What Is an Electric Motorcycle

What Is an Electric Motorcycle
Build Your Own
Electric Motorcycle
TAB Green Guru Guides
Consulting Editor: Seth Leitman
Renewable Energies for Your Home: Real-World Solutions for Green Conversions
by Russel Gehrke
Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman
Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel
Build Your Own
Electric Motorcycle
Carl Vogel
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ISBN: 978-0-07-162294-3
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About the Author
Carl Vogel is the president of Vogelbilt Corporation, a research, engineering, and
development company for alternative fuels and alternative-fueled vehicles.
Vogelbilt is in the process of building renewable fueling stations in the New York
City area. These stations will function on a platform of sustainability, using wind
and solar energy and cogeneration to stay mostly off the grid. Some of the proposed
alternative fuels that would be available at the stations are electric, E85, CNG,
biodiesel, and hydrogen. Mr. Vogel is also the president of the Long Island chapter
of the Electrical Automotive Association (www.LIEAA.org). Previously, he worked
at Festo Corporation and Curtis Instruments, planning and designing robotic and
programmable logic controller applications for computer-integrated manufacturing
(CIM). While at Curtis Instruments Mr. Vogel worked on battery chargers and
solid-state motor controllers for electric vehicles. He has also taught at Farmingdale
State College, expanding electric vehicle and fuel cell operations R&D on campus.
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Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii
1 Why You Need to Get an Electric Motorcycle Today! . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Convert That Motorcycle! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What Is an Electric Motorcycle? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycles Are Fun to Drive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycles Save Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Operating Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Purchase Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Safety First . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycle Myths: Dispelling the Rumors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Myth 1: Electric Motorcycles Can’t Go Fast Enough . . . . . . . . . .
Myth 2: Electric Motorcycles Have Limited Range . . . . . . . . . . .
Myth 3: Electric Motorcycles Are Not Convenient . . . . . . . . . . .
Myth 4: Electric Motorcycles Are Expensive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Disadvantages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Time to Purchase/Build . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Repairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My Passion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coolfuel Roadtrip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2 Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy . . . . . . . . . . .
Why Do Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Environmental Benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Save the Environment and Save Some Money Too! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Energy Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electricity Generation: How Is It Made? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Steam Turbines Are the Leader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Natural Gas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Petroleum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nuclear Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hydropower . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Geothermal Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Solar Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wind Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Biomass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Efficiencies of Power Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
U.S. Transportation Depends on Oil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Emission Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Further Economic and Competitive Matters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Economic Benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EPA Testing Procedures for Electric Motorcycles . . . . . . . . . . . .
3 History of the Electric Motorcycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Steam First! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Copeland Steam Motorcycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Early 1900s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Early 1940s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1970s–1990s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Late 1990s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vogelbilt Corporation’s Electra Cruiser Was in Coolfuel Roadtrip . . . . .
Latest News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Idea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Prototype . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Future Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The KillaCycle—Bill Dube Breaks NEDRA Records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
E-mail from Bill Dube . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
New World Record at Bandimere—
7.89 Seconds (Also 174 mph!) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ducati Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vectrix Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Vectrix VX-1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4 Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycles: Cool and Green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Eva Håkansson’s Electrocat Electric Motorcycle . . . . . . . . . . . . .
KillaCycle and KillaCycle LSR Electric Motorcycles . . . . . . . . . .
Zero Motorcycles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brammo Motorsports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Voltzilla: DIY Electric Motorcycle by Russ Gries . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycle Conversions: Easier Than You Think . . . . . . . . . . .
KTM “Race Ready” Enduro Electric Motorcycle . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Honda and Yamaha to Make Electric Motorcycles
in 2010–2011 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EVT America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5 Geometry: A Basic Lesson on Rake, Trail, and Suspension . . . . . . . .
Rake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Trail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fork Angle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fork Length . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fork Dive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Spring Rate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rear Suspension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rear Suspension Styles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Twin-Shock Regular H Swingarm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Monoshock Regular H Swingarm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hybrid Twin-Shock H Swingarm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Monolever Suspension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6 Frame and Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing a Frame and Planning Your Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Selecting a Frame Dos and Don’ts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Optimize Your EV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Standard Measurements and Formulas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EV Weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Remove All Unessential Weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
During Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Weight and Acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Weight and Climbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Weight Affects Speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Weight Affects Range . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Remove the Weight But Keep Your Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Remember the 30 Percent Rule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Streamline Your EV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Aerodynamic Drag Force Defined . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choose the Lowest Coefficient of Drag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Frontal Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Relative Wind Contributes to Aerodynamic Drag . . . . . . . . . . .
Aerodynamic Drag Force Data You Can Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wheel Well and Underbody Airflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roll with the Road . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rolling Resistance Defined . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Pay Attention to Your Tires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Use Radial Tires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Use High Tire Inflation Pressures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brake Drag and Rolling Resistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rolling-Resistance Force Data You Can Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Less Is More with Drivetrains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Drivetrains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Difference in Motor versus Engine Specifications . . . . . . . . . . . .
Going through the Gears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Manual Transmission versus Chain or Shaft Drive . . . . . . . . . . .
Drivetrains and Fluids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Design Your EV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Horsepower, Torque, and Current . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Calculation Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Torque-Required Worksheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Torque-Available Worksheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Why Conversion Is Best . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sell Your Unused Engine Parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Equipment Required for Motorcycles
(Including Limited-Use Motorcycles) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Horn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Muffler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mirror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Windscreen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Handlebars or Grips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Seat Height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lighting Devices and Reflectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Speedometer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fenders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7 Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Early Pioneers in Battery Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Starting Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Deep-Cycle Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Industrial Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sealed Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nickel-Cadmium Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lithium Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sulfation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Terminal Posts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Group Size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Inside Your Battery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Active Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electrolytes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Overall Chemical Reaction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Discharging Chemical Reaction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging Chemical Reaction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electrolyte Specific Gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
State of Charge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Gassing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Equalizing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cell Balancing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Explosions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Calculations and Capacity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Current and Amperes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Volt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Power or Watts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Storage Capacity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Configurations: Series and Parallel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery C Rating: C/20, C/3, C/1, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Available Capacity versus Total Capacity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Energy Density . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cold-Cranking Amperes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Depth of Discharge (DOD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Basic Battery Spreadsheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Disposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Environmental Benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
General Battery Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Purchasing Specifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EV Battery Operating Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Shock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Solutions Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8 Electric Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
History of Electric Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing the Right Motor for You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motor Horsepower . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Some Simple Points and Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Some Basic Terms to Know . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
DC Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
DC Motor Basic Construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Armature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Commutator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Field Poles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brushes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Motor Timing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
DC Motor Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Series DC Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shunt DC Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Compound DC Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Permanent-Magnet DC Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Universal Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AC Electric Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A Couple of Terms You Should Know . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Single-Phase Induction Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AC Synchronous Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Polyphase AC Induction Motor (Three-Phase AC Motor) . . . . .
EV Motor Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Permanent-Magnet DC Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Series-Wound Motor Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Calculations and Formulas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Calculating Horsepower . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Calculating Full-Load Torque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
9 The Motor Controller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Controller Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Basic Controller Explanation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Multiswitching Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Solid-State Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Modern Electronic Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Undervoltage Cutback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Overtemperature Cutback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AC Controller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Controllers on the Market Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Series-Wound DC Controller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Curtis Instruments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ZAPI Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Navitas Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alltrax DC Motor Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AC Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Curtis Instruments AC Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ZAPI AC Motor Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Metric Mind Engineering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10 The Charger and Battery Management System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charger Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charger Checklist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging and Optimization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
End of Charge Cycle (Termination) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charge Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Opportunity Charging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charge Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Discharging Cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Charging Cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Ideal Battery Charger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging between 0 and 20 Percent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging between 20 and 90 Percent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging between 90 and 100 Percent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charging above 100 Percent (Equalizing Charging) . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Chargers Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Zivan Charger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Manzanita Micro PFC-20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Curtis Instruments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brusa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Management Systems and Battery Balancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Balancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Management Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
11 Accessories and Converters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Communications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery “Fuel Gauge” and Monitoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Indicator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Xantrex Link 10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Curtis Series 800 and 900 Battery SOC Instrumentation . . . . . .
Voltmeter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ammeter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
DC-to-DC Converter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vicor DC-to-DC Converter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Curtis DC-to-DC Converter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
12 Electrical System and Wiring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electrical Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EV Electrical System Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Main Circuit Breaker or Quick Disconnect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Main Contactor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Reversing Relay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Safety Fuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Low-Voltage, Low-Current System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Throttle Potentiometer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shunts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wiring Your System Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cable Connectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wire Covers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Routing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Grounding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electrical Wiring Diagrams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
13 The Build . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conversion Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Before the Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Help on Your Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Arrange for Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Arrange for Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Arrange for Purchases and Deliveries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Things to Keep in Mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Frame . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Purchasing the Frame . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Purchase of Other Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Prepare the Chassis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mechanical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mounting Your Electric Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Critical Distance—Motor Interface with Wheel . . . . . . . . . .
Support for the Electric Motor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creating Battery Mounts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electrical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
High-Current System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Low-Voltage System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Battery Wiring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
After Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
System Checkout on Blocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Trial Test Run . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moving Forward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
14 Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
More Information over Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Clubs, Associations, and Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Manufacturers, Converters, and Consultants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Suppliers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conversion Kits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conversion Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Controllers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chargers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Electric Motorcycle Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Other Parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
European Manufacturers, Converters, and Consultants . . . . . . . . . . . .
Books, Articles, and Papers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Publishers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Newsletters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Online Industry Publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Grassroots Electric Drive Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Federal Government Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
State and Community-Related EV Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
General Electric Drive (ED) Information Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347
Writing a book about a subject that is so dear to me has been the greatest pleasure.
All the hard work and nudging from my editor to get finished have been worth it.
Back in 1996, I had an idea that I had never seen before. Well, I had seen it, but not
the size and style of the creation I had in mind. I wanted to build a fully electric
motorcycle, and not just any motorcycle, but a full-sized motorcycle along the lines
of a cruiser or large touring bike. I wanted to build a bike that had power, speed,
and performance. After all, I love a good challenge, and if a motorcycle of this size
had not been built before, I wanted to do it.
At the time, I came across an enormous motorcycle out on the market called the
Boss Hoss. The Boss Hoss was designed in 1990 by Monte Warne, a commercial
aircraft pilot. This cruiser-style motorbike was a beast, with a Chevrolet 8.2-liter V8
502-hp engine as standard power. By all means, this was not a green or fuel-efficient
machine, but it was an engineering delight and a wonder to look at. This monster
weighed in at over 1,300 lb (590 kg)! After seeing this bike, I came to the conclusion
that if someone could design a motorcycle with a mammoth V8 Chevy engine, why
couldn’t I design a motorcycle to house a frame full of batteries? I came to the
conclusion that I could design and build an electric bike way under 1,300 lb. From
this thought came an idea and a design.
I spent a huge amount of time performing research, looking at all the electric
vehicles on the market as well as resources, books, and anything I could find that
had information. Unfortunately, there were very few good resources on electric
vehicles, and a lot of the material was outdated. Even worse was trying to find any
information on two-wheeled electric vehicles, motorcycles, or scooters. One of the
best resources I came across was the book Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Bob
Brant, published in 1994. The second edition was published in 2009 and contains
up-to-date information from authors Seth Leitmen and Bob Brant. Finding this
book back in 1996 made this whole venture come together. The book contained
many resources and a lot of basic information that was easy to follow and understand
by the average person.
My reasons for writing the present book were many. One was to put all the
resources and information in one place. I spent hours on hours trying to find
information, components, parts, resources, and so much more. I thought how easy
and nice it would be if I could find everything I needed in just one place. Another
reason was that not everyone has the resources, capital, or time to build an electric
car. It is a great project, but too much for some people. This book is a way for an
average person to get his or her feet wet without falling in and drowning. I thought
how great it would be if there were a book geared to a smaller electric vehicle
project that more people could enjoy, build, and finish. The idea was that the
reader’s project did not have to be a full-out motorcycle, but perhaps a scooter, a
smaller dirt bike, or just an average-sized motorcycle. Writing this book was a way
to share my experience—the joys and the challenges I faced throughout building an
electric motorcycle.
Carl Vogel
This book and so many things in life would not have been possible without the
great support of my friends and family. Life is hard, but with great people at your
side, so much is possible.
Some great sayings that I live by:
“In order to succeed, your desire for success must be greater than your fear of
failure.”—Bill Cosby
“Don’t go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and
leave a trail.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“An innovator needs to be a dreamer. An innovator needs to be able to see
something that could happen out in time and bring that in closer by creating
the environment to make an idea succeed before it would have without
their unique twist. An innovator needs to be an extreme risk-taker, but also
naive. If the innovator is too sensible or realistic, then he/she would not
take the big chances in the first place. And these are necessary but not
sufficient conditions for success. An innovator still faces Everest-sized
challenges at every turn, because change is so hard—but an innovator
persists despite that because his passion is even higher than that
mountain.”—Bill Gross, Energy Innovations
There are many people to thank: My family for their support and believing in
me and my visions. My many friends who have been supportive of me for many
years and have believed in my passions: David and Carol Ogden, Brian Lima,
George Froehlich, David Findley, Roger Slotkin, Tom Smith, William Froehlich,
Toni Ann Deluca, William Dougherty, Rhea Courtney Bozic, Clean Fuels Consulting,
Christine Zarb, Kevin Shea, Christina Howard and so many more.
I also would like to thank my great friends from the Coolfuel Roadtrip—Shaun,
Teresa, Marty, Gus, and many more—for their support and inspiration. A
congratulations to Shaun and Teresa on their first child, Matilda.
Many thanks also go out to Seth Leitmen, Judy Bass, and Patricia Wallenburg
for their great help and support in writing this book. I could not have done this
without them. Thank you, Seth, for all you have done. When my computer crashed
and I lost most of my manuscript, Seth and Judy stepped in and made things
happen. I do not know what I would have done.
Great thanks goes to my family for their support: Judy Vogel, my Mom, for her
support in some of the worst of times; the late Charles Vogel, my Dad, who I wish
was here today to see so many great things and the influence he had on my life; and
Carol Vogel, my sister, for her ongoing support.
I also would like to thank a great teacher, Michael Duschenchuk, from my high
school, who inspired me to do many great things in the future. Mike then and now
is still a great friend who I see often.
A special thanks goes to all the people who have touched my life and have
influenced me in some way. You are not forgotten. Thank you so much.
Why You Need to
Get an Electric
Motorcycle Today!
Should anyone buy, convert, or build an electric motorcycle today? They can go as
fast as 168 miles per hour! They are clean, efficient, and cost-effective. Plus, they
haul! Electric motorcycles are virtually maintenance-free: They never require oil
changes, new spark plugs, or any other regular repairs.
You see, electric vehicles (EVs) were designed to do whatever was needed in
the past and can be designed and refined to do whatever is needed in the future.
What do you need an EV to be: big, small, powerful, fast, ultraefficient? Design to
meet that need. Bill Dube did it with his electric motorcycle; why can’t you?
Also, think about some of the facts and statistics from the U.S. Department of
Energy (DOE) and various notable sources: The DOE states that more than half the
oil we use every day is imported. This level of dependence on imports (55 percent)
is the highest in our history. The DOE even goes on to say that this dependence on
foreign oil will increase as we use up domestic resources. Also, as a national security
issue, we all should be concerned that the vast majority of the world’s oil reserves
are concentrated in the Middle East (65–75 percent) and controlled by the members
of the OPEC oil cartel (www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/oildep.shtml).
Further, the DOE goes on to state that 133 million Americans live in areas that
failed at least one National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Transportation
motorcycles produce 25–75 percent of key chemicals that pollute the air, causing
smog and health problems. All new motorcycles must meet federal emissions
As motorcycles get older, however, the amount of pollution they produce
increases. Here are some reasons why:
1. Although they are only at a relatively embryonic stage in terms of market
penetration, electric motorcycles represent the most environmentally viable
option because there are no emissions (www.greenconsumerguide.com/
governmentll.php?CLASSIFICATION=114&PARENT=110). The energy
Chapter One
generated to power an EV and to move a motorcycle is 97 percent cleaner
in terms of noxious pollutants.
2. Another advantage of electric motors is their ability to provide power at
almost any engine speed. Whereas only about 20 percent of the chemical
energy in gasoline gets converted into useful work at the wheels of an
internal combustion motorcycle, 75 percent or more of the energy from a
battery reaches the wheels of an EV.
3. One of the big arguments made by automobile companies against EVs is
that they are powered by power plants, which are powered primarily by
coal. Less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity is generated from oil, so using
electricity as a transportation fuel would greatly reduce dependence on
imported petroleum (www.alt-e.blogspot.com/2005/01/alternative-fuelcars-plug-in-hybrids.html).
4. Even assuming that the electricity to power an EV is not produced from
rooftop solar or natural gas (let’s assume it comes 100 percent from coal), it
is still much cleaner than gasoline produced from petroleum (www.
5. In addition, power plants are stationary sources that can be modified over
time to become cleaner.1
The major concerns facing the electric motorcycle industry are range, top speed,
and cost. Ultimately, the batteries will determine the cost and performance.
Gas car conversions have been built for years using performance-based engines
and motors and currently approved frames. Why not motorcycles?
Figure 1-1 shows an example of one of many electric motorcycles, the Electric
Motorsport electric GPR. The Killacycle using a blast of 1,800 amps of current can
propel you a 168 mph in a little over 7 seconds (www.killacycle.com). That’s fast!
You can convert an electric motorcycle to go over 100 miles on a charge.
Figure 1-1 Electric Motorsport electric GPR. (www.electricmotorsport.com).
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! With lithium-ion battery technology, you can get an EV to go hundreds of miles,
and the cost is still less than that of some brand-new motorcycles on the market.
My point is that you can get an electric motorcycle today. You also can take any
motorcycle you want and convert it to an electric motorcycle. You also can encourage
the fix-it person down the street to help with the conversion so that more mechanics
across the country are building electric motorcycles.
Convert That Motorcycle!
Converting a motorcycle to electric is also the easiest type of conversion. You don’t
need a transmission, and you don’t need to deal with air conditioning, power
brakes, power steering, etc. In addition, you can scale up the performance and
range as you gain confidence in the technology and how to use it.
Electric motorcycles and scooters are rising in popularity because of higher
gasoline prices. In addition, battery technology is gradually improving, making
this form of transportation more practical (www.technologyreview.com/
NanoTech/17837/?a=f). Moreover, the maintenance costs are negligible compared
with the additional oil changes, tune-ups, and all the other maintenance costs of an
internal combustion engine motorcycle.
Many Asian countries, especially Taiwan, suffer from heavy air pollution
(Figure 1-2). Around 20 percent is contributed by motorcycles and scooters, whose
emissions are worse than cars and SUVs. Unfortunately, the internal combustion
Figure 1-2 South Asia motorcycle traffic. (www.newlaunches.com/archives/motorcycles_
running_on_compressed_air.php, www.newlaunches.com/entry_images/0808/16/
Chapter One
engine motorcycle’s legacy of destruction does not just stop with itself. The internal
combustion engine is a variant of the generic combustion process. To light a match,
you use oxygen (O2) from the air to burn a carbon-based fuel (i.e., wood or cardboard
matchstick), generate carbon dioxide (CO2), emit toxic waste gases (i.e., you can see
the smoke and perhaps smell the sulfur), and leave a solid waste (i.e., burnt
matchstick). The volume of air around you is far greater than that consumed by the
match; air currents soon dissipate the smoke and smell, and you toss the burnt
Today’s internal combustion engine is more evolved than ever. However, we
still have a carbon-based combustion process that creates heat and pollution.
Everything about the internal combustion engine is toxic, and it is still one of the
least efficient mechanical devices on the planet. Unlike lighting a single match, the
use of hundreds of millions (soon to be billions) of internal combustion engine
motorcycles threatens to destroy all life on our earth.
While an internal combustion engine has hundreds of moving parts, an electric
motor has only one. This is one of the main reasons why electric motorcycles are so
efficient. All you need is an electric motor, batteries, and a controller. A simple
diagram of an electric motorcycle looks like a simple diagram of a portable electric
shaver: a battery, a motor, and a controller or switch that adjusts the flow of
electricity to the motor to control its speed. That’s it. Nothing comes out of your
electric shaver, and nothing comes out of your electric motorcycle. Electric
motorcycles are simple (and therefore highly reliable), have lifetimes measured in
millions of miles, need no periodic maintenance (i.e., filters, etc.), and cost
significantly less per mile to operate. They are highly flexible as well, using electrical
energy readily available anywhere as input fuel.
In addition to all these benefits, if you buy, build, or convert your electric
motorcycle from an internal combustion engine motorcycle chassis, as suggested in
this book, you perform a double service for the environment: You remove one
polluting motorcycle from the road and add one nonpolluting electric motorcycle
to service.2
What Is an Electric Motorcycle?
An electric motorcycle consists of a battery that provides energy, an electric motor
that drives the wheels, and a controller that regulates the energy flow to the motor.
Figure 1-3 shows all there is to it—but don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Figure 1-4
shows the basic wiring system. Scientists, engineers, and inventors down through
the ages have always said, “In simplicity there is elegance.” Let’s find out why the
electric motorcycle concept is elegant.
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! Figure 1-3 Electric motorcycle basic wiring system. (Courtesy of Curtis Instruments, www.
Figure 1-4 Simple block diagram of an electric motorcycle.
Electric Motors
Electric motors can be found in many sizes and places. Universal in application,
they can be as big as a house or smaller than your fingernail, and they can be
powered by any source of electricity. Each of us encounters dozens, if not hundreds,
of electric motors daily without even thinking about them: alarm clocks, televisions,
grinders, shavers, toothbrushes, cell phones, fans, heaters, and air conditioners.
What is the secret of the electric motor’s widespread use? Reliability. This is
because of its simplicity. Regardless of type, all electric motors have only two basic
components: a rotor (the moving part) and a stator (the stationary part). That’s
right—an electric motor has only one moving part. If you design, manufacture, and
use an electric motor correctly, it is virtually impervious to failure and indestructible
in use.3
Chapter One
No matter where you go, you cannot get away from batteries. They’re in your MP3
player, portable radio, telephone, cell phone, laptop computer, portable power tool,
appliance, game, flashlight, camera, and many more devices. Batteries come in two
distinct flavors: rechargeable and non-rechargeable. Like motors, they come in all
sorts of sizes, shapes, weights, and capacities. Unlike motors, they have no moving
parts. The non-rechargeable batteries you simply dispose of when they are out of
juice; rechargeable batteries you connect to a charger or source of electric power to
build them up to capacity.
There are different types of batteries. There are rechargeable lead-acid, nickel–
metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries, for example, which can be used in your
car to manage the recharging process invisibly via an under-the-hood generator or
alternator that recharges the battery while you’re driving.
Another great thing about the promise of electric cars and motorcycles is
lithium-ion battery technology: It is moving so fast into the marketplace and
dropping in price. Over the next few years, we can expect further drops in price,
making EV conversions more affordable. Soon enough, the standard will be lithiumion batteries in any conversion kit.
Controllers have become much more intelligent. The same technology that reduced
computers from room-sized to desk-sized allows you to exercise precise control
over an electric motor. Regardless of the voltage source, current needs, or motor
type, today’s controllers—built with reliable solid-state electric components—can
be designed to meet virtually any need and can easily be made compact to fit
conveniently inside a motorcycle.
Why are electric motorcycles elegant? When you join an electric motor, battery,
and controller together, you get an electric motorcycle that is both reliable and
Electric Motorcycles Are Fun to Drive
Imagine turning on a motorcycle and hearing nothing! The only way you
can tell that the motorcycle is on is by looking at the battery/fuel gauge. This is
only the first surprise that many people get when they get on an electric
After I built my first electric motorcycle using the book Build Your Own Electric
Vehicle by Bob Brant, when I went to events and held ride-and-drives, I realized
that people loved the ride. Electric motorcycles are first and foremost practical—
but they are also fun to own and drive. Owners say that they become downright
addictive. When tooling around on a breezy electric motorcycle, you get all the
pleasure of a great motorcycle ride—without the noise!
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! Electric Motorcycles Save Money
All this emotional stuff is nice, but let’s talk out-of-pocket dollars. Ask any electric
motorcycle conversion owner, and they’ll tell you the bike transports them where
they want to go, is very reliable, and saves them money. Let’s examine the operating,
purchase, and lifetime ownership costs separately and summarize the potential
Operating Costs
Electric motorcycles only consume electricity. Since they are smaller than electric
cars, they have fewer batteries. This means that when you charge the motorcycle, it
costs less than a few pennies per mile. The gas equivalent vehicle is normally more
than double the cost.
Purchase Costs
Commercially manufactured electric motorcycles are not expensive. Some cost
between $8,000 and $15,000. But this book advocates the conversion alternative—
you convert an internal combustion engine motorcycle to an electric motorcycle.
You remove the internal combustion engine and all the systems that go with it and
add an electric motor, controller, and batteries.
This book promotes building one yourself. As a second motorcycle choice, logic
(and Parkinson’s law—the demand on a resource tends to expand to match the
supply of that resource) dictates that the money spent for this decision will expand
to fill the budget available—regardless of whether an internal combustion engine
motorcycle or electric motorcycle is chosen. So second motorcycle purchase costs
for an internal combustion motorcycle or an electric motorcycle are a wash—they
are identical.
Safety First
Electric motorcycles are safer for you and everyone around you. EVs are a boon for
safety-minded individuals. Electric motorcycles are called zero emission vehicles
(ZEVs) because they emit nothing, whether they are moving or not. In fact, when
stopped, electric motorcycle motors are not running and use no energy at all. This
is in direct contrast to internal combustion engine motorcycles, which not only
consume fuel but also do their best polluting when stopped and idling in traffic.
Electric motorcycles are obviously the ideal solution for minimizing pollution
and energy waste on congested stop-and-go commuting highways all over the
world, but this section is about saving yourself: As an electric motorcycle owner,
you are not going to be choking on your own exhaust fumes. Electric motorcycles
are easily and infinitely adaptable. Want more acceleration? Put in a bigger electric
motor. Want greater range? Choose a better power-to-weight design. Want more
speed? Pay attention to your design’s aerodynamics, weight, and power.
Chapter One
When you buy, convert, or build an electric motorcycle today, all these choices
and more are yours to make because there are no standards and few restrictions.
The primary restrictions regard safety (you want to be covered in this area anyway)
and are taken care of by using an existing internal combustion engine motorcycle
chassis that already has been safety qualified. Other safety standards to be used
when buying, mounting, using, and servicing your electric motorcycle conversion
components are discussed later in this book.
On another safety issue, though, while electric motorcycles do not emit noise
pollution or any other pollution for that matter, there has been concern about their
being unsafe for seeing-impaired pedestrians because the engines don’t make
noise. However, electric motorcycle ownership is visible proof of your commitment
to help clean up the environment.
Electric Motorcycle Myths: Dispelling the Rumors
There have been four widely circulated myths or rumors about electric motorcycles
that are not true. Because the reality in each case is the 180-degree opposite of the
myth, you should know about them.
Myth 1: Electric Motorcycles Can’t Go Fast Enough
Electric motorcycles are anything but slow. Many electric motorcycles on the market
today have a top speed of 60 mph or more. The Electra Cruiser easily tops 80 mph.
The beauty of building your own electric motorcycle is you determine how fast that
you want your vehicle to go.
Myth 2: Electric Motorcycles Have Limited Range
Nothing could be further from the truth, but unfortunately this myth has been
widely accepted. The reality is that electric motorcycles can go as far as most people
need. While lithium-ion batteries will expand your range dramatically, and there
are some people who are traveling across the country on electric motorcycles, the
technology is not yet ready for a massive road trip.
But what is their range? The federal government reports that the average daily
commuter distance for all modes of motor travel (i.e., autos, trucks, and buses) is 10
miles, and this figure hasn’t changed appreciably in 20 years of data gathering. An
earlier study showed that 98 percent of all trips are under 50 miles per day; most
people do all their driving locally and take only a few long trips. One-hundred-mile
and longer trips are only 17 percent of total miles driven. As stated in Build Your Own
Electric Vehicle, 2nd edition, General Motors’ own surveys in the early 1990s (taken
from a sampling of drivers in Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston) indicated that
• Most people don’t drive very far.
• More than 40 percent of all trips were under 5 miles.
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! • Only 8 percent of all trips were more than 25 miles.
• Nearly 85 percent of the drivers drove less than 75 miles per day.
Virtually any of today’s 120-V electric motorcycle conversions will go 75 miles
using readily available off-the-shelf components—if you keep the weight under
1,000 pounds. This means that an electric motorcycle can meet more than 85 percent
of the average person’s needs. If you’re commuting to work—a place that
presumably has an electric outlet available—you can nearly double your range by
recharging during your working hours. In addition, if range is really important,
you can optimize your electric motorcycle for it. It’s that simple.
Myth 3: Electric Motorcycles Are Not Convenient
The myth that electric motorcycles are not effective as a real form of transportation
or that they are not convenient is a really silly rumor. A popular question is,
“Suppose that you’re driving and you’re not near your home to charge up or you
run out of electricity. What do you do?” Well, my favorite answer is, “I would do
the same thing I’d do if I ran out of gas—call AAA or a tow truck.” The reality is
that electric motorcycles are extremely convenient. Recharging is as convenient as
your nearest electric outlet, especially for conversion motorcycles using 110-V
charging outlets. Here are some other reasons:
• You can get electricity anywhere you can get gas—there are no gas stations
without electricity.
• You can get electricity from many other places—there are few homes and
virtually no businesses in the United States without electricity. All these are
potential sources for you to recharge your electric motorcycle.
• As far as being stuck in the middle of nowhere goes, other than taking
extended trips in western U.S. deserts (and even those are filling up
rapidly), there are only a few places where you can drive 75 miles without
seeing an electric outlet in the contiguous United States. Europe and Japan
have no such places.
• Plug-in-anywhere recharging capability is an overwhelming electric
motorcycle advantage. No question that it’s an advantage when your
electric motorcycle is parked in your own garage, carport, or driveway. If
you live in an apartment and can work out a charging arrangement, it’s an
even better idea. Moreover, a very simple device can be rigged to signal you
if anyone ever tries to steal your motorcycle.
• How much more convenient could electric motorcycles be? There are very
few places you can drive in the civilized world where you can’t recharge in
a pinch, and your only other concern is to add water to the battery once in a
while. Electricity exists virtually everywhere; you just have to figure out
how to tap into it. While there are no electric outlets specifically designated
Chapter One
for recharging electric motorcycles conveniently located everywhere today,
and although it’s unquestionably easier and faster to recharge your electric
motorcycle from a 110- or 220-V kiosk, the widely available 110-V electric
supply does the job quite nicely if your electric motorcycle has an onboard
charger, extension cord, and plug(s) available. When more infrastructure
exists in the future, it will be even more convenient to recharge your batteries.
In the future, you will be able to recharge quicker from multiple voltage and
current options, have “quick charge” capability by dumping one battery
stack into another, and maybe even have uniform battery packs that you
swap and strap on at a local “battery station” in no more time than it takes
to get a fill-up at a gas station today. Just as it’s used in your home today,
electricity is clean, quiet, safe, and stays at the outlet until you need it.
Myth 4: Electric Motorcycles Are Expensive
While this is perhaps true of electric motorcycles that are manufactured in low
volume today—and partially true of professionally done conversion units—it’s
not true of the do-it-yourself electric motorcycle conversions this book advocates.
The reality, as I mentioned earlier in this chapter, is that electric motorcycles cost
the same to buy (you’re not going to spend any more for one than you would
have budgeted anyway for your second internal combustion engine motorcycle),
the same to maintain, and far less per mile to operate. In the long term, future
volume production and technology improvements will only make the cost
benefits favor electric motorcycles even more.
Well, there had to be a downside. If any one of the factors mentioned here is
important to you, you might be better served by taking an alternate course of action.
For extended trips, as already mentioned, the electric motorcycle is not your best
choice at this time. This is not because you can’t do it. Alternate methods are just
more convenient.
As mentioned, this book advocates the use of a convert-it-yourself electric
motorcycle as a second motorcycle. When you need to take longer trips, use your
first gasoline-powered motorcycle or rent one or take an airplane, train, or bus.
Time to Purchase/Build
Regardless of your decision to buy, build, or convert an electric motorcycle, it is
going to take you time to do it, but less time than a car. There is a growing network
of new and used electric motorcycle dealers and conversion shops. Also it’s great
that the supply of the highest-grade controllers and motors is such that they do not
take a long time to receive (check out Chapter 14 for sources).
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! Repairs
Handy electric motorcycle repair shops don’t exist yet either. Although the buildit-yourself experience will enable you to rapidly diagnose any problems, and
replacement parts could take only days to receive. You could just stockpile spare
parts yourself. However, take time to carefully think through this or other repair
alternatives before you make your electric motorcycle decision.
My Passion
The electric motorcycle was a project that became a passion for me. At the time,
there were very few bikes with size and power. My goal was to build a machine
that created a presence, was not wimpy, and kicked butt. It all started with an idea
and lots of determination on a road few have traveled. Even in the presence of
professors who said that you cannot make a bike that powerful and a consultant
from a past EV company who tried to deter me from making such a powerful
motorcycle (thinking I should reduce it to a scooter), I pressed on.
In 1996, the first beginnings of the then-named “Electric Hog,” now named the
“Electra Cruiser,” grew from a crazy idea sketched on paper with a stick-figure
rider (Figure 1-5) to a full-out motorcycle. With the help of the original book Build
Your Own Electric Vehicle and a lot of work, the bike slowly came together.
Figure 1-5 First drawing of the “Electric Hog.”
Chapter One
I had made the decision back then to build my own frame to house almost 600
pounds of batteries. This shear weight caused many professionals in the engineering
and EV fields to shudder and say, “No way. You can’t do that.” I thought differently.
After all, someone put a big-block Chevy in a bike. Why couldn’t I do the same with
batteries? Six months later, in 1997, the design work, drawings (Figure 1-6),
calculations, and most of the parts were bought. Now it was time to put it together.
Because of work and other life commitments, the project was delayed until
2000, which was no big deal. All the parts, the drawings, and everything were all
laid out. I just had to find the time to bring it all together. In 2000, I jumped back
into the electric motorcycle project, and within 6 months, in May of 2001, the first
prototype was completed. The original archived video is still available on my Web
site www.vogelbilt.com/home.html.
The bike was amazing—and more than what I ever thought it would be. I
remember clearly the day it was finished. I was extremely nervous, and a few of the
naysayers from the Farmingdale State College were watching, not believing that
this beast of a bike would work. With the crack of the throttle, the motorcycle
cruised off effortlessly to the disbelief of many. I cannot express in words the
feelings I had that day with all my time and effort coming together and working so
flawlessly. I will never forget just the experience of cruising quietly and smoothly;
it was out of this world. Oh, and even better, seeing the faces of the disbelievers
was priceless.
Coolfuel Roadtrip
After 2001, the first Electra Cruiser did well. It made its rounds at shows and EV
events for two years, had a small Web site, and was just a fun experience. The
motorcycle competed and was displayed in such shows as the Tour De Sol (Figure
1-7) and many other EV events.
Figure 1-6 Three-dimensional (3D) drawing of the first prototype produced in AutoCAD.
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! Figure 1-7 2002 Tour De Sol display Annapolis, Maryland.
In early 2003, I received an e-mail from a man named Shaun Murphy from
Australia. Shaun was putting together a TV series in the United States and wanted
to use my motorcycle. Shaun’s concept was to use all clean, nonpolluting vehicles
that were powered by only renewable resources. He wanted to travel the United
States on not one drop of gasoline, a 16,000-mile journey. This was exciting news
for me. Not only had I built an electric motorcycle, but now it was going to be
traveling the United States and would be on national TV, Discovery Science, and
worldwide TV. I will always remember the phone call at work in 2003. Shaun, a
great friend of mine now, may not know this, but that phone call changed my life.
It propelled me forward into renewable energy and much more. I agreed that day
with Shaun to produce another motorcycle just for the TV series. In three to four
months, I built a second Electra Cruiser prototype for Shaun’s TV series, the Coolfuel
Roadtrip (Figure 1-8).
Figure 1-8 Coolfuel crew.
Chapter One
For this second design, I made a bike that was lighter and had a few more
features, including regenerative braking to recapture energy when stopping. What
I also did for Shaun was add a sidecar for Sparky, his companion. In addition,
though, the sidecar had a little something extra: a diesel generator. The sidecar
actually was a range extender and a portable power unit producing 4.5 kW for
charging. The beauty of the sidecar was that it ran on vegetable oil and biodiesel.
Not more than a week after completion, the second Electra Cruiser passed its
running tests and was on the road from New York to Wisconsin for its 9-month trek
across the United States. The motorcycle was delivered, and the crew was excited
to have the Electra Cruiser as part of the program (Figure 1-9).
The Electra Cruiser went on to be filmed for 9 months on the road through all
types of environments. This was a true test of an electric motorcycle. The bike got a
beating and just kept going, a true testament to the abilities of the electric motorcycle
in the real world. The Cruiser went through extreme temperatures, was poured on,
and was dropped. You name it, the bike took it and kept going (Figures 1-10 through
1-13). I could not have asked for or paid for a better real-world test than what that
bike went through. It was great, and I was like a proud parent of my child. The
Cruiser was a true testament to the abilities of an electric motorcycle and an
Figure 1-9 Electra Cruiser during filming in Chicago. (Courtesy of Shaun Murphy and Gus
Roxburgh, Balance Vector Productions, www.balancevector.com.)
W hy Yo u N e e d t o G e t a n E l e c t r i c M o t o r c y c l e To d ay ! inspiration to many people. Many thanks go out to the Coolfuel team; they have
become great friends.
Figure 1-10 Cruiser during filming in New Orleans, getting dumped on by rain but still going.
(Courtesy of Shaun Murphy and Gus Roxburgh, Balance Vector Productions, www.
Figure 1-11 Cruiser during filming in California. (Courtesy of Shaun Murphy and Gus Roxburgh,
Balance Vector Productions, www.balancevector.com.)
Chapter One
Figure 1-12 Cruiser in Wisconsin with sidecar.
Figure 1-13 Cruiser in Chicago with the Blues Brothers theme. (Courtesy of Shaun Murphy and
Gus Roxburgh, Balance Vector Productions, www.balancevector.com.)
Electric Motorcycles
Save the Environment
and Energy
Besides the fact that the consumer marketplace has been consistently interested
in electric motorcycles, there is at present a new interest in electric motorcycles.
This is amazing because it can only mean amazing things for transportation in
urban areas and developing countries. Specifically, it means zero tailpipe
emissions and greater air quality. And with this comes a significant reduction in
overall energy use.
Why Do Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment?
Here are some of the basic reasons why we need more electric motorcycles on the
1. Building your own electric motorcycle takes less time and costs less than a
large undertaking such as building an electric car or a truck.
2. Electric motorcycles are fun to own or ride and are good for everyone (all
races, men and women, children and adults are interested in and excited
about electric motorcycles; see Figure 2-1).
3. Electric motorcycle conversions solve many problems and address many
transportation concerns immediately.
4. Electric motorcycles have immediate advantages using the existing electric
infrastructure taking little time to implement electric vehicles in place of
fossil fuel vehicles.
5. Electric motorcycles mitigate some of the issues we face today in terms of
pollution and global warming.
6. The electric motorcycle plays an important role in the world today,
particularly in third world countries to reduce emissions. Making a choice to
use non-polluting vehicles will have a positive impact on the environment.
Chapter Two
Figure 2-1 How about 50-plus mph motorcycle? (http://visforvoltage.org/forum/motorcyclesand-large-scooters/1744.)
Environmental Benefits
Overall, from 1990 to 2007, total emissions of CO2 increased by 1,022.8 Tg CO2
equivalents (20.2 percent), whereas CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide)
emissions decreased by 38.2 percent. During the same period, aggregate weighted
emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and SF6 (Sulfur
hexafluoride) rose by 59.0 percent. Despite being emitted in smaller quantities
relative to the other principal greenhouse gases, emissions of HFCs, PFCs, and SF6
are significant because many of them have extremely high GWPs (Global Warming
Potentials) and, in the cases of PFCs and SF6, long atmospheric lifetimes.1
Conversely, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were partly offset by carbon
sequestration in managed forests, trees in urban areas, agricultural soils, and landfilled yard trimmings, and were estimated to be 15.1 percent of total emissions in
Also, as Rob Means of Electric Bikes.com says:
The environmental benefits include reduced pollution (CO2, NOx, and tire
and brake-lining fragments) and reduced resource consumption (less material,
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
fuel, and infrastructure). A reduction in CO2 emissions is most important
because scientific opinion is close to unanimous that global warming is
already happening. The average motorcycle emits one pound of CO2 for every
motorcycle mile driven.3
While electric motorcycles are considered zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), their
widespread uptake will eventually cause an increase in electrical generation needs.
Many power stations, particularly coal-fired and nuclear power stations, have to
operate at a certain level at all times, no matter whether there is demand for the
electricity or not. In Ireland (population 4 million), the ESB (Electricity Supply
Board), an energy corporation in the Republic of Ireland, has stated that it could
recharge 10,000 electric motorcycles each night without producing any extra power.
This would probably translate to almost a million electric motorcycles in the United
States. Therefore, if the power were coming from coal/gas-fired power plants, the
electric motorcycle would use power that would otherwise have been wasted and
still would have created CO2 in those countries where this power was being wasted.
Generating electricity and providing liquid fuels for motorcycles are different areas
of the energy economy with different inefficiencies and environmental effects.
According to the Electric Vehicle Association of Canada (a nonprofit organization
promoting electric vehicles that also sells electric motorcycles4), emissions of CO2
and other greenhouse gases are minimal for electric motorcycles powered from
sustainable forms of power (e.g., solar, wind, and geothermal) and for internal
combustion engine motorcycles that are run on renewable fuels such as biodiesel.
If the aim of looking at electric motorcycles as an alternative to conventional
motorcycles is to reduce CO2 emissions, then this has to mean using the most
carbon-efficient motorcycle and fuel you can buy. An electric motorcycle can be
recharged from conventional grid electricity and still not have a significant carbon
footprint compared with hybrid and diesel motorcycles.
Save the Environment and Save Some Money Too!
Because electric motorcycles use less energy than gasoline-powered motorcycles,
their effect on the environment is much less. Because electric motorcycles are more
efficient than petroleum-powered motorcycles, they also cost less to run.
While electric vehicles of all types will be the transportation mode of choice for
years to come, electric motorcycle conversions are the next generation of electric
motorcycles that the consumer marketplace can accept at this time. Since there are
so many motorcycles on the road that only need to be electrified, conversions make
sense and can spur our economy with jobs.
Electric motorcycle operating costs can be directly compared with the equivalent
operating costs of a gasoline-powered motorcycle. To calculate the cost of the
electrical equivalent of a liter or a gallon of gasoline, multiply the utility cost per
Chapter Two
kilowatt-hour by 8.9. Because internal combustion engines are only about 20 percent
efficient, then at most 20 percent of the total energy in a liter of gasoline is ever put
to use.
A motorcycle powered by an internal combustion engine at 20 percent efficiency,
getting 8 L/100 km (30 mpg), will require (8.9 3 8) 3 0.20 5 14.2 kWh/100 km. At
a cost of $1/L, 8 L/100 km is $8/100 km. A battery-powered version of that same
motorcycle with a charge/discharge efficiency of 81 percent, charged at a cost of
$0.10/kWh, would cost (14.2/0.81) 3 $0.10 5 $1.75/100 km or would be paying the
equivalent of $0.22/L ($0.84/gallon). The Tesla car uses about 13 kWh/100 km; the
electric motorcycle uses about 11kWh/100 km.5
Energy Efficiency
An electric motorcycle’s efficiency is affected by its charging and discharging
efficiencies. A typical charging cycle is about 85 percent efficient, and the discharge
cycle converting electricity into mechanical power is about 95 percent efficient,
resulting in 81 percent of each kilowatt-hour being put to use.6
The electricity-generating system in the United States loses 9.5 percent of the
power transmitted between power stations and homes, and the power stations are
33 percent efficient in turning the caloric value of fuel at the power station into
electric power. Overall, this results in an efficiency of 0.81 3 0.3 5 24.2 percent from
fuel into the power station to power into the motor of the grid-charged electric
motorcycle, which is still better than the average 20 percent efficiency of gasolinepowered motorcycles (while ignoring the energy used to pump, refine, and
transport the gasoline to the gas station).
Electricity Generation: How Is It Made?
Figure 2-2 shows the U.S. energy usage by year from 1996 to 2007. To drive an
electric generator or a device that converts mechanical or chemical energy to
electricity, an electric utility power station uses either
A turbine
An engine
A water wheel
Or another similar machine
Steam turbines, internal combustion engines, gas combustion turbines, water
turbines, and wind turbines are the most common methods to generate electricity
(Figure 2-3). Most power plants are about 35 percent efficient. This means that for
every 100 units of energy that go into a plant, only 35 units are converted to usable
electrical energy.
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
Figure 2-2 Energy usage by year, 1996–2007.
Figure 2-3 Turbine generator. (www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/electricity.html.)
Chapter Two
Steam Turbines Are the Leader
Most of the electricity in the United States is produced by steam turbines. A
turbine converts the kinetic energy of a moving fluid (liquid or gas) to mechanical
energy. Steam turbines have blades on a shaft through which steam is forced,
thus rotating the shaft, which is connected to a generator. In a fossil-fuel-fired
steam turbine, the fuel is burned in a furnace to heat water in a boiler to produce
The predominant fuels used are coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas. They are
burned in large furnaces to heat water that makes steam, which, in turn, pushes on
the blades of the turbine.
Did you know that most electricity generated in the United State comes from
burning coal? In 2006, nearly half the country’s 4.1 trillion kilowatt-hours of
electricity used coal as its source of energy.
Natural Gas
Natural gas, in addition to being burned to heat water for steam, also can be burned
to produce hot combustion gases that pass directly through a turbine, spinning the
blades to generate electricity. Gas turbines are used commonly when electricity
usage is in high demand. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in
2006, 20 percent of the nation’s electricity was fueled by natural gas.
Petroleum also can be used to make steam to turn a turbine. Residual fuel oil, a
product refined from crude oil, is often the petroleum product used in electric
plants that use petroleum to make steam. Petroleum was used to generate about 2
percent of all electricity generated in U.S. power plants in 2006.
Nuclear Power
Nuclear power generation is a method in which steam is produced by heating
water through a process called nuclear fission. In a nuclear power plant, a reactor
contains a core of nuclear fuel, primarily enriched uranium. When atoms of the
uranium fuel are hit by neutrons, they split (fission), releasing heat and more
neutrons. Under controlled conditions, these other neutrons can strike more
uranium atoms, splitting more atoms, and so on. At some point, continuous fission
takes place, called a chain reaction, releasing heat. The heat is used to turn water into
steam, which, in turn, spins a turbine that generates electricity. Nuclear power was
used to generate 19 percent of all the country’s electricity in 2006.
Hydropower, the source of almost 7 percent of U.S. electricity generation in 2006, is
a process in which flowing water is used to spin a turbine connected to a generator.
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
There are two basic types of hydroelectric systems that produce electricity. In the
first system, flowing water accumulates in reservoirs created by dams. The water
falls through a pipe called a penstock and applies pressure against the turbine blades
to drive the generator to produce electricity. In the second system, called run-ofriver, the force of the river current (rather than falling water) applies pressure to the
turbine blades to produce electricity.
Geothermal Power
Geothermal power comes from heat energy buried beneath the surface of the earth.
In some areas of the country, enough heat rises close to the surface of the earth to
heat underground water into steam, which can be tapped for use at steam turbine
plants. This energy source generated less than 1 percent of the electricity in the
country in 2006.
Solar Power
Solar power is derived from the energy of the sun. However, the sun’s energy is
not available full time, and it is widely scattered. The processes used to produce
electricity using the sun’s energy historically have been more expensive than
using conventional fossil fuels. Photovoltaic conversion generates electric power
directly from the light of the sun in a photovoltaic (solar) cell. Solar-thermal
electric generators use the radiant energy from the sun to produce steam to drive
turbines. In 2006, less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity was based on solar
Wind Power
Wind power is derived from the conversion of the energy contained in wind into
electricity. Wind power, producing less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity in
2006, is a rapidly growing source of electricity. A wind turbine is similar to a typical
Biomass includes wood, municipal solid waste (garbage), and agricultural waste
such as corn cobs and wheat straw. These are some of the biologic energy sources
used for producing electricity. These sources replace fossil fuels in a boiler. The
combustion of wood and waste creates steam that is typically used in conventional
steam electric plants. Biomass accounts for about 1 percent of the electricity
generated in the United States.7
Efficiencies of Power Plants
Overall average efficiency from U.S. power plants (33 percent efficient) to point of
use (transmission loss is 9.5 percent) is 29.87 percent.8 Accepting 80 percent
Chapter Two
efficiency for an electric motorcycle gives a figure of only 23.9 percent overall
efficiency when the motorcycle is recharged from fossil-fuel-fired electricity. This is
still higher than the efficiency of an internal combustion engine running at variable
load. The efficiency of a gasoline engine is about 16 percent, and for a diesel engine,
efficiency is about 20 percent.
An electric motor does not suffer from such a rapid decrease in efficiency when
running at variable load, and this accounts for the increased efficiency of hybrid
motorcycles. Using fossil-fuel-based grid electricity entirely negates the motorcycle
efficiency advantages of electric motorcycles. The major potential benefit of electric
motorcycles is to allow diverse renewable electricity sources to fuel them.
U.S. Transportation Depends on Oil
Although small amounts of natural gas and electricity are used, the U.S.
transportation sector is almost entirely dependent on oil. A brief look at a few charts
will demonstrate the facts. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to think that this situation
is both a strategic and an economic problem for us all. Figure 2-4 shows how
transportation drives U.S. oil consumption and pollution, and Figure 2-5 illustrates
that oil is not going to be here forever.
Figure 2-4 How transportation drives U.S. oil consumption and pollution. (Courtesy of Build Your
Own Electric Vehicle.)
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
Figure 2-5 Oil is not going to last forever. (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hubbert_peak_oil_plot.
Emission Facts
Gas-powered cars are the primary source of air pollution in the United States. In
addition to their effect on our health, exhaust gases and particles from cars do
extensive damage to crops, vegetation, and wildlife. In particular, motor vehicles
are a significant source of water pollution. Oil, antifreeze, and small tire particles
accumulate on roads and highways; during the rainy season, they are washed into
our streams and waterways, causing damage to aquatic life. One of the leading
sources of metallic pollution in bays is copper from automobile brake pads. An
average automobile annually produces
• 3.42 pounds of hydrocarbons
• 25.28 pounds of carbon monoxide
• 1.77 pounds of nitrogen oxides
Finally, noise pollution from automotive traffic additionally stresses our lives.
Calculating emissions is an inherently tricky business. There are so many
variables that there are no exact numbers in this game. The numbers here were
calculated by David Swain, an engineer at the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s Ann Arbor Mobile Emissions Laboratory. An alternative emission factor,
listed as the “EPA Mobile 4.1 Model,” cites carbon monoxide levels emitted by the
average car as 65.3 g/mi. Using this number, the CO savings after 500 miles with
an electric motorcycle would be approximately 70 pounds! Figure 2-6 shows a
model of balanced future energy usage made possible by working from the desired
future goal back to today.
Chapter Two
Figure 2-6 Model of balanced future energy usage made possible by working from the desired
future goal back to today. (Courtesy of Build Your Own Electric Vehicle.)
Further Economic and Competitive Matters
Your investment in an electric motorcycle can pay dividends beyond U.S. borders.
Your purchase supports the growth of an industry that could make a big difference
in developing countries. For example, as its economy prospers, China is in the
unique position to skip the polluting gas moped and scooter phase altogether and
leapfrog directly from human-powered bikes to clean electric motorcycles. The
pollution savings are staggering, far beyond what the United States could achieve
Short trips account for most of the motorcycles on the road and most of our air
pollution. Therefore, for the health of the planet, leave your gas-powered motorcycle
at home, and ride your electric motorcycle.9
Economic Benefits
The economic benefits of electric motorcycles are better, in terms of quick payback,
than insulating your home.10 Substituting electric motorcycle trips for gas-powered
motorcycle trips saves on purchase price, insurance, and registration fees. Beyond
the purchase price, motorcycles cost about $0.10/mi in fuel and parts. Some families
will use an electric motorcycle to augment their gas-powered motorcycle use,
whereas others will find tremendous savings by living with one less motorcycle.
For some folks, there’s no comparison because they don’t have a license to drive
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
and don’t need a license for an electric bike.11 Check with local laws in your area:
this varies with size and speed of the electric vehicle.
To most of us, automobiles represent a cheap, fast way to get where we’re going.
Many automobile expenses, however, are hidden and do not express the true costs
of a fossil fuel vehicle. When included, they make the true cost of driving much
higher than we realize. Those are direct costs. Indirectly, through many types of
taxes, you also pay for the land, roads, freeways, bridges, and tunnels. Through
government, you also pay to provide cleaning, landscaping, irrigation, signs,
signals, reflectors, and police and emergency services. According to the American
Automobile Association, a new car costs $6,720 a year to operate. Electric bicycles,
for errands and short commutes, offer an alternative to the high costs of driving.
Obviously, maintenance and fueling costs are minimal. Thus every mile you ride
an electric bike instead of driving saves you money. Fuel, for example, costs about
0.20 cents/mile. You also may be able to save on bridge tolls, parking lot fees, and
tickets. Here are the numbers:
• The charger plugs into a standard 110-V ac electrical socket and charges in
3 hours or less. Charger output is 6 A.
• Charging for 3 hours produces 18 Ah, more than enough to fully charge a
17-Ah battery, and costs about 5 cents.
• The charger uses 1.3 A at 120 V ac, or 156 W.
• Three hours of charging uses 468 Wh, or 0.468 kWh.
• At a cost of 11 cents/kWh, that’s about 5 cents per charge or 0.3 cents/
Some people, however, can realize much larger savings. For example, a
household with several cars might work out a way to live with one less car. That
would free up insurance, registration, and smog-check costs. Another family might
find that their car qualifies for a reduced insurance rate because it is used less or in
a certain way.
In addition to the personal benefits you’ll receive, society at large also realizes
economic benefits. Increased electric motorcycle use means cleaner air, which reduces
the incidence of respiratory diseases and their associated health care costs. Widespread
use also could reduce pressure for more roads and road maintenance.12
In summary,
• Forty percent of our energy comes from petroleum.
• Twenty-three percent comes from coal.
• Twenty-three percent comes from natural gas.
Chapter Two
• The remaining 14 percent comes from nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewableresource power.
To simplify, Bob Brant once stated, “Our entire economy is obviously dependent
on oil.” Furthermore, the United States consumes 20.8 million barrels of petroleum
a day, as well as 9 million barrels of gas. Automobiles are the single largest consumer
of oil, consuming 40 percent, and they are also the source of 20 percent of the
nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.13
Electric motorcycle ownership is the best first step you can take to help save the
planet. Electric motorcycles are used regularly in China, as seen in Figure 2-7, and
can have a real difference in abating pollution and greenhouse gases.
As Seth Leitman and Bob Brant stated, however, there is still more you can do.
Do your homework. Write your senator or congressperson. Voice your opinion. Get
involved with the issues. But don’t settle for an answer that says we’ll study it and
get back to you. Settle only for action: Who is going to do what by when and why.
I leave you with a restatement of the problem, a possible framework for a solution,
and some additional food for thought.
Figure 2-7 Electric motorcycles in China. Why not everywhere?
Electric Motorcycles Save the Environment and Energy
EPA Testing Procedures for Electric Motorcycles
To underscore the fuel efficiencies, let’s look no further than the EPA.14
Example 1
According to an EPA rule change, an electric motorcycle is tested in accordance
with EPA procedures and is found to have an Urban Dynamometer Driving
Schedule energy consumption value of 265 Wh/mi and a Highway Fuel Economy
Driving Schedule energy consumption value of 220 Wh/mi. The motorcycle is not
equipped with any petroleum-powered accessories. The combined electrical energy
consumption value is determined by averaging the Urban Dynamometer Driving
Schedule energy consumption value and the Highway Fuel Economy Driving
Schedule energy consumption value using weighting factors of 55 percent urban
and 45 percent highway. Thus
Combined electrical energy consumption value 5
(0.55 3 urban) 1 (0.45 3 highway) 5 (0.55 3 265) 1 (0.45 3 220) 5 244.75 Wh/mi
Since the motorcycle does not have any petroleum-powered accessories, the
value of the petroleum equivalency factor is 82,049 Wh/gal, and the petroleumequivalent fuel economy is
82,049 Wh/gal 3 244.75 Wh/mi 5 335.24 mi/gal
Example 2
If the motorcycle from Example 1 is equipped with an optional diesel-fired heater
in an extreme case: For the purposes of this example, it is assumed that the electrical
efficiency of the motorcycle is unaffected.
Since the motorcycle has a petroleum-powered accessory, the value of the
petroleum equivalency factor is 73,844 Wh/gal, and the petroleum-equivalent fuel
economy is
73,844 Wh/gal 3 244.75 Wh/mi 5 301.71 mi/gal
Enough said!
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History of the
Electric Motorcycle
The history of the electric motorcycle is not as energizing as what is happening
today (sorry for the pun, but I thought I had to go there). The earliest references to
electric motorcycles in the patent history occur in the late 1860s. One Web site I saw
had some cool historical pictures that show just how far we’ve come in this world
in terms of looks, yet the technology is pretty much the same. (http://www.
Steam First!
Before the electric motorcycle came the steam motorcycle.
Copeland Steam Motorcycle
In 1884, Arizona engineer Lucius Day Copeland combined a high-wheeled bicycle
driven by levers with a small steam engine. The result was a steam-powered
motorcycle. The steam engine developed about ¼ horsepower and had the boiler
and gasoline heater built around the steering column. A flat leather belt drove the
large rear wheel. The machine could go about 15 mph and carried enough fuel and
water for an hour of operation. The bicycle Copeland started with appears to be
like the one patented by Lorenz (see Figures 3-1 and 3-2).
Copeland didn’t get any financial backing for the steam bicycle, so he built it
tricycle form, which is shown in his 1887 patent (Figure 3-3).
Writer Allan Girdler tells about Sylvester Roper, born in 1823 in New Hampshire.
During the Civil War, Roper worked at the Springfield Armory, where his interest
turned to steam power. In 1869, Roper built a steam-powered motorcycle (Figure
Chapter Three
Figure 3-1 Lucius D. Copeland’s steam bicycle, 1884. (http://patentpending.blogs.com/photos/
Figure 3-2 Another view of Lucius D. Copeland and his steam bicycle. (http://patentpending.
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Figure 3-3 Inventor’s drawings from Copeland’s 1887 tricycle patent. (http://patentpending.
Figure 3-4 Roper’s original 1869 motorcycle. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.) (http://
www.motorcyclemuseum.org/classics/bike.asp?id=3 and http://home.ama-cycle.org/
Chapter Three
Roper’s machine was remarkable by any standard. It looked a lot like the new
bicycles of the day, but with a small vertical steam boiler under the seat, which also
served as a small water tank. The boiler supplied steam to move two small pistons
that powered a crank drive on the back wheel. The machine was very neat and
compact, but there is more: Roper controlled the steam throttle by twisting the
bike’s straight handlebar. Twist-grip control was reinvented in 1902 by the early
pilot Glen Curtiss. It was reinvented yet again around 1908 at the Indian Motorcycle
Roper went on to build more motorcycles and several steam-powered
automobiles. He probably built his first automobile during the Civil War. He was
far ahead of his time with all his inventions. The Stanleys, who built Stanley
Steamers, said that they’d learned from Roper.
Roper reached the age of 73 in 1896. That June, he showed up at a bicycle track
near Harvard with a modified steam motorcycle. They clocked him at a remarkable
40 mph. Then the machine wobbled, and Roper fell off. He was dead when they
found him. The autopsy showed he’d died, not from the fall, but from a heart
I am grateful to Keith Hollingsworth, from the University of Hawaii Mechanical
Engineering Department, for calling my attention to Roper’s motorcycle. For more
on Daimler’s motorcycle, see and listen to Episode 921 at the Web site (www.uh.
Two illustrations from the 1897 Encyclopaedia Britannica show early motorpowered vehicles (Figures 3-5 and 3-6). The tricycle style four-wheeler on the left in
Figure 3-5 was built by Richard Trevithick, inventor of the first successful railroad,
in 1802. On the right in Figure 3-5 is an 1885 motor-powered tricycle.
Figure 3-5 Illustration of Richard Trevithick’s steam-powered four-wheeler from the 1897
Encyclopaedia Britannica. (http://books.google.com/books?id=ET7ExPBvMwC&pg=P
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Figure 3-6 Illustration of an early steam-powered tricycle from 1897 Patent Pending Blog.
In 1881, French inventor Gustave Trouvé demonstrated a working threewheeled automobile, and France and Great Britain were the first nations to support
the widespread development of electric vehicles in November at the International
Exhibition of Electricity in Paris.2
Early 1900s
By 1911, electric motorcycles were available, according to an early Popular Mechanics’
article, and by the 1920s, Ransomes, a current maker of forklifts, explored the use
of an electric-powered motorcycle. This and other developments helped to pave
the way for the company to use electric mining cars and lorries.3
In addition, the Automatic Electric Transmission Company of Buffalo, New
York, built a vehicle called the Automatic Electric in 1921. This was a small twoseater with top speed of 18 mph and a range of 60 miles per charge. It had a 65-in
wheelbase and weighed 900 lb. It sold for $1,200. In 1927, the company was bought
by the Walker Electric Company.4
Chapter Three
The Early 1940s
In 1941, fuel rationing in occupied Europe encouraged the Austrian company Socovel
to create a small electric motorcycle. Approximately 400 were manufactured.5
In 1973, Mike Corbin set the first electric motorcycle land speed record of 101 mph.
By 1974, Corbin-Gentry, Inc., began the sale of street-legal electric motorcycles.
Professor Charles E. MacArthur made the first electric vehicle ascent on Mt.
Washington, in New Hampshire, using a Corbin electric motorcycle. The event
evolved into an annual rally called the Mt. Washington Alternative Vehicle
Late 1990s
In the late 1990s, Scott Cronk and EMB created the EMB Lectra VR24 electric
motorbike. This machine pioneered the use of variable-reluctance motors (hence
the VR) and was marketed as street legal.6
Vogelbilt Corporation’s Electra Cruiser Was in Coolfuel Roadtrip
In 2001, Vogelbilt Corporation produced the first prototype of the Electra Cruiser
(Figure 3-7). Table 3-1 lists the Vogelbilt specifications. The Electra Cruiser will be
appearing in the Coolfuel Roadtrip TV series (Figure 3-8). The show’s focus will be a
search for sustainable, natural, organic, renewable, eco-innovations across the
United States.
Figure 3-7 The first Electra Cruiser.
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Figure 3-8 The Electra Cruiser coming out for the show.
Table 3-1 The Electra Cruiser Prototype 1 Specifications
Top speed over 80 MPH
Acceleration 0–60 MPH in 6–8 seconds
10 Trojan 12 V Deep Cycle TMH 27
Motor Controller
Zapi 120 V dc at 500 amps with regenerative braking
5 speed Baker Right Side Drive with hydraulic clutch
Belt Drives LTD. Primary 3" belt drive
Reverse achieved by switching direction of dc Motor
Electric Motor
Advanced dc series wound 120 V dc 78HP
dc-to-dc Converter
Vicor 120 V dc input 12 V dc output @ 200W
Rear swing arm—dual coil over shocks
Front—Harley style wide glide front end
Cooling System
Custom made centrifuge pump located on tail shaft of dc motor
Used for cooling of optional high amperage motor controllers
Future use for managing battery temperature
Custom designed frame built to contain the 10 batteries within
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The goal of the Eco-Trekker Tour and the TV series is to provide ecological
knowledge through entertainment. We’re happy to be a part of it.
Latest News
The prototype Electra Cruiser was delivered to Wisconsin for the Coolfuel Roadtrip
TV series, hosted by one of my great friends, Shaun Murphy. Shaun loves the new
bike and is riding across the country with it. Sparky the dog is also having a blast.
We’ve posted a few pictures from out west on www.vogelbilt.com/video/.
The national daytime TV show Living It Up! With Ali & Jack invited Shaun to be
a guest on the show while he was in New York with the Electra Cruiser in November
of 2003. The show was a hit, and Sparky had a ball in the audience.
In addition, I was interviewed by writer Paul Garson, representing a number of
different publications that wanted to do a story on the bike. The Electra Cruiser will
be mentioned in V-Twin magazine, Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader, the Robb Report,
and several other publications.
Lastly, during the recent blackout in New York, the bike and the biodiesel
generator in the sidecar were used to power my house, running on pure B100
(essentially vegetable oil).
The Idea
The Electra Cruiser (formerly the “Electric Hog”) was an idea that became reality
through many years of hard work and determination. It was my belief that a oneof-a-kind vehicle could be built using simple and innovative designs. The result is
a unique, rugged, retro-looking design that is well balanced, comfortable, and fun
to ride. And most of all, it is a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) using only batteries as its
source of power.
The Prototype
On May 15, 2001, the finished prototype rolled out under its own power. This was
a marvelous sight, 3 years of work and engineering finally coming together. The
project was a remarkable challenge because there was nothing to compare the
vehicle with except for its gasoline counterparts (Figures 3-9 through 3-11).
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Figure 3-9 Electra Cruiser during filming of Cow Power in Wisconsin.
Figure 3-10 Electra Cruiser on display during the New York leg of trip.
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Figure 3-11 Electra Cruiser in California during final filming of the USA journey for camera
Future Plans
• Implementation of advanced battery technology for improved range,
performance, and charging
• Reduction in weight, replacing steel components with aluminum and other
lightweight alloys
• Regenerative braking coupled with improved motor controller technology
• Future designs to include sidecar with low-emission turbine generator
(biodiesel) or fuel-cell technology
The KillaCycle—Bill Dube Breaks NEDRA Records
The KillaCycle changed the entire game in 2000. This time record for Bill Dube’s
KillaCycle says it all:
ET: 9.450 seconds
Event: Woodburn Drags 2000
Track: Woodburn, Oregon
Driver/owner: Bill Dube/Scotty Pollacheck
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Sponsor: Boulder Technologies
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Class/voltage division: MT/A
Specs: 312 V, Boulder Technologies 624 thin-film, lead-acid cells, Zilla 1400-A
controller, twin Advanced DC 6.7-in motors modified for racing
The KillaCycle made a record run of 152 mph (245 km/h) at 9.4-s quarter-mile
(400-m) time at Woodburn Drags in 2000, in Woodland, Oregon.
E-mail from Bill Dube
Monday, June 7, 1999
I brought the KillaCycle to Bandimere last Saturday for its shakedown tests
and even with the controller set at 120 hp (less than half of what the machine
can produce), I managed to set a new world record for an electric motorcycle
in the 1/4 mile.
The bike ran 13.995 right out off the trailer. I backed that up with a 14.050
run to seal the NEDRA record. This beats Don Crabtree’s record (set on May
22) by more than 2 seconds. The bike gave me zero trouble, so I will check all
the connections, snug up the nuts and bolts, tighten the chain, and turn up the
controller for the next race.
I plan to race again on Friday, June 25 at Bandimere Speedway. This next
time the controller will be set for 250 hp.7
Figures 3-12 through 3-15 show Bill Dube and the A123 Li-ion cell–powered
KillaCycle setting a new quarter-mile (400-m) record of 7.824 seconds and 168 mph
(270 km/h) in Phoenix, Arizona, at All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA)
Figure 3-12 KillaCycle performing burnout formally called pass to increase traction. (http://www.
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Figure 3-13 KillaCycle owner Bill Dube speaking with Scotty Pollacheck, rider. (http://www.
illaCycle owner Bill Dube during interview. (http://www.killacycle.
Figure 3-14 K
History of the Electric Motorcycle
Figure 3-15 KillaCycle pit stop and interview with Bill Dube. (http://www.killacycle.
New World Record at Bandimere—7.89 Seconds (Also 174 mph!)
The KillaCycle made drag racing history again at Bandimere Speedway on October
23, 2008—7.89 seconds at 168 mph is a new official National Electric Drag Racing
Association (NEDRA) record and makes KillaCycle the world’s quickest electric
vehicle of any kind in the quarter mile!8
Lightning struck twice on the mountain as the KillaCycle set a new mark for
top speed in an earlier run that afternoon—7.955 seconds at 174.05 mph. The M&H
Racemaster tire really gripped the awesome track prep provided by Larry Crispe
and the crew at Bandimere Speedway. The current was 1850 A per motor, which
nobody had done before, and, well, the rest is history!
Jim Husted at Hi-Torque Electric brought electric motors that took more
revolutions per minute, current, and voltage “from any other [battery] pack the
group ever thought possible.” The A123 Systems nanophosphate batteries are an
amazing technological leap for the electric transportation industry as a whole. We’ll
get into that discussion in Chapter 7.9
Ducati Project
Just a few blocks away from the headquarters of Tesla Motors in San Carlos,
California, is a nondescript industrial building on American Street. Parked in front
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is a large blue and gold trailer, the kind you see in the pit areas of many racing
venues. Down a hallway, past a pair of cluttered offices, is a warren of shops
dedicated to building the fastest racing motorcycles on the circuit. One room is a
veritable museum of national and international champions, custom-built cycles
that garnered fame for their drivers and the little family-run businesses that built
Back in one of the shops stands a Ducati motorcycle, stripped to its frame. It too
has lofty aspirations. Come this June, it hopes to be the first electric motorcycle to
win the Time Trials Extreme Grand Prix (TTXGP) on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
A demanding 38-mile course that rises from sea level to 400 m and twists and turns
its way along the coast, this race has long tested the skill and mettle of the best gasbike racers in the world.
If the highly modified Ducati wins or even places well in the competition, it will
be the catalyst that owner Richard Hatfield and his investors are looking for to
launch his new venture, a trio of high-performance electric two-wheelers. The first
will be a supercycle clone of the skeleton bike shown standing on the frame in San
Carlos. The second will be a bit tamer, a more consumer-tailored version that’s a
step down from the superbike, and the third will be an electric scooter that Hatfield
dubs the “45-45-45.” “It’ll do 45 mph for 45 miles and cost $4,500,” he explained as
he led Russell Frost, a fellow journalist, and me on a tour of the racing cycle
“I got the proverbial late-night call,” Richard Hatfield explained with a smile.
That motor and the A123 lithium nanophosphate batteries will power the supercycle
and make that ghost of the Ducati a serious competitor in the zero-carbon race
around Man.
As you might expect, Bill Dube, the owner of the record-busting KillaCycle, is
an active participant in the Ducati project, as is A123 Systems, whose batteries
power the KillaCycle. Where Dube’s machine is about acceleration, Hatfield’s is
about endurance. Both are also very much about speed. You won’t trek out to
Sturges for the annual Harley convention on them, but the average, off-the-shelf
Milwaukee thrashing machines that will give Hatfield’s supercycle any serious
competition will be few and far between. That’s the plan, at least.
As Hatfield’s machine gradually morphs from Ducati to Manx with the skilled
guidance of A&A Racing’s Ray Abrams and Bill Dube, his little Chinese scooter
demonstrates the potential of a supercycle heart and lung transplant, although it
should be noted that both the batteries, the 250-A hub motor, and the customdesigned controller all are made in China. Hatfield and his Mandarin-speaking
fiancée have spent months scouring the country vetting manufacturers.
When I asked Hatfield how powerful the motor was, I thought he said 250 W,
which would make it a sluggard performance-wise. A sluggard it is not. With the
ability to handle up to 250 A of power, the blue prototype is a big-time performer,
even with two big adults astride. Scuff marks on the plastic fairings bear witness to
History of the Electric Motorcycle
the fact that the mild-mannered-looking machine has caught more than one person
unaware. Hatfield cautions everyone to wear a helmet and keep your wrist low on
the throttle.
I got to take the first run on the scooter up the street between rows of blue-collar
businesses—repair shops, car customizers, glass fitters. The acceleration is
everything a sane person could want and more. The speedometer goes to 60 km/h.
You can easily peg it well beyond that. Hatfield claims that it’ll do 50 mph, and I
believe him—and it doesn’t take all that long to get there, either.
Steadily, a crowd started to form, drawn by the speedy but strangely quiet and
smokeless machine. In short order, a professional motorcycle racer took his turn
and returned with the now-famous EV-grin. He was amazed. If this is a foretaste of
what the Manx machine can do, he wants to be on the list for the commercial
version. Another onlooker was prepared to buy five of them right then and there
after riding it.
Okay, it does great on the flat, but what about San Francisco’s notorious hills?
Hatfield reports that it’ll handle them easily. After two adults rode the machine
around the block, I reached down to check the temperature of the motor and
controller. They were barely warm.
Hatfield hopes to begin production some time this summer. Assuming that we
begin to see a return to $3/gal gasoline and people again start looking for more
efficient, less costly ways to commute, his 12-cents-a-day scooter will make a
tantalizing choice, especially with this kind of performance.10
Vectrix Corporation
Vectrix Corporation was formed in 1996 to develop and commercialize ZEV
platform technologies focused on two-wheel applications. The single focus of
Vectrix has been to provide clean, efficient, reliable, and affordable urban
transportation. Vectrix’s two-wheeled ZEVs are currently being marketed to
consumers and government fleets. Vectrix has headquarters in Middletown, Rhode
Island; engineering and test facilities in New Bedford, Massachusetts; sales offices
in London and Rome; and production facilities in Wroclaw, Poland.11
The Vectrix VX-1
The 2009 VX-1 is a redesigned version of the Vectrix Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV).
It is a powerful all-electric, all-highway-capable PEV that goes 62 mph, has a range
of 35–55 miles, and does it all for about a penny a mile. Motorcyclist Magazine said:
“It’s smooth, it’s quiet, it’s clean and it’s all-electric. It’s also fully alternative,”
said Mike Boyle, Vectrix CEO. “In many ways this has been the perfect
storm—the transformation of the two-wheel industry, the rise in gas prices,
the economic pressures, and the increased awareness in the environment.”
Chapter Three
In response to rising gas prices, the two-wheel industry is up 65 percent
(Motorcycle Industry Council) this year and is the fastest growing segment of
the transportation industry. The all-electric Vectrix is extremely economical,
operating at just pennies per mile and the equivalent of 357 miles per gallon,
compared with 14 mpg for a leading SUV and 46 mpg for a leading hybrid car.
Leading gas-powered motorcycles and scooters range from 52 to 87 mpg.
An increased focus on environmental issues also has consumers looking
to lower their carbon footprint. Tests conducted by the Southwest Research
Institute in San Antonio, Texas, on behalf of Vectrix Corporation reveal that
two-wheel electric vehicles are three times cleaner than gas-powered
motorcycles and scooters and 10 times cleaner than gas-powered cars:
• Based on 15,000 miles a year, an average car emits 3.17 tons of CO2
a year, a motorcycle emits an average of 0.9 tons, and a Vectrix just
0.33 ton.
• By replacing one car 70 percent of the time with a Vectrix, a household
can reduce CO2 emission by 5 tons a year.
• Engineered to provide an eco-friendly, powerful alternative for
commuting and recreational needs, Vectrix:
– Reaches a top speed of 62 mph and offers acceleration from 0–50
mph in 6.8 seconds.
– Has an average range of 30–55 miles on a single charge.
– Offers minimal maintenance, simple operation, and low noise.
– Weighs 515 pounds, has a 60-inch wheelbase and 30-inch seat
height, seats two comfortably, and is highway legal.
Compared to traditional gasoline scooters that can produce up to 10 times
the pollution of an average automobile, Vectrix is totally emissions free. It is
virtually silent and highly efficient—a patented regenerative braking system
redirects energy back into the Vectrix battery pack, which helps to extend its
range by up to 12 percent.
Vectrix is more cost effective than gas or hybrid vehicles, since electricity
is now one-tenth the cost of gasoline. The Vectrix nickel metal hydride (NiMH)
battery pack has an estimated life of up to 10 years based on 5,000 miles per
year. An onboard charger plugs in to any standard 110/220-V electrical outlet
to charge the battery pack in just 2–3 hours.
Sophisticated design efficiencies of the smart, sleek Vectrix include a highefficiency gearbox and drive train, aluminum construction for weight
reduction, and aerodynamic styling to reduce drag. A low center of gravity,
stiff frame, and even weight distribution provide superior handling.
For consumers with urban commutes, Vectrix is both convenient and cost
effective. The driver can stop and go with one hand by simply twisting the
History of the Electric Motorcycle
throttle back for acceleration and twisting it forward to slow down smoothly
and safely. Fast acceleration and handling make it easy and safe to zip in and
out of traffic.
We have seen some great electric motorcycles over the years. Chapter 4 will show
you more bikes for the taking if you do not want to convert to an electric vehicle
from an existing chassis.
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Current Electric
on the Market
Electric Motorcycles: Cool and Green
This chapter will describe some of the coolest electric motorcycles on the market
today. Descriptions will include diagrams and pictures showing the different
classes and styles. Electric vehicles (EVs) are fun to own and ride, and this chapter
also will describe how everyone (all races, men and women, children and adults) is
interested in and excited about EVs.
There’s nothing wrong with cool, and I have to admit that few vehicles are
cooler than motorcycles (at least in theory, although not all of us would ride one).
You’re basically sitting on an engine with wheels. It can’t get much simpler than
that. Motorcycles are not always practical, but the people who love their bikes
really love them.
This chapter also will include a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages
of EVs and address current trends in the EV industry. In addition, I will provide a
brief description of the Electra Cruiser I built and its road to fame on television and
the Discovery Channel. The Electra Cruiser’s trip across the United States proved
that EVs are viable and dependable.
But cool is not enough. The vast majority of motorcycles are still running on
fossil fuels, and that’s a problem. As battery technology improves, we’re starting to
see more electric motorcycles.1 Some are available commercially; many are do-ityourself (DIY) custom jobs. Here we look at some of the coolest ones.
Eva Håkansson’s Electrocat Electric Motorcycle
Figure 4-1 shows Eva Håkansson astride her Electrocat motorcycle. I’m starting
with her because she is a true pioneer in the world of electric motorcycles (she
describes herself as a “hardcore EV geek with a green heart and passion for power
and speed”).
Chapter Four
Figure 4-1 Eva Håkansson and her Electrocat electric motorcycle. (www.evahakansson.se.)
Eva built the Electrocat with her father, Sven Håkansson, and it is probably the
first street-legal electric motorcycle in Sweden. It is based on a Cagiva Freccia C12R,
model year 1990, but the insides are pure electric goodness.
Figure 4-2 shows the Electrocat’s Thunder Sky litihum-iron-phosphate cells
and the original Briggs & Stratton Etek motor. The blue box is the Alltrax AXE7245
controller. Charging takes half an hour on a powerful garage charger (longer with
the smaller onboard charger—about 7 hours), and the range is 80 km (50 miles) per
charge at 70 km/h (44 mph).2
KillaCycle and KillaCycle LSR Electric Motorcycles
I’m not finished with Eva Håkansson yet. She’s part of the team that created the
KillaCycle, an insanely powerful electric dragbike that set a new world record on
October 23, 2008—“7.89 seconds at 168 mph is a new official National Electric Drag
Racing Association (NEDRA) record and makes the KillaCycle the world’s quickest
Figure 4-2 Electrocat batteries and electric motor. (evahakansson.se.)
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
Figure 4-3 Eva Hakansson with the KillaCycle. (www.evahakansson.se.)
electric vehicle of any kind in the quarter mile!” (Figure 4-3). Congrats to Scotty
Pollacheck for having the guts to do that run.
How fast does the KillaCycle accelerate from 0–60 mph? Less than a second (0.97
second to be exact). The batteries are 1210 lithium-iron-nanophosphate cells from
A123 Systems. We are building a brand new motorcycle optimized for high speed—
the KillaCycle LSR. (However, the original KillaCycle dragbike will continue
pushing the envelope on the dragstrip.) The warm-up target for KillaCycle LSR is
to reach 200 mph (322 km/h) in the beginning of the 2009 season. The next target,
later in the season, will be to reach 300 mph (482 km/h) and, hopefully, take the
overall electric record of 314 mph (505 km/h) toward the end of the year. The
ultimate goal is to break the overall motorcycle record of 354 mph (570 km/h).3
An EV conversion solves so many problems and transportation concerns
immediately. It just needs to happen.
Zero Motorcycles
Zero Motorcycles recently revealed its new high-performance electric street
motorcycle, the Zero S. This highly anticipated launch marked Zero Motorcycles’
official entry into the street-legal category. The company’s new flagship motorcycle
uses Zero’s proprietary Z-Force power pack and aircraft-grade alloy frame to make
the Zero S the quickest production electric motorcycle in its class. Zero Motorcycles
has already booked substantial pre-orders for the Zero S without sharing details or
images and now anticipates a soaring demand. The Zero S will begin shipping to
customers soon (Figure 4-4).
Said Neal Saiki, inventor and founder of Zero Motorcycles:
Our goal from the beginning was to engineer a high-performance electric
urban street motorcycle that would change the face of the industry. The Zero
S is a revolutionary motorcycle that is designed to tackle any city street, hill,
or obstacle. . . . The innovation behind the Zero S is what separates it from the
competition. The Zero S is a high-performance motorcycle that also happens
Chapter Four
Figure 4-4 Zero S motorcycle. (www.zeromotorcycles.com.)
to be fully electric and green. The fact that it’s electric means not having to get
gas and reduced maintenance.
Developed to aggressively take on urban environments and encourage the
occasional detour, the Zero S integrates revolutionary technology with innovative
motorcycle design. Instant acceleration and a lightweight design combine to form
an industry-leading power-to-weight ratio that increases the motorcycle’s range
and handling abilities. At only 225 lb, the Zero S has a range of up to 60 miles and
a top speed of 60 mph. With 31 peak horsepower and 62.5 ft · lb of torque, the Zero
S is designed for optimal performance off the line, in sharp turns, and while
navigating obstacles.
In addition to its performance and maneuverability, the Zero S uses a completely
nontoxic lithium-ion array, and most of the motorcycle is fully recyclable. The
landfill-approved power pack recharges in less than 4 hours while plugged into a
standard 110- or 220-V outlet. Eco-friendly with zero emissions, the Zero S is also
economy-friendly, with an operating cost of less than 1 cent per mile or kilometer.
At $9,950, the Zero S is priced competitively and also qualifies for the recently
approved 10 percent federal plug-in vehicle tax credit, a sales tax deduction, and
other state-based incentives. This effectively reduces the final cost of purchase by a
minimum of almost a $1,000. The Zero S was developed to comply with all street
and highway motorcycle standards and can be licensed for the road in most
countries. It is available for purchase through Zero Motorcycles’ Web site at www.
The Zero X electric motorcycle gets 40 miles per charge from its proprietary
patent-pending lithium-ion array and charges in 2 hours. The third generation of
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
the Zero X is priced at $7,750, with an introductory price of $7,450 through December
31, 2008.4
Zero Motorcycles is the next step in motorcycle evolution and represents the
ultimate electric motorcycle technology. Unencumbered by conventional thinking
about how to design, manufacture, and sell high-performance electric motorcycles,
Zero Motorcycles is on a mission to turn heads and revolutionize the industry by
combining the best aspects of a traditional motorcycle with today’s most advanced
technology. The result is an electric motorcycle line that’s insanely fast and
environmentally friendly.
Zero Motorcycles first entered the motorcycle category with the launch of the
2008 Zero X electric dirtbike. Exceeding all expectations, the Zero X sold out in late
2008 and blazed the path for the long-awaited launch of the Zero S Supermoto
motorcycle (Figure 4-5). You can find out more about the Zero S Supermoto motorcycle
and Zero Motorcycles in general at the Web site www.zeromotorcycles.com.
Figure 4-5 Look at that motorcycle go! (Courtesy of Zero Motorcycles, www.zeromotorcycles.com.)
Brammo Motorsports
Brammo Motorsports (www.brammo.com) based in Oregon, released an electric
motorcycle called the Enertia Bike for sale in the United States in early 2008. It has
a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 45 miles, and it can fully recharge via a
standard plug in 3 hours. It weighs just 275 lb and uses a direct chain drive for
power. You can see a video of the bike in action at the Enertia Web site. The power
Chapter Four
is stored in six Valence Technology lithium-phosphate batteries that are mounted
above and below the frame. The motorcycle is driven by a “pancake type” highoutput direct-current (dc) motor.
Brammon initially offered a limited-edition carbon model for $14,995, and it
could be ordered online for a delivery in the first quarter of 2009. You also could
reserve a standard model at $11,995, which was available by the end of 2008.5
With a low moment of inertia and an agressive rake angle, this motorcycle
handles like a dream and has an affinity for changing direction. Couple this with
the smooth, efficient power delivery from the electric drivetrain, and you’ve got a
recipe for excitement. With 100 percent of its torque available from 0 rpm, the
Enertia is certainly no slouch off the line. At its quickest setting, the Enertia will
sprint from 0–30 mph in 3.8 seconds.
Beyond the obvious goal of empowering customers to enjoy guilt-free
transportation, Brammo wants to empower customers to set their own performance
limits on the Enertia (Figure 4-6). If you’re a beginner or would like to achieve
maximum range on every ride, perhaps you should start at a lower power setting
than someone with either a very short commute or an ambitious right wrist. The
company’s Momentum software will enable you to download information about
your driving habits and customize your bike to the performance setting that fits
you and your environment best.
Figure 4-6 Side view of the Enertia motorcycle. (enertiabike.com.)
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
At its quickest setting, the 13-kW, 18-hp electric dc motor will propel the Enertia
from 0–30 mph in 3.8 seconds. The cost is about $14,999 if you want the first batch
of bikes or $11,995 if you can wait until later. Around 100,000 people have already
expressed interest via Brammo’s Web site. Figure 4-7 presents a rendering of the
insides. Figure 4-8 shows the bike. It looks surprisingly clean compared to what
we’re used to seeing with gas motorcycles.
Figure 4-7 Specifications of the Enertia bike. (enertiabike.com.)
Figure 4-8 The Enertia motorcycle. (enertiabike.com.)
Chapter Four
Voltzilla: DIY Electric Motorcycle by Russ Gries
Some people just can’t wait for a commercially made electric motorcycle, so they
take matters in their own hands. Russ Gries is a DIY kind of guy, and when he was
given a free electric forklift, he decided to turn it into an electric motorcycle.
He used the carcass of a 1976 Honda CB550 that he got for $50 as a frame, and
then he removed the gas engine to install an electric motor and batteries. After
about 120 hours and a net cost of $15.61 (that’s right, he got money for recycling the
rest of the forklift), the result is Voltzilla. It’s a bit different from most electric
conversions in good part because of its forklift ancestry:
• It runs on 24 V; most others are 48 V and up.
• The transmission was retained because Gries wanted the flexibility of
variable gearing for the hills where he lives (most other converted bikes are
direct drive from the motor to the rear sprocket).
• It has a reverse, just like the forklift.
• The four batteries are from golf carts. They are used 6-V, 220-A models.
Most other conversions use smaller batteries with less capacity.
• Its current top speed is around 35 mph (56 km/h), but after a drive-pulley
swap, Gries should be able to get 60–65 mph (100 km/h)
Electric Motorcycle Conversions: Easier Than You Think
An electric motorcycle conversion is easier than an electric car conversion because
you don’t have to worry about the transmission and clutch, power steering, vacuum
pumps, heaters, air conditioners, and the weight and size of everything that gets
moved around.6 An El Ninja–type conversion is even easier than most motorcycle
conversions because the battery and motor mounting are so straightforward and
provide configuration flexibility. After a thorough description of technology,
performance, and maintenance, this book will describe the design tradeoffs in
converting a gas motorcycle to an electric motorcycle. It then will walk you through
the building process, using step-by-step build descriptions, CAD drawings, CAD
mockups, and photographs of the conversion process.
KTM “Race Ready” Enduro Electric Motorcycle
Now, if we turn our gaze to the future, Austrian motorcycle maker KTM has
announced that within two years it will make a 100 percent electric enduro “race
ready” motorcycle. According to Hell for Leather magazine:
The Austrian company is releasing very few details of the Zero Emissions
Motorcycle, but has revealed that it develops 29.5 ft · lb of torque and carries
lithium-ion batteries capable of lasting 40 minutes under “race conditions”
and that it can be fully recharged in just 1 hour. . . . KTM’s battery pack and
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
electric motor together weigh 17 kg (for a total machine weight of 90 kg, or
198 lb—that’s 7 kg lighter than a KTM 125 EXC), but some of this weight will
be offset by the elimination of the clutch, exhaust pipes and canisters, fuel
tank, and other necessities of internal combustion. The company expects that
the Zero Emissions Motorcycle will carry a small price premium over a KTM
Enduro of similar performance.
Honda and Yamaha to Make Electric Motorcycles in 2010–2011
All eyes are currently on hybrids (such as Honda’s upcoming all-new Insight) and
electric cars, but electric motorcycles also deserve some attention (if only because
they are less noisy). We’ve featured a few DIY models, like the Voltzilla and the
electric Kawasaki, but so far, few big players have made them, which has allowed
newcomers like Vectrix to get a toehold. But that’s about to change.
On the horizon, though with fewer details, Yamaha and Honda have both
announced that they will be making electric motorcycles in 2010–2011. “Both firms
hope to bring to market electric motorcycles that perform on a par with bikes with
50-cc engine displacements. The vehicles will be powered by high-performance
lithium-ion batteries.”7
EVT America
2009 Z-30 versus the 2007 Z-20b
EVT America’s 2009 Z-30 (Figure 4-9) is almost identical to the 2007 Z-20b in body
style, which I find to be far more suitable than the very attractive but less functional
Figure 4-9 The EVT Z-30 electric scooter. (evtamerica.com.)
Chapter Four
2007 Z-20a. However, technically, there are significant differences and improvements.
Here is a list of what is new and better:
• The Z-30 has a 3,000-W three-phase 60-V brushless hub motor built on a 10in rim and sports 10 3 3.5 in six-ply Deparment of Transportation (DOT)
• The new motor is capable of reaching speeds of approximately 45 mph (72
km/h) but with superior torque and climbing ability. It has been kicked up
from 2,500 to 3,000 W.
• To make it easier and less expensive to replace plastic parts, the 2009 Z-30
(as well as the R-30) is available in only two colors: metallic red or metallic
• The body and frame of the Z-30 are sturdier and better fit with 99 percent
stainless steel nuts, bolts, washers, and screws.
• The floorboard will have a thick rug included as a fashion accessory.
• The range of the bike remains roughly the same, but it is reduced indistinctly
if the motorcycle is used at full speed at all times because of the more
powerful motor. Nonetheless, it still should exceed a 30-mile range at
normal cruising speeds when used with fully charged good working
• The new controller is a Kelly controller specifically and expressly designed
and modified for the Z-30. It also has a built-in overheat preventer that
reduces the amperage under extreme conditions. Note: The Kelly controller
for the R-30 or Z-30 retails for $350 plus shipping and handling and can be
purchased directly from EVT America separately.
• The Z-30 will no longer have an alarm or a kickstand on-and-off relay that
proved to be unreliable in the first production and became a common
problem because of shipping. The top priority is most definitely reliability.
The kill switch will remain as a safety feature. The alarm is replaced with a
stainless steel disc brake lock included with purchase.
• A windshield assembly kit and a trunk assembly kit are offered as options
and are priced separately. The trunk comes in only one color: black.
• The 2009 Z-30 has superior heavy-duty rear air shock absorbers that provide
a smoother ride.
• The front and rear coated disc brakes are of much better quality and fit; they
are also Department of Transportation (DOT)–compliant.
*Range will vary depending on the weight of the rider(s), terrain, wind resistance, and road conditions.
For example, a run on a relatively flat road with few stops and a 160-lb rider will get much better
range than a run on a hilly road with multiple stops and a 280-lb rider. Range is in direct proportion
to energy consumption. The slower you drive, the farther you will go. Stop and go with full acceleration
after each stop may cut the range by as much as 50 percent. Just as cars have better mileage on the
highway and less in city driving, the same happens with an EV. It’s all about energy consumption.
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
• The new models have graduated to an advanced dc-to-dc converter (60–12
V) with an inline fuse for added safety and the ability to handle higher peak
• The new extra tough harness is made to European standards, shielded for
ultrasound frequencies, simplified for functionality, and better color-coded
to ensure continuity and easier maintenance.
• The dash now contains a speedometer/odometer with both mph and km/h
with European standards of accuracy and a fiberoptics glowing needle.
• The Z-30 comes with the much-awaited SmartSpark battery equalizer
(made in the United State) for 60 V with LED lights, which maintains the
batteries precisely balanced during both charging and discharging, thereby
increasing the life of the batteries significantly. It is also able to monitor the
condition of each battery and detect if one is not functioning properly. Note:
The SmartSpark equalizer for a 60-V vehicle retails for $219 plus shipping
and handling, and it can be purchased separately from EVT America.
• The rest of the Z-30 will be much the same in appearance, although it now
has more clearance under the frame and battery box owing to the new
shocks. The Z-30 still has the 5 3 12-V, 35-Ah sealed lead-acid battery pack
as well as DOT lights throughout.
• The company is equipping all the 2009 models with an improved Soneil
International, Ltd., of Canada automatic 60-V charger. Note: The Soneil
charger (60V/5A LAB Charger Model No. 6010SR) for any R or Z models
retails for $248 plus shipping and handling and can be purchased separately
from EVT America.
• The Z Range and Speed have been tested with a 160-lb (73-kg) driver. Ideal
conditions met; flat paved road; 2.0 mph (3.2 kp/h) frontal wind; 78°F
(25.5°C) temperature; new fully charged batteries. Multiple test results
average plus or minus tolerance of 10%.
• Climbing capacity has been tested with a 160-lb (73-kg) driver. The Z30
has excellent climbing ability but at a cost of much higher energy
2009 R-30 versus the 2007 R-20
Not wanting to change in any way or alter the classic retro style of the R models,
the company’s 2009 R-30 looks almost identical to the 2007 R-20 (Figure 4-10).
However, technically, there are significant differences and improvements. Here is a
list of what is new and better:
• The R-30 has a 3,000-W three-phase 60-V brushless hub motor built on a 10in rim and sports 10 3 3.5 in six-ply DOT tires.
Chapter Four
Figure 4-10 The EVT America R20. (evtamerica.com.)
• The new motor is capable of reaching a maximum speed of approximately
45 mph (72 km/h) but with superior torque and climbing ability. It has been
kicked up from 2,500 to 3,000 W.
• To make it easier and less expensive to replace plastic parts, the 2009 R-30
(as well as the Z-30) is only available in two colors: metallic red or metallic
• The body and frame of the R-30 are sturdier and better fit with 99 percent
stainless steel nuts, bolts, washers, and screws.
• The floorboard is an aluminum-plated cover over the area where the feet
go, and a thick floor rug is included.
• The range of the bike remains roughly the same but will be reduced indistinctly
if the motorcycle is used at full speed at all times because of the more powerful
motor. Nonetheless, it still should exceed a 30-mile range at normal cruising
speeds when used with fully charged good working batteries.*
• The new controller is a Kelly controller specifically and expressly designed
and modified for the R-30, and it has a built-in overheat preventer that
reduces the amperage under extreme conditions. Note: The Kelly controller
for the R-30 or Z-30 retails for $350 plus shipping and handling and can be
purchased separately directly from EVT America.
*Range will vary depending on the weight of the rider(s), terrain, wind resistance, and road conditions.
For example, a run on a relatively flat road with few stops and a 180-lb rider will get much better
range than a run on a hilly road with multiple stops and a 280-lb rider. Range is in direct proportion
to energy consumption. The slower you drive, the further you will go. Stop and go with full
acceleration after each stop may cut the range by as much as 50 percent. Just as cars have better
mileage on the highway and less in city driving, the same happens with an EV. It’s all about energy
Current Electric Motorcycles on the Market
• The R-30 will no longer have an alarm or a kickstand on-and-off relay that
proved to be unreliable in the first production and became a common
problem because of shipping. The top priority is reliability. The kill switch
will remain as a safety feature. The alarm is replaced with a stainless steel
disc brake lock included with the purchase.
• A windshield assembly kit ($75) and a trunk assembly kit ($125) are optional
and must be ordered separately. The trunk comes in only one color: black.
• The 2009 R-30 model has superior heavy-duty rear air shock absorbers and
significantly stronger front shock absorbers that provide a smoother ride.
• The front and rear coated disc brakes are of much better quality and fit; they
are also DOT-compliant.
• The bike has graduated to an advanced dc-to-dc converter (60–12 V) with an
inline fuse for added safety and the ability to handle higher peak current.
• The new extra tough harness is made to European standards, shielded for
ultrasound frequencies, simplified for functionality, and better color-coded
to ensure continuity and easier maintenance.
• The dash now contains a speedometer/odometer with both mph and km/h
with European standards of accuracy and a fiberoptics glowing needle.
• The R-30 comes with the much-awaited SmartSpark battery equalizer
(made in the United States) for 60 V with LED lights, which maintains the
batteries precisely balanced during both charging and discharging, thereby
significantly increasing the life of the batteries. It is also able to monitor the
condition of each battery and detect if one is not functioning properly.
• The rest of the R-30 is much the same in appearance, although it now has
more clearance under the frame and battery box owing to the new shocks.
The R-30 still has the 5 3 12-V, 35-Ah sealed lead-acid battery pack as well
as DOT lights throughout.
• The company is equipping all the 2009 models with an improved Soneil
International, Ltd., of Canada automatic 60-V charger.
There are many types of electric motorcycles on the market today. However,
conversion is the best alternative because it costs less than either buying readymade or building from scratch, takes only a little more time than buying readymade, and is technically within everyone’s reach (certainly with the help of a local
mechanic and absolutely with the help of an EV conversion shop).
Conversion is also easiest from the labor standpoint. You buy the existing
internal combustion vehicle chassis you like (certain chassis types are easier and
better to convert than others), install an electric motor, and save a bundle. It’s really
quite simple. Chapter 10 covers the steps in detail.
Chapter Four
To do a smart motorcycle conversion, the first step is to buy a clean, straight,
used internal combustion vehicle chassis. A used model is also to your advantage
(as you’ll read in Chapter 6) because its already-broken-in parts are smooth, and
the friction losses are minimized. A vehicle from a salvage yard or a vehicle with a
bad engine may not be the best choice because you do not know if the transmission,
brakes, or other components and systems are satisfactory. Once you select the
vehicle, then you add well-priced electrical parts or a whole kit from a vendor you
trust and do as much of the simple labor as possible, farming out the tough jobs
(machining, bracket making, etc.).
Whether you do the work yourself and just subcontract a few jobs or elect to
have someone handle the entire conversion for you, you can convert to an EV for a
very attractive price compared with buying a new motorcycle.8
Geometry: A Basic
Lesson on Rake, Trail,
and Suspension
For your conversion and motorcycle build, you might want to alter or design
extreme effects into your motorcycle. Maybe you want to have a really cool front
fork, raked out chopper, or other radical design (see Figure 5-1). This is great, but
be aware of the positive and negative affects of rake, trail, and fork angle. This is
another subject most people do not touch on or talk about, and frankly, there is
insufficient information on this when you research the topic. In this chapter I will
explain more about rake, trail, and fork angle so that you have a better understanding
of how they affect the handing and safety of your motorcycle. This is just a general
overview, and more geometry and calculations are needed if you really want to get
specific. This is just enough to give you a basic knowledge.
I discovered a great book containing all this information in one place if you
really need to dig into the design and specifics. In Chapter 14, listed under “Books,”
you will find more information on the book entitled, Motorcycle Handling and Chassis
Design. Also, I want to send a thank-you to Chris Longhurst (www.carbibles.com)
for his great photos and input into this chapter.
There are many aspects of a motorcycle’s shape that affect its behavior. The one
that is most easily identifiable is the geometry of the fork. The relationship between
the frame and front wheel is governed by a number of factors that I will cover in the
following pages. Because the front wheel is the steering wheel of a motorcycle, the
handling of the bike is radically affected by its design. The three main terms I will
discuss are rake, trail, and fork angle. I will provide a little information on the rear
swingarm too.
Rake all starts off at the headstock of the frame. The headstock is the point where the
front fork joins the frame, with bearings at the top and bottom, and through which
passes the fork’s steering head. The angle of this tube to the vertical, when the bike
Chapter Five
Figure 5-1 The all too well-known 1969 movie Easyrider gave rise to raked-out bikes and custom
rides. (http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-images/Arts/Arts_/Pictures/2007/07/27/
is fully trimmed, is referred to as the rake (Figure 5-2). In all but specific custom
applications, the angle of this tube, the steering head, is the same angle as the pivot
point of the fork. Normal angles range from 28–35 degrees depending on the type
of bike and application, but this is not set in stone.
The rake is not the angle of the fork. In most cases, the two angles happen to be
the same, but don’t assume that they are. Fork angle can change a few degrees in
the negative or positive direction depending on design and needs.
Small differences in rake angle of half a degree or so can be explained by any
change in the height of the back end off the ground compared with the front. If the
back end is lower and the front end higher, the whole bike’s natural horizontal line
slopes up at the front, thereby making the natural vertical line lean backwards,
affecting the rake. This also applies to any change in the height of the front end of
Figure 5-2 Picture of bike front headstock angle in relation to ground. (Courtesy of Chris
Longhurst, www.carbibles.com/suspension_bible_bikes.html.)
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n the motorcycle. This could occur easily with a change in loaded weight, change in
tire diameter, or change in spring loading in the suspension. Any change can have
a slight effect, which is okay; radical changes can have a dramatic effect (Figures 5-3
and 5-4).
Figure 5-3 Rolling frame with reference to height and ground.
Figure 5-4 Rolling frame with reference lines drawn showing trail.
Some aftermarket frames or other custom applications have a larger than
normal headstock and provide the ability to change the angle of the steering head.
This is accomplished by a set of eccentric bearing housings offset a few degrees,
resulting in the ability to change the angle of the fork in relation to the rake. This is
Chapter Five
Figure 5-5 Offset bearing for neck.
a simple and easy solution if you have the need to change the rake (Figure 5-5).
Angle changes become more important as you look more closely at the relationship
of rake and trail.
A few other simple factors or changes can alter your rake and trail. These are as
easy as changing rear suspension height, tire diameter, and length of the front fork.
All these changes may have a positive or a negative effect on the handling of your
motorcycle. You will need to determine what is right for you.
The rake of the frame is a contributing factor that determines steering
performance and handling. It correlates directly with the speed of the response of
the steering. A steep angle, meaning less angle, equals quick-responding steering;
a laid-back rake, meaning more angle, equals slow steering. An angle that is too
steep at low speed is light; the machine will handle with unbelievable ease at low
speeds but will be completely out of balance at high speeds. It will easily develop
a fatal high-speed wobble. A rake with a lot of angle will cause the bike to handle
sluggishly at high speeds. It will seem almost too steady. You will have trouble
balancing the bike at lower speeds or on winding roads. It will feel generally
sluggish and clumsy. All this has a direct relation to trail, which I will explain
This is the second part of the equation in relation to rake. Trail is determined by the
distance at ground level between a vertical line intersecting the wheel spindle
perpendicular to the ground and a line that passes through the headstock hitting
the ground at some distance away from the vertical line through the spindle (Figure
The trail should be between 4 and 6.5 inches so that the bike handles easily at
both high and low speeds. The length of trail affects the ease with which the bike
steers. The longer the distance of trail, the more stable the bike is, but the heavier
the steering will be, and the harder the bike will be to steer. The shorter the distance,
the lighter and more twitchy is the steering. Cruisers generally have a longer trail;
sports bikes usually have a shorter trail. The best solution is a compromise between
the two, shooting for an average length in trail with predictable handling.
If you are still having trouble understanding trail, we can use the typical castor
used on a shopping cart as an example (Figure 5-7). We all know that when the cart
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n Figure 5-6 Example of the effect of a change in rake angle on trail. (www.carbibles.com/
Figure 5-7 The castor on a shopping cart in relation to trail and rake.
Chapter Five
is pushed forward, the castor wants to go straight. The distance between the pivot
point and the spindle, where the wheel rotates, is essentially the trail. Imagine
pushing this cart being pushed and trying to physically change the direction of the
castor as you are moving. You cannot do it, or it is very hard to change the direction.
Try it. If you lengthen the distance even more, the resistance to turning increases.
We can apply this same example to trail. A bike with a lot of trail will be hard to
turn and corner but goes straight nicely.
Fork Angle
The angle of the fork is not necessarily the rake angle. Be aware of this. Some
manufacturers and certain aftermarket forks offer an extra rake angle worked right
into them. This is accomplished with the triple trees or the headstock bearings. This
could be to your advantage as a simple way to modify and change the rake angle
and trail if want without changing the rake of the actual frame (Figure 5-8).
Fork Length
Another way to change the angle of rake without modifying the frame is to change
the fork length. Forks come in various lengths and are offered by many aftermarket
manufactures. You will find thousands of aftermarket parts offered for HarleyDavidson-style motorcycles. By lengthening the front end, you change the geometry
and raise the height a little. This will have a direct effect on your rake angle and
trail. In most cases, it will increase your trail length (Figures 5-9 through 5-11).
Figure 5-8 Raked triple-tree example. (Courtesy of Custom Chrome, www.customchrome.com.)
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n Figure 5-9 Picture of a raked fork and triple tree. (Courtesy of Custom Chrome, www.
Figure 5-10 Picture of a raked triple tree. (Courtesy of Custom Chrome, www.customchrome.
Figure 5-11 Effect of fork length on rake and trail: 3D image of the Electra Cruiser.
Fork Dive
Since we are learning about fork length and angle and their relation to rake and
trail, it is only fitting to touch on fork dive, also known as brake dive. When you apply
the brakes of a moving motorcycle, the weight transfers to the front wheel, thus
compressing the suspension. When stopping, a motorcycle equipped with telescopic
forks adds weight to the front wheel, transmitted through the fork. This transfer of
weight to the front wheel compresses the fork, changing its length. This shortening
of the fork causes the front end of the bike to move lower, and this is called fork dive
or brake dive.
Fork dive can be disconcerting to the rider, who may feel like he or she is about
to be thrown over the front of the motorcycle. If the bike dives so far as to bottom
Chapter Five
out the front fork, it also can cause handling and braking problems. One of the
purposes of the suspension is to help maintain contact between the tire and the
road. If the suspension has bottomed out, it is no longer moving as it should and is
no longer helping to maintain contact. This is an important concern in your
conversion to an electric vehicle (EV). Batteries and electrical components added to
the bike may change the total weight of the motorcycle, either making it lighter or
heavier than the stock vehicle. Also, take into consideration as you compress the
front fork that you change the length, thus changing the rake and trail. Under
severe stopping forces, if your bike is not set up properly, you can dramatically
change the rake and trail. If this happens, your front end can become squirrelly and
difficult to control. If you look at Figure 5-11 and imagine the reverse effect of
compressing the fork, rake and trail will decrease.
Brake dive with telescopic forks can be reduced in the following ways:
• Increasing the spring rate of the fork springs
• Increasing the compression damping of the forks
See following sections on travel and spring rate.
The total travel of a suspension system is the distance the suspension travels
between total compression and total extension. The travel distance on off-road and
dual-purpose bikes tends to be very high; the rear suspension travel on cruisers
tends to be relatively little. This value is usually listed in the motorcycle’s manual
or is available online.
Adjusting the suspension based on the travel is the easiest place to start in
modifying the suspension for load and rider. Ideally, the suspension should sag
under the weight of the rider by 30 percent of the total travel.
Start by measuring the distance between two points along the suspension’s
travel with the bike upright but without the rider’s weight on the bike. For example,
measure the distance from the front axle to where the fork enters the bottom of the
triple tree. On the rear, measure from the rear axle to a point on the frame directly
above it.
Next, the rider should put as much of his or her weight on the bike and any
other load the bike normally will carry while holding it upright. Measure between
the same two points, and find the difference of the two measurements. This should
be approximately 30 percent of the total travel of the suspension.
Increase the preload to reduce the sag; decrease the preload to increase the sag.
On rear suspension, most coil-over shocks have an adjustment with a ramp that,
when rotated, will increase or decrease preload. For the front fork, in most cases,
you need to take the suspension apart and increase or decrease tension via shims or
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n Figure 5-12 Typical Harley-style front fork assembly with spring. (Courtesy of Custom Chrome,
spacers on the spring (Figure 5-12). In the worst case, you even may have to replace
the springs with ones with a different spring rate (see “Spring Rate” below).
Here’s an interesting story from when I was building the second Electra Cruiser
concerning a lesson I learned regarding the preload and springs on the front fork.
During the initial build, the bike was assembled, and the rear suspension and fork
looked great. The bike sat high on the suspension, as expected, because the batteries
were not loaded in the frame. All seemed normal. The day came to load the full
battery pack, all 560 lb, in the frame and test the loaded suspension. The frame,
now fully loaded with batteries, was slowly lowered to the ground to support its
own weight, all 560 lb of lead and 150 lb of transmission and electric motor. To my
surprise, the front fork bottomed out solid! The bike was not even fully loaded or
even moving, and it bottomed out. I soon found out that the wrong fork was sent
to me. I replaced it with a new one with heavy-duty springs and modified the
spacers on the springs to create more preload. With heavy-duty springs and more
preload, the front fork supported the added weight perfectly.
Spring Rate
A spring’s rate is a measure of how much force is require to compress the spring
a given distance. The higher the rate, the more force it takes to compress the
spring a given distance, and the less it compresses under a given force. If the sag
of a motorcycle’s suspension for a given rider and weight cannot be set properly
using preload adjustments, typically the spring must be replaced with one with a
different rate. In the case of the rear suspension, the entire coil-over shock
assembly may need replacement. If the sag is too great, a higher-rate spring must
be used, and vice versa. Even when the sag is set correctly, sometimes the springs
have to be replaced. This depends on the weight of the rider. If the rider is too
light for the design of the springs, the ride will be harsh, even when sag is correct.
Chapter Five
Figure 5-13 A bike with a raked fork.
If the rider is too heavy, the ride may be mushy, brake dive may be excessive, and
so on.
In most telescopic forks, the springs can be replaced in a straightforward
manner. The coil-over springs on the rear shocks can be another matter. Not only
can they be of a unique design, but the shock itself may be incompatible with a
different-rate spring if it lacks sufficient damping adjustment.
Progressive-rate springs are springs whose rates change as the spring is
compressed. As the spring is compressed, the rate increases. Springs can be
progressive either by having the coils at one end of the spring wound differently
than at the other end or by actually being two separate springs with different rates
held together by a spacer. For most modern sports bikes, progressive-rate springs
are not recommended unless fitted at the factory.
Progressive-rate springs are intended to give the best of both worlds: a smooth
ride, yet response handling over rough surfaces. For maximum suspension
performance, however, straight-rate springs are usually recommended.
Rear Suspension
The rear suspension of your motorcycle plays an important role in many aspects of
your EV’s performance. It is another part of the equation that you can modify to
improve the ride and change the geometry of your motorcycle conversion. You will
find that a few slight changes can improve the ride and handling greatly. Of course,
on the other hand, some drastic changes also can prove dangerous. I will not get
into great detail on it here, but only to touch base with some basic knowledge.
Figure 5-14 shows the early prototype Electra Cruiser with the suspension loaded
with the weight of the batteries, verifying rake, trail, suspension loading, and ride
Rear Suspension Styles
For your conversion, you have a few choices of the rear suspension style. Your
selection depends greatly on the type of drive train you chose for your build or
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n Figure 5-14 Prototype of Electra Cruiser loaded with 560 lb (254 kg) of batteries.
conversion. The most popular and classic style is the twin-shock regular swingarm
(Figure 5-15). This design is very popular and has been used since the early days of
motorcycles. The next is a monoshock, which is an older style used on a similar
regular modified swingarm. This style is a little more compact than the twin-shock
swingarm (Figure 5-16). Both styles primarily use a standard chain- or belt-drive
system. Figures 5-17 and 5-18 show a hybrid version of rear suspension I designed,
patented, and built for the first-generation Electra Cruiser. It combined the
swingarm version and the monoshock version. This design created a swingarm
with more rigidity than a standard twin-shock swingarm. Figure 5-19 shows the
monolever suspension system, which houses the driveshaft and ultimately the rear
drive all in one unit. This type of system eliminates the need for a chain- or drivebelt for the transmission.
Figure 5-15 Twin-shock regular swingarm rear suspension. (www.carbibles.com/suspension_
Chapter Five
Figure 5-16 Monoshock H-style swingarm rear suspension. (www.carbibles.com/suspension_
Figure 5-17 3D drawing of the Hybrid swingarm design: First-generation Electra Cruiser.
Figure 5-18 Hybrid swingarm design: First-generation Electra Cruiser.
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n Figure 5-19 Monolever rear suspension system. (www.carbibles.com/suspension_bible_bikes.
Twin-Shock Regular H Swingarm
This is the classic motorcycle suspension system used on most early-style bikes (see
Figure 5-15). It uses an H-shaped swingarm pivoted at the front to the frame. On
either side there are basic coil-over shock absorbers that provide the suspension.
This is about as basic as you can get on a motorbike and has been around for as long
as the motorbike itself. This style of suspension became less popular nearing the
1980s because of weight considerations and the availability of newer, stronger
materials. Under extreme riding conditions, bending and flexibility became an
Monoshock Regular H Swingarm
The monoshock system appeared in 1977 for niche markets and racers (see Figure
5-16). This design in one form or the other has been around since the 1930s, but it
was only in the early 1980s that monoshocks started to appear on production bikes.
The premise was that manufacturers could save some weight by redesigning the
rear suspension and removing one of the coil-over units. In addition, the design
added more strength to the swingarm.
Hybrid Twin-Shock H Swingarm
This Vogelbilt design is a hybrid of the twin-shock H swingarm (see Figures 5-17
and 5-18). This variation proved to work very well, providing improved strength
and rigidity to the rear suspension. The design allowed us to use wasted space
under the seat for the twin-shock design and added strength to the swingarm. For
this particular bike, a 750-A controller at 120 V dc powered the electric motor. With
Chapter Five
this type of amperage, the motor was generating an enormous amount of torque at
startup. Couple this with a 12:1 final gear ratio in first gear, and this bike was belting
out over 2,000 foot-pounds of torque to the rear wheel. The rear swingarm had to
be strong because the transmission and motor would have ripped it apart and bent
a normal suspension system. In testimony to this power, the bike broke two sets of
heavy-duty steel Harley-Davidson-style chains.
Monolever Suspension
The monolever suspension system was introduced in 1980 by BMW on its R80GS
big dirt bike (see Figure 5-19). This style of rear suspension houses a shaft drive
within the monolever geared to the rear wheel, eliminating the need for chains and
belts. A single shock/strut unit is mounted to one side of the bike rather than in the
center, as with other monoshock suspensions. The tension or loading of the shock
is normally adjustable if needed. This design is very simple and rugged. Best of all,
changing the rear wheel is a snap. This drive train will allow you to couple the
electric motor to a driveshaft, eliminating the need for a chain or drive belt.
With your conversion, be aware that any changes in the rear suspension can
change the geometry of the bike. Pay careful attention to the sprung and unsprung
heights. Changes in the rear suspension height will change the rake angle and the
trial length. A few measures or changes can easily rectify a situation. On most
motorcycles, an adjustment can be made to the preload on the springs to change
tension and height (Figure 5-20). With this adjustment, you can add or remove
Figure 5-20 Shock/spring preload. (Courtesy of Custom Chrome, www.customchrome.com.)
G e o m e t r y : A B a s i c L e s s o n o n R a k e , Tr a i l , a n d S u s p e n s i o n tension on the springs to compensate for load and adjust the ride height. If this is
not an option, aftermarket springs are available for different loads or have adjusters
on them. From aftermarket suppliers, you can find adjustable shocks, lowering
kits, and heavy-duty springs. If a change in the loading of the rear suspension does
not fix the problem, you can increase or decrease the diameter of the tire to alter the
angle of the rake. By doing so, you can raise or lower the rear of the bike, thus
changing the rake angle and trail.
In the process of your custom build or changes from a stock vehicle, pay particular
attention to any changes in the geometry and ride height. You can use these changes
to your advantage by combining fork rake and length, ride height, and tire size to
your advantage. These are just the basics so that you have a good understanding of
bike geometry. To explain everything would take a complete book on the subject.
Simple changes may have little effect, but any radical changes can have drastic or
dangerous effects. During your build, try to keep the weight of your components
as low as possible to control the center of gravity.
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Frame and Design
Back when the idea to build an electric motorcycle first came to me, I had to do a lot
of work and research in terms of concept and design. The first bike I built was more
like art. It was a beast, but it was my work and my design—it was so many things.
The book Build Your Own Electric Vehicle was my bible for resources, calculations,
and many other aspects of the bike. The book pointed me in the right direction to
find the answers I needed. Chapter 5 in Build Your Own Electric Vehicle was about
chassis and design and contained a lot of information, calculations, and formulas
that are very close to what is contained herein. In the interest of not messing with
something that worked well, it was my decision, with the help of Seth Leitman,
author of Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, to follow a similar format. This chapter is
written with an electric motorcycle in mind and is geared for smaller electric
vehicles (EVs). Most of the calculations are the same; some just need to be scaled
back to account for a lighter vehicle and two fewer wheels.
Choosing a Frame and Planning Your Design
The frame is the foundation of your EV conversion. While you might decide to
build your own chassis from scratch, there are fundamental principles that can
help you with any EV conversion or purchase—things that never come up when
you are dealing with an internal combustion engine vehicle—such as the influence
of weight, aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, and drivetrains. This chapter will
step you through the process of optimizing, designing, and buying or building
your own EV. You will become familiar with some of the tradeoffs involved in
optimizing your EV conversion. Then you will design your EV conversion knowing
that the components you have selected will accomplish what you want them to do.
When you have figured out what is important to you and have verified that your
design will do what you want, you will look at the process of buying a frame, an
existing motorcycle, or maybe a rolling frame.
Chapter Six
Knowledge of all these steps will help you immediately and assist you as you
read other chapters in this book on crucial components. I will try to guide you
through every pitfall that I encountered. After reading Chapter 5, you should have
a good knowledge of the frame geometry and what to do and not to do. The
principles in this book are universal, and you can apply them whether buying,
building, or converting. Choose the best frame or complete bike for your EV
conversion. Stick with something that is simple yet easy to work with as the
foundation for your EV.
I have found it better to try to work with what is available and off the shelf rather
than to try to make everything from scratch. In some cases, it takes a little thinking
and ingenuity, but you will figure it out. The biggest selection and most available
parts are for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. However, you literally can pick up a
book from five different aftermarket companies such as Custom Chrome, and in
each book you will find over 1,000 pages of parts and accessories to choose from.
Your build will take on a life of its own, and there are many choices you can make.
You are likely to be converting a vehicle, but that could be almost like building
from scratch. There is not much to a motorcycle once you take out the engine. Even
after you select the frame or bike conversion, there is so much you can do that you
are not limited. The secret is to plan ahead and be clear (or just have a very good
idea) about what you want to accomplish before you make your selection.
Keep in mind, though, that at any point during you calculations or design,
something can happen to change things, so be prepared. Unlike converting a car or
truck, a motorcycle or smaller vehicle has less room for error or just less room. One
simple design error can hit you like a domino effect. Keep in mind the added weight
you may have to carry when choosing your frame and suspension. From Chapter 5
you should have a good idea of your suspension options and how to beef your
suspension up if necessary.
You can forget about aerodynamics unless you are building a sleek “crotch
rocket.” In addition, your frame must be big enough and strong enough to carry
you and the additional weight, along with the motor, drivetrain/controller, and
batteries. Moreover, if you want to drive your bike on the highway, federal and
state laws require it be roadworthy and adhere to certain safety standards.
The first step is to know your options. Your EV should be as light as possible;
streamlined, with its body providing minimum drag, and optimized for minimum
rolling resistance from its tires and brakes and minimum drivetrain losses. The
motor-drivetrain-battery combination must work in conjunction with the space
available and the size of the vehicle you select. It also must be capable of
accomplishing the task most important to you: high speed, long range, or
something midway between the two. Therefore, step two is to design for the
capability that you want. Your EV’s weight, motor and battery placement, rolling
resistance, handling, gearing, and safety features also must meet your needs. You
now have a plan.
Frame and Design
Step three is to execute your plan—to buy the frame or bike that meets your
needs. At its heart, this is a process that is no different from any other vehicle
purchase you’ve ever made, except that the best solution for your needs might be a
vehicle that the owner can’t wait to get rid of. The tables are completely turned
from a normal buying situation. Used is usually the least expensive, but with a
motorcycle, you can just start with a frame and work your way from there. Figure
6-1 gives you the quick basic picture (see page 82). The rest of this chapter covers
the details.
Selecting a Frame Dos and Don’ts
During your building phase, whether you are building your motorcycle or other
vehicle from scratch or converting an existing vehicle, there are certain guidelines
established by your state department of motor vehicles (DMV) that you must
follow. In saying this, I am assuming that your vehicle will be a highway-use vehicle
with two or three wheels. The equipment guidelines I have listed are the
requirements set forth by the State of New York DMV (nysdmv.com). From my
knowledge, New York has some of the strictest requirements in comparison with
other states. To find out more information and the exact requirements of your state,
locate your state DMV Web site or call for more information. You will need to access
the division of safety services.
Given that the New York guidelines probably are the strictest, I would go with
these guidelines as you start. Do not assume that these are all the requirements or
that I am 100 percent correct; requirements may change. Make sure that you follow
up with your state DMV. Again, I strongly stress this point: Follow the guidelines,
if not for the sake of following the law, then for your own safety! What would be
truly uncool would be if, after you complete an exceptionally built vehicle, you fail
the requirements and the inspection. This could mean anything from a simple fix to
an expensive design change that you could have avoided from the start.
Whether you decide to build from scratch or from an existing motorcycle, I will
supply you with some priceless advice and knowledge. First off, I highly recommend
converting an existing vehicle. If this is going to be an on-road vehicle you are
converting, make 100 percent sure that you have all the papers, title, and vehicle
identification number (VIN) for this vehicle. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t care
if it was free or your buddy got you a great deal, it is not worth it without the
proper paperwork. Don’t do it! Unless you are willing to waste months of time
tracking down paperwork, keeping records, holding receipts and serial numbers
on all parts, scheduling daylong treks to the DMV field investigation unit, and
paying hundreds of dollars in fees, don’t do it.
Additionally, with all that stated, you will need to have the vehicle weighed on
a certified scale with an official receipt. You will need to verify and supply the state
department of transportation (DOT) with numbers from your tires, windshield (if
Figure 6-1 Vehicle design flowchart. This basic conversion flowchart holds true for both two and four wheels. (From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Fig. 5-1,
p. 97.)
Frame and Design
you have one), all lights and turn signals, and other equipment. I think you get the
picture. Unfortunately, this was my experience, I built a motorcycle from scratch
with no VIN or anything. It took me well over 3–5 months to get my VIN, and I
kept on top of it and pushed the DMV hard to get it done. This is not counting all
the time I spent on paperwork and much more. To say the least, it was a learning
experience that I do not want to experience again. My experience is yours to gain
Optimize Your EV
Optimizing is always step number one. Even if you go out to buy your EV readymade, you still should know a little bit about the vehicle so that you can decide if
you’re getting the best model for you. In all other cases, you’ll be doing the
optimizing—either by the choices you make up front in vehicle and component
selection or by your decisions later on. In this section you will learn how to calculate
the following factors:
Weight, climbing, and acceleration
Aerodynamic drag and wind drag
Rolling resistance
Drivetrain system
We will look at equations that define each of these factors and construct a table
of real values for a 300- to 1,000-lb vehicle with nine specific vehicle speeds. These
values should be handy regardless of what you do later. If your design changes a
little, you will have your notes to fall back on. When you calculate the real vehicle’s
torque requirements, you will see if the torque available from the electric motor to
the drivetrain is sufficient for your needs and performance requirements. This
design process can be infinitely adapted and applied to any EV you have.
Standard Measurements and Formulas
For calculations, we will use the U.S. vehicle standard of miles, miles per hour, feet
per second, pounds, pound feet, foot pounds, etc. rather than the kilometers,
newton-meters, etc. in common use overseas. Regarding formulas, you will find
the following 13 useful; they have been grouped in one section for your
1. Power [(lb · ft)/s] = torque (ft · lb) 3 speed (rad/s) 5 force in feet per second
(force times velocity, or FV)
2. 1 hp 5 550 (ft · lb)/s
Applying this to Equation 1 gives you
Chapter Six
3. 1 hp 5 FV/550
where V is velocity (speed) expressed in feet per second
4. 88 ft/s 5 60 mph Multiply feet per second by (60 3 60)/5,280 to get mph
5. 1 hp 5 FV/375 where V is velocity (speed) expressed in mph and F is force in pounds
6. Horsepower (hp) 5 (torque 3 rev/min)/5,252 = p/60 3 FV/550
7. Wheel rev/min (rpm) 5 (mph 3 rev/mi)/60
8. Power (kW) 5 0.7457 3 hp (1 hp 5 746 watts)
9. The standard gravitational constant g 5 32.16 ft/s2 or almost 22 mph/s
10. Weight W 5 mass M 3 g/32.16 (For the rest of this book, we will refer to a vehicle’s mass as its weight.)
11. Torque 5 [F(5,280/2p)]/(rev/mi) 5 840.38 3 F/(rev/mi) Revolutions per mile (rev/mi) refers to how many times a tire rotates per
12. Torquewheel 5 torquemotor 3 (overall gear ratio 3 overall drivetrain
13. Speedvehicle (in mph) 5 (rpmmotor 3 60)/(overall gear ratio 3 rev/mi)
EV Weight
In your EV conversion, weight is the most important thing, and we need to reduce
it as much as possible. However, in a motorcycle, you will be somewhat limited as
to how much you can reduce the weight. Try to cut as much as you can in a safe
manner. Also consider maximizing the strength of the vehicle and its frame. In this
section you will take a closer look at various items in terms of weight.
Remove All Unessential Weight
You do not want to carry around any unnecessary weight. This means that you
need to go over everything carefully with regard to its weight versus its value. Your
biggest weight issues involve the internal combustion motor, fuel tank, and
During Conversion
As you remove the internal combustion engine parts, you will have a clean canvas
with which to work. As you plan your conversion, keep in mind all the things you
might add to the vehicle, and always consider how to reduce weight or not add any
unnecessary weight. The reason for all your work is simple—weight affects every
aspect of an EV’s performance—acceleration, climbing, speed, and range. Try to
plan ahead.
Frame and Design
Weight and Acceleration
Let’s see exactly how weight affects acceleration. The heavier something is, the
more force is required to move it. This is one of the basic relationships of nature. It
is known as Sir Issac Newton’s second law:
F 5 Ma
or force F equals mass M times acceleration a. For EV purposes, this can be rewritten as
Fa 5 CiWa
where Fa is acceleration force in pounds, W is vehicle mass in pounds, a is acceleration
in mph/s, g is standard gravity (which is 21.94 mph/s), and Ci is a unit conversion
factor that also accounts for the added inertia of the vehicle’s rotating parts. The
force required to get the vehicle going varies directly with the vehicle’s weight.
Twice the weight means that twice as much force is required.
Ci, the mass factor that represents the inertia of the vehicle’s rotating masses
(i.e., wheels, drivetrain, flywheel, clutch, motor armature, and other rotating parts),
is given by
Ci 5 I 1 0.04 1 0.0025(Nc)2
where Nc represents the combined ratio of the transmission and final drive. The mass
factor depends on the gear in which you are operating. For internal combustion engine
vehicles, typically the mass factor for high gear is 1.1; third gear, 1.2; second gear, 1.5;
and first gear, 2.4. For EVs, from which a portion of the drivetrain and weight typically
has been removed or lightened, the mass factor typically is 1.06 to 1.2.
Table 6-1 shows the acceleration force Fa for three different values of Ci for 10
different values of acceleration a and for a vehicle weight of 1,000 lb. The factor a'
is the acceleration expressed in ft/s2 rather than in mph/s 5 21.95 5 32.2 3
(3600/5280)—used only in the formula (because acceleration as expressed in mph/s
is a much more convenient and familiar figure to work with). Notice that an
acceleration of 10 mph/s, an amount that takes you from 0–60 mph in 6 seconds
nominally requires extra force of 500 lb; 5 mph/s, moving from 0–50 mph in 10
seconds, requires 250 lb.
To use Table 6-1 with your EV, multiply by the ratio of your vehicle weight, and
use the “Ci – 1.06” column for lighter vehicles such as your motorcycle. The “Ci 5
1.1 or Greater” column will not be used unless you are building a beast of a bike or
maybe a three-wheel machine in which there will be more weight. For example, the
1,100-lb Electra Cruiser would require 5 mph/s 5 1.1 3 241.4 5 265.5 lb.
Weight and Climbing
When you go hill climbing, you add another force:
Fh 5 W sin Φ
Chapter Six
Table 6-1 Acceleration Force Fa (in pounds) for Different Values of Ci
a (in mph/sec)
a'= a/21.95
Fa (in pounds)
Ci = 1.06
Fa (in pounds)
Ci = 1.1
Fa (in pounds)
Ci = 1.2
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 5-1, p. 100.
where Fh is hill-climbing force, W is vehicle weight in pounds, and Φ is the angle of
incline, as shown in Figure 6-2. The degree of incline—the way hills or inclines are
commonly referred to—is different from the angle of incline, but the figure should
clear up any confusion for you. Notice that sin Φ varies from 0 at no incline (no
effect) to 1 at a 90-degree incline (straight up); in other words, the full weight of the
vehicle is trying to pull it back down. Again, weight is involved directly, acted on
this time by the steepness of the hill.
Degree of incline 5 1% 5 1 ft/100 ft 5 rise/run
Angle of incline Φ 5 arctan rise/run ≅ arctan 0.01 ≅ about 0 degrees, 34 minutes
Table 6-2 shows the hill-climbing force Fh for 15 different incline values for a
vehicle weight of 1,000 lb. Notice that the tractive force required for acceleration of
1 mph/s equals that required for climbing a 5 percent incline, 2 mph/s for a 10
percent incline, etc. on up through a 30 percent incline. This handy relationship will
be used later in the design section.
To use Table 6-2 with your EV, multiply by the ratio of your vehicle weight. For
example, a 1,100-lb motorcycle such as the Electra Cruiser going up a 10 percent
incline would require 1.0 3 99.6 5 109.6 lb.
Figure 6-2 Angle of incline defined. From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Figure 5-2, p. 100.
Frame and Design
Table 6-2 Hill-Climbing Force Fh for 15 Different Values of Incline
Degree of
Incline angle O
0° 34'
1° 9'
1° 43'
2° 17'
2° 52'
3° 26'
4° 34'
5° 43'
8° 32'
11° 19'
14° 2'
16° 42'
19° 17'
21° 48'
24° 14'
sin O
Fh (in pounds)
a (in mph/sec)
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 5-1, p. 101.
Weight Affects Speed
Although speed also involves other factors, it is definitely related to weight. Also,
horsepower and torque are related to speed per Equation 3:
hp 5 FV/550
where hp is motor horsepower, F is force in pounds, and V is speed in feet per
second. Armed with this information, Newton’s second law equation can be
rearranged as
a 5 (1/M) 3 F
and because M 5 W/g (Eq. 10) and F 5 (550 3 hp)/V, they can be substituted to
a 5 550(g/V)(hp/W)
Finally, a and V can be interchanged to give
V 5 550(g/a)(hp/W)
where V is the vehicle speed in feet per second, W is the vehicle weight in pounds,
g is the gravitational constant (32.2 ft/s2), and the other factors you’ve already met.
For any given acceleration, as weight goes up, speed goes down because they are
inversely proportional.
Chapter Six
Weight Affects Range
Distance is simply speed multiplied by time:
D 5 Vt
D 5 550(g/a)(hp/W)t
So weight again enters the picture. For any fixed amount of energy you are
carrying on your vehicle, you will go farther if you take longer (drive at a slower
speed) or carry less weight.
Besides reducing any unnecessary weight, there are two other important
weight-related factors to keep in mind when doing EV conversion weight
Remove the Weight But Keep Your Balance
One of the key factors that you always want to be aware of on your motorcycle is
the center of gravity. Simply said, during your planning and build, try to keep all
components, particularly the heavy ones, as low on the frame as possible. One
heavy component we do lose in a conversion besides the engine is the fuel tank.
Depending on the size of the fuel tank removed from the vehicle, you reduced the
weight by 40–70 lb. Not only did you reduce the weight, but you also removed
weight that was high up on your vehicle that you no longer have to wrestle with
when the bike leans. In essence, you changed the center of gravity of your bike (see
Figure 6-3).
Figure 6-3 Bike center of gravity.
Frame and Design
Remember the 30 Percent Rule
The “30 percent or greater” rule of thumb (battery weight should be at least 30
percent of gross vehicle weight when using lead-acid batteries) is a very useful
target to shoot for in a motorcycle conversion. Your batteries are essentially your
fuel tank; the more batteries you have, the larger is your “tank.” This theory is good
to a point, but it is also true that the more energy you can store, the more range you
can achieve. When using advanced batteries (see Chapter 7) you can store more
energy in the same space. Thus, basically, you have a battery with more energy
storage capacity. For my build with the Electra Cruiser, I crammed over 600 lb of
batteries into the frame. I used 10 Trojan Group 27 TMH deep-cycle batteries with
a peak voltage of 120 V dc. Looking at the 30 percent rule, it is apparent that I went
up to about 52 percent battery weight to gross vehicle weight. The Cruiser’s battery
pack, also counting the auxiliary 12-V battery, brings the pack weight up to a
whopping 600 lb! To accommodate the extra weight, I had to make changes in the
design. Such changes were in the load capacity of the tires, frame strength, and
suspension loading. Part of this is covered in Chapter 5, and more will be covered
in Chapter 13 when we get to the actual build.
Streamline Your EV
Inherently, motorcycles are not very aerodynamic, especially if you look at nature’s
finest and most common example of aerodynamic perfection, the falling raindrop—
rounded and bulbous in front and tapering to a point at the rear—the optimal
aerodynamic shape. In fact, the newer bicycle-racing helmets adhere perfectly to
this principle. One of the areas an EV designer needs to examine is the aerodynamic
drag of his or her machine. For a motorcycle, the coefficient of drag is high, only to
be superseded by a truck and a tractor trailer (maybe a flat piece of wood is at the
top of the drag list). A motorcycle has a drag coefficient of 0.50, which is the lower
limit, least drag; the coefficient is 0.90 for medium drag and moves up to 1.0, the
highest coefficient of drag. Because of wind resistance and wind drag, your vehicle
will consume more energy.
I have noticed myself and also have been told that once you start traveling over
40 mph, you actually can see the energy usage start to climb. This is viewed easily
with your amp meter if you install one. An amp meter is like a fuel flow meter for
an EV. It is the first sign of energy usage.
All is not lost, though. There are some things you can do to reduce wind drag
on a motorcycle. First and most important is the addition of fairings. These will
help to streamline your vehicle a little bit. The other big factor is the rider. Yes,
human beings not very aerodynamic; we are much like a big flat piece of wood
sitting on your motorcycle sucking the range out of it. If you are building just a
regular cruiser or touring bike, there is not too much you can do about it. Clothing
that is not loose or that does not catch the wind like a sail helps. However, if you
Chapter Six
are building more of a sport bike, where the rider is crunched forward, you can
pick up a lot of aerodynamic savings. In this section we will look at aerodynamic
drag and learn about the factors that come into play and how they affect your
Aerodynamic Drag Force Defined
As stated earlier, most of your drag force will not be realized until you start to reach
40 mph. You also should take head winds into consideration. Head winds are
prevailing winds that occur naturally. If you are cruising down the road at 40 mph
and you are heading into the wind on a windy day and the head wind is 30 mph,
you are actually battling wind speeds of 70 mph. In essence, therefore, you are
using energy as if you were traveling at 70 mph. Thus, when a manufacturer says
that its machine has a 60-mile range at 60 mph, that is under perfect, ideal conditions.
In the real world, you would be lucky to get that range. This is one of the major
things people forget about real-world mileage calculations.
A perfect example occurred during filming of the Coolfuel Roadtrip in Florida.
The Electra Cruiser under ideal conditions was achieving a 60-mile range per
charge at highway speeds, which was a good number for the Cruiser. During
heavy-wind conditions on a straight, flat highway during the filming, head winds
were zapping the energy and range right out of the Cruiser. We were lucky during
the heavy winds to squeeze even a 35-mile range out of the bike. Here again, these
are all some of the things you need to consider during your planning and build.
The aerodynamic drag force can be expressed as
Fd 5 (CdAV2)/391
where Fd is the aerodynamic drag force in pounds, Cd is the coefficient of drag of
your vehicle, A is its frontal area in square feet, and V is the vehicle speed in mph.
To minimize drag for any given speed, you must minimize Cd, the coefficient of
drag, and A, the bike’s frontal area.
Choose the Lowest Coefficient of Drag
The coefficient of drag Cd has to do with streamlining and air-turbulence flows
around your vehicle. The characteristics that are inherent in the shape and design of
your motorcycle cannot be changed much. You are stuck with drag coefficients in
the range of 0.50–1.00. A drag coefficient of 0.50 is the lowest for a streamlined sport
bike, an average or medium drag coefficient would be 0.90, and the highest would
be 1.00, which would apply to a large sport bike with all the dressings and maybe a
not-so-aerodynamic rider or riding position (see Figure 6-4). For either high-speed
or long-range performance goals, it’s important that you keep this critical factor
foremost in mind when you make your design calculations for your vehicle.
Unfortunately, little data are available concerning drag coefficients on
motorcycles, but the figure gives you the basics. Below are the typical coefficients
Frame and Design
Figure 6-4 Common values for the coefficient of drag for different shapes and types of vehicles.
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Figure 5-4, p. 105.
of drag. Table 6-3 lists the contribution of each component on a car to total coefficient
of drag using as an example a vintage 1970s car.
Coefficient of Drag
• Cars: 0.30–0.35
• Motorcycles: 0.50–1.00
Table 6-3 Coefficient of Drag Summary for Different Components on a Vehicle Added to the
Overall Cd
Car Area
Wheel wells
Projections and indentations
Engine compartment
Body–Skin friction
Cd Value
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 5-4, p. 106.
Percentage of total
Chapter Six
• Pickup trucks: 0.42–1.00
• Tractor trailers: 0.60–1.20
Frontal Area
The frontal area A of typical late-model cars, trucks, and vans is in the 18- to 24-ft2
range. A 4- by 8-ft sheet of plywood held up vertically in front of your vehicle
would have a frontal area of 32 ft2. Aerodynamics has to do with the effective area
your vehicle presents to the onrushing airstream. The frontal area on your
motorcycle will not change much, but apply the same calculations to that frontal
area. Also remember to include you, the rider, in the equation because you may
constitute almost half the drag force of the vehicle.
Relative Wind Contributes to Aerodynamic Drag
Drag force is measured nominally at 60°F and a barometric pressure of 30 Hg in still
air. Normally, these are adequate assumptions for most calculations. Very few
locations, however, have still air, so an additional drag component owing to relative
wind velocity has to be added to your aerodynamic drag force calculation. This is
the additional wind drag pushing against the vehicle from the random local winds.
The equation defining the relative wind factor Cw is
Cw 5 [0.98(w/V)2 1 0.63(w/V)]Crw 2 0.40(w/V)
where w is the average wind speed of the area in mph, V is the vehicle speed, and
Crw is a relative wind coefficient that is approximately 1.4 for typical sedan shapes,
1.2 for more streamlined vehicles, and 1.6 for vehicles displaying more turbulence
or sedans driven with their windows open. For your calculations, I would use a
drag force of 1.6 pertaining to a motorcycle.
Table 6-4 shows Cw calculated for seven different vehicle speeds, assuming the
U.S. average value of 7.5 mph for wind speed, for the three different Crw values.
Table 6-4 Relative Wind Factor Cw at Different Vehicle Speeds for Three Crw Values
Crw at
7.5 mph
1.4 avg
at V=
5 mph
at V=
10 mph
at V=
20 mph
at V=
30 mph
at V=
45 mph
at V=
60 mph
at V=
75 mph
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 5-5, p. 107.
Frame and Design
Aerodynamic Drag Force Data You Can Use
Table 6-4 puts the Cd and A values for actual vehicles together and calculates their
drag force for seven different vehicle speeds. Notice that drag force is lowest on a
small car and greatest on a small pickup. From these numbers, I would tend to use
the higher numbers for a motorcycle, staying in line with the wind resistance of a
To calculate the aerodynamic drag force of your EV, pick out your vehicle type
in Table 6-5, and then multiply its drag force number by the relative wind factor at
the identical vehicle speed using the appropriate Cd row for your vehicle type. For
example, the 1,100-lb Electra Cruiser has a drag force of 24.86 lb at 30 mph using
Table 6-5. Multiplying this by the relative wind factor of 0.250 from the bottom row
(Crw 5 1.6) of Table 6-4 gives you 6.22 lb. Your total aerodynamic drag forced then
is 24.86 1 6.22 5 31.08 lb.
Table 6-5 Aerodynamic Drag Force Fd at Different Vehicle Speeds for Typical Vehicle Cd and A Values
Small car
Larger car
Small pickup
5 mph 10 mph
20 mph
30 mph
45 mph
60 mph
75 mph
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 5-6, p. 107.
Wheel Well and Underbody Airflow
Next, pay some attention to the wheels and wheel-well area. Table 6-3 indicates
that the tire and wheel-well area by itself contributes approximately 21 percent of
the Cd, so small streamlining changes here can have some benefits. Using smooth
wheel covers, thinner tires, anything can help. Keep in mind any large intrusions in
the airflow around your vehicle. Every little bit helps, so anything you can do to
reduce drag will add up.
Roll with the Road
As they said in the movie Days of Thunder, “Tires is what wins the race.” Today, tires
are fat, have wide tread, and are without low-rolling-resistance characteristics;
they’ve been optimized for good adhesion instead. As an electric vehicle owner,
you need to go against the grain of current thinking on tires and learn to roll with
the road to win the performance race. Figure 6-5 shows Shaun and Sparky rolling
through the Midwest.
Chapter Six
Figure 6-5 Shaun, Sparky, and the Electra Cruiser rolling through the Midwest. (Courtesy of
Shaun Murphy and Gus Roxburgh, Balance Vector Productions, www.balancevector.
In this section we will look at rolling resistance and learn how to maximize
efficiency from those four (or three or two) tire-road contact patches that are no
bigger than your hand. In this area, there is not too much you can do to improve
rolling resistance except maybe to pay attention to tire inflation and using properly
rated tires. At best, you can use the data you have to further calculate any losses in
the full equation of your conversion.
Rolling Resistance Defined
The rolling resistance force is defined as
Fr 5 C­W cos Φ
where Cr is the rolling-resistance factor, W is the vehicle weight in pounds, and Φ is
the angle of incline, as shown in Figure 6-2. Notice that cos Φ varies from 1 degree
at no incline (maximum effect) to 0–90 degrees (no effect). Again, vehicle weight is
a factor, this time modulated by the vehicle’s tire friction. The rolling-resistance
factor Cr might at its most elementary level be estimated as a constant. For a typical
EV under 1,500-lb., it is approximately
• 0.006–0.01 on a hard surface (concrete)
• 0.02 on a medium-hard surface
• 0.30 on a soft surface (sand)
Frame and Design
If your calculations require more accuracy, Cr varies linearly at lower speeds
and can be represented by
Cr 5 0.012(1 1 V/100)
where V is vehicle speed in mph.
Pay Attention to Your Tires
Tires are important to an EV owner. They support the vehicle and battery weight
while cushioning against shocks and develop front-to-rear forces for acceleration
and braking. Tires are almost universally of radial-ply construction today. Typically,
one or more steel-belted plies run around the circumference of a tire (hence radial).
These deliver vastly superior performance to the bias-ply types (several plies
woven crosswise around the tire carcass, hence bias or “on an angle”) of earlier
years that were replaced by radials as the standard in the 1960s. A tire is characterized
by its rim width, the size of the wheel rim it fits on, section width (maximum width
across the bulge of the tire), section height (distance from the bead to the outer edge
of the tread), aspect ratio (ratio of height to width), overall diameter and load, and
maximum tire pressure. In addition, the Tire and Rim Association defines the
standard tire-naming conventions. For example, for a tire labeled “130/90H 3 16,”
a typical Harley-style bias tire, 130 denotes the section width in inches (5 5.4 in), 16
denotes the rim diameter in inches, and H denotes the load range of the tire,
meaning the rated load carrying ability in pounds or kg. Look up the manufacturers’
ratings for your specific tire, as these ratings are subject to change.
Table 6-6 provides a comparison of the published motorcycle tire sizes. There
are many more than this. You will need to look up the specific tire and rating for
your vehicle.
For some of your calculations, you will need revolutions per mile, which is a
nominal value calculated directly from the overall diameter rather than using
actual measured data. The calculated value is slightly lower than the measured
value when tires are new, and as tread wears down, you are looking at a difference
of 0.4–0.8 in less in the tire’s diameter, which translates into even more revolutions
per mile. The difference might be 30 revolutions out of 900—a difference of 3
percent—but if this figure is important to your calculations, measure the actual tire
circumference with a tape measure. If the vehicle is still rolling, place some weight
on it and yourself. Next mark the road or your driveway and move the bike so the
tire rotates one full revolution, noting the distance it traveled. When using the tape
measure, you cannot take into account the compression of the tire, which changes
the rolling distance.
From engineering studies on the rolling loss characteristics of solid rubber tires,
we get the following equation:
Ft = Ct(W/d)(th/tw)1/2
Chapter Six
where Ft is the rolling-resistance force, Ct is a constant reflecting the tire material’s
elastic and loss characteristics, W is the weight on the tire, d is the outside diameter
of the tire, and th and tw are the tire section height and width, respectively. This is
the last you will see or hear of this equation in this book, but the point is that the
rolling-resistance force is affected by the material (harder is better for EV owners),
the loading (less weight is better), the size (bigger is better), and the aspect ratio (a
lower th:tw ratio is better). The variables in more conventional tire rolling-resistance
equations are usually tire inflation pressure (resistance decreases with increasing
inflation pressure—harder is better), vehicle speed (increases with increasing
speed), tire warm-up (warmer is better), and load (less weight is better).
Table 6-6 Standard Tire Size for Motorcycles
Overall Width
Overall Diameter
230/50 X 15
7.00 to 8.00
Frame and Design
Use Radial Tires
Radial tires are nearly universal today, so tire construction is no longer a factor.
However, some tire manufacturers still offer bias-ply tires, so check to be sure
because bias-ply or bias-belted tires deliver far inferior performance to radials in
terms of rolling resistance versus speed, warm-up, and inflation. You will find that
many different tire variations are available for your motorcycle.
Use High Tire Inflation Pressures
While you don’t want to overinflate and balloon out your tires so that they pop off
their rims, there is no reason not to inflate your EV’s tires to their limit to suit your
purpose. The upper limit is established by your discomfort level from the road
vibration transmitted to your body. Rock-hard tires are fine; the only real caveat is
not to overload your tires. For motorcycle handling, safety, and performance, the
tire pressure may need to be adjusted to your needs.
Brake Drag and Rolling Resistance
In addition to tires, rolling resistance comes from brake drag. Brake drag usually
goes away as the vehicle is broken in. Be aware of your brakes, and make adjustments
as needed to reduce any drag.
Rolling-Resistance Force Data You Can Use
For most purposes, the nominal Cr of 0.010 (for concrete) with the nominal brake
drag of 0.001 added to it (5 0.011) is all you need. This generates 18.0 lb of rollingresistance force for a 1,000-lb. vehicle. The 1,100-lb Electra Cruiser would have a
rolling resistance of 12.1 lb (1,100 lb of bike weight 3 0.011, or 1.1 3 11 lb). At 30
mph, the aerodynamic drag force on the Cruiser is 31.08 lb—more than double the
contribution of its 12.41 lb of rolling-resistance drag.
Figure 6-6 shows the aerodynamic example of drag force and rolling-resistance
force for several vehicle speeds. These two forces, along with acceleration and hillclimbing forces, constitute the propulsion or road load. Notice that the 12.1 lb of
rolling-resistance force is the main component of drag until the aerodynamic drag
force takes over above 45 mph. Adding the force required to accelerate at a 1 mph/s
rate, nominally equivalent to that required to climb a 4.5 percent incline, merely
shifts the combined aerodynamic-drag–rolling-resistance-force curve upward by
60.17 lb (1.1 3 54.7 lb) for the Cruiser. We’ll look at these forces once again further
in this chapter.
Less Is More with Drivetrains
In this section we will look at the drivetrain for the motorcycle adopted for your EV
conversion. The drivetrain in any vehicle consists of the components that transfer
its motive power to the wheels and tires. The problem is that two separate
Chapter Six
Figure 6-6 Rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag versus speed. From Build Your Own Electric
Vehicle, Figure 5-5, p. 112.
vocabularies are used when talking about drivetrains for electric motors as opposed
to those for internal combustion engines. This section will discuss the basic
components, cover differences in motor versus engine performance specifications,
discuss transmission selection, and look at the tradeoffs of manual transmission
versus belt or chain drive. In addition, we will look at the influence of fluids on
drivetrain efficiencies.
Let’s start with what the drivetrain in a conventional internal combustion engine
vehicle must accomplish. In practical terms, the power available from the engine
must be equal to the job of overcoming the tractive resistances discussed earlier for
any given speed.
The obvious mission of the drivetrain is to apply the engine’s power to driving
the wheel and tire with the least loss (highest efficiency). Overall, though, the
drivetrain must perform a number of tasks:
Convert torque and speed of the engine to vehicle motion/traction
Change directions, enabling forward and backward vehicle motion
Overcome hills and grades
Maximize fuel economy
The drivetrain layout shown in simplified form in Figure 6-7 is the one used
most widely to accomplish these objectives today. You have a few choices in this
area, one of which is the choice between using a transmission, a chain or belt drive,
or maybe a shaft drive unit. The function of each component of the drivetrain is as
Frame and Design
Figure 6-7 Simplified EV motorcycle drivetrain layout from the Electra Cruiser.
• Engine (or electric motor)—provides the raw power to propel the vehicle.
• Clutch (optional)—separates or interrupts the power flow from the engine
so that transmission gears can be shifted and, once engaged, the vehicle can
be driven from standstill to top speed.
• Manual transmission—provides a number of alternative gear ratios to the
engine to meet vehicle needs—maximum torque for hill climbing or
minimum speed to economical cruising at maximum speed.
• Chain or belt drive—connects the motor to the drive wheel.
• Shaft drive—geared or connected directly to the drive wheel at 90 degrees in
rear wheel to provide a speed reduction with a corresponding increase in
Difference in Motor versus Engine Specifications
Comparing electric motors and internal combustion engines is not an “apples to
apples” comparison. If someone offers you either an electric motor or an internal
combustion engine with the same rated horsepower, take the electric motor—it’s
far more powerful. Also, a series-wound electric motor delivers peak torque on
startup (0 rpm), whereas an internal combustion engine delivers nothing until you
wind up its revolutions per minute (rpm).
An electric motor is so different from an internal combustion engine that a brief
discussion of terms is necessary before going further. There is a substantial difference
in the ways electric motors and internal combustion engines are rated in horsepower.
Figure 6-8 shows at a glance that an electric motor is more powerful than an internal
combustion engine of the same rated horsepower. All internal combustion engines
Chapter Six
Figure 6-8 Comparison of electric motor versus internal combustion engine characteristics.
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Figure 5-7, p. 115.
are rated at specific rpm levels for maximum torque and maximum horsepower.
Internal combustion engine maximum horsepower ratings typically are derived
under idealized laboratory conditions (for the bare engine without accessories
attached), which is why the rated horsepower point appears above the maximum
peak of the internal combustion engine horsepower curve in Figure 6-8. Electric
motors, on the other hand, typically are rated at the continuous output level that
the motor can maintain without overheating.
As you can see from the figure, the rated horsepower point for an electric motor
is far down from its short-term output, which is typically two to three times higher
than its continuous output. There is another substantial difference. While an electric
motor can produce a high torque at zero speed, an internal combustion engine
produces negative torque until some speed is reached. An electric motor therefore
can be attached directly to the drive wheels and accelerate the vehicle from a
standstill without the need for the clutch, transmission, or torque converter, all of
which are required by an internal combustion engine.
Everything can be accomplished by controlling the drive current to the electric
motor. While an internal combustion engine can deliver peak torque only in a relatively
narrow speed range and requires a transmission and different gear ratios to deliver its
power over a wide vehicle speed range, electric motors can be designed to deliver
their power over a broad speed range with no need for a transmission at all.
All these factors mean that current EV conversions put a lighter load on vehicle
drivetrains, and future EV conversions will eliminate the need for several drivetrain
components altogether.
Frame and Design
Let’s briefly summarize:
• Clutch—Although basically unused, the clutch is handy to have in an EV for
shifting when needed. For most motorcycle conversions, you may only
need to use a straight belt or chain drive. In the future, when widespread
the use of alternating-current (ac) motors and controllers may eliminate the
need for a complicated mechanical transmission, the electric motor can be
coupled directly to the drive wheel or used with a two-gear ratio
transmission, eliminating any other components.
• Transmission—This is a handy item depending on your performance needs.
The transmission’s gears not only match the vehicle you are converting to a
variety of off-the-shelf electric motors, but in the future, when widespread
adoption of ac motors and controllers provides directional control and
eliminates the need for a large number of mechanical gears, you will still
get the torques and speeds you need.
Going through the Gears
The transmission gear ratios adapt the internal combustion engine’s power and
torque characteristics to maximum torque needs for hill climbing or maximum
economy needs for cruising. Figure 6-9 shows these at a glance for a typical internal
combustion engine with four manual gears—horsepower/torque characteristics
versus vehicle speed appear above the line and rpm versus vehicle speed appear
below. The constant-engine-power line is simply Equation 5, namely, hp 5 FV/375
(V in mph), less any drivetrain losses. The tractive-force line for each gear is simply
the characteristic internal combustion engine torque curve (similar to the one
shown in Figure 6-8) multiplied by the ratios for that gear. The superimposed
incline-force lines are the typical propulsion or road-load-force components added
by acceleration or hill-climbing forces (recall the shape of this curve in Figure 6-6).
The intersection of the incline or road-load curves and the tractive-force curves is
the maximum speed that can be sustained in that gear.
The upper half of Figure 6-9 illustrates how low first gearing for startup and
high fourth gearing for high-speed driving apply to engine torque capabilities. The
lower part of the figure shows road speed versus engine speed—for each gear. The
point of this drawing is to illustrate how gear selection applies to engine speed
capabilities. Normally, the overall gear ratios are selected to fall in a geometric
progression: first/second = second/third, etc. Then individual gears are optimized
for starting (first), passing (second or third), and fuel economy (fourth or fifth).
Table 6-7 shows how these ratios turn out in the Electra Cruiser. The table also
calculates the actual motor to transmission to drive wheel and overall gear ratios
from start to finish.
Chapter Six
Figure 6-9 Transmission gear ratio versus speed and power summary. From Build Your Own
Electric Vehicle, Figure 5-8, p. 117.
Manual Transmission versus Chain or Shaft Drive
This part of the conversion will depend on a lot of things, mostly what kind of bike
you are building or converting. This decision will weigh heavily on your personal
preference, the size of the bike, and what you expect to gain performance-wise.
There are a lot of factors to consider. The simplest solution is just to use a belt or
chain drive directly to the wheel. For a larger, heavier bike, I would choose a chain
drive, or if you want to spend a little more money, you can go with a synchronous
belt, also referred to as a timing belt. This is the same style belt Harley-Davidson
Table 6-7 Transmission Gear Ratios for the Electra Cruiser with 1948 Four-Speed Harley Transmission
Tire Rpm
1st Gear
Tire Rpm
2nd Gear
Tire Rpm
3rd Gear
Tire Rpm
4th Gear
Mph 1st
Mph 2nd
Mph 3rd
Mph 4th
Chapter Six
motorcycles use for the secondary drive (drive belt for the wheel). For a smaller,
light weight bike, you could use a smaller belt.
I liked using a transmission for my motorcycle, but it was a lot more work and
meant a significant increase in cost. Just the transmission alone in the Electra Cruiser
cost over $3,000 dollars. Then add to that the cost of the clutch, clutch basket, and
hydraulic clutch assembly, and now you have a transmission costing over $4,500
dollars. With the Cruiser, it was essential to have the different gear ratios because
of the weight of the bike (approaching 1,100 lb). I also wanted the best of both
worlds, acceleration and speed. The bike is a beast, with a low-gear ratio of 12:1
and the power to snap 1.5-in-wide Kevlar timing belts. If we look at the torque from
the motor at 200 ft · lb, and we take the gear ratio of 12:1 (i.e., 200 3 12 5 2,400 ft ·
lb), that adds up to 2,400 ft · lb of torque to the rear wheel—that’s a lot of power!
Depending again on the bike you chose, another solution would be to use a shaft
drive and connect the motor directly to it or maybe insert a slight gear reduction.
As I said, you have a lot of choices.
Drivetrains and Fluids
Depending on whether you use a transmission or not, your drivetrain will eat up a
small amount of power by going through gears, chains, and belts. One of the ways
to increase some of your efficiencies is to use a lighter synthetic oil that is more
durable in reducing friction. I asked long-time friend of mine Bill Phelan, who also
is an AMSOIL distributor, questions about alternate transmission oils I could use to
reduce friction. He actually recommended a few products that were synthetic and
lighter in viscosity that would do the job. After I added them to the Cruiser’s
transmission, it did become quieter and shifted smoother. How much added range
I achieved I am not sure, but every little bit helps.
Design Your EV
This is step two. Look at your “big picture” first. Before you buy, build, or convert,
decide what the main mission of your EV will be: a high-speed dragster to quietly
blow away unsuspecting opponents at a stoplight, a long-range cruiser to be a winning
candidate at Electric Auto Association meetings, or a utility commuter vehicle to take
you to work or grocery shopping with capabilities midway between the other two.
Your EV’s weight is of primary importance to any design, but high acceleration off the
line will dictate one type of design approach and gear ratios, whereas a long-range
design will push you in a different direction. If it’s a commuter EV you seek, then
you’ll want to preserve a little of both while optimizing your design flexibility toward
either highway commuting or neighborhood traveling needs.
In this section you’ll learn how to match your motor-drivetrain combination to
the performance level and style you seek by going through the following steps:
Frame and Design
Learn when to use horsepower, torque, or current units and why.
Look at a calculation overview.
Determine the required torque needs of your selected vehicle’s frame.
Determine the available capabilities of your selected electric motor and
The design process described herein can be adapted infinitely to any EV you
want to buy, build, or convert.
Horsepower, Torque, and Current
Let’s start with some basic formulas. Earlier in this chapter, Equation 2 casually
introduced you to the fact that
1 hp 5 550 (ft · lb)/s
This was then conveniently bundled into Equation 5:
1 hp 5 FV/375
where V is speed expressed in mph and F is force in pounds. Horsepower is a rate
of doing work. It takes 1 hp to raise 550 lb 1 foot in 1 second. But the second equation,
which relates force and speed, brings horsepower to you in more familiar terms. It
takes 1 hp to move 37.5 lb at 10 mph. Great, but you also can move 50 lb at 7.5 mph
with 1 hp. The first instance might describe the force required to push a vehicle
forward on a level slope; the second describes the force required to push the same
vehicle up an incline.
Horsepower is equal to force times speed, but you need to specify the force and
speed you are talking about. For example, since we already know that 146.19 lb is
the total drag force on the 1,100-pound Electra Cruiser at 50 mph, and Equation 5
relates the actual power required at a vehicle’s wheels as a function of its speed and
the required tractive force, then
hp 5 (146.19 3 50)/375 5 19.49 (or approximately 20 hp)
This means that only about 20 hp is necessary—at the wheels—to propel this
motorcycle along at 50 mph on a level road without wind. In fact, a rated 20-hp
electric motor will easily propel a 4,000-lb vehicle at 50 mph—a fact that might
amaze those who think in terms of the typically rated 90- or 120-hp internal
combustion engine replaced with an electric motor. The point here is to condition
yourself to think in terms of force values, which are relatively easy to determine,
rather than in terms of a horsepower figure that is arrived at differently for engines
versus electric motors and that means little until tied to specific force and speed
values anyway.
Another point (covered in more detail in the discussion of electric motors in
Chapter 8 and the discussion of the electrical system in Chapter 12) is to think in
Chapter Six
terms of current when working with electric motors. The current is directly related
to motor torque. Through the torque-current relationship, you can link the
mechanical and electrical worlds directly. (Note: The controller gives current
multiplication. In other words, if the motor voltage is one-third the battery voltage,
then the motor current is slightly less than three times the battery current. The
motor and battery current would be the same only if you used a very inefficient
resistive controller.)
Calculation Overview
Notice that the starting point in the calculations was the ending point of the force
value required. Once you know the forces acting on your vehicle chassis at a given
speed, the rest is easy. For your calculation approach, first determine these values,
and then plug in your motor and drivetrain values for its design center operating
point, be it a 100-mph speedster, a 20-mph economy cruiser, or a 50-mph touring
bike. A speed of 50 mph will be the design center for our vehicle example.
In short, you need to select a speed, select an electric motor for that speed,
choose the rpm value at which the motor delivers that horsepower, choose the
target gear ratio based on that rpm value, and see if the motor provides the torque
over the range of level and hill-climbing conditions you need. Once you go through
the equations, worksheets, and graphed results covered in this section—and repeat
them with your own values—you’ll find the process quite simple.
The entire process is designed to give you graphic results that you can quickly
use to see how the torque available from your selected motor and drivetrain meets
your vehicle’s torque requirements at different vehicle speeds. If you have a
computer with a spreadsheet program, you can set it up once, and afterwards, you
can graph the results of any changed input parameter in seconds. In equation form,
what I am saying is this:
Available engine power 5 tractive resistance demand
Power 5 (acceleration 1 climbing 1 rolling 1 drag 1 wind) resistance
Plugging this into the force equations gives you
Force 5 Fa 1 Fh 1 Fr 1 Fd 1 Fw
Force 5 CiWa 1 W sin Φ 1 CrW cos Φ 1 CdAV2 1 CwFd
You’ve determined every one of these earlier in the chapter. Under steadyspeed conditions, acceleration is zero, so there is no acceleration force. If you are on
a level surface, sin Φ 5 0, cos Φ 5 1, and the force equation can be rewritten as
Force 5 CrW cos f 1 CdAV2 1 CwFd
This is the propulsion or road-load force you met at the end of the rollingresistance section and graphed in Figure 6-6. You need to determine this force for
Frame and Design
your vehicle at several candidate vehicle speeds and add back in the acceleration
and hill-climbing forces. This is easy if you recall that the acceleration force equals
the hill-climbing force over the range from 1­–6 mph/s. You now can calculate your
electric motor’s required horsepower for your EV’s performance requirements:
Horsepower (hp) 5 (torque 3 rpm)/5,252 = 2p/60 3 FV/550
Wheel rpm 5 (mph 3 rev/mi)/60
The preceding equation can be substituted to give
hpwheel 5 (torquewheel 3 mph 3 rev/mi)/(5,252 3 60)
hpmotor 5 hpwheel/no
where no is the overall drivetrain efficiency. Substituting the preceding equation
into this one gives
hpmotor 5 (torquewheel 3 mph 3 rev/mi)/(315,120 3 no)
Plugging the values for torque, speed, and revolutions per mile (based on your
vehicle’s tire diameter) into the equation will give you the required horsepower for
your electric motor.
After you have chosen your candidate electric motor, the manufacturer usually
will provide you with a graph or table showing its torque and current versus speed
performance based on a constant voltage applied to the motor terminals. From
these figures or curves, you can derive the rpm value at which your electric motor
delivers closest to its rated horsepower. Using this motor rpm figure and the wheel
rpm figure from your target speed and rpm, you can determine your best gear or
gear ratio from
Overall gear ratio 5 rpmmotor/rpmwheel
This—or the one closest to it—is the best gear for the transmission in your
selected vehicle to use; if you were setting up a one-gear-only EV, you would pick
this ratio.
With all the other motor torque and rpm values, you then can calculate wheel
torque and vehicle speed using the following equations for the different overall
gear ratios in your drivetrain:
Torquewheel 5 torquemotor/(overall gear ratio 3 no)
Speedvehicle (in mph) 5 (rpmmotor 3 60)/(overall gear ratio 3 rev/mi)
You now have the family of torque-available curves versus vehicle speed for
the different gear ratios in your drivetrain. All that remains is to graph the torquerequired data and the torque-available data on the same grid. A quick look at the
graph tells you whether you have what you need or need to go back to the drawing
Chapter Six
Torque-Required Worksheet
Tables 6-8 and 6-9 compute the torque-required data for the Electra Cruiser, the
vehicle I created using this book. You’ve met all the values going into the level drag
force before, but not in one worksheet. Now they are converted to torque values
using Equation 11, and new values of force and torque are calculated for incline
values from 2–15 percent. Conveniently, these correspond rather closely to the
acceleration values for 1–5 mph/s, respectively, and the two can be used
interchangeably. The vehicle assumptions all appear in Table 6-8. If you were
preparing a computer spreadsheet, all this type of information would be grouped
in one section so that you could see the effects of changing chassis weight, CdA, Cr,
and other parameters. You also might want to graph speed values at 5-mph intervals
to present a more accurate picture.
Torque-Available Worksheet
There are a few preliminaries to go through before you can prepare the torqueavailable worksheet. First, you have to determine the horsepower of an electric
motor using the following equation:
hpmotor 5 (torquewheel 3 mph 3 rev/mi)/(315,120 3 no)
You do this using the numbers from the Advanced DC Motors Model FB1-4001,
rated at 22 hp. From the manufacturer’s torque versus speed curves for this motor
driven at a constant 120 V and using this equation, we get
hp 5 (torque 3 rpm)/5,252 5 (25 3 4,600)/5,252 5 21.89
This motor produces approximately 22 hp at 4,600 rpm at 25 ft · lb of torque and
170 A.
Next, calculate the wheel rpm using the following equation:
rpmwheel 5 (mph 3 rev/mi)/60 5 (50 3 808)/60 5 673.33
You then can calculate the best gear using
Overall gear ratio = rpmmotor/rpmwheel 5 4,600/673.33 5 6.83
From Table 6-7, you can use this as an example to create your own spreadsheet.
Depending on whether you want a transmission or not, you want to gather all the
data you can. If you only use a belt or straight chain drive system, place all the belt
or chain ratios in the spreadsheet, and try to balance out the rpm value of the motor
with the speed of the vehicle. Optimize your numbers to work with in the most
efficient rpm of your electric motor. From these spreadsheets, you can create graphs
that give you a full picture of where your numbers need to be. Pay particular
attention to the number of amps the electric motor will consume at varying speeds
or gear ratios and under inclines or at high speeds. If you can acquire any data from
the electric motor manufacturer for torque and rpm, place those data in your
Table 6-8 Torque-Required Worksheet for Electra Cruiser at Different Speeds and 2 Percent Incline
of Drag Cd
Sq Ft
Speed in
Tire Dia in In
Speed in Ft/
Wind Factor
Wind Factor
Crw (1)
Weight in
Angle of
Incline in
Wheel Rpm
Drag Force
in (Lbs)
Drag Force
Angle of
Incline Force
in Lbs
Force (Lbs)
Hp Required
Torque at
Rear Wheel
continued on next page
Table 6-8 Torque-Required Worksheet for Electra Cruiser at Different Speeds and 2 Percent Incline (continued)
of Drag Cd
Sq Ft
Speed in
Tire Dia in In
Speed in Ft/
Wind Factor
Wind Factor
Crw (1)
Weight in
Angle of
Incline in
Wheel Rpm
Drag Force
in (Lbs)
Drag Force
Angle of
Incline Force
in Lbs
Force (Lbs)
Hp Required
Torque at
Rear Wheel
Table 6-9 Torque-Required Worksheet for Electra Cruiser at Different Speeds and 15 Percent Incline
of Drag Cd
Frontal Area
in Sq Ft
Speed in
Tire Dia in
Speed In Ft/
Wind Factor
Wind Factor
Crw (1)
Weight in
Angle of
Incline in
Wheel Rpm
Drag Force
in Lbs
Drag Force
Angle of
Incline Force
in Lbs
Force (Lbs)
Hp Required
Torque at
Rear Wheel
continued on next page
Table 6-9 Torque-Required Worksheet for Electra Cruiser at Different Speeds and 15 Percent Incline (continued)
of Drag Cd
Frontal Area
in Sq Ft
Speed in
Tire Dia in
Speed In Ft/
Wind Factor
Wind Factor
Crw (1)
Weight in
Angle of
Incline in
Wheel Rpm
Drag Force
in Lbs
Drag Force
Angle of
Incline Force
in Lbs
Force (Lbs)
Hp Required
Torque at
Rear Wheel
Frame and Design
spreadsheet, and try to match everything up. It is not as hard as it sounds, but it
does take a little time on your part to set up all the parameters. Once you have the
spreadsheets worked out, your job now is a snap—just drop numbers in, and the
whole picture will unfold right before your eyes. Figures 6-10 to 6-14 are samples
of spreadsheets I created that you can use as samples.
As you look at the motor and drivetrain combination for your vehicle, you can
make changes along the way and tweak things. If you want to make minor
Figure 6-10 Wheel rpm versus motor rpm versus torque on a 0-degree incline.
Figure 6-11 Advanced DC Motors curves with gear ratios.
Chapter Six
Figure 6-12 Advanced DC Motors curves for four-speed transmission with gear ratios.
Figure 6-13 Wheel rpm value versus max/min torque and motor rpm on a 40-degree incline.
Frame and Design
Figure 6-14 Wheel rpm versus motor rpm versus torque on 0- and 40-degree inclines.
adjustments, just raise or lower the battery voltage. This will shift the torqueavailable curve for each gear. A larger motor in your particular vehicle may give
you better acceleration and top-end speed and performance. The torque-available
curves for each gear would be shifted higher. However, the penalty might be higher
weight and increased current draw with shorter range. A smaller motor would shift
the torque-available curves lower while returning a small weight and current draw
advantage. Beware of underpowering your vehicle, though. A motor that is not
sized properly may overheat and have a shorter life. If given the choice, always go
for a slightly larger motor rather than slightly less horsepower than you need. The
result almost always will be higher satisfaction with your finished EV conversion.
Why Conversion Is Best
In the real world, where time is money, converting an existing internal combustion
engine vehicle saves money in terms of large capital investment and a large amount
of labor. By starting with an existing late-model vehicle, the EV converter’s bonus is
a structure that comes complete with body, frame, suspension, and braking systems—
all designed, developed, tested, and safety-proven to work together. Provided that
the converted electric vehicle does not greatly exceed the original vehicle’s Gross
Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) overall weight or Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
weight per axle specifications, all systems will continue to deliver their previous
performance, stability, and handling characteristics. And the EV converter inherits
another body bonus—its lights, brakes, and other equipment are already preapproved and tested to meet all safety requirements and DOT standards.
Chapter Six
There’s still another benefit—you save more money selling off its pieces for
more than you paid for the bike. When you build (rather than convert) an EV, you
are on the other side of the fence. Unless you bought a complete kit, building from
scratch means buying chassis tubing, angle braces, and sheet stock plus axles/
suspension, brakes, bearings/wheels/tires, trim/paint, lights/electrical, gauges,
instruments, etc.—parts that are bound to cost you more à la carte than buying
them already manufactured and installed on the vehicle.
Sell Your Unused Engine Parts
Somebody somewhere wants that engine you just removed for the EV that you just
built for their own bike. This is a great way to recoup some money on your
investment. If the parts are no good, in the worst case, you could sell them for scrap
and still do your part by recycling.
Equipment Required for Motorcycles
(Including Limited-Use Motorcycles)
Equipment must be of a type approved by the commissioner of motor vehicles.
Department of transportation (DOT) designation or proof on parts and equipment
may be mandatory. If you are building a homemade or custom vehicle, please
contact your DMV technical services unit for more information.
Brakes must be adequate to control the motorcycle at all times and must be in good
working order. All 1971 and newer motorcycles must be equipped with brakes
acting on the front and rear wheels to stop the motorcycle within 25 ft from 20 mph
on a hard, dry surface.
The sound produced must be loud enough to serve as a warning but not
unnecessarily loud or harsh.
Since you are building an EV, this will not apply. If, by chance, you built a hybrid
version, these requirements might apply. No person shall operate on any highway
a motorcycle which is
• Not equipped with a muffler to prevent excessive or unusual noise
• Equipped with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens, or other
original internal parts have been removed or altered
Frame and Design
• Equipped with an exhaust device without internal baffles, known as
“straight pipes”
• Equipped with a modified exhaust system that amplifies or increases the
exhaust noise so it is louder than the noise made by the original exhaust
A motorcycle must have an adjustable rear-view mirror to give the operator a clear
view of the road and traffic conditions behind the motorcycle.
If the motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen, the windscreen and its brackets
must be permanently labeled by the manufacturer to ensure that they are approved
for highway use (DOT).
Handlebars or Grips
The handlebars or grips must not be higher than the operator’s shoulders.
Handlebars should be no more than 15 in higher than the seat. This means no “ape
hanger” handlebars. Such handlebars are primarily for show and actually adversely
affect handling and control of the vehicle.
Seat Height
Measure from the ground to the top of the operator’s seat. If the seat is adjustable,
the seat must be at its lowest position. Seat height must be at least 25 in from the
ground on a two-wheeled motorcycle and 20 in on a three-wheeled motorcycle.
Tires must be DOT approved with a DOT number. A tire may not be used if there
• A visible break, that is, a cut, in excess of 1 in that is deep enough to reach
body cords
• Any bump, bulge, ply, or cord exposure
• Any portion of tread design that is completely worn and which is of
sufficient size to affect the traction or stopping ability of the tire
• Tread depth (when measured with a tire gauge) of less than 2/32 in
• Labeling such as “Not for highway use,” “For racing purposes only,” or
words of similar intent
• A weight rating not sufficient for the vehicle, rider, and equipment
Chapter Six
Lighting Devices and Reflectors
One unit may be used to accomplish two or more lighting purposes. The motorcycle
must display at least one headlamp at the front of the vehicle. When operated with
a sidecar attached, it must have at least two headlamps displayed at the front. The
headlamp(s) must be capable of projecting a dual beam (high/low). The headlamp(s)
must be on whenever the motorcycle is operated on public highways. Lights should
be mounted at a height of not more than 54 in or less than 24 in from the ground,
measured from the center of the lamp to the level ground on which the motorcycle
stands without a load
Stop Lamp
One red stop lamp must be displayed to the rear. Some older motorcycles were
equipped with a red-amber stop light. These lights are approved only for use on
the original vehicle. The light should be visible from at least 300 ft to the rear in
normal sunlight.
Tail Lamp
One red tail lamp must be displayed to the rear. This lamp must be visible from 300
ft, and some states say up to 500 ft. The tail lamp must be on whenever the
motorcycle is operated on public highways.
Turn Signal Lamps
Any 1985 or newer motorcycle must be equipped with directional or turn signals.
Any motorcycle that was originally equipped with such signals or to which such
signals have been added must have them inspected. Turn signals must show amber
to the front and red or amber to the rear. Front signals must be mounted at the same
level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable and must emit white or amber
light. Rear signals must be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally
as practicable and must emit red or amber light. Both front and rear lights must be
visible from a distance of at least 500 ft.
License Plate Lamp
The plate must be lit with a white light bright enough to make the plate visible from
50 ft.
One red reflector must be displayed to the rear of the vehicle (may be a part of the
tail lamp).
Frame and Design
All 1980 and newer motorcycles must be capable of measuring the motorcycle’s
speed and of displaying the speed in miles per hour.
Wheels must be protected by fenders to prevent the throwing of rocks, dirt, water,
or other substances to the rear.
All these requirements are for your safety and that of others. Remember, you
want your vehicle to be as visible as possible. What is the old saying among bikers?
“Loud pipes save lives?” Well, now we have no pipes and have created a very silent
vehicle. It is really cool to cruise with just the wind and little sound—something
words just cannot explain; you have to experience it for yourself. In the same respect,
it is important to make sure that your vehicle is highly visible and safe to operate.
Since you have an EV, I would plan to keep a few additional safety items on
board. This is a subject few people talk about, and I feel that is very important to
consider, if not just for the EV motorcycle but for all electric vehicles. Motorcycles
are dangerous. We all know this. The problem is not the motorcycle rider, but the
other people on the road. Things happen, and you need to be prepared for the
worst. I will assume that most of the motorcycle conversions to electric will use
some form of lead-acid batteries. It just makes sense; they are cheap, work well,
and are easy to get. Well, in a worst-case scenario, you get in an accident. Some jerk
hits you, your bike is busted up, and your batteries leak, burst, or explode. What do
you do? Now you have acid on you, in your eyes or, worse, in your wounds. My
advice is to know your battery chemistry. Know what harm those chemicals can
have, and prepare for it. In the case of lead-acid batteries, I would keep a small kit
on board with eyewash and baking soda or another substance to neutralize the
acid. A few little precautions now could go a long way in the future and may be the
deciding factor in preventing a serious injury.
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From its early beginnings, battery technology is ever evolving. Looking back to the
first battery, invented in 1800 by Alessandro Volta, technology has advanced greatly
(Figures 7-1 and 7-2). The three major and most important components your electric
vehicle (EV) depends on are the batteries, the electric motor, and the controller. In
my opinion, the batteries are the most important; they are the key and limiting
factor in any EV.
Batteries power our daily lives, and the multibillion-dollar industry fuels the
worldwide economy. Without batteries, our cars would not start, and we would
have no backup power in buildings, no emergency lighting, no security systems,
no telecommunications, and no EVs.
If you look at all of society’s technological advancements from electronics to
materials and so much more, you would think that since 1800, over 200 years later,
batteries would be so much more advanced. Yes, battery technology has gained
many leaps and bounds, but where are these batteries? Why have the masses, you
and I, been unable to purchase this advanced technology? Why is it so expensive?
Is there a conspiracy? Why did Texaco/Chevron (“big oil”) buy the controlling
interests in the General Motors’ Ovonic high-efficiency, nickel–metal hydride
(NiMH) battery technology? Why have the patents on NiMH batteries, previously
owned by GM Ovonic Battery Company (during the EV1 battery era) and later sold
to Texaco/Chevron, been used to prevent anyone from making large NiMH
batteries suitable for use in EVs? All NiMH battery production (such as the common
AA rechargeables) must be licensed from Chevron, and its licensing terms forbid
batteries from being made above a certain specified size.
Since January 2000, GM has been gradually taking steps to eliminate its EV
program, going as far as taking EV1s and Chevy S10 trucks out of service (see
Figure 7-3), with plans to send them to the crusher. Is it coincidence that in the same
year of 2000 Texaco/Chevron bought GM’s 60 percent share of an existing joint
Chapter Seven
Figure 7-1 Early 6-V battery by Exide. (www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/
Figure 7-2 Early 6-V lead acid battery. (www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/
batteryfiles/fig.171.jpg; www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/
venture with Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) (maker of the Ovonic battery)?
ECD is a firm in which Texaco already holds a 20 percent interest. These stories and
many others make you think, “Maybe there is more behind our lack of battery
technology advancements?” Or is there no conspiracy? Was it that the government
only granted GM a special 36-month permission allowing it to give the prototype
EV to the public with the stipulation that it had to be removed from the roads? I
will leave you to your own conclusions. David Findley researched this topic and
found even more information and came to a number of different conclusions. His
special article can be found at www.exploresynergy.org.
In this chapter you will learn about different battery technologies and their
advantages and disadvantages. I will discuss the many batteries available on the
market today and future batteries to come. I will touch on some of the basic
chemistry and makeup of batteries for your basic knowledge. Then we will look at
the basic calculations, capacity, and rating of batteries.
Battery Overview
Your EV’s construction up to now involved many mechanical aspects involving
transmissions, gear ratios, geometry, and other design considerations. Here, we
Figure 7.3 Ovonic EV1 battery in an S-10 pickup. (Courtesy of Mike Anzalone of Long Island
Electric Auto Association [LIEAA].)
will review the electrochemical actions that turn chemical energy into electrical
energy. In essence, your batteries are your fuel tank. The goal of your fuel tank
(batteries) is to achieve the greatest storage possible in a limited space, giving your
EV as much range as possible.
While battery development and advancements are an ongoing process, the
objective here is to give you some basic background and knowledge. For your EV
conversion, I will assume that lead-acid batteries will be the battery of choice.
Considering your conversion and the limited space available, you may opt for
advanced battery technology to cram more power in a smaller space. The batteries
may represent the largest replacement-cost item and possibly your largest initialexpense item depending on the number and type of battery you use. The cost of
batteries for your EV should be half to one-quarter what a normal EV conversion
might cost depending on the size of your conversion. Considering this cost savings,
you might be able to spend a little more money on advanced batteries. Remember,
the batteries are the heart of your EV, one of three very important areas that are
crucial in your EV build.
You probably can find many good-quality books about batteries and a few good
Web sites with excellent data. Curtis Instruments has a great Web site link just
dedicated to batteries. While the information was written in 1980 as a book, it is still
as valid today as it was then. Curtis now has made this information available to
everyone by publishing its works on the Web at evbatterymonitoring.com.
Chapter Seven
As you read this chapter, I will help you to become familiar with a few basic areas:
• What goes on inside a battery and the chemical reactions taking place
• A battery’s external characteristics, mounting, and connections
• Calculations and formulas to understand battery rating and to evaluate
range and performance
Knowledge in these areas gives you a strong background and understanding of
your choices and your batteries.
Battery History
The battery is one of the most important inventions in the history of humankind.
The invention is now taken for granted but was not always so commonplace. You
couldn’t just walk into a store and buy a battery off a shelf as we do now. Volta’s
pile was at first a technical curiosity, but this new electrochemical phenomenon
very quickly opened a myriad of discoveries, inventions, and applications. The
electronics, computer, and communications industries; power engineering; and
much of the chemical industry of today were founded on discoveries made possible
by the battery. Below is a brief history and timeline of just some of the pioneers of
the past. There are many more to be added to the list that literally will fill four or
five more pages.1
Early Pioneers in Battery Technology
• 1748: Benjamin Franklin first coined the term battery to describe an array of
charged glass plates.
• 1780–1786: Luigi Galvani demonstrated what we now understand to be the
electrical basis of nerve impulses. This was accomplished by placing a
voltage across a frog’s leg and making it twitch. This provided the
cornerstone of research for later inventors such as Volta.
• 1800: Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile and discovered the first
practical method of generating electricity. Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile
was the first “wet-cell battery” that produced a reliable, steady current of
• 1836: Englishman John F. Daniel invented the Daniel cell that used two
electrolytes, copper sulfate and zinc sulfate. The Daniel cell was somewhat
safer and less corrosive then the Volta cell. • 1839: William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell, which produced
electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen.
• 1859: Gaston Planté, a French physicist, invented the lead-acid battery The
lead-acid battery eventually became the first rechargeable electric battery
marketed for commercial use.
• 1881: Carl Gassner invented the first commercially successful dry-cell
battery (zinc-carbon cell).
• 1899: Waldmar Jungner invented the first nickel-cadmium rechargeable
And this list goes on and on.
For our initial discussions, I will review lead-acid batteries because they are the
most popular battery for EVs. The basics of battery operation hold true for other
types of batteries, most using an anode and cathode that I will explain in more
detail below.
Battery Types
The basic batteries this book will explain are secondary batteries. These are the most
popular of all batteries. Secondary batteries are rechargeable batteries, the battery
of choice used most in EVs. They have the advantage of being more cost-efficient
over the long term. Secondary batteries are the best solution for high-drain
applications. If you look at primary batteries, you see that they do not fit the
requirements of an EV. First off, primary batteries are not rechargeable; once you
use them, they are discarded. They do have higher energy density and voltage
because no design compromises were necessary to accommodate recharging.
Primary batteries are not suitable for high-drain applications owing to their short
Most of this chapter will focus on lead-acid batteries because they are most
popular and most likely the battery of choice. I will explain various advanced
battery technologies currently available and new technologies for the future. Even
though the focus may lean toward lead acid, that does not rule out other batteries
and battery technologies for EVs. A major design consideration is power-to-weight
ratio because your EV must carry the batteries, and any weight you can save means
more range for the EV. In the next few paragraphs I will briefly explain additional
battery types and chemistry starting from the bottom up. I will not be able to cover
all battery types, only the ones that apply to EVs.
Starting Batteries
The starting battery is designed to deliver quick bursts of energy, and generally
such batteries are used for starting engines with a short burst of power. Typically
this battery sees only a 2 percent discharge under normal conditions. This type of
battery has a greater plate count internally, and the plates are usually thinner and
somewhat different in material composition. The thin plates allow for more plates
in the battery, increasing the surface area. The plates generally are around 0.04 in.
thick.2 With more surface area, the battery is able to provide greater bursts of
Chapter Seven
The starting battery cannot withstand more than a few deep discharges before
failure. Generally, a starting battery should not be discharged more than 20 percent
of its total charge. A starting battery, if deeply discharged, may last only 30–150
deep cycles until failure. Normally, the battery will see only 2–5 percent discharge,
allowing it to last thousands of cycles. This is why it is unable to start your car if
you accidentally leave the lights on and fully discharged it more than a couple of
times. Discharges of more than 50 percent over time will degrade the battery and
damage it. Since the plates are thin, they are only lightly loaded with active material.
A starting battery is not suitable nor designed for an EV. For the conventional 12-V
system on your vehicle, a starting battery (Figure 7-4) can be used or replaced with
a direct current (dc)-to-dc converter. More will be explained in Chap. 11 on dc-to-dc
Deep-Cycle Batteries
A deep-cycle battery is designed to provide a steady amount of current over a long
period of time (Figure 7-5). A deep-cycle battery can provide a surge when needed,
but nothing like the surge a car battery can. A deep-cycle battery is also designed to
be deeply discharged over and over again (something that would ruin a car battery
very quickly). To accomplish this, a deep-cycle battery uses thicker plates. Plates
normally are anywhere from two or three times thicker than in starting batteries at
around 0.7–0.11 in. thick. A deep-cycle battery is designed to discharge to 80 percent
depth of discharge (DOD). Typical discharge-cycle life is 400–1,000 cycles depending
on the care taken of the batteries. Any depth of charge lower than 80 percent will
shorten the life of the battery and the number of cycles.
Figure 7-4 Typical starting battery. Notice the thin plates. (www.offroaders.com/tech/images/
Figure 7-5 Typical Trojan 6-V Deep-Cycle Battery T105-T145. (www.trojan-battery.com.)
Industrial Batteries
These are deep-cycle batteries designed more for stationary applications or where
weight is needed. Typical uses are battery backups for home or power storage, such as
wind and solar generation applications. Other uses are for forklifts or other motive
machinery that benefits from the extra weight as a counterbalance. Industrial batteries
have a great depth of discharge and a cycle life of more than 1,000 cycles. What makes
these batteries such workhorses is the size of the internal plates. As you may recall, the
plates of a starting battery are about 0.04 in. thick. Well, the plates in an industrial
battery measure 0.25 in. thick. Plate thickness and the heavy-duty construction of the
battery casing make this battery very heavy. This is not the kind of battery you want
for your EV. They are great for what they were designed for, but they’re just too heavy
for an EV. Figure 7-6 shows a cutaway of a Deka industrial battery.
Sealed Batteries
Sealed batteries are made with vents that (usually) cannot be removed. The socalled maintenance-free batteries are also sealed, but they are not usually leakproof.
Sealed batteries are not totally sealed because they must allow gas to vent during
charging. If they are overcharged too many times, some of these batteries can lose
Figure 7-6 Cutaway of one cell on a Deka industrial battery. (www.eastpenncanada.com/
Chapter Seven
enough water that they will die before their time. Most smaller deep-cycle batteries
(including AGM batteries) use lead-calcium plates for increased life, whereas most
industrial and forklift batteries use lead-antimony for greater plate strength to
withstand shock and vibration.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries
A newer type of sealed battery uses absorbed glass mats between the plates. The
mat consists of a very fine fiber boron-silicate glass. These type of batteries have all
the advantages of gelled batteries but can take much more abuse. AGM batteries
are also called starved-electrolyte batteries because the mat is about 95 percent
saturated rather than fully soaked. This also means that they will not leak acid,
even if broken (Figure 7-7).
Since all the electrolyte (acid) is contained in the glass mats, these batteries
cannot spill, even if broken. This also means that since they are nonhazardous, the
shipping costs are lower. In addition, since there is no liquid to freeze and expand,
they are practically immune from freezing damage.
The charging voltages are the same as for any standard battery; no need for any
special adjustments or problems with incompatible chargers or charge controls.
And since the internal resistance is extremely low, there is almost no heating of the
battery even under heavy charge and discharge currents.
AGM batteries do not have any liquid to spill, and even under severe overcharge
conditions, hydrogen emission is far below the 4 percent maximum specified for aircraft
and enclosed spaces. The plates in AGM batteries are tightly packed and rigidly
mounted and will withstand shock and vibration better than any standard battery.
Even with all the advantages just listed, there is still a place for the standard flooded
deep-cycle battery. AGM batteries cost two to three times more than flooded batteries
of the same capacity. In many installations where the batteries are set in an area where
you don’t have to worry about fumes or leakage, a standard or industrial deep-cycle is
Figure 7-7 Optima deep-cycle red-top AGM battery. (www.optimabatteries.com/_media/images/
a better economic choice. The main advantages of AGM batteries are the lack of
maintenance; the complete seal against fumes, hydrogen, or leakage; the fact that they
are nonspilling even if they are broken; and that they can survive most freezes.
Charging Lead-Acid Batteries
Charging for most lead-acid batteries varies little, but always check with the
manufacturer for proper charging methods and rates. Four methods exist to control
the dc current and voltage supplied to a battery in the charging process: two rate,
voltage detect and time, taper, and pulsed. Some chargers, such as the Zivan and
Brusa chargers, are programmable to match the battery’s charging specifications
and curves. I will go into more detail on the various chargers in Chapter 10.
For most lead-acid batteries, charging at 15.5 V will give you a 100 percent charge.
Once the charging voltage reaches 2.583 V per cell, charging should stop or be reduced
to a trickle charge. Note that flooded batteries must bubble (gas) somewhat to ensure
a full charge and to mix the electrolyte. Float voltage for lead-acid batteries should be
about 2.15–2.23 V per cell, or about 12.9–13.4 V for a 12-V battery. At higher
temperatures (>85°F), this should be reduced to about 2.10 V per cell.
Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
NiCad batteries are another secondary battery that might be viable for EVs (Figure
7-8). They far outperform lead-acid batteries, providing twice as much energy
storage. The NiCad battery has an incredible cycle life that is four to seven times
that of lead-acid batteries, achieving 2,500–3,500 lifetime cycles. Energy output in
cold temperatures diminishes very little. The upfront cost of NiCad batteries is not
cheap; they are expensive. If you take the cost and apply it to the lifetime of the
battery and the number of cycles, they come out almost the same as a standard
deep-cycle battery. You would need to replace your lead-acid battery pack seven to
eight times before you had to replace one NiCad battery pack. One drawback
besides price is the environmental concern expressed about the dangers of cadmium
as a heavy metal, and much has been made of the disposal problem associated with
NiCad batteries. This could be a significant issue for the millions of small flashlight
cells used in rechargeable drills, vacuum cleaners, electric razors, and thousands of
Figure 7-8 SAFT NiCad battery. (www.saftbatteries.com/images/Produits/Photos/uptimax.jpg.)
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other appliances. However, if these batteries are handled and disposed of/recycled
properly, this problem can be avoided.
Charging Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
NiCad batteries require a somewhat different charging regimen than lead-acid batteries.
In the first charging phase, they are charged at constant current until a temperaturecompensated voltage threshold is reached or until all the ampere-hours consumed in
driving have been replaced, whichever comes first. The charger notes how many
ampere-hours are added in this phase. Then, in the second phase, a lower constantcurrent finish charge is applied until a percentage of the ampere-hours in phase one
has been added. Obviously, a programmable smart charger is required for NiCad
batteries. Brusa manufactures a number of chargers that meet these requirements.
Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries over recent years have received a considerable amount of attention
and media coverage. Many of the car and motorcycle manufacturers are increasingly
using lithium battery technology. Lithium may be the battery of today and for
future EVs. Lithium batteries, when cared for properly, perform exceptionally well.
When seeking lithium batteries for an EV, be sure to check the manufacturer and
the history and track record of each company thoroughly for quality. Many new
battery companies are entering the market, several from Asia. Lithium batteries
tend to be costly, but you get what you pay for. An inexpensive battery from a
foreign county may save you money today, but in the end may cost you. In the
simple case, you may have poor battery performance and life. In the worst case,
you may have a catastrophic thermal runaway causing fire, vehicle damage, or
worse, personal injury. Know your batteries and your manufacturer (Figure 7-9).
Figure 7-9 Thunder Sky lithium battery.
In a typical lithium cell, the anode, or negative electrode, is based on carbon,
and the cathode, or positive electrode, is made from lithium-cobalt-dioxide or
lithium-manganese-dioxide (other chemistries are also possible). Since lithium
reacts violently with water, the electrolyte is composed of nonaqueous organic
lithium salts and acts purely as a conducting medium, not taking part in the
chemical action. Since no water is involved in the chemical action, the evolution of
hydrogen and oxygen gases, as in many other batteries, is also eliminated (Figure
7-10). As noted earlier, lithium reacts intensely with water, forming lithium
hydroxide and highly flammable hydrogen gas. When these two elements converge,
a violent reaction occurs, creating heat and flammable gases that will ignite. A
simple Internet search will uncover videos of such reactions and tests for your own
eyes. Short-circuiting a lithium battery can cause it to ignite or explode, and as
such, any attempt to open or modify a lithium-ion battery’s casing or circuitry is
Types of Lithium Chemicals Used
• LCPositive pole of lithium-cobalt-oxide (LiFCoO2)
• LFPositive pole of lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4)
• LMPositive pole of lithium-manganese-oxide (LiFNiMnO2)
Charging Lithium Batteries
Most lithium batteries are supplied with some type of battery management system
(BMS). This is a system that manages charging and balance of the battery voltage. I
will go into more detail below. All lithium batteries require some type of BMS
system. What happens if a battery is inadvertently overcharged? The lithium
battery is designed to operate safely within normal operating voltage, but it
Figure 7-10 Lithium-ion electrolytes. (Courtesy of Electropaedia, www.mpoweruk.com/images/
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becomes unstable if it is charged to higher voltages above designed thresholds.
When charging above 4.30 V, the cell causes plating of metallic lithium on the
anode; the cathode material becomes an oxidizing agent, loses its stability, and
releases oxygen. Overcharging causes the cell to heat up. If left unattended, the cell
could vent with flammable gases, catch fire, and set off adjacent batteries, causing
a chain reaction. Lithium batteries may explode if overheated or if charged to an
excessively high voltage.3
Battery Construction
This section will provide you with an overview of the basics of lead-acid battery
construction (Figure 7-11). For our purpose of keeping things simple, we will look
at the construction of standard lead-acid batteries. The lead-acid battery is still the
most popular battery. Global lead-acid battery production is estimated to be worth
more than $17.45 billion per year and is growing steadily.4 In the United States,
over 88 percent of all lead production goes into batteries.5
Earlier in this chapter I touched on plate thickness in batteries and how it affects
the performance of a lead-acid battery. Now I will review just a few of the basics
that make up the standard lead-acid battery. Since many battery types exist, my
focus for now is on lead-acid batteries.
Battery Case
Most heavy-duty lead-acid battery casings are manufactured from polypropylene
copolymers—essentially durable plastic that resists the corrosive effects of battery
Figure 7-11 Basic lead-acid battery construction. (www.infinitecables.com/images/batterycutaway.jpg.)
acid. Some applications use a hard-rubber rectangular container. Most casings have
three, four, or six cells molded into them.
Each cell has molded-in ribs running across the width of its bottom or down the
long dimension of the battery. The plates are mounted at right angles to the ribs,
whose purpose is to stiffen the case, support the plates in a non–electrically
conductive manner, and act as collection channels for the active material shed from
the plates. A battery is usable until the active material it sheds makes a pile that
eventually reaches the plates and shorts them out. Using a deeper case will allow
more material to accumulate before reaching the plates. Large industrial batteries
can be rebuilt by opening them, dumping the used active material, cleaning out
any cell residue, and replacing the plates, separators, and electrolyte as needed.
The lead-acid battery is made up of plates, lead, and lead oxide (various other
elements are used to change density, hardness, porosity, etc.). Flat-plate cells
typically used in lead-acid batteries have over a hundred years of history and
development. The plates are manufactured in varying sizes and thicknesses
according to the type of battery. As described earlier, batteries with thinner plates
usually contain multiple plates, creating more surface area and higher current
(amperes). The tradeoff with thin plates limits the depth of discharge of the battery.
If we look at a battery with thick plates, the output current is not as much as a thinplate battery, but the ability of the battery to store more energy and to discharge to
a greater depth of discharge is increased significantly. The easiest way to tell if a
battery has thick or thin plates is by its weight. An overly heavy battery will contain
more lead and thus have thicker plates (Figures 7-12 and 7-13).
Figure 7-12 Illustration of battery plates with separators. (www.tpub.com/neets/book1/
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Figure 7-13 Photograph of both negative and positive battery plates. (http://thefraserdomain.
Separators are used between the positive and negative plates of a lead acid
battery to prevent short-circuit through physical contact, mostly through dendrites
(a crystal that develops with a typical multibranching treelike form, much like a
snowflake) but also through shedding of the active material.
Sulfation is the result of grain-size growth of lead sulfate that has been deposited
on battery plates during discharge (Figure 7-14). Normally, the lead sulfate deposit
is so fine grained that during recharge it easily reverts back to sulfuric acid, lead,
and lead dioxide—the components of a lead-acid battery that produce electricity.
When sulfation occurs, the grains of lead sulfate, or “hard sulfate,” as it is commonly
called, are too large to react effectively during recharge. The finite life of the battery
is caused by the fact that all the sulfate (SO4) radicals cannot be removed from the
plates on recharge. The longer the sulfate radicals stay bonded to the plates, the
harder it is to dislodge them. To postpone the inevitable as long as possible, the
Figure 7-14 Sulfation of battery plates. (www.surfacematics.com/Cell_sediment.jpg.)
battery should be kept in a charged state, and equalizing charging should be done
regularly. In Chapter 10, I provide greater detail about chargers, equalizing, and
ways to safely charge and extend the life of your battery.
Terminal Posts
Batteries are supplied in a few different arrangements of terminal posts; some even
have dual connection capabilities. Under high-power conditions, a heavy-duty
post is desirable for use with a bolt and a washer. In certain cases, high-current
draw at the connection of a standard tapered post can soften the lead, thus loosening
the connection. A loose connection can cause increased heat, arcing, and resistance.
Following is some relevant terminal post terminology:
• Automotive—the round post familiar on starting batteries in gasolinepowered cars. The cable lug fits around the terminal (Figure 7-15).
• Universal—like an automotive post but with an extra stud in the center of
the post. The cable lug fits over the stud, and a nut holds them together
(Figure 7-16).
• L—a flat tang with a hole through it. A bolt through the hole connects the
terminal to the cable lug (Figure 7-17).
Figure 7-15 An automotive terminal.
Figure 7-16 A universal terminal.
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Figure 7-17 An L-type terminal.
Battery Group Size
Every battery manufacturer conforms to a standardized designated battery group
size number in accordance with the Battery Council International (BCI). This
number is part of a standardized system that allows you to look at any battery chart
or designation number and determine the size and voltage for that particular
battery group by the battery group number. This only applies to the size; you will
need to look up the manufacturer’s rating and capacity for its particular brand.
Table 7-1 provides a short list of common group numbers.
Table 7-1 Typical Battery Dimensions
Battery Group Units
Note: Dimensions are approximate and vary by manufacturer. Consult manufacturer data sheets for exact
dimensions of container, location, and types of terminals.
Inside Your Battery
Battery improvements have occurred steadily, but the basic principles have
remained unchanged. Battery action takes place in the cell, the basic battery building
block that transforms chemical energy into electrical energy. A cell contains the two
active materials, or electrodes, and the solution, or electrolyte, that provide the
conductive environment between them. An electrolyte is any substance containing
free ions that behaves as an electrical conductor. An ion is an atom or molecule that
has lost or gained one or more electrons, giving it a positive or negative electrical
As stated earlier, there are two kinds of batteries. In a primary battery, the
chemical action eats away one of the electrodes (usually the negative), and the cell
must be discarded or the electrode replaced; in a secondary battery, the chemical
process is reversible, and the active materials can be restored to their original
condition by recharging the cell. A battery can consist of only one cell, such as the
primary battery that powers your flashlight, or several cells in a common
encasement, such as the secondary battery that powers your automobile starter.
Active Materials
Active materials are defined as electrochemical couples. This means that one of the
active materials, the positive pole, or anode, is electron-deficient; the other active
material, the negative pole, or cathode, is electron-rich. The active materials usually
are solid (lead-acid) but can be liquid (sodium-sulfur) or gaseous (zinc-air,
aluminum-air). Table 7-2 lists comparisons of a few of these elements.
Table 7-2 Electrodes: Common Chemicals
Anode Materials
(Negative Terminals)
Best + Most Positive
Cathode Materials
(Positive Terminals)
Best – Most Negative
Iron Oxide
Cuprous Oxide
Cupric Oxide
Mercuric Oxide
Cobaltic Oxide
Manganese Dioxide
Lead Dioxide
Silver Oxide
Nickel Oxyhydroxide
Nickel Dioxide
Silver Peroxide
Worst Least Negative
Worst Least Positive
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In simple terms, batteries can be considered to be electron pumps. The internal
chemical reaction within the battery between the electrolyte and the negative metal
electrode produces a buildup of free electrons, each with a negative charge, at the
battery’s negative (–) terminal, the anode. The chemical reaction between the
electrolyte and the positive (+) electrode inside the battery produces an excess of
positive ions (atoms that are missing electrons, thus with a net positive charge) at
the positive terminal, the cathode. The electrical (pump) pressure or potential
difference between the positive and negative terminals is called voltage.
Different metals have different affinities for electrons. When two dissimilar metals
(or metal compounds) are put in contact or connected through a conducting medium,
there is a tendency for electrons to pass from the metal with the smaller affinity for
electrons, which becomes positively charged, to the metal with the greater affinity,
which becomes negatively charged. A potential difference between the metals
therefore will build up until it just balances the tendency of the electron transfer
between the metals. At this point, the equilibrium potential is that which balances the
difference between the tendency of the two metals to gain or lose electrons.
When a load is connected across the battery, the surplus electrons flow in the
external circuit from the negatively charged anode, which loses all its charge, to the
positively charged cathode, which accepts it, neutralizing its positive charge. This
action reduces the potential difference across the cell to zero.
To make an ideal battery, you’d choose the active material that gives the greatest
oxidation potential at the anode coupled with the material that gives the greatest
reduction potential at the cathode that are both supportable by a suitable electrolyte
material. This means pairing the best reducing material—lithium (+3.045 V with
respect to hydrogen as the reference electrode)—with something that just can’t wait
to receive its electrons, or the best oxidizing material—fluorine (–2.87 V with respect
to hydrogen)—with something that just can’t wait to give electrons to it (Table 7-3).
In practice, many other factors enter the picture, such as availability of material,
ease in making them work together, ability to manufacture the final product in
volume, and cost. As a result of the tradeoffs, only a few electrochemical couple
possibilities make it into the realm of commercially produced batteries that you
will meet later in this chapter.
The electrolyte in a lead-acid battery is a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. Sulfuric
acid is a very active com­pound of hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen. The chemical
formula of sulfuric acid is H2SO4. In water, the sulfuric acid molecules separate into
two ions, hydrogen and sulfate. Sulfate is made up of sulfur and oxygen atoms.
Each sulfate ion contains two “excess” electrons, and each therefore carries two
negative electrical charges. Each hydrogen ion, having been stripped of one electron,
carries one positive electrical charge.
Table 7-3 Common Chemicals for Electrodes
Open Circuit Voltage
6 Volt
12 Volt
Because sulfuric acid is highly reactive, it ionizes almost completely, so there
are very few fully assembled molecules of sulfuric acid in the electrolyte at any
instant. Furthermore, the ions are in constant motion, attracted and repelled by one
another, by the water, and by any impurities in the mixture. This constant random
motion eventually causes the ions to diffuse evenly throughout the electrolyte. If
any force disturbs this even distribution, the random mo­tion eventually restores it.
However, since the electrolyte is contained in a complex structure of cells,
redistribution takes a relatively long time. This fact turns out to play a key role in
your ability to measure the exact state of charge of a battery at any instant.
The electrolyte within the battery provides a path for electron migration between
the electrodes. The electrolyte is usually in the form of a liquid (an acid, salt, or
alkali added to water) but can be in jelly or paste form. For simpler terms, a battery
consists of an electrode and an electrolyte operating in a cell or container in
accordance with certain chemical reactions (see Table 7-3).
Figure 7.18 shows the inside battery reaction, which consists of an electrode
made of sponge lead (Pb), another electrode made of lead peroxide (PbO2), and an
electrolyte made of a mixture of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) diluted with water (H2O).
Overall Chemical Reaction
Combining active-material elements into compounds that further combine with
the action of the electrolyte significantly alters their native properties. The true
operation of any battery is best described by the chemical equation that defines its
operation. In the case of the lead-acid battery, this equation is given as
Pb 1 PbO2 1 2H2SO4 5 2PbSO4 1 2H2O
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Figure 7.18 Chemical reaction inside a lead-acid battery under charging conditions. (Courtesy
of Curtis Instruments, www.curtisinst.com.)
The equation in Figure 7-19 represents the cell in the charged condition. In a
charged lead-acid battery, the positive anode plate is nearly all lead peroxide (PbO2),
the negative cathode plate is nearly all sponge lead (Pb), and the electrolyte is
mostly sulfuric acid (H2SO4) . In a discharged condition, both plates are mostly lead
sulfate (PbSO4), and the acid electrolyte solution used in forming the lead sulfate
becomes mostly water (H2O).
Figure 7-19 Discharging reaction. (www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/
Discharging Chemical Reaction
The general equation gives a more accurate view when separately analyzed at each
electrode. The discharging process is described at the anode6 as
PbO2 1 4H– 1 SO42– 5 2e– 1 PbSO4 1 2H2O
The discharging process is described at the cathode as
Pb 1 SO4 2 2e– g 4PbSO4
When discharging, the cathode acquires the sulfate (SO4) radical from the
electrolyte solution and releases two electrons in the process. These electrons are
acquired by the electron-deficient anode. The electron flow from negative cathode
to positive anode inside the battery is the source of the battery’s power and external
current flow from positive anode to negative cathode through the load. In the
process of discharging, both electrodes become coated with lead sulfate (PbSO4)—a
good insulator that does not conduct current—and the sulfate (SO4) radicals are
consumed from the electrolyte. At the same time, the physical area of the spongelike
plates available for further reaction decreases as it becomes coated with lead sulfate;
this increases the internal resistance of the cell and results in a decrease of its output
At some point before all the sulfate (SO4) radicals are consumed from the
electrolyte, there is no more area available for chemical reaction, and the battery is
said to be fully discharged.
Charging Chemical Reaction
The charging process is described at the anode as
PbSO4 1 2H2O - 2e– g PbO2 1 4H– 1 SO4
The charging process is described at the cathode as
PbSO4 1 2e– g Pb 1 SO4
The charging process (Figure 7-20) reverses the electronic flow through the
battery and causes the chemical bond between the lead (Pb) and the sulfate (SO4)
radicals to be broken, releasing the sulfate radicals back into solution. When all the
sulfate radicals are again in solution with the electrolyte, the battery is said to be
fully charged.
Electrolyte Specific Gravity
The specific gravity of any liquid is the ratio of the weight of a certain volume of that
liquid divided by the weight of an equal volume of water. Alternatively, the specific
gravity of a material can be expressed as its density divided by the density of water
because the density of any material is its mass-to-volume ratio. Water has a specific
gravity of 1.000.
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Figure 7-20 Charging reaction. (www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/
Concentrated sulfuric acid has a specific gravity of 1.830—1.83 times as dense
as water. In a fully charged battery at 80°F, water and sulfuric acid mix in roughly
a 4:1 volume ratio (25 percent sulfuric acid) to produce a 1.275 specific gravity, and
the sulfuric acid represents about 36 percent of the electrolyte by weight.
While specific gravity is not significant in other battery types, it is important in
lead-acid batteries because the amount of sulfuric acid combining with the plates at
any one time is directly proportional to the discharge rate (current 3 time, usually
measured in ampere-hours) and therefore is a direct indicator of the state of charge.
State of Charge
State of charge (SOC) is the amount of energy left in a battery compared with the
energy it had when it was fully charged. This gives the user an indication of how
much longer a battery will continue to perform before it needs recharging.
Battery voltage, internal resistance, and amount of sulfuric acid combined with
the plates at any one time are all indicators of how much energy is in a battery at
any given time. Frequently, this is given as a percentage of its fully charged value;
for example, “75 percent” means that 75 percent of the battery’s energy is still
available and 25 percent has been used.
Traditionally, the specific gravity of the electrolyte was measured using a
hydrometer, the device used to measure specific gravity. As the battery discharges,
its active electrolyte, sulfuric acid, is consumed, and the concentration of the sulfuric
acid in water is reduced. With reduction of the sulfuric acid, the specific gravity
becomes less. It was common practice with flooded lead-acid batteries to use a
hydrometer (Figures 7-21 and 7-22). The hydrometer worked fairly well, but with
some inaccuracy and ability to contaminate battery cells. With the latest sealed
batteries and new battery chemistry, measurements are no longer done this way.
Figure 7-21 Glass tube hydrometer measuring specific gravity in a battery cell. (www2.tech.
Figure 7-22 Inexpensive plastic hydrometer for measuring specific gravity.
Chapter Seven
Battery voltage (V)
Relative state of charge (%)
Figure 7-23 Graph of voltage versus capacity.
Today, a battery’s voltage is used to determine the state of charge electronically.
Voltage of the battery cell is used as the basis for calculating SOC or the remaining
capacity. Results can vary widely depending on actual voltage level, temperature,
discharge rate, and age of the cell. Note that the cell voltage will diminish in direct
proportion to the remaining capacity of the battery (Figure 7-23).
As charging nears completion, another phenomenon takes place: Hydrogen gas
(H2) is given off at the negative cathode plate, and oxygen gas (O2) is given off at the
positive anode plate. This occurs because any charging current beyond that required
to liberate the small amount of sulfate radicals from the plates ionizes the water in
the electrolyte and begins the process of electrolysis (separating the water into
hydrogen and oxygen gas).
While most of the hydrogen and oxygen gas recombines to form water vapor,
some of the hydrogen and oxygen will escape from the battery7 (the main reason
why periodic replenishing of the water is needed in this type of battery).
Additionally, batteries will start to gas when you attempt to charge them faster
than they can absorb energy or when you overcharge them. Hydrogen bubbles are
produced at the negative plates and oxygen bubbles at the positive plates during
charging. After the battery reaches full charge, almost all added energy goes into
this gassing. The gassing process begins in the range of 2.30–2.38 V/cell depending
on cell chemistry and con­struction. After full charge, gassing releases about 1 ft3 of
hydrogen per cell for each 63 A · h supplied. About 4 percent concentration of
hydrogen in air is extremely explosive, so excessive charging can lead to an
explosion. An exploding battery is like a bomb (hydrogen bomb) that sprays chunks
Figure 7-24 Battery explosion resulting from gassing.
of metal, plastic casing, and sulfuric acid toward anyone or anything nearby. The
most vulnerable part of your body in such accidents is your eyes, which can sustain
lacerations and acid burns resulting in loss of eyesight (Figure 7-24).
Equalization is very important and must be performed correctly, but only as
required. Equalizing is an overcharge performed on flooded lead-acid batteries after
they have been fully charged. It reverses the buildup of negative chemical effects
such as stratification, a condition in which acid concentration is greater at the
bottom of the battery than at the top. Equalizing also helps to remove sulfate
crystals that may have built up on the plates. If left unchecked, this condition, called
sulfation, will reduce the overall capacity of the battery. Equalization should be
performed only when required or once every 6 months.
In any cyclic application, a series of batteries always will need to be equalized
from time to time to ensure that the battery cells remain at the same voltage
throughout the pack. Over time, cells of a lead-acid battery begin to show differences
in their state of charge. No two battery cells or batteries are created equal. During
both charge and discharge, each and every cell/battery will react in a minutely
different way from its neighbor. This could mean that each battery may be holding
a different quantity of charge. In order to get the most out of the total battery pack,
it is necessary to make sure, as far as possible, that each and every battery is holding
a similar amount of charge.
During the charge cycle, the voltages of the different batteries will vary. To bring
them all to the same level, it is necessary to give some a slight overcharge to bring
the other up to full charge.
Equalization is done by allowing the voltage to rise while allowing a small
constant current to enter the batteries. The voltage is allowed to rise above the
normal finish voltage to allow the weaker batteries/cells to draw more current. The
stronger batteries will not be adversely affected, provided that the current is added
gently and the period and frequency of overcharging are not too high. The stronger
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batteries will absorb the overcharge by gently boiling and giving off heat and
gassing more heavily. Once the weaker batteries have absorbed the required current,
the equalization charge can be halted. The equalization time should be long enough
to bring all the batteries up to a full state of charge. Since the time factor will vary,
the most reliable way to check the charge state is with a voltmeter on each cell or
individual battery.
Over time, the differences can be caused by temperature, materials, construction,
electrolyte, and even electrolyte stratification (the tendency of the heavier sulfuric
acid to sink to the lower part of the cell), causing premature aging of the plates in that
part. The only cure for these differences is to use a controlled overcharge, equalizing
the characteristics of the cells by raising the charging voltage even higher after the
battery is fully charged and maintaining it at this level for several hours until the
different cells again test identical. Obviously, this produces substantial gassing, so
the precautions of a well-ventilated area and no smoking definitely apply.
Cell Balancing
Cell balancing is defined as the application of differential currents to individual cells
(or combinations of cells) in a series string. Normally, of course, cells in a series
string receive identical currents. A battery pack in some cases requires additional
components and circuitry to achieve cell balancing. In the simplest form, an
equalizing charge is performed to balance cells or strings of batteries in a pack. If
this does not work sufficiently, other components are added to the battery pack,
such as a BMS, to balance the string of batteries. I will cover more on battery
balancing and battery management systems in Chapter 10.
Battery-pack cells are balanced when all the cells in the battery pack meet two
• If all cells have the same capacity, then they are balanced when they have the
same SOC. In this case, the open-circuit voltage (OCV) is a good measure of
the SOC. If, in an out-of-balance pack, all cells can be differentially charged
to full capacity (balanced), then they will subsequently cycle normally
without any additional adjustments. This is mostly a one-shot fix.
• If the cells have different capacities, they are also considered balanced when
the SOC is the same. But since SOC is a relative measure, the absolute
amount of capacity for each cell is different. To keep the cells with different
capacities at the same SOC, cell balancing must provide differential amounts
of current to cells in the series string during both charge and discharge on
every cycle.
Battery Explosions
After talking about gassing and equalization, I need to emphasize the dangers of
mishandling and battery abuse. Your battery can burst and, even worse, explode if
Figure 7-25 Exploded battery. (www.rayvaughan.com/images/battery/MVC-172F.jpg.)
not treated property. Always make sure while charging or using a battery under
any heavy load that the area is well ventilated. Always keep all sparks, flames, or
anything else that can ignite gases away from a battery.
As you discovered in the sections about gassing and equalizing, excessive
charging of a lead-acid battery will cause the release of hydrogen and oxygen from
each cell. Wet cells have open vents to release any gas produced, and valve-regulated
lead-acid (VRLA) batteries rely on valves fitted to each cell. Wet cells may be
equipped with catalytic caps to recombine any emitted hydrogen. A VRLA cell
normally will recombine any hydrogen and oxygen produced into water inside the
cell, but malfunction or overheating may cause gas to build up. If this happens
(e.g., by excessively overcharging the cell), the valve is designed to vent the gas and
thereby normalize the pressure, resulting in a characteristic acid smell around the
battery. Valves can fail if dirt and debris accumulate in the device, and pressure can
build up inside the affected cell, creating the potential for an explosion.
If the accumulated hydrogen and oxygen within either a VRLA or wet cell is
ignited, an explosion results. The force is sufficient to burst the plastic casing or
blow the top off the battery, can injure anyone in the vicinity, and can spray acid
and casing shrapnel throughout the immediate environment (Figure 7-25). An
explosion in one cell also may set off the combustible gas mixture in remaining cells
of the battery or, even worse, set off an explosion in other batteries in the pack.
As we examine other batteries, this danger increases as the stored energy in
“exotic chemistry” batteries increases. Lithium-ion batteries, for example, store
more energy than conventional batteries—as much as six times that of lead-acid
batteries and two to three times as much as nickel-metal-hydride batteries. These
batteries, if abused, can have unfortunate and explosive side effects.
Battery Calculations and Capacity
This is a very important subject and one that I once was confused about. So now
that we have all this great knowledge about batteries, gassing, and how not to blow
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ourselves up, how do we begin to select and decide on the battery we need? I will
give you the information and tools to help you make the best choice. The biggest
task in choosing a battery is balancing all the information and placing it into some
form to compare it for each battery.
Your considerations involve cost, stored energy, weight, size, cycle life, power
output, and depth of discharge. Remember, not all batteries are the same. Many of
your steps may depend on other components, such as the motor, motor controller,
and operating voltage of your EV. You may need to change or tweak things as you
plan. Gather all the information you can about each particular battery you are
considering for use in your vehicle. See Table 7-4 for an example of a battery
comparison spreadsheet I created during my build.
Some things to consider initially:
What voltage do you want to use?
What amount of current do you plan to draw from the pack?
Do you want continuous power rating of the battery?
Do you want intermittent power rating of the battery with a time limit?
Do you want very short burst rating for heavy accelerating?
Current and Amperes
Current flow is the means by which a battery releases its energy in electrical form.
Current is the flow of electric charge from the positive terminal of the battery
through the load (controllers and motor) of your vehicle and back to the negative
terminal of the battery. The flow of current from the battery depletes the battery’s
stored charge. The rate of that depletion or current drain is measured in amperes.
The Volt
The volt is the unit of electrical potential, or pressure, that “forces” the current from
the battery through the motor and back to the battery. Since batteries are made up
of many cells connected in series, the total voltage of a battery, naturally, is the sum
of the voltages of all its cells. A typical lead-acid battery pack used in a vehicle may
contain four 12-V batteries. If the batteries are connected in series, the nominal
battery voltage is therefore 48 V.
Power or Watts
The watt is a unit of electricity measuring the rate at which work is done. The
equation is watts 5 volts 3 amperes. One watt is equivalent to about 0.00134 hp. If
we look at an example, for instance, a battery or, let us say, a battery pack has a
particular draw of 50 A at 48 V.
Our equation would be as follows:
48 V 3 50 A 5 2,400 W, or 2.4 kW
If we equate that to horsepower, we get
2,400 W 5 3.22 hp
Battery Storage Capacity
The ampere-hour (A · h) capacity of a battery is the total amount of electric charge
transferred when a current of 1 A flows for 1 hour. Therefore, the total usable charge
stored in a battery can be stated in terms of ampere-hours, that is, how long a
current of a particular amperage can be drawn from the battery.
The ampere-hour rating accurately predicts the battery’s capacity at a specified
load current; batteries therefore are rated in ampere-hours at specified currents. A
battery that can be discharged at 125 A for 6 hours before reach­ing its end-point
voltage is rated at 125 A 3 6 h 5 750 A · h. Its capacity therefore is stated as “750
ampere-hours at the 6-hour discharge rate (at +25°C).” All things equal, the greater
the physical volume of a battery, the larger is its total storage capacity. Storage
capacity is additive when batteries are wired in parallel but not if they are wired in
Battery Configurations: Series and Parallel
In the battery pack in your vehicle, you most likely will connect your batteries in a
series configuration to increase the voltage. This is very much like a flashlight with
two or more batteries, where we place the batteries back to back, adding the voltage
up. In your design and conversion, it is best to keep the voltage as high as possible
for the total pack voltage. The higher the voltage, the more efficient your vehicle
will become. It will not be a lot, but every little bit helps. With an increase in voltage,
your current requirement will decrease for the controller and the motor. As another
added benefit, you can reduce the wire gauge size, thus reducing weight and cost.
Series Battery Configuration
When two 6-V, 50-A · h batteries are wired in series, the voltage is doubled, but the
ampere-hour capacity remains 50 A · h (total power 5 600 Wh) (Figure 7-26). You
may decide to wire batteries in series to increase your voltage. Installing larger
batteries may not fit well in a small space or may be awkward to fit into place.
Batteries consisting of fewer cells (and hence lower voltage) in series can provide
the same storage capacity yet be more flexible.
If we use another example of four 12-V, 50-A · h batteries connected in series, we
would get
12 V 3 4 5 48 V
(50 A · h 3 12 V) 3 4 5 2,400 Wh, or 2.4 kWh
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Figure 7-26 Series battery connection.
Parallel Battery Configuration
If you were to wire two 6-V, 50-A · h batteries in parallel, you would yield a total
storage capacity of 100 A · h at 6 V (or 600 Wh) (Figure 7-27). Battery banks wired
in parallel are not common on EVs, where the goal most often is to go as high as
possible with the voltage. If such a configuration is used, make sure that your
wire meets the required minimum size for cabling. However, the wiring must
have the capacity to deal with a full battery bank. You should fuse each battery
individually in such a bank to ensure that a battery gone bad will not affect the
rest of the bank.
Figure 7-27 Parallel battery connection.
Battery C Rating: C/20, C/3, C/1, etc.
The C rating of a battery is an expression describing rate of discharge. The number
indicates the number of hours to completely discharge the battery at a constant
current. Thus C/20 is the current draw at which the battery will last for 20 hours;
C/1 is the current at which the battery will last 1 hour. The useful capacity of a
battery changes depending on the discharge rate, so battery capacities are stated
with respect to a particular rate. For instance, a particular model battery is rated at
42 A · h at the C/10 rate of 4.2 A but only 30 A · h at the C/1 rate of 30 A. These are
also written as the 20-hour rate, 1-hour rate, etc.
Available Capacity versus Total Capacity
Since batteries depend on a chemical reaction to produce electricity, their available
capacity depends in part on how quickly you attempt to charge or discharge them
relative to their total capacity. The total capacity is frequently abbreviated to C and
is a measure of how much energy the battery can store. Available capacity is always
less than total capacity.
Typically, the ampere-hour capacity of a battery is measured at a rate of
discharge that will leave it empty in 20 hours (aka the C/20 rate). If you attempt to
discharge a battery faster than the C/20 rate, you will have less available capacity,
and vice versa. The more extreme the deviation from the C/20 rate, the greater is
the available (as opposed to total) capacity difference.
However, as you will discover, this effect is nonlinear. The available capacity at
the C/100 rate (i.e., 100 hours to discharge) is typically only 10 percent more than
at the C/20 rate. Conversely, a 10 percent reduction in available capacity is achieved
just by going to a C/8 rate (on average). Thus you are most likely to notice this
effect with engine starts and other high-current applications such as inverters,
windlasses, desalination, or air-conditioning systems.
For example, the starter in an engine typically will quickly outstrip the capacity
of the battery to keep cranking it for any length of time—hence the tip from
mechanics to wait some time between engine start attempts. Not only does it allow
the engine starter to cool down, but it also allows the chemistry in the battery to
“catch up.” As the battery comes to a new equilibrium, its available capacity
increases. An equation developed in 1897 by a scientist named Peukert describes
the charging and discharging behavior with a value that indicates how well a leadacid battery performs under heavy currents.8 This formula will generate a more
accurate real-life ampere-hour rating.
Peukert Equation
C 5 InT
where C 5 theoretical capacity of the battery
I 5 current
T 5 time
n 5 the Peukert number
To help you even further if you need to calculate and learn more about the
Peuket number and equation, you can visit www.smartgauge.co.uk/peukert.html.
In addition to explaining the calculations in more detail, the site has a page that
does all the work for you. Just plug in the numbers, and it calculates the real
ampere-hour capacity and generates a graph.
Chapter Seven
Energy Density
Energy density is the amount of energy contained in an exact quantity of the fuel
source, typically stated in watthours per pound (Wh/lb) or watthours per kilogram
(Wh/kg). For example, flooded lead-acid batteries generally contain about 25 Wh/
kg, the latest advanced lead-acid designs claim about 50 Wh/kg, and newer advanced
battery technologies such as NiMH and LiON are in the 80–135 Wh/kg range.
Cold-Cranking Amperes
This rating is not normally used for calculations for an EV, but more as a performance
rating for automobile starting batteries. It might appear handy if you want to
calculate a 30-second all-out acceleration. It is defined as the current that the battery
can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain a terminal voltage greater than or equal to
1.20 V per cell at 0°F (–18°C) when the battery is new and fully charged. Starting
batteries also may be rated for cranking amperes, which is the same thing but rated
at a temperature of 32°F (0°C).
Depth of Discharge (DOD)
The depth of discharge is the amount of energy removed from a battery or the total
battery pack (see Table 7-4). DOD is usually expressed as a percentage of the total
capacity of the battery. For example, 50 percent DOD means that half the energy in the
battery has been used; 80 percent DOD means that 80 percent of the energy has been
discharged. Check with the battery manufacturer for detailed specifications. The
general rule for deep-cycle batteries is never to go past 80 percent DOD. Any discharge
below 80 percent will degrade the life of the battery and lessen the cycle life.
Basic Battery Spreadsheet
Table 7-4 is a basic spreadsheet I used for my own calculations when I was building
the first Electra Cruiser. With this spreadsheet, I was able to take all the batteries I
had considered with all the numbers and weigh out my options. I had many
objectives—voltage, weight, size, cycle life, cost, energy density, pack amperehours, and total pack energy. By creating the spreadsheet, I could see every option,
play around with the numbers, and tweak it as I needed. This just made the planning
so much easier.
The table is just a sample of one page. I actually put together six or seven pages
of batteries that made the list. At the end of the day, I chose a standard deep-cycle
lead-acid battery by Trojan Batteries, a Group 27 TMH 12-V battery. It is not that I did
not consider other batteries; I actually bought 100 lithium batteries for the new bike.
These batteries were 200 lb lighter, had twice the energy storage, and used less space.
Sounds like a home run, right? It was, except that I did not do my homework on a key
ingredient, the BMS. At the time, there was no BMS to handle 100 batteries; it was still
in development. The closest system I found had a price tag of $30,000. It goes without
saying that this was not an option. Moral of the story: Make sure you plan ahead; the
Table 7-4 Battery Comparison Spreadsheet
Watt-Hrs @ 74%
Watt-Hrs @ 74%
BATTERY TYPE: Thunder Sky TS-8581A
Watt-Hrs @ 74%
Watt-Hrs @ 74%
(continued on next page)
Table 7-4 Battery Comparison Spreadsheet (continued)
Watt-Hrs @ 74%
simplest oversight could be a big problem later. For me, I was left sitting on $5,000 in
batteries, a $10,000 Siemens 100-hp ac drive system, and a $3,000 Brusa charger. It
was a great system setup, but without the batteries, I couldn’t use it.
Battery Disposal
Lead-acid batteries have the highest recycling rate of any product sold in the United
States (Figure 7-28). This is so because of the ease of returning a used battery when
purchasing a new battery and the value of the lead and plastic components of the
used battery.
Environmental Benefits
Many states require a core charge of up to $5 when purchasing a new battery.
Imported lead-acid batteries have entered the United States in new cars, which
account for almost half of all new battery sales, but even more are imported for the
replacement market.9 Imports of lead-acid batteries to the United States are rising
rapidly as production shifts to developing countries with fewer environmental
regulations and less enforcement capacity. Data from the U.S. International Trade
Commission indicate that imports rose more than 282 percent from 1989 to 2007.
The United States has taken steps to protect the environment and recycle, but
unfortunately, developing third-world countries have not taken the same care for
the environment or their workers.
Lead-acid batteries are the environmental success story of our time. More than
97 percent of all battery lead is recycled. Compared with 55 percent of aluminum
soft drink and beer cans, 45 percent of newspapers, 26 percent of glass bottles, and
26 percent of tires, lead-acid batteries top the list of the most highly recycled
consumer product.
Figure 7-28 Consumer batteries for recycling. (From Marty Jerome, “Firefly Gives New Life to
Lead Acid Batteries,” BusinessWeek, July 23, 2007, http://blog.wired.com/./
Chapter Seven
The lead-acid battery is part of a closed-loop life cycle that’s good for the
environment. Typical new lead-acid batteries contain 60–80 percent recycled lead
and plastic. When a spent battery is collected, it is sent to a qualified recycler, where,
under strict environmental regulations, the lead and plastic are reclaimed and sent
to a new battery manufacturer. The recycling cycle continues indefinitely. This
means that the lead and plastic in the lead-acid battery in your car, truck, boat, or
motorcycle have been and will continue to be recycled many times. This makes
lead-acid battery disposal extremely successful from both environmental and cost
During the first part of the process, the battery is broken apart in a hammer mill
(a machine that hammers the battery into pieces). Sometimes a battery saw is also
used (Figure 7-29). The broken battery pieces go into a vat, where the lead and
heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic rises to the top. At this point, the
polypropylene pieces are scooped away, and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the
lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different “stream.” We’ll
begin with the plastic, or polypropylene.
The polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry, and sent to a plastic recycler,
where the pieces are melted together into an almost-liquid state. The molten plastic
is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of uniform size. Those
pellets are sold to the manufacturer of battery cases, and the process begins all over
Figure 7-29 Battery saw used in recycling batteries. (www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/leadsmelter/
The lead grids, lead oxide, and other lead parts are cleaned and then melted together
in smelting furnaces. The molten lead is poured into ingot molds. Large ingots,
weighing about 2,000 lb, are called hogs. Smaller ingots, weighing 65 lb, are called
pigs. After a few minutes, the impurities, otherwise known as dross, float to the top
of the still-molten lead in the ingot molds. The dross is scraped away, and the ingots
are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they are removed from the molds and sent
to battery manufacturers, where they are remelted and used in the production of
new lead plates and other parts for new batteries (Figures 7-30 and 7-31).
Figure 7-30 Cycle life of a lead-acid battery. (Courtesy of the Battery Council International, www.
Figure 7-31 Tesla electric car battery pack being recycled and reclaimed. (www.treehugger.com/
Chapter Seven
Sulfuric Acid
Old battery acid can be handled in four ways:
• It can be neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household
baking soda. The resulting effluent is treated to meet clean water standards
and then released into the public sewer system.
• It can be reclaimed and, after topping up with concentrated acid, used as
the electrolyte in new batteries.
• It can be chemically treated and converted to either agricultural fertilizer
using ammonia or powdered sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder
that is used as a filler or stabilizer in laundry detergent, or for use in glass
and textile manufacturing.
• It can be converted to gypsum for use in the production of cement or by the
construction industry in the manufacture of fiberboard.
General Battery Requirements
It goes without saying that low cost, long life (>1,000 cycles), low self-discharge
rates (<5 percent per month), and low maintenance are basic requirements for all
battery applications. Traction batteries generally operate in very harsh operating
environments and must withstand wide temperature ranges (–30 to +65°C) as well
as shock, vibration, and abuse. Low weight, however, is not always a priority
because heavy weight provides stability for materials handling equipment such as
forklift trucks and the grip needed by aircraft tugs for pulling heavy loads. Low
weight, however, is essential for high-capacity automotive EV and Hybrid Electric
Vehicle (HEV) batteries used in passenger vehicles.
Purchasing Specifications
Traction batteries are very expensive, and like all batteries, they deteriorate during
their lifetime. Consumers expect a minimum level of performance even at the end
of the battery’s life, so the buyer is likely to specify the expected performance at the
end of life (EOL) rather than the beginning of life (BOL). Under normal circumstances
for EV applications, the EOL capacity is specified as not less than 80 percent of BOL
capacity. For HEV applications, a change in internal impedance is often used as an
indicator of lifetime. In this case, the EOL internal impedance may be specified as
not more than 200 percent of BOL internal impedance.
EV Battery Operating Requirements
Large-capacity batteries are required to achieve reasonable range. A typical electric
car uses around 150–250 Wh/mi depending on the terrain and the driving style. A
smaller vehicle such as a motorcycle may only require 100–150 Wh/mi.
• The battery must be capable of regular deep discharge to 80 percent DOD.
• The battery is designed to maximize energy content and deliver full power
even with deep discharge to ensure long range.
• A range of capacities will be required to satisfy the needs of different sized
vehicles and different usage patterns.
• The battery must accept very high repetitive pulsed charging currents
(>5/C) if regenerative braking is required.
• Without regenerative braking, controlled charging conditions and lower
charging rates are possible (at least 2/C is desirable).
• The battery must routinely receive a full charge.
• The battery often must reach nearly full discharge.
• Fuel-gauging is critical near the “empty” point.
• The battery needs an integrated BMS.
• The battery needs thermal management for severe hot or cold conditions.
• Typical voltage should surpass 300 V.
• Typical capacity should be greater than 20–60 kWh for passenger vehicles
and 10–30 kWh for motorcycles.
• The battery must have a typical discharge current up to a specified C rate
continuous and 3/C peak for short durations.
Because these batteries are physically very large and heavy, they need custom
packaging to fit into the available space in the intended vehicle. Likewise, the
design layout and weight distribution of the pack must be integrated with the
chassis design so as not to upset vehicle dynamics. These mechanical requirements
are particularly important for passenger cars.
The safety issues of battery EVs are largely dealt with by the international standard
ISO 6469.10 This document is divided in three parts dealing with specific issues:
• On-board electrical energy storage, that is, the battery
• Functional safety means and protection against failure
• Protection of persons against electrical hazards
With the emergence of more EVs in the future, firefighters and rescue personnel
now receive special training in dealing with the higher voltages and chemicals
encountered in EV and hybrid EV accidents. While Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)
accidents may present unusual problems, such as fires and fumes resulting from
rapid battery discharge, there is apparently no available information regarding
whether they are inherently more or less dangerous than gasoline or diesel internal
combustion vehicles that carry flammable fuels.
Chapter Seven
Electric Shock
One of the topics that I feel is very important is that of electric shock. Since we are
talking about batteries, I mean their potential and the amount of energy they
contain and can release in an instant. If I told you to hold a wire with 120-V dc
connection and the potential of 2000 A, would you touch it? This is no joke. Your
EV could kill you in a second after all the time you put into it and not even care.
You can view your body as containing an electrical network, passing tiny nerve
signals around and enabling you to do all those essential things you like to do so
much, such as breathing, thinking, and moving. Your body’s function can be severely
disrupted by the presence of an extraneous current. Your body also contains a
network of canals transporting oxygen to the muscles and the brain in a salty solvent
called blood, which, incidentally, is a good conducting medium for electricity. To the
battery, however, the body is a poorly insulated vessel containing electrolyte.
Voltage is not a reliable indicator of the severity of an electric shock. The most
important indicators are the actual current that flows through the body and its
duration. Current passing through the heart or the brain is infinitely more damaging
than current passing across a finger or the palm of the hand caught between the
terminals of a battery. A sustained current also will do more damage than a short
current pulse. Table 7-5 lists electric shock hazards.
Additional Effects and Results of Electric Shock (Courtesy of Electropaedia)
• Low voltages do not mean low hazard.
• Other things being equal, the degree of injury is proportional to the length
of time the body is in the circuit.
• It is extremely important to free a shock victim from contact with the current
as quickly as possible. The difference of a few seconds in starting artificial
respiration may spell the difference between life or death for the victim.
Don’t give up unless the victim has been pronounced dead by a doctor.
• Women tend to be more susceptible to electric currents than men.
• Lower body weight increases the susceptibility to electric currents.
• A shock from dc is more likely to freeze or stop the victim’s heart.
• The current range 100–200 mA is particularly dangerous because it is almost
certain to result in lethal ventricular fibrillation, the shocking of the heart
into a useless flutter rather than a regular beat.
• The fibrillation threshold is a function of current over time. For example,
fibrillation will occur with 500 mA over 0.2 second or 75 mA over 0.5
• Alternating current (ac) is more dangerous than dc, causing more severe
muscular contractions. Ac is also more likely to cause a victim’s heart to
fibrillate, which is a more dangerous condition. Safe working thresholds are
consequently much lower for ac voltages.
Table 7-5 Electric Shock Hazards
Current (contact 1 second) Physiological Effect
Less than 1mA
No sensation
Threshold of feeling. Tingling sensation
Maximum harmless current
8–15 mA
Mild shock
Start of muscular contraction
No loss of muscular control
15–20 mA
Painful shock
Sustained muscular contraction
Can’t let go of conductor
20–50 mA
Can’t breathe. Paralysis of the chest muscles
Possibly Fatal
50–100 mA
Intense pain
Impaired breathing
Ventricular fibrillation
Possibly fatal—Fatal if continued
100–200 mA
Ventricular fibrillation
Probably fatal—Fatal if continued
Respiratory function continues
Over 200 mASustained ventricular contractions followed by normal
heart rhythm (defibrillation)
Chest muscles clamp the heart and stop it for the
duration of the shock. This also prevents ventricular
fibrillation improving the chances of survival, but other
factors come into play.
Temporary respiratory paralysis.
Possibly fatal—Fatal if continued
Over 1 Amp
Severe burns.
Internal organs burned
Survivable if vital organs not in current path—e.g.
across a finger or hand
Table, Carl Vogel; source Electropaedia www.mpoweruk.com
• It is easier to restart a stopped heart once the source of the electric shock has
been removed than it is to restore a normal beating rhythm to a fibrillating
heart. A heart that is in fibrillation cannot be restored to normal by closedchest cardiac massage. Defibrillators give the heart a jolt of dc to stop
fibrillation to allow the heart to restart with a normal beat.
Chapter Seven
• Victims of a high voltage shock usually respond better to artificial respiration
than do victims of a low voltage shock, probably because the higher voltage
and current clamp the heart and hence prevent fibrillation. The chances of
survival are good if the victim is given immediate attention.
• Shock victims may suffer heart trouble up to several hours after being
shocked. The danger of electric shock does not end after the immediate
medical attention.
• Don’t expect a circuit breaker or fuse to protect you. They trip at 15 A.
Additional Risks
• There are huge variations in contact resistance of each person’s skin.
• Working with minor wounds to the hands seriously increases the risk of
• Once a shock has been initiated, the resulting electrical burn can puncture
the skin and increase the shocking current.
• Rings, bracelets, and other jewelry decrease the contact resistance to the
body and increase the potential for electric shock.
• Use only one hand (keeping one hand in your pocket) while working on
high-voltage circuits to avoid the risk of the body becoming part of the
• Risks can be minimized by using insulated hand tools (e.g., pliers,
screwdrivers, wrench, etc.) and by wearing rubber gloves and shoes.
Battery Solutions Today
The simplest battery solution for today that enables EV enthusiasts to build quickly
and get a reliable vehicle on the road is lead-acid batteries. This is not ruling out
any other battery chemistry, and I think that even today with the newer battery
technology we can start using NiCad or the lithium batteries. You have the
advantage and the ability to make use of the new technology because your EV is
smaller, uses fewer batteries, and is easily monitorable. Compared with a large
electric car, your upfront cost is considerably less for a battery pack, so purchasing
that exotic battery may not be out of reach.
Electric Motors
This chapter will guide you through the central part of your electric vehicle (EV),
the electric motor. Electric motors come in all types, shapes, and sizes. Unlike the
internal combustion engine, they emit zero pollutants. The electric motor has only
one moving part and needs very little service, if any. Your electric motor will outlast
its internal combustion engine counterpart several times over.
Electric motors are the most efficient mechanical devices known at this time.
Between 85 and 90 percent of the energy used by an electric motor is transferred to
the wheels of your vehicle, whereas with an internal combustion engine, only 15–
20 percent of the energy makes it to the drive wheels. Just think, you are losing 80­
–85 percent burning fossil fuels and converting their energy to mechanical energy.
This is a considerable amount of loss and a waste of energy. Most of the energy is
lost as heat and some to friction from all the moving parts in the internal combustion
engine and transmission.
Your selection of an electric motor is a very important decision in the design of
your EV. Do not be fooled by their size; electric motors are powerful and deliver a
force you would not believe! Power from an electric motor is instantaneous, full
power being available from the start.
History of Electric Motors
The development of the electric motor belongs to more than one individual.
Throughout the early 1800s, you will find a great deal of research and development
by many ingenious individuals. The electric motor was developed through a
process of research and discovery beginning with Hans Oersted’s discovery of
electromagnetism in 1820 and involving additional work by William Sturgeon,
Joseph Henry, Andre Marie Ampere, Michael Faraday, Thomas Davenport, and a
few others.1 Some of the most documented sources on the electric motor all point to
the work of Michael Faraday. In 1821, Faraday demonstrated by a simple device
Chapter Eight
Figure 8-1 The first electric motor—Michael Faraday, 1821. (www.sparkmuseum.com/MOTORS.
that mechanical energy could be created by electromagnetic means. Faraday’s
device consisted of a free-hanging wire dipping into a pool of mercury. A permanent
magnet was placed in the middle of the pool of mercury. When an electric current
passed through the wire, the wire would begin to rotate around the magnet,
demonstrating that the current gave rise to a circular magnetic field around the
wire2 (Figure 8-1).
The first real electric motor, using electromagnets for both stationary and
rotating parts, was demonstrated by Anyos Jedlik in 1828 in Hungary.3 He is
considered by many to be the unsung father of the electric motor. Jedlik at the time
was not the only one creating simple machines; many others experimented with
similar devices around the same time.
In 1873, the modern direct-current (dc) motor was invented by accident by
Zénobe Gramme during an inventors’ fair. During the fair, a careless worker
connected the terminals of a Gramme dynamo to another dynamo (a generator that
produces direct current) that was producing electricity, and Gramme’s dynamo
Figure 8-2 Example of an early dc motor. (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/34/
Electric Motors
began to spin on its own. Gramme found that his device would act as an electric
motor when a constant voltage was applied. The Gramme machine was the first
electric motor that was successful in the industry. His work and the help of a careless
worker ushered in the development of large-scale electric motors4 (Figure 8-2).
Choosing the Right Motor for You
The selection of your electric motor is one of the most important choices you will
make. What type of performance do you want? A tire-burning quarter mile all-out
race machine? On the other hand, maybe a cruising machine with good power and
considerable range? Throughout this section I will help to educate you in the
selection of the right motor for your application. You may have to make some
compromises and work with what is available, what may fit, or within a certain
This book will explain both dc motors and alternating-current (ac) motors. The
motor is one of the three crucial components in your design and build, those
components being the batteries, the controller, and the motor. Many decisions need
to be made, and planning is the key to the performance of the final vehicle. In your
build, every choice and every change you make will have a great effect. Remember,
you are working with a much smaller vehicle; space, size, and power all make a big
difference. Always keep in mind that one major change could create a domino
effect through the whole design. Unlike the conversion of a car to electric, in which
you have plenty of room to stash a few more batteries or play with motor size, with
your EV, you are limited. Plan carefully, and you will have great results. Believe me,
I know this all too well and have made the mistakes to prove it.
Try to lay out the basics of what you want. If you have an idea about what
batteries you will use, list their capacity. In Chapter 7, I provided you with all the
information to get you started. Battery selection is one of the first few steps before
selecting your electric motor. Battery type, amperage, and voltage all will be
determining factors in the selection of your motor. Based on your battery selection,
you already will know the voltage and maximum amperage draw. If your batteries
or your complete battery pack has a nominal voltage of 120 V dc and is limited to
400 A maximum intermediate current draw, then your motor will need to be
selected with these parameters in mind. Additionally, keep motor controller
selection in mind because that could be your limiting factor (see Chap. 10). You
can use the motor controller to limit current to protect your batteries and electric
motor. Your motor selection will have limitations around the power supplied by
the batteries and by the controller. In contrast, your batteries and/or your
controller may supply more power over the rating of your motor. If your battery
pack has a limit on amperage output available, you may need to increase the
voltage. Later in this chapter I will go into more detail on the formulas and
mathematics you might need.
Chapter Eight
Electric Motor Horsepower
Electric motors are powerhouses, delivering hundreds of horsepower in a fraction of
a second. In selecting your electric motor, you need to have an understanding of the
rated power set by the engine manufacturer. Electric motors have a continuous rating
and an intermittent or 5-minute rating. Electric motors are capable of a power output
of two to more than four times their continuous rating, but only for a few minutes.
The 5-minute power rating generally is used for acceleration and hill climbing. A
large part of this rating is due to heat buildup under heavy load and high-current
draw (amperes). Therefore, keeping your motor running cool is very important. The
rated power is listed on the motor, or the manufacturer can supply you with the
appropriate data and charts. Your vehicle’s performance will greatly rely on the rated
power of the motor. Table 8-1 provides an example of motor rating.
Table 8-1 Sample Series DC Motor Rating
Input Voltage
107.0 lbs.
96-120 V
Test Data @ 96 V Input
Time On
5 min.
1 hr.
Peak Horsepower
Test Data @ 120 V Input
Time On
5 min.
1 hr.
Peak Horsepower
Peak Torque @ 120 V & 500 A
85 ft. lbs.
Carl Vogel—Advanced DC Motors
Later in this chapter I will provide more details on how each motor works and the
advantages and disadvantages of each type. Other books have listed in great detail
motor designs and formulas, such as reluctance, magnetic fields, magnetomotive
force, flux, and flux density. This sounds like something from Back to the Future, very
cool but not fully relevant unless you are building an electric motor. I will keep it
simple and give you the basics that you need to know on these topics.
Some Simple Points and Notes
Even though electric motors are given a continuous rating, this does not mean that
the motor cannot run at less horsepower. If only 5 hp is required to operate your
Electric Motors
vehicle at a certain speed, your motor can run at a reduced load. Controlling the
speed and load is a function of the motor controller (see Chapter 9).
The continuous rating is there for a reason. Operating your motor over this
rated horsepower eventually will overheat and damage the motor. A motor rated
for 100 A may be able to run at 300 A for a few minutes, but operating the electric
motor above the rating for any extended periods of time will easily damage it by
overheating the field coils, armature, and brushes, causing permanent damage.
Available horsepower increases with the amount of voltage supplied to the
motor. For example, if a motor is rated at 15 hp continuous at 72 V, the same motor
also may be rated at 30 hp at 144 V. As voltage is increased, so are the horsepower
and revolutions per minute (rpm). Horsepower is a function of torque 3 rpm.
Additionally, if you increase the voltage, the amperage stays the same or less.
Remember, increased amperage means an increase in motor temperature.
Select the right-sized motor for your application. An undersized motor will not
last long. The increased current over the maximum rating will overheat your motor.
High current (amperes) will result in too much heat and damage.
If your motor has a limit, try to select a motor controller that meets the
specifications of your electric motor. Some motor controllers are very advanced,
allowing the user to program limits and parameters. Some controllers have the
ability to measure motor rpm and temperature. When your motor reaches its
thermal limit, a controller can cut back power and reduce the risk of damage.
The greater the highway speed required, the more horsepower you will need.
The horsepower required at 70 mph can be over four times the power needed to
propel your vehicle at 35 mph. Remember, the higher the speed, the less range you
will achieve and the more amperes you will consume.
Some Basic Terms to Know
Magnetic flux This is a measure of the quantity of magnetism, represented by the
Greek capital letter Φ (phi), taking into account the strength and the extent of a
magnetic field.
Magnetism This is the means by which materials exert attractive or repulsive
forces on other materials. Some well-known materials that exhibit easily detectable
magnetic properties (called magnets) are nickel, iron, cobalt, and their alloys;
however, all materials are influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the presence
of a magnetic field.
Magnetic field This is a vector field that can exert a magnetic force on moving
electric charges. Magnetic fields can be created by supplying voltage to a winding
of copper wires around a piece of steel. The steel with the windings now creates a
magnetic field with both north and south poles.
Permanent magnets These are objects that stay magnetized and produce their own
magnetic fields. All permanent magnets have both a north and a south pole.
Chapter Eight
Back electromotive force (EMF) An electric motor in addition to supplying
mechanical power also can act as a generator. This is true in a sense even when the
motor functions as a motor. The EMF a motor generates is referred to as back EMF.
Back EMF is produced when the armature begins to spin. It will produce a voltage
that is of opposite polarity to that of the power supply. The overall effect of this
voltage will be subtracted from the supply voltage, so the motor windings will see
a smaller voltage potential. The motor acts as a generator at the same time, opposing
the current supplied to the motor or holding back the voltage supplied to the motor.
As an unloaded dc motor spins, it generates a backward-flowing electromotive
force (back EMF) that resists the current being applied to the motor. The current
through the motor drops as the rotational speed increases; the free-spinning motor
has very little current. It is only when a load is applied to the motor that the rotor
slows, thus allowing current draw through the motor to increase. In most cases, if
the motor has no load, it turns very quickly and speeds up until the back EMF plus
the voltage drop equal the supply voltage. Back EMF acts as a “regulator,” limiting
the motor’s maximum rotational speed.5 Note that in some types of motors, the
back EMF can be reduced, creating a serious condition under no load where the
motor can run away and explode. Never apply full power to an electric motor with
no load!
DC Motors
The classic dc motor design is a device that converts electrical energy into mechanical
energy. This holds true for any electric motor, whether the motor is dc or ac.
A simple dc motor has a coil of wire that can rotate in a magnetic field. The
current in the coil of wire is supplied via two brushes that make moving contact
with a split ring known as a commutator. The coil lies in a steady magnetic field in
the simplest form from permanent magnets. In other types of dc motors, such as
the series motor, the permanent magnets are replaced with coils of wire producing
their own magnetic field when current is applied. The forces exerted on the currentcarrying wires generate a magnetic field creating north and south magnetism. This
magnetism creates a force on the coil, also known as an armature. As current is
applied to the armature, an opposite north and south pole is created, causing them
to repel or attract one another, creating rotational movement. Figure 8-3 demonstrates
how magnetic fields and poles repel and attract one another. Notice how opposite
poles attract and like poles repel.
To demonstrate this, you can create a magnetic field simply with a source of
electricity, a wire, and a piece of steel. Using a piece of steel, wrap a few turns of
insulated copper wire around it, and apply electric current from a battery to it.
Now you have just transformed the steel into a bar-style magnet with a north and
south pole (Figure 8-4).
Electric Motors
Figure 8-3 Simple rotation.
Soft iron core
Core of insulated copper wire
Figure 8-4 Simple electromagnet.
DC Motor Basic Construction
In this section I will explain some of the basic parts that make up the typical dc
motor. These same parts are similar in a few ac motor designs. Figure 8-5 displays
the fundamental parts of a permanent-magnet dc motor in the simplest form (see
also Figure 8-6).
Chapter Eight
Figure 8-5 Sample of basic dc motor. (www.physclips.unsw.edu.au/jw/electricmotors.html.)
Figure 8-6 Three-dimensional (3D) representation of basic motor components.
The armature is the main part of the electric motor that normally rotates on two
bearings with a shaft, creating torque. The rotation is produced by current in the
coil windings. The armature usually consists of a shaft surrounded by laminated
steel pieces called the armature core. The armature core is divided in sections with
windings of coated copper wire. When current is applied to one of the windings, it
creates a magnetic field, thus producing movement.
The armature’s role is twofold: (1) to carry current crossing the field, thus creating
shaft torque (in a rotating machine) or force (in a linear machine) and (2) to generate
an electromotive force (EMF). Notice in Figure 8-7 the armature and the heavy-gauge
copper wires to carry high current and to produce strong magnetic fields.
Figure 8-7 Basic dc armature.
Electric Motors
The commutator normally consists of a set of copper segments fixed around part of
the circumference of the armature (Figs. 8-8 and 8-9). Each segment of the
commutator is separated from the other. A set of spring-loaded brushes is fixed to
the frame of the electric motor. An external source of current is supplied to the
brushes. The commutator acts as a switch for each segment of the armature. Current
flows through only the winding of the armature with which the brushes are in
contact. This flow of current creates an EMF, producing torque and rotating the
shaft. As the shaft rotates, the brushes contact the next segment of the commutator,
alternating the magnetic poles and continuing the rotation of the armature.
Figure 8-8 CAD drawing of a simple commutator.
Figure 8-9 Photograph of a simple commutator.
Chapter Eight
Field Poles
Electromagnets and permanent magnets are referred to as field poles. The
electromagnet is created by winding turns of wire. The poles are normally curved
to match the circumference of the armature. The poles can be composed of either a
permanent magnet or an electromagnet. For most of the motors used in EVs, an
electromagnet is used; on smaller motors, permanent magnets sometimes are used
(Figure 8-10).
The strength of an electromagnet is determined by a number of factors:
• The strength is proportional to the number of turns in the coil.
• The strength is relative to the current flowing in the coil.
• The strength is inversely proportional to the length of the air gap between
the poles.
In general, an electromagnet is often considered better than a permanent magnet
because it can produce very strong magnetic fields, and its strength can be controlled
by varying the number of turns in its coil or by changing the current flowing
through the coil (Figure 8-11).
Figure 8-10 Field pole in the housing of a series motor.
Figure 8-11 Drawing of a field coil.
Electric Motors
The brushes are made of carbon-composite material, usually in a rectangular shape
(Figure 8-12). Typically, the brushes have copper added to aid in conduction, and
sometimes another material is also added to reduce wear. The brushes are held
securely in place by the rigging normally at the tail end of the motor housing. The
rigging, while holding the brushes in place, uses a spring to provide the proper
amount of tension on the brushes so that they make proper contact with the
commutator. Brush tension is important. If the tension is too light, the brushes will
bounce and arc, and if the tension is too heavy, the brushes will wear down
prematurely. The end of the brush that contacts the commutator is contoured to fit
the commutator for better current transfer. In a typical motor, half the brushes will
be connected to the positive voltage, and half will be connected to the negative
voltage. In most motors, the number of brushes will be equal to the number of field
poles. Current is applied through copper wire connected to the brushes. This allows
higher current loads and flexibility as the brushes wear. In most applications, a
brush set can be replaced through access from the side of the motor housing when
replacement is necessary.
Figure 8-12 Brushes.
The classic dc motor exhibits some limitations owing to the need for brushes
pressing against the commutator. Friction is one result. At higher speeds, brushes
have difficulty maintaining uninterrupted contact with the commutator. At high
rotational speeds, brushes may bounce off the irregularities in the commutator
surface, creating sparks. Sparks inevitably may be created by the brushes making
and breaking contact as the brushes cross the insulating gaps between commutator
sections. The making and breaking of electric contact also causes electrical noise,
and the sparks additionally cause radiofrequency interference (RFI).
Motor Timing
Just like the timing on an internal combustion engine, you can advance or retard
the timing on many electric motors. In the electric motor, the magnetic field is never
perfectly uniform. Instead, as the armature spins, it induces field effects that drag
and distort the magnetic lines of the outer nonrotating stator.
Chapter Eight
The faster the armature spins, the greater the degree of magnetic field distortion
becomes. Because the electric motor operates most efficiently with the armature
field at right angles to the stator field (field poles), it is necessary to either retard or
advance the brush position to put the rotor’s field into the correct position to be at
a right angle to the distorted field, producing the most magnetic force or rotating
As a general rule of thumb, the brushes are neutral when they line up inline
with the motor’s field coil pole shoe bolts on the motor’s sides. To advance the
motor’s timing, you must move the brushes opposite the motor’s rotation by x
degrees depending on voltage.
If brush timing seems a bit confusing, it basically refers to the position of the
brushes in the motor and the position to which they are set physically during
manufacture. The position to which they are normally set by the manufacturer is a
“neutral” position. This neutral position allows the motor to operate and perform
almost identically in counterclockwise (CCW) and clockwise (CW) rotations at
normal voltages. A normal voltage for most series-wound motors in a neutral timed
arrangement is generally less than 96 V. Above this range, motors almost always
should be advanced in the direction opposite to their normal rotation in order to
reduce arcing and provide increased performance at higher voltages. Caution: If a
motor is advanced and then powered to run in the opposite direction, significant
arcing could result! Regenerative braking should not be attempted with motors
that have significantly advanced timing. Running an advanced-timing motor in
reverse at low speed is okay, but do not operate in reverse at high speeds or for any
prolonged period of time. Significant arcing will occur, resulting in damage to the
brushes and armature.
DC Motor Types
Now that you have a little background in basic motor operations, I would like to
explain the different motor types:
Permanent magnet
Series DC Motor
The series dc motor is a popular motor of choice (Figures 8-13 and 8-14). This type
of motor develops a very large amount of turning force, called torque, from a
standstill. Because of this characteristic, the series dc motor can be used in many
Electric Motors
Figure 8-13 Advanced DC BL5-4001 series motor.
Figure 8-14 Series dc motor.
applications. For traction applications, such as powering an EV, this motor works
very well. The series motor acquires the name because its field winding is connected
in series with the armature. The current must flow through the field windings and
the armature itself. As a result, the field current and armature current are equal.
Heavy currents flow directly from the supply to the field windings. To carry this
huge load, the field windings are very thick and have few turns. Usually, copper
bars form the stator windings or very heavy-gauge copper wire with few turns.
These thick copper bars or heavy-gauge wire dissipate the heat produced by the
heavy flow of current extremely effectively.
The series motor can develop an enormous amount of torque at startup. The torque
varies with the square of the current. If you view the graph in Figure 8-15, you can
actually see the torque versus the armature current. At startup of a series motor,
Chapter Eight
Figure 8-15 Nine-inch motor curves. (Courtesy of NetGain Motors, Inc.)
there is no back EMF to limit the flow of current to the armature. The startup torque
values can far exceed the stated specifications of the motor. When using a serieswound motor, you might want to take precautions to limit startup current. Because
of the high starting torque, the series motor is appealing for use in EV applications.
As rpm increase in the series motor, it will reach a point where torque will start to
drop dramatically. This point is normally near the high rpm range or limit of the
motor. Check your torque curves and specifications for your particular motor.
A major disadvantage of the series motor is related to speed characteristics. The
speed of a series motor with no load connected to it increases to the point where the
motor may become damaged, usually by bearing damage or by the windings flying
out of the slots in the armature. There is a danger to both equipment and personnel.
Think of it as over-revving your internal combustion engine. You would not put the
pedal to the floor with no load or the engine in neutral; you would blow your
motor. Equally, some form of load always must be connected to a series motor or
some way to limit motor speed must be in place before you turn it on. As the series
motor accelerates, the armature current decreases, reducing the back EMF to limit
the speed. The reduction in field causes the motor to speed up until it self-destructs
and flies apart.
The simple way to avoid this is always have a load on the motor. Be actively
aware of the speed and load on your motor, just as you would an internal combustion
engine. Install a revolution-limiting device. Some motor controllers have the ability
to cut power to the motor when limits are reached. There may be units on the
market called rev limiters that you can install to cut power to the motor. A rev limiter
manufactured by K & W Engineering was called the TD-100. This unit was both a
Electric Motors
rev limiter and a tachometer drive. At this time, the TD-100 is no longer available.
From my local Electric Auto Association chapter, a member named Mike Savino
from EV-Propulsion is developing a unit to replace the tachometer drive with rev
limit capabilities.
Field Weakening
Field weakening is one way to control the series motor speed. If you place a resistor
in parallel with the series motor field winding, you divert part of the current
through the resistor. If you keep the field current to 50 percent or less of the total
current, you can gain up to a 20–25 percent increase in speed at moderate torque.
Today, most motor controllers use a variation of field weakening in addition to
other capabilities.
In the series motor, the same current that flows through the field flows through the
armature. By reversing the current polarity, however, you will not reverse the
direction of the motor. To reverse the motor, you need to transpose or change the
direction of current flow to the field winding with respect to the armature or the
armature with respect to the field winding.
Regenerative Braking
All motors exhibit the ability to act as generators, creating a counter EMF.
Regenerative braking is a way to use the electric motor to slow down your vehicle
without using your brakes. By using your electric motor to slow your vehicle down,
you capture energy otherwise wasted as heat in your brakes. It is a way to capture
mechanical energy that otherwise would have been lost. This energy is now stored
back in your batteries. Imagine all the energy used to power your vehicle up a hill.
Now, once you are at the top, a typical vehicle would use its brakes to reduce the
speed traveling back down, in addition to maybe downshifting. With regenerative
braking, you have the ability to capture and use otherwise wasted potential energy
going downhill and place it back in your batteries. What a great way to increase
your range and conserve energy!
Series motors in the past exhibited unstable generator properties, leaving them
less likely to be used as generators or for regenerative braking. Today, however,
with the advancements in motor controllers, using a series motor in regenerative
mode is a problem of the past. Now, motor controller technology and programming
allow regenerative braking on series motors. I have personally used a series-wound
dc motor (Advanced DC L91-4003) on my motorcycle with regenerative braking
through a Zapi motor controller for over 5 years without any problems. It provokes
a great feeling; you hear a click of a relay and then see 30 A and 140 V dc going back
into the batteries. The braking can be controlled either with a brake peddle or with
the throttle control.
Chapter Eight
Shunt DC Motors
The shunt dc motor is similar to the series motor in its basic construction, with the
exception of the field windings and the connection to the armature. The shunt
motor is connected in parallel with the armature instead of in series. Since the field
winding is placed in parallel with the armature, it is called a shunt winding, and the
motor is called a shunt motor. In examining a shunt motor, you will notice that the
field terminals are marked “Fl” and “F2,” and the armature terminals are marked
“Al” and “A2” (Figure 8-16).
The windings in the field coil consist of small-gauge wire with many turns.
Since the wire is so small, the coil can have thousands of turns. The small-gauge
wire cannot handle as much current as the heavy-gauge wire in the series field,
though. Since this field coil consists of more turns of wire, it can still produce an
exceptionally strong magnetic field.
The shunt motor has somewhat different operating characteristics than the
series motor. Since the shunt field coil is made of fine wire, it cannot handle a large
amount of current. This means that the shunt motor develops low starting torque.
With a low starting torque, you will need to decrease the shaft load at startup.
The armature for the shunt motor is similar to that of the series motor and will
draw current to produce a magnetic field, causing the armature shaft and load to
start turning. Because of the high resistance from many windings of wire, the shunt
coil keeps the overall current flow low. When the armature begins to turn, it will
produce back EMF. The back EMF will decrease the current in the armature as
Figure 8-16 Typical shunt motor. (Courtesy of EVDrives, www.evdrives.com/motor_products.
Electric Motors
speed increases to a very small level. The amount of current the armature will draw
is directly related to the size of the load when the motor reaches full speed. Since
the load is generally small, the armature current will be small. Unlike the series
motor, the shunt motor’s speed will remain rather constant when the motor reaches
full rpm. Also remember that the shunt motor’s efficiency will drop off drastically
when it is operated below its rated voltage. The motor will tend to overheat when
it is operated below full voltage, so motor cooling must be provided.
The armature’s torque increases as the motor gains speed. This is so because the
shunt motor’s torque is directly proportional to armature current. When the motor
is starting and the number of revolutions per minute is very low, the motor has
decreased torque. After the motor reaches full rpm, the torque reaches maximum
potential. The shunt motor is a good choice for applications where constant speed
is required. The speed of the shunt motor stays fairly constant throughout its load
range and drops slightly when it is drawing the largest current. For vehicle
applications, a lower gear ratio or transmission may be needed to compensate for
the low starting torque.
When the shunt motor reaches full rpm, its speed will remain reasonably constant.
The reason the speed remains constant is because of the load characteristics of the
armature and shunt coil. The ability of the shunt motor to maintain a set rpm at high
speed when the load changes is because of the characteristic of the shunt field and
armature. Since the armature begins to produce back EMF as soon as it starts to
rotate, it will use the back EMF to maintain its rpm at high speed. If the load increases
slightly and causes the armature shaft to slow down, less back EMF will be produced,
which will cause more current to flow. The extra current provides the motor with the
extra torque required to regain its rpm when this load is increased slightly.
The shunt motor’s speed can be varied in two ways: (1) varying the amount of
current supplied to the shunt field and (2) controlling the amount of current
supplied to the armature. Controlling the current to the shunt field allows the rpm
to be changed 10–20 percent when the motor is at full rpm.
The shunt motor’s rpm also can be controlled by regulating the voltage that is
applied to the armature. This means that if the motor is operated on less voltage, it
will run at fewer than full rpm. You also should be aware that the motor’s torque is
reduced when it is operated below the full voltage level. In addition, lower voltage
will increase the heat produced by the motor.
Field Weakening
Field weakening is accomplished by slightly increasing or decreasing the voltage
applied to the field. The armature continues to have full voltage applied to it while
Chapter Eight
the current to the shunt field is regulated. When the shunt field’s current is
decreased, the motor’s rpm will increase slightly. When the shunt field’s current is
reduced, the armature must rotate faster to produce the same amount of back EMF
to keep the load turning. If the shunt field current is increased slightly, the armature
can rotate at slower rpm and maintain the amount of back EMF to produce the
armature current to drive the load.
The direction of rotation of a dc shunt motor can be reversed by changing the
polarity of either the armature coil or the field coil. In this application, the armature
coil is usually changed, as was the case with the series motor.
In most applications, the field leads are connected directly to the power supply,
so their polarity is not changed. Since the field’s polarity has remained the same,
the armature’s polarity needs to be reversed. Once the polarity of the armature is
switched, the motor will begin to rotate in the reverse direction. The same can be
accomplished by switching the polarity of the field leads.
Regenerative Braking
The shunt motor is directly adaptable for use as a generator. In fact, most generators
are shunt motors or, should I say, shunt generators. The shunt motor has a high
degree of stability when used for regenerative braking. The voltage and power
remain linear.
Compound DC Motor
The dc compound motor is a combination of shunt-wound and series-wound types,
combining the characteristics of both with a sort of hybrid operating characteristic. It
has a series field winding that is connected in series with the armature and a shunt field
that is in parallel with the armature. Characteristics may be mixed by varying the
combination of the two windings. These motors generally are used where severe
starting conditions are needed and constant speed is required at the same time. A
compound motor can be safely operated without a load and can have the speed
characteristics of a shunt motor and the starting-torque characteristics of a series motor.
The compound dc motor combines the properties of both with some slight trade-offs in
torque or speed. Look at the manufacturers’ specific ratings for exact specifications.
Types of Compound DC Motors
The cumulative compound motor is one of the most common dc motors because it
provides high starting torque and good speed regulation at high speeds. Since the
shunt field is wired with similar polarity in parallel with the magnetic field, aiding
the series field and armature field, it is called cumulative. When the motor is
connected this way, it can start even with a large load and then operate smoothly
when the load varies slightly.
Electric Motors
Differential compound motors use the same motor and windings as the cumulative
compound motor, but they are connected in a slightly different manner to provide
slightly different operating speed and torque characteristics. The differential
compound motor’s characteristics are less like a shunt motor and more like a series
motor. This means that the motor will tend to overspeed when the load is reduced,
just like a series motor. Its speed also will drop more than that of a cumulative
compound motor when the load increases at full rpm. These two characteristics
make the differential motor less desirable than the cumulative motor for most
The dc compound motor has greater torque than a shunt motor owing to the series
field. In addition, it has fairly consistent speed owing to the shunt field winding.
Depending on whether the motor is connected in the differential or cumulative
position, it will yield different torque values (Figure 8-17).
Figure 8-17 Curves for series and shunt dc motors. (From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Figure
6-3, p. 141.)
Chapter Eight
The speed of a compound motor can be changed very easily by adjusting the amount
of voltage applied to it. Since the advent of solid-state components and microprocessor
controls, speed is controlled easily. You can see that the speed of a differential
compound motor increases slightly when the motor is drawing the highest current
through the armature. The increase in speed occurs because the extra current in the
differential winding causes the magnetic field in the motor to weaken slightly.
Each type of compound motor can be reversed by changing the polarity of the
armature winding. If the motor has interpoles, the polarity of the interpole must be
changed when the armature’s polarity is changed. Since the interpole is connected
in series with the armature, it should be reversed when the armature is reversed.
Interpoles help to prevent the armature and brushes from arcing so that the brushes
will last longer.
Permanent-Magnet DC Motor
Permanent-magnet dc motors represent the simplicity of dc motor design. The
permanent-magnet design is used in countless applications and increasingly today.
The alloys from which permanent magnets are made are often very difficult to
handle; many are mechanically hard and brittle. They may be cast and then ground
into shape or even ground to a powder and formed. The powders are mixed with
resin binders and then compressed and heat-treated.
The permanent magnets that produce the largest magnetic flux with the smallest
mass are the rare-earth magnets based on samarium and neodymium. Their high
magnetic fields and light weight make them useful for demonstrating magnetic
levitation over superconducting materials.
Permanent-magnet motors have become increasingly popular owing to new
technology and advancements in magnetic materials. Motor designs have become
smaller, lighter in weight, and more powerful. Permanent-magnet motors roughly
resemble shunt motors with similar speed, torque, reversing, and regenerative
braking abilities. With the advancement in materials technology, permanent
Figure 8-18 Basic dc motor.
Electric Motors
magnets have increased dramatically in magnetic force. With these advancements,
the permanent-magnet motor has surpassed the typical shunt motor speed and
torque curves down to zero. Permanent-magnet motors are now capable of
generating several times more starting torque than shunt motors.6
One perfect example from the Lynch motor is a unique axial gap permanentmagnet brushed dc motor. The motor was invented by Cedric Lynch (U.S. patent
no. 4823039). Its efficiency is around 90 percent, further extending the life of the
batteries and improving the range of an EV (Figure 8-19).
Figure 8-19 Lynch dc permanent-magnet motor. (www.lmcltd.net/uploads/images/motors.jpg.)
Universal Motor
The universal dc motor is similar to a regular dc motor but is designed to operate
either from dc or from single-phase ac. The stator and rotor windings of the motor
are connected in series through the rotor commutator. Therefore, the universal
motor is also known as an ac series motor or an ac commutator motor. The universal
motor can be controlled either as a phase-angle drive or as a chopper drive.
In the phase-angle application, the phase-angle control technique is used to adjust
the voltage applied to the motor. A phase shift of the gate’s pulses allows the effective
voltage seen by the motor to be varied. The phase-angle drive requires just a triac, a
bidirectional electronic switch which can conduct current in either directions.
In the chopper application, the pulse-width-modulation (PWM) technique is
used to adjust the voltage applied to the motor. Modulation of the PWM duty cycle
allows the effective voltage seen by the motor to be varied. Compared with a phaseangle drive, a chopper drive requires a more complicated power stage with an input
rectifier, a power switch, and a fast power diode. The advantage is higher efficiency,
less acoustic noise, and better electromagnetic compatibility EMC behavior.
AC Electric Motors
Now that you have learned a little about dc motors, this section will focus on the
basics of ac motors. In the world today, a third of electricity consumption is used
Chapter Eight
for running induction motors driving pumps, fans, compressors, elevators,
and machinery of various types. The ac induction motor is a common form of
asynchronous motor whose operation depends on three electromagnetic
phenomena (Figures 8-20 and 8-21).
Figure 8-20 Ac induction motor with a permanent magnet armature showing phases.
Figure 8-21 Ac induction motor rotating showing phases.
Electric Motors
While dc motor drive systems were used universally in early EVs, ac drive
systems started to emerge because of advances in technology. As the U.S.
Department of Energy program for EVs progressed early on, interest in ac drive
systems advanced with government funding.7 The ac motor offers many
advantages. First, it requires little or no maintenance because there are no
commutators or brushes. Second, ac motors are relatively light and small in size
given their voltage power and speed ratings. Third, they are far less expensive, in
some cases one-fifth to one-third the expense of a dc motor. Last, the efficiency of
the ac motor tends to be a few points higher than that of the dc motor owing to the
low copper and iron heat losses (Figures 8-22 and 8-23).
Figure 8-22 Typical ac: more efficiency.
Figure 8-23 Combined efficiencies of the Simovert ac inverter at 130 V dc input. (Courtesy
Metric Mind Engineering, www.metricmind.com.)
Chapter Eight
Figure 8-24 Siemens ac induction motor (10,000 rpm. 100 hp peak at 400 V).
The ac induction motor is designed to operate from a three-phase source of
voltage (Figure 8-24). The stator is a classic three-phase stator with the winding
displaced by 120 degrees. The most common type of induction motor has a squirrelcage rotor in which aluminum conductors or bars are shorted together at both ends
of the rotor by cast-aluminum end rings. When three currents flow through the
three symmetrically placed windings, a sinusoidally distributed air-gap flux
generating the rotor current is produced. The interaction of the sinusoidally
distributed air-gap flux and induced rotor currents produces a torque on the rotor.
In adjustable-speed applications, ac motors in traction vehicles are powered by
inverters. The inverter converts dc power to ac power at the required frequency
and amplitude. The output voltage is mostly created by a PWM technique (more
about PWM in Chapter 9). The three-phase voltage waves are shifted 120 degrees
to each other, and thus a three-phase motor can be supplied. The following sections
will explain more about the different types of ac motors.
A Couple of Terms You Should Know
Synchronous speed is the theoretical speed of an ac induction motor at which the
motor should spin if the induced magnetic field in the rotor perfectly follows the
rotating magnetic field of the stator. Synchronous speed is measured in rotations
per minute (rpm) and is given by the following formula:
RPM 5 120 3 electric frequency rpm / number of poles
However, to produce torque, an induction motor suffers from slip. Slip is the
result of the induced field in the rotor windings lagging behind the rotating
magnetic field in the stator windings. The energy lost in this discrepancy is what
Electric Motors
produces the useful work in an induction motor. Slip is expressed as a percentage
of synchronous speed and is given by the following formula:
S 5 [(Synchronous speed – actual speed) / (synchronous speed)] * 100%
Typical slip values at full-load torque range from 1 percent (for large 100-hp
motors) to 5 percent (for small ½-hp motors). Slip is not a concern in most
applications, unless precise speed control is required. One solution is to use a
variable-frequency drive controlled by a feedback encoder to keep the motor at a
specific speed.8
Single-Phase Induction Motor
The single-phase ac motor is the simplest design. I will just touch base on this ac
motor to familiarize you with the various types. This type of ac motor would not be
used in traction vehicles. Single-phase induction motors are less efficient than
polyphase motors and were developed mainly for domestic use because only
single-phase power is available. The single-phase ac motor has no control of speed,
and it is designed for one speed only (Figure 8-25).
AC Synchronous Motor
The ac synchronous motor is similar to the induction motor in that it is a polyphase
machine in which the stator produces a rotating field. An ac synchronous motor
rotates at a fixed speed regardless of any increase or decrease in load. The motor
will keep a fixed speed regardless of the torque required until it reaches its stall
torque rating. If the load becomes greater than the motor’s stall torque, the ac
synchronous motor will not slow down until it reaches a point at which it will stall
and stop turning. No expensive driver or amplifier is necessary. Most synchronous
motors are used where precise timing and constant speed are required. A unique
characteristic of the ac synchronous motor is that it is not self-starting. A
synchronous motor has no starting torque. It has torque only when it is running at
Figure 8-25 Basic single-phase ac motor. (www.mpoweruk.com/motorsac.htm.)
Chapter Eight
synchronous speed. Either a squirrel-cage winding is added to the rotor to cause
it to start, or a dc motor is used to bring the rotor to near-synchronous speed, at
which time the ac is applied. The synchronous motor is not suited for traction
vehicles because of its fixed speed.
Polyphase AC Induction Motor (Three-Phase AC Motor)
The most common type of ac motor is the three-phase induction motor. The term
polyphase means “more than one phase.” The polyphase motor consists of a stator
with stator windings and a rotor assembly constructed as a cylindrical frame of
metal bars arranged in a squirrel-cage type of configuration (Figure 8-26). Compared
with a dc motor armature, there is no commutator. This eliminates the brushes,
arcing, sparking, graphite dust, brush adjustment and replacement, and remachining
of the commutator.
Synchronous Speed
The synchronous speed of an ac induction motor is the theoretical speed at which
the motor should spin if it the induced magnetic field in the rotor perfectly followed
the rotating magnetic field of the stator. Synchronous speed is measured in rotations
per minute (rpm).
Regenerative Braking
If the motor is fed by a variable-frequency inverter, then regenerative braking is
possible. Ac motors can be microprocessor-controlled to a fine degree and can
regenerate current down to almost a stop, whereas dc regeneration fades quickly at
low speeds.
The induction motor may function as an alternator if it is driven by a torque at
greater than 100 percent of the synchronous speed. This corresponds to a few
percent of negative slip, say, 1 percent. This means that as we are rotating the motor
faster than the synchronous speed, the rotor is advancing 1 percent faster than the
stator rotating magnetic field. It normally lags by 1 percent in a motor. Since the
rotor is cutting the stator magnetic field in the opposite direction (leading), the
Figure 8-26 Three-phase ac motor.
Electric Motors
Figure 8-27 Basic ac induction motor and regenerative motor curve. (http://electojects.com/
rotor induces a voltage into the stator, feeding electrical energy back into the motor
controller and thus the batteries (Figure 8-27). The induction ac motor must be
excited by a power source to create regenerative braking. No power can be generated
in the event of a controller or battery failure.
EV Motor Selection
As you have seen, motors come in numerous variations and types, giving you a
large selection of solutions for your EV. Your task is to decide which one to use
given the tools and knowledge you have obtained from this book and your vehicle
requirements. Remember, many motors are available, and one motor or configuration
is not the only solution. Weigh your options, and look at all the available motors on
the market. You will find an enormous amount of resources in Chapter 14.
Additionally, I have set up an online resource site with more updates to help you as
new technology and products become available. From these resources, you can
find many companies and distributors of electric motors. In the following sections
I will explain a few motor options. I do not advocate any particular motor over any
other. So which one is right for you?
Basic Considerations
Power and torque
Chapter Eight
• Shaft size
• Controllers available that work with your motor
Permanent-Magnet DC Motor
The permanent-magnet dc motor is a good choice for a small to midsized EV.
Permanent magnets have advanced a long way; the magnets of today are smaller
and more powerful. What this means to you is more power and efficiency packed
into one motor.
Briggs & Stratton in around 2003 started manufacturing a permanent-magnet
motor called the Etek electric motor. This motor is compact with a lot of power in
relation to the size. Unfortunately, Briggs & Stratton stopped manufacturing this
motor. The good news is that you can purchase this same motor from the original
motor manufacturer, the Lynch Motor Company. It produces a few models that will
fit many applications.
The Lynch LEM-200-D135 double-magnet motor is extremely efficient: 12–84 V
dc (96 V dc), 8-in-diameter single shaft, 200+ A continuous/250+ A intermittent,
and reversible. It is a good choice for EVs weighing 400–1200 lb. This motor weighs
approximately 25 lb (11 kg) (Figure 8-28; see also Table 8-2).
Series-Wound Motor Examples
The series dc motor is adaptable to many vehicles and available in many sizes and
configurations. These motors work well and have stood the test of time, providing
great power and reliability. Many motor controllers are readily available in all
different sizes and power ratings that work great with the series motor. With recent
advances in controller technology, more options are achievable, such as regenerative
braking yielding greater programming ability. Pricing of these motors also makes
them attractive for EVs. Figures 8-29 and 8-30 provide a couple of examples of the
series motors. Note these are only a few of the motors on the market today. For a
greater listing, see Chapter 14.
Figure 8-28 Lynch permanent-magnet motor. (www.lmcltd.net.)
Table 8-2 Lynch Motor Series 200 Specifications
No Load
Peak Power
Power kW/
Chapter Eight
Figure 8-29 Warp 8-in series motor. (Courtesy of NetGain Motors www.go-ev.com.)
Figure 8-30 Advanced DC series motor curves for the L91-4003 at 120 V dc, max. 750 A.
Electric Motors
Calculations and Formulas
1 hp 5 746 W (at 100 percent efficiency)
1 W 5 1/746 of 1 hp
W/V 5 A
W/A 5 V
1,000 W 5 1 kW
Calculating Horsepower
Electrical power is rated in horsepower or watts. A horsepower is a unit of power
equal to 746 W or 33,000 lb · ft/min (550 lb · ft/s). A watt is a unit of measure equal
to the power produced by a current of 1 A across the potential difference of 1 V. It
is 1/746 of 1 hp. The watt is the base unit of electrical power. Motor power is rated
in horsepower and watts. Horsepower is used to measure the energy produced by
an electric motor while doing work.9
To calculate the horsepower of a motor when current, efficiency, and voltage are
known, apply this formula:
hp 5 (V 3 I 3 efficiency)/746
where hp 5 horsepower
V 5 voltage
I 5 current (A)
Example: What is the horsepower of a 230-V motor pulling 4 A and having 82
percent efficiency?
hp 5 (V 3 I 3 efficiency)/746
5 (230 3 4 3 0.82)/746
5 754.4/746
5 1 hp
Calculating Full-Load Torque
Full-load torque is the torque required to produce the rated power at full speed of
the motor. The amount of torque a motor produces at rated power and full speed
can be found by using a horsepower-to-torque conversion chart. When using the
conversion chart, place a straightedge along the two known quantities, and read
the unknown quantity on the third line.
Chapter Eight
To calculate motor full-load torque, apply this formula:
T 5 (hp 3 5,252)/rpm
where T 5 torque (in lb · ft)
hp 5 horsepower
5,252 5 constant
Example: What is the full-load torque of a 30-hp motor operating at 1,725 rpm?
T = (hp × 5,252)/rpm
= (30 × 5,252)/1,725
= 157,560/1,725
= 91.34 lb · ft
New technology and an array of motor choices are to your advantage for your EV
build. Today, commutated dc motors and series-wound motors are the most
common, have worked well for numerous years, and are very economical. Presently,
ac induction motors and permanent-magnet brushed and brushless dc motors are
the best technologies. The newer motor and controller technologies offer efficiency
increases of up to 98 percent, improved reliability, and quiet and dependable
operation. Weigh out your options, and go over all the specifications. List the pros
and cons. To this day, the simplest and most cost-effective motor of choice is still the
dc permanent-magnet motor for smaller applications and the series-wound motor.
Both motors provide plenty of power, are plentiful, and most of all, are affordable.
The Motor Controller
The controller by far is one of the most important components of every electric
vehicle (EV). The technology and advancements in electronics today make the
controller a simpler solution for the EV enthusiasts. Past EV pioneers could only
dream of the great advancements of today. Future advancements in technology will
yield greater efficiency, more control features, and reductions in size and weight.
Your controller choice is an important decision and needs to be thought out.
Just like the process of selecting your electric motor or other components, you need
to weigh all your options. Your choice of controller is narrower and depends on
your motor selection, but nonetheless, it is very crucial. Your motor, batteries, pack
voltage, and available current play a very important roll in controller choice. All
these factors must be balanced properly to achieve significant performance and
efficiency whether your vehicle is an all-out tire-burning quarter-mile machine or
an energy sipper with efficiency and excellent range.
This chapter will introduce you to many different controllers, explaining them
in a simple manner. You are not going to build a controller, but it would be nice to
have a basic understating of how they work. I will explain the advantages and
disadvantages of different controllers, options, technology, and much more. In
addition, I will provide a brief explanation of the wiring and accessories that go
with the controller.
Controller Overview
In this chapter I will provide a brief background on motor controllers and offer
simple solutions to get you up and running in no time at all. EV enthusiasts have
more choices today with the advancements that have occurred in electronics and
declining costs.
Today, power is not the only thing people are demanding. New features such as
programmability, integrated inputs/outputs, tachometer drives, and many safety
Chapter Nine
items are becoming essential. The big feature people are starting to demand is
regenerative braking, which is still missing from many controllers. In the face of
this demand, manufacturers are adding more features.
Remember, the controller is the brain or computer of your vehicle. The controller
“controls,” or governs, the performance of the electric motor. The controller
integrates motor speed, battery voltage, and system current, yielding power and
range. The controller is the key to a vehicle with a long range or an all-out drag bike
such as the KillaCycle doing 0–60 mph in 0.97 s (yes, you read that correctly, 0.97 s!)
or a quarter mile in 7.890 s at 174 mph (as of October 2008)1 (Figure 9-1).
The controller on an EV is the device or method by which the speed and power
output of the drive motor are controlled, much in the way the throttle of a carburetor
controls the power output of a gas-powered engine. The controller is usually
interfaced with the accelerator. The controller provides many other features, such
as safety interlocks and protection for your electric motor.
Basic Controller Explanation
Controller functions and controlling the speed and power of an electric motor have
evolved over the past 100 years. Early control was achieved by multiswitching devices
that stepped the voltage up or down. All electric motors on startup require some current
limitation. On startup, the electric motor can draw an enormous amount of amperage,
as much as your batteries or power source will supply. Amperage draw could be as
high as 2,000 A on some vehicles if they are connected directly to the power source. If
we applied a 120-V dc pack voltage at 1,000 A, we would yield 120 kW of power (160
hp), if your motor could handle it. However, applying this much power directly to
your motor will blow it out. Not good! Once rotation of the motor starts, current can be
Figure 9-1 Bill Dube’s KillaCycle burnout! (www.killacycle.com.)
The Motor Controller
increased. You may remember from Chapter 8 the current-limiting phenomenon called
back EMF that limits or balances voltage and current as the motor spins. Today,
advancements make controlling the speed of your EV much simpler.
Multiswitching Control
Multiswitching dates from the late 1890s. This type of control is the simplest and
most basic form of speed control. Multiswitching used rows of batteries separated
into a pack that supply various voltages. For example, if we look at a pack with a
total of 120 V, it could be wired in four separated sections. Each section would yield
a separate voltage of 30 V. On startup, one string of batteries is engaged, yielding
30 V, thus limiting the voltage and current on the start. As the vehicle begins to
move, another battery string is switched on. With a battery pack with four rows
each at 30 V, the vehicle essentially had four speeds. Each speed is represented by
switching battery strings on and increasing the voltage—30, 60, 90, and 120 V
(Figure 9-2).
Figure 9-2 Early multiswitching device.
Chapter Nine
Later systems, before electronics, consisted of switches, relays, and contacts
wired to rearrange the battery connections to supply different voltages. These often
were assisted by very large resistors. Such systems, while capable, often were very
jerky and sometimes inefficient and unreliable. These are usually referred to as
series-parallel or contactor controllers.2
Solid-State Controllers
As time went on, controller technology made advancements. Now enter late 1960s,
when silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) pulse-width controllers were developed.
These used electronics to rapidly switch power on and off to vary motor speed. By
controlling the duration of on-off pulses of power, the controller “tricks” the motor
into seeing a lower voltage or current. SCR controllers were a huge improvement
over the older contactor units, but they operated at low switching frequency,
usually around 400 Hz, which created an audible sound. They are easily recognized
by the controller’s distinctive growl.
In the late 1970s, the modern pulse-width modulated (PWM) controllers,
primarily metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) units, became
available. This finally gave the EVer a smooth, efficient way to control the motor.
Unlike SCR controllers, these controllers usually operate at 15,000–18,000 Hz, well
above the human hearing range. The higher switching frequency creates smoother
motor operation and control. This makes them effectively silent. Motor controllers
usually include some sort of current-limiting capability to protect the motor from
damage. Some past EVers may remember the distinctive sound of the Curtis 1221/31
series controllers by the faint high-pitch tone that was heard at low speeds. It was
not loud, but when you heard it, you knew it was a Curtis (Figure 9-3).
Figure 9-3 Curtis controller.
The Motor Controller
Modern Electronic Controllers
Today, the PWM controller is typical in most EVs. You can think of the controller as
a switch. It switches on and off at very high speeds to control how fast you want to
go. It is a solid-state device that uses a pulse-width modulator that sends short
bursts of current to the motor. It pulses at a rate of 15 kHz. Most controllers will
monitor themselves for overcurrent and overheating conditions, cutting back on
power or even shutting down temporarily if needed. There are also safety interlocks
to make sure that everything is hooked up right, and some controllers will even
monitor other aspects of the motor. Most important, the system lockouts keep your
vehicle from taking off when it is not supposed to. This feature looks to see that the
accelerator is in an “off” condition or not depressed before it will turn the controller
on. If the controller senses that something is not correct, it will not turn on. Just
think, without this feature, if your accelerator were stuck and you turned the power
on, your vehicle would just take off at full power (Figure 9-4).
Undervoltage Cutback
Most motor controllers today have this feature built in. If you discharge a lead-acid
battery or most batteries too much, you permanently shorten battery life. The
undervoltage cutback monitors the supply voltage from the battery pack and will
start cutting back current output. If the battery voltage falls too low, the controller
Figure 9-4 Controller logic. (Courtesy of Curtis Instruments, www.curtisinst.com.)
Chapter Nine
may completely cut back all power to the motor, shutting your vehicle down. On
some controllers, this feature is programmable so that you can set the limits of the
low-voltage cutback. If you are in a situation where your controller starts to cut
back, quickly find a safe place to stop and maybe get a charge. If you are in an
emergency situation and your vehicle does stop, you are in luck: Most batteries, if
you let them sit 15–20 minutes, will come back to life just enough that you can
squeeze a few more miles out and get someplace safe or to an outlet to charge.
Overtemperature Cutback
This is another feature all controllers have as a safety measure so that you don’t
burn your controller out or, even worse, cause an electrical fire. If a controller is
overworked, you draw too many amps for too long, or there is inadequate cooling,
it will heat up. This is a protective measure. Some controllers have a feature to
monitor the temperature of the electric motor and will cut back power when the
motor temperature rises. Most controllers will slowly cut back motor current
proportionally as the internal temperature of the controller rises past its threshold.
At the reduced performance level, the vehicle can be maneuvered out of the way
and parked. The controller shifts frequency during overtemperature from its
normal 15 kHz to 1 (B models) or 1.5 kHz (C models), providing an audible tone
alerting the operator to the overtemperature. By doing this, the controller cuts
power, reducing the heat buildup until it reaches normal operating limits again. If
the temperature keeps rising owing to inadequate cooling or cooling loss and the
controller reaches an extreme limit, it will shut down completely as a feature of
self-preservation. If thermal cutback occurs often in normal vehicle operation, the
controller is probably undersized for the application, and a higher-current model
should be used.
I have a perfect example of this involving my motorcycle, and it shows why
gearing, planning, operating revolutions per minute (rpm), and all the things that go
into the vehicle and your knowledge are very important. During the first days of
filming of the Electra Cruiser after delivery to the Coolfuel Roadtrip crew, the motorcycle
was cutting back power, and they could not figure out why. For the Zapi motor
controller, I had installed extra heat sinks and cooling fans. I knew that with the bike
traveling all over the United States, it would encounter temperatures over 100°F.
Even with all the extra cooling, the motor controller went overtemperature, past the
set threshold, and cut back power. I was very concerned and could not understand
why. I had just delivered the bike, it was not more then 2 days into a 9-month 16,000mile journey, and the bike was failing. You could just imagine my fears.
What I found out was that the bike had been operated in the high gears at low
speeds for too long, resulting in very low motor rpm. The low rpm of the motor in
high gear generated a very high current draw for an extended time, resulting in
overheating of the controller. Even with all the extra heat sinks and cooling fans,
the controller still overheated. Under these same conditions, if left unchecked, it
The Motor Controller
could have resulted in overheating of the electric motor and eventual motor failure.
When this happened, the controller built up excessive heat from sustained high
current draw, resulting in current cutback. This feature also saved the motor from
overheating and burning out. To rectify the situation, I instructed Shaun, the rider,
about the correct rpm range and gear selections. Most important, I instructed him
to watch the amperage gauge for high current draw for extended periods. If he
were to see the amperage rising past the controller’s peak rating and the rpm
dropping, he was to switch gears and get the rpm back up. With this said, always
keep in mind the importance of cooling and overloading.
AC Controller
Ac controllers have many advantages over dc types, including increased reliability,
wider speed range, increased efficiency, and a range of programmable features.
Today’s ac systems achieve an efficiency of up to 94 percent; this is 6 percent or
more over the dc system. Ac controllers allow more accurate control and full
regeneration capability. With the recent advancements in microprocessors and
power switching devices, highly efficient ac induction motor controllers are
attractive for modern EV designs (Figure 9-5).
Compared with dc controllers, ac controllers exhibit natural regenerative
braking without extra hardware, relays, or wires. Regenerative capabilities are all
part of the controller and ac motor. Deceleration during regenerative breaking can
be the same as acceleration; you can supply to the batteries as much current as you
take out of them. It should be mentioned that a small number of dc systems, with
the exception of a few controllers, do not offer this feature.
Ac controllers coupled with an ac motor provide a constant torque for a wide
range of rpm. This supplies constant acceleration regardless of speed (within certain
limits) and often allows your vehicle to use one gear ratio. The maximum shaft rpm
Figure 9-5 Siemens ac controller. (Courtesy of Metric Mind, www.metricmind.com.)
Chapter Nine
of a typical dc motor remains about twice as low as for an ac motor, requiring
shifting gears in some cases, thus losing torque at the wheels. Normally, vehicles
using dc systems have a higher gear ratio, gaining top-end speed but losing lowspeed acceleration.
If your EV is heavy or you feel the need for reverse, this is accomplished easily
with an ac controller. With a flip of a switch, the ac controller simply reverses the
sequence of the motor phase, and your motor spins in reverse. Since having full
power in reverse is unsafe, a simple programming change limits the speed and
power in reverse. A dc system requires reversing contactors, not to mention that the
brush advance is far from optimal when a dc motor runs in reverse if you have
advanced the brush timing. At low speeds, however, it is not that critical for a dc
drive; nevertheless, commutator and brush damage has been known to occur while
driving a dc motor in reverse when its brushes are set in the advanced position for
forward rotation (see Chapter 8).
Most ac controllers operate at elevated voltages, up to 400 V dc. The range of
operating voltages varies from 24–450 V dc and above.3 With high battery pack
voltages, battery wiring becomes more flexible, and wire gauge size is reduced. This
actually applies to high-voltage ac systems (typically using higher voltage and lower
current than dc systems of the same power). Since resistive power losses are lower
with high-voltage and low-current applications, vehicle efficiency increases.
Typically, with a lower-voltage, higher-current system, you are forced to use heavygauge wire to carry the increased amperage. The heavier cable weighs more, needs
larger connections, takes up more space, and costs more. Dc high-amperage systems
require heavy and more costly welding cable and large, expansive relays and fuses.
Controllers on the Market Today
Today, with increased advances in controller technology, a vast array of motor
controller types is available to consumers. In this section I will describe some of the
controllers on the market. This is only a small list of what is out there for you. There
are many more units to come. Use Chapter 14 to see the extent of various examples.
In addition, use the online resource guide at vogelbilt.com for additional information
and up-to-date releases as the EV world advances.
Series-Wound DC Controller
Still today, the most popular motor controllers are the series-wound dc motor
controllers. They provide many features, are programmable, produce plenty of
power, and are cost-effective. Even more important, the array of electric motors
you can choose from to couple with your controller selection is huge. You will
find a significant number of controllers offering features such as regenerative
braking, programmability, and much more. I will briefly describe a few companies
and controllers.
The Motor Controller
Curtis Instruments
When most people talk about motor controllers, Curtis is the first controller maker
that comes to mind. Curtis Instruments, established in 1960 in Mt. Kisco, New York,
has been a leader and at the forefront of developing clean transportation alternatives
and EV technology. NASA used Curtis products for its lunar rover EV on Apollo
missions and on experiments aboard the MIR space station. For almost 50 years,
Curtis has manufactured an array of products from dc and ac controllers, to
management systems, to gauges, to dc/dc converters, to battery chargers and much
more. I personally worked for Curtis during 2001–2003 in Mt. Kisco. Curtis was a
pleasure to work for, and my job filled me with pride. I worked alongside very
talented people, such as George Mugno, in the battery-charger design and testing
division, and Joe Mezzone, in the corporate building.
The very first prototype electric motorcycle I built, dubbed the “Electric Hog,”
used a Curtis 1231C controller. This bike was built in 2001 and became the basic
design for the second prototype, now called the Electra Cruiser. The Curtis 1231
series controller worked great and provided plenty of power.
Basic Curtis Series-Wound Controller
This is Curtis’ basic high-amperage, high-voltage series-wound dc motor controller
(Models 1231C/1221C). This model (Figures 9-6 and 9-7) is the most popular among
EV conversions. Curtis also offers similar models with lower operating voltages
and amperage output.
Figure 9-6 Curtis Model 1231C 15-kHz PWM controller.
Figure 9-7 Curtis controller tag specifications for the Model 1231C.
Chapter Nine
Curtis Basic Series-Wound DC Specifications
Tables 9-1 and 9-2 list just some of the specifications for a few of the models offered
by Curtis. Unit operating voltages range from 24 V dc all the way up to 144 V dc, with
peak current output of 700 A on some models. Remember, this is only a fraction of the
models offered by Curtis. Chapter 14 lists a few distributors and locations. Check the
Curtis Web site or your local Curtis distributor for more models and information.
Installation and hookup are very simple. If you look closely at the controller’s
terminals (Figure 9-8), you will notice the markings M–, B–, B+, and A2. These
correspond to the connections, M– for negative connection on the motor, B– and B+
for battery positive and negative connections, and A2 for motor armature (optional
connection, not used on no-road vehicles).
Reduced-Speed Operation
With current-limit adjustment, vehicle top speed can be easily limited for safety or
other reasons. A single resistor connected in parallel with the throttle pot will reduce
maximum speed based on its resistance value. Use of a variable resistor makes
adjustment of maximum speed easier. With a switch, speed can be limited in reverse
only, or the speed reduction can be switched off, for example, to allow authorized
personnel to run the vehicle or a valet switch to cut power back (Figure 9-9).
Figure 9-8 Dimensions for Models 1221 and 1231. (www.curtisinst.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=
(CCW = lower current limit)
(CW = higher plug current)
(CW = faster acceleration)
Figure 9-9 Basic adjustment location. (www.curtisinst.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cProducts.
Table 9-1 Curtis 72- to 144-V Models 1221 and 1231
Curtis PMC
2 Min Rating
5 Min Rating
1 Hour Rating
Voltage Drop
@ 100 A
1 Hour Rating
Voltage Drop
@ 100 A
Table 9-2 Curtis 12- to 48-V Model 1204 and 1205
Curtis PMC
2 Min Rating
5 Min Rating
450 (30 sec)
Chapter Nine
Throttle Ramp Shaping
Throttle ramp shaping affects the PWM output response relative to the throttle
position. The more ramp shaping the throttle circuitry has, the more control the
operator has over low speed (see Figure 9-9).
Plug Braking
This feature uses the dc electric motor to slow the vehicle down, much like
regenerative braking, but without placing energy back in the batteries. The current
is routed back into the dc motor armature, creating a braking force. Note: Plug
braking is not recommended for on-road EVs. The plug-braking feature is intended
for materials handling and low-speed, low-load applications only. Plug braking
can be completely eliminated by not attaching a power cable to the A2 terminal on
the controller and the A2 terminal on the dc motor (see Figure 9-9).
Basic DC Motor Controller Circuitry Layout
Figure 9-12 provides you with a glimpse at the basic working and functional
controls contained within the controller. Speed control is achieved by what is called
the throttle potbox (Figures 9-10 and 9-11). The potbox has a standard variable 0- to
5-kΩ resistance.
The 0- to 5-kΩ resistance is standard for most motor controller throttle controls
(a 5-kΩ pot wired as a two-terminal rheostat). A Curtis PMC potbox or any 5-kΩ
pot will work fine. For controllers with other input options, you can use other
optional throttles for the vehicle. See Chapter 11 for accessories.
Basic DC Controller Vehicle Wiring Layout
Figures 9-13 through 9-16 display the most basic of wiring and layout of components
for your EV conversion. This is only a sample, and your wiring may differ depending
Figure 9-10 Potbox (Curtis PB-6). (www.curtisinst.com.)
The Motor Controller
Right-Hand Operation
With Microswitch: PB-8
Without Microswitch: PB-5
Left-Hand Operation
With Microswitch: PB-9
Without Microswitch: PB-10
Figure 9-11 Curtis potbox showing micro switch and left or right hand operation. (www.curtisinst.
Figure 9-12 Typical block diagram for Curtis Model 1209B/1221B/1221C/1231C controllers.
Chapter Nine
on your vehicle, motor, and controller type. This example is a good place to start
and is the most basic of all conversion wiring. In this diagram, the cable from the
A2 terminal on the motor controller, connecting to the A2 lug on the dc motor,
would be removed on most on-road EVs. This connection controls the plug-braking
capability of the controller, which you will not need. In Chapter 12 I will explain in
more detail the wiring for your EV and important safety precautions.
Figure 9-13 Typical wiring diagram using a Curtis series dc controller. (www.curtisinst.com/
Figure 9-14 Curtis Model 1221/1231 series potbox connections. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
The Motor Controller
Negative connection to battery
Output to motor field
Figure 9-15 Positive connection to battery
and to motor armature
Plug diode to motor armature
urtis Model 1221/1231 series connections. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
Figure 9-16 View of Curtis Model 1231 series connections. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
Figure 9-17 Curtis programmer. (www.curtisinst.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cProducts.
You will find that Curtis Instruments has an array of motor controllers in many
sizes and power ratings to suit your needs. These are just a few of the lineup offered
to you and the most popular models used for EV conversions. This is not to say that
other models are not as popular in the Curtis lineup. For your vehicle conversion,
Chapter Nine
smaller motor controller models are available with more programmable features.
Curtis offers a programming module to vary and control the parameters of other
models (Figure 9-17) . You also will find that Curtis offers controllers for permanentmagnet motors separately excited (shunt) motors, as well as many ac controllers.
ZAPI Controllers
ZAPI, an Italian company, began manufacturing electronic controls in 1975.4 ZAPI’s
early product offerings included permanent-magnet and dc series controllers, and
soon the company began to lead in technological advancements in controller
design. Since 1995, ZAPI has developed an entire range of ac controllers from 24–96
V. ZAPI currently offers a large product line of all types of controllers ranging from
24–144 V and much more.
I have personally used a Zapi H2 controller designed for dc series-wound
motors since 2003 on the Electra Cruiser (Figure 9-18). The H2 controller has
functioned flawlessly for 5 years without a hiccup. This controller operates on 120
V dc and puts out about 450–500 A to the dc motor. There were many reasons I
chose this motor controller for the new motorcycle. The main reason was its
regenerative-braking feature.
While riding with the ZAPI controller on the Electra Cruiser, the bike was able
to freewheel as long as the throttle was just barely on. With release of the throttle
controller, it enters regen mode similar to that of compression on an internal
combustion engine, slowing down the bike. Then, with use of the brake, the
stoplight switch, connected to another input on the controller, creates a second
mode, further reducing speed by increasing the amount of regenerative current
back into the battery pack. The regenerative braking was a big factor and worked
very well. The other reasons were price, reputation, size, and the many programmable
features included standard with the controller. This controller has more features
than I could list in this chapter. The manual takes some reading to grasp all the
features. I was very pleased with the smooth throttle control and response,
dependability, and smooth regenerative braking.
Figure 9-18 ZAPI dc series motor controller.
The Motor Controller
ZAPI DC Series Motor Controller
The ZAPI H2 dc controller series is very similar to the Curtis controller in basic
functions, PWM, and switching frequency of 15 kHz, but that is where the
comparison stops. I chose the ZAPI mainly for the regenerative-braking feature, a
rarity at the time, and for the power output. The ZAPI controller came with
numerous features and programming options. I even bought the digital
programming console to take full advantage of every feature. The programmer
plugs into the front of the controller through a serial connection (Figure 9-19).
You will need to read the manual for the ZAPI controller thoroughly. There, you
will find a lot of information about how to operate and program it properly. Wiring
for the ZAPI is the similar to, if not the same as, the Curtis wiring ciagram in Figure
9-13. Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual and specifications because all
things may appear similar, but some specifications and wiring possibly will change.
ZAPI offers a line of motor controllers for permanent-magnet motors and separately
excited (shunt) motors, as well as many ac controllers. The company also offers
other accessories designed for all the motor controllers and products it
Figure 9-19 ZAPI digital programming console. (www.zapi.co.za/zapi/images/
Navitas Technologies
Navitas Technologies manufactures a line of series-wound, brushed permanentmagnet, and separately excited motor controllers.5 The controllers combine the
power of high-efficiency MOSFETs with microprocessor technology to provide
flexible and adjustable control in a compact design. Some controllers use a 20-kHz
switching frequency for smoother operation; other controllers use frequencies of
15–18 kHz. Certain controllers in the Navitas line offer regenerative-braking
capabilities and do not require the use of directional contactors. The TPM series of
controllers is user-configurable through a Controller Area Network (CAN) interface.
See the company Web site for more information.
The TPM 400 series is designed for use with brushed permanent-magnet motors
with a drive capacity of up to 400 A peak at 24–48 V dc (Figures 9-20 and 9-21). TPM
controllers offer regenerative-braking capabilities and do not require the use of
directional contactors. TPM controllers are also user-configurable through a CAN
Chapter Nine
Figure 9-20 Navitas Technologies TPM400 series permanent-magnet motor controller. (www.
Figure 9-21 Navitas Technologies TPM400 series motor controller. (www.navitastechnologies.
The Motor Controller
interface. They are fully programmable with the Navitas PC Probit programming
The TSE series of series-wound controllers offers
Up to 1,000 A peak armature current
Up to 325 A continuous armature current
Safe sequencing and power-up diagnostics
Full programmability with the Navitas Probit hand-held programming
pendant technology to provide smooth, flexible, and reliable control (Table
Table 9-3 Navitas Technologies Series-Wound Controller Specifications
System Voltage
Peak Armature
Throttle Types
1,000 amps
325 amps
550 amps
175 amps
600 amps
260 amps
Alltrax DC Motor Controllers
Alltrax manufactures a line of controllers with an impressive number of features.
The founders of Alltrax are dedicated to EVs and their advancement. The company
founders, Damon Crockett (a power electronics engineer of 26 years from Klamath
Falls, Oregon) and Jeff Bradley, have developed high-power motor controllers for
electric racing vehicles and many other applications. A few of these powerful
electric race cars had the capability of dumping 750,000 W of power into two motors
during an 8-second ¼-mile run down the race track (Figure 9-22). Obviously, this
requires controllers that can handle the extremes!
Figure 9-22 Corbin Sparrow with a high-performance Alltrax controller. (www.alltraxinc.com/
Chapter Nine
Following is a timeline of developments:
1996: Mr. Damon Crockett formed a company called DCP, with a focus on
providing the EV racing market with an alternative to compete against the
gasoline engine’s counterparts.
1996: DCP race car controllers:
• Raptor 600 A
• Raptor 1,200 A
• Operating voltages of 48–156 V dc
1997: DCP race car controllers:
• T-Rex 600 A
• T-Rex 1,000 A
• Operating voltages of 96–240 V dc
Alltrax controllers are fully encapsulated, waterproof, and corrosion-resistant,
and some models are fully user-programmable (Figure 9-23). Spanning 12–72 V dc
from 150–650 A, series-wound, permanent-magnet, and separately excited wound
motors should satisfy many of your requirements. These products come with a
2-year warranty and tons of support materials.6
The AXE product line is used with series-wound and brushed permanentmagnet motors. These units power golf carts, scissors lifts, boom trucks,
neighborhood electric vehicles, and a number of other applications. Their design,
compact size, and capabilities are perfect for a motorcycle. Features include
Programmability via an RS232 communications port using a PC or laptop
Integrated anodized heat sink with multibolt pattern for flexibility
Fully encapsulated epoxy-fill environmentally rugged design
Available in 300- to 650-A performance versions
Figure 9-23 Alltrax controller. (www.alltraxinc.com/images/AXE042-s.jpg.)
The Motor Controller
• Advanced MOSFET power transistor design for excellent efficiency and
power transfer
• Half-speed reverse option and plug-brake options available
The Alltrax controller uses standard connections similar to other major
manufacturers of motor controllers (Figure 9-24). What I like very much about
Alltrax is the company’s dedication to the customer and customer support. First
off, on the company Web site you can find many documents, technical information,
and just all the things you want and expect to find. If this were not enough, customer
support, as Alltrax states, “is the most important aspect of our business, and we are
committed to provide the best-possible customer support with a live voice at the
other end.”
LED Status Indicator
The light-emitting diode (LED) located on the front of the unit indicates the status
of the units and is used for easy visible troubleshooting (Figure 9-25).
The LED blink codes occur at power-up; the number of green blinks indicates
the throttle configuration:
Figure 9-24 Typical Alltrax wiring layout. (www.alltraxinc.com/images/AXE-Wire-Diagram.gif.)
Figure 9-25 Alltrax LED status indicator. (www.alltraxinc.com/sitebuilder/images/NCX-LED2150x107.jpg.)
Chapter Nine
1 green LED flash = 0–5 kΩ resistive
2 green LED flashes = 5–0 kΩ resisitive
3 green LED flashes = 0–5 V
4 green LED flashes = EZ-GO inductive (ITS)
5 green LED flashes = Yamaha 0–1 kΩ resistive
6 green LED flashes = Taylor-Dunn 6–10.5 V
7 green LED flashes = ClubCar 5–0 kΩ, three-wire throttle
Normal display status shows
• Solid green: Controller ready to run
• Solid red: Controller in programming mode (using Controller Pro)
• Solid yellow: Controller throttle is wide open and controller is supplying
maximum output and is not in current limit
Programmable Alltrax electric motor controllers such as the AXE (series-wound
motors) and the DCX (shunt-wound motors) include an RS232 communications
port. This port can be used to adjust user settings such as throttle type, power
settings, and speed settings. It also can be used to monitor operation of the controller
in real time. Alltrax has an added benefit to the customer supplies: All the software
is downloadable for free from the Web site (Figure 9-26).
Figure 9-26 Alltrax Controller-Pro software. (www.alltraxinc.com/images/Controller-Pro-ScreenControl.gif.)
The Motor Controller
AC Controllers
With recent advancements in technology, ac controllers are now available in many
sizes and types (Figure 9-27). This is great news for the EV enthusiast.
New ac induction motor speed controllers represent the next level in drive
systems for all types of EVs, offering lower maintenance, higher performance, and
greater flexibility. The ac controllers are compact in size and have fully sealed,
waterproof housings. The ac controllers combine many advanced features with
programmable logic controllers to provide users with more flexibility and advanced
motor controller technology.7
For many years, the ac controller was a large, expensive system available or
usable only for exotic high-performance EVs. Most were designed for use with
very high voltages, with some units bearing a price tag in excess of $25,000. This
has all changed. New designs in ac controllers are compact in size, from 6–10 in.
long, 4 in. high, and 9 in. wide; some are even smaller (Figure 9-28).
Figure 9-27 Curtis Model 1230 basic ac controller.
Figure 9-28 Curtis Model 1236/38AC controller dimensions. (www.curtisinst.com/index.cfm?
Chapter Nine
The new ac controllers can operate at lower voltages, ranging from 24–80 V dc
and up. These same controllers have peak current outputs in the range of 150–650
V ac or more. An ac controller converts the dc battery power into low-voltage threephase ac power while simultaneously controlling motor torque speed and direction.
As an added bonus, you no longer need costly direction contactors and additional
wiring. This is all handled within the motor controller. The vector-controlled
algorithms provide high-torque startup conditions with both four- and six-pole
three-phase induction motors. In many applications, the performance exceeds that
of conventional dc systems.
Curtis Instruments AC Controllers
Curtis instruments has a full line of ac controllers for many applications. They include
advanced motor-drive software to provide smooth control over full speed and torque
in all modes. The ac controllers include full regenerative-braking capabilities, zero
speed, and torque control. The controllers, depending on the model, have an operating
voltage of 24–80 V dc and a maximum peak current output of up to 650 A ac. These
controllers are fully programmable through Curtis’s optional 1311 hand-held
programmer or 1314 PC programming station. Table 9-4 lists the chart specifications
for Curtis ac controller models. The programmer provides diagnostic and test
capability in addition to configuration flexibility (Figure 9-30).
Table 9-4 Curtis AC Controller Chart Specifications
Battery Voltage (V)
2 Min RMS Current
Rating Arms (A)
2 Min RMS Power
Rating (kWA)
Figure 9-29 Curtis controller accessories. (www.curtisinst.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cProducts.
The Motor Controller
These controllers show major performance, operational, and system advance­
ments over dc, such as
• High-frequency silent operation from 0–300 Hz
• 24- to 80-V battery systems with 350–650 A rms 2-minute current ratings
• Powerful operating system that allows parallel processing of vehicle control
tasks, motor control tasks, and user-configurable programmable logic
• Advanced PWM technology that provides efficient use of battery voltage,
low motor harmonics, low torque ripple, and minimized switching losses
• Tunability to any ac motor and full programmability for optimal match to
individual ac motor characteristics
• Built-in battery state-of-charge algorithms and hour meter
• Field-programmability with Flash downloadable main operating code
Superb Drive Control
• Field-oriented vector control in conjunction with Curtis tuned algorithms,
providing peak torque and optimal efficiency across the entire operating
• Extremely wide torque/speed range, including full regeneration capability
• Internal closed-loop speed and torque control modes that allow for
optimized performance—without an additional control box
• Peak performance mapping technology that lets you tune the maximum
performance envelope in both “driving” and “braking” to your specific
application through the use of original equipment manufacturers (OEM)
programmable parameters
• A torque control mode that offers unique features and provides seamless
transition and positive response under all conditions
If you look closely at the wiring and controller diagram (Figure 9-30), you will
notice many other functions. The controller incorporates internal and external
watchdog circuits to ensure proper operation. There is a serial interface for
multifunction display to work with the Curtis 840 Spyglass display for hour meter,
battery discharge monitoring, and fault messages. Several inputs and outputs
monitor other functions, including safety interlocks (Figure 9-30). You will find an
additional input to monitor motor temperature. In the manual, there are just too
many features to list. With that said, you can do a lot more with ac controllers than
with dc controllers.
ZAPI AC Motor Controllers
ZAPI manufactures high-quality ac motor controllers for many applications.
Because of the great success I experienced with the Zapi dc controller and the good
reviews on all the company’s other products, it was only fitting that I include the ac
Chapter Nine
Figure 9-30 Curtis Model 1236/38 controller functions. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
controller. ZAPI controllers are offered in voltages ranging from 24–96 V dc in
various sizes. Amperage output ranges from 150 A on smaller units up to 550 A on
the largest units.
The AC3 and the AC4 asynchronous motor controllers represent the latest state
of the art technology (e.g., IMS power module, Flash memory, microprocessor logic,
and CAN bus). Both the AC3 and the AC4 are very similar accept the AC4 and have
a larger power output (Figure 9-31).
The AC3 and the AC4 are rated for asynchronous motors up to 16 and 20 kW,
respectively. Depending on the model, operating voltages are 36, 48, 72, 80, and 96
V dc. These controllers have a number of features, as you can see below:
Figure 9-31 ZAPI AC3 ac controller.
The Motor Controller
Power Section ZAPI AC4
• Power supply: 36, 48, 72, 80, 96 V
• Maximum current:
– (36, 48 V) 750 A
– (72, 80 V) 650 A
– (96 V) 450 A
• Continuous output power:
– (48 V) 12,000 W
– (80 V) 16,000 W
• Switching frequency: 8 kHz
• Ambient temperature range: –40 to +40°C
• Maximum heat-sink temperature: 75°C (starts to reduce current)
Dimensions: 264 3 352 3 111 mm (Figure 9-32)
Connector: Molex Minifit/Amp Saab/Amp Ampseal
Protection: IP65 (IP54)
Available with Al baseplate or with finned heat sink
9 digital inputs (input range: –Batt to +Batt)
3 analog inputs (input range: 0–12 V)
1 incremental encoder port
2 outputs driving to –Batt
LC driver 1.5 A continuous
EB driver 1.5 A continuous
Figure 9-32 ZAPI AC3 ac controller size compared with the Curtis 1231.
Chapter Nine
Other Features
16-bit microcontroller
Flash memory
CAN interface
Serial link
This is just a small list of the ac controllers on the market. Many more styles and
types are available. This should serve as a good starting point for general information
on a few different units.
Metric Mind Engineering
In addition to these units, you can find high-end ac controllers and motors at Metric
Mind Engineering. Metric Mind Engineering offers an array of great high-end ac
controllers and motors made in Germany and Switzerland. These are some of the
best units on the market, and their prices reflect the quality. Some of these units are
reasonably priced for the quality you are receiving.
Many of the systems are liquid-cooled synchronous and induction three-phase
ac motors. These motors have a power rating of up to 82 kW and peak power
ratings two to four times that, often limited only by the inverter. These same ac
motors have an rpm range hitting 11,000 rpm or more. The ac motor controller
systems are even more impressive. The ac controllers, depending on the model,
have an operating voltage of 80–960 V dc with a maximum peak-power output of
212 kW (~162 hp) or more. These systems are manufactured by BRUSA
(of Switzerland) and MES-DEA. Some earlier systems supplied by Metric Mind
Engineering were made by Siemens.
In the summer of 2004, I drove out to Portland, Oregon, along with my Electra
Cruiser in tow to visit Victor Tikhonov, president of Metric Mind Engineering.
Victor was very helpful when I was putting together a high-end ac system originally
designated for the second-generation Electra Cruiser. I bought from Victor a 100hp, 10,000-rpm, 400-V ac motor and system ready to go into the newly designed
Cruiser. I was excited! Along with that, I bought 100 lithium batteries. Unfortunately,
I was way ahead of my time with the lithium batteries. I realized not long into
designing the new electric motorcycle (I had not built it yet) that there were no
BMSs on the market to handle 100 batteries. The manufacturer of the batteries had
said that a system was available. After checking, the only one I could find had a
quoted price of $30,000 in 2004. That was not an option, so I went back to the old
tried and true dc power system for this build.
Below you will find some example of the BRUSA and MES-DEA systems. I am
truly impressed with the quality, durability, and options of these units. You can rest
assured that the next build and third-generation Electra Cruiser will have one of
these high-powered ac units in it.
The Motor Controller
All the inverters listed below from MES-DEA and BRUSA are liquid-cooled and
provide regenerative-braking recuperating energy back to the traction battery. The
output power stage is implemented with insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs),
either discrete for older designs or as highly integrated modules with thermal
management and driver built in. Currently, several MES-DEA and BRUSA models
are offered.
The MES-DEA series of ac controllers offers ac power output ratings from 30–200 kW
peak power.8 Maximum input voltage is 400 V dc with a lower limit of 80 V dc. Note
that at the lower input voltage, the inverter will function at a reduced maximum
output power rating. Input battery current is limited to 550 A for the larger TIM
Model 900. The maximum ac current output is 500/700 A ac for the TIM 900 (Figure
9-33). Looking at the dimensions of these units, and it is apparent that they are really
not that big given all the options packed inside (Figure 9-34). For a larger motorcycle
build, you just might be able to fit one of these powerhouses in. I know that the
Electra Cruiser had just enough to fit a similar Siemens ac system in the plastic tank.
Figure 9-33 MES-DEA TIM Series TIM 300 (30 kW), TIM 400 (50 kW), TIM 600 (100 kW), and
TIM 900 (200 kW) view and connection description. (www.metricmind.com.)
Figure 9-34 MES-DEA TIM series ac motor controller dimensions. (www.metricmind.com.)
Chapter Nine
BRUSA Series DMC514
The DMC514 is one of BRUSA’s lower power output models in comparison with
the lineup of other units. A unit such as this would make for an insane-performing
motorcycle. The smaller unit is offered with 53 kW of output power. The threephase power inverter operates on 120–460 V dc input voltage with a nominal power
40-kW output (Figure 9-35; see also Table 9-5).
Figure 9.35 BRUSA DMC size: 10 × 9.5 × 3.5 in (255 × 240 × 88 mm), 14.3 lb (6.5 kg) (with coolant).
Table 9-5 Technical Characteristics of the BRUSA DMC514 (Carl Vogel– www.metricmind.com)
Input dc voltage (including HV supply voltage)
Typical input dc under voltage shown
Minimum input dc voltage for operation
Minimum input dc voltage for full current capability
Maximum input dc voltage for operation
Typical input dc over-voltage shutdown
Maximum input dc surviving voltage
Three phase ac output
Continuus RMS current
Repetitive maximum RMS current 30 seconds 100%, 90 seconds 50%
Peak RMS current derating vs. T coolant >65°
Continuous power (V dc = 75%; V dc maximum; IAC = IAC cont, cos phi = 0.9)
Maximum power (V dc = 75%; V dc maximum; IAC = IAC maximum, cos phi = 0.9) 53
PWM frequency (symmetrical modulation)
Efficiency (V dc = 75%; V dc maximum, PAC = PAC cont, cos 0.97 phi = 0.9)
The Motor Controller
The list of controllers, both dc and ac, is just a small glimpse of the options available
to convert your vehicle to all-electric. This chapter packed in a lot of selections and
options. Even with all that I covered, there are a lot more controllers and information
out there. If you look at Chapter 14, you will discover many more companies and
options. With this information, you should have enough knowledge to find the
additional resources needed to choose the right controller for you.
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The Charger and
Battery Management
The charger is the one component often overlooked in terms of the real importance
it plays in your electric vehicle (EV). As you learned back in Chapter 7, the charger
plays a significant part in keeping your vehicle performing well. In most cases, EV
batteries are damaged not just by improper usage but also by bad charging
techniques above all other causes combined.
Your batteries are one of the core components of your EV that need proper care
for longevity and performance. You would not place a brand-new motor in your
vehicle and use the cheapest low-grade motor oil in it; it would not last for the long
haul and would be a waste of time and money. The same goes here. You invest a
considerable amount of money in a great battery system, and thus you should use
a proper charger and charging technique. Otherwise, you risk losing on the longterm investment in your batteries. Think of the charger as the lifeline of your EV.
Each day you bring your batteries to the brink of death. Your charger is the one
component that will breathe life, longevity, and performance back into your EV,
ensuring your investment and your EV’s continued performance.
In this chapter you will learn about the different types of chargers and how they
interact with your batteries. I will supply you with the basic knowledge you need
to select the right charger for your application. We will look at the charging
infrastructure and what may be available in our future. Additionally, we will look
at battery management systems (BMSs) and the roll they play. At the time of this
writing, the United States elected a new forward-thinking president, has enacted
new policies, and is providing money for advancing green energy and technology.
I hope that we can look back one day with pride at all the great changes.
Charger Overview
In Chapter 7 we learned all about the batteries. Now it’s time to dive into the
charger. The charger is worth investing a little time and money into if you plan to
Chapter Ten
keep your EV for any period of time. You may replace your battery pack a few
times before you replace your charger, so you may as well invest in a charger that
will perform well now and for years to come.
Today, your choice of battery chargers is far greater than what was available to
EV owners in the past. You have greater opportunities, choices, and selections. I
will guide you through and help you to make the best choice of a charger that is
right for your system. Today, chargers are not the large, heavy units of the past with
transformers and huge coils of wire. Most chargers now are compact units that use
solid-state electronics. They are referred to as smart chargers, and many are fully
programmable with software tailored specifically to your EV.
Charger Checklist
I cannot overemphasize the importance of matching the correct charger with your
batteries and battery technology. All battery chargers are not alike. Use of an
inappropriate charger will shorten your batteries’ life or even kill them outright. In
specifying a charger for your EV, we will examine many important factors.
• An important requirement for your charger is that it should be the correct
one for your battery chemistry and battery pack. If you have lead-acid or
advanced technology batteries such as lithium batteries, the charger needs
to be capable of charging them properly.
• If possible, look for a charger that is programmable or one for which you
have control of the charging profile. Some chargers can be changed or
programmed right from the distributor or manufacturer for your batteries
with a charging profile to match. Others allow you to control and change
the charging profile via a link to your computer.
• There should be some system to protect against overcharging. This is not a
mandatory item, and most chargers cut back or shut down when they reach
a threshold voltage. Some advanced chargers have inputs to read battery
temperature and will adjust the charging accordingly. This is something
you may want on advanced battery systems.
• What is your power source? Are you using 110 V ac or 220 V dc?
• Will you have more than one charger?
• Will you have an onboard charger and a stationary charger? You will need
to identify the requirements for both.
• Will you want opportunity charging or short charging periods during lunch
or other stops. Will this be normal charging or fast charging? Remember,
every charging cycle, whether 1 hour or overnight for 8 hours, counts as 1
cycle and takes away from the cycle life of your batteries. This is much like
an ATM charge; no matter how much money you take out, you are still
The Charger and Batter y Management System
getting charged the fee. You might want to make that charging cycle count
when you can.
• You may opt to be totally off the grid and use solar or wind sources or a
combination of these.
Your charger has three main functions:
• Getting the charge into the battery in a safe manner and in a specific time
• Monitoring and optimizing the charging rate (stabilizing)
• Knowing when to stop charging to prevent over- or undercharging
Charging Times
During rapid charging, energy is pumped into the battery faster than the chemical
process can react to it. This can have damaging results in many ways. First, the
chemical action in the battery, as you learned in Chapter 7, cannot take place
instantaneously. The electrolyte closest to the electrodes in the battery is being
converted, or “charged,” before the electrolyte and electrode further away.
Excessively high rates of charging create heat, gassing, and internal pressure. In a
controlled manner, some heat is tolerable and will hasten the chemical conversion
process in the battery. Charging times and rate of current need to be tailored to the
capacity of the battery to receive a charge.
Charging and Optimization
During the normal charging sequence, the charger may follow a charging program
and monitor charging voltage and/or temperature. Under normal circumstances,
the charger will bring the battery to its charging voltage and cut back at a
predetermined point to a finishing charging profile until complete. If for any reason
there is a risk of overcharging the battery, either from errors or from abuse, this
normally would be accompanied by a rise in temperature. This condition within
the battery or high ambient temperatures also can take a battery beyond its safe
operating temperature limits or cell voltage. Elevated temperatures advance the
grim reaper of death for batteries. Monitoring the cell temperature is a good way to
detect early signs of trouble. The temperature signal or other warning device can be
used to turn off or cut back the charger when danger signs appear. This is particularly
important when using exotic or high-power batteries, where the consequences of
failure can be both serious and expensive.
End of Charge Cycle (Termination)
The most important job of the charger is to detect and determine when to cut back
and finish the charging cycle. Detecting this cutoff point and terminating the charge
are critical in preserving battery life. Once the battery reaches a fully charged state,
Chapter Ten
the charging current has to be dissipated somehow. The result of continued charging
is the generation of heat and gases, both of which are bad for batteries. The sign of
a good charger is the ability to detect when charging is complete and stop the
charging process before any damage is done. In the basics of many chargers, this is
when a predetermined upper voltage limit is reached, often called the termination
voltage. This is particularly important with fast chargers, where the danger of
overcharging is greater.
Charge Efficiency
Charge acceptance and charge time are considerably influenced by temperature, as
just noted. Lower temperature increases charge time and reduces charge acceptance.
Note that at low temperatures the battery will not necessarily receive a full charge,
even though the terminal voltage may indicate a full charge.
Charging Methods
Next, we will review some of the basic charging methods used by different chargers.1
Some charging methods have certain advantages depending on battery type. Given
your battery chemistry, you may need a particular charging profile. When selecting
your charger, make sure that you know the requirements and charging profile of
your batteries so that you can match the two. This will ensure extended performance,
battery cycles, and the life of your battery, let alone provide worry-free charging
and safety.
Constant-current chargers vary the voltage they apply to the battery to maintain
a constant current flow, switching off when the voltage reaches the level of a full
charge. This design is usually used for nickel-cadmium and nickel–metal hydride
cells or batteries.
Constant-voltage chargers are basically dc power supplies, which in their simplest
form may consist of a stepdown transformer from the mains with a rectifier to
provide the dc voltage to charge the battery. Such simple designs are often found in
cheap car battery chargers. The lead-acid cells used for cars and backup power
systems typically use constant-voltage chargers. In addition, lithium-ion cells often
use constant-voltage systems, although these usually are more complex with added
circuitry to protect both the batteries and the user.
Taper-current chargers supply a crude, unregulated constant-voltage source. This
is not a controlled charge. The current diminishes as the cell voltage builds up.
With these systems, there is a serious danger of damaging the cells through
overcharging. To avoid this, the charging rate and duration should be limited. This
type of charging is suitable for large industrial lead-acid batteries only.
Pulsed chargers feed current to the battery in pulses. During the charging process,
short rest periods of 20–30 ms between pulses allow the chemical action in the
battery to stabilize by equalizing the reaction throughout the bulk of the electrode
The Charger and Batter y Management System
before recommencing the charge. This enables the chemical reaction to keep pace
with the rate of inputting of electrical energy. It is also claimed that this method can
reduce unwanted chemical reactions at the electrode surface, such as gas formation
and crystal growth.
IUI charging is a recently developed charging profile used in many new chargers.
This type of charging is used for fast charging standard flooded lead-acid batteries.
It is not suitable for all lead-acid batteries, though. Initially, the battery is charged
at a constant (I) rate until the cell voltage reaches a preset value near the voltage at
which gassing occurs. This first part of the charging cycle is known as the bulkcharge phase. When the preset voltage has been reached, the charger switches into
the constant-voltage (U) phase, and the current drawn by the battery will drop
gradually until it reaches another preset level. This second part of the cycle
completes the normal charging of the battery at a slowly diminishing rate. Finally,
the charger switches again into the constant-current mode (I), and the voltage
continues to rise up to a new, higher preset limit, when the charger is switched off.
This last phase is used to equalize the charge on the individual cells in the battery
to maximize battery life.
Trickle chargers are designed to keep a battery fully charged while not being
used. It is a way to compensate for the self-discharge of the battery. This type of
charging is not suitable for some batteries, such as NiMH and lithium batteries,
which can be damaged from overcharging. In some charger applications, the
charger is programmed to switch to trickle charging when the battery is fully
Opportunity Charging
Another possibility for charging or type of charging is opportunity charging. I have
read and heard two different sides to the argument for this type of charging. It
sounds like a good concept, if used properly. Opportunity charging is charging a
battery during break time, lunchtime, or any opportunity that presents itself during
the work day. This appears to be a great concept and a way to add a little more
charge to your batteries to increase your range and keep your batteries way above
the lower depth of discharge. I see this as a great opportunity for anyone who has
to go shopping or just wants to stop somewhere for a short period.
What we have learned about charging and batteries is that we can place a large
amount of charge in them during the initial charging phase as long as we stay
below 80 percent of full charge. Owing to frequent charging and to limit battery gas
generation, opportunity chargers normally are set to charge batteries up to 80–85
percent charge throughout the day and back to 100 percent once a day when you
finish with the vehicle. For this to take place, special control electronics are needed
to protect the batteries from overvoltage. Safeguards also need to be in place to
protect the batteries from excessive heat. By avoiding complete discharge of the
battery, cycle life can be increased.
Chapter Ten
Now this is one theory, but another theory says that opportunity charging adds
abnormal heat during the charge cycle and one more cycle to the battery, reducing
its life. Opportunity charging not only decreases the cycles of the battery life, but
the heat added while charging causes additional damage to the plates, further
accelerating battery death and reducing the expected cycles.
I believe that this needs more research to support or refute either theory. I would
surmise that if a battery were near 80 percent depth of discharge (DOD) and
opportunity charging was used, then yes, maybe we could count that as one cycle.
But what if your DOD were only 30–40 percent and you topped the battery off to a
DOD of only 20 percent? I would surmise that maybe we helped extend the life of
the battery by keeping it from the lower DOD, where life and cycles are robbed
from your battery.
Charge Efficiency
The efficiency of a charger refers to the actual energy available or the losses from
input to output. Generally, chargers average 95–80 percent efficient. Newer solidstate chargers are much more efficient, reaching the 95 percent range. Older models
with transformers and step-up and step-down transformers lose energy through
heat loss and other inefficiencies. Also remember that you also will have losses in
your battery from heat and resistance.
Charge acceptance and charge time are considerably influenced by temperature.
Lower temperature increases charge time and reduces charge acceptance from your
battery. At low temperatures during charging, the battery will not necessarily
receive a full charge, even though the terminal voltage may indicate a full charge.
Battery Discharging Cycle
Let’s observe the discharge cycle first to contrast what is happening to the
parameters during charging. Capacity, cell voltage, and specific gravity all decrease
with time as you discharge a battery. Figure 10-1 shows how these key parameters
change (a standard temperature of 78°F is presumed):
• Ampere-hours. The measure of a battery’s capacity and percent state of
charge (the area under the line in this case) are shown decreasing linearly
versus time from its full charge to its full discharge value.
• Cell voltage. Cell voltage predictably declines from its nominal 2.1-V fully
charged value to its fully discharged value of 1.75 V.
• Specific gravity. Specific gravity decreases linearly (directly with the battery’s
discharging ampere-hour rate) from its full charge to its full discharge
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Figure 10-1 Graphic summary of battery discharging and charging cycles. (From Build Your Own
Electric Vehicle, Table 9-1, p. 216.)
Battery Charging Cycle
Battery charging is the reverse of discharging. Figure 10-1 again shows you how
the key parameters change:
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• Ampere-hours. This is the opposite of the discharging case, except that you
have to put back slightly more than you took out (typically 105–115 percent
more) because of losses, heating, etc. The area under the line increases
linearly versus time from its fully discharged value to its fully charged
• Specific gravity. Specific gravity increases wildly over time as a battery is
charging, so making specific gravity measurements during the charging
cycle is not a good idea. At the early part of the charging cycle, specific
gravity increases slowly because the charging chemical reaction process is
just starting. Specific gravity increases rapidly as the sulfuric acid
concentration builds, and gassing near the end of the cycle contributes to
its rise.
• Cell voltage. Voltage also increases wildly over time as a battery is charging,
so making voltage measurements during the charging cycle is not a good
idea either. Notice that cell voltage jumps up immediately to its natural 2.1V value, slowly increases until 80 percent state of charge (approximately
2.35 V), increases rapidly until 90 percent state of charge (approximately 2.5
V), and then builds slowly to its full charging value of 2.58 V.
The Ideal Battery Charger
Battery charging is the reverse of discharging, but the rate at which you do it is
crucial in determining battery lifetime. The basic rule is: Charge the battery as soon
as it is discharged, and fill it all the way up. The charging-rate rule: Charge the
battery slower at the beginning and end of the charging cycle (below 20 percent
and above 90 percent). When a lead-acid battery is almost empty or almost full, its
ability to store energy is reduced owing to changes in the cell’s internal resistance.
Attempting to charge it too rapidly during these periods causes gassing and
increased heating within the battery, significantly reducing its life. Ideally, you limit
battery current during the first 90 percent of the charging cycle and limit battery
voltage during the last 10 percent of the charging cycle. Either method by itself
doesn’t do the job. The graph at the upper right in Figure 10-2 illustrates constantvoltage charging in the ideal case. The constant voltage is usually set at a level
where gassing causes a decrease in current flow through the battery with time as
the battery charges. Unfortunately, with no restrictions on current, this method
allows far too much current to flow into an empty battery. Feeding 100 A or more
of charging current into a fully discharged battery can damage it or severely reduce
its life. Let’s look at the ideal approach during all four state-of-charge (SOC) phases:
0–20 percent, 20–90 percent, 90–100 percent, and above 100 percent. Figure 10-2
shows the results.
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Figure 10-2 Graphic summary of battery discharging and charging cycles. (From Build Your Own
Electric Vehicle, Figure 9-3, p. 211.)
Charging between 0 and 20 Percent
The first 20 percent of a fully discharged battery’s charging cycle is a critical phase,
and you want to treat it kindly.2 You learned in Chapter 7 that all batteries have a
standardized 20-hour capacity rating. Every battery is rated to deliver 100 percent
of its rated capacity at the C/20 rate. During the first 20 percent of the charging
cycle, you preferably want to charge a battery at no more than this constant-current
C/20 rate. To determine the first 20 percent charging current, use the following
Charging current 5 battery capacity/time – C/20
For a 200-Ah capacity battery, charging current would be
Charging current – 200/20 5 10 A
In other words, you would limit this battery’s preliminary charging current to
10 A. You can force your battery with 200 A and try to charge it in 1 hour, but you
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will reduce the cycle life and kill the battery—it will not deliver its full useful life
cycles. The graph at the lower left in Figure 10-2 shows the result of current-limited
C/20 rate charging during the first 20 percent part of the charging cycle. The voltage
rises gently, and your battery sustains a simple, easy charge.
Charging between 20 and 90 Percent
In the middle of the charging cycle, you can charge at up to the C/10 rate. This is
the fastest rate that efficiently charges a lead-acid battery. This rate is not as efficient
as the C/20 rate—more energy is wasted in heat, but the battery charges faster. At
even less efficiency (with more risk to your batteries), you can bump up the charging
to the C/5 or C/3 rate during this period of recharging if time is essential to you
and if you closely monitor the battery’s temperature so that its operating limits are
not exceeded and you don’t wind up “cooking,” or gassing, the battery. Charging
current would be 20 A at the C/10 rate for a 200 Ah battery. Figure 10-2 shows that
voltage, after a step increase when current settings were changed, rises slowly to its
90 percent SOC value of approximately 2.50 V.
Charging between 90 and 100 Percent
At this point, you want to drop back to the C/20 rate or, ideally, switch to a constantvoltage method. If you switch to constant voltage, set at the deep-cycle battery’s
full charging value of 2.58 V, Figure 10-2 shows the result—current provided to the
battery drops rapidly during this last 10 percent of charging, and your battery is
very happy while receiving its full charge.
Charging above 100 Percent (Equalizing Charging)
You learned about equalizing charging in Chapter 7. Equalizing is used to restore
all cells to an equal SOC (to “equalize” the characteristics of the cells) to keep the
battery operating at peak efficiency, to restore some capacity to aging batteries, to
restore float-charged or shallow-charged batteries to regular service, and to
eliminate the effects of sulfation in idle or discharged batteries. Equalizing charging
is a controlled overcharging at a constant-current C/20 rate with the charging
voltage limit raised to 2.75 V. Equalization is performed after the battery is fully
charged and maintained at this level for 6–10 hours. Equalizing charging should
not be done at rates greater than C/20. Also, equalizing charging should be done
every 5–10 cycles or monthly (whichever comes first), but it should be done only in
well-ventilated areas (with no sparks or smoking) because it produces substantial
gassing. In addition, it should be done only while close attention is being paid to
electrolyte level because water consumption is substantial during rapid gassing
periods. Remember, gassing of a battery produces hydrogen, and it only takes a 4
percent concentration in the air to become explosive. Keep the batteries well
ventilated. Figure 10-2 shows the step increase in voltage to 2.75 V and the increase
in current back to the C/20 level.
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Now let’s look at the time involved in using the ideal approach to charge our
hypothetical 200-Ah capacity battery:
10 A (C/20) for 5 hours 5 50 Ah
20 A (C/10) for 7 hours 5 140 Ah
10 A (C/20) for 1 hour 5 10 Ah
Total: 13 hours 5 200 Ah
This approach requires 13 hours to charge a 200-Ah capacity battery. Provided
that you do not exceed battery temperature, you could charge at the C/5 rate during
the middle of the cycle (40 A for 3.5 hours) and reduce total time to 9.5 hours.
Battery Chargers Today
Battery chargers today have come a long way since the days of early batteries. The
days of large, noisy, heavy devices are long gone. New chargers are intelligent,
programmable, and very efficient. They are robust in power, light in weight, and
compact in design. Now that you have learned some of the basics, it is time to size
the right charger for your application and battery pack.
If we look at the X pattern in the graph at the lower right, Figure 10-2 shows
what most actual battery chargers deliver. Using a variation or combination of
constant current, constant voltage, tapering, and end-of-charge voltage versus time
methods, all battery chargers arrive at a method of current reduction during the
charging cycle as the cell voltage rises. Fortunately, you can buy something off the
shelf to take care of your needs. But you have to investigate before buying to make
sure that a given battery charger does what you want it to do.
Battery chargers are sized using the formula
Charging current 5 battery capacity 3 115 percent/time 1 dc load
In this equation—very similar to the equation presented earlier in this chapter—
the charging current determines the size charger you need, the 115 percent is an
efficiency factor to take losses into account, and the dc load is whatever else is
attached to the battery (this is zero if you disconnect your batteries from your EV’s
electrical system while recharging). You’re already familiar with battery capacity
and time. You can plug chargers up to15–20 A into your standard household 120-V
ac outlet. Just verify the circuit you have. Many household 120-V outlets are only
rated for 15 A. Higher current capacity chargers require a dedicated 220/240-V ac
circuit—the kind that drives your household electric range or clothes dryer. Your
home or shop probably has 220/240 V ac already. Your best options are several
different types of off-the-shelf chargers you can buy.
Whether to have an onboard or an offboard charger is another consideration.
An onboard charger gives your vehicle the convenience of charging whenever you
Chapter Ten
like, but you might be limited on space. The Zivan charger I use was just the right
size to fit in a backpack and did not weigh a lot. Some other models are even
smaller; they could be mounted right on your vehicle. An offboard charger is fairly
simple if you have the space. With an offboard charger, you are not limited to space
and can take advantage of its high power capability, which translates to minimum
charging time. With a charger in a permanent charging location or station, you can
take advantage of many additional features.
Below I will go through some of the popular chargers on the market today.
They are standard for the industry and have many great features.
Zivan Charger
The Zivan charger is one of my favorites (Figure 10-3). I use this charger exclusively
for the Electra Cruiser. These chargers can charge with an output voltage from 12–
312 V dc up to 100 A depending on the model. Input voltages are 120/230 V (Table
10-1). In addition, the charger has an optional plug that can sense battery temperature
and adjust charging accordingly too. Figure 10-4 shows the location of this accessory
plug for optional battery temperature sensing. I have to say that these chargers take
a beating. They have been left in the rain, had chemicals and fuels spilled on them,
been dropped and dragged on the ground, hit with power surges, and much more.
Figure 10-3 Zivan NG3 charger.
Figure 10-4 Optional Zivan outlet for a temperature sensor. (www.zivanusa.com/pdf/NG3.pdf.)
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Table 10-1 Zivan NG3 Charger Profile
NG3 12-100
NG3 24-50
NG3 24-80
NG3 36-60
NG3 48-50
NG3 60-35
NG3 72-30
NG3 80-27
NG3 84-25
NG3 96-22
NG3 108-20
NG3 120-18
NG3 132-16
NG3 144-15
NG3 156-14
NG3 168-13
NF3 180-12
NG3 192-11
NG3 216-10
NG3 240-9
NG3 288-8
NG3 312-7
Current wt-lb
12 V
100 A
24 V
50 A
24 V
80 A
36 V
60 A
48 V
50 A
60 V
35 A
72 V
30 A
80 V
27 A
84 V
25 A
96 V
22 A
108 V
20 A
120 V
18 A
132 V
16 A
144 V
15 A
156 V
14 A
168 V
13 A
180 V
12 A
192 V
11 A
216 V
10 A
240 V
9 A
288 V
8 A
312 V
7.5 A
500-1000 AH
250-500 AH
400-800 AH
300-600 AH
250-500 AH
175-350 AH
150-300 AH
135-270 AH
125-250 AH
110-220 AH
100-200 AH
90-180 AH
80-160 AH
75-150 AH
70-140 AH
65-130 AH
60-120 AH
55-110 AH
50-100 AH
50-100 AH
50-100 AH
50-100 AH
From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Table 9-1, p. 216.
They have been beaten up and just keep working. The batteries in the Cruiser lasted
over 5 years, and I will attribute this in large part to the charger. I do know for a fact
that the batteries have been fully abused during the whole cross-country trip, which
was a good thing and a test to the whole system. I am sure that the quality of the
Trojan batteries helped too.
One of the many features I like about the Zivan is the programming option. I
actually bought three Zivan (NG3) chargers for the Cruiser. One was a 220-V input
voltage charger, putting out about 19–22 A at 120 V dc. The second was the same
charger but with a 120-V ac input voltage and about 11 A 120-V dc output. Both
these chargers were programmed the same to my specifications for the ten 12-V
Group 27 Trojan batteries in the frame. The Zivan controller uses an IUI charging
profile, as described earlier. If you look at Figures 10-5 through 10-7, you can see the
actual charging profiles. Figure 10-5 shows you the initial charging curves T1, where
the charger starts out with the maximum amperage until a voltage limit is reached
Chapter Ten
Figure 10-5 Charging profile for NG3 110-V ac/120-V dc unit.
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Figure 10-6 Charger info for NG3 110-V ac/120-V dc unit.
Chapter Ten
Figure 10-7 Charging profile for NG3 220-V ac/120 V dc unit.
of about 142 V dc. In phase T2 of the charging curve, the voltage is held at 142 V dc,
and the charge current drops, holding at 142 V dc. In the final charging profile T3,
the voltage is usually pushed up to 148 V dc, and the current is held at 2.5 A until
that time; then the charger turns off.
The third charger that I mentioned I programmed differently. The Cruiser has a
sidecar with a 4,500-W 220-V ac diesel generator in the back. The charger is
programmed to charge all the time in relation to the voltage. As the voltage goes
down under load, the charger kicks in 100 percent, providing full power from the
generator. As the voltage goes back up, the charger cuts back charging until it
reaches the upper voltage limit and trickle charges.
Manzanita Micro PFC-20
The PFC series offers three models. Figure 10-8 shows the PFC-20, which is designed
to operate from a 20-A, 240-V outlet. The company also offers the PFC-30, which is
designed to operate from a 30-A, 240-V dryer outlet, and the PFC-50, which is
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Figure 10-8 Manzanita Micro PFC-20, an extremely versatile battery charger. (From Build Your
Own Electric Vehicle, Figure 9-4, p. 219.)
designed to operate from a 50-A, 240-V range outlet. They will operate at half
power (same line current) from a 120-V ac source.
Here are some of the specifications of the PFC-20:
• It is designed to charge any battery pack from 12–360 V nominal (14.4–450
V peak).
• It is power factor–corrected and designed either to put out 20 A (if the
battery voltage is lower than the input voltage) or draw 20 A from the line
(if the line voltage is lower than the battery voltage).
• The buck enhancement option will increase the output to 30 A.
• There is a programmable timer to shut off the charger after a period of time
set by the user.
• For installation instructions, go to www.manzanitamicro.com/installpfc
Curtis Instruments
Among the many other products Curtis instruments manufactures, the company
also designs and builds battery chargers. Curtis has a whole line of chargers to
choose from, and they are compact high-frequency chargers that are perfect for
smaller vehicles and motorcycles (Figures 10-9 and 10-10). The company’s units
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Figure 10-9 Curtis Model 1621 high-frequency battery charger. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
Figure 10-10 Curtis Model 1621 battery charger dimensions. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
The Charger and Batter y Management System
can be powered with an input voltage of 85–265 V ac. The output dc charging
voltage ranges from 24–96 V dc with charging current from 9–25 A. Here are some
• Advanced high-frequency switch-mode design allows more efficient (90
percent) and faster charging and optimal charging independent of battery
type or condition.
• Power factor of greater than 0.99 minimizes utility surcharges and optimizes
the use of ac line power.
• There is an extensive list of approved charge algorithms (e.g., default I1, I2,
U, I3a).
• The chargers can store 10 separate algorithms that can be selected to match
the specific batteries in use, thereby eliminating the need for multiple
models and resulting in lower operating costs.
• The chargers are lightweight and compact, and this allows onboard use and
offers space advantages over ferroresonant chargers in traditional off board
• Extensive safety features such as reverse polarity and short-circuit protection
ensure safe operation for both the operator and the charger itself.
• Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) allow at-a-glance charge status
• Battery temperature monitoring via an optional temperature-sensor input
allows more accurate measurement and charging.
I have saved the best for last. In my opinion, Brusa makes one of the best chargers
on the market (the company makes plenty of other great things too). The NLG5 can
charge any battery in the voltage range of 100–720 V dc (Figures 10-11 and 10-12).
Owing to the design, programmability (i.e., automatic/CAN/booster operation),
and scalability, these chargers are able to charge at 3.3/6.7/10 kW while being
universally adaptable. They can handle any new battery or charging parameters or
control strategy at any time with a software update or new programming. Brusa
has an amazing list of features and a price that backs that up. In the scheme of
chargers, though, a Brusa charger is truly a safe investment because you would
never have to buy another one. This is the top end of chargers.
The NLG5 is a universal 3.3-kW charger for all kinds of batteries with a nominal
voltage range of 100–720 V. The charger comes in both air- and liquid-cooled
versions. Owing to its compact design, durable construction, and light weight, it is
ideal for mobile applications such as electric and hybrid vehicles. In the case of an
electric motorcycle, this charger would be best for stationary applications. The
charger includes a standard CAN interface that allows simple control and date
acquisition from the charger by a PC or laptop. Through the PC, the charging profile
Chapter Ten
Figure 10-11 Brusa charger. (Courtesy of Metric Mind Engineering, www.metricmind.com/
Figure 10-12 Brusa NLG5 charger.
is fully programmable or free charging profiles can be downloaded. By using an
external current sensor (BCM98-mess), you can interface a BMS with the charger.
Up to three chargers can be connected in parallel without using external
Below is a list of just some of the many features. There are just so many that I
could only list some of them.
Power specifications
Isolation between mains and battery by high-frequency transformer
Input voltage: 230 V ± 10 percent, 48–62 Hz (400 V optional)
Maximum mains current: 16 A, sinusoidal
Efficiency: 90–93 percent
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Power factor > 0.99
Maximum charging current: up to 25 A (NLG511)
Maximum charging voltage: up to 720 V (NLG514)
Accuracy of charging voltage: ±1 percent
Short-circuit- and open-circuit-proof
Overtemperature protection by linear derating
Reverse-polarity protection by internal fuse
Switches off at mains with overvoltage
Battery temperature monitoring
Additional Functions and Interfaces
• Power multiplying can be done by connecting multiple chargers together.
• Control pilot enables accelerated charging (mode 3, according to SAE 1772)
using the dedicated infrastructure.
• All types of charging profiles can be programmed by PC via a serial RS232
• Charging voltage is temperature-compensated.
• Actual firmware can be downloaded by PC.
• A CAN interface is included.
• There is a built-in status display (five LEDs).
• There are four analog inputs (three temperature sensors, one power
• There are four digital inputs (charging profile control and battery current
sensor for internal Ah counter).
• There are four open collector outputs (three programmable) that can drive
relays, lamps, fans, etc.
Battery Management Systems and Battery Balancers
The battery management system (BMS) and battery balancers are a few other ways
to monitor and/or control your batteries. I feel that this is an important topic to
touch on. It could have been placed in Chapter 7, but I think it better suited here.
Below I will explain and give a few examples of these two basic systems. For the
most part, your EV will not need a BMS; rather battery balancers would work just
fine. A BMS may be needed only if you choose to use an exotic battery pack with
multiple batteries. For my purposes, I will stick with balancers.
Battery Balancers
Since one or more batteries in a series string of batteries can discharge lower than the
other batteries, it is important to ensure that this weaker battery receives extra charging.
This will ensure increased life of the pack because a weaker battery will drag the pack
down and shorten the life of the other batteries in the string. In the worst case, you
Chapter Ten
could kill the pack early. Virtually any type of battery can be damaged by excessively
high or low voltage, and in some cases, the results can be catastrophic.
In any battery pack or string of batteries, you will find that no two cells are
created equal. When batteries are connected in series and being cycled as one group,
the cells will gradually drift out of balance. Lower-capacity cells charge and
discharge quicker, so their terminal voltage may be higher or lower than the
average; the temperature gradient across the battery pack results in further
imbalance. Battery balancers, also referred to as equalizers, attempt to adjust the
charge going into the batteries.
There are several types of battery balancers, each with its own technique:
• Circuits that monitor the batteries (battery monitors)
• Circuits that monitor the batteries and somehow adjust the charge going
into a battery (battery balancers)
PowerCheq Battery Equalizer
These are small units that are connected to each pair of batteries to equalize the
batteries continuously. The PowerCheq modules interconnect batteries in a series
string, creating a bidirectional energy-transfer path between neighboring batteries
and enabling the entire battery string to be equalized. The system equalizes and
maintains batteries during charging, discharge, and while sitting idle. PowerCheq is
adaptable to all battery systems and configurations and can be easily installed in new
and existing battery systems. Figure 10-13 shows you how simple the installation is.
Figures 10-14 and 10-15 provide two graphs showing the capacity and power in
relation to cycle life. This comparison was performed with two identical electric
scooters, one with the balancing system and one without. As you can see, balancing
the batteries increases their performance and cycle life by more than half.3
Figure 10-13 PowerCheq battery equalizer. (Courtesy of Power Designers USA, http://
The Charger and Batter y Management System
Figure 10-14 PowerCheq cycle life with balancing module. (Courtesy of Power Designers USA,
Figure 10-15 PowerCheq capacity life with balancing module. (Courtesy of Power Designers USA,
Battery Management Systems
A BMS is a whole step further than a balancing system and handles more activities.
In practice, a BMS also may be coupled with other vehicle systems that communicate
with the BMS via a CAN bus. Such systems could include a thermal management
system, an antitheft device that disables the battery, or a number of other systems
on your EV. In addition, a BMS can provide battery charge protection, discharge
protection, state-of-charge monitoring, and much more.
With the onset of alternative battery technologies such as lithium and NiMH
batteries, the batteries are more sensitive to overcharging and overdischarging on a
cell-by-cell basis. When the cells are used in a series, these battery technologies are
generally protected with a BMS.
Chapter Ten
Figure 10-16 Battery management system. (Courtesy of Metric Mind Engineering, www.
Metric Mind Engineering has developed a great BMS for lithium batteries over
the past few years. The system was designed for use on a lithium battery called
Thunder Sky manufactured in China (Figure 10-16).
You should now have a good grasp of battery chargers and how they relate to your
batteries and the longevity of your battery pack. The charger and batteries work
hand in hand as a team. To help this team along, the battery balance system or BMS
maintains battery balance and function much longer. Keep your batteries in good
health, and the pack should last a long time.
Accessories and
You learned from the previous chapters all about the various components that
make up your electric vehicle (EV) and how each component plays an important
role in the conversion. Now we will examine many of the components that help
you to monitor your EV to extend the life and to keep you informed of system
status and state of charge (SOC). How better to know your EV than to have it talk
back to you. These components will enable you to view real-time information to
make decisions on how to extend the life of the battery pack and how much energy
you have left. When you get to Chapter 13, I will show you how to take all the
components you have learned about and bring them together—from your batteries
and motor controller to all the other components we have looked at.
This chapter will review dc-to-dc converters. These are not necessarily an
accessory, but not every EV uses one, so they are sort of an add-on item. They are
important for your EV in maintaining your standard 12-V system for lights and other
functions separate from the high-voltage power system. The object of this chapter is
to look at a few of the different accessories, components, and communications systems
that keep you in touch with your vehicle. As you plan your EV conversion, think
about these accessories and how they will best suit you as you integrate them into
your vehicle. There are plenty more I will cover in Chapter 12, where I show you how
to bring all the components together.
The key to getting the most out of your EV is knowing what is going on. The real
thing is that you want to get the most out of your EV—the best range, the greatest
performance—without being stuck someplace. To do this, you need feedback from
your systems. You need to know what is happening, how much energy are you
using at any time, and how much energy you have left. What condition are your
batteries in? What is the voltage? In Chapter 7, you studied all about the importance
Chapter Eleven
of maintaining your batteries and the life of the batteries. We know that as a battery
approaches certain states of charge or discharge, critical actions need to happen or
not happen. If you want to keep your batteries in good health and not go past 80
percent of discharge, how are you going to do that? Your batteries are not going to
tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, getting a little empty here.” However, your
batteries, if not managed properly, will punch you in your wallet when they fail
Having all the gauges in the world is only as good as the person paying attention
to them. Case in point: I fell victim to operating the first Electra Cruiser one night
and not paying attention to my gauges until it was too late. On a summer evening,
I accompanied my long-time friend Brian Lima to a concert in New York at the
famous Jones Beach Theater. Brian was riding a traditional gas-powered HarleyDavidson, and I had my Electric Cruiser. Not to be outdone by the Harley, I flexed
the Cruiser’s muscles, showing that it was no wimp and giving the Harley a run for
its money. By doing so, I zapped too much juice from the batteries and did not
watch my gauges. On the ride back that night, the Cruiser was fine for threequarters of the trip home, and then suddenly the bike started to lose speed. Alarmed,
I now looked at my gauges and viewed the volt gauge dropping fast and my
e-meter flashing red (Figure 11-1). Not good! The Cruiser kept losing power fast
until it almost came to a stop 2 miles from home. Now, if I had looked at my gauges
earlier and budgeted my power, I would not have had a problem. The nice thing
about this is that I learned two lessons: First, watch your gauges and budget your
power consumption. Second, after I pulled over to the side of the road and waited
15 minutes, the Cruiser came back to life with plenty of power to get me home. This
proved the statement in Chapter 7 that lead-acid batteries will come back to life.
Figure 11-1 Electra Cruiser prototype 1 tank gauge layout.
Accessories and Converters Battery “Fuel Gauge” and Monitoring
Your batteries are your fuel tank, just like the fuel tank in your car. In your car, you
have a fuel gauge that tells you the amount of fuel (energy) you have left, which
relates to how much farther you can travel. On some vehicles, you have electronics
that tell you instantly how much fuel you are using at any time—miles per gallon
or, on some, gallons per minute. For your EV, fuel usage at any instant would equate
to amperage consumed at any given time. In your liquid-fueled vehicle, you also
have an alarm in most cases, a bell, a chime, or a light alerting you to low fuel. Well,
that is the same thing you want to achieve for your EV. There are many products on
the market that can do just what you need. They monitor your batteries and
calculate state of charge, charge remaining, charge received, and much more.
Battery Indicator
Battery indicators are devices or instruments that indicate the state of charge (SOC)
of your batteries from your last charge. Some are wired directly into your main
battery pack, monitoring voltage, amperage used, and charge replaced. The gauges
with these data calculate remaining charge and battery state; some even monitor
temperature and log data that are downloadable through a port on the back. Xantrex
and Curtis Instruments both manufacture high-quality state-of-the-art battery
Xantrex Link 10
Xantrex produces many electronic devices throughout the world. One device that
is very popular is the Link 10. This device uses sophisticated microprocessor
technology to provide complete battery status information. It uses a simple
multicolor digital display showing volts, amperes, ampere-hours consumed, and
operating time remaining. The Link 10 has the ability to capture real-time data and
store them for download through a port on the back. The gauge can display key
historical battery information such as charge efficiency, deepest discharge, and
average discharge.
Output Format
Time, kilowatt-hours, amperes, volts, ampere-hours, Peukert ampere-hours,
Peukert amperes, time remaining, bar-graph SOC, and temperature (°C) are all
available with the Link 10 (Figures 11-2 and 11-3).
Link 10 Product Features
• Digital numeric display, an LED display, showing numeric readout of volts,
amperes, ampere-hours, and time remaining
• Easy-to-read multicolor LED bar graph
Chapter Eleven
Figure 11-2 Xantrex Link 10 e-meter and LinkLITE. (www.xantrex.com/web/id/273/p/1/pt/7/
Figure 11-3 Link 10 wiring. (www.xantrex.com.)
Accessories and Converters • Splash-proof panels that allow for outdoor mounting and hands-free
• Display of key historical battery information, such as charge efficiency,
deepest discharge, and average discharge
• Compatible with 12- and 24-V dc systems
• Works with any battery type
• Includes dc shunt (part no. 84-2010-00)
• Low-battery alarm contacts
• One-year warranty
• Color-coded twisted-pair cable (eases installation), available in 25-ft (part
no. 84-2014-00) and 50-ft lengths (part no. 84-2015-00)
• Prescalers (0–100 or 0–500 V) to extend voltage range covered by your meter
(see Table 11-1)
Optional Serial Port (RS-232)
The Link 10 may be equipped to transmit serial communications data to a personal
computer or data-logging device. When equipped with the optional RS-232 port,
the Link 10 will transmit a data message once a second. The structure of this data is
as follows:
Data rate: 9,600 b/s
Data bits: 8
Stop bits: 1
Parity bits: None
The LinkLITE battery monitor can measure currents up to 1,000 A. It selectively
displays voltage, charge and discharge current, consumed ampere-hours, and
remaining battery capacity. It is equipped with an internal programmable alarm
relay to run a generator when needed or to turn off devices when the battery voltage
exceeds programmable boundaries.
Curtis Series 800 and 900 Battery SOC Instrumentation
Curtis Instruments, in addition to manufacturing motor controllers and a host of
other EV equipment, makes few lines of battery “fuel gauges” and SOC monitors.
One of the nice features about their gauges is that most of them interface with and
plug right into Curtis motor controllers. This makes your job a lot easier and keeps
the wiring simple. Many also are programmable with multifunctions.
The Curtis Model 900R battery gauge is an example of an inexpensive and easyto-install gauge (Figures 11-4 and 11-5). It is a single-piece package that installs via
Chapter Eleven
Table 11-1 Link 10 Specifications
Electrical Specifications
Voltage Measurement
0–19.95 VDC (0.05 V resolution)
(standard model auto range)
20.0–50.0 VDC (0.1 V resolution)
Voltage Measurement
0–100 V (used with standard models)
(optional prescalers)
0–500 V (used with standard models)
Amperage Measurement
Low range ± 0–40 A (0.1 A resolution)
High range ± 500 A (1.0 A resolution)
Amp-hour Measurement
Low range ± 0–199 Ah (0.1 hour resolution)
High range ± 200–1,999 Ah (1 hour resolution)
Time Remaining Measurement
Low range 0-199.9 hours (0.1 hour resolution)
High range 0-255 hours (1 hour resolution)
Power Requirements
9.5–40 V dc (dc power supply voltage)
Power Consumption
50–225 mA (display auto dims with ambient light)
28 mA (sleep mode—bar graph display only)
Shunt Type
500 A/50 mV (included)
Voltage ± 0.6% of reading + 1 least count of resolution
Amperage ± 0.8% of reading + 1 least count of resolution
General Specifications
Flush mount
Front Panel
Splash resistant
Outer bezel diameter (face)
2.5" (63.5 cm)
Barrel diameter
1.95" (50 mm)
3.15" (80 mm)
Hole cut size
2.25" (52 mm) diameter
Weight (not including shunt)
4.6 oz (130.4 g)
1 year
Part numbers
84-2016-01 (Link 10 Standard)
84-2010-00 (Shunt)
84-2024-00 (Link 10 temperature sensor)
84-2014-00 (Twisted Pair 25'—
recommended for Link installations)
84-2015-00 (Twisted Pair 50'—
recommended for Link installations)
84-6000-00 (100v—prescaler)
84-6000-05 (500v—prescaler)
Accessories and Converters Figure 11-4 Curtis Model 900R battery gauge. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
Figure 11-5 Curtis Model 900R battery gauge operation. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
a simple two-wire connection. This is a great basic instrument to monitor your
batteries. It is ideally suited for lead-acid battery–powered vehicles that require a
display of SOC only.
Double flashing red LEDs signal “empty” alarm at 80 percent discharge.
It recognizes an improperly charged battery.
It is available in single voltages of 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, and 80 V dc.
A multicolored 10-bar (5 green, 3 yellow, 2 red) LED displays SOC.
Curtis enGage II
enGage II is a dual-function microprocessor-based instrument that can be factory
or user defined to monitor various and multiple functions. Gauge options include
fuel, temperature, pressure, voltage, tachometer, battery SOC, hour meter, settable
hour meter, and field-programmable maintenance monitor. Figures 11-6 and 11-7
Chapter Eleven
Figure 11-6 Curtis enGage II battery and dual-function microprocessor-based instrument. (www.
Figure 11-7 Curtis enGage II dual-function display examples. (www.curtisinst.com/index.
show the gauge and the various display options. This gauge can cover a multitude
of functions all in one package.
The voltmeter is one of the top instruments every EV should have. There are many
volt gauges on the market to choose from. The volt gauge acts as a simple form of
a battery SOC indicator. In Chapter 7 we learned that a battery’s SOC is reflected by
the voltage; as a battery’s capacity goes down, so does the voltage. The gauge is
also handy to monitor voltage during charging. Figure 11-8 shows a volt gauge
used on the Electra Cruiser that was manufactured by Westberg Manufacturing,
Inc. This company has manufactured many types of gauges for all industries since
1944. You can find company information in Chapter 14.
The ammeter is one of the most important gauges you can have on your EV. An
ammeter displays instantaneous amperage your electric motor is using instantly.
The ammeter is your key to extending the range of your EV. The more amperage
you are drawing, the less range you will achieve. The gauge is a great tool for
monitoring current draw when you are going up a hill or under acceleration. The
Accessories and Converters Figure 11-8 Voltmeter used on the Electra Cruiser. (www.westach.com/gauge_images/2C6-30.
amperage usage is an early sign that your motor may have too much load on it at
too low a speed. If you have gears, this is a good indicator that you need to switch
to a lower gear to reduce the load. Remember from Chapter 8 that an increased load
(amperes) and high current draw, coupled with low motor rpm, mean increased
heating and early motor failure. The ammeter is your first insight to any overload
in your EV electrical system. Figure 11-9 shows a few gauges offered by Westburg.
There are a number of other manufacturers in the marketplace, including Curtis
and Xantex, with multipurpose gauges.
These are just a sample of some of the gauges you can use for your EV conversion;
there are many more. I just want to give you an idea of what you can do and the
items available to you. You are by no means limited; the bike market has an array
of gauges you can use for other purposes. Figures 11-10 through 11-12 show a few
gauges from the second prototype Electra Cruiser.
DC-to-DC Converter
In your EV conversion, once you remove all the internal combustion engine
components, you will still be left with the 12-V dc electrical system. This system
still will need power from a 12-V dc source. You could use a small 12-V battery to
keep this system operating, but that battery would soon run out of charge because
without the engine, you now have no alternator. You could run the system off one
battery of the battery pack, which will work but is not advisable to do. As we
discussed in Chapters 7 and 10, you do not want to discharge one battery more
than any other and create an unbalanced pack. This would only lead to an early
failure of the battery as opposed to the other batteries. So what do you do? Simple.
Use a dc-to-dc converter.
Chapter Eleven
Figure 11-9 Sample of Westburg Westach gauges. (www.westach.com/catalog/index.
Accessories and Converters Figure 11-10 Electra Cruiser prototype 2 tachometer and speedometer.
Figure 11-11 Electra Cruiser prototype 3 tachometer for use with 10,000-rpm ac motor.
Figure 11-12 Electra Cruiser prototype 2 tank and gauges.
Chapter Eleven
A dc-to-dc converter is similar to an alternator. It charges the 12-V battery by
chopping voltage from the main battery pack down to 13.5 V. When you drive a
combustion engine, the alternator recharges the battery and kicks in extra current
when you have lots of electrical items running (e.g., fan, radio, lights). The dc-to-dc
converter takes power from your bank of batteries, the main pack, and gives some
to the auxiliary battery as needed to keep it charged.
On your conversion, since you are not running any large loads, you also could
opt not to use a 12-V auxiliary battery at all. A dc-to-dc converter can run alone
without a 12-V dc battery as long as you size the converter to match the power
needed for your vehicle. To do this, you just need power from the main battery
pack. The dc-to-dc converter should have a separate main power switch to turn it
on or off when the vehicle is not in use.
Another reason to use a dc-to-dc converter is isolation of the main battery pack
from the 12-V frame or chassis ground. The main battery pack always should be
isolated from every other system and should not be grounded to the frame with the
12-V system. The main battery pack always should be isolated. I will go into this in
more detail in Chapter 12. What’s nice about most dc-to-dc converters is that they
isolate the high-voltage pack from the low-voltage 12-V system.
For motorcycles and other smaller vehicles, you do not need a lot of current to
operate the standard 12-V circuitry. If you look at an EV car conversion, you would
need to run a fan, possibly other auxiliary drives, a radio, a heater, twice as many
lights, and much more. But, for your conversion, you are only running a few items
that use little current. The largest power consumer in your conversion will be the
front head lamp. Below are a few examples of dc-to-dc converters.
Vicor DC-to-DC Converter
Vicor has a great line of converters for many applications. You can easily choose the
model and specifications online and place your order. The company has great
online support with plenty of documentation. I used a Vicor dc-to-dc converter in
both Electra Cruisers, and they have worked flawlessly for over 6 years. What I
liked about the Vicor converter was the size, flexibility, power output, cost, and
quality. The company has a few models to choose from. I used the BatMod (Figure
The BatMod current-source modules are ideal for use with equipment that
requires a controlled current output, such as battery chargers. They are compatible
with all major battery types used in applications for vehicles such as golf carts, fork
lifts, automated guide vehicles, and electric cars. Each module offers output currents
up to 14.5 A with input voltages in the range of 48–300 V dc. Output voltages are
12, 24, and 48 V.
The BatMod allows the user to independently program a constant output
current and a maximum float voltage. The float voltage is the point at which the
BatMod transitions from constant current to constant voltage. These features make
Accessories and Converters Figure 11-13 Vicor BatMod dc-to-dc converter.
the BatMod an ideal candidate for battery charging and controlled-current source.
Table 11-2 shows the basic specifications. What is also nice is that you can use the
online resources from the Vicor Web site to tailor the output on your unit (Figure
11-14). You can set the float voltage and the charge current with the simple addition
of a resistor. The online resource will tell you exactly what you need.
Table 11-2 Vicor BatMod Specifications
Nominal input voltage
48 V dc, 150 V dc, 300 V dc
42–60 V, 100–200 V,
200–400 V
Output current
12 V battery system,
24 V battery system,
48 V battery system
Current control input
1–5 V
Zero to maximum current
Current monitor output
1–5 V
Zero to full load
Voltage control input
0–2.5 V
Zero to FS output
Output voltage setpoint
Trimmable +10%, –25%
15 V, 30 V, 60 V, ± 1%
12 V, 24 V, 48 V
Output respectively
Dynamic characteristics
V-Mode: 300 µsec typ.
I-Mode: 250 µsec typ.
Vnom for 50–100% load
Dielectric withstand
Input to output
Output to baseplate
Input to baseplate
3,000 Vrms 500 Vrms 1,500
Chapter Eleven
Figure 11-14 BatMod online self-help calculations for voltage and current settings. (www.vicr.
Curtis DC-to-DC Converter
The Curtis 1400 high-efficiency series dc-to-dc converter is configured specifically
for EVs. Available in 250- and 375-W models, the devices provide regulated output
of 13.5 or 28.0 V for driving lamps and charging auxiliary batteries (Figures 11-15
and 11-16).
Figure 11-15 Curtis dc-to-dc converter. (www.vicr.com/products/dc-dc/converters/bat_mod.)
Accessories and Converters Figure 11-16 Curtis dc-to-dc converter back panel.
1400 Series DC-to-DC Converters
These converters are available in both 250-W peak (Model 1410) and 375-W peak
(Model 1400) ratings.
• Volt input: 24–96 V
• Volt output: 12, 13.5, 24, or 28 V
• Input and output are dielectrically isolated for maximum safety
Communication with your EV and its systems is a vital part of owning an EV. The
EV does have a limited supply of power, and you must budget energy as best as
possible. If you look at or equate the amount of energy in your battery pack to a
gasoline equivalent, you are lucky if the total energy equals half a gallon of gasoline.
This puts things in perspective in terms of how efficient an EV really is. Your gauges
will help you with that task. After using your EV over time, you will get to know
the signs and what to look for. In addition, your dc-to-dc converter will help to
power your accessories and keep you moving.
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Electrical System
and Wiring
The electrical system of your electric vehicle (EV) is at the heart of what an EV is all
about. After all your reading and learning about each system, you now can take that
knowledge and bring it all together. By this time, maybe you have found your donor
vehicle or are building from scratch. You have removed and discarded the dirty
internal combustion engine, and you are getting ready to dig in and get a plan going.
This chapter is very important; you will essentially take all the various
components and bring them together. Even if you are not sure of the exact controller,
the electric motor, or a few other components you will use, the basic wiring and the
interconnections remain the same. If you do not know the item you will use, that is
okay; you can add it later.
In this chapter you will learn all you need to know about wiring for your EV—
the dos and don’ts. You will integrate all the systems into a simple wiring schematic.
I will go through all the components and parts you need to consider first. Then I
will provide a discussion of wire size and how it relates to your wiring.
Electrical Safety
One of the things that I cannot stress enough is safety. Dealing with electricity is no
joke; it will kill you in a flash. A 12-V battery can kill or hurt you just the same as a
high-voltage system. As I mentioned in Chapter 7, it is not the voltage but the
amperes or current and the path it takes through your body that will kill you. The
amount of current it takes to kill a person is very little and varies with the path the
current takes. All it takes is 50 mA to kill a human. To put this into perspective, 50
mA is 0.05 A. Not much at all, is it? Now, let’s look at the big picture. You have a
battery pack using, for example, 48 V for your system, and your batteries can crank
out 1,000 A (48,000 W or 48 kW) or more for a short burst. I think you get the
picture: If you get blasted with that kind of power, you are dead! If you are lucky
and the path does not follow a vital organ (e.g., heart) or your brain, you will have
Chapter Twelve
one hell of a burn, if you don’t lose a limb. Now take that a step further, and let’s
look at the battery pack from the Electra Cruiser. The Cruiser operates on 120 V dc
with ten 115-Ah batteries. Under a shorting condition, the batteries can easily put
out 1,200 A in a short burst. Do the math: That’s a 144,000-W burst, or 144 kW, or
193 hp.
EV Electrical System Components
In this section we will look at and go through all the different components that
make up the EV electrical system. You can pick and choose what items you will use
for your build. We will look mostly at the high-voltage side of the wiring; the 12-V
dc system that originally wired your vehicle should remain mostly intact.
Take particular care in this section, and plan out your wiring carefully. Try to
adhere to all wiring codes for wire capacity. Lay out a basic schematic of how you
want things to connect. This is actually not that hard at all, but it allows you to learn
the components and the process involved in putting all the pieces together. To make
it even simpler, you can just follow or copy the basic EV wiring diagrams I will
supply for you in this book. Most important is to do your wiring in a clean, neat
manner. Take your time, and do a nice job. In the end, it will pay off greatly. Do a
sloppy job, and you will have problems, short circuits, and an even harder time
troubleshooting. If you plan the wiring out now and do a simple diagram, it will
save you problems in the future.
Main Circuit Breaker or Quick Disconnect
For safety, every EV should have a main circuit breaker or a quick disconnect to
separate the batteries from the rest of the system. In essence, you want to be able to
disconnect the main battery pack in an emergency. On some vehicles, a sign or
plate is mounted near the main disconnect to alert any emergency personnel in an
extreme situation (Figure 12-1). Figure 12-2 shows the quick disconnect on the
Figure 12-1 Anderson 350-A quick disconnect.
Electrical System and Wiring
Figure 12-2 Quick disconnect on the Electra Cruiser.
Electra Cruiser with a handle release. It may be a little hard to see, but in an
emergency, pull that lever, and you unplug the entire pack.
Main Contactor
The main contactor is basically a big relay. This is a single-pole normally open
contactor. What this means is the contactor must be energized by the 12-V circuit to
activate and complete the main circuit. This kind of contactor is rated anywhere
from 100–300 A. Other manufacturers have contactors that are rated for over 500 A.
This relay is normally energized when the key switch is turned on, activating the
main high-voltage source to the motor controller (Figure 12-3).
Figure 12-3 Albright SW 200 main contactor. (From Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, Figure 9-8, p.
Chapter Twelve
Reversing Relay
You may not use this contactor in your EV conversion because you are building a
lighter vehicle. On the chance that you build a heavier vehicle, this may come in
handy. This contactor is very similar to the main contactor but uses two relays
(Figure 12-4). By using two relays, you can mechanically reverse the polarity of
current flow to the electric motor and achieve reverse in your vehicle.
Safety Fuse
This is a fuse to interrupt the current flow from the main battery pack in the event of
a failure, short-circuit, or accident. This is the first line of safety in the worst-case
scenario. These fuses are normally placed in-line with the battery pack in two places.
If you had two levels of batteries, you would place one on the upper lever and another
on the lower level. This provides a better level of protection. Figure 12-5 shows a
basic high-amperage fuse that you would use in-line with the battery pack.
Figure 12-4 Albright SW 202 reversing contactor (double pole). (From Build Your Own Electric
Vehicle, Figure 9-8, p. 220.)
Figure 12-5 500 amp in-line fuse.
Electrical System and Wiring
Low-Voltage, Low-Current System
Your low-voltage 12-V system remains pretty much the same as it was before. You
may want to clean it up and use a new fuse panel. Remember, this low-voltage
system must be isolated from you high-voltage battery pack. If you do not do so,
you risk the chance of shock and leaking currents. When using a dc-to-dc converter,
confirm that the converter has a dielectrically isolated output, meaning no
interconection between the high-voltage and low-voltage systems. If you use a dcto-dc converter, calculate the power needed to run the existing 12-V load, and size
your converter accordingly.
Throttle Potentiometer
The throttle potentiometer is essentially your throttle, linked to your handlebar
twist grip through a cable. The one shown in Figure 12-6 is a Curtis PB-6 5-kΩ
potentiometer. The Curtis PB-6 is a universal throttle control that works with most
motor controllers. Curtis and a few other companies make other models and styles.
The PB-6 has a small switch activated by the control lever that works in conjunction
with the controller. The controller looks for an ohm reading that is in the full
nonactivated position. If the controller does not sense that the throttle is in the right
position, it will not activate.
Shunts are precisely calibrated resistors that enable current flow in a circuit to be
determined by measuring the voltage drop across them. They come in varying
sizes. Depending on the current you feel your EV will draw, you need to size the
shunt for the amperage used. From the shunt you can connect an ammeter or other
device designed to measure the voltage drop. From the voltage drop, the meter will
equate it to a meter for amperage (Figure 12-7).
Figure 12-6 Curtis PB-6 5-kΩ potentiometer.
Chapter Twelve
Figure 12-7 A 500-A, 50-mV shunt.
Wiring Your System Together
In this section we will look at sample wiring diagrams and try to bring the rest of
the electrical system together. Table 12-1 is a sample wire gauge chart. One important
thing to remember is to know how may amperes you will be drawing and size the
Table 12-1 Wire and Cable AWG
Amps (140°F)
Amps (167°F)
Amps (194°F)
Electrical System and Wiring
Wire size is very important. You need to know exactly how much current you will
use and size the wire accordingly. Use too small wire gauge, and the wire will heat
up from resistance in the wire (Figure 12-8). You can think of it as if you are trying
to force too much of something into a place it does not fit. Therefore, if you try to
force too much current through a wire not properly sized, it will get hot, possibly
melt the wire coating, and then short out. This is the time hopefully that you used
the right fuses in your battery pack and they save your system.
Minimal resistance depends on how well the connectors are attached to the
wire cable ends. This is equally important to the overall result. Poor connections
will result in heat and wires burning up. You can have the largest cable, but it is
only as good as the connections. Crimp the connectors to the wire using the proper
crimping tool. For large wires such as 2/0, you can rent a heavy-duty crimping tool
to do the job (Figure 12-9).
Figure 12-8 2/0 copper cable.
Figure 12-9 Heavy-duty crimping tool.
Chapter Twelve
Cable Connectors
Any connectors going to the cables, batteries, or any other wiring must be sized
correctly. When connecting any wires, make sure that the connections are clean and
free of dirt, grease, or anything else. On any connections using a stud with a nut,
make sure to use a lock washer or a star washer that will bite into the metal and
ensure a good connection (Figures 12-10 through 12-12).
Figure 12-10 2/0 terminal ends used to connect to the controller or motor.
Figure 12-11 2/0 battery terminal ends.
Electrical System and Wiring
Figure 12-12 Anderson connector used to connect batteries to a charger.
Wire Covers
As you route all your wires and crimp the connectors, take a few extra moments
and spend the few extra bucks to protect the bare ends. Nothing is worse than
dropping a wrench or having a part come loose that arcs across a bare terminal or
wire end. Moreover, this is important from a safety standpoint. In addition, when
you are all finished with your great conversion, people are going to want to see it.
As we all know, people love to touch things they are not supposed to, especially
little people with little hands and fingers, and they can get shocked easily if you
don’t use covers. Taking this extra step will keep your vehicle safe and will protect
the people around you (Figure 12-13).
Aim for the minimum length of routing for most of your wiring, but leave a little
room for installation. For certain wires, you want to leave a little more room. When
Figure 12-13 2/0 wire terminal covers.
Chapter Twelve
you start dealing with heavy-gauge wires, they cost more and add weight to your
EV. On the instrument side and the 12-V circuit, try to keep the wiring as neat and
as organized as possible. If you created a simple written diagram, keep it handy to
follow as well as to note any changes; also keep a notepad handy to jot down
reminders. If you really want to track things, take a picture; this will be a big help
in the future in tracking any changes.
As you route your wire, take particular care that the wires do not rub on
anything or that anything will not rub on them. If this is even a question, secure the
wire or place a protector around it to guard against any damage.
When you hear about grounding on an EV, it takes on a whole different meaning
from what you would expect. Some grounding on an EV is bad.
Floating Propulsion System Ground
On any EV main battery pack, no part of the high-voltage system is to be grounded
(i.e., batteries, relays, controller, etc) to any part of the vehicle frame in any way.
The pack should be completely isolated from the frame and the 12-V system. This
minimizes the possibility of shock and ghost voltages.
Accessory 12-V System Grounded to Frame
The 12-V system stays grounded to the frame in most cases, just as it was in with
the internal combustion engine machine. Since the frame is not connected to the
high-voltage propulsion system, this is not a concern.
Frame Grounded to AC Neutral When Charging
The body of your EV should be grounded to the ac ground wire (green wire) when
charging; this will prevent any electric shock and current leaks from finding the
wrong path. If you do not have an onboard charger, attach an external ground
when charging.
Electrical Wiring Diagrams
Figures 12-14 through 12-16 contain sample wiring diagrams for you to follow or
just to examine. For your particular motor and controller setup, you will need to
consult with the manufacturer for the correct wiring. There are far too many
variations to ever list in just one chapter.
Electrical System and Wiring
Figure 12-14 Electra Cruiser 120-V dc wiring schematic.
Figure 12-15 Typical wiring for a series-wound motor. (Courtesy of Curtis Instruments, www.
Chapter Twelve
Figure 12-16 Battery layout for 10 batteries in series with two fuses.
The wiring of your EV is very important, so make sure that you take your time and
do an exceptional job. This is one area where you do not want to rush or skimp. If
there is something you are still not sure about, ask someone. It is better to ask a
dumb question than to make a costly or dangerous mistake. Check with your local
EV clubs. Ask the manufacturer of the products you are using; they will support
you to some extent. To accompany this book, I will supply some additional online
help on my Web site to answer any questions. Sometimes it is just the little question
or that simple answer that can mean so much.
The Build
This is finally the chapter that tells you how to put it all together. Previous chapters
brought you through each system or component, giving you a basic knowledge of
each subject. You have learned about electric motors, motor controllers, batteries,
wiring, and many other subjects. I have tried to give you a little insight from my
experience and the builds that I did so that you can learn from my mistakes and not
have to repeat them. When I started years ago to build an electric motorcycle,
people thought I was crazy. I was told that it could not be done. Now I sit here
writing a book on the very subject, having proven that it can be done and done very
well. Not many people can say that their electric motorcycle was a TV star on
Discovery Science in the Coolfuel Roadtrip, traveling cross-county on clean energy
(Figure 13-1). I proved that with a little ingenuity and determination, anything can
happen. I hope that this helps to inspire you.
In this chapter I will take you through the conversion process step by step. I will
point out the most important steps and what to look for. Since we are not using a
known vehicle, and there are many variations, some of the information will be
general. I think the best way to start is to keep it simple and plan your conversion
wisely. After figuring out your first build, you will soon be an expert.
Conversion Overview
Where do we start? Well, at this point, you have an idea of the components you are
going to use or you have acquired most of them. Your biggest piece of the puzzle is
the frame you are using. This is the biggest deciding factor and sets the stage for the
complete build.
Depending on the frame and the size bike you want to build, you will need to
define many factors. You may need to scratch your head and go back to the drawing
board and try to figure a new way to do something. Keep in mind that I am talking
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Figure 13-1 Electra Cruiser during filming of the Coolfuel Roadtrip for Discover Science in New
Jersey. Pictured are Shaun Murphy and Sparky. (Courtesy of Shaun Murphy and Gus
Roxburgh, Balance Vector Productions, www.balancevector.com.)
about a systematic (step-by-step) process, part of which you will have to define
yourself as you go along.
The object of this book is to get you up and running on your own electric vehicle
(EV) as quickly and easily as possible. Figures 13-2 and 13-3 show some EVs. You
will have some challenges, but a little planning will go a long way. Keep it simple.
The actual process of your conversion is straightforward. Here are a few things to
consider as you plan your build:
• Before your conversion, plan out your build so as to find as many answers
as possible.
• During your build, stick to the plan; if changes arise, modify the plan and
keep moving forward.
• After your conversion, complete all safety tests and do plenty of system
testing and checking.
Before the Conversion
Before your actual conversion, gather all the information you can, just as you did
with the motors, controllers, and batteries. This is an important step; the more
planning that goes into the build, the better off you will be. If you are not sure about
something, ask someone in the business or in the field for help. If you belong to a
local EV group chapter, meet with them for as much help as you can get.
The Build
Figure 13-2 EVT electric scooter. (www.evtamerica.com/images/R-30blueleft.jpg.)
Figure 13-3 ZERO electric motorcycle. (www.zeromotorcycles.com/gallery.php.)
Help on Your Project
Make a list of all the types of help you might need, who you know that could help
you, and who has expertise in what area. Maybe you know someone who can weld
or another person who is good with wiring or electronics. Seek all the talent you
can find.
Inside Help
Schedule, if possible, an extra hand or an extra set of eyes to help you through the
process. Sometimes a fresh or different point of view is all you need. Frequently,
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you can get so focused on one thing that you forget to look outside the box for new
Outside Help
Outside help involves people and professionals who have more knowledge in a
subject than you. You might be able to figure something out, but sometimes another
person can do it 10 times faster. If you need welding performed, subcontract that
part out. If you are not a good welder, it is not worth your safety and the risk to you
and your vehicle.
Arrange for Space
Not everyone has a garage, workshop, or large space in which to work. This is
where you can enlist a friend who might have some space or a business such as a
shop where you could work on your conversion. This may work to your advantage
because now you have interested people around you who can help and perhaps
tools other than your own available to you.
Arrange for Tools
Not everyone is a mechanic or has specialty cutting or machining tools. For some
of your tasks, you can send the work out to a local machine shop. Maybe there are
other tools you need? See if a friend can help and lend the proper tools; at the same
time, enlist the help of that friend.
Arrange for Purchases and Deliveries
This actually falls in two areas. Planning is key, so knowing when a part or multiple
parts will arrive is key to the planning of your build. Second, not everyone is always
home to receive a special package in the mail or to have it delivered. You might
want to make special arrangements to have certain items shipped to another
address where they can be received. How horrible would it be if the local delivery
person left your $1,500 motor controller on the steps of your house and someone
stole it?
Proper planning will pay off in the end. Do your build stage by stage; plan each
piece one at a time. Take careful notes, pictures if you can. I found that as well as I
planned, something would change, and I would have to work around it. I did find
it useful to write things down as the design changed. I have done this myself—
made a change and then forgot what I did months later.
Things to Keep in Mind
• Frame. Purchase, modify, and prepare
The Build
• Mechanical. Motor mount fabrication and drivetrain
• Electrical. High current, low current, and charging system
• Battery. Purchase and install the batteries
For the frame, you either decided to convert an existing motorcycle or you opted to
purchase a complete frame, maybe a rolling frame, saving you the work of
modifying the suspension and removing the engine. Or maybe you are adventurous
and started completely from scratch.
Purchasing the Frame
The first step is selection of the frame and the complete suspension. Hopefully, you
have a complete vehicle or a what is referred to as a rolling frame complete with
suspension, tires ready for a transmission, and a motor. As stated earlier, take your
time, and plan well.
Frame purchase details were covered in Chapter 6. Try to get the best vehicle to
work with for the least amount of time and money. Ideally, if you bought a complete
motorcycle, you don’t need the engine, so you can do a tradeout, selling off what
you don’t need, and put that money back into the vehicle. Or maybe you want to
do your friends a favor; keep the money for pizza and beer, and your friends are
sure to keep coming back to help. Too much beer, however, and you may not get
much work done. In the removal process, keep what you need, making sure that
you do not sell off something you might require in the future. Figure 13-4 shows the
finished Cruiser frame ready to receive batteries. You also could start like this with
a clean frame and just build into the frame the battery support.
Figure 13-4 Prototype 2 Electra Cruiser ready for batteries.
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Purchase of Other Components
Once you pick your frame, you can make other part decisions based on your overall
performance goals: high mileage, quick acceleration, or general-purpose cruiser
style bike. Expected vehicle range and acceleration can be calculated from vehicle’s
total weight, tire rolling resistance, aerodynamics, and the amount of energy and
power available from the motor and batteries. This is accomplished with all the
calculations found in Chapter 6.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to do your conversion is to order some of
the parts you need from an EV distributor (see Chapter 14). Unlike EV cars, there
are no real kits at this time that you could just call for and buy. This is one of the
reasons creating your own vehicle will be such a unique experience. It would be
nice if you could just call up and purchase a prepackaged kit, which would greatly
simplify your conversion. Maybe that day will come in the very near future.
All the parts will be available from either one person or a few different vendors.
You will have to decide who is the best and who has the better prices. The other
items you want to order at this time can be found in your local motorcycle shop
(Figure 13-5). You also may want to look for a service manual to cover basic wiring
schematics to integrate the gasoline-powered bike’s wiring into your EV circuitry.
Prepare the Chassis
The next step is to clean the frame and make some measurements. The first frame
cleaning, if needed, will give you a good view and a clean canvas with which to
work (Figure 13-6). After all the cleaning, you might want to paint the frame or
Figure 13-5 Loads of parts for the Electra Cruiser prototype 1.
The Build
Figure 13-6 Prepping the Cruiser frame for cleaning and more welding.
keep it clean and prepped for painting in the future. At this step, you still may opt
for more modifications to fit batteries and battery mounts. Depending on what is
needed, you may want to wait on the paint.
The measuring step involves determining the position of the transmission/
drivetrain or chain drive in relation to where the electric motor will be placed. This
will take a little figuring out and maybe some actual placements of the motor in the
frame. Keep in mind during all your measuring and fitting the optimal placement
of your batteries and other components. Try to keep the weight as low as possible.
You want to use all the space as best you can.
If you are dismantling an existing bike, the parts-removal process starts with
draining all fluids: oil, transmission fluid, and gasoline. Remember to dispose of
your fluids in an environmentally sound manner or recycle them. Draining gasoline
from the tank is particularly dangerous and tricky. Drain as much as you can before
you physically remove the tank. If the fuel is still good or marginal, you can use it
in your car or lawnmower in a diluted mixture. Disposing of waste gasoline is
expensive. If it is still usable, you might as well save the money. Next, carefully
disconnect the throttle linkage—you will need it later—and set it aside, out of
harm’s way. Then remove everything that might interfere with the engine-removal
process. Once the engine is removed, a shop or individual may purchase the engine
and parts from you if they are still usable.
The mechanical part involves all the steps necessary to mount the motor and install
the battery mounts and any other mechanical parts. In other words, next, do all the
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mechanical steps necessary for conversion. You follow this sequence because you
want to have all the heavy drilling, banging, and welding—along with any
associated metal shavings or scrap—done well and cleaned up before you tackle
the more delicate electrical components and tasks. Let us take a closer look at the
Mounting Your Electric Motor
Your mission here is to attach the new electric motor to the remaining mechanical
drivetrain. The motor-to-drivetrain interface is your contact point. Depending on
what type of system you are using, you may need to do some modifications. Try to
figure out the best position for the motor that gives you as much room as possible.
Leave some room for adjustments and error.
Four elements are involved:
The critical distance between the motor and drive wheel
Supports and mounts for the electric motor
Front support-motor-to-transmission adapter plate
Motor shaft–drive wheel connection
I will cover what’s involved in each of these four areas in sequence. Understand
that this discussion needs be generalized because there are at least a dozen good
solutions for any given vehicle. So I’m going to talk in general terms here. You’ll
have to translate them to your own unique case. If your skills do not include
precision machining of metal parts, this is another good area where you should
enlist the services of a professional such as a l ocal machine shop.
The Critical Distance—Motor Interface with Wheel
Knowing that your goal here is how you are going to connect the motor to the
drive wheel makes it easier to navigate toward it. In Chapter 5 we looked at a few
different rear suspension configurations. As an example, in my build, I placed the
transmission right on the rear swingarm, removing it from the frame and allowing
more room (Figures 13-7 and 13-8). Pay particular attention to the movement of the
swingarm if you are using a chain or a belt. As the swingarm moves, the distance
between the motor and the back wheel can change, causing the chain or belt to
loosen or tighten and bind. Try to place the motor as close to the center of the pivot
point as possible. Figure 13-9 provides an example of a chain-drive system by
ZERO electric motorcycles.
Support for the Electric Motor
This is a fairly straightforward area. Figure 13-10 shows the main mounting plate
for mounting the motor to the rear swing arm. The mount uses four bolt holes that
attach to the face of the motor. The two halves of a curved steel strap go around the
The Build
Figure 13-7 Fitting the transmission to the swingarm.
Figure 13-8 Transmission placed on prototype 1 swingarm.
rear of the motor and hold it securely in place. Always keep in mind that in some
cases you may need to shim or just tweak things a little. This was the case on the
Electra Cruiser. Once the motor and transmission were assembled, I had to make
changes. Under load, the electric motor had so much torque that it pulled down on
the transmission, slightly flexing the input shaft. This caused a slight misalignment
in the 3-in-wide belt, making it shift and rub on the flange. To rectify this, I had to
disassemble the drivetrain and create an input shaft-bearing support to compensate
for the extra torque.
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Figure 13-9 ZERO electric motorcycle chain drive. (www.zeromotorcycles.com/gallery.php.)
Figure 13-10 Modifying the motor mount on the rear swingarm.
Figure 13-11 shows the Harley-style 1948 transmission mounted to the rear
swingarm. This picture is of the prototype 1 Electra Cruiser, which used a chain
drive on both the primary and the secondary drives. Because of the high torque
generated by this configuration, the prototype 1 would break drive chains under
heavy acceleration. The last time the bike broke a chain was on the West Side
Highway in New York City during the Tour de Sol. I heard a loud bang and watched
three pieces of my chain fly past me and skid down the road. You will notice in the
prototype 2 design that both the primary and secondary chains were replaced—the
primary with a 3-in-wide belt and the secondary with a 1.5-in Kevlar belt. Prototype
2 managed to break a belt during a burnout.
The Build
Figure 13-11 Fitting the transmission to the swingarm, early prototype 1 chain drive.
In Figure 13-12, the transmission is removed, showing the mounting of the
electric motor to the swingarm and the transmission mounting plate. Figure 13-13
shows the rear mounting bracket for the dc motor. Notice the 3-in-wide pulley on
the motor shaft.
Figure 13-14 shows you how the clutch basket interfaces with the transmission
and the electric motor on the rear swingarm.
Figure 13-15 shows the 1.5-in Harley-style Kevlar belt used to transfer power
from the five-speed transmission to the rear wheel.
Figure 13-12 Fitting the motor to the swingarm.
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Figure 13-13 Rear mounting bracket for the dc motor.
Figure 13-14 Clutch basket and belt configuration.
Creating Battery Mounts
For the two Electra Cruisers, the battery configurations were very similar. The big
difference in the frame design was in how the batteries were loaded on the frame. Each
frame I designed and built to accommodate 10 Trojan Group 27 lead-acid batteries.
The total weight was just under 600 lb in batteries alone, so the frame had to be strong.
Additionally, the weight had to be as low as possible. Therefore, in the layout I kept
the lower level loaded more with batteries to keep the center of gravity low.
Figure 13-16 shows how all 10 batteries fit in the massive frame. This frame was
solid steel. The batteries were slid from the lower front and fitted from front to rear.
Then brackets were bolted in place. Figure 13-17 shows just the bottom row in place.
The Build
Figure 13-15 Cruiser swingarm and drive belt.
Figure 13-16 Fitting 10 Group 27 batteries in prototype 1.
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Figure 13-17 Bottom battery row in place (six batteries total in the lower level).
The electrical part involves mounting the high-current, low-voltage, and charger
connectors. Because I do not have a charger on board, we will just make a connector
for one. Doing the electrical wiring requires knowledge of your EV’s grounding
plan: The high-current system is floating, and the low-voltage system is grounded
to the frame. Doing the electrical wiring also involves knowledge of your EV’s
safety plan: Appropriate electrical interlocks must be provided in each system to
ensure system shutdown in the event of a malfunction and to protect against
accidental failure modes. Let us take a closer look at the steps.
High-Current System
First, you attach the high-current components, and then you pull the AWG 2/0
cable to connect them. Look back at Figure 12-15. Notice that there are six
components in the high-current line:
Series dc motor
Motor controller
Circuit breaker
Main contactor
Safety fuse
Ammeter shunt
Figure 13-18 shows all the wiring tightly packed under the seat area. Also contained
in this area is the Zapi dc motor controller. In this design, no space was left.
The Build
Figure 13-18 Controller and components packed tightly in the underseat area.
Low-Voltage System
On the low-voltage side, the idea is to blend the existing ignition, lighting, and
accessory wiring with the new instrumentation and power wiring. There are six
main components on the low-voltage side:
Key switch
Throttle potentiometer
Ammeter, voltmeter, or other instrumentation
Safety interlock(s)
Accessory 12-V battery or dc-to-dc converter
Safety fuse(s)
Every EV conversion should use the already-existing ignition key switch as a
starting point. In an EV, the key switch serves as the main on-off switch with the
convenience of a key—its starting feature is no longer needed. You should have no
problem in locating and wiring this switch.
Figure 13-19 shows the inside of the fake fuel tank. Inside houses all the
electronics that make the Cruiser function. You can see the Curtis PB-6 pot box in
the front of the picture. Connected to the pot box is a cable from the throttle twist
Figure 13-20 is another view of the inside of the tank from the side so that you
can see the 12-V auxiliary gel battery for operating the lights and other 12-V systems.
Directly underneath the battery is the Vicor dc-to-dc converter.
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Figure 13-19 View into the Cruiser plastic mock fuel tank.
Figure 13-20 Inside view of mock tank showing gel battery and PB-6 pot box.
Battery Wiring
The most important consideration in battery wiring is to make the connections
clean and tight. Figure 13-21 is a drawing of the top and bottom battery packs in
their wired-up condition. Check that you have not accidentally reversed the wiring
to any battery in the string as you go. Double-check your work when you finish,
and use a voltmeter to measure across the completed battery pack to see that it
produces the nominal voltage you expect. If not, measure across each battery
The Build
Figure 13-21 Battery wiring, top and bottom levels.
separately to determine the problem. If reversed wiring was the culprit, the correctly
installed and wired battery should fix it. If a badly discharged or defective battery
is the culprit, check to see that it comes up on charging and/or replace it with a
good battery from your dealer. A recharged “dead” battery will shorten the life of
the entire battery pack. Please be careful to check all the batteries. Important: Make
sure that the main circuit breaker is off before you connect the last power cable in
the battery circuit. Better still, switch the main circuit breaker off, and wait until the
system checkout phase before making the final battery connection. Wear gloves,
and remove all jewelry.
After Conversion
This is the system check, trial run, and finishing touches stage. First, make sure that
everything works, and then find out how well it works. Then, try to make it work
even better. When you’re satisfied, you can paint, polish, and sign your work. Let’s
look at the individual areas.
System Checkout on Blocks
Jack up the drive wheel of your EV, and make sure that you are supporting the
frame in such a way as to keep the bike from tipping over. The objective is to see
that everything works right before you drive it out on the street for a test run. With
your vehicle’s drive wheel off the ground and the transmission in neutral (if you
have a transmission), do the following:
• Before connecting the last battery cable, verify that the proper battery polarity
connections have been made to the controller’s B+ and B– terminals.
• Obtain a 100- to 200-Ω, 5- or 10-W resistor, and wire it in place across the
main contactor’s terminals. With the key switch off but the last battery cable
Chapter Thirteen
connected and the main circuit breaker on, measure the voltage across the
controller’s B+ and B– terminals. It should measure approximately 90
percent of the main battery pack voltage with the correct polarity to match
the terminals. If this does not happen, troubleshoot the wiring connections.
If it does, you’re ready to turn the key switch on.
• Turn on the key switch with the accelerator off. If the motor runs without
the accelerator pedal depressed, turn off the key switch and troubleshoot
your wiring connections. If nothing happens when you turn on the key
switch, go to the next step.
• With the transmission in first gear, slowly press the accelerator pedal to see
if the wheels turn. If the wheels turn, good. Now look to see which way the
wheel is turning. If the wheel is turning in the right direction, this is doubly
good. If not, turn off the key switch and main breaker and interchange the
dc series motor’s field connections. If you are moving in the right direction,
go to the next step.
• If you have the high pedal disable option on the Curtis controller, turn off
the key switch, depress the accelerator pedal, and turn on the key switch.
The motor should not run. Now completely release the accelerator, and
slowly reapply it. The motor should run as before. If this does not work
correctly, troubleshoot your wiring connections. If it works, you are ready
for a road test. Turn off the key switch.
Trial Test Run
• Check the state of charge of your main battery pack. If it is fully charged or
nearly full, you can proceed. If it is not charged, recharge it before taking
the next step.
• After the batteries are fully charged, remove the jack and/or wheel stands
from under your EV, and turn on the key switch. Put it in gear, crack the
throttle slowly, and cruise off for a quick spin.
• The vehicle should have smooth acceleration and a good top speed, and it
should brake and handle normally. The overwhelming silence should
enable you to hear anything out of the ordinary with the drivetrain, motor,
or brakes.
Moving Forward
Now that you have completed your EV, you must be full of pride. Riding an EV,
especially a motorcycle, is an experience you cannot put into words. Usually the
mile-long smile is enough. Take great care of your EV, and it will give you years of
exceptional service. Cruise around and show it off. You will be amazed at the
attention you will get.
This chapter is a valuable tool to anyone looking for more information on any related
subject. I included as many sources from around the country and the world as
possible. I am sure that there are many more that I could have included. In 1996,
when I first started the task of building an electric vehicle (EV), finding information
was one of the hardest parts. I spent days in libraries, searching books, articles,
magazines, and technical publications just trying to find all the information I needed.
Sure, I found information eventually, but it was so time-consuming. At that time,
trying to find information on how to build an electric motorcycle or similar vehicle
was almost impossible. Today, that task is easier with the Internet, but you still have
to search for the information. When I finally discovered the original book Build Your
Own Electric Vehicle, it was like striking gold! This book became my roadmap to the
EV world. As good as this book is, I still needed more information. The book was
written about and based on full-sized electric cars; I needed more information on
smaller vehicles and components. I hoped for information on electric motorcycles,
but there was none—nothing at all for smaller EVs.
With this book, I vowed to supply my readers with as much information and
resources as possible. Remembering back to all the time I spent and what I searched
for, I have tried to include everything possible so that you do not have to spend too
much of your valuable time. You will still have to do some reading, searching, and
investigation on your own, but now it will be a lot easier. Some of the best places to
start are with your local associations, such as the Electric Auto Association (EAA).
In this chapter you will find listings for EAA chapters in almost every state and
even some locations overseas. If you cannot find one in your state, start your own
by contacting the national EAA, and bring other electronic vehicle enthusiasts
together in your area.
One of the main goals of this book is to give you, in one place, all the benefits of
my experience. I hope I have succeeded in doing so.
Chapter Fourteen
More Information over Time
This chapter contains as much information as I can give you today at the time of
this printing. Ultimately, more information and technology will become available
over time. To address this issue, I have set up a section on the Vogelbilt Web site
with additional links, sources, and calculations for your convenience.
The rest of this chapter is divided into four sections:
Clubs, associations, and organizations
Manufacturers, converters, and consultants
Books, articles, and literature
Clubs, Associations, and Organizations
The original Electric Auto Association has numerous local chapters. There are
offshoots from the original and new local entities having no connection with the
original. There are also associations and organizations designed to serve corporate
and commercial interests rather than individuals. Each one of these has its own
meetings, events, and newsletter.
Electric Auto Association—www.eaaev.org
Founded in 1967, this is the oldest, largest organization, and it has consistently
been the best source of EV information for individuals (Figure 14-1). The newsletter
subscription is well worth the price of the membership dues. Recent newsletters
have averaged 16–20 pages and provide information on current EV news and
happenings. Becoming a member of the EAA and a local EAA chapter will gain you
invaluable knowledge and resources from the members of this organization. The
experience level of the EV enthusiasts who have built their own vehicles can shorten
your learning curve substantially. Information on and photos of the many
conversions done over the years by this organization and many others can be found
at http://evalbum.com.
Figure 14-1 The Electric Auto Association’s logo says it all. Registered trademark of the Electric
Auto Association.
The following list contains all the current EAA chapters I could find at this time.
Hopefully, one is near you, or if not, start your own!
Alaska EAA
Web site: www.alaskaEVA.org
Contact: Mike Willmon <[email protected]>
(907) 868-5710
Mailing: Attn: Mike Willmon, 2550 Denali Suite 1, Anchorage, AK 99503
Meetings: 8:00–9:00 p.m., third Friday of the month
Flagstaff EAA
Contact: Barkley Coggin <[email protected]>
(928) 637-4444
Mailing: 6215 Rinker Circle, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Meetings: 7:00–9:00 p.m., first Wednesday of the month
Phoenix EAA
Web site: www.phoenixeaa.com
Contact: Jim Stack <[email protected]>
(480) 659-5513
Mailing: Attn: Sam DiMarco, 1070 E. Jupiter Place, Chandler, AZ 85225
Meetings: 9:00 a.m., fourth Saturday of the month
Tucson EVA II
Web site: www.teva2.com
Contact: John Barnes <[email protected]>
(520) 293-3500
Mailing: Attn: John Barnes, 4207 N. Limberlost Place, Tucson, AZ 85705
Meetings: 9:00 a.m., second Saturday of the month
Central Coast EAA
Web site: www.eaacc.org
Contact: Will Beckett <[email protected]>
(831) 688-8669
Mailing: 323 Los Altos Drive, Aptos, CA 95003
Meetings: Call or see Web site for meeting information.
Chapter Fourteen
Chico EAA
Web site: geocities.com/chicoeaa
Contact: Chuck Alldrin <[email protected]>
(530) 899-1835
Mailing: 39 Lakewood Way, Chico, CA 95926
Meetings: 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., second Saturday of the month
East (SF) Bay EAA
Web site: www.ebeaa.org
Contact: Ed Thorpe <[email protected]>
(510) 864-0662
Mailing: 2 Smith Court, Alameda, CA 94502-7786
Meetings: 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon, fourth Saturday of the month
Education Chapter: San Diego State University, College of Engineering
Contact: James S. Burns, PhD <[email protected]>
(619) 933-6058
Mailing: 6161 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92115
Meetings: Fourth Tuesday of each month during the academic year, except for
EVA of Southern California
Contact: Leo Galcher <[email protected]>
(949) 492-8115
Mailing: 35 Maracay, San Clemente, CA 92672
Meetings: 10:00 a.m., third Saturday of the month
Greater Sacramento EAA
Contact: Tim Hastrup <[email protected]>
(916) 791-1902
Mailing: 8392 West Granite Drive, Granite Bay, CA 95746
Meetings: 12:00 noon, third Tuesday of February, May, August, and November
Konocti EAA
Web site: www.konoctieaa.org
Contact: Dr. Randy Sun <[email protected]>
(707) 263-3030
Mailing: 800 S. Main Street, Lakeport, CA 95453
Meetings: 11:00 a.m., last Friday of the month
North (SF) Bay EAA
Web site: www.nbeaa.org
Contact: Chris Jones <[email protected]>
(707) 577-2391 (weekdays)
Mailing: c/o Agilent Technologies, 1400 Fountaingrove Parkway, Santa Rosa, CA
Meetings: 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon, second Saturday of the month; check Web site for
EVA of San Diego
Web site: www.evaosd.com
Contact: Bill Hammons <[email protected]>
(858) 268-1759
Mailing: 1638 Minden Drive, San Diego, CA 92111
Meetings: 7:00 p.m., fourth Tuesday of the month
San Francisco EVA
Web site: www.sfeva.org
Contact: Sherry Boschert <[email protected]>
(415) 681-7716
Mailing: 1484 16th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122-3510
Meetings: 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., first Saturday of the month
San Francisco Peninsula EAA
Contact: Bill Carroll <[email protected]>
(650) 589-2491
Mailing: 160 Ramona Avenue, South San Francisco, CA 94080-5936
Meetings: 10:00 a.m., first Saturday of the month
San Jose EAA
Web site: geocities.com/sjeaa
Contact: Terry Wilson <[email protected]>
(408) 446-9357
Mailing: SJEAA, 20157 Las Ondas, San Jose, CA 95014
Meetings: 10:00 a.m., second Saturday of the month
Silicon Valley EAA
Web site: www.eaasv.org
Contact: Jerry Pohorsky <[email protected]>
(408) 464-0711
Mailing: 1691 Berna Street, Santa Clara, CA 95050
Meetings: Third Saturday (January–November)
Chapter Fourteen
Ventura County EAA
Web site: geocities.com/vceaa
Contact: Bruce Tucker <[email protected]>
(805) 495-1026
Mailing: 283 Bethany Court, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360-2013
Meetings: Please contact Bruce for time and location.
Denver Electric Vehicle Council
Contact: Graham Hill <[email protected]>
(303) 544-0025
Mailing: 6378 S. Broadway, Boulder, CO 80127
Meetings: Third Saturday monthly; contact Graham for time and location.
Florida EAA
Web site: www.floridaeaa.org
Contact: Shawn Waggoner <[email protected]>
(561) 543-9223
Mailing: 8343 Blue Cypress, Lake Worth, FL 33467
Meetings: 9:30 a.m., second Saturday of the month
EV Club of the South
Web site: www.evclubsouth.org
Contact: Stephen Taylor <[email protected]>
(678) 797-5574
Mailing: 750 West Sandtown Road, Marietta, GA 30064
Meetings: 6:00 p.m., first Wednesday every even-numbered month
Fox Valley EAA
Web site: www.fveaa.org
Contact: Ted Lowe <[email protected]>
(630) 260-0424
Mailing: P.O. Box 214, Wheaton, IL 60189-0214
Meetings: 7:30 p.m., third Friday of the month
Mid-America EAA
Web site: maeaa.org
Contact: Mike Chancey <[email protected]>
(816) 822-8079
Mailing: 1700 East 80th Street, Kansas City, MO 64131-2361
Meetings: 1:30 p.m., second Saturday of the month
New England EAA
Web site: www.neeaa.org/
Contact: Bob Rice <[email protected]>
(203) 530-4942
Mailing: 29 Lovers Lane, Killingworth, CT 06419
Meetings: 2:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., second Saturday of the month
Pioneer Valley EAA
Web site: www.pveaa.org
Contact: Karen Jones <[email protected]>
Mailing: P.O. Box 153, Amherst, MA 01004-0153
Meetings: 2:00 p.m., third Saturday of the month (January–June; September–
Minnesota EAA
Web site: mn.eaaev.org
Contact: Craig Mueller <[email protected]>
(612) 414-1736
Mailing: 4000 Overlook Drive, Bloomington, MN 55437
Meetings: 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m. CDT
Alternative Transportation Club, EAA
Web site: www.electricnevada.org
Contact: Bob Tregilus <[email protected]>
(775) 826-4514
Mailing: 2805 W. Pinenut Court, Reno, NV 89509
Meetings: 6:00 p.m., monthly; see Web site or call for details
Chapter Fourteen
Las Vegas Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.lveva.org
Contact: William Kuehl <[email protected]>
(702) 636-0304
Mailing: 2816 El Campo Grande Avenue, North Las Vegas, NV 89031-1176
Meetings: 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon, third Saturday of the month
New York
Long Island Electric Auto Association
Web site: www.LIEAA.org
Contact: Carl Vogel, president
Mailing: See Web site
Meetings: 6:00 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month. Normally, meetings are held
on the campus of Farmingdale State College in Lupton Hall, Room T100. See Web
site for details. Contact the LIEAA for more information and location because we
change our location from time to time.
North Carolina
Coastal Carolinas Wilmington EEA
Contact: Page Paterson <[email protected]>
(910) 686-9129
Mailing: 1317 Middle Sound, Wilmington, NC 28411
Meetings: Please contact us for time and date.
Piedmont Carolina Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.opecthis.info
Contact: Todd W. Garner <[email protected]>
(704) 849-9648
Mailing: 1021 Timber Wood Court, Matthews, NC 28105
Meetings: Please contact us for time and date.
Electric Cars of Roanoke Valley
Contact: Harold Miller <[email protected]>
(252) 534-1258
Mailing: 567 Miller Trail, Jackson, NC 27845
Meetings: Please contact us for time and date.
Triad Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.localaction.biz/TEVA
Contact: Jack Martin <[email protected]>
(336) 213-5225
Mailing: 2053 Willow Spring Lane, Burlington, NC 27215
Meetings: 9:00 a.m., first Saturday of the month
Triangle EAA
Web site: www.rtpnet.org/teaa
Contact: Peter Eckhoff <[email protected]>
(919) 477-9697
Mailing: 9 Sedley Place, Durham, NC 27705-2191
Meetings: Third Saturday of the month
Oregon Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.oeva.org
Contact: Rick Barnes <[email protected]>
Mailing: 19100 SW Vista Street, Aloha, OR 97006
Meetings: 7:30 p.m., second Thursday of the month
Eastern Electric Vehicle Club
Web site: www.eevc.info
Contact: Peter G. Cleaveland <[email protected]>
(610) 828-7630
Mailing: P.O. Box 134, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0134
Meetings: 7:00 p.m., second Wednesday of the month
Alamo City EAA
Web site: www.aceaa.org
Contact: Alfonzo Ranjel <[email protected]>
(210) 389-2339
Mailing: 9211 Autumn Bran, San Antonio, TX 78254
Meetings: 3:00 p.m. CST, third Sunday of the month
AustinEV: The Austin Area EAA
Web site: www.austinev.org
Contact: Aaron Choate <[email protected]>
(512) 453-2890
Mailing: P.O.Box 49153, Austin, TX 78765
Meetings: Please see our Web site.
Houston EAA
Web site: www.heaa.org
Contact: Dale Brooks <[email protected]>
(713) 218-6785
Mailing: 8541 Hatton Street, Houston, TX 77025-3807
Meetings: 6:30 p.m., third Thursday of the month
Chapter Fourteen
North Texas EAA
Web site: www.nteaa.org/
Contact: John L. Brecher <[email protected]>
(214) 703-5975
Mailing: 1128 Rock Creek Drive, Garland, TX 75040
Meetings: Second Saturday of the month
Utah EV Coalition
Web site: www.saltflats.com
Contact: Kent Singleton <[email protected]>
(801) 644-0903
Mailing: 325 E. 2550 N #83, North Ogden, UT 84414
Meetings: 7:00 p.m., first Wednesday of the month
You’ll meet the BYU Electric Team, the WSU-EV Design Team, and other land
speed racing celebrities. Always a great turnout.
Seattle Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.seattleeva.org
Contact: Steven S. Lough <[email protected]>
(206) 524-1351
Mailing: 6021 32nd Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98115-7230
Meetings: 7:00 p.m., second Tuesday of the month
Washington, DC
EVA of Washington, DC
Web site: www.evadc.org
Contact: David Goldstein <[email protected]>
(301) 869-4954
Mailing: 9140 Centerway Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20879-1882
Meetings: 7:00 p.m., second or third Tuesday of the month
Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, DC, has an excellent
overview, “Build an EV,” at www.evadc.org/build_an_ev.html. Much of the
material presented herein comes from this Web site.
Southern Wisconsin EV Proliferation
Web site: www.emissionsfreecars.com
Contact: Mike Turner <[email protected]>
(920) 261-7057
Mailing: 808 Fieldcrest Court, Watertown, WI 53511
Meetings: Please contact us for date and location.
Durham Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.durhamelectricvehicles.com
Contact: J. P. Fernback <[email protected]>
(905) 706-6647
Mailing: P.O. Box 212, Whitby, ON L1N 5S1, Canada
Meetings: First Thursday of the month from September to June
Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa
Web site: evco.ca
Contact: Alan Poulsen <[email protected]>
(613) 271-0940
Mailing: P.O. Box 4044, Ottawa, ON K1S5B1, Canada
Meetings: 7:30 p.m.–10:00 p.m., last Monday of the month
Electric Vehicle Society of Canada—Toronto
Web site: www.evsociety.ca
Contact: Neil Gover <[email protected]>
(416) 255-9723
Mailing: 88 Lake Promenade, Etobicoke, ON M8W-1A3, Canada
Meetings: 7:30 p.m., third Thursday of the month (except July and August)
Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association
Web site: www.veva.bc.ca
Contact: Haakon MacCallum <[email protected]>
(604) 527-4288
Mailing: 4053 West 32nd Avenue, Vancouver, BC V65 1Z5, Canada
Meetings: 7:30 p.m., third Wednesday of the month (please check Web site for
Chapter Fourteen
European Chapter
Web site: www.eaaeurope.org
Contact: Rüdiger Hild, chairman
Mailing: Forststrasse 14, D-66538 Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany
The EAA Europe was formed in 2008 in Germany as the European Chapter.
EAA Special-Interest Chapters
WebSite: www.altwheels.org
Contact: Alison Sander <[email protected]>
(617) 868-1582
California Cars Initiative
Web site: calcars.org
Contact: Felix Kramer <[email protected]>
(650) 520-5555
Mailing: P.O. Box 61045, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA)
Web site: www.electricdrive.org
(202) 408-0774
Mailing: 1101 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20005
EDTA is the preeminent industry association dedicated to advancing electric drive
as a core technology on the road to sustainable mobility. As an advocate for the
adoption of electric drive technologies, EDTA serves as the unified voice for the
industry and is the primary source of information and education related to electric
drive. Our membership includes a diverse representation of vehicle and equipment
manufacturers, energy providers, component suppliers and end users.
EV Album
Web site: www.evalbum.com
A great site to view other custom vehicles in all types and sizes.
Helping People Get Rid of Gas since 1995
Web site: www.evconvert.com
Online forum with lots of information, a great EV calculator page, and a battery page.
MAEAA Web Links
Web site: www.geocities.com/mideaa/links.html
From this site you will find an array of different links for components, batteries,
user groups, plans, events, and much more. Some of the links might be out of date,
but most are current.
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA)
(413) 774-6051
Mailing: 23 Ames Street, Greenfield, MA 01301
Organized the annual American Tour de Sol and an electric vehicle symposium
from 1989 to 2006. As of 2007, The 21st Century Automotive Challenge takes over
for the American Tour de Sol (see below).
Plug In America
Web site: www.pluginamerica.com
Contact: Linda Nicholes <[email protected]>
(714) 974-5647
Mailing: 6261 East Fox Glen, Anaheim, CA 92807
Meetings: Please contact us for details.
Solar and Electric Racing Association
(602) 953-6672
Mailing: 11811 N. Tatum Boulevard, Suite 301, Phoenix, AZ 85028
Organizes annual Solar and Electric 500 in Phoenix and promotes electric vehicles.
Solar Energy Expo and Rally (SEER)
(707) 459-1256
Mailing: 239 S. Main Street, Willits, CA 95490
Host for annual Tour de Mendo, when Willets temporarily becomes the solar capital
of the world.
The EV Tradin’ Post
Web site: www.austinev.org/evtradingpost
This site offers an array of resources for electric vehicles. You can find want ads,
parts, accessories, events, manuals, and services.
21st Century Automotive Challenge
Web site: www.eevc.info
Contact: Oliver H. Perry
(609) 268-0944
Organized by the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club, a chapter of the U.S. EAA. The
competition showcases cutting-edge approaches to energy-saving vehicle
transportation, including hybrid vehicles, biofuel vehicles, electric vehicles, and
any other non–fossil fuel vehicle or energy-saving vehicle.
V is for Voltage
Web site: http://visforvoltage.org/
Chapter Fourteen
EV Racing
National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA)
Web site: www.nedra.com
Mailing: 3200 Dutton Avenue, No. 220, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
NEDRA exists to increase public awareness of electric vehicle performance and to
encourage, through competition, advances in electric vehicle technology. NEDRA
achieves this by organizing and sanctioning safe, silent, and exciting electric vehicle
drag racing events.
Plasma Boy EV Racing
Web site: www.plasmaboyracing.com
We blow things up, so you don’t have to!
Web site: ProEV.com
(305) 610-6412
Mailing: 7735 NE 8th Avenue, Miami, FL 33138
ProEV is a professional race team that offers electric vehicle and components testing
and development. They develop and promote electric vehicles through competition.
ProEV believes that the electric motor is the tool to replace the internal combustion
engine (ICE). We plan to prove it, at the track!
Electric Utilities and Power Associations
Any of the following organizations can provide you with information.
American Public Power Association
(202) 775-8300
Mailing: 2301 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20202
Arizona Public Service Company
(602) 250-2200
Mailing: P.O. Box 53999, Phoenix, AZ 85072-3999
California Energy Commission
(916) 654-4001
Mailing: 1516 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Director of Electric Transportation
Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles
(213) 481-4725
Mailing: 111 N. Hope Street, Room 1141, Los Angeles, CA 90012-2694
Electric Power Research Institute
(415) 855-2580
Mailing: 412 Hillview Avenue, P.O. Box 10412, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Public Service Company of Colorado
(303) 571-7511
Mailing: 2701 W. 7th Avenue, Denver, CO 80204
Sacramento Municipal Utility District
(916) 732-6557
Mailing: P.O. Box 15830, Sacramento, CA 95852-1830
Southern California Edison
(818) 302-2255
Mailing: 2244 Walnut Grove Avenue, P.O. Box 800, Rosemead, CA 91770
The following agencies are involved with EVs directly or indirectly at the city, state,
or federal government level.
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
(916) 322-2990
Mailing: 1012 Q Street, P.O. Box 2815 Sacramento, CA 95812
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
(202) 260-2090
Mailing: 401 M Street SW, Washington, DC 20460
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(202) 366-1836
Mailing: 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20590
New York Power Authority
Mailing: 123 Main Street, White Plains, NY 10601
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
Web site: www.nyserda.org
Mailing: 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, New York 12203-6399
Manufacturers, Converters, and Consultants
There is a sudden abundance of people and firms doing EV work. This category is
an attempt to present you with the firms and individuals from whom you can
expect either a completed EV or assistance with completing one.
Chapter Fourteen
This category includes the household names plus the major independents. When
contacting the larger companies, it is best to go through the switchboard or a public
affairs person who can direct your call after finding out your specific needs.
Ampmobile Conversions, LLC
Mailing: P.O. Box 5106, Lake Wylie, SC 29710
(803) 831-1082 or toll free 1 (866) 831-1082
E-mail: [email protected]
Battery Automated Transportation
Mailing: 2471 S. 2570 W, West Valley City, UT 84119
(801) 977-0119
Best known for its proprietary Ultra Force lead-acid batteries and Ford Ranger
pickup truck conversions.
California Electric Cars
Mailing: 1669 Del Monte Boulevard, Seaside, CA 93955
(408) 899-2012
Best known for its Monterey electric vehicle.
Clean Air Transport of North America
Mailing: 23030 Lake Forest Drive, Suite 206, Laguna Hills, CA 92653
(714) 951-3983
Best known for its LA301 electric vehicle.
Cloud Electric Vehicles Battery Powered Systems
Mailing: 102 Ellison St., Unit A, Clarksville, GA 30523
(866) 222-4035
Bob Beaumont
Columbia Auto Sales
Mailing: 9720 Owen Brown Road, Columbia, MD 21045
(301) 799-3550
Bob produced the Renaissance Tropica seen in the late 1990s on the network
television show Nash Bridges. The sleek two-seater was powered by 72-V lead-acid
batteries; only two or three survived.
Mailing: 900 North 21st Street, Lincoln, NE 68503
(402) 475-9581
Manufactures three-wheeler industrial and commercial electric carts.
Electric Mobility
Web site: www.icdri.org/Mobility/electric_mobility_corporation.htm
Mailing: 591 Mantua Boulevard, Sewell, NJ 08080
(800) 257-7955
Manufactures electric carts, bicycles, etc.
Web site: www.electroauto.com
Mailing: P.O. Box 1113-W, Felton, CA 95018-1113
(831) 429-1989
Fax: (831) 429-1907
Electric Motorsport
Web site: www.electricmotorsport.com
Mailing: 2400–2404 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 839-9376
Supplier of EV parts for cars, trucks, boats, ATVs, motorcycles, and much more.
EV Parts, Inc.
Web site: www.evparts.com
Mailing: 160 Harrison Road, No. 7, Sequim, WA 98382
(360) 582-1271 or toll free at (888) 387-2787
Fax: (360) 582-1272
E-mail: [email protected]
Green Motor Works (also a solar electric dealer)
Mailing: 5228 Vineland, North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 766-3800
Metric Mind Engineering
Web site: www.metricmind.com
Mailing: 9808 SE Derek Court, Happy Valley, OR 97806-7250
(503) 680-0026
Fax: (503) 774-4779
Motorworks Clean Vehicles, Inc.
Web site: www.CleanVehiclesNY.com
Contact: Gary Birke <[email protected]>
Mailing: 11 Sunrise Highway, Amityville, NY 11701
(866) 527-2669
(631) 608-4380
All-electric and flex-fuel low-speed vehicles.
Clean vehicles . . . for a cleaner tomorrow! Help us clean New York’s air with
Clean Air NY! Visit us at www.cleanairny.org/exthome.htm.
Chapter Fourteen
Palmer Industries
Web site: www.palmerind.com
Mailing: P.O. Box 707, Endicott, NY 13760
(800) 847-1304
Manufactures an electric bicycle.
Conversion Specialists
In this category, the line between those who provide parts and those who provide
completed vehicles is blurred.
Electric Auto Conversions
Bill Kuehl
Mailing: 4504 W. Alexander Road, Las Vegas, NV 89030
(702) 645-2132
CoolGreenCar.net or EvPorsche.com
Web site: coolgreencar.net or ElectricPorsche.net
E-mail: [email protected]
Mailing: West Palm Beach, FL 33406
(561) 301-2369
Building the finest daily-driver electric vehicle in the world using state-of-theart components. This company builds an array of high-end EVs, including
Grassroots Electric Vehicles
Mailing: 1918 South 34th St., Fort Pierce, FL 34947
(772) 971-0533
Greenshed Conversions
Contact: Steve Clunn <[email protected]>
Fax: (206) 202-4171
Mailing: P.O. Box 13077, Fort Pierce, FL 34979
Steve is a pioneer in the EV conversion business.
Vehicles and Components
Electric Motor Cars Sales and Service
Ken Bancroft
Mailing: 4301 Kingfisher, Houston, TX 77035
(713) 729-8668
Vehicles and components.
Electric Transportation Applications
Don Karner
Mailing: P.O. Box 10303, Glendale, AZ 85318
(602) 978-1373
Vehicles and components.
Electric Vehicles, Inc.
Stan Skokan
Mailing: 1020 Parkwood Way, Redwood City, CA 94060
(415) 366-0643
Electric Vehicle Custom Conversion
Larry Foster
Mailing: 1712 Nausika Avenue, Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(818) 913-8579
Vehicles and components.
Hitney Solar Products
Gene Hitney
Mailing: 655 N. Highway 89, Chino Valley, AZ 86323
(602) 636-2201
Interesting Transportation
Frank Kelly
Mailing: 2362 Southridge Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264-4960
(619) 327-2864
San Diego Electric Auto
Ron Larrea
Mailing: 9011 Los Coches Road, Lakeside, CA 92040
(619) 443-3017
Vicor Corporation
Mailing: 25 Frontage Road, Andover, MA 01810-5413
(800) 735-6200
Fax: (978) 475-6715
dc-dc, dc-ac converters
W. D. Mitchell
Mailing: 20 Victoria Drive, Rowlett, TX 75055
(214) 475-0361
Chapter Fourteen
Experienced EV Conversions and Consulting
Eyeball Engineering
Ed Ranberg
Mailing: 16738 Foothill Boulevard, Fontana, CA 92336
(714) 829-2011
Experienced EV conversion professional; components and consulting.
Lon Gillas
Mailing: 515 W. 25th Street, McMinnville, OR 97128
(503) 434-4332
Companies and individuals who are more likely to provide advice, literature, or
components—rather than completed vehicles—are listed.
Mailing: P.O. Box 5031, Monrovia, CA 91017-7131
(818) 359-9983
Developers of the GM Impact, Paul McCready and Aerovironment need no further
introduction. In September 2007, Paul passed away after a short illness, just after
retiring from Aerovironment. His insight initially sparked the concept car that GM
made into the EV-1, the subject of the 2006 movie Who Killed the Electric Car?
Bob Wing
Mailing: P.O. Box 277, Inverness, CA 94937
(415) 669-7402
Carl Taylor
Mailing: 3871 SW 31st Street, Hollywood, FL 33023
(305) 981-9462
EV maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.
Mailing: P.O. Box 743, Mariposa, CA 95338
(310) 396-1527
Electro Automotive
Mailing: P.O. Box 1113, Felton, CA 95018-1113
(831) 429-1989
Contacts: Michael Brown and Shari Prange
This organization, an experienced participant in the EV field, offers books, videos,
seminars, consulting, and components. Mike and Shari still supply kits for
conversion builders, complete parts, and instruction manuals and are finding that
with the high gasoline prices since Hurricane Katrina came ashore in 2005, their
business is brisk. They carry ac drive systems from Azure Dynamics (formerly
Solectria, founded by MIT students).
EV Consulting, Inc.
Web site: www.evconsultinginc.com
Mailing: 944 West 21st Street, Upland, CA 91784
(909) 949-1818
Performs engineering consulting only. This consulting is confined to conventional
dc hardware such as series-wound motors, PWM controllers, and all the other
ancillary components that support a dc system.
Howard G. Wilson
Mailing: 2050 Mandeville Canyon Road, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Former Hughes vice president, Howard Wilson was the real “make it happen”
factor behind GM’s Impact and Sunraycer projects.
Michael Hackleman
Author, editor of Alternative Transportation News, experienced EV participant, and a
Mike Kimball
Mailing: 18820 Roscoe Boulevard, Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 998-1677
EV technician and maintenance mechanic extraordinaire, Mike has probably
forgotten more about EVs than most people will ever know.
3E Vehicles
Mailing: Box 19409, San Diego, CA 92119
Another experienced participant in the EV field, 3E offers an outstanding line of
conversion booklets that (although somewhat dated today) are highly useful.
Vogelbilt Corp.
Web site: www.vogelbilt.com
Mailing: 656 Wellwood Avenue, C 318, Lindenhurst, NY 11757
Contact: Carl Vogel
Williams Enterprises
Mailing: Box 1548, Cupertino, CA 95015
Contact: Bill Williams
Experienced participant in the EV field, conversion specialist, and consultant,
Williams offers an outstanding conversion guide that (although somewhat dated
today) is very useful.
Chapter Fourteen
This category includes those from whom you can obtain complete conversion kits
(all the parts you need to build your own EV after you have the chassis), conversion
plans, and suppliers specializing in motors, controllers, batteries, chargers, and
other components.
You can find more information about conversions and components at http://
Battery Powered Systems
Web site: www.beepscom.com/
Mailing: 204 Ellison St., Unit A, Clarkesville, GA 30523
Canadian Electric Vehicles, Ltd.
Mailing: P.O. Box 616, 1184 Middlegate Rd., Errington, BC V0R 1V0, Canada
(250) 954-2230
Fax: (250) 954-2235
E-mail: [email protected]
Cloud Electric, LLC
Web site: www.cloudelectric.com
Mailing: 204 Ellison St., Clarkesville, GA 30523
(706) 839-1733
(877) 808-0939
Open: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Eastern time Monday–Friday
Electrical and electronic products for EVs, home, RVs, and marine, industrial, and
other applications.
Web site: www.datel.com
Manufacturer of dc-dc converters, ac-dc power supplies, high-reliability power
supplies, digital panel meters, and much more. See Web site for location of nearest
ElectroCraft Systems
Web site: www.evcraft.com
Mailing: 23 Paperbirch Drive, Toronto, ON M3C 2E6, Canada
(416) 391-5958
E-mail: [email protected]
EV Parts, Inc.
Web site: www.evparts.com
Mailing: 160 Harrison Road, No. 7, Sequim, WA 98382
(888) 387-2787
E-mail: [email protected]
EV Source LLC
Mailing: 19 W Center, Suite 201, Logan, UT 84321
(877) 215-6781
E-mail: [email protected]
KTA Services, Inc.
Web site: www.kta-ev.com
Mailing: 20330 Rancho Villa Road, Ramona, CA 92065
(760) 787-0896 or toll free at (877) 465-8238
Fax: (760) 787-9437
E-mail: [email protected]
Provides EV components and kits.
Manzanita Micro EV Components
Web site: www.manzanitamicro.com
Metric Mind Corporation
Web site: www.metricmind.com
Mailing: 9808 SE Derek Court, Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 680-0026
Fax: (503) 774-4779
Contact: Victor Tikhonov
The main goal of Metric Mind Corporation is to promote EVs and make available
high-end EV components manufactured specifically for the EV industry by the
world’s leading suppliers. Unlike large OEMs, however, MMC provides (imports,
sells, and supports) top-end EV ac drive systems as well as other EV components
to individual EV enthusiasts and small businesses.
Rich Rudman
Mailing: 5718 Gamblewood Rd., NE, Kingston, WA 98346
Office: (360) 297-7383
Cell: (360) 620-6266
Production shop: (360) 297-1660
Metal shop: (360) 297-3311
ThunderStuck Motors
Mailing: 3200 Dutton Avenue, No. 319, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
(707) 575-0353
Fax: (707) 544-5304
ThunderStruck Motors is a small research, development, and manufacturing
company that also retails EVs and components.
Chapter Fourteen
Web site: www.xantrex.com
Mailing: 8999 Nelson Way, Burnaby, BC V5A 4B5, Canada (604) 422-8595
Fax: (604) 420-1591
Supplier of the Link 10 battery monitor.
Conversion Kits
Companies and individuals listed here are those more likely to provide the parts
that go into converting or building an EV once you already have the chassis, such
as components, advice, literature, etc.
Electric Auto Crafters
John Stockberger
Mailing: 643 Nelson Lake Road, a2S, Batavia, IL 60510
(312) 879-0207
Provides parts, information, and testing for EV builders.
Electric Vehicles of America (EVA)
Bob Batson
Web site: www.ev-america.com
Mailing: Wolfeboro, NH 03894
(603) 569-2100
Provides kits, components, and literature. EVA was founded in 1988 by Bob
Global Light and Power
Steve van Ronk
Mailing: 55 New Montgomery, Suite 424, San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 495-0494
Kits and components; promotes annual Clean Air Revival.
King Electric Vehicles
Steve Deckard
Mailing: Box 514, East Syracuse, NY 13057
KTA Services, Inc.
Web site: www.kta-ev.com
Mailing: 20330 Rancho Villa Road, Ramona, CA 92065
(760) 787-0896 or toll free at (877) 465-8238
Fax: (760) 787-9437
E-mail: [email protected]
Paul Schutt and Associates
Mailing: 673 Via Del Monte, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
(310) 373-4063
Represents manufacturers who supply EV components. Well known for their
prototype vehicles using proprietary technology; offers numerous advanced EV
capabilities and components.
Performance Speedway
C. Fetzer
Mailing: 2810 Algonquin Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32210
(904) 387-9858
Conversion Plans
Listed here are companies and individuals who are more likely to provide vehicle
plans, kits, or components rather than completed vehicles.
Doran Motor Company
Rick Doran
Mailing: 1728 Bluehaven Drive, Sparks, NV 89431
(805) 546-9654
(702) 359-6735
Best known for the Doran three-wheeler and its plans.
Dolphin Vehicles
Mailing: P.O. Box 110215, Campbell, CA 95011
(408) 734-2052
Best known for the Vortex three-wheeler and its plans for either internal combustion
or electric propulsion.
A list of the popular motors on the market from dc to ac motors.
Advanced DC Motors, Inc.
Mailing: 219 Lamson St., Syracuse, NY 13206
(315) 434-9303
Aveox, Inc.
Web site: www.aveox.com/Default.aspx
Mailing: 2265A Ward Avenue, Simi Valley, CA 93065
(805) 915-0200
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Baldor Electric Co.
Mailing: 5711 South 7th, Ft. Smith, AR 72902
(501) 646-4711
Hi-Torque Electric
Web site: www.hitorqueelectric.com/about
Mailing: 460 NE Hemlock Avenue, Unit C, Redmond, OR 97756
(541) 548-6140
Electric motor sales, repairs, and high-performance modifications.
Lynch Motor Company, Ltd.
Web site: www.lmcltd.net
Mailing: Unit 8, Park Court, Heathpark, Honiton, Devon, EX14 1SW, United
44 (0) 1404 549940
Fax: +44 (0) 1404 549546
E-mail: [email protected]
Specialists in the field of low-voltage, high-torque permanent-magnet dc motors
and generators. All their products offer the very best in efficiency and low weight
with maximum power possible in the smallest package possible.
NetGain Technologies, LLC
Web site: www.go-ev.com/
Mailing: 900 North State Street, Suite 101, Lockport, IL 60441
(630) 243-9100
Fax: (630) 685-4054
NetGain Technologies is the exclusive worldwide distributor of WarP, ImPulse and
TransWarP electric motors for use in EVs and EV conversions. These powerful electric
motors also may be used in the conversion of conventional internal combustion
engine vehicles to hybrid gas/electric or electric-assist vehicles. Their motors are
manufactured in Frankfort, Illinois, by Warfield Electric Motor Company.
Sevcon, Inc.
Web site: www.sevcon.com
Mailing: 155 Northboro Rd., Southborough, MA 01772
(508) 281-5500
UQM Technologies
Web site: www.uqm.com
Mailing: 7501 Miller Drive, P.O. Box 439, Frederick, CO 80530
(303) 278-2002
Fax: (303) 278-7007
UQM Technologies is a developer and manufacturer of power-dense, highefficiency electric motors, generators, and power electronic controllers for the
automotive, aerospace, medical, military, and industrial markets.
A considerable number of companies manufacture controllers; again, this short list
is only to get you started.
Alltrax, Inc.
Web site: www.alltraxinc.com
Mailing: 1111 Cheney Creek Road, Grants Pass, OR 97527
(541) 476-3565
E-mail: [email protected]
Alltrax is a U.S.-based company that builds rugged electric dc motor controllers
using the latest power electronics technology.
Café Electric LLC
Web site: www.cafeelectric.com
(866) 860-6608
Supplier of the Zilla and Baby Zilla dc motor speed controllers. This well-engineered
design is proving virtually indestructible compared with some of its predecessors,
such as Auburn and DCP controllers. The IGBT-based solid-state controllers are
favorites among street and drag race performance EVs. They can handle 2,000 A at
peak voltages to 348 V dc and 1,000 A for the baby Zilla.
ElectroCraft Systems
Web site: www.evcraft.com
Mailing: 23 Paperbirch Drive, Toronto, ON M3C 2E6, Canada
(416) 391-5958
E-mail: [email protected]
Curtis Instruments, Inc.
Mailing: 200 Kisco Avenue, Mount Kisco, NY 10549
(914) 666-2971
Curtis PMC
Web site: www.curtisinst.com
Mailing: 235 East Airway Boulevard, Livermore, CA 94551
(925) 961-1088
Supplies a number of different components for EVs, including motor controllers,
gauges, battery chargers, contactors, and more. See Web site for complete listing.
Also has offices in Europe and Asia.
Kelly Controls, LLC
Web site: www.kellycontroller.com
(001) 224 637 5092
See Web site for local distributors.
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Navitas Technologies, Ltd.
Web site: www.navitastechnologies.com
Mailing: C-855 Trillium Drive, Kitchener, Ontario N2R 1J9, Canada
(519) 725-7871
High-efficiency MOSFET controller with the innovation of microprocessor
technology to provide smooth, flexible, and reliable control. Some models have
regen capabilities.
P&G Drives Technology
Web site: www.pgdt.com
Mailing: 2532 East Cerritos Avenue, Anaheim, CA 92806-5627
(714) 712-7911
Sevcon, Inc.
Web site: www.sevcon.com
Mailing: 155 Northboro Road, Southborough, MA 01772
(508) 281-5500
Zapi, Inc.
Web site: www.zapiinc.com
Mailing: 210 James Jackson Avenue, Cary, NC 27513
(919) 789-4588
E-mail: [email protected]
Manufacturer of electronic controllers since 1975. Supplier of motor controllers for
both dc and ac systems.
AeroBatteries, Inc.
Web site: www.aerobatteries.com
Mailing: 309 Airport Drive, Tyler, TX 75704
(903) 592-2176
Alco Battery Co.
Mailing: 2980 Red Hill Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 540-6677
Offers a full line of lead-acid batteries suitable for EVs.
Concorde Battery Corp.
Mailing: 2009 W. San Bernadino Road, West Covina, CA 91760
(818) 962-4006
Offers lead-acid batteries for aircraft use.
Discover Energy Corp.
Mailing: Suite 880-999 West Broadway, Vancouver BC V5Z 1K5, Canada
(604) 730-2877
E-mail: [email protected]
Eagle-Picher Industries
Mailing: P.O. Box 47, Joplin, MO 64802
(417) 623-8000
Offers a full line of lead-acid batteries suitable for EVs.
East Penn Manufacturing Company, Inc.
Web site: www.eastpenn-deka.com
Mailing: Deka Road, Lyon Station, PA 19536
(610) 682-6361
Customer service: (610) 682-4231
Mailing: 2366 Bernville Road, Reading, PA 19605
(610) 208-1991
Manufacturer of the Odyssey battery and others.
Web site: www.hawkerpowersource.com
Mailing: P.O. Box 808, 9404 Ooltewah Industrial Drive, Ooltewah, TN 37363
(423) 238-5700 or (800) 238-VOLT
Fax: (423) 238-6060
Northeast Battery
Web site: www.northeastbattery.com
Mailing: 200 Saw Mill River Road, Hawthorne, NY 10532
(800) 441-8824
Fax: (508) 832-2706
OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
Web site: www.optimabatteries.com
Mailing: 5757 N. Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209
(888) 867-8462
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.saftbatteries.com
See Web site for local contacts and suppliers. Saft is the world’s leading designer,
developer, and manufacturer of advanced technology batteries for industrial and
defense applications. You will need to visit the Web site for your local battery dealer
and product information. They are a worldwide company.
Chapter Fourteen
Storage Battery Systems, Inc.
Web site: www.sbsbattery.com
Mailing: N56 W16665 Ridgewood Drive, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
(262) 703-5800
Mailing: 251 Industrial Boulevard, P.O. Box 7366, Greenville, NC 27835-7366
(919) 830-1600
Manufactures nickel-iron and nickel-cadmium batteries suitable for EVs.
Trojan Battery Co.
Mailing: 12380 Clark Street, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
(800) 423-6569
(213) 946-8381
(714) 521-8215
Trojan has manufactured deep-cycle lead-acid batteries suitable for EV use longer
than most companies and has considerable expertise.
U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co.
Mailing: 1675 Sampson Avenue, Corona, CA 91719
(800) 695-0945
(714) 371-8090
Manufactures deep-cycle lead-acid batteries suitable for EVs. Thriving today with
distributors all around.
Yuasa Battery (Europe) GmbH
Mailing: Wanheimer Straße 47, 40472 Düsseldorf, Germany
+49 (0)211 417 90 0
Fax: +49 (0)211 417 90 11
E-mail: [email protected]
Manufactures deep-cycle lead-acid batteries suitable for EVs.
Mailing: 9728 Alburtis Avenue, P.O. Box 3748, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
(800) 423-4667
(213) 949-4266
Valence Technology
Web site: www.valence.com
Mailing: 12303 Technology Boulevard, Suite 950, Austin, TX 78727
(512) 527-2900
Design and manufacture programmable lithium iron magnesium phosphate packs.
There are many battery charger manufacturers; this list will get you started.
Avcon Corporation
Mailing: 640 Ironwood Drive, Franklin, WI 53132
(877) 423-8725
Fax: (414) 817-6161
E-mail: [email protected]
Curtis Instruments, Inc.
Mailing: 200 Kisco Avenue, Mount Kisco, NY 10549
(914) 666-2971
Curtis PMC
Web site: www.curtisinst.com
Mailing: 235 East Airway Boulevard, Livermore, CA 94551
(925) 961-1088
Supplies a number of different components for EV, including motor controllers,
gauges, battery chargers, contactors, and more. See Web site for complete listing.
Also has offices in Europe and Asia.
ElectroCraft Systems
Web site: www.evcraft.com
Mailing: 23 Paperbirch Drive, Toronto, ON M3C 2E6, Canada
(416) 391-5958
E-mail: [email protected]
[email protected]
Excellent compact chargers with 20 years of experience in high-frequency switching
applications. Chargers are programmable to your battery type and pack voltage.
K&W Engineering
Mailing: 3298 Country Home Road, Marion, IA 52302
(319) 378-0866
K&W’s lightweight, transformerless chargers are designed for onboard use.
Lester Electrical
Web site: www.lesterelectrical.com
Mailing: 625 West A Street, Lincoln, NE 68522
(402) 477-8988
Lester has been manufacturing battery chargers suitable for EV use longer than
most companies and has considerable expertise.
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Manzanita Micro
Rich Rudman
Web site: www.manzanitamicro.com
Mailing: 5718 Gamblewood Rd. NE, Kingston, WA 98346
(360) 297-7383
Designer Joe Smalley and protégé Rich Rudman make a range of fully powered
factor-corrected chargers that deliver 20–50 A dc into traction packs from 48–312 V
from any line source (120–240 V).
Zivan USA
Web site: www.zivanusa.com
Mailing: 215 14th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 441-4161
Fax: (916) 444-8190
Electric Motorcycle Sales
Electric Cyclery
Web site: www.greenspeed.us/jackal_electric_bicycle.htm
Mailing: 910 North Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-2345
Electric Motorsport
Mailing: 2400–2404 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, CA 94607
E-mail: [email protected]
(510) 839-9376
Enertia Bike
Web site: www.enertiabike.com/
Web site: www.evdeals.com
Mailing: 9 South Street, Plainville, MA 02762
(508) 695-3717
Fax: (508) 643-0233
Web site: www.evtamerica.com
Mailing: 3515 SW 99 Avenue, Miami, FL 33165
(305) 480-6007
Skype phone number: (305) 767-4406
Fax: (305) 229-8831
ThunderStruck Motors
Web site: www.thunderstruck-ev.com/jackal_home.htm
Mailing: 3200 Dutton Avenue, No. 220, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
(707) 575-0353
Best option for technical questions and direct service if there are any electrical/
mechanical issues.
21 Wheels
Web site: www.21wheels.com
Mailing: 637 S. Broadway, Suite 227, Boulder, CO 80305
(303) 544-0025
Vectrix USA
Web site: www.vectrix.com
Mailing: Tech Plaza III, 76 Hammarlund Way, Middletown, RI 02842
(401) 848-9993
Fax: (401) 848-9994
Vectrix Europe
Mailing: Hazeley Enterprise Park, Hazeley Road, Twyford, Hampshire SO21 1QA,
United Kingdom
+44 (1962) 777 600
Fax: +44 (1962) 713 113
Vectrix Service
Mailing: 55 Samuel Barnett Boulevard, New Bedford, MA 02745
(508) 992-5300
Fax: (508) 992-6252
Vogelbilt Corp.
Web site: www.vogelbilt.com
Mailing: 656 Welwood Avenue, C 318, Lindenhurst, NY, 11757
E-mail: [email protected]
Zero Motorcycles, Inc.
Web site: www.zeromotorcycles.com/
Mailing: 1 Victor Square, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
(888) RUN-ZERO or (888) 786-9376
Chapter Fourteen
Other Parts
Here you’ll find an assortment of goodies designed to assist your EV enjoyment
and pleasure; again, it’s not an all-inclusive list—just one to get you started.
Cruising Equipment Co.
Mailing: 6315 Seaview Avenue, Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 782-8100
Offers the ampere-hour+ meter for monitoring the state of battery charge. Sold to
Xantrax. Very versatile and powerful SOC instrumentation.
Sevcon, Inc.
Web site: www.sevcon.com
Mailing: 155 Northboro Road, Southborough, MA 01772
(508) 281-5500
European Manufacturers, Converters, and Consultants
This is a small listing of European businesses to get you started.
AVERE European Association for Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
Web site: www.avere.org
Mailing: c/o VUB-TW-ETEC, Bd. de la Plaine, 2-BE 1050 Brussels, Belgium
E-mail: [email protected]
AVERE is a nonprofit association, founded in 1978 under the aegis of the European
Community, as a European network of industrial manufacturers and suppliers
for EVs. The association’s goal is to promote the use of battery, hybrid and fuel
cell EVs.
Electro Vehicles Europe (EVE)
Web site: www.electro-vehicles.eu
Head office: Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy
Conversion garages:
Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy
Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany
Books, Articles, and Papers
There have been a number of books and thousands of articles and papers written
about EVs, both technical and nontechnical. Here are some available related books
and manuals and a sampling of a few nontechnical articles that will give you instant
expertise in the subject area.
Sherry Boschert, Well-to-Wheel Emissions: The Cleanest Cars. Plug In America,
Presentation to EVS 23, California, 2007.
T. R. Crompton, Battery Reference Book, 2nd ed. Reed Educational and Professional
Publishing, 1996.
Tony Foale, Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design: The Art and Science. Tony Foale,
M. Hackleman, Design and Build Your Own Electric Vehicles. Earthmind, 1977.
M. Hackelman, The New Electric Vehicles: A Clean and Quiet Revolution. Home Power,
W. Hamilton, Electric Automobiles. McGraw-Hill, 1980.
C. R. Jones, Convert Your Compact Car to Electric. Domus Books, 1981.
T. Lucas and F. Ries, How to Convert to an Electric Car. Crown Publishers, 1980.
D. F. Marsh, Electric Vehicles Unplugged. South Florida EAA, 1991.
E. Marwell, Battery Book 1: Lead Acid Traction Batteries. Curtis Instruments, 1981.
S. McCrea and R. Minner, Why Wait for Detroit? South Florida EAA, 1992.
Gary Powers, From Gas to Electric Power: A Conversion Experience. Longbarn Press,
S. R. Shackett, The Complete Book of Electric Vehicles. Domus Books, 1979.
R. J. Traister, All About Electric & Hybrid Cars. Tab Books, 1982.
E. H. Wakefield, The Consumer’s Electric Car. Ann Arbor Science, 1977.
B. Whitener, The Electric Car Book. Love Street Books, 1981.
“Battery Technical Manual,” Battery Council International, Chicago, 1998, www.
M. Brown, with S. Prange, “Convert It.” Electro Automotive, 1989.
D. Chan and K. Tenure, “Electric Vehicle Purchase Guidelines Manual.” EVAA,
Department of Energy, “Primer on Lead-Acid Storage Batteries.” Washington, DC,
1995, http://tis.eh.doe.gov/techstds/standard/hdbk1084/hdbk1084.pdf, www.
C. Ellers, “Electric Vehicle Conversion Manual.” C. Ellers, 1992.
G. Staff, “Electric Car Conversion Book.” Solar Electric Engineering, 1991.
B. Williams, “Guide to Electric Auto Conversion.” Williams Enterprises, 1981.
“Battery and Electric Vehicle Update,” Automotive Engineering, September 1992, p.
Battery Digest, www.batteriesdigest.com
S. F. Brown, “Chasing Sunraycer across Australia,” Popular Science, February 1988,
p. 64.
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R. Cogan, “Electric Cars: The Silence of the Cams,” Motor Trend, September 1991, p.
L. Frank and D. McCosh, “Power to the People,” Popular Science, August 1992, p.
——,“Alternate Fuel Follies,” Popular Science, July 1992, p. 54.
——, “Electric Vehicles Only,” Popular Science, May 1991, p. 76.
D. H. Freedman, “Batteries Included,” Discover, March 1992, p. 90.
Chris Longhurst, “Vehicle Basic Maintenance,” www.carbibles.com.
R. Krause, “High Energy Batteries,” Popular Science, February 1993, p. 64.
P. McCready, “Design, Efficiency and the Peacock,” Automotive Engineering, October
1992, p. 19.
P. S. Meyers, “Reducing Transportation Fuel Consumption,” Automotive Engineering,
September 1992, p. 89.
G. A. Pratt, “EVs: On the Road Again,” Technology Review, August 1992, p. 50.
“Propulsion Technology: An Overview,” Automotive Engineering, July 1992, p. 29.
D. C. White et al., “The New Team: Electricity Sources Without Carbon Dioxide,”
Technology Review, January 1992, p. 42.
Here are a few companies that specialize in publications of interest to EV converters.
Battery Council International
Mailing: 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 644-6610
Publishes battery-related books and articles.
Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (TREE)
IEEE Technical Center
Mailing: Piscataway, NJ 08855
Publishes numerous articles, papers, and proceedings. Expensive, but one of the
best sources for recent published technical information on EVs.
Lead Industries Association
Mailing: 292 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Publishes information on lead recycling.
Seth Leitman
Founder, Green Living Guy
Web site: www.greenlivingguy.com
Author: Build Your Own Electric Vehicle and Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid
Consulting Editor: Green Guru Guides
Mailing: 100 South Bedford Road, Suite 340, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
(914) 703-0311
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International
Mailing: 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0001
(412) 772-7129
Publishes numerous articles, papers, and proceedings. Also expensive, but the
other best source for recent published technical information on EVs.
Here are a few companies that specialize in newsletter-type publications of interest
to EV converters.
Electric Grand Prix Corp.
Mailing: 6 Gateway Circle, Rochester, NY 14624
(716) 889-1229
Electric Vehicle Consultants
Mailing: 327 Central Park West, New York, NY 10025
(212) 222-0160
Solar Mind
Mailing: 759 S. State Street, No. 81, Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 468-0878
Online Industry Publications
These online publications report on industry activity, manufacturer offerings, and
local electric drive–related activities.
Advanced Battery Technology
Advanced Fuel Cell Technology
A resource for alternative energy and hybrid transportation information and
features. In addition to the bimonthly e-magazine, there is also an up-to-date news
page, link library, company directory, event calendar, product section, and more.
e-Drive Magazine
Features new products, services, and technologies in motors, drives, controls,
power, electronics, actuators, sensors, ICs, capacitors, converters, transformers,
Chapter Fourteen
instruments, temperature control, packaging, and all related subsystems and
components for electrodynamic and electromotive systems.
Electrifying Times
Provides interesting information on EVs and the industry.
EV World
Houses an online “library” of EV-related reports, articles, and news releases
available to the general public. EV owners also can register and share their
experiences with others. Visitors can sign up for a weekly EV newsletter. EV World
has information about conversions and conversion suppliers and a list of popular
EV conversion vehicles (www.evworld.com/archives/hobbyists.html).
Fleets & Fuels
A biweekly newsletter (distributed online) providing business intelligence on
alternative fuel and advanced vehicles technologies encompassing electric drive,
natural gas, hydraulic hybrids, propane and alcohol fuels, and biofuels. The
newsletter is dedicated to making the AFVs business case to fleets.
Greencar Congress
Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Progress
Formerly Electric Vehicle Progress. Follows new EV products, including prototype
vehicles; provides status reports on R&D programs; publishes field test data from
demonstration programs conducted around the world; details infrastructure
development, charging sites, and new technologies; and includes fleet reports,
battery development, and a host of other EV-related news. Published twice a
Industrial Utility Vehicle & Mobile Equipment Magazine
Dedicated to engineering, technical and management professionals as well as
dealers and fleet managers involved in the design, manufacture, service, sales and
management of lift trucks, material handling equipment, facility service vehicles
and mobile equipment, golf carts, site vehicles, carts, personal mobility vehicles,
and other types of special purpose vehicles.
Grassroots Electric Drive Sites
AKOG (Another Kind of Green)
John Mayer’s brand, AKOG (Another Kind of Green) was created from the belief
that small steps toward environmental sustainability can effect widespread change
when multiplied by a great number of participants.
Coolfuel Roadtrip
The Electric Auto Association
The California-based nonprofit group’s site showcases EV technology, has a
newsletter, and displays links to EV chapters and owners nationwide.
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA)
NESEA is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting responsible
energy use for a healthy economy and a healthy environment. NESEA promotes
electric drive vehicles (EDs, HEDs, fuel cell EDs) and renewably produced fuels
through its annual road rally, the NESEA American Tour de Sol; the U.S. electric
vehicle championship; conferences for professionals; and K–12 education that uses
sustainable transportation as a theme. NESEA maintains a Web site with a listing of
electric cars, buses, and bikes; K–12 educational resources; information on building
and energy programs; and a quarterly magazine.
Federal Government Sites
IRS Forms–EV Tax Credits
Qualified EV tax credit forms must accompany any tax returns that are claiming
the ownership or purchase of a qualified EV.
Advanced Vehicle Testing Program
Office of Transportation Technologies, U.S. Department of Energy. This Web site is
run by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). It
offers EV fact sheets, reports, performance summaries, historical data, and a kids’
page. Visitors can also request information online.
Chapter Fourteen
Alternative Fuels Data Center
A comprehensive source of information on alternative fuels. Sections include an
interactive map of AFV refueling stations in the United States, listings and
descriptions of different alternative fuels and AFV vehicles, online periodicals, and
resources and documents on AFV programs. The site is part of the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Web site.
ACalifornia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to “transforming transportation
for a better world.” Visitors can read daily and archived industry news updates
and publications, search EV-related databases, and interact with other EV owners
in an online forum.
Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE)
CTE is a Georgia-based coalition of over 65 businesses, universities, and government
agencies dedicated to researching and developing advanced transportation
technologies. The site includes industry news, studies and projects, a database of
products, and a section on EV education.
Energy Information Administration
Hawaii Electric Vehicle Demonstration Project
A consortium dedicated to furthering EV development and sales in Hawaii. The
Web site provides visitors with background on the program and lists
International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy
Serves as a mechanism to organize and implement effective, efficient, and focused
international research, development, demonstration, and commercial utilization
activities related to hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies. It also provides a forum
for advancing policies and common codes and standards that can accelerate the
cost-effective transition to a global hydrogen economy to enhance energy security
and environmental protection.
Mid-Atlantic Regional Consortium for Advanced Vehicles (MARCAV)
A Pennsylvania-based organization that was established to organize industrial
efforts to develop enhanced electric drives for military, industrial, and commercial
vehicles. Visitors can review a list of MARCAV projects and research specific
Northeast Alternative Vehicle Consortium (NAVC)
A Boston-based association of private- and public-sector organizations that works
to promote advanced vehicle technologies in the Northeast. Visitors can read about
NAVC projects and link to related Internet sites.
NREL Home Page
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has created a Web site detailing
research efforts in renewable energies and alternative transportation technologies.
Some key areas include hybrid vehicle development, renewable energy research,
and battery technology research.
Office of Transportation Technologies EPAct & Fleet Regulations
Many public and private fleets are subject to AFV acquisition requirements under
the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) regulations. These requirements differ for different
types of fleets. Visit this site to obtain information on fleet requirements and the
ways in which you can comply with the EPAct regulations.
Acting under the directive of the leadership of the 104th Congress to make federal
legislative information freely available to the Internet public, a Library of Congress
team brought the THOMAS World Wide Web system online in January 1995. The
THOMAS system allows the general public to search for legislation and information
regarding the current and past business of the U.S. Congress.
U.S. Department of Defense Fuel Cell Program
U.S. Department of Transportation Advanced Vehicle Technologies Program
The homepage includes links to the seven regional members of the Advanced
Vehicle Program (AVP).
Chapter Fourteen
State and Community-Related EV Sites
California Air Resource Board (CARB)
This site provides access to information on a variety of topics about California air
quality and emissions. The site has general information on all types of alternative
fueled vehicle programs and demonstrations. The CARB’s mission is to promote
and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through the effective
and efficient reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the
effects on the economy of the state. The CARB’s guide to zero and near-zero
emission vehicles is available at Driveclean.ca.gov.
California Energy Commission
This site gives viewers access to information on a variety of topics about California’s
energy system. The site dedicates a page to EVs, where it has general information
on electric transportation, lists sellers of EDs in California, outlines state and federal
government incentives for AFVs, and includes a database of contacts in the electric
transportation industry.
Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC)
The MSRC was formed in 1990 by the California legislature. The MSRC Web site offers
information on a variety of topics regarding California air quality and programs
underway to improve it, including a number of EV-related programs and incentives.
Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition
OFCC represents the Ohio fuel cell community to multiple audiences, seeks to
expand market access, fosters technological innovation, and advances the
competitiveness of the Ohio fuel cell community. OFCC member organizations
value their collaborative work in public education, information sharing, and better
linking of the academic and industrial communities. OFCC provides thoughtful
leadership on issues and policies that affect the worldwide fuel cell industry via
advocacy and government relations.
San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG)
SANBAG is the Council of Governments and Transportation Commission for San
Bernardino County. The site has various information about current transportation
projects underway in the San Bernardino area, as well as information for commuters.
Further, the Web site contains funding alerts for individuals and companies looking
to obtain project funding and/or assistance.
General Electric Drive (ED) Information Sites
Many Web sites disseminate information on EDs or report industry news and
developments. A few of these, which house specific EV-related information, are
provided here.
Advanced Transportation Technology Institute
The Advanced Transportation Technology Institute (ATTI), a nonprofit organization,
promotes the design, production, and use of battery-powered electric and hybrid
electric vehicles. The organization supports individuals and organizations interested in
learning more about electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, particularly electric buses.
Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute
AFVI was formed by Leo and Annalloyd Thomason, who each have more than 20
years’ experience in the alternative fuels industry. In 1989, following more than 5
years’ natural gas vehicle market development work for Southwest Gas Corporation
and Lone Star Gas Company, the Thomasons founded Thomason & Associates. The
company quickly became a nationally known consulting firm that specialized in
the market development and use of alternative transportation fuels, particularly
natural gas. In this capacity, they incorporated the California Natural Gas Vehicle
Coalition and worked extensively with the California Legislature, the California
Air Resources Board, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and other
government agencies to establish policies and programs favorable toward
alternative fuels. Thomason & Associates also conducted market research and
analyses, developed dozens of alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) business plans, and
assisted clients in creating markets for their AFV products and services.
Association for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
ASNE is the Dutch division of the Association Européenne des Véhicules Electriques
Routiers (AVERE), an association founded under the auspices of the European
Community. The goal of ASNE is to encourage the easy use of totally or partly
(hybrid) EVs and vehicles with other alternative propulsion systems in road traffic.
California Fuel Cell Partnership
Introduced in April 1999 and comprised of the world’s largest automakers, energy
providers, fuel cell manufacturers, and government agencies, the California Fuel
Cell Partnership (CaFCP) evaluates fuel cell vehicles in real-world driving
conditions, explores ways to bring fuel cell vehicles to market, and educates the
public on the benefits of the technology. The CaFCP primary goals aim to
demonstrate vehicle technology by operating and testing the vehicles under real-
Chapter Fourteen
world conditions in California; demonstrate the viability of alternative fuel
infrastructure technology, including hydrogen and methanol stations; explore the
path to commercialization, from identifying potential problems to developing
solutions; and increase public awareness and enhance opinion about fuel cell
electric vehicles, preparing the market for commercialization.
Canadian Environment Industry Association
The Canadian Environment Industry Association (CEIA) is the national voice of
the Canadian environment industry. CEIA is a business association that, along with
its provincial affiliates, represents the interests of 1,500 companies providing
environmental products, technologies, and services.
The largest international commercial exhibition on hydrogen and fuel cells at the
Hannover Fair in Germany, featuring over 100 companies and research institutions
from 30 countries.
Fuel Cell Bus Club
The Fuel Cell Bus Club consists of the participants in the European fuel cell bus
projects who intend to introduce fuel cell transit buses to their fleets and establish
a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in their cities.
Fuel Cell Information Center
Green Drinks USA and International
Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up at informal
sessions known as Green Drinks. These events are very simple and unstructured,
but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas,
and networked with others in many different fields. It’s a great way to meet people
in varying fields and also for making new contacts.
Hydrogen Now!
The mission of Hydrogen Now! is to educate and motivate the public to seek and
use hydrogen and renewable energy technologies for greater energy independence
and improved air quality.
National Hydrogen Association
The National Hydrogen Association is a membership organization founded by a
group of 10 industry, university, research, and small-business members in 1989.
Today, the NHA’s membership has grown to nearly 70 members, including
representatives from the automobile industry; aerospace; federal, state, and local
governments; energy providers; and many other industry stakeholders. The NHA
serves as a catalyst for information exchange and cooperative projects and provides
the setting for mutual support among industry, government, and research/
academic organizations.
National Station Car Association
Although closed at the end of 2004, the National Station Car Association worked
for 10 years to guide the development and testing of the concept of using batterypowered cars for access to and egress from mass-transit stations and to make mass
transit a convenient door-to-door service. The NSCA released a report (National
Station Car Association History) that gives an overview of the program’s history.
Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition
The NGVC is a national organization dedicated to the development of a growing,
sustainable, and profitable natural gas vehicle market. The NGVC represents more
than 180 natural gas companies; engine, vehicle, and equipment manufacturers;
and service providers, as well as environmental groups and government
organizations interested in the promotion and use of natural gas as a transportation
Technology Transition Corporation
Since 1986, Technology Transition Corporation (TTC) has been creating and
managing collaborative efforts to accelerate the commercial use of new technologies.
They design and implement strategic initiatives to help emerging technologies
move from the research and development environment to profitable and sustainable
Designed by the California ZEV Education and Outreach Group, which was
established under the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) ZEV Program. The
basis of the Web site is to serve as a “one-stop shop” for information on electric
drive products in California. Moreover, the Web site’s goal is to inform the public
of the benefits and availability of advanced electric drive technologies, from early
deployment and on into the future.
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Chapter 1
1. Bob Brant and Seth Leitman, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, 2nd ed. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2008, p. 2.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid., p. 5.
4. Ibid., p. 9.
Chapter 2
1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov.
2. www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads09/07Trends.pdf.
3. www.electric-bikes.com/benefits.html.
4. http://www.veva.bc.ca/eaa/eaaflyer-autoemissions.pdf.
5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car.
6. U.S. Department of Energy.
7. U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration.
8. U.S. Department of Energy figures.
9. www.electric-bikes.com/envbenefits.html.
10. www.electric-bikes.com.
11. www.electric-bikes.com/benefits.html.
12. Ibid.
13. Basic Petroleum Statistics, Energy Information, U.S. Department of Energy,
14. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2000_
register&docid =00-14446-filed.pdf.
Chapter 3
1. A. Girdler, ”First Fired, First Forgotten,” Cycle World, February 1998, pp.
2. www.pbs.org/now/shows/223/electric-car-timeline.html and http://
3. www.forkliftparts.co.uk/history.htm.
4. www.econogics.com/ev/evhista.htm.
5. Ibid.
6. www.electricmotorbike.org.
7. www.electrifyingtimes.com/bill.html.
8. www.killacycle.com/2007/11/11/7824-168-mph-at-pomona-ahdra-nov10th.
9. www.A123systems.com.
10. http://evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1651.
11. www.vectrix.com/shared/files/Rel-Vectrix percent2007-22-08.pdf.
Chapter 4
1. From Treehugger.com and Discovery Communications, LLC.
2. www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/electric-motorcycles-dirtbikes-7cool-green.php.
3. Ibid.
4. www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-x-features.php.
5. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/electric-motorcyclesdirtbikes-7-cool-green.php?page=2.
6. www.electric-bikes.com/motor/ninja.html.
7. w w w. t re e h u g g e r. c o m / f i l e s / 2 0 0 8 / 0 9 / h o n d a - y a m a h a - e l e c t r i c motorcycles-50cc- 2010-2011.php.
8. Bob Brant and Seth Leitman, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, 2nd ed. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2008, pp. 81–82.
Chapter 7
1. http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbattery.htm.
2. www.windsun.com/Batteries/Battery_FAQ.htm#Battery%20Charging.
3. www.mpoweruk.com/lithiumS.htm.
4. Frost and Sullivan, ”World Starting, Light, and Ignition (SLI) Lead Acid
Battery Market,” September 7, 2004, and IC Consultants, Ltd., ”Lead: The
Facts,” p. 49, December 2001.
5. U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries. Washington, DC:
USGS, January 2007, and www.batterycouncil.org.
6. Bob Brant and Seth Leitman, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, 2nd ed. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2008, p. 181.
7. www.vonwentzel.net/Battery/00.Glossary/.
8. Ibid.
9. U.S. International Trade Commission, ”ITC Trade DataWeb,” March 2008,
10. www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?
Chapter 8
1. www.sparkmuseum.com/motors.htm.
2. Quarterly Journal of Science 12:521, 1821.
3. Andrew L. Simon, Made in Hungary: Hungarian Contributions to Universal
Culture. Simon Publications, 1998, p. 207.
4. ”The Dynamo: Current Commutation,” Hawkins Electrical Guide. New York:
Theo Audel & Co., 1917.
5. www.physclips.unsw.edu.au.
6. www.4qd.co.uk/fea/pmm.html
7. Ernest H. Wakefield, History of the Electric Automobile. SAE Publications
Group, p. 207.
8. http://everything2.com/title/Synchronous percent20speed.
9. www.elec-toolbox.com/Formulas/Motor/mtrform.htm.
Chapter 9
1. www.killacycle.com.
2. Ernest H. Wakefield, History of the Electric Automobile. SAE Publications
Group, p. 192.
3. www.metricmind.com.
4. www.zapi.co.za.
5. www.navitastechnologies.com.
6. www.alltraxinc.com.
7. www.curtisinst.com.
8. www.brusa.biz.
Chapter 10
1. www.mpoweruk.com/chargers.htm.
2. Bob Brant and Seth Leitman, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, 2nd ed. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2008, pp. 221–223.
3. www.powerdesignersusa.com and www.metricmind.com/bms.htm.
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A&A Racing, 44
Abrams, Ray, 44
Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries, 128–129
AC commutator motors, 183
AC controllers, 217–224
Curtis Instruments, 217, 218–219
electronic, 201–202
Metric Mind Engineering, 222–224
ZAPI, 219–222
AC motors, 183–189
choosing, 165
ac commutator motor, 183
ac series motor, 183
induction, 184–189
synchronous, 187–188
universal, 183
AC series motors, 183
Acceleration, weight and, 85
Acceleration force, 86, 107
Accessory 12-V system grounded to frame,
Active materials, in batteries, 137–138
Advanced DC Motors, 108, 113, 114, 177
rolling resistance, 80, 93–97, 98, 106–107
wind drag, 80, 89–93
AGM batteries, 128–129
Agricultural waste, 23
All Harley Drag Racing Association
(AHDRA), 41
Alltrax dc motor controllers, 213–216
LED status indicator, 215–216
programmability, 216
Alternating-current motors (see AC motors)
Alternative-current controllers (see AC
Aluminum-air, 137
American Automobile Association (AAA),
Ammeter, 258–259, 260
Ampere, Andre Marie, 163
Amperes, 148, 166
ampere-hours, 149, 151, 232, 234
cold-cranking, 152
voltage and, 167
Anode (positive electrode), 131, 137, 138, 144
A123 Systems, 43, 44
Armature, in dc motors, 168, 170, 174
series, 181
shunt, 178–180, 181, 216
Armature core, 170
Automatic Electric Transmission Company,
Automobile conversions, 2
Automotive terminals, 135
Available capacity, 151
Back electromotive force (back EMF), 168
Back to the Future (movie), 166
Balance, weight and, 88
Bandimere Speedway (Morrison, Colorado),
41, 43
Batteries, 121–162
battery mounts, 290–291
C rating, 150, 151, 234–237
calculation and capacity, 144, 147–155, 165
chargers (see Chargers)
construction of, 132–147
active materials, 137–138
battery case, 132–133
battery group size, 136
cell balancing, 146
charging reaction, 141, 142
discharging reaction (see
Discharging reaction)
electrolyte specific gravity,
electrolytes, 136–137, 138–139,
equalizing, 145–146
explosions, 146–147
gassing, 144–145
inside your battery, 136–137
overall chemical reaction, 139–140
plates, 133–134
state of charge (SOC), 142–144,
146, 234, 251, 253–258
sulfation, 134–135, 141, 145
terminal posts, 135–136
current battery solutions, 162
described, 6
disposal of, 155–158
electric vehicle operating requirements,
“fuel gauge,” 6, 253
general requirements, 158
history of, 121, 124–125
importance of, 2–3, 121
maintenance cycle, 3
overview, 122–124
recharging (see Chargers; Recharging
safety issues, 119, 146–147, 155–158, 159,
technology improvements, 3
types of, 6, 125–132
deep-cycle, 126–129
industrial, 127
lead-acid (see Lead-acid batteries)
lithium-ion, 3, 6, 8, 50, 51, 130–132,
147, 162
nickel-cadmium, 129–130, 162
nickel-metal hydride, 6, 46,
121–122, 147
sealed, 127–129
starting, 125–126
weight of, 89
Battery balancers, 247–249
Battery banks, 150
Battery case, 132–133
Battery configurations:
parallel, 150
series, 149, 150
Battery Council International (BCI), 136
Battery indicators, 253–258
Curtis enGage II, 257–258
Curtis Series 800 and 900 battery SOC
instrumentation, 255–257
Xantrex Link 10, 253–255, 256
Battery management system (BMS), 131–132,
146, 152, 159, 249–250
Battery packs, 51, 146, 157, 248
Battery stacks, 10
Battery stations, 10
Belt drive, 99
Bias-ply tires, 95, 97
Biodiesel, 14, 38
Biomass, 23
Block diagram, 5
BMS (battery management system), 131–132,
146, 152, 159, 247, 249–250
BMW, R80GS dirt bike, 76
Bradley, Jeff, 213
Brake drag, 97
Brake drive, 69–70
plug braking, 206
regenerative braking
ac controller, 218
polyphase ac motor, 188–189
series dc motor, 177
shunt dc motor, 180
standards for, 116
Brammo Motorsports, 53–55
Brant, Bob, 6, 28
Briggs & Stratton, Etek motor, 50, 190
charger, 129, 245–247
controllers, 222–224
Brushes, in dc motors, 173, 174
Build Your Own Electric Vehicle (Leitman and
Brant), 6, 8–9, 11, 79, 91
Bulk-charge phase, 231
C rating of battery, 150, 151, 234–237
Cable (see Wire/cable)
Cagiva Freccia C12R, 50
Electric Vehicle Association, 19
Soneil International, Ltd., 59
Capacity, battery, 147–155, 165
available, 151
defined, 149
total, 151
voltage versus, 144
Carbon sequestration, 18
Cathode (negative electrode), 131, 137, 140,
141, 144
Cell balancing, 146
Center of gravity, 88
Chain drive, 99, 102–104, 288, 289
Chargers, 129–132, 227–247
battery balancers, 247–249
battery charging cycle, 233–234
battery discharging cycle, 232–233
battery management system (BMS),
131–132, 146, 152, 159, 247, 249–250
checklist, 228–230
constant-current, 230, 231
current examples, 237–247
BRUSA, 129, 245–247
Curtis Instruments, 243–245
Manzanita Micro PFC series,
Zivan, 129, 238–242
ideal, 234–237
methods, 230–232
overview, 227–228
termination voltage, 229–230
(See also Recharging batteries)
Charging process, 141, 142
Charging reaction, 141, 142
Chassis, in conversion process, 284–285
China, electric motorcycles in, 26, 28
Circuit breaker, 268–269
Civil War, 31, 34
Classic Cycle Trader, 38
Clockwise (CW) rotations, 174
Clothing, 89–90
Clutch, 99, 101, 289, 290
CO2 emissions, 18–19, 25
Coal-fired power stations, 2, 19, 22
Coefficient of drag, 90–92
Cold-cranking amperes, 152
Commutator, in dc motor, 168, 171
Compound dc motor, 180–182
characteristics, 180–182
types, 180–181
Connectors, cable, 274, 275
Constant-current chargers, 230, 231
Constant-engine-power line, 101
Constant-voltage chargers, 230
Contactor, electrical system, 269
Controller Area Network (CAN) interface,
Controllers, 165, 195–225
ac, 201–202, 217–224
basic explanation, 196–198
dc, 199–201, 202–216
described, 6
electronic, 199–202, 213–216
LED status indicator, 215–216
multiswitching, 197–198
overtemperature cutback, 200–201
overview, 195–196
solid-state, 198
undervoltage cutback, 199–200
Convenience, of electric motorcycles, 9–10
Conversion process, 2–4, 279–296
chassis, 284–285
electrical, 292–294
high-current system, 292
low-voltage system, 293
wiring, 294–295
frame, 283
mechanical, 285–292
electric motor, 286–292
transmission, 287, 288, 289, 296
overview, 279–280
post-conversion, 295–296
system checkout on blocks,
trial test run, 296
preparation for, 280–282
time needed for, 10
Converter (see dc-to-dc converter)
Coolfuel Roadtrip (TV series), 12–16, 35–40, 49,
90, 94, 200–201, 279, 280
Copeland, Lucius Day, 31, 32, 33, 35
Copeland steam motorcycle, 31–35
Copper sulfate, 124
Corbin, Mike, 36
Corbin-Gentry, Inc., 36
Costs, of electric motorcycles, 3–4, 7, 10, 17,
19–20, 26–27
Counterclockwise (CCW) rotations, 174
Covers, wire/cable, 275
Crabtree, Don, 41
Crispe, Larry, 43
Crockett, Damon, 213, 214
Cronk, Scott, 36
“Crotch rockets,” 80
Cruisers, 66
Cumulative compound motor, 180
calculating, 148
constant-current chargers, 230, 231
in design process, 105–106
high-current systems, 292
low-voltage, low-current system, 271,
taper-current chargers, 230
(See also Amperes)
Curtis Instruments, 123
ac controller, 217, 218–219
chargers, 243–245
dc-to-dc converter, 264–265
enGage II monitor, 257–258
Series 800 and 900 battery SOC
instrumentation, 255–257
series-wound dc controller, 198, 203–209
circuitry layout, 206, 207
plug braking, 206
reduced-speed operation, 204
specifications, 204, 205
throttle ramp shaping, 206
wiring layout, 206–209
throttle potentiometer, 271
Curtiss, Glenn, 34
Custom Chrome, 80
Daimler, 34
Daniel, John F., 124
Daniel cell, 124
Davenport, Thomas, 163
Days of Thunder (movie), 93
DC controllers:
electronic, 199–201, 213–216
series-wound, 202–216
Alltrax, 213–216
Curtis Instruments, 198, 203–209
Navitas Technologies, 211–213
ZAPI, 177, 200, 209–211, 292
shunt-wound, 216
DC motors, 168–183
basic construction, 169–174
armature, 168, 170, 174, 178–180,
brushes, 173, 174
commutator, 168, 171
field poles, 172–174
motor timing, 173–174
choosing, 165
invention of, 164–165
types, 174–183
compound, 180–182
permanent-magnet, 182–183, 190
series (see Series DC motors)
shunt, 178–180, 181, 216
universal, 183
DC-to-dc converter, 126, 251, 259–265
Curtis, 264–265
Vicor, 262–264
Deep-cycle batteries, 126–129
Depth of discharge (DOD), 126, 152, 159, 232
drivetrains and fluids, 97–101, 104
flowchart for, 82
frame (see Frame)
optimizing, 83
planning, 79–81
process of, 104–115
standard measurements and formulas,
streamlining, 89–93
torque in, 105–106, 107, 108–115, 174,
transmission in, 99, 102–104
weight in, 84–89
Differential compound motor, 181
Direct-current motors (see DC motors)
Discharging reaction, 140, 141, 159
battery discharging cycle, 232–233
depth of discharge (DOD), 126, 152, 159,
discharge rate, 150, 151, 152
state of charge (SOC), 142–144, 146, 234,
251, 253–258
Disposal of batteries, 155–158
Distance, formula for, 88
DIY electric motorcycles, 56
brake, 97
coefficient of, 90–92
rolling resistance, 80, 93–97, 98, 106–107
wind, 80, 89–93
Drag force, formula for, 90
Drive current, 100
Drivetrains, 97–101, 104
components of, 98–99
efficiency of, 107
Dross, 157
Dube, Bill, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44
Ducati project, 43–45
Easy Rider (movie), 64
Eco-Trekker Tour, 38
ac motor, 185
charger, 230, 232, 237
drive train, 107
electric motorcycle, 17, 20, 29
power plant, 23–24
El Ninja-type conversions, 56
Electra Cruiser, 11–16
battery spreadsheet, 152–155
charger, 129, 238–239
controller, 209–210
Coolfuel Roadtrip, 12–16, 35–40, 49, 90, 94,
200–201, 279, 280
dc-to-dc converter, 262–264
drag force, 93, 94
horsepower of, 105
prototype 1, 11, 12, 37, 38, 73, 252, 284,
287, 288, 289, 291
prototype 2, 13, 71, 222, 261, 283
prototype 3, 261
rolling resistance, 97
sidecar, 14, 16
speed of, 8
torque, 108–115
transmission, 104
voltmeter, 259
weight of, 89
wiring schematic, 277
Electric Auto Association, 104
Electric Bikes.com, 18–19
“Electric Hog,” 11, 38, 203
(See also Electra Cruiser)
Electric motorcycles:
advantages of, 1–4, 6–8, 17–20, 26–27
conversions, 56–61
advantages of, 115–116
brake drive, 69–70
EVT America, 57–61, 281
Honda Insight (upcoming), 57
KTM “Race Ready” Enduro
electric motorcycle, 56–57
process for, 2–4, 279–296
required equipment, 116–119
selling unused engine parts, 116
time needed for, 10
Yamaha, 57
costs of, 3–4, 7, 10, 17, 19–20, 26–27
current models, 49–56
Brammo motorsports, 53–55
Eva Håkansson’s Electrocat
electric motorcycle, 49–50
KillaCycle/KillaCycle LSR electric
motorcycles, 50–51
Voltzilla, 56, 57
Zero motorcycles, 51–53, 281, 286,
described, 4–6
design of (see Design)
disadvantages of, 9, 10–11
energy efficiency of, 17, 20, 29
environmental benefits of, 17, 18–19, 29
EPA testing procedures, 29
fun of driving, 6
history of, 31–47
information concerning, 251–252
myths concerning, 8–10
need for, 1–4, 17–20
network of dealers, 10
parts of, 4–6
passion for, 11–16
repairs to, 11
safety of, 7–8
time to purchase/build, 10
weight of, 9, 84–89
Electric motors, 163–194
ac motors, 183–189
basic construction, 183–187
types, 183, 184–189
calculations and formulas, 193–194
choosing, 165, 189–192
in conversion process, 285–292
battery mounts, 290–291
Electric motors (continued)
electrical, 292–294
post-conversion, 295–296
support for electric motor, 286–290
system checkout on blocks,
trial test run, 296
wiring, 294–295
dc motors, 168–183
basic construction, 169–174
invention of, 164–165
types, 190–192
described, 5
history of, 163–165
horsepower, 166–169, 181
(See also Horsepower)
internal combustion motors versus, 1–4,
20, 26–27, 99–100
Electric Motorsport electric GPR, 2
Electric shock, 160–162
Electric Vehicle Association of Canada, 19
Electrical system, 267–278
components, 268–272
low-voltage, low-current system,
main circuit breaker, 268–269
main contactor, 269
quick disconnect, 268–269
reversing relay, 270
safety fuse, 270
shunts, 271, 272
throttle potentiometer, 271
safety, 267–268, 270
wiring, 5, 272–278, 294–295
Electricity generation, methods of, 20–23
Electrocat electric motorcycle, 49–50
anode (positive), 131, 137, 138, 144
cathode (negative), 131, 137, 140, 141,
common chemicals, 139
battery, 136–137, 138–139, 141–142
specific gravity, 141–142
Electromagnetic force (EMF), 163, 168–172
back EMF, 168
in dc motors, 170, 171
Electronic controllers, 199–202, 213–216
EMB Lectra VR24 electric motorbike, 36
Emissions standards, 1–2, 7, 18–19, 25–26, 28
[See also Zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs)]
Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), 121–122
Energy density, 152
Energy efficiency, 17, 20
Energy usage, by year, 21
Enertia Bike, 53–55
Engines (see Electric motors; Internal
combustion engines)
Environmental issues:
battery disposal, 155–158
benefits of electric motorcycles, 17,
18–19, 29
emissions standards, 1–2, 7, 18–19,
25–26, 28
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
testing procedures for electric motorcycles,
Equalizing, 145–146
Equilibrium potential, 138
Etek electric motors, 50, 190
EVT America, 57–61, 281
2007 R-20, 59–61
2009 R-30, 59–61
2009 Z-30, 57–59
2007 Z-20b, 57–59
Exhaust system, standards for, 117
Explosions, battery, 146–147
Extension cords, 10
Fairings, 89
Faraday, Michael, 163–164
Fenders, standards for, 119
Fibrillation, 160–162
Field poles, in dc motors, 172–174
Field weakening:
in series dc motors, 177
in shunt dc motors, 179–180
Findley, David, 122
Floating propulsion system ground, 276
Fluorine, 138
Force, formulas for, 106–107
Fork angle, 64, 68–70
Fork assembly, 70–71
Frame, 79–83
choosing, 79–83, 283
conversion process, 283
geometry of, 63–77
fork angle, 64, 68–70
fork dive, 69–70
rake, 63–66, 67
rear suspension, 70, 72–77
spring rate, 71–72
trail, 66–69
travel, 70–71
grounding, 276
Franklin, Benjamin, 124
Friction, 93–97, 104, 173
Front fork, 70–71
Frontal area, 92
Frost, Russell, 44
Full-load torque, 193–194
Fuse, 270
Galvani, Luigi, 124
Garson, Paul, 38
Gas turbines, 2, 22
electric power versus, 2
prices of, 2
[See also Oil (petroleum)]
Gassing, battery, 144–145
Gassner, Carl, 125
Gear ratios, 101–103, 107
General Motors:
Ovonic high-efficiency, nickel-metal
hydride (NiMH) battery, 121–122, 123
survey of drivers, 8–9
Generators, 168
Geometry (see Frame, geometry of)
Geothermal power, 23
Girdler, Allan, 31–34
Global Warming Potentials (GWPs), 18
Gramme, Zénobe, 164
Gramme dynamo, 164–165
Greenhouse gases, 1–2, 18–19, 25–26, 28
Gries, Russ, 56
Grips, standards for, 117
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), 115
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), 115
Grounding, 276
Group 27 TMH batteries, 152
Group size, battery, 136
Grove, William Robert, 124
GWPs (Global Warming Potentials), 18
Håkansson, Eva, 49–50, 51
Håkansson, Sven, 50, 51
Handlebars, standards for, 117
Harley-Davidson motorcycles, 41, 68, 80, 95,
102–104, 252, 288
Hatfield, Richard, 44–45
Headlamps, standards for, 118
Headstock, 63–66
Hell for Leather magazine, 56–57
Henry, Joseph, 163
Hi-Torque Electric, 43
Hill climbing:
hill-climbing force, 101, 107
weight and, 85–87
of batteries, 121, 124–125
of electric motorcycles, 31–47
Copeland Steam Motorcycle,
Ducati Project, 43–45
early 1900s, 35
early 1940s, 36
Electra Cruiser Coolfuel Roadtrip,
12–16, 35–40, 49, 90, 94,
200–201, 279, 280
KillaCycle, 40–43
late 1990s, 36
1880s, 31–35
1970s–1990s, 36
Vectrix Corporation, 45–47
of electric motors, 163–165
Hollingsworth, Keith, 34
CB550, 56
Insight, 57
Horn, standards for, 116
calculating, 193
in design process, 105–106
electric motor, 166–169, 181
formulas for, 83–84, 105, 107
and speed, 87, 100, 167
Husted, Jim, 43
Hybrid twin-shock H swingarm suspension,
74, 75–76
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), 18
Hydrogen, 144, 147
Hydrometer, 143
Hydropower, 22–23
Incline-force line, 101
Indian Motorcycle Company, 34
Induction motors, 184–189
polyphase ac, 188–189
single-phase ac, 187
three-phase ac, 188–189
Induction motors, ac, 184–189
Industrial batteries, 127
Inflation pressures, 97
Insight (Honda), 57
Internal combustion engines:
costs of, 20, 27
electric motor versus, 1–4, 20, 26–27,
fuel gauge, 253
operation of, 3–4
pollution from, 1–2, 3–4, 18–19, 25–26, 28
selling unused parts, 116
Internal resistance, battery, 142–144
International Exhibition of Electricity (Paris,
1881), 35
Inverter, variable-frequency, 188–189
Ions, 137
Ireland, ESB (Electricity Supply Board), 19
IUI charging, 231
Jedlik, Anyos, 164
Jungner, Waldmar, 125
Kawasaki, 57
Kelly controller, 58, 60
KillaCycle electric motorcycle, 2, 40–43, 44,
50–51, 196
KTM “Race Ready” Enduro electric
motorcycle, 56–57
K&W Engineering, 176–177
L-type terminals, 135, 136
Lead, 139, 140, 141, 157
Lead-acid batteries, 6, 119, 123, 125–129, 143
charging, 129, 230–231
(See also Chargers; Recharging
construction, 132–147
deep-cycle, 126–129
industrial, 127
recycling, 155–158
sealed, 127–129
starting batteries, 125–126
valve-regulated, 147
Lead peroxide, 139
Lead sulfate, 140, 141
LED (light-emitting diode) status indicator,
Leitman, Seth, 28, 79
License plate lamp, standards for, 118
Lighting devices, standards for, 118
Lima, Brian, 252
Limiting factors, 165
LinkLite battery monitor, 255
Lithium-ion batteries, 3, 6, 50, 51, 130–132,
147, 162
range of, 8
recharging, 131–132
types of chemicals used, 131
Lithium-phosphate batteries, 53–54
Living It Up! With Ali & Jack (TV show), 38
Load, 148, 166
Load range of tire, 95
Longhurst, Chris, 63
Lorenz, 31
Low-voltage, low-current systems, 271, 293
Lynch, Cedric, 183
Lynch motor, 183, 190, 191
Lynch Motor Company, 190
MacArthur, Charles E., 36
Magnetic field:
in dc motor, 168–169
defined, 167
Magnetic flux, defined, 167
in dc motors, 168–169, 172, 173
defined, 167
Main contactor, 269
Manual transmission, 99, 102–104
Manzanita Micro PFC series, 242–243
Maximum intermediate current draw, 165
Means, Rob, 18–19
Mechanical controllers, 285–292
electric motor, 286–292
transmission, 287, 288, 289, 296
MES-DEA controllers, 222, 223
Metric Mind Engineering:
ac controllers:
BRUSA, 222–224
MES-DEA, 222, 223
battery management system, 250
Mezzone, Joe, 203
M&H Racemaster, 43
Mileage calculations, 90
Mirror, standards for, 117
Momentum software, 54
Monolever suspension, 76–77
Monoshock regular H swingarm suspension,
74, 75
MOSFETs, 211, 215
Motor controllers (see Controllers)
Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design, 63
Motorcycle Industry Council, 46
age of, and pollution, 1–2
electric (see Electric motorcycles)
traditional (see Internal combustion
Motorcyclist Magazine, 45
Motors (see Electric motors; Internal
combustion engines)
Mt. Washington Alternative Vehicle Regatta, 36
Muffler, standards for, 116–117
Mugno, George, 203
Multiswitching controllers, 197–198
Municipal solid waste, 23
Murphy, Shaun, 13, 14, 38, 94
National Ambient Air Quality Standard, 1
National Electric Drag Racing Association
(NEDRA), 41, 43, 50–51
Natural gas, in electricity generation, 2, 22
Navitas Technologies:
TPM 400 series controllers, 211–213
TSE series controllers, 213
Neodymium, 182
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
(DMV), 81
Newton, Isaac, 85
Newton’s second law, 85
Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries, 129–130, 162
Nickel-metal hydride batteries, 6, 46, 121–122,
123, 147
Nonrechargeable batteries, 6
Nuclear fission, 22
Nuclear power stations, 19, 22
Oersted, Hans, 163
Offset bearing, 66
Oil (petroleum):
dependence on imported, 1, 24–25, 27
in electricity generation, 22
pollution from internal combustion
engines, 1–2, 3–4, 7, 18–19, 25–26, 28
Onboard chargers, 10
OPEC oil cartel, 1
Open-circuit voltage (OCV), 146
Operating costs, of electric motorcycles, 7
Opportunity charging, 231–232
Overcharge, 145–146
Overtemperature cutback controllers, 200–201
Ovonic high-efficiency, nickel-metal hydride
(NiMH) battery, 121–122, 123
Oxidation potential, 138
Oxygen, 144, 147
Parallel batteries, 150
Penstock, 23
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), 18
Permanent magnets, 172
defined, 167
in permanent-magnet dc motors,
182–183, 190
Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV; Vectrix), 45–47
Peukert equation, 151
Phelan, Bill, 104
Photovoltaic conversion, 23
Pigs, 157
Pivot point, 68
Planté, Gaston, 124
Plastic, in batteries, 156
Plates, battery, 133–134
Plug braking, 206
Pollacheck, Scotty, 42, 51
Pollution, from internal combustion engines,
1–2, 3–4, 7, 18–19, 28
Pollution from internal combustion engines,
Polyphase AC induction motors, 188–189
Popular Mechanics, 35
Potentiometer, throttle, 271
Power, formulas for, 83, 84, 106, 148–149, 193
Power plants:
efficiencies of, 23–24
electric motorcycles and, 2
fuel sources, 20–23
Power stations, 2, 19, 22
PowerCheq battery equalizer, 248, 249
Primary batteries, defined, 137
Progressive-rate springs, 72
Propulsion, 97
Pulse-width modulation (PWM), 183, 186,
198, 206
Pulsed chargers, 230–231
Quick disconnect, 268–269
Radial tires, 97
Radiofrequency interference (RFI), 173
Rake, 63–66, 67
of electric motorcycles, 8–9
factors influencing, 58
weight and, 88
Ransomes, 35
Rare-earth magnets, 182
Rear suspension, 70, 72–77
hybrid twin-shock H swingarm, 74,
monolever, 76–77
monoshock regular H swingarm, 74, 75
styles, 72–74
twin-shock regular H swingarm, 73, 75
Rear-view mirror, standards for, 117
Recharging batteries, 2–3, 6
battery types, 125–132
convenience of, 9–10
kit for, 10
lead-acid batteries, 129, 230–231
lithium batteries, 131–132
nickel-cadmium batteries, 130
(See also Chargers)
Recycling batteries, 155–158
Reflector, standards for, 118
Regenerative braking, 159
ac controller, 218
in polyphase ac motors, 188–189
in series dc motors, 177
in shunt dc motors, 180
R80GS dirt bike (BMW), 76
Relative wind, 92
Reliability, 58
internal, battery, 142–144
rolling, 80, 93–97, 98, 106–107
wind, 80, 89–93
Rev limiters, 176–177
in compound dc motors, 182
in series dc motors, 177
in shunt dc motors, 180
Reversing relay, 270
Revolutions per minute (rpms), 84, 107, 108,
115, 167
Road load, 97
Robb Report, The, 38
Rolling resistance, 80, 93–97, 106–107
defined, 94–95
speed versus, 98
Roper, Sylvester, 31, 33, 34
in ac motors, 186–187
in dc motors, 169, 170, 173, 174
Rotor windings, universal motor, 183
Rotors, 5
Routing, 275–276
Run-of-river, 23
battery, 7–8, 119, 146–147, 159, 267–268
of battery disposal, 155–158
of electric motorcycles, 7–8
electric shock, 160–162
electrical, 159, 267–268, 270
equipment requirements, 116–119
Saiki, Neal, 51
Samarium, 182
Sealed batteries, 127–129
Seat height, standards for, 117
Secondary batteries, defined, 125, 137
Separators, 133, 134
Series batteries, 149, 150
Series dc motors, 174–177, 181
Advanced DC Motors, 108, 113, 114, 177
examples, 190–192
field pole, 172–174
field weakening, 177
regenerative braking, 177
reversing, 177
sample rating, 166
speed, 176–177
torque, 174, 175–176
Series-wound dc controllers, 202–216
Alltrax, 213–216
Curtis Instruments, 198, 203–209
Navitas Technologies, 211–213
ZAPI, 177, 200, 209–211, 292
SF6 (sulfur hexafluoride), 18
Shaft drive, 99, 102–104
Shock, electric, 160–162
Shock/spring preload suspension, 76–77
Shunt DC motors, 178–180, 181, 216
Shunt winding, 178–180, 216
Shunts, 271, 272
Sidecars, 14, 16
Silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) pulse-width
controllers, 198
Single-phase AC motors, 187
Slip values, 187
Smart chargers, 228
SmartSpark equalizer, 59
Socovel, 36
Sodium-sulfur, 137
Solar power, 23
Solid-state controllers, 198
Soneil International, Ltd., 59
Southwest Research Institute, 46
Sparky the dog, 38, 94
Sparrow, Corbin, 213
Specific gravity, 141–144, 232, 234
in ac motors, synchronous speed,
186–187, 188
in dc motors:
compound, 180, 182
series, 176–177
shunt, 179
in design process, 107
of electric motorcycles, 2, 8, 87, 100
formula for, 84
horsepower and, 87, 100, 167
road versus engine, 101
rolling resistance versus, 98
torque and, 87, 100
weight and, 87
Speedometer, standards for, 119
Spindle, 66
Sports bikes, 66
Spring rate, 71–72
battery general requirements, 158
battery group size, 136
battery operating requirements, 158–162
brake, 116
emissions, 1–2, 7, 18–19, 25–26, 28
EPA testing procedures for electric
motorcycles, 29
equipment required for motorcycles,
safety, 7–8, 119, 146–147, 159, 267–268
tire, 96, 117
Stanley Steamers, 34
Starting batteries, 125–126
Starved-electrolyte batteries, 128
State department of motor vehicles (DMV), 81,
State departments of transportation, 81–83,
State of charge (SOC), 142–144, 146, 251
battery indicators, 253–258
in ideal battery charger, 234
Stator winding, 183, 188
Stators, 5, 188
Steam-powered motorcycles, 31–35
Steam turbines, 21, 22
Stop lamp, standards for, 118
Storage hours, battery, 149
Sturgeon, William, 163
Sulfation, 134–135, 141, 145
Sulfuric acid, 138–139, 139, 140, 142, 143, 158
travel, 70–71
types, 72–77
Sustainable energy, 19, 22–23
Swain, David, 25
Swingarm, 73–76, 287, 288, 289, 291
Synchronous motors, 187–188
Synchronous speed, 186–187, 188
Tachometer, 261
Tail lamp, standards for, 118
Taiwan, air pollution in, 3–4
Taper-current chargers, 230
TD-100 rev limiter, 176–177
Terminal posts, battery, 135–136
Tesla Motors:
battery pack, 157
Ducati project, 43–45
Test run, 296
Texaco/Chevron, 121–122
30 percent rule, 89
Three-phase ac motors, 188–189
Throttle potbox, 206, 207
Throttle potentiometer, 271
Throttle ramp shaping, 206
Thunder Sky lithium-ion phosphate cells, 50,
Tikhonov, Victor, 222
Time Trials Extreme Grand Prix (TTXGP), 44
motor, 173–174
timing belt, 102–104
Tire and Rim Association, 95
bias-ply, 95, 97
brake drag, 97
friction from, 93–97
importance of, 95–96
inflation pressure, 97
radial, 97
rolling loss characteristics, 95–96
rolling resistance force data, 97
size of, 95, 96
standards for, 96, 117
Title, 81
calculating, 193–194
in compound dc motors, 181
in conversion process, 288
in design process, 105–106, 107, 108–115
formula for, 84
full-load, 193–194
in polyphase ac induction motors,
in series dc motors, 174, 175–176
in shunt dc motors, 179
and speed, 87, 100
torque-required data, 108–115
Total capacity, 151
Total compression, 70–71
Total extension, 70–71
Tour De Sol, 12, 13, 288
Traction, in series DC motors, 175
Traction batteries, 158
Trail, 66–69
chain drive, 99, 102–104, 288, 289
clutch, 99, 101, 289, 290
in conversion process, 287, 288, 289, 296
gear ratios, 101–103, 107
manual, 99, 102–104
role of, 101
shaft drive, 99, 102–104
Transmission fluids, 104
Travel, 70–71
Trevithick, Richard, 34
Trickle chargers, 231
Triple tree, 68–69
Trojan Batteries, 89, 152, 239, 290
Trouvé, Gustave, 35
Turbines, 21
natural gas, 2, 22
steam, 21, 22
Turn signal lamps, standards for, 118
Twin-shock regular H swingarm suspension,
73, 75
Underbody airflow, 93
Undervoltage cutback controllers, 199–200
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 1, 22, 185
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 58,
59, 117
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
U.S. International Trade Commission, 155
Universal motor, 183
Universal terminals, 135
V-Twin magazine, 38
Valence Technology lithium-phosphate
batteries, 53–54
Valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries,
Variable-frequency inverter, 188–189
Vectrix Corporation, 45–47, 57
nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery
pack, 46
Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV), 45–47
Vectrix VX-1, 45–47
Vegetable oil, 14, 38
Vehicle identification number (VIN), 81
Vicor BatMod DC-to-DC converter, 262–264
Vogelbilt Corporation, 36
(See also Electra Cruiser)
Volta, Alessandro, 121, 124
Voltage, 142–144
back EMF and, 168
capacity versus, 144
in charging process, 229–230, 232, 234
constant-voltage chargers, 230
electric shock and, 160–162
horsepower and, 167
low-voltage, low-current system, 271,
termination, 229–230
undervoltage cutback controllers,
Voltaic pile, 124
Voltmeter, 258, 259
Volts, 148
Voltzilla, 56, 57
Walker Electric Company, 35
Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader, 38
adding to battery, 9
in batteries, 139, 140
hydropower and, 22–23
specific gravity, 141
Watthours per kilogram (Wh/kg), 152
Watthours per pound (Wh/lb), 152
Watts, 148–149, 193
Weight, 84–89
and acceleration, 85
balance and, 88
and climbing, 85–87
during conversion, 84, 115–116
formula for, 84
importance of, 9
and range, 88
removing unessential, 84
and speed, 87
30 percent rule, 89
Wet-cells, 124, 147
Wheel, motor interface with, 286
Wheel rev, formula for, 84, 108, 115
Wheel well airflow, 93
Wind drag, 80, 89–93
Wind power, 23
Windscreen, standards for, 117
Wire/cable, 173
AWG, 272
connectors, 274, 275
covers, 275
routing, 275–276
Wiring, 5, 272–278
accessory 12-V system grounded to
frame, 276
cable connectors, 274
in conversion process, 294–295
diagrams, 276–278
grounding, 276
routing, 275–276
wire/cable, 272, 273
wire covers, 275
Wood waste products, 23
Woodburn Drags (Woodland, Oregon), 41
Xantrex Link 10 battery indicator, 253–255, 256
Yamaha, 57
Z-Force power pack, 51
ZAPI controllers:
ac, 219–222
dc, 177, 200, 209–211, 292
Zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), 7, 19, 38,
45, 57
Zero Emissions Motorcycle, 57
Zero Motorcycles, 51–53, 281, 286, 288
Zero S electric motorcycle, 51–52
Zero X electric motorcycle, 52–53
Zinc-air, 137
Zinc sulfate, 124
Zivan charger, 129, 238–242
Deeply rooted within the music and environmental communities, Reverb educates and
engages musicians and their fans to take action toward a more sustainable future.
Reverb works with artists to minimize the carbon footprint associated with touring by
implementing both front stage and backstage greening elements. Some of these backstage
components include coordinating biodiesel fueling for tour buses and trucks, setting up
extensive recycling programs, providing biodegradable catering products and non-toxic
cleaning supplies, and setting the band and crew up with customized water bottles.
Front of stage components are aimed at reaching fans and encouraging them to take
action. Informative greening websites let fans know about the green steps their favorite
artists are taking and provide resources like online carpooling networks, volunteer
opportunities, and more. Reverb’s Eco-Village, set up before each concert, allows fans to
offset their carbon footprint, sample eco-friendly products, and learn more about actions
they can take in their own lives.
With Reverb’s help, artists are able to use their voice and set an example to encourage
fans to be more mindful of the environment.
Virtual Eco-Village/Mini-Site
E-blast content
Online Outreach
Carbon Neutral Concerts and Venues
Biodiesel for Vehicles and Generators
Waste Reduction
Biodegradable Catering Products
Green Bus Supplies and Cleaners
Energy Efficiency
Green Contract Rider
Eco-Friendly Merchandise
Green Sponsorship
On Site and On-Line Fan Outreach
For more information: [email protected] | http://www.reverbrock.org
John Mayer’s brand, AKOG (Another Kind of Green) was created from the belief that small
steps toward environmental sustainability can effect widespread change when multiplied
by a great number of participants.
In fact, through participation in the AKOG program, fans have already offset over 2,200
tons of CO2 pollution, equal to not driving over 4.4 MILLION MILES OF DRIVING!
Join John Mayer in the fight against global warming and take your first step today.
• Carbon offsets to account for CO2 emissions from venue energy use, trucks and
busses, flights and hotels.
• Inviting local and national non-profit groups to be a part of the Reverb Eco-Village
to educate and engage fans
• Sustainable supplies such as biodegradable and reusable catering products and local
and organic food
In conjunction with Reverb, we will be helping offset each show with wind power,
putting together a “village” in the concourse that consists of environmentally and socially
minded non-profits and green sponsor types, and most importantly providing cool offset
stickers so you can neutralize the pollution from your drive to and from the show
For more information: [email protected] | http://www.reverbrock.org
To see Carl Vogel’s Electric Motorbike in action, and other vehicles powered by wind,
vegetable oil, and even FOOD … you can visit www.coolfuelroadtripstore.com
and receive a 10% discount when you buy your COOLFUEL DVDs.
Just enter Vogel on your order for your special discount.
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