Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lightning Lithium

(click on image to enlarge)

The LA Times had two articles on electric bicycles on Wednesday(5/30/2007) in the "Highway" section.

Watch the accompanying video . In the video, the guy say "burn rubber not gasoline" is what Michael "Hollywood" Raines said in his show "The Shop" about the electric bicycle he built. see promo video

One of the LA Times articles was titled: "Plug into the Future". And the other was titled: "Solar power to juice the motor bike? Panel up"

The stories are based around a motorcycle retrofitting company based in Oakland named "Lightning Motors", or "Electric Motorsports". And although the author hinted at past ventures into the realm of electric motorcycles, they did not include some of the hybrid electric biofuel models.

After taking a closer look at the motorcycle (see picture to the right, the bike "Lithium Lightning" has a significant dangerous component. The batteries are being packed to low to the ground. If the motorcycle goes over a pothole and the front fork suspension springs down, could put the battery pack jamming into the ground. This could cause serious damage to the batteries and more importantly could cause the bike to lose control, endangering the riders.

Solar power to juice the motor bike? Panel up
By Susan Carpenter, Times Staff Writer
May 30, 2007

I'D been riding for years before I learned motorcycles' dirty little secret. Mile per mile, some bikes actually spew more gunk into the air than cars, pickup trucks or SUVs, even if they do use less gas. It was a sickening realization, since I'd spent so much time believing the opposite was true.

That's why the prospect of a performance-oriented electric bike is so appealing.
Of course, an electric motorcycle isn't the same as a zero-emissions motorcycle. An electric bike's environmental friendliness depends, for the most part, on where it's plugged in: What's the energy source that's powering the outlet?

Most of the electricity in this country is supplied by coal-fueled plants, so if you're plugging an electric bike into your outlet, you could say your bike is basically coal-powered. It's using less energy, and therefore polluting less than a gas-powered bike, but it's still using a fossil fuel and it isn't zero-emission.

The idea behind the Lightning Motors is to make a bike that's electric and zero-emission, courtesy of solar power.

Most Americans don't live "off the grid," and installing solar panels isn't cheap. Add the cost of a solar power installation to the price of a motorcycle, and it starts to get a little outrageous. But that's short-term thinking. In the long term, it might make a lot of sense.

Say you're a commuter, riding a real Yamaha R1 about 80 miles round trip each day. You're probably putting $8 worth of gas in your tank daily. That means you're shelling out about $2,000 a year for gas.

By solar expert Richard Hatfield's math, you're a quarter of the way toward the cost of a solar-panel installation that would support regular charging of a bike like his R1 conversion, which uses about 8 kilowatts of power to travel 80 miles at an average speed of 65 mph. Creating 8 kilowatts using solar power would require a 1.2-kilowatt setup, Hatfield says. That's a solar panel roughly the size of two sheets of plywood with an installation cost of about $8,000.

The batteries for the Lightning Lithium we tested (see accompanying article) are rated for 3,000 charges. For a daily commuter, that translates into about 10 years of life. With Hatfield's solar power scenario, that means the last six years of the batteries' life are basically free.

At least, that's the theory. These batteries are so new that they haven't been tested in the real world to verify the math, but as gas heads toward $4 a gallon, it's an interesting idea to ponder.
Plug into the future
A lithium-battery proto conversion shows how an electric bike can go faster than a golf cart and have the range to be practical.
May 30, 2007

Oakland — IT'S "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," motorcycle style.

Lightning Motors' lithium-powered superbike looks like an R1. It even handles like the Yamaha liter bike. But its innards have been wrenched and yanked out.

The entire engine is missing. So are the tailpipes, radiator, gas cap, transmission and clutch. In their place: a wall of yellow batteries, an AC regenerative motor, an electric throttle and a three-pronged plug, which pokes out from the frame and connects to a standard outlet.

Welcome to the world of electric motorcycle conversions — a micro-phenom that's been percolating for at least the last decade, primarily at independent motorcycle shops, like the one I visited in Oakland. Less polluting and less expensive to operate than their gas-powered brethren, electric bikes seem like a great idea. But until recently they've had an Achilles' heel: the large size and low power-to-weight ratio of the lead-acid batteries propelling them.

Using lead-acid, builders have had to choose between the tortoise and the hare. Sure, they could hot-rod an electric bike to go 100 mph, but it would go only a few miles, making it useless for anything but drag racing. To get even 25 miles of life from a charge, most builders have opted for a small-displacement chassis and restricted the power output to a wimpy 50-ish mph, which is why electric bikes have a reputation for being as slow as golf carts.

Enter lithium. Specifically, lithium iron phosphate. One of several forms of lithium on the battery market, these LiFePO4, or LiFe, batteries, as they're called, have only recently become affordable for the average Joe. They're still four times as expensive as lead acid, but they weigh half as much, last 10 times as long and let a bike travel three times as far on a single charge.

Unlike the Tesla electric sport car, which is powered by thousands of tiny batteries, the R1 conversion uses just 28. Each of them is 90 amp-hours at 3.2 volts and 6.6 pounds. Together, they weigh less than everything that was taken off the bike to make it electric. While the majority of the batteries are concentrated in a Mondrian-esque block where the engine used to be, they're also tucked under the seat where the exhaust was once located, to mimic the weight distribution of a stock R1.

That's where the similarities begin to blur and separate. Turning on the bike, there's no sound — a potential safety issue. Riding it, the only noise I heard was the spinning of the chain and my own amazed laughter. When I rolled on the throttle, torque peaked instantly and stayed there. There was no need to shift because it's a one-speed; there wasn't any clutch. The digital dash included amp, volt and battery discharge information, in addition to the usual tach and speedo.

The bike's potential horsepower is 70. Top speed: 100 mph, though I was counseled against going too fast because:

1. The bike had only recently been built and didn't have its papers in order.
2. I was riding in a heavily policed part of Oakland.
3. The only thing stopping the batteries from sliding into the front wheel was a makeshift strap.

If only I'd visited one day later. That's when the bike's builders planned on installing the battery mounts. As it was, after just a few minutes of riding, I squeezed the brakes and 120 pounds of batteries bum-rushed the front fender, locking up my front end as I rolled toward a stop sign.

The Lightning Lithium is, after all, just a prototype — an idealistic vision of what could be. Using a track-beaten 1999 Yamaha R1, the conversion cost about $15,000 total. It was the brainchild of Richard Hatfield, a motorcycle enthusiast and solar panel importer based in Burlingame, and Todd Kollin, who's been making electric bikes out of past-their-prime gas-powered ones for the last six years at his Oakland shop, Electric Motorsport. Right now, the shop does custom conversions of aging internal-combustion bikes, with a turnaround time of about 30 days.

Within a couple years, the two hope to make a comparably priced production version of the bike using a custom chassis, as well as a smaller, less powerful $6,000 to $8,000 model.

They won't be the first to try it. In recent years, various electric-motorcycle manufacturers have unveiled exotic and promising prototypes with faraway launch dates, but they never seem to materialize for sale. As gas prices spiral upward and lithium prices continue to fall, Hatfield and Kollin aren't likely to be the last.

Lightning Motors' 1999 Yamaha R1 electric conversion

Price: $15,000
Powertrain: AC regenerative motor powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, 550-amp system, one speed
Maximum torque: 80 pound-feet
Maximum rpm: 8,000
Potential horsepower: 70
Estimated range: 80 miles at 65 mph
Dry weight: About 400 pounds
Charge time: Seven hours with on-board charger that plugs into a standard outlet

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Magical Bus

interestingly, "The Beatles" produced a film.. a pseudo documentary... of a bus ride (tour) in England, titled "The Magical Mystery Tour"(see: wiki). And that another pop music star in the 1960's, "The Doors", also wrote a song the revolved around a bus ride, (The Big Blue Bus #10), titled "The End".

The Beatles also produced an album by the name "Magical Mystery Tour" and a song by the same name.

There were other icons in the 1960's that had affinity for buses, and using them for their modes of transportation, perhaps in a less public transit fashion, such as The Merry Pranksters and their Acid Test bus tours throughout California in the same era.

There was another tour bus, based in California, that was hatched in the 1960's called The Green Tortoise that provided shuttle bus rides from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which continued to offer this commuter bus ride up through at least a few years ago.

BTW, there is a special Big Blue Bus operator that has a style of service that can make riding the Big Blue Bus a magical ride. And if you have happenned to ride with this operator, I think you will know what I mean. And I believe that it may leave you with a fond memory. This operator is often found operating the Big Blue Bus #10, which takes people from downtown Santa Monica, on the #10 freeway, to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

Perhaps those 60's revolutionaries of thought were presenting alternatives forms of transportation, even it perhaps encrypted in some ways.

You can watch the film "Magical Mystery Tour" (51 minutes), on Google Video below.

Monday, May 28, 2007

E-bikes Canada

This is a video news report from province of Ontario Canada, from 2006. It was a follow up report on the change in the law there which allows e-bikes to use the roads just like other bicycles. The law appears similar to the the California law CVC 24016 and CVC 406b (see: Electric Bicycle Laws wiki)

Representative of the "Electric Vehicle Council" of Ottawa by the "Ottawa Citizen Citydesk" tv show (also see;

Related Posts:
- "Man Motors on Hybrid (electric) Bike"(Video News report)
- Electric Bicycle Commuter Tips(video)
- Hybrid Bike in Valley news report
- How to Install an Electric Hub Motor Kit on a Bicycle video
- Electric Bikes China news report
- Ebikes Public Parking/Charging Stations
- Touring Beijing by Electric Bicycle
- Ebikes Vietnam video news report
- Electric Bikes Vancouver video news report
- CarLess Santa Monica video news report
- Vanguard Bikes (electric assist bicycles)
- G-Wiz Electric Car news report

Recommended Links:
- Cycle Santa Monica community forum

Friday, May 25, 2007

Unmanned Bicycle

This unmanned (or womaned) robot bicycle raises some many questions and thoughts.(see video below)

It appears that it is an electric bicycle that has a gyroscope to help it keep balance and a computer to give it control of where it goes, how fast, and how to turn, and when.

It might be alot of fun to have one of these at a critical mass bicycle ride. It may freak lots of folks out. Or it might be interesting to have it present riding during a "Ride of Silence". Ot it may be freaky to have it finish up an AIDS California ride as the bicycle being ridden by the spirit of those who have died.

Other thoughts... what is the legality of a robotic bicycle riding on the street or on sidewalks?

It may be kind of nice to have a bicycle like this that you can be kind of like "Kit" in that TV series that you can call to pick you up where you are.

I bike like that may be interesting as a theft deterent in that it will ride home if it gets stolen.

Any more thoughts?

Video description:

A robot bike which is developed to deliver noodles. It keeps balance with a gyro sensor and is equipped with landing gears for a stop.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Joy of Biking

The Peak Oil folks at APPLE put out a new video panel discussion on "The Joy of Bicycling". It has some interesting info. The people the host interviewed were from the "Alliance of People Powered Transportation"(Nevada County, California).

The Panelists are Janelle Black, Nicholas George, Johnna Gorrido. The host is Janaia Donaldson (Alliance For Post Petroleum Local Economy - APPLE).

One of the interesting things discussed was the bicycle, bike trailer, and ExtraCycle rental program offered through the Alliance for Human Powered Transportation. It would be great to have a resource like that.

Video Description:

Peak Moment 17: Members of Nevada County's Alliance for People-Powered Transportation discuss biking as a viable alternative to cars; safety, time-saving perspectives, strategies for getting started, and being equipped.

Recommended Links:
- Alliance for Post Petroleum Local Economy
- Alliance for Human Powered Transportation
- APPLE yahoogroup\
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum
- Santa-Monica/West-L.A./Venice critical mass community forum

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


A guy in Oregon created a 3 wheeled electric, lite, electric vehicle, he calls "BugE".

Here a couple videos of it in action:

Video Description:

First test run of BugE Personal Electric Vehicle February 2007 Creswell Oregon USA

Video Description:
Mark Murphy, designer, in his new kit vehicle creation, the BugE

It appears to be chain driven, rear wheel drive. It appears there may, or may not, be suspension of any of the wheels. the shell canopy appears similar to the Go-One velomobile and others.

Monday, May 14, 2007


(click on images to enlarge.)

In 1970, Dana (AKA Rosemary Brown) was the first person from the Republic of Ireland to win the Eurovision.

In a news film clip, see below, from that year, she was seen riding her bicycle in the city. And, interestingly, in the Eurovision competition, it appears she was wearing a dress with a colorful graphic image of a bicycle on the front of her dress.

The bicycle she was riding appears to be a folding bicycle and may have been taken in Derry Ireland. If anyone has more info or other thoughts on that let me know.

To learn more about Dana, see:
- Dana Rosemary (
- Dana (IMDB)
- Dana Rosemary Scanlion(wiki)
- Rosemary Brown(wiki)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vanguard Bicycle

As it so happens, I ran into the owner of "Vanguard Bicycles" in downtown Santa Monica and got a chance to see his hybrid bicycle up close. In our interesting discussion about electric bicycles I found out that he has a video up on YouTube showing his bicycle in action, rolling the streets (and along the beach) in Santa Monica California. You can also watch it below.

NOTE: It may be nice to see several of the bikes of the "Westside Impressionz" (a low rider bicycle club based in Santa Monica/Venice) be retrofitted with electric assist motors like the Vanguard Bicycle.

Related Posts:
- Compare commute: E-bike v. Car (video)
- E-Bike Commuting Tips(video)
- "Man Motoring on Hybrid Bike"(news video report)
- SFV Bike Culture(video)

Recommended Links:
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum
- Santa-Monica/West-L.A./Venice critical mass community forum

Custom E-bikes

There is apparently a new electric bicycle manufacturer/retailer in Santa Monica. They are called "Vanguard Bicycles". The had a half page ad in the Santa Monica Daily Press in yesturday's ( May 11, 2007) ( see: PDF file) on page 10.

(NOTE: see Vanguard Bicycle in action on Youtube LINK)

On the ad the title read "Fully Customized Electric Hybrid Bicycles". And they described prices starting at $665 (see picture on the right. click on picture to enlarge).

It was interesting that next to the ad was an article titled "Old drivers balk at road testing". That is a carry on story about the dabate on the ability of people over 70 or 80 being fit to drive cars. And interestingly, electric bicycles may be a valuable alternative for people in their 70's and 80's to driving a car, not only because it would allow them to bike places that they may not have the physical ability to do so without the electric assist on these bikes. No driver's license is required.

Related Posts:
- Compare commute: E-bike v. Car (video)
- E-Bike Commuting Tips(video)
- "Man Motoring on Hybrid Bike"(news video report)

Recommended Links:
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum
- Santa-Monica/West-L.A./Venice critical mass community forum

Friday, May 11, 2007

Clean Air

(click on images to enlarge. View video below)

I would like to bring you attention to a fairly recent "Green Party" advertisement from the UK.

In particular, there is a segment at around 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the commercial, there is a bicyclist scene where a guy in bicycle riding clothes, a bike helmet, and an air filtering mask. He pulls out a smal computer that reads:

What is the point of being WEALTHY
If you can't BREATHE the air?

If MODERN life makes us ill,
Then money will mean NOTHING.

What may be helpful is if each of the segments were split up in to the bit parts, with the footer and header of the commercial, such as the bicyclist scene.

Also, would have like to know what the sign language said. Captioning would be great addition to that segment.

If anyone know of this being done and/or where it can be found online, let me know.

All in all, I liked the sound. It was a moving piece of film making, story telling.