A Practical Electric Motorcycle, Made From A Motorcycling Classic

If you were to try to name the vehicle that brought transport to the world’s masses, where might you start? The Ford Model T perhaps, or maybe the VW Beetle? If this was the direction you took, then we’re sorry to say you aren’t even close. The answer lies in Soichiro Honda’s Dream and its descendants, small cheap and reliable motorcycles that have been manufactured in their many millions in some form continuously for over seven decades, and which have been sold in every country in the world that has any form of road. They may be unglamorous, but if you had to pick a bike to circumnavigate the globe they can be fixed by a local mechanic anywhere on the planet. That little horizontal single-cylinder engine may be reliable though, but it’s hardly green. [David Budiatmaja] has fixed that, by transforming an elderly Honda C70 into an electric motorcycle worthy of a 21st-century city (Indonesian, Google Translate link).

The conversion appears to have achieved wide coverage in the Indonesian motoring press, and there’s more about it in the video we’ve placed below the break (Indonesian, you may have to enable subtitle translation). The C70 has been stripped of its fairing, engine, and gearbox, and a wheel motor has been laced into the rear rim. There are three battery packs made from surplus 18650 cells, and an ammo can top box containing most of the electrical wiring. Driven at 72V, it gives a modest top speed that isn’t exactly fast but isn’t too bad on a city bike. A set of trail bike bars replaces the stock ones, and something of a cosmetic makeover has given it a tougher image than your local pizza delivery bike. If it didn’t still sport the C70’s somewhat archaic front forks, it might be easy to mistake it for something else entirely.

If wheel motor motorcycle conversions interest you, this isn’t the first one we’ve brought you.


26 thoughts on “A Practical Electric Motorcycle, Made From A Motorcycling Classic

  1. Surely putting that much unsprung weight in a wheel must make for awful handling. Maybe it’s a good thing this rig can’t go very fast.

    Compare, for example, the Zero Motorcycle.

    1. Your analogy doesn’t hold water, there isn’t even a comparison in costs
      2020 Zero DSR Black Forest Edition: $18,995. 2020 Zero DSR: $15,495. 2020 Zero DS: $10,995. 2020 Zero FX: $8,995

      1. There is no analogy being made, and no water to hold.
        The Zero is an example of an electric drivetrain that does not use a hub motor, and has little unsprung mass.

        (plenty of other mass though — they are surprisingly heavy bikes.)

  2. I would suspect any type of green transportation should be conceived of in terms of birth to death of a product. I admire the lower cost attempts at electric transportation, however one has to consider the effects of ‘ small and cheap’ in the bigger picture. Without big regulation, you will end up with what goes on in a typical thrift store that receives donations. To see this, look inside a product that uses batteries in thrift store, note how many have crusty old batteries, or even good ones inside them. Where might those batteries end up? If a donation is deemed too used or broken, are the batteries removed and recycled properly? My experience is mostly no, in the land fill it goes. Granted this story is about electric motorcycles, even scooters, however China has already had a brush with the negative consequences of mass produced, small, cheap electric transportation. I say it is all good in theory, but we really should be moving forward looking at past experience.

      1. It has, and still not solved. I’m just surprised at the big push towards it when we haven’t done batteries right up until now, never mind millions more on top if that.

        1. The push to EVs is more sociological than technological (thanks Greta!), but since we have had perfectly good EVs for over a century let’s do the smart thing and pour all that EV money into energy storage (batteries, capacitance gel, whatever).

          1. Probably political too; I’m sure those in the ruling class are well aware of the pitfalls of forcing a shift in something so essential as transportation before it is ready, and that might even be half the point of their end game. I don’t believe for a minute the reason is because they are trying to be environmentally responsible. Their will be quite a bit of control ceded to them when they can regulate fossil fuels into scarcity. Beyond that, I find myself unable to get excited about EVs of any sort. Being a long time mechanic, electrical is one of the most unreliable systems in a vehicle. One little short such as a bad ground can bring down the whole shebang. Dead starter battery? Nowadays you aren’t going anywhere without help. I drive a tiny car with a manual trans that I can push start in reverse by myself with one foot out the door for this reason-I don’t have to rely on a full battery charge, starting circuit, or even a starter to get going, and once I do, the engine is making power. All an electric motor does is consume it. To think someday soon I may be forced to depend on an entire vehicle that comes down to battery reliability is a frightening prospect to me, like depending on electric heat during a power outage in subzero temps. Can you say Texas? No thanks! To top it off when I compared how little power even a 750 watt bicycle makes compared to a lowly 50cc gas engine, it just plain turns my stomach. I dunno man, seems to me this is about half a century too soon.

          2. One of the points to be made is EV doesn’t solve anything, in the big picture. The big picture including polluting the ground, and all things that are there. An emense increase in battery usage will undoubtedly an already too much poisoning of the earth, in multiple ways. This makes going from fossil to electric an exchange of ‘poisions’, without doubt in my mind not a solution. This might be more like kicking the can down the road.

        2. Well batteries have been ‘solved’. Now unlike any time in the past a fully electric vehicle probably out performs the ICE powered, and goes for hundreds of miles – long enough for almost all journeys…

          So in typical human fashion the big push to the new/improved techs come because there is some areas they are better, and we figure the rest will be sorted out later.. Look at plastic recycling, something that is almost mythical in the real world, the stuff is stupidly durable, but with the way its used in the real world hard to actually recycle, and we have been for decades putting it absolutely everywhere in place of reusable glass, cheap selfreplensihing woods, easily recycled paper etc, because ooh its transparent, pretty, light, durable etc etc.

          That said a push to mostly EV drive trains is a good thing, though getting more folks to use mass transit, and travel less would be better still.

          But that’s all small fry, the biggest issues of that sort we aren’t even really looking at, which all comes down to the rather fictional and bizarre world of money, and how it can be soo stupidly cheap to have a product made (often poorly) half way round the world, then shipped and probably re-placed multiple times a year. When the local industry should make just as good (or usually far better) quality and out of mostly local (or already shipped and recycled) materials.

          Same thing with food too – in the UK we have fresh fruit and veg pretty much all year, because there is a history of bringing it in from the other hemisphere and grow houses in Spain, also the NZ (and even cheaper rather nasty) import lamb, which make even less sense – a well treated sheep is a sheep, tastes like a sheep and the local farmers have to meet higher welfare and quality standards than just about any other nation, there is no reason at all to ship it from so far away…

          Though I am not at all saying international shipping shouldn’t happen, it absolutely should, even for foods – excesses are better shipped off and used than wasted, just that this default look at the cheapest possible fiscally who cares about anything else state is. Heck many of us will remember when everything made in Asia had stickers on to say noo this comes from the nice China, or not China at all, don’t feel bad about buying it – now those sort of political differences are almost entirely ignored (which doesn’t bother me all that much, but its damn hypocritical to implicitly support it just because its out of your sight, if you wouldn’t accept that treatment in your view then it shouldn’t be acceptable to you just because you didn’t have to witness it… With the one mitigating factor being that different cultures have different views on acceptable, and we should respect that (hence the it doesn’t bother me quite as much as it perhaps should))

          1. I agree with some of both of the things y’all are saying. Things are definitely too disposable nowadays and international trading allows companies to get away with things that would be unacceptable if they were done locally, out of sight out of mind. It shook my confidence in our modern interconnected world when covid showed how little we are able to produce in America. In case of a pandemic, war, or trade disputes we shouldn’t be so dependent on other countries that we are unable to produce simple products like q tips for testing, paper surgical mask and disposable gloves etc. Every country is naturally going to make sure that they have enough for themselves first and I can’t see any reason why almost every country in the world should be able to produce simple things like that. As for the issue with batteries, I don’t understand why we can’t force companies to pay for disposal facilities. If we required manufacturers to pay a fee for disposal and required that they set up collection points at stores for small electronics, and at dealerships and garages for larger applications the price of disposal and recycling will go down quickly. We know how to recycle and safely dispose of these, it’s just a matter of scaling it up and making it easy for the consumers. I bet that the industry would find new ways to make money from the waste if they had to actually deal with it instead of being able to pass the responsibility of waste disposal on to consumers and local governments to figure out what to do with them. We managed to do it with used motor oil, brake fluid, tires and lead acid batteries. If I change my oil at home, it is fairly easy to find a place to recycle it, same with tires, batteries etc. The mistake we made with plastic was that we allowed the producers to pass on the responsibility for waste disposal on to consumers. If they had to account for the entire life of the product, I bet that plastic recycling would be as easy as glass and paper either that or they would have found other ways to make their products.

    1. Hub motors can’t be bet at low speed efficiency, which really is the game for around town driving, when battery capacity and energy density is the bottleneck. It makes less sense being concerned about unsprung weight on an electric motorcycle as they are not intended to be crossers. What is the fun in depleting a 5kWh battery in 5 minutes going up a dirt track?

      1. my apologies. you are correct when applying varying voltage to the same motor and load. Given only a voltage number however, with no other information about the battery, the motor, and the load, can we assume that one system is higher torque than another based only upon the nominal voltage of the battery bank?

        1. With appropriate uncertainties applied, based on your assumptions, sure, maybe. But that’s a “wishful thinking” approach to engineering. Akin’s law #1: “Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.”

          1. Thank you for the insight, does the article’s inclusion of the voltage then produce perhaps more questions as it resolves when the author states “Driven at 72V, it gives a modest top speed that isn’t exactly fast but isn’t too bad on a city bike. “

          2. Again, assumptions. “72V” implies (but does not guarantee) more cells than the usual 36 or 48 V bike battery, so if the usual cells are used (and they’re of equal quality and age), than that’s more stored energy and (likely) more available power. Though, again, it still depends on the controller and motor and wiring whether that extra available power (if any) can be turned into motive force. “72V” by itself is not enough information to say.

  3. There’s a guy is riding around the world on his C90 Honda, still using gasoline but still worthwhile watch. Particular favorite his he and his girlfriend riding a pair of them across Canada. In Winter. As well as at no point does it appear like she wants to kill him.

  4. Looks neat. Nice build, and if it proves reliable…win! I’d ride one.

    We need to come up with some sort of legal classification for electric motorbikes in N America. The current treatment – speed-limited electric “bicycles”, with near useless pedals on scooter like units, is stretched thin. There should be a class for genuine electric motorbikes of a maximum size, that can do 60 or 70 km/h, that maybe require modest insurance, to get away from the “pedal” charade.

    Re EVs and the hand-wringing upthread – the battery pollution problem should resolve itself with greater adoption of battery-powered transport… especially if the batteries continue to “commodify” eg 18650 cells and chargers. There will hopefully be mandatory rebuilding/recycling of battery packs by dealers or 3rd-party businesses who will separate good cells from bad, send the bad ones off to be dismantled and processed, and the good ones into a “good used” market, for budget or less demanding applications. Like beer bottles in Canada (>90% return rate) – put a deposit on batteries and battery packs, that you get back when a bad cell is returned.

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