View Full Version : Honda Conversion Project

28 June 2011, 1419
Hello all. I am new to the site (yeah I probably should have posted in the "Come on in" section) and this is my first EV project. I picked up a 1981 Honda Cm400 bike for a relatively good price. The bike needs a bit of tlc, nothing that I won't be able to handle. I bought and read "From Fossils to Flux" which was filled with great information. I am also currently reading "Build your own Electric Motorcycle" by Carl Vogel. There has been alot of late night internet reading as well. A few major questions still pose a threat to the beginning of the design process.

1. Which type of batteries to use? I was almost dead set on lead-acid due to their lower cost than other types. But am now considering batteries in the Lithium category. Lead-acid is just too heavy... but I also do not want to break my bank. (College student). So finding a balance or a happy medium of some sort would be great.

2. Depending on the type of batteries that I end up with, does the battery cage/ housing NEED to be welded? Or are there some pretty sturdy designs that have held up using only bolts?

I am sure that I will have more questions later on. There is alot of information on this site, endless-sphere and evalbum that I am currently in the process of digesting. Looking forward to joining the EV community.


28 June 2011, 1440
1) I'd say save up and do lithium, you'll spend less in the long run and if you take care of it, they'll last longer. They've gotten better and they're pretty solid.

2) I'd weld something. If you can't do it, Have a local welder weld together something you've cut out of metal, or take the frame to their shop. It's worth the effort.

28 June 2011, 2058
Lead vs. Lithium is about money, weight and range. I was set on Lithium until the quotations came in - then I decided that the first incarnation of my eBike would be lead, since I can get 50km range from 150kg of batteries, and I can fit these on my CB750F (if barely). If (at cruising speeds up to 100 km/h) your range requirement is over 50km, lithium is pretty much the only way; under 30km, lead can do just fine. In between, it's a tough call... (numbers shift with cruising speed)
Welding isn't required, but the construction that you'll wind up with is lighter/stronger/slightly more compact than a bolted construction, and you want all of those three for a motorbike

28 June 2011, 2207
Welcome Tyler.

Whether or not Lead will be suitable for you really depends on your desired outcome. What kind of range, speed & acceleration are you looking for?
Also, it's possible to do a suitable job without welding, but welding can make it easier to design and fabricate.

15 December 2011, 2245
Well between work and school, I haven't been able work on this project as quickly as I'd like to. Painting the frame so that I can put the bike back together. Already cleaned out and rebuilt one of the forks, so one fork remains. Got a new triple tree. Tires and brakes are next.

Silver frame with midnight blue accents. It's kind of a tribute to my '79 RS Camaro I used to have, God rest its soul.

so after I paint, hopefully the project will pick up quicker. This is the commuter bike, so it won't be super fancy. i will probably end up using Li-Poly for this as well as the race bike.


15 February 2012, 2337

Putting the bike back together now, and I cannot figure out whether or not to chop the back of the seat or not. I like the idea of saving weight and taking off the back of the seat as I will never have another person riding with me. But I like the classic look of the seat on this honda. Decisions decisions..

Been ordering LiPo from hobbyking slowly each month. Have a Kelly controller to experiment around with. Does anyone have a motor sitting around that they would like to get rid of? I have a little Kelly KEB72451 controller that I picked up from a fellow for cheap, so it would need to be able to work with this controller.

16 February 2012, 1030
Hello EVGator,

I like Ted Dillard's CAD designs (cardboard aided design) approach. Start making 3d structures and fit into places on your bike. This will help in getting your ideas into reality. In addition it will help you where you would need to cut off tags and new brackets.

Good luck.
Los Angeles

19 February 2012, 1129

Cardboard Aided Design is some awesome stuff. I have made a few mock batteries, but stopped after 3..I think I am going to just mock up a pack as a whole instead. I mean I use Autodesk as well, but its nice to physically see the parts on the bike sometimes.


19 February 2012, 1136
Here is the almost final product of the top of the triple tree. Gotta add another clear coat. Not bad though, for spray paint.
I must have sanded then repainted it 12 different times..but nonetheless, all of my parts should look this good.

The other pictures are of mock Turnigy nano tech 4s 6Ah battery packs. The width is smaller than that of my Turnigy 4s 5Ah hardcase pack, but the trade off is the length obviously.


19 February 2012, 1208
Aloha tyler welcome to the madness , what you described in your first couple of posts is spot on ,books and late night internet and an overload of information ,im 2 or 3 months in now and the choice of batteries is what kept me up at night ! I decided on Headways , one of the things i liked about them is the mechanical connection . So i ordered 4 cells and then ,from hobbyking a charger and cell log so i can see how these puppies play , ultimately these 4 cells will run the 12v led light system on the bike. Now if Harbour Freight would get on with deliverin me lift i could start on the vtr 1000 donor bike !!.
have fun and happy flux'in

19 February 2012, 1228
For sure man. I started in June last year and have learned alot since then. I'll be laying in bed late at night, just thinking about this project, and I just can't turn my brain off sometimes.
Headways have always been pretty attractive to me. I think you're right, its the way that they are connected.

And a honda VTR 1000 eh? Can't wait to see your build unfold!


13 April 2012, 2141
Alright. I swear, I am getting progress done between classes and work. The way i went about this project has really allowed me to learn the fundamentals of the motorcycle itself, which is always a plus. It's been almost a complete restoration, which is just the way I like it.. This '81 Cm400 was a Florida bike, and sat in a swamp in Ocala for a few years before I picked it up from a guy in North Georgia. The guy I purchased it from told me that he actually got his truck stuck going down a back road to the property where this bike was located haha. It had a great collection of solidified sand/ oil mix all over it, had a good amount of surface rust, but other than that, has proved to be 98.7% solid.

Here are some before shots: 30283029303030313032

13 April 2012, 2152
I then had it sandblasted by a buddy for $0.00, bringing it to looking like this.

Attached is the frame after being painted.

Then I had another buddy that owns a motorcycle shop allow me to graciously use his space while I redid both forks. The forks went very smoothly on this particular model, just had alot of gunk that needed to be shot out of the tube. I then painted them and they now look like this.

13 April 2012, 2200
And here is the rest of the painted parts for now.
: Center stand, kick stand, head light bezel, fork cap?/ headlight support pieces, and Honda emblem.


Up next, and by next I mean hopefully tomorrow, I will tackle the swingarm and rear shocks. 3040

Whew. Just updated a few months worth in a couple of posts. As far as the electrical aspect of this bike goes, I am currently trying to get a pretty cool battery pack design into cad. I got my inspiration from a piece of cardboard actually. This design will only work with the thin 20ah A123 pouch cells, so the Turnigy are out. I'll keep ya posted. Then you all can criticize the design and give me your input and liveforphysics will bring me back to reality. I love my elmoto family.

14 April 2012, 0511
Hey Gator,

Its always good to see the progress. And by the time you posted------ it looks was a late night on the project. LOL
Im in the beginning of my project myself and am trying to redo a yamaha 750 that someone took rustolum to. Good thing it didnt stick very well. Am very interested in the A123 pouch cells myself. Im still up in the air about what battery to use myself. Hope you can keep us all updated on your progress as you begin to get closer to that point. If anyone can help us both out on the pros and cons of these batteries, we both prob. would love it.

Getting alittle closer to the EV smile

14 April 2012, 0817
Just saw this project; looks promising. The CM400's are sweet little bikes (have a stock '80 CM400T myself). :D One thing to keep in mind when you're building the battery boxes/mounts is that the engine was a stressed member of the frame, so you will need to make sure you put something there to complete the frame or you'll have some serious problems.

26 June 2012, 2103
Tad bit of updates...


26 June 2012, 2137
And a couple of inspirational pieces.