Purdue University students develop high performance electric motorbike


February 1, 2012

Two Purdue University engineering students have converted a gas-powered Yamaha YZF600r into an electric motorbike capable of speeds of more than 120 mph and with a range in excess of 120 miles

Two Purdue University engineering students have converted a gas-powered Yamaha YZF600r into an electric motorbike capable of speeds of more than 120 mph and with a range in excess of 120 miles

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It doesn't seem too long ago when we were reporting on breakthroughs in battery technology that would allow electric motorbikes like the Brammo Enertia to travel as much as 45 miles (72 km) on a single charge. These days, we're seeing most of the recent arrivals (such as the 2012 Zero S range, for instance, or the gorgeous custom-built Brutus 2.0) flying past the 100 miles (160 km) barrier with relative ease, a range long enough to quieten even the most fervent of petrol-heads. Two Purdue University engineering students have recently completed the conversion of a Yamaha YZF600r to electric power that further pushes the envelope to more than 120 miles (193 km), using batteries cooled by phase change material.

Sean Kleinschmidt and Jim Danielson are no strangers to electric vehicle conversion. In 2009, the students transformed a red 1987 Porsche 924S (with a blown engine) into an electric-powered head-turner - with a lead-acid battery, and a forklift truck motor. It's fair to say that its top speed of just 55 mph (88.5 km/h) and range of 50 miles (80.4 km) didn't quite match its sporty looks, though. The pair then went on to co-launch the Purdue Electric Vehicles Club with fellow enthusiast Tony Coiro in 2010. The students also took possession of a 2000 Yamaha YZF600r with a bad transmission that same year.

The bike's engine and transmission were subsequently ripped out to make room for a battery pack, an electric motor, controller and other components, while the gasoline engine was sold to help fund the conversion project. While working on the Model S battery pack during an internship at Tesla Motors in California, Kleinschmidt managed to secure a donation of 1,512 Lithium-Ion batteries to make up a 10.6 kWh/117V peak battery pack. An internship at the Delphi Corporation was also of benefit to the project.

"Delphi was able to help out with not only a knowledge base but also by donating some of the electrical components such as the SAE J1772 standard EV charge plug," Kleinschmidt told Gizmag.

To help extend the life and the range of the battery pack, the build team began working with AllCell Technologies to incorporate the company's phase-change thermal management technology into the design. AllCell's custom phase change material-graphite composite surrounding each battery cell is said to absorb and distribute heat during discharge or when the motorbike is exposed to increased ambient temperatures.

"AllCell provided its phase change material (PCM) to thermally protect the batteries and we allowed them use our battery assembly facility to build the modules," said Greg Albright, Project Manager at All Cell Technologies. "PCM absorbs and distributes heat generated by the battery cells to maintain a low, uniform battery temperature, which is critical for cycle life. If one cell goes into thermal runaway (think Sony laptops, Chevy Volt) it prevents the neighboring cells from being triggered in a domino effect."

The electric YZF600r features a Battery Management System donated by Linear Technologies, and the battery pack delivers up to 72 kW of power to the 3-phase AC induction motor, resulting in around 100 horsepower and a top speed of over 120 mph (193 km/h).

As for the build pair's immediate plans - Kleinschmidt told us that he's just partnered with Purdue's Andrew Westrick and Tony Coiro to work on an electric bicycle for the Clean Energy Trust 2012 challenge. Danielson has started work on a new electric motor design with funding from the Thiel Fellowship.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

fine but engineering is about solving all the problems, not just one

\"performance, price, or quick to market, pick 2\"

i think they didn;t even pick 2, just 1 [performance]



\"a range long enough to quieten even the most fervent of petrol-heads\": I think not. I\'ve done a couple of 1000+ mile days on a motorcycle, and more 700+ mile days than I can even remember, yet I\'m a slacker compared to some of the other Iron Butt riders.

Still, it\'d be a great bike to commute on or take for short day trips when a Gold Wing, Vision, or Electra Glide Ultra Classic is overkill.

Joe Henderson

A hundred miles when driven at a slow even pace is not close to adequate range in the real world. Refueling time and \'tank\' life are important considerations as well.


This article as well as every other EV article always, without exception, reports performance. Reports range. Never the two together. Never \"120 mph for 30 miles or 65 miles for 100 miles. Headlines without the true \'meat\'. It might do 120, but is that limited to the standing 1/4 mile?


CONGRATS, guys! Great work, and a continued inspiration. Just keep that Tony guy from riding it in the halls!

Ted Dillard
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