Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Test Drive!

I use that term loosely, but I did sit on the bike while it moved under its own power. This photo really captures my excitement. Honestly, the first run was somewhat of a disappointment, with the bike's performance being more sluggish than I expected. That can easily be fixed by changed the current limit in the controller. The controller is capable of delivering 300 Amps, but I have it dialed back to 120 Amps right now. There were also a number of other small issues: the chain tension was too slack, causing a lot of noise; the speedometer was not working (broken cable), and the controller kept cutting out. I believe this last problem can be fixed by changing the controller's low voltage set point.

It's been almost two weeks since the test drive, and I've made no progress on the bike since then. I hope to accomplish more this weekend and get motivated again.

Back in Business

This picture shows my new battery tray fitted on the bike. Just behind the side tray is the motor controller, which did fit nicely below the motor. I had to make a few new cables, due to their lengths changing with this layout. Overall, I think it was a good decision to go ahead with this redesign. The ground clearance is now similar to the stock bike and will not be something additional I have to worry about when riding.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

Last weekend, I mounted the rear tire back on its wheel, and so for the first time I was able to drop the bike off its centerstand to test the ground clearance (or lack thereof) of the battery tray. It doesn't look good. On the centerstand, the bike has about 5 inches of ground clearance. After dropping the centerstand, the bike's weight compresses the rear suspension, then I sat on the seat with my 180 lbs. The result is about 1-1.5" of clearance. That's a no-go in my book.
So... a little rearranging is in order.

The battery below the motor has got to move. I'm going to swap it with the motor controller. The battery will stick out further than the comtroller, but i don't think it will inhibit the function of the bike. Then the stack of 4 batteries in the front can all be moved up about 2.25 inches.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Minty Fresh Power Supply

I put together a small 5 Volt power supply for the ammeter in my instrument gauges. It also supplies 12 Volts to the temperature sensor. The voltage regulator requires a heatsink, and I used a scrap of Al. plate. Everything is housed in an Altoids tin for some environmental protection.

With this power supply and the other electrics wired on the bike, the gauges are ready to go into the bike...

And I'll be damned, they work!!! The red display is the battery pack voltage, and the green display shows the amount of current flowing through the pack. The cool thing is that these work in real time, so when you twist the throttle, the current goes up and the voltage drops. Very cool.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


It's been a while since my last post, but it's not for a lack of working. After painting the battery tray, I reassembled the bike and started in on the wiring. With so many batteries, this is a huge undertaking. The picture above shows all of the ancillary bits that connect between the battery pack and the motor. At the top is a high current, keyed switch. I added this switch in after deciding the contactor by itself was insufficient. The contactor is to the right of the switch, with the metal band around it. It is an electrical switch, or solenoid, that is actuated by the motorcycle's ignition switch. As recommended, there is a 1000 ohm resistor across the main contacts. I found that this resistor got hot when the contactor is open (whenever the bike is turned off). To the right of the contactor is the main fuse. Below all that is the controller, an Alltrax AXE-7234. This controller is pretty sophisti-ma-cated, allowing you to program a number of parameters on your computer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lead Junkie

A typical electric motorcycle has 4 to 8 batteries. My bike has 18 batteries! The battery pack that I am building is probably less efficient in size, weight, and capacity than a similar pack with fewer cells, but what I lose in efficiency, I gain in its ability to fit into small spaces.
When postimg on , I need a name for my bike so I've decided to call this bike Lead Junkie. You know, because the batteries are made of lead, and it can't seem to get enough of them. Pretty clever, right?

Without giving it much thought, my plan was to connect the batteries in a series-parallel layout, which is shown in the image below.

After doing some reading on the Internet, I've decided that a Parallel-Series connection is more desirable. The resulting battery pack is the same (72V, 68Ahr), but the effect on individual batteries is different. I'll try to explain.

One issue with connecting batteries in series is that the voltage of a single battery can drop, dropping the entire pack voltage and putting a higher load on the other 5 batteries. If the batteries are paralleled first, then the other two paralleled batteries can maintain the pack voltage, while only increasing the load on 2 batteries.
Perpabst I'm not explaining this very well, so suffice it to say that I think the latter configuration is better, and this is how I will test my pack. From a physical wiring perspective, this config requires more wire and more connections. I have increased the gauge of my wire to 8 AWG for the parallel connections and 4 AWG for the series.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another Day, Another Tray

This tray holds 4 of the smaller B&B batteries. It will be mounted underneath the seat where the engine's airbox and battery box were originally located. When installed, there's just enough room on top of this tray to hold the DC to DC converter (see below). This converter takes the 72 Volts from the battery pack and converts it to the 12 Volts that is required to run the motorcycle's accessories.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Paint Shop

Today, I added a second battery tray to the to the upper front of my main tray. I also put in diagonal supports in the bottom front corners. Previously, I wrote about adding lateral stiffeners, but I did not put these in. If I find that I need them, I'll add them in later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Major Milestone

I felt like I finally made some progress last night, when I completed enough of the battery tray to mount it with batteries on the bike. This image shows how the 6 Optima batteries are arranged around the motor. As an unexpected bonus, there is enough space above the front stack to position 2 of the B&B batteries. Very cool.
The battery tray feels stiff when in place, except in the lateral direction. I am going to weld some cross members diagonally across the front face of the tray to stiffen it up in this direction. Also. I'm concerned about fatigue under the vibration environment of the motorcycle. I think regular inspection of the weld joints is my only solution to know if fatigue becomes an issue. The quality of some I my weld joints is suspect, so I'll be going over them again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Put Some Gas in my Car and I'm Ready to Go Go Go

I had previously done some work on the gas tank before I was writing on my blog. The tank is obviously no longer needed to hold gas, but has to remain on the bike for aesthetics. Inside of the tank is a lot of wasted space, so I cut it in half to put stuff inside. On my particular bike, the tank is partially covered by the front fairing. This produces a recess in the bottom half of the tank and was the perfect place to make the cut.
The first picture shows the bottom half of the tank sitting in position, with 4 batteries stored inside. The top half of the tank is sitting where the seat should be. I still need to add a latch and hinge to hold the two pieces together. This has to be designed so the tank doesn't fly open while I'm riding and also has to be strong enough to take the load from my leaning on it.
The second picture has the top and bottom of the tank in position. I put some edge guard around the cut edges of the top piece so there are no sharp edges.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Parts For Sale

I am selling these extra parts on Craigslist. They have been pulled from my 1993 Kawasaki EX250 Ninja and are no longer needed for my electric conversion.

Engine & Carburetors

Cooling System

Exhaust System

Tachometer & Oil Gauge

Air Box

Ignition Coils & Voltage Regulator


This picture shows the beginnings of the changes I'm making to my electric motorcycle instrument panel. The center pod housed the engine tachometer, which I no longer need. I have replaced it with 3 digital meters for monitoring the electric motorcycle's performance. The red one on top is the system voltage meter that I've shown before. The green meter with the triple 8s is a amp or current meter. Below that, is a temperature gauge. This gauge is fitted with a probe that I will attach to the motor housing. The 3 digital gauges are panel mounted on a sheet of plastic that has been cut to size and spray painted flat black. When the bike is running, the gauges will hopefully be the only thing you notice.
The lower right pod was the engine oil temperature gauge. I have replaced this with a clock, something this bike was sorely missing. The "clock" is actually a pocketwatch that happened to fit right into this space. Above the clock are 4 dummy lights. 2 of these lights are unused on the electric conversion and will be replaced with battery charging status lights.

On a side note, I've gone through half a dozen iPhone apps, looking for the best way to post on my blog. This post is sent via Blogpress, which may be my final solution.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Expanding my Web Presence

In the name of all that's nerdy and geeky, I entered a contest at There's lots of soldering and circuitry and iPhone goodness. Vote for me and maybe I'll win!

Motor Mount

I need to resist the urge to title all of my blog entries in the Blog McBlogenstein format, so this one is just gonna be Motor Mount (at least it's aliterative). I mounted the motor on a .25" Al plate, which then picks up two existing engine mounts on the frame. Steel spacers box out the back Al plate that adds stiffness but does not bolt directly to the motor. Vertical angle has also been added at these pickup points to tie in the battery tray.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I will write a formal entry on the mustang eventually, but I thought it'd be interesting just to post some pictures. Looking good was the best thing this car did anyway!?! It was a year ago that I sold this car at the Carlisle Car Auction, and I stillhave no regrets.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is this going to my blog?

The old Yammy in this picture. Too bad Hottie McGee had to take it off my hands.

Lifecast Saves the Day... Sorta

Posted with LifeCast

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Super Saver

Amazon shipped me my sixth and final Optima battery yesterday. They were, by far, the cheapest source both online and locally for these batteries. Using their Free Super Saver Shipping method, I saved (or Amazon spent) just over 120 dollars in shipping costs. Pretty impressive. I assembled the Optima battery pack using 4 AWG wire and stacked the batteries approximately how they will sit in my motorcycle frame. The red gauge is a Datel Voltmeter and shows my pack is currently at 73.7 Volts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Have you ever heard the adage, Measure twice, Cut once? Well, I was thinking it last night when I cut the long members of this tray, but I was too lazy to walk upstairs and do the measuring. The result? My tray is approximately 3/4" too long. Dammit! While this extra length is okay for the batteries, it creates an interference with the front wheel when placed in the motorcycle. To my credit, I knew that I was cutting the piece a little too long, and it's much easier to make things shorter than longer. Let's see if I can get it right tonight! The batteries shown here are a combination from my old electric Vespa and new batteries for this conversion. The yellow-top batteries(shown layer down on their side) are Optima D51 Yellow Tops, and the grey batteries are B&B HR-12-15. Both battery types are non-spillable sealed lead acid, which means they can me mounted on the motorcycle in any orientation.

Battery Tray

This picture shows the base of my battery tray. It is upside down in the picture so you can see the quality (or lack thereof) of my welds. I used 1"x1"x1/8" steel angle and miter joints in the corners. This tray needs to support approximately 165 lbs of batteries. Does anyone know a good mechanical engineer that can analyze this for me???

Friday, March 20, 2009

And After!!!

Here is a shot of the Ninja frame after removing all the plastic fairings, the engine, cooling system, gas tank, battery, and seat. The disassembly process was fun, just pulling parts off without Having to keep track of how things went together. Now the frame is ready to accept the electric components.


This image shows my donor bike for the electric motorcycle project. It is a 1993 Kawasaki Ninja EX250. This bike is a common choice for electric conversions because of its extensive body fairings. These fairings will cover all internal workings (batteries, motor, controller, wiring, etc) and maintain the original look of the motorcycle.

I also chose this motorcycle over my Vespa for a number of reasons. The Vespa has smaller wheels and drum brakes, which make for unstable high speed travel and longer stopping distance. The Vespa also had its motor, controller and transmission housed in the swing arm, which created a lot of unsprung weight. Lastly, the Vespa frame was prohibitively small and had reached its limit in terms of battery storage capacity. Even with 12 smaller batteries distributed throughout the frame, the Vespa only carried 30Ahr of juice. With the Ninja upgrade, that number will increase to 68Ahr, effectively doubling the range of my EV.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Test Image

This image show the swing arm of my Ninja. Due to the design of my electric motor, I am putting the final drive chain on the eight side of the bike, and the disc brake on the left side. This picture shows the three support tabs that I have to remove and re-weld onto opposite sides of the swing arm.


Hello and welcome to my blog. I created this site to document the many vehicles and projects that I work on. As you can see, I don't actually have a garage so this website will act as my virtual garage. The main focus of my blog will document the building of my electric motorcycle.
If you are reading this, you know that I am neither well spoken nor capable of writing eloquent prose (I had to spellcheck elequent(sic) to write this sentence!). With that in mind, I will try to make this site the picture-menu of blogs. Let the fun begin!