How to Build a 96-Volt Electric Motorcycle




A jack of all trades and a master of many; After 60 years on this planet I can truly say 'been th...

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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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!

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

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

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

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!

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.

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    403 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    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 Dogcloud9128

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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..

    1 reply
    Disc Doggeorgeshtc

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    Disc DogCJohnZ

    Answer 8 months ago

    I'll be honest with you, I don't recall. I can tell you it was the standard mid 1990's Advance DC 5.7" motor and I think it put out about 37hp.


    1 year ago

    So sad to see a turbo seca go...


    2 years ago

    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

    Evan Paul

    3 years ago

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

    1 reply
    Disc DogEvan Paul

    Reply 3 years ago

    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!


    3 years ago

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

    Disc DogSachilB

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 8

    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.

    JamesA9Disc Dog

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 8

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


    4 years ago on Step 3

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


    5 years ago on Step 2

    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?

    1 reply
    Disc Dogjoseph.borrelli1

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 2

    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.