The Long Story

Most home built electric motorcycles tend to follow two different paths.
One way is to build it with all off the shelf parts, some electric vehicle conversion companies sell a “kit” of off the shelf parts such as the motor, speed controller, battery cables, although those tend to be sold without a particular motorcycle in mind so you end up making or having someone else make custom mounting brackets and sprockets to make those parts work.
That gave way to two issues, the off the shelf parts didn’t always fit on the motorcycle and the custom parts were expensive one of a kind pieces of hardware,  leading to a high cost electric motorcycle or poor performance followed unless you start out with a huge budget.

The other path was scrounging parts, then modifying them by hammering, filing, bending and welding them until you get something that fits and works.
This route can work great other then the fact that replication is nearly impossible and the end result is as much a sculpture as it is a vehicle, while there have been some amazing motorcycles built in this fashion and they can be built on a limited budget they tend to take 100’s of hours to build that could have been spent riding.

A number of people I know have converted gasoline cars to electric on the cheap by using old forklift motors and I had to wonder if I could do the same thing with a motorcycle, after some searching locally and coming up short I started looking online, I figured I might start by just looking for a motor to see if I could base my search for a forklift off of a common motor that was the size that I could fit on a motorcycle.
My searches started turning up golf cart motors, the exact size of motor I was hoping to find and it turns out they are not only common, but they are cheap to buy used and they tend to be standardized with a lot of aftermarket options and even some  warehouse vehicles, factory service vehicles and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) that are based off the golf cart platform but with much heavier components.
The more I researched the more I felt that a golf cart motor would be the perfect motor for a motorcycle because you could use a motor from a two person golf cart or a motor from an 8 passenger NEV depending  the performance you wanted.
Now, one complaint that seemed common with home built electric motorcycles was the motor was either too long and required modified foot pegs to give a wider stance or when a short compact motor was used that was not powerful enough.
I never liked the noise that chains made on electric motorcycles and I liked the clean, enclosed design that shaft drive motorcycles have, a shaft drive also meant that it wouldn’t matter how long the motor was, then I thought back to my time working in a motorcycle repair shop where I saw a handful of Honda CX500 motorcycles come in and I was always impressed by their styling and that they were always well cared for.
The CX500 has a water cooled V-twin engine that was designed for light touring, a fantastic bike for it’s day but with a fatal design flaw, the water pump is above the alternator, over time the rubber seals crack or wear out and coolant leaks, if this persists it drips in to the electronics where it causes additional problems, the first step in replacing this small, inexpensive seal is to remove the whole engine, it’s at this point where many motorcycles owners choose not to have it fixed.
The CX500 is an interesting design, the engine is a stressed part of the frame, so when you remove the engine there is no down tube (the frame tube next to the front tire) it’s also designed for a faring and saddle bags, so it has the brakes and frame to handle some extra weight.

When I started telling friends about my desire to build an electric motorcycle I would hear stories about some neighbor or uncle who was an electrical engineer who I should meet because they had dreams of building an electric motorcycle too.
I’ve been building and working on electric vehicles for years and I’m not an electrical engineer and I don’t need to be; all of the components are well engineered already with very nice, clearly labeled wiring diagrams that take the guess work out of connecting it all together.
All I have to do is buy off-the shelf components and connect them together as the manufacturer instructed.

So, now I found a common, cheap motor that has been industry proven, I found a high quality motorcycle  that doesn’t cost much to buy used, the electronics are all off the shelf, I just need to connect it all together pack them in to a motorcycle frame and ride it down the road, right?
At that point I realized I would be in the same place I would be if I paid thousands and ordered an electric motorcycle kit from an electric car conversion company.
So I developed and built the Black Box Bikes kit;  a kit that takes these common, low cost used parts and common off the shelf parts and connects them to a motorcycle frame without cutting or welding it, by bolting everything together you should be able to build your own electric motorcycle in a weekend.

Now, Black Box Bikes can make it easy for you to build an electric motorcycle of your own and enjoy the silent ride.

Ryland Erdman

Menomonie, Wisconsin

2 thoughts on “The Long Story

  1. Hi Ryland,

    Good looking site! It’s so great that you decided to turn this into a kit-based business since so many folks don’t have the requisite technical knowledge or easy access to machined conversion parts, but they are willing to spend a bit to make their process easier. What battery voltage and amp-hour sizes are you currently using?

    1. My current battery pack is 16 GBS brand cells with a nominal voltage of 48v and 100 amp hours.
      With the lithium batteries I was able to stay on par with the dry curb weight of the gasoline motorcycle.

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