Earth Day Eco-Cycles

by Ben N on April 25, 2013


Earth Week is always a busy time for me, but in the best possible way!

Yesterday, I attended the Milwaukee Area Technical College Green Vehicles Workshop. In the morning was a number of presentations on alternate fuels, emerging technologies, and what’s going on locally in clean transportation. The afternoon featured a display of alternate fuel vehicles, including electrics, hybrids, CNG, Propane, and even a few alt-fuel lawn-mowers!

I was there showing off my DIY Electric Kawasaki KZ44o motorcycle. I also cracked a big grin to see that my friend Leslie had his DIY Diesel Yamaha there. Last time I saw him, he was telling me all about it, and I was really looking forward to seeing it in person.

The Diesel Bike features a 10 horse-power, single cylinder diesel engine. It’s what’s referred to as a “Yanmar-Clone”, a less-expensive copy of a popular small engine (L-100) made by the Yanmar brand-name.

The engine has both electric start AND a pull-start back-up. Kinda cool to see a cycle pull-started, instead of kick-started. When demonstrating the cycle to students and others at the event, the builder did do a pull-start, but just for show. Usually, he just hits the normal thumb electric start button.

Connected to the engine is a Comet clutch going to a jack-shaft and finally  to the rear-sprocket. This is basically single-speed gearing with about a 10:1 gear ratio. This gives the cycle a 45-50 mph top speed, more than enough for city driving (it’s all 25mph streets anyways!) The builder referred to his cycle as “a big, street-legal diesel mini-bike.”

Since the engine has a pretty small alternator on it, all lighting on the cycle is low-amp LED lighting, including the custom headlight.

While the diesel cycle has great  fuel economy and range, I DO have to say that it’s just a TAD louder than my electric motorcycle!

Also at the event, a dealer brought out a brand-new Zero S ZF StreetFighter. That’s a commercially built electric motorcycle with a nice beefy 8.5KWh battery pack. Top speed is 95mph and city range is nearly 140 miles per charge. It’s also has sharp styling, and a surprising about of cargo space. Since there’s no gas tank, a built-in tank-bag or glove box is almost big enough to fit a helmet inside.

The charge is built right in with a simple plug with rubber cover to keep the weather out. A fairly long power cord tucks away inside one of two storage tubes in the back of the bike.

At the end of the day, the cars were all cleared out and the dealership employee who was going to ride the cycle back to the dealership came out and took the cycle through a spin around the parking lot. The Zero has lots of pep, and can easily do small burn-outs.

What about you? Do you have an electric motorcycle? How about a cool and eco-friendly DIY bike? Let us know, post a photo and share!

Take care,


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Noah Lewis April 26, 2013 at 4:27 am

Hello Ben:

I have been thinking about testing something out to see if it works. Perpetual Motion for your E.V. cars and motorcycles. If you connect an alternator to your electric engine by way of a rubber belt or chain. Can you get out what you put in. Is it enough for the generator/alternator to spin at the same speed as the engine in order to produce enough volts to keep your battery from ever needing to be plugged up ever again. And if one alternator is not enough, then can’t I just use one on every wheel that is spinning. Also the drive shaft is an option. What do you think? Please e-mail me and tell me if you have tried this already.

Sincerely Noah

2 Ben N April 26, 2013 at 8:02 am

You can’t get out more than you put in. Alternators create DRAG on the belts in exchange for the electricity they produce. Hybrids have regenerative braking – it’s the slowing of the car that produces the electricity. If you tried to run an EV by powering it with alternators powered by the drive motor (or wheels, or wherever else) it would be like driving with the parking brake on. You would get WORSE range, not better.
This is the same reason you can’t put a wind turbine on top of a car. Even if you generate electricity with it, the wind resistance it creates makes it more than that hard to push the car down the road.

I have a little more about this in my FAQ section.

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