This Electric Café Racer was a Honda CB200 before the EV engine swap

Philadelphia-based businessman and EV buff Marlio Escobar has been converting gas-powered motorcycles to run on batteries in his garage for the past four years. Having successfully completed many projects which include an e-Suzuki Hayabusa, he decided to work on a back-to-basics bike, a Honda CB200, last month.

Here’s what Marlio told us when we asked him about the conversion –

Idea & Background

I started around 4 years ago and my goal was to build an electric bike that I could go about 120 miles (193 km) on. Not a motorcycle, but a bike just to get back and forth from work for free basically, because gas is so expensive. Somehow that turned into building an electric motorcycle. I saw an electric Hayabusa that was featured in the Philadelphia Auto Show. When I built it, I realized a lot of things people don’t think about with motorcycles like you can go and have a lot of power but you won’t have any range, or you have range but don’t have power, and it’s not fun to drive.

Battery-powered Honda CB200 – Image Gallery

Brewing the electric motorcycle at home

I bought a Honda CB200, and the bike itself was originally not meant to go over 96 km/h. The first thing I had to do was find a front end that would fit it and would be able to brake. I took a Gixxer front end and machined it down to fit onto there; that’s why there’s a fat front end and dual disc brakes here. The only thing I had to do was to weld a plate on to the bottom to cover up the open well of the frame, and I placed the three batteries on there in a pyramid shape, so that it didn’t look like a box and to retain the flow of the bike.

First I went on to search about building the battery pack and building the right systems for what you want. In the last couple of builds that I did, I have been trying to perfect that. I currently have an electric Ninja that can do a range of over 320 km per charge with a 140 km/h top speed. It has a four-speed transmission. That one got me started on thinking about going to hub motor route because I liked to try different options. That’s when I came up with Café Racer. The hardest part about the Café Racer is if you saw it, how you would make it look pretty with batteries. Batteries by nature aren’t necessarily pretty.

One of the things I found was that car batteries were perfect. I got my hands on a limited production car battery produced by LG Chem. Those batteries are 67 V and 35 Ah each. I was able to set three in there, get 105 Ah running at 67 V. I’m working with a company called ASI, who builds one of the best controllers on the market. They are dead silent, super-efficient, and they can put out a ton of power. With that controller and this hub configuration, I can put out about 300 lb.ft (406 Nm) and go from zero to 96 km/h in under three seconds. But the beauty of it is if I’m not racing around, drop it down so that I can just ride around town and get around 128 to 145 km per charge through their web app, getting the best of both worlds. The app can be accessed through your phone, and with a push of a button, I can change the whole specs of the bike; it can be a city cruiser or a racing bike.

Specifications

SpecificationValue
Battery105 Ah 67V
Motor8 kW hub motor
Range80-90 miles
Top speed75 mph
0-60 mph3 seconds
Claimed specifications of the Honda CB200 EV engine swap project

This bike has been phenomenal; lots of people love it, and I’m going to do a couple of more builds with different styles and am working on an electric Ducati as well.

I used an ASI BAC8000 controller that I put on top of the battery pack, and it fits perfectly. Then I used an 8 kW hub motor and bolted it on. Essentially, that is the whole build. I was going for something simple that someone can do it at home; easy to replicate.

Electric cafe racer during the build – Image Gallery

Time and cost of the build

Part NamePart Cost
Three 67V LG Chem 35Ah cells in parallel$750
qs8kw v3 motor$500
GXSR750 forks machined to fit the CB200$1,000
Asi bac8000 controller$1,600
Amazon seat$100
Headlight from Amazon$50
dc to dc converter$75
Tank from ebay$175
Throttle from ebay$10
rfy shocks from ebay$300
For wires cables and fuses$400

The whole build was under $5,000, and it took around 40 hours to complete the build. My first build took me two years. There are only three components – batteries, controller and the motor. It’s very simple once you learn how to do it and if you get the right components. Hub motors bolt on to the rear wheel, so there’s very little to no modification there. The batteries are car batteries; all I had to do was put them in parallel and put a plate underneath and sandwiched them in so they stay in place and put a controller on top. There was no cutting the frame, the only modification that would be harder for someone to do is getting a machinist to take the front end of the Gixxer and machine it to fit the CB200.

Range, acceleration & top speed

As I said, you can control it via your phone to see how far you want to go. So maximum range would be up to 145 km per charge, when I turn it down to about 300 A and 1800 W. If I turn it out to the max, I would probably get around 65 km of range, and it would do 0 to 96 km/h in 2.5 seconds because it’s an extremely light bike. The top speed on that bike is around 112 km/h, but the ASI BAC8000 controller has field weakening, and this allows achieving higher speeds with less voltage. So I have a 25 per cent field weakening on there, and I’m able to push it to 128 km/h, but you do lose a little bit of torque on the low end, but it is not noticeable. I have clocked over 1,200 km on it so far.

Plans with the electric motorcycle

Also See: Josh Chauvet converts rusty old Honda CT90 moped into an electric city punter

Honestly, I don’t know what I’m planning on doing with the bike. My goal was to make a kit so that everyone can have them. I just want to help people through their build, and I’m not looking to make any money off it. I want to connect people with the right suppliers. My goal is really to show people how to do it. Everyone wants something that no one else has. Being able to put together a kit like this that is so easy that you can bolt it on, it makes people take any bike of their choice and turn it to electric and get great performance, great range, etc.