Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Lightning Lithium...should keep your trickle charger busy

YOU'RE LOOKING at a lithium-ion battery powered R1. The 'Lightning Lithium' goes 0-60 in around 3 seconds, hits close to 100 mph at top speed, and has about a 100-mile range.

To rid the bike of any unecessary parts the builders have stripped the bike to the bone, removing the engine, tailpipes, radiator, transmission and clutch. In their place is a host of batteries, an AC regenerative motor, an electric throttle and a three-pronged plug, which pokes out from the frame and connects to a standard mains outlet.

Each of the batteries charging rate is 90 amp-hours at 3.2 volts. Together, they weigh less than everything taken off the bike to make it electric. Most of the are situated 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.

Using a 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.

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