Student Refits $50 Motorcycle To Run On Solar Power

by , 10/04/10

Tony Danger Coiro, Purdue Unversity EV Club, EV club solar motorcycle, coiro solar motorcycle, solar motorcycle, purdue solar motorcycle, solar motorcycle tony danger coiro

With cars being designed to run on electricity and biofuel, it’s only fair that motorcycles are similarly retrofitted for renewable forms of energy. With that in mind, a student at Purdue University has converted an old 1978 Suzuki to run on solar energy and to emit zero emissions. Said student, the awesomely named Tony Danger Coiro bought the motorcycle for $50 and spent $2,500 redesigning and retrofitting the bike to run on sun. With the new modifications, the bike now has a range of 24 miles and a top speed of 45 miles per hour compared to a previous consumption of a ‘penny per mile’.

Speaking about his creation to PhysOrg, physics major Coiro (originally from South Bend, Indiana) said, “The riding experience is surreal. I get instant, silent, constant acceleration that outpaces urban traffic. It’s like riding a magic carpet.”

Coiro has received a provisional patent for his ‘solar motorcycle’ and has co-launched an Electric Vehicle Club at Purdue University with Jim Danielson and Sean Kleinschmidt, two colleagues who converted a 987 Porsche 924S to run on electric power for $500.

“Purdue Electric Vehicles will encourage enthusiasm for, and knowledge and development of, electric vehicles by students and the community,” Coiro said of the club, adding that the EV Club will “patent and commercialize its breakthrough technologies and feed proceeds back into research and development of new prototypes.”

Coiro is also aiming to improve upon his current design, saying he is drawing up plans for a 100-horsepower motorcycle that will travel up to 100 miles per charge with a top speed of 100 mph.

“I’ve learned a lot building this first bike, and now I’m ready to make a game-changer,” Coiro said.

+ Purdue University

Via PhysOrg

Lead image © Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock

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  1. tahrey May 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

    50,000 miles at 50MPG? I think a cheap old Suzuki that manages “a penny a mile” is getting better mileage than that. Though that estimate was probably only true back IN 1978, it looks no bigger than 250cc might, maybe only a 125-150cc. In which case, 50mpg (US) would be at the lower end of its realistic economy range. If you’re just commuting, use the gears intelligently, make sure the carb and engine are in shape and go easy with the gas handle, you could probably eke it out to 80 or more. So it’d take more miles to get payback than the cycle will probably last in total.

    However I’m more bothered by how he can get useful power out of what can’t be more than about a square metre of solar cells (any much more than that, and he wouldn’t be able to filter through traffic any more and may as well just build an ultralight car so cells could be put on the roof and bonnet). Peak insolation is about 1kW per sqm in temperate regions, and you’ll have that for the equivalent of about 8 hours a day. Even the best generally available solar cells are maybe 10% efficient. So that’s 800 watt-hours of energy. Even a modest 250~300w electric bicycle would burn through that in 3 hours of riding (or in other words, 45-60 tedious miles). A more practical moped (space for two, decent tyres and brakes and a small luggage compartment) doesn’t generally have less than about 4hp (3kW), which will drain that 800Wh charge in less than 20 minutes, and it will need to be held at full gas to manage 35-40mph on the flat (or in other words… 10-15 mile range). My own modest 125cc commuter – so, in a similar size/power demand class as his Suzuki – has 8kW output (= 6 minutes at full power / 65mph (6.5 miles), assuming the cells don’t add masses of drag)… which would equate to about a 13 mile range at a 50% throttle, 45mph cruise. At which I get better than 100mpg (UK, easily over 80mpg US). The amount of charge he gets from his cells per day is therefore equivalent to about a half litre/one quart of gasoline for a comparable fossil-fuelled bike. Or £0.65’s-worth… 30 cents, where you are. It takes a long time to save up $2500 at 30 cents per day. I would suggest you’re better just riding a pedal cycle, as you’ll cover that same 13 miles in an hour if you’re reasonably fit, and the 40 minutes “wasted” can be classed as a pleasure cruise, or the workout that you would otherwise spend an hour at the gym to achieve. And, as I live more than 15 miles from where I work and don’t have much free time, I’ll stick with the gas powered one that will happily carry me along at 60+ mph and only ask for a couple litres of refined oil a day in exchange (plus the occasional litre of heavier oil and a couple other bits of basic maintenance).

    ((Regarding his stated 45mph top speed (so, maybe 5hp? which feels punchy in traffic only because most of it’s available at 0mph) and 24 mile range… I’ll bet you that you don’t get both of them at the same time, unless the thing’s plugged in and fully topped up before you ride, with batteries that hold more than a full day’s solar charging, and you tool along in full blazing summer sunlight. 24 miles at 24mph, maybe. Note that he hasn’t mentioned an “infinite daylight range”, let alone one with a stated all-solar speed.))

    A 100 mile range, 100 horsepower, 100 mph bike? Well, for a start, he’s not going to be able to cover those 100 miles in one hour with current cell or battery technology unless the entire machine is cocooned in an eggshell whose surface is solar panels and filled up with batteries, at a cost of several tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if your motorcycle needs 100hp to achieve 100mph, you’ve done something very wrong; even a car only needs about 60hp for that (bike is more like 30-40hp). Maybe that’s the burst output, and the continuous rating is much lower?

    In any case, I’m sorry. Colour me deeply skeptical. If you can maybe make some kind of bike-with-a-roof that’s not a balance or aerodynamic nightmare, with 2 sqm or more of 50%-plus efficient cells, and are happy to still only ride for, at most, maybe 1/4 as long per day as there are sunshine hours (so, in winter, that’s 1 hour… if you’re lucky) at 45-50mph, and the technology for both the photovoltaics and the storage media becomes a great deal cheaper, I may believe it. ’til then, I can’t see it being practical.

    ((At which point we’ll also have practical solar cars and trucks, because they’ve got considerably better surface area:required power and available storage space:required battery quota ratios))

  2. rider I March 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    You might want to try and fashion the solar panels where the gas tank was,create a bigger bug screen, and then fashion panels over the fenders. There is also reverse energy technology that when stooping collects the energy from the breaks and stores it, along with that, this is harder but you might want to look into shock absorbers that also collect energy while absorbing bumps,also placing motion collectors in the hollowed out rims might generate some more energy collection. might need a grant for all that.

  3. Rider March 1, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Rider I

    now what you need to remeber is be like Ninja they sell the bikes at $4,000 and they sell like hot cakes, if you can sell your bikes at that rate you will be the next Honda or Suziki company with cars ans tvs and the works as in most countries motorcycles have become staples for travel, also look into interational market shares.

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  6. AllForTheGreen October 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm


    ……… …. Might wanna take your math back to the drawing board, unless you’re suggesting that the gasoline version of this bike gets 1,000MPG?

    This removal of $2.50/Gallon gas paid for itself after 25,000 miles (if 25MPG) or 50,000 miles (if 50MPG). Let’s not forget reduction of maintenance costs because electric engines done need near the same quantity of lubricants, for one, nor do mufflers need to .. had.. period, and emission systems are kinda also out the window. It really can’t get much more simplified.

    What I’d like to see is an angular flared body kit with lots of nice flat surfaces to put appropriate patches of solar cells all over the entire body to maximize solar intake. Include an emergency rev kit to add extra juice manually or something incase the driving range is extended beyond. I’ve always had the idea to have an electric bike with storage attachments at the back which I’d store a large flexible solar “tarp” with a cord obviously. Just take that out, flop it open on the ground, you’d be generating a minimum of several hundred watts in under a minute. Hell, you could even put that transparent solar cell material into the windshield, which would be a great surface area, in addition to those canopy shield ideas which could wrap all the way over the top to the back. Such a canopy could even be collapsable/deployable from out of a compartment in the rear and used during transit or simply during charging in the parking lot.

    Lots of ways to get the most out of it.. And YES, it’s absolutely worth it. There has never been a time in my life where I did not want to closeline a Harley rider with an aluminum bat for the obnoxious sound they make.. for one.

  7. meatspamla October 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Still doesn’t make economical sense.
    The guy needs to drive 250,000 miles before breaking even, and that is assuming the batteries do not need to be replaced in the meantime… :(

  8. flock of tea cosy October 4, 2010 at 10:57 am

    And imagine — it’s wonderfully quiet, like electric bikes. No rumbling blatting noise. By the way, does it strike anyone else as ridiculous that people are now talking about adding noise to electric bikes? Haven’t we lived with silent regular bikes? People silently walking?

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