Electric Motorcycle Conversions and Kits

The report that Honda and Yamaha may be planning electric motorcycles is interesting and brings with it problems and opportunities for smaller companies trying to get into the electric motorcycle business. One commenter said, "e-bike manufacturers which are currently filling a niche market will be utterly crushed and destroyed." That's one possibility, but not the only one. There may be a big opportunity in conversions and kits or even custom electrics.

The Big Guys Are Coming
Anyone getting into the electric bike business today has to realize the major manufacturers will be getting in soon, either your business plan takes that into account or you'll be closing your doors. Move fast or don't bother would be good advice. As with cars, the Chevy Volt is coming and if the Tesla and others don't hit the road quickly, they're in for some tough competition.

Benefits from Competition
On the other hand, there are benefits to the big guys entering the market, like what it will do for the demand, development and cost of batteries. If the cost comes down and the design is somewhat standardized, the little guys may be better able to afford them for their own projects. Also, if their initial entries are low performers, they have a base to build on and they'll get better faster than if those companies weren't working in the field. The Chevy Volt will definitely accelerate electric car development, Honda and Yamaha may do the same in the 2 wheel segment.

Conversion Kits
Honda and Yamaha may be building new bikes but have you noticed all of the electric motorcycles showing up in home garages? Some look pretty good, some look a little rough but they all work, more or less, which means electric motorcycles are not extremely complex. Batteries, a controller and an electric motor mounted in place of the engine now removed and you're in business. Some models may be well suited from a physical size and weight perspective to be converted into an electric. Suppose an enterprising little company focuses on which bikes convert well, assembles all of the parts into a kit and sells them with plans, there's probably a waiting market of hands on do-it-yourselfers who would buy one if the cost was reasonable.

Old Builders Can Adapt
How about all of these custom bike companies that have been hit with EPA emission rules at the same time as the demand for custom choppers is in decline. They've been in business alongside the major companies for quite a few years which means a small builder with an eye on a changing market can supply consumers with a product they want. If they can adapt, electrics get around the emission problem and demand is about to rise. If those companies have building skills and aren't too tied up in the chopper image and lifestyle, electrics could offer a way to move into a changing future. Either that, or it clears the way for companies who can.

Electric motorcycles are coming in one way or another. How much of the market switches to electric power remains to be seen as other alternatives compete. But when the big companies enter the segment, it brings more awareness to the average customer. If a company stays positive and keeps looking for opportunity, they'll see it, but they have to be ready to move. Opportunities in a changing market don't wait forever.


  1. WRXr says

    I think one thing that everyone misses right now is SIZE.Let me explain:

    The main limitation of an e-bike as an effective commuter is the range. Yet, the Brammo and other e-motorcycles we have seen on this board, and those which most home builder make, are SMALL. MX size.

    However, why not build an Electric Goldwing? This would allow room for a sizeable battery pack that can make a good distance, a fairing to cheat the wind and a real transmission to make a a respectable top speed and still maximize your electrons?

    I am sure there is a reason in there probably related to $$. Can someone explain if there is an engineering reason instead?

  2. says

    From what I have read power will be similar to a 50cc bike. Sounds like a Honda Cub replacement. A very smart entry since Cubs are usually short range bikes.

  3. says

    Ah the Megola, both wheels could be motors and recharging brakes as well. If the motors would disengage from the axels, you’d have the gyros the Vision needs for feet up stops.

  4. Don says

    WRXr said, “and a real transmission to make a a respectable top speed.” If I understand it correctly, one of the beauties of an electric motor is that the power band is virtually flat. In other words, no transmission needed. I do like the idea of an electric Gold Wing, or other similar sport-tourer. Plenty places to mount, and hide batteries.

  5. WRXr says

    “In other words, no transmission needed. ”

    It is not low down torque that is a concern

    Actually, most readily available electrical motors are limited in the TOP of the rev band. They can only spin so fast. Hence why many electric bikes have top speeds of only 30-40MPH. An easy way to improve on that would be to have a transmission.

  6. Azzy says

    Best conversion idea (at least I think so…) I have seen out there took the top end of a single cylinder bike, pulled the piston and cylinder, basically leaving the crankshaft and cam chain, and hooked an electric motor up the the cam chain. It may have been beefed up to handle the extra stress, but it left the electric with a 5 speed gear box, which means range goes up since you dont have to go as fast with the motor to reach higher speeds as you cruise.

  7. sam9870 says

    Don’t know if I’m quite ready for a full on electric but let me throw this out to fellow riders.
    What about an electric hub front wheel with a seperate throttle like atv’s-snowmobiles for city riding. Would require smaller amount of batteries only to charge in the city and on the highway gas bike engine would charge batteries or could be left idling in city when battery power is running low.
    A simple electric front wheel hub, bagger type battery boxes and minor electrical could make us all eco-friendly and still be able to pop wheelies when we wanted to.
    Most important it would still look like something we want to ride.

  8. Bryan says

    “A simple electric front wheel hub, bagger type battery boxes and minor electrical could make us all eco-friendly and still be able to pop wheelies when we wanted to.
    Most important it would still look like something we want to ride.”

    Only if you wanted to pop wheelies in reverse.

  9. sam9870 says

    You still retain you’re bike engine to power the rear wheels” to pop wheelies”, the front electric hub wheel is to ride in heavy traffic up to 50km/h when you don’t really need piston power.

  10. sam9870 says

    Rear electric hub wheels are currently used in some electric scoots.
    Connect to bagger battery pack and throttle with wiring to recharge from bike engine. It is being currently done. Alot less complicated than tearing out a bike engine and fitting a electric motor that only gives me 50-100 km range.
    Mr Bell, can you please stop inventing shit, it all seems so heavy and complicated.

  11. zip22 says

    Is it really less complicated than some batteries, a motor, and a controller? your idea has both systems, I really don’t see how you can claim its less complicated.

  12. sam9870 says

    The electric hub motor is in the wheel, swop the front tire. Electric motorised engine needs you to replace your gas engine and rear sprocket.
    I would rather want a kit that still retains gas engine until better and cheaper batteries are developed.

  13. zip22 says

    so, you’re saying that right now the technology isn’t there, but you want to put a much crippled version on a bike anyways? if it doesn’t give you the range or the power you’re looking for, why do you think a limited in-wheel solution would provide any benefit – especially when you’re expecting it to drag around the engine, gas, and transmission along with yourself? for me, it seems that either you go all electric or keep the gas. in between, you end up with a lot of complication, a lot of weight, and very little benefit. on a car, it (sort of) works because you have the room to fit everything in.

  14. says

    Great article.
    The big guys are going to enter in but they are going to take their time to determine what would make the most busienss sense for them(converting scooters/smaller cycles as previously noted) to convert over. There are already tons of places that sell the components and the El Ninja diagram gives a complete and basic outline on how to convert a motorcycle. Using the Kawasaki Ninja 250, a bike that did not have a change in something like 10 years in its design/functio, donor bikes & parts are aplently. I think over the winter we’ll see some tinkerers out building bikes to commute to work and its from here that the market will pick up because someone will want an electric Hayabusa(me :)

    Send me your email and I’ll send you my biz plan.