimed we would have affordable, street legal, hydrogen fuel cell powered motorbikes for $2000 by 2012. A wildly specific claim. They had even included a render.

I never saw that bike hit production, but the dream for a clean city bike lived on.

Recently, I noticed the cost of electric motors and lipo batteries rapidly approaching my price range. When I saw bikes like Onyx, I decided to build one for myself. This post represents the 30,000ft view of what I learned, and what it takes to build one for yourself.


  • Angle Grinder
  • Welder of some kind (capable of welding 1/4")
  • Basic electronics kit (i.e. voltmeter, soldering iron, etc)

Step 1: Find Yourself a Frame

Craigslist and Facebook marketplace are littered with 70s and 80s era mopeds, scooters, and dirtbikes. If you've never purchased an older vehicle online, the first thing you'll notice is that a high percentage of those vehicles won't be titled. Ideally, you just purchase a titled vehicle, and move on with your life, but if you're trying to save money, a title-less, barn-find can be just the thing. There are two paths here:

  1. Buy a titled moped. Transfer the title into your state (if purchased out of state).
  2. Fill out a bill-of-sale with the owner, and either and go through the Title acquisition process in your state. (generally not an easy process)

Some things to look for in a used frame/wheel set:

  • A tires with wire spokes (rather than some kind of alloy wheel). You'll need to lace the hub motor into the rear hub.
  • Rear shocks. A hub motor will add significant weight to your rear wheel.
  • A convenient place to weld on a battery tray (this will make more sense in a few steps).

Step 2: Spec Your Bike

Once you have your frame, you can start making some decisions on the hub motor, battery size and voltage you'll need to get to your desired speed and range.

In a standard combustion engine car, you generally have a transmission that allows you to use different gears to achieve different torque/rpm combinations, but with a hub motor (unless you use some kind of bike cassette setup), you're limited to one gear. Electric motors have a nice torque curve starting at low RPM, so we just need to find the sweet spot.

Time to make a few calculations.


To determine what motor we need, we'll need to know how much torque our motor needs to deliver. It doesn't need to be 100% accurate (we'll end up adding some head room anyway). We're just looking to get in the ballpark. For this:

Acceleration force + Grade Resistance + Rolling Resistance = The total force your motor needs to overcome (comfortably)

I used the formulas from this reference to calculate the "tractive effort" I would need to reach 40mph in 10seconds (~60 N.m in my case).


To calculate your target RPM, you need to know:

  • Your tire circumference
  • Your target speed

RPM = [[(top_speed_mph) * (5280 ft_per_mile)]/(tire_circumference_ft)]/60min

My target RPM came out to ~850 (assuming a load). With no load, let's add some padding and say we need a no-load RPM of 950rev/min.

I knew I wanted to purchase from QSmotor (given the good results I had seen from a friend's electric motorcycle), so given my required torque and RPM, I went shopping on their site. All reputable motor manufacturers will have good specs published (or by request), and QSmotor was more than happy to make suggestions based on my specs.

I ended up purchasing the KLS7218S Kelly controller along with QSmotor's 2000W hub. It fit all of the specs I had and was relatively inexpensive (around $600 including about $200 worth in shipping). Not bad.

Step 3: Build or Buy a Battery

You have a couple options here.


There are plenty of 18650 battery pack suppliers out there for all of the standard ebike voltages (36, 48, 52, 60, 72), but they can be kind of expensive. Luna cycles, for instance sells great batteries, but you'll end up dropping $550 on a 52V battery. Smoke em if you got em.

Aliexpress is for sure a source of more affordable batteries, but quality is much harder to guarantee (IMO).

When looking for a battery, make sure:

  • The individual cells have known specs (i.e. continuous current, max current, etc). Even better if they're a known reputable manufacturer like panasonic or samsung.
  • The continuous current of the battery is sufficient for the motor chosen.


Your other option is to build the battery yourself. There's a bit of a learning curve, but...

  • You get a high quality battery, much cheaper
  • The battery you build can have an unusual shape (to better fit the frame)
  • You can always expand your battery later

There are a ton of DIY battery build Instructables out there, but here's the parts cost breakdown (for comparison's sake) for a 52V, 13.6aH battery:

Which comes to a total of -- $306.06. Not too shabby, and if you build a second battery, it will only cost $180.

Step 4: Weld on a Battery Tray

Your battery is going to need a place to sit. Once you've determined the size of your battery, it's time to break out the welder. Anything that can weld 1/8" should be fine. The battery tray doesn't need to be fancy since it will sit beneath the battery cover (i.e. the tank).

Angle iron and some flat bar steel from Home Depot will be plenty strong for the application.

Once you've got the tray welded together, weld or bolt it to your bike!

Step 5: Build a Battery Cover

The simple version - Use the existing gas tank from the used moped you purchased.

  • Break out the angle grinder a cut a whole in the bottom of your tank
  • Sand down the inside of the tank
  • Paint the inside of the tank with non-conductive primer

The more complicated version - build a battery cover

  • When designing your battery cover, make sure you leave enough room for electronics, and any other components that need to stay dry
  • Add a hinge to one side to allow for easy battery removal (you'll be doing this a lot).

Step 6: The 12V System

Every street-legal moped needs some combination of turn-signals, brake lights, and headlights (depending on your state). Our 52V battery is great for running the motor, but a little too high voltage for anything else. For that, we'll need a 12V regulator. There are probably other good 12V regulators out there, but golf cart regulators work great for this size application. I was trying to go for a blade runner look and like the exposed heat sinks, but most people tuck these away within the tank (or within a compartment below the tank).


When designing the body of your bike, make sure that you leave enough room for this regulator, and for your wiring. Ideally, this is a sealed container that prevents any kind of moisture from getting in. 12V golf cart regulators are generally safe to expose to the elements, but you'll need some sealed place to make all the connections for you lights, fuses, etc.


Fuses are cheap. They:

  • Provide some safety (electrical fires, body shorts, etc)
  • Protect expensive elements (like the motor controller)
  • Force you to think about how much current should be running through each component.

Lights and switches

  • The easiest thing to do here is purchase a handlebar mounted turn signal/headlight switch, as well as some fork mountable turn signals.

Step 7: High Level Wiring

Every bike and every state will have a slightly different set of requirements, but if you want to ride on the road, you generally need brake lights, head lights (and possibly reflectors), and turn signals; although I still can't figure out if hand signals in lieu of blinkers are 100% legal state to state. Including them for good measure.

The diagram included shows the rough wiring of components, but a couple notes here:

  • Not all controllers will support regenerative braking, but if they do, you'll have a few connections directly to your motor controller (pinout will vary controller to controller)
  • Both the throttle and regenerative braking toggles can use either hall sensors or potentiometers for the control signal. Make sure you buy the right one for your particular controller (some controllers support both).

Step 8: Lacing the Hub Motor. Build/Buy.

Once you've received your hub motor (or the digital drawing), it's time to order some custom length spokes. These will transfer the rotational force of the hub motor to the wheel itself.


Whatever online store (or physical location) you buy your hub motor from will likely also sell rims, pre-laced with the hub motor of your choice. You'll pay a little more, but if you can find a rim that works with your bike, it's probably worth it. There are a lot of places where your spoke measurements can go wrong.


For this, you'll need to break out a ruler and take some measurements. Namely:

  • The Flange Diameter: which is the furthest distance between two spoke holes (center to center)
  • The Effective Rim Diameter: the distance between the end of the spoke (where it sits in the rim) to its opposite

There are a few spoke length calculators, but I can only vouch for this one's accuracy.

Hub lacing is another deep hole (that probably deserves its own Instructable), but there are a handful of good Youtube videos out there that cover it. A few important notes:

  • A heavy duty moped rim (or a similarly heavy rim) is necessary to support the weight (i.e. no bike rims)
  • Hub motors often come with 13gauge spokes, but heavy 12gauge would be better for the weight of a moped.

Step 9: Paint

You can absolutely take your frame to be painted professionally in a shop, but if a professional paint job isn't at the top of your priorities list, a good old rattle can paint job will do just fine. A $20 paint job doesn't necessarily have to look like butt. Not by any measure an expert, but a few notes that improved my paint jobs:

  • Be diligent when sanding. If you can feel irregularities with your hand, you'll see them under the paint.
  • Keep your can warm by resting it in warm water (don't let any of the water get on your paint job)
  • If you don't have a well ventilated indoor space, don't sit under direct sunlight, or in excessive humidity
  • READ THE DIRECTIONS. Time between coats, cure time, priming directions.

Step 10: Legal Stuff

State to state, legal requirements for mopeds can be wildly different. Most of it pertains to top speed, registration, and light requirements. Make sure you find your state and read these as well as find the full text for your state's moped laws. In Pennsylvania, one large showstopper is not having a VIN (or a title), preventing registration. The process for this:

  • I can't speak to all states, but I would think the process would be similar state to state. In order to request a VIN in Pennsylvania, you need to visit a DMV capable of enhanced safety inspections and prove that your moped meets all of the state requirements for a moped.
  • If you purchased the frame used, but it didn't come with a VIN, make sure to bring your Bill of Sale.

A second consideration was top speed. My design speed was 40mph, but in Pennsylvania, a moped can only legally have a "design speed" of 25mph. Fortunately, some motor controllers (at least Kelly and Sabaton) have built in "eco mode", which allows a few max RPM settings based on a switch input. On my bike, one of the control switches just tells the controller to limit my max speed to 25mph (based on the MAX rpm of the motor).

Step 11: Drive It Around!

Hopefully this gives a good overarching introduction to the steps/costs involved in building out an electric moped. The whole process can seem like a lot at the onset, but taken one step at a time, it can be an immensely satisfying project. When I started this project, I didn't know how to weld, make batteries...honestly most of the steps in this Instructable. It's a little rough around the edges, but it feels very mine because I designed and built it. It's a great introduction to anyone interested in fabrication, electronics, or design. You don't need to be an expert to get started.

Good luck!

Motor Vehicle Contest

First Prize in the
Motor Vehicle Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Bridge

      Make It Bridge
    • Big and Small Contest

      Big and Small Contest
    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge



    2 years ago

    Nice idea, wonderful


    2 years ago

    Good article and nice looking bike. Great use of an existing frame too!
    Some comments though:
    -the weight is unnecessairly high due to the battery and controller location, even though it looks good like this :)
    -the battery you have made is not fitted properly for the currents you want to draw. You're using high capacity, 3400mAh cells. In a battery pack 5A per cell is safe max for these, which gives you 20A total (looks like you have 14s4p). Then you can only pull ~800W and I assume you're using more for this QS motor. For such solutions you need high current batteries, which have a bit lower capacity, but will serve you for a long time and will minimize the voltage sag. VTC5A would be your best choice here.
    -Since it's more like a moped rather than e-bike and it's not designated be used for pedaling assist you'll probably get very poor range with such battery. I'm guessing like below 20km flat out? Sure, range is an individual aspect, but for most user this will be too low. If you use more parallel cells you will increase the range, but would also then be able to safely use high capacity cells (like the ones you're using).
    -instead of welding you can also solder the cells. It's not recommended by cell manufacturers, but if you use a big soldering iron and don't overheat cells (max 2-3 seconds per single joint) it will be ok. I was using copper plate, 0.5mm (between cells) and 0.3mm (for bridges between cells in one "s") and cut 7mm strips. It's also good to scratch every cell before soldering, i.e. a sharp flat headed screwdriver, and to use some soldering flux. Soldered ~300 cells like this, no issues.
    -for such relatively small batteries you don't need to create a box, you can buy a battery case (i.e. look for "polly battery box" on Ali). You can find cases up to like 13s7p (91 cells) and can have a removable battery, which is useful. It's $40-55 with shipping.



    2 years ago

    Is there any reason for why you chose to mount the heavy components so high up? It seems like it would be much more stable of they were lower, or even in the frame / the triangle part of most bikes.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Mostly just based on my own aesthetic preferences -- I wanted it to look light/simple by leaving that center portion open. The battery only ended up weight ~2.5kg and the controller was super light, but for a larger electric motorcycle type battery, I would definitely want to shift it down.


    2 years ago

    This looks great. What's your actual top speed and (no pedaling, flat) range?


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey thanks -- I got it up to 36mph, but got spooked and slowed down. The no load rpm gets me to 42, so I assume somewhere around 39/40. Range wise I'm getting 23-27 miles per charge at top speed 25 (legal max in my state), and that's in hilly Pittsburgh, PA.


    2 years ago

    hello, I`m building one based on the frame of a tomos, but i am having serious issues with the lights. I can`t figure out how to make them work. Can you help and providing some wiring? Also will be nice to have more info on the brake. I`m adding a bike brake like the one you have on the back, but i want to know more feedback/installation guideline


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey, I added a little wiring diagram that should cover all of the common connections you'll run into. If you're trying to salvage lighting components from the existing system, you'll probably have quite a bit of wire following to do to determine where the connections are made (for probably similarly colored wires).

    Generally if you buy a hub motor, you can purchase the disc brake from them as well (that will fit and bolt onto the hub), but the brake caliper mounting could require a custom plate depending on the frame. You might be able to get away with a "disc brake bracket" that will screw onto your frame, but if you run into trouble feel free to DM me.


    Reply 2 years ago

    thank you very much! The diagram helps!!! unfortunately i tried to re-use the cables but too mess, so i decided to change from scratch, plus i`m using leds so i am trying to understand how to work on them. I have ordered the disc brake from amazon cos the seller of the hub doesn`t sell it. I`m waiting for it. Thanks again for the help, i will probably be back to you ^^

    Mickey The Maker
    Mickey The Maker

    Question 2 years ago

    where did you place the motor?


    Answer 2 years ago

    The motor is in the rear wheel, it's a hub motor.


    2 years ago

    Better yet for the spot welder, look for an instructable an build your own! A transformer from a microwave oven, some wire, and some a controller kit, and you've saved another $70-$80.