It's taken quite a while to get to this stage, but Gintz wrote in to let us know that his electron-powered Honda VFR is finished. The other day, he took it to EV Awareness Day in Portland, Oregon. As Travis writes on his blog:
The first question out of everyone's mouth was "How far does it go"... to which I replied "15-20 miles on crappy used UPS batteries I got for free". I initially wanted to go with larger lead [acid batteries], but since these were free, I wanted to develop/test the mechanical first, and then upgrade to lithium in the fall. Its all working and now I can shop for alternatives to lead. Most people scoffed a little, I didn't care, Its quite a feat in a motorcycle, especially keeping it stock looking. I know what the end result will be.... LiFePo and AC will eventually find their way into that bike. It will perform well, and range will be 30-40 miles.
Compare this positivity to the negative comments some people feel the need to leave. Gintz said that the bike is now completely assembled, except for the turn signals and will be registered to be street-legal soon. We talked a bit with Travis about his project and you can read our interview after the jump.
UPDATE: picture updated at Travis' request.
ABG: Tell us about the process of developing the conversion.
Gintz: I saw the Tesla last year, and decided I wanted to look into building an EV myself. I have an electrical engineering background, and LOVE gadgets, so it came naturally. I looked into cars, but for 10 grand, and lots of work, it might be over my budget. I'm a single guy living alone, so I don't have 10 grand sitting around, just to get 30-50 miles for commuting. I drive a Dodge Durango, and gas is starting to hurt. I needed a cheap commuter solution. I looked at a popular site called EVAlbum. They had some other vehicles, and the more I looked into motorcycles, the more I was sold on the idea. I started looking for bikes, and found someone on Craigslist that had a roller with bad engine and donated it to me. Then I ran into some guys at a new startup company called Synkromotive, in Portland, OR. They wanted to help the conversion, and in exchange for a controller, I would do testing/assmembly and R&D. Its been a great relationship with Synkromotive. A few weeks later, while looking for parts for the free bike, I found one in Florida that had a bad engine, but was in pristine shape. I bought it, shipped it here, and parted out the engine, electrical and exhaust. I almost broke even. Very shortly after this, I found a guy up near Seattle that had tons of batteries he wasn't using for his motorcycle, and another rolling chassis, it was well worth $60 in gas to go get it. So I had a good roller and batteries and a controller. Found a motor on a surplus website. Assembly began in February. Another VFR guy wanted to help, and had fabrication background. We welded up a battery tray and made a motor mount. A month ago, we threw everything together and took it out for its first few runs. It was a great feeling. After 8 months of getting parts, designing and building... it all paid off.
ABG: I read on your blog that people often scoff when you tell them the range of your bike. How do you feel about that?
Gintz: I didn't mind much when people scoffed at the range. They were surprised it got so little range, but once I told them the batteries were used, and free and that they are half the capacity of similar projects they seemed less concerned. The batteries also fit in the frame better than larger batteries. I went into detail about how cheaply it can be run, and that my need for range is below 20 miles a day for my work commute. I asked them how much they paid to drive to work and back every day.... I estimated it'd cost me less than $0.25 to drive to work and back, with almost no yearly maintenance other than brakes/chain. I do plan on lithium in the future, and will replace this pack with LiFePo in the next few months. I want to get the mechanical system worked out, and decide on gearing. This motorcycle will be a test bench for AC motors/controllers, charging systems for SLA and LiFePo. Its not finished by any stretch, but its drivable, and when it gets registered this next week, I'll have a cheap alternative for my daily commute in a vehicle that has a stock look but runs on electrons. I think its a huge feat to get that much energy out of batteries to get a vehicle that far. Most people don't commute more than 30 miles a day, its perfect. I like how someone put it earlier: "It's pretty insane when a guy in his garage needs to show the motorcycle industry where the future is." Thats kind of what I think. When are manufacturers that HAVE the ability to develop technology going to see all these people converting? Just think what they could do it a car/motorcycle was designed from the ground up as an EV. I met my goals and expectations and have a sweet looking bike, with great performance, and its not even finished.
1986 Honda VFR700F
Series wound Advanced DC motor
156V 600A Synkromotive controller
12 12V 18Ah batteries running in 2-72V strings. Capable of 144V. Switching to Lifepo soon
4:1 gear ratio, will be moving to ~5:1
Range: 15-20 on used batteries
Top speed: 65mph, one gear, no clutch
Charging system is custom