Electric Motorcycle Is Awesome, Goes 54 Mph

The folks over at the Cincinnati hackerspace Hive13 were wowed last week by an electric motorcycle built by one of their own.

[Rick]’s new ride is built from a 1989 Honda VTR 250. After removing the 24 HP motor, the frame was loaded up with four deep cycle batteries and a DC golf cart motor. Even with the addition of the four heavy batteries, the new electric bike only weighs about 70 pounds more than the stock Honda, allowing all that power to be translated into speed. Right now, [Rick]’s build can reach 54 mph; comparable to an earlier ebike we saw, but [Rick] can also go 100 about 20 miles on a single charge.

After the break you can see a short time lapse of [Rick] tearing down his bike, the first ride though the Cincinnati hackerspace, and a very nice road test showing off the speed of [Rick]’s new ride. There’s also a great Flickr slideshow with some really great pics of the build in progress. Very nice work, [Rick].




40 thoughts on “Electric Motorcycle Is Awesome, Goes 54 Mph

  1. Minor correction to the article, the range is actually closer to a far more modest 20 miles, I think the 100 miles quoted in the Hive13 article is in reference to how far he has ridden it in total since building it.

    1. 20 miles is actually quite little, considering how few charge cycles even deep cycle PbA batteries can take if you actually empty them.

      Suppose the batteries are rated at 500 cycles for 80% DoD to 63% capacity. That point is usually chosen because it’s the tipping point where the exponential breakdown of the cells really starts kicking in.

      If you get 20 miles per discharge to begin with within these restrictions, then you get ~13 miles by the end of it, and a linear approximation for the average cycle range is 16.3 miles, so you get a total of 8200 miles per a set of batteries.

      Not very much, and it drops really fast if you ever drive further than the 80% DoD. That’s why lead acid batteries aren’t very optimal for electric vehicles.

      1. It’s not that outrageous if you limit your speed. Regular Chinese electric scooters get ~50 miles of range out of two ordinary starter batteries as long as they don’t go over 25 mph.

      2. A scooter weighs a lot less than what he is using, and driving 25 mph is far below the average speed of traffic, especially since most Americans go 5-15mph above the posted speed limit.

      1. Actually, that’s not necessarily true. You, potentially, decrease emissions by increasing efficiency. Energy generated in large centralized plants can be more efficient than thousands of individual cars running small engines (even after you consider transmission losses).

      2. @Phillip

        Neil DeGrasse Tyson callsNuclear “The Other N-Word” — people are uninformed.

        Raidoactive waste is not worse than Fossil Fuel waste – at least, where it ends up is not worse. For one, we breathe Fossil Fuel waste – it goes into our atmosphere (whereas radioactive waste is handled and controlled and doesn’t go up into our atmosphere). For two, there’s much less waste in nuclear fission than you may realize. “Production of all the electricity consumed in a four-bedroom house for 70 years leaves about one teacup of high-level waste”. Further, radioactive waste can be recycled – France does this, and some countries send their fission waste to France. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked on youtube for Nuclear Waste storage container tests – but these things are modern marvels. I feel safe with how we’ve been handling nuclear waste.

        Most people can hate “big oil” for one reason or another – Big Oil helps to fuel (pardon the pun) the dislike for fission. If you feel like you simply must dislike nuclear fission, you’re AGREEING with big oil. Also (to anyone who reads this) please don’t hate on Nuclear Fusion – it has none of the drawbacks fission has.

  2. How about using LiPo batteries. Their energy density is many times of a typical lead acid deep cycle battery. The only downsides of lipo are:
    1. Dangerous if handle improperly
    2. Somewhat complicated charging(special chargers needed)
    3. Even lower life span (less charge and discharge cycles)
    However, their ups are:
    1. Way much higher discharge capacity
    2. Less weight due to the higher energy density
    3. Less space consuming

    Electric bikes are a good idea, they use them all over asian countries.

  3. They didn’t remove the 24 hp motor, they removed the 24 hp ENGINE. It’s a pet peeve I have when it comes to referring to motors and engines; what really surprises me is when the editors (who should know better) can’t get it right.

    1. engines are a subset of motors.

      EDIT: Sorry, this is really bothering me. Here’s what the actual difference between motor and engine is:

      Motor is defined as:

      1. a comparatively small and powerful engine, especially an internal-combustion engine in an automobile, motorboat, or the like.

      2. any self-powered vehicle.

      3. a person or thing that imparts motion, especially a contrivance, as a steam engine, that receives and modifies energy from some natural source in order to utilize it in driving machinery.

      The etymology of motor comes from the Latin mōtor, meaning mover.

      Engine is defined as:
      1. a machine for converting thermal energy into mechanical energy or power to produce force and motion.

      2. a railroad locomotive.

      3. a fire engine.

      4. any mechanical contrivance.

      5. a machine or instrument used in warfare, as a battering ram, catapult, or piece of artillery.

      The etymology of engine comes from Old French engin, meaning “skill, or cleverness”, and “war machine” which in turn is derived from the Latin word ingenium, meaning “inborn traits, or talent”. This is also where we get the word ‘ingenious’ and unsurprisingly ‘engineer’.

      You will notice that not only is ‘motor’ defined as an engine, but its definition is completely compatible with an internal combustion engine. Additionally, using ‘motor’ to describe is etymologically more accurate; I can only ask you if the loud thing in a motorcycle is more aptly described as a ‘mover’ or something that is ‘clever.’

      You’re certainty welcome to any brand of prescriptivism your mind can dream up, but do please try make your rules internally consistent. An impossible task for a formal grammar I know, but I’m sure you can manage something

      TL;DR: You can use ‘motor’ to describe an ‘engine’, but you can’t use ‘engine’ to describe a ‘motor’.

  4. Couple of thoughts:
    (just thinking out loud here)

    Adding “only” 70 lbs to a stock 250cc sized frame is a lot.

    Adding 70 lbs plus a rider to a 250cc sized frame with an electric setup capable of doing only 20 miles does not equal “all that power translated to speed”.


  5. i use 36v 30Ah LiFePO4 batteries, and try to average 2 miles/Ah. I don’t see this achieving anywhere near 2mi/Ah unless its going downhill. I have 2 of these batteries, which will be going in my new one, in parallel. I’d like to go recumbent with a Crystalyte 5302 according to this useful performance estimator: http://www.ebikes.ca/simulator/, now to just research the cost of the missing components

    1. You are welcome to stop down, the best day would probably be Tuesday when we have our meetings.

      People start arriving ~6:30 pm, pizza arrives ~6:45, official meeting starts at 7:30 and depending on how much we have to cover, ends by 8:00 pm. Then people hang out until about 10 pm.

  6. 20 miles does seem a serious range limitation. Is it possible the bike is just badly geared? Decreasing the size of the rear sprocket might put the motor in a more efficient range, while still providing enough torque for reasonable acceleration. l

    1. The problem is the batteries. He needs to change to a battery that he can extract at least 80-90% of the power out of them instead of Lead Acid deep cycle where you can only safely extract 40% of the power out of them before you start to damage the battery.

      That was kind of covered in the article, add $1500 for a modern battery pack to gain a significant boost in energy storage over the 100 year old lead acid technology.

      1. “That was kind of covered in the article, add $1500 for a modern battery pack”

        Also covered was the fact that his first sprocket choice only netted him 35 mph. I imagine the torque of that setup was awesome, since he almost halved (perhaps) the ratio to get where he is. I wonder how he calculated (guessed?) each of those setups.

        Without having all the specs in hand–(safe operating rpm of the motor, efficiency at various rpm, torque curve etc), plus the real-world testing that’s already dictated one pretty radical gear change–it’s hard to say. But the possibility of a higher top end, lower cruise rpm (and hopefully current draw) at normal traffic speeds etc.; would indicate more experimentation–or computation…given the limited cycle life of the pack as outlined elsewhere in the comments.

  7. My favorite….

    I also felt I had to ask a token stupid question, “What is it like to ride a motorcycle where you can’t rev the engine?”

    Rev the engine? I have never had to rev the engine on any of my motorcycles. Not everyone buys garbage bikes from harley davidson that needs to be revved all the time to keep them running. If you are revving the engine, you are either riding a bike that needs significant repairs, or you are trying to attract attention to yourself due to low self esteem.

    1. a. A modern Harley is fuel injected ,uses hydraulic lifters, and belt-drive. They require less fiddling than just about every sport bike on the market. They also do not have to be reved to stay running. That is just what the posers do. They do it on all bikes so get off your high horse.
      BTW I do not now or have I ever owned a Harley. I ride a Yamaha FZ-1 or a Fazer if you are outside the US. I just don’t have the patience for stupid fan-boi bigotry that I used too.

    1. I also realized that after we posted the videos, and was just waiting for someone to point it out. Rick normally wears full protective gear, in the videos posted he was just on the bike for a short rides to test out the bike.

      While to be fully safe he probably should have been wearing gear even for a short test ride, it would have taken a bit of time to fully suit up for just a 5 minute test run.

  8. I would like to point out that I think anyone who argues the difference between motor and engine should be shot in the testicles and hung by the neck until dead.

    All motors are engines, but not all engines are motors.

    End of story.

  9. Anyone in the UK would be distinctly confused if you called a motor an engine, or the opposite. Motor is traditionally limited to electrical devices here. Regardless of the origins of the words, things evolve to mean different things and remove ambiguity. It’s only with the influx of americanisms from imported TV that it’s beginning to get a stronghold in the txt spk gnrashun.

    1. Really? People in the UK don’t understand that you can call the engine under the bonnet of their motorcar a motor? I never new that they they where that dumb. I guess all the smart folks over there ride motorbikes.

  10. In this motorbike you can put a system or a circuit that it will control power.If the battery starts to getting low an adaptable system it will help to have fuel power even then

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