Build your own car from scratch

Most of us settle for modding the latest car weve bought. [Steve Graber] took another approach andbuilt his owncar from scratch. [John] sent in this impressive project. The original was built around Toyota MR2 parts andthe bodywas made from fiberglass after the design was hand made from a wooden support frame, foam and drywall mud that was sanded down to create the shape. After that, molds were made from the slug to allow the panels to be cast from fiberglass. [Steve] is actually offering the car up as abuild-it-yourself kit. Personally, Id like the see the price come down a bit the 1,500lb street weight would make a sweet basis for an electric car.

Bonus: If youd doing EVs, bots or R/C toys, you might likethis comparisonof the latest breed of Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries by [Ian Hooper].

I was looking at the battery charger circuit and I saw it had a 7805 which if my memory services right, is a linear voltage regulator. I avoid those now, because they are typically very inefficient. Could one use a switching regulator, like the ones max makes. They seem to an awesome job, and i have tons of them sitting around in my room. You can get tons of them for free if you are like that (which I am).

amazing. fiberglass is sweet, until he hits a bump or something and shatters part of it.

steffen: what 5v regulators are you refering to?

and a bit more on topic, there is another company in indiana that is going to start selling a similar car but more of an indy/f1 racing style soon very similar to this.

i may have to check into that, im living in indy right now! havent heard anything about it yet tho.

But if you want someone else to build it for you and have got a spare √ā30K, then take a look at the hand built and designed Javan R1 sports car at

Made from honeycomb aluminimum construction with a 220bhp Honda iVtec engine, it weighs in at 670Kg and does 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds.

Now get rid of that nasty ICE and put in a sweet brushless electric, with some LiFePO Batteries

lol, even if you thick resin and wax fiberglass it still gradually rots. It also deteriorates urethanes and enamels when heated which means shotty paint in a matter of years. Ive seen it happen to professionally done urethane acrylic paint in a matter of 3 years even with routine waxing just under regular sunlight.

I also like the design, but Id use polymers and improve the circuits. Also use solar and a couple deep cycles. LIPO would be like sitting on a corrosive bomb.

I love how every ignores the most low yield energy source in the world: solar.

Theres nowt wrong with fibreglass, with the correct prep itll last a damn sight longer than metal bodies do. There are TVRs knocking about from the early 80s with original body and paint, full fibreglass. With modern epoxies problems are minimised even further. F/glass only rots when left unsealed in humid/wet conditions for long periods, it is, after all, just glass and plastic mixed.

For 25k you get pretty much everything you need, except the engine, tranny, paint, and basically everything else you would need Hell, Id drive a cardboard box around if it could do 12 sec 1/4 miles. why spend so much without even getting an engine?

Like I said: solid polymer for the body, and improve the electrical. Were talking about communications satellites for NASA, just a electric car with a neat looking body, and tuner wheels.

I havent been following the kit car world for years, so I dont have a clue, how this stacks up with whatever else is available to mod into an EV. Im not so sure if fiberglass has all the drawbacks posted here it would be in such wide spread use.

So this is where all the traffic to my website is coming from! Thanks for the mention Hack-A-Day!

If you spend even 5 minutes on my website and get into the diary you will see that I have thousands of photos, and hundreds of diary entries detailing every phase of my build saga covering 5 years. The car was built almost entirely in 1/2 of a 2 car garage using the most basic metalworking tools. I designed and built the frame, suspension, and bodywork myself. One person Solo. It is a big accomplishment if I say so myself. (pats back)

I feel the need to clarify something that seems to pop up often on these types of comment areas about my car, or any handcrafted low production volume automobile for that matter. When you build a single car or even 10 cars from scratch, you do not have the benefit of the economies of scale that come from mass production. Therefore you cant expect the car to cost $5,000.

One only has to realize that even a lightweight car such as La Bala requires a huge number of components and a huge amount of time/effort to build. Every last nut and bolt does cost SOMETHING, and it has to be sourced from somewhere after all! I have a filing cabinet just for receipts. So until you get into it I guess you dont know what it costs. I am here to set that record straight right now.

I would like to point out to Jordan that the reason for offering the car without the engine is that you can choose an engine that you prefer. I know that people have a preferred brand and La Bala is unique in that it has been designed to accept ANY FWD drivetrain in a mid-engine configuration! You like Honda? it fits, Toyota? go for it! GM Ecotec? great choice. Are you starting to see how this works? A crate GM EcotecSS outputting 245HP can be ordered from the GM catalog for $2,500. Bolt it into a La Bala and you have a 1,500Lb mid-engine sportscar that is totally unique (and not too shabby looking IMHO) that will do high-11s in the 1/4, 0-60 in the low 4s or high 3s, stop and turn on a dime and cost less than $30,000! Too expensive? Gimme a break. The Ariel Atom starts at $60,000!

The track version of La Bala that I am offering is different from the street version and is comprised of all-new race car components. It is made from the highest quality materials. And, if you dont want a track car, then the street version (shown above) based on the MKI MR2 can be built for about 1/2 the cost of the track version, but you have to build it yourself using my plans. So get out your angle grinder, band saw and your welder because you really can build your own la Bala!

Have the glass-haters never seen a Corvette?

the indy car one i was talking about is here, they have the prototype done but the website is not updated just yet

Have the glass-haters never seen a Corvette?

Ever seen one of those models after an accident? I have. The engine went threw the taillights. Also try looking at one that is poorly maintained or a daily driver, my previous statements are still going to hold true.

For 25k Id buy a 07 impreza and convert it to electric, or one of the other 07 tuner cars you can get for that: civic si, rx8 etc..

The point is, that this car is less than half the weight of your average car. Things like RX8s, Imprezas, are all around 1400 KG, as opposed to this car at 670 KG. Im not sure if that weight figure includes an engine or not (I believe that figure includes the 4AGE engine). If it doesnt, add an engine and youre still around 800KG which is damn light. That gives it brilliant power-to-weight for a low price. Compare that to the 850KG Lotus Elise or Exige for more like $80,000.

Lots of people are doing it, take a look @ Hartley V8, AWD with 375hp yields 0 to 60 in about 2.0 seconds.. Nice!

coollooks a bit like the body of a Lotus Elise with a Ferrari nose.. or atleast, that was my first imperession.. cool car!

Yeah, a bit like an Elise is something of an understatement. The back end looks like pure Elise, he might have altered the front a bit but it seems a bit of a cheat calling it an original body design. If I wanted a cheap elise clone Id buy a vauxhall vx220 and maybe convert to electric ūüôā

If I wanted a cheap elise clone Id buy a vauxhall vx220 and maybe convert to electric

Then you would have a tesla roadster

This is starting to remind me of that old john hancock snl sketch where the grandpa buys a toy wooden boat, whittles on it, and gives it to his son.

I like the concept of home brew cars from the ground up, but a lot of the stuff Im seeing isnt really original. What about active suspensions designs and stuff?

Something tells me you could get just a good if not better designs then this for less than 25k. Thats even using better quality parts too.

I gotta make another comment. I read through the diary part, and most of the other site. Is it me or is there no real details on building this car? I specifically looked for chassis welding and metal grades, but a lot of other stuff is missing too.

Its kind of interesting to read commentary and look at images I guess, but the site really isnt too informative.

I totally agree thekhakinator, but I was most interested in the metal grade and welding he used on the overall frame. Most people here where already capable of designing electrical systems, and suspensions before this entry.

He has a reference section somewhere with the books he used to learn how to do that stuff. Guess he figured it would be superfluous to re-iterate chassis design and welding, but a couple of years ago when I first stumbled onto the site thats all I was interested in too.

Guess he figured it would be superfluous to re-iterate chassis design and welding

On the contrary, thats probably the only complex process in his whole project, and good luck finding a *single source* for that type of chassis fabrication on the net or elsewhere without forking over money.

Fiberglass and polymer body kits like that have been in mail order catalogs for decades, and even high school drop outs are tuning and swapping both carburetor and fuel injected engines now days.

Outside the suspension and chassis design its pure shade tree mechanic material. I guess it takes a person with basic knowledge of automotive engineering to appreciate that aspect, and not be blinded by the aesthetics.

wow, that is one awesome car! low wight and low rideheight = tons of pure fun, mmmmm. ūüôā

Sweet speed ūüôā i want one i Want one!

NICE! looks like a overgrown gocart :))

i wanted to ask about that car u have made,

i dont know much about how america works with from scratch cars for on-road legality,

but i wander, if i ever made one of those.

1) do u think it could be made eu/uk road legal?

2) u could put in a huge tank so it travels further

3) if its possible to create a super sound system / carpc in ur creation

4) would it of been cheaper with local parts in the uk, should i of made one , (rather than importing etc)

and. 5)how many MPSs did u get? (+ which fuel?)

And you are right about the cost, I thought I would gat away with it for about 10 000$ and i am up to 15k and it still doesnt run. I am just wondering, I am thinking about fiberglass for the body.

Do yo know if I have to make a mold of the entire car, or can I use something like chicken cage and put the fiberglass on it. I am also wondering if the fiberglass will be solid enough to hold the windshield without breaking it. and then how can I fix the body to the frame the lightest way possible.

OK, let me repeat that Nuzzle my respect company Wanna joke?) How many Microsoft employees does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None. Well just declare darkness the new standard.

Dose someone have the Chassis Plans and parts list for the La Bala so I dont have to pay $99.

Why should I spend $99 to find out about a $25,000 or $30,000 car that I mite buy that has NO crash test ratings or NO road rules or unbiased videos that should be lake this

and that are not all posted buy the maker of the car.

I cant find a 1/4 mi time ether.

There is NO videos of the car doing work compared to others lake

$99 is a lot to throw away for a car that could be vary unsafe or above the 13.00 sec 1/4 mi with it weight.

hmmm not what i had in mind when i googled the search, i was curious if anyone could make a car from scratch, and from scratch for me would be start at mining for the metal, not buying premade parts

I am interested in building my own car. Well actually designing my own car and then having it built. This was not the information that I was origionally expecting when I found this site. But the car is nice. How ever, I was looking more for the technical stuff as in what engine, brakes, transmission, type of suspension, etc.. that was used.

For example: 2.5L DOHC 16-valve 4cylinder, 5speed auto w/paddle shift, 4wheel independant suspension, etc..

I have several ideas for cars, using parts that are already available, with the only exceptions being the body and possibly the frame. I know there are resources available to learn how to design and construct those parts. But finiding them is the problem I have, especially with no $$$$!

I recently found out Toyota is considering recalling all vehicles due to acceleration troubles . My uncle bought a Toyota, should the vehicle be driven before its fixed?

personaly i would drop a B16 with a T4 twin ballbaring turbo ,and add some light weight piston rods and some titanium lifters and valve spring , bigger fuel rail and fuel injecters,and add a weapons R coldair intake ,put a 4.2.1 racing headers on, and bigger cam like from ComPCams. Then this beast would be rolling. Buck 20 noooooo problem. Now guys dont get me wrong i know that the ivtek is nice but with the set up im talking about would make your every day grandma grocrie getter neon ,2nd gen of course smoke that car.

Ive just stubled upon this site could I just borrow the technical

articles from the site or do I need special permission?. Im writing a school project.

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How to be your own general contractor and build youdream home foa fction of thprice

everyone should have the possibility of having the home of their dreams

For some people thats a tiny home, for others its a cabin in the woods, for others its a mansion on the beach. Whatever your dream is for a home, I think you should be able to make it happen!

For Farmer and I, that dream home was a farmhouse in the country. It has four bedrooms, a big open great room with vaulted ceilings, a rock fireplace in the center, and a huge wall of windows overlooking our land.

Do you know what our home appraises for?

That number was unattainable for a family like ours, unless we wanted to go into some serious debt.

Well, I have a secret . actually,I have A LOT of secrets. And I want to share them with you! So sit back and get comfortable, because a mountain of information is an understatement for this blog post! Keep reading to learn how to be your own general contractor, the 1 way to save thousands on your dream home, how to find people to hire that you can trust, and how to negotiate ALL of your prices down .. politely.

Farmer and I have figured out how to build our dream home for a fraction of the price

and when I say fraction, I meanhundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper.

I dont want to scare you off before you even consider what I am saying. So let me give you a little background information about Farmer and I.

Farmer is 30 years old and I am 25. We have four kids ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months. Neither of us have a college degree. Farmer started working on the family farm after a year and a half of college. He has no construction experience, although he is really good at figuring things out.

I was fresh out of high school when we got married. I went to one semester of college to play basketball, and then we moved back to be on the farm and raise our family. I have no construction experience, unless you count holding the hammer and nails for my dad.

We are regular people, with big dreams, and no construction knowledge. But everyone THINKS you need to know all the ins and outs of construction in order to be your own general contractor. Thats just not true. And I am living proof of that. I am our general contractor. And I have figured out ways to save thousands of dollars by doing what a general contractor does, which is schedule, shop, and plan. To be your own general contractor you dont even have to pick up a hammer! Except maybe to hand it to your framer.

Here is what you DO need in order to be your own general contractor:

None of the things listed above require you to build a wall or wire a light bulb right? If you arewilling to learn and researchwhat you dont know, you will be able to quickly make up for your lack of knowledge. And if you DO have experience with any aspect of building a house, thats just going to make you a step ahead. Give yourself a round of applause and move on to the next step.

Communicatingis a huge part of being your own GC. You have to make phone calls, write emails, and talk to people about each job you need done and the supplies you will need. There are people out there who would love to help you, as long as you are willing to talk to them.

I am guessing about half of you reading this already know how toshop for a good deal. If you are like me, and youre not a huge fan of shopping, you can still learn the tricks and at least pretend to like it while you shop for materials. This has actually been the most exciting part for me. I will tell you all about the deals I have found, and how I got them in just a second .

You are going to need topay attentionto what is going on with your new home, and what the people working on it are doing. Basically your a glorified babysitter, but your entire dream home depends on how closely you watch the kids. No pressure.

One last thing to consider.Are you capable of firing someoneif they needed to be let go? Its a very real possibility when you are managing so many people. Think about it.

There is one thing that will save you more money then anything else you do when building your own home.

Most people decide to build a house, and immediately start looking for a general contractor. How can you hire someone to build a house, when you havent even decided what you want? Im not talking like what style of home you want, or what colors you want throughout. I mean what kind of flooring do you want in the laundry room, how many outlets do you need in the kitchen, what style of showerhead are you putting in the master bath?

If you go meet with a general contractor before you have made every little decision, you are asking a complete stranger to give you an estimate on a general idea of what you like. How can he quote you an accurate price? He cant! So instead, he is going to be forced to quote you high in order to give himself a cushion when you decide you want hard wood floors instead of linoleum.

Its the same thing when you are your own GC. You are trying to hire someone to draw up your house plans, someone to lay your flooring, someone to wire your house, etc. How can they quote you a good price if you dont know how many outlets you want and where you want them?

It will also require moretimeif you havent made these decisions. Andtime is money. Especially when your getting charged by the hour to meet with your house designer.

The other HUGE advantage that planning has, is that you know months in advance what you need to buy for the house. If you go shopping at home depot and they are having a one day clearance sale on all appliances but you dont know what fridge you want, you have to let that money saving opportunity pass. If you had made the decision before hand, you could have had your dream fridge for half the price. And Home Depot will hold it for you for a few months until you need it too!

Planning ahead is the 1 way we have saved money building our own home.

The art of shopping. How to compare and negotiate prices when building your own home.

Like I said earlier, shopping has been the most exciting part of building our own home. Its not because I like to shop. Its because when you shop hard, you know when youre getting a killer deal. And when you find something you need for 75% off, how can you not be ecstatic??

I knew exactly how much tile we needed for our bathroom. because I PLANNED AHEAD remember . so when I spotted some BRAND NEW tile on craigslist, I knew it was the right color, style, and amount of tile that we needed. The guy was asking $200 for it, still in the boxes. Now I have learned that on craigslist, you NEVER offer full price. People selling on craigslist put what they HOPE to get, usually not their bottom line. So I offered the guy $100 and he said yes! So a few days later I went to pick it up. After I loaded my car, I drove over to the flooring supply store. They had the exact same tile, in the exact same boxes. It would have cost me $700 to buy the tile there! I just saved $600 on tile because I planned ahead and shopped for it.

Almost every price you find, is negotiable. You just have to know how to ask for it in a way that they will take you seriously. If you were buying from a supplier, you wouldnt just offer half price. They would think you were crazy. But they will listen if you tell them why you like working with them, why you have chosen them over every other company, and then tell them you only budgeted a certain amount for their product. Can they do it for that? Some of them will say yes and you will save some money. A hundred dollars here, and two hundred dollars there, ads up quickly.

Numbers 4 and 5 are pretty self explanatory

4.Buy your supplies separate from your labor sometimes

At limes its cheaper to buy your own supplies and then hire someone to do the work. If you shop hard, you will know when its a better deal.

Similar to planning ahead . giving yourself time to shop, time to compare, and time to find the best prices will save a lot of money.  You wont be rushed to just pay whatever it costs and get it done. You will also be able to walk away from purchases when they are not a good deal because you wont need that material right that second.

How to haggle down prices . politely

There really is an art to haggling. Different situations call for different techniques. Once you figure out how to do it the right way, you will never pay full price for anything again.

Today I haggled a price on tile from $2.50 all the way down to $1. I just bought all the tile we need for our bathroom, brand new from the store, for $35.

This particular store has a clearance section that is quite large. I know from experience that they want their clearance items moved out quickly. They have yet to refuse an offer that I have made because they want to see this stuff gone. But I wouldnt have known that if I didnt do my homework. I would have never saved over 60% if I just walked into the store and paid the asking price.

I could go on and on about ways to save money by negotiating prices, becausewe have already saved thousands by doing just that! Like when we saved $800 on house plans, $400 on greenhouse windows, and $200 on our driveway entrance. Or how about when we saved $925 on our septic design and over $1500 on the installation.

A big chunk of these savings have been from knowing HOW to ask for lower prices.  And I am just dying to write it all down!!!

Hiring the right people couldnt be more important than when your being your own general contractor. The last thing you want to deal with is someone who takes advantage of you or does a less then stellar job. But how do you do that when you dont know what a stellar job looks like? Here is where learning comes back into play.

As the general contractor of your home you need toeducate yourselfon what your subs should and should not be doing. The best way to do that is tomake friendswith people. Sounds easy right?

It is for the most part! One of your greatest assets will be finding a few people that you trust to help you out when you dont know a take-off from a blue print. Long before you start building, you should be looking out for these types of people.

Do you have a good friend who has built a house in the last few years?

Does anyone in your neighborhood do construction for a living?

Do you have any relatives that have special trade experience?

Start a list of people that could answer questions for you when they come up. Its going to happen a lot so you might want more than one or two acquaintances on this list. If you are having a hard time filling that paper, dont worry, there are other ways to solve this problem they just take a little longer.

The second solution is tomake more phone calls and talk to everyone you can.

When I first started calling around about septic systems, I didnt even know what I should be asking. I was nervous and stressed out dialing that number. I know I sounded like a complete idiot when I had to ask what the words he was saying to me meant. But he calmly explained it to me all over again with simpler terms. By the second phone call, I was feeling a little better. I had written down everything the first guy said and now I knew a few septic terms like pressure system and reserve and test holes and chamber.

Dont worry, I will gladly explain what they all mean to you too!

Anyways, my second phone call was slightly less terrifying. By the third, I knew exactly what questions to ask, and I understood what they were saying to me. Then phone calls 4, 5, 6, and so on were much more productive.

Once I had talked to a few people, and knew what was going on, it was easier to tell which people were trying to help me and which people were impatient with me and didnt want to deal with someone that didnt know anything.

I was able to narrow it down to a few designers, call them again, and make a decision based on the service they had already provided to me which was teaching me about septic systems.

When I finally hired our guy, I was thrilledwith our choice because I had done my homework, and made sure to hire someone who was going to be honest and up front.

And you know what?I ended up saving a few extra hundred dollarsbecause this guy corrected someone elses mistake for free.

So you bet I am happy with who we hired!

So now that you have a little taste of HOW to be your own general contractor, I just want to tell youWHYyou should.

If you general contract your own home and save $100,000 your net worth goes up by that much

If you make $100,000 at work, you save less then $10,000

would you rather have $100,000 of tax free money, or $10,000 to pay taxes on?

Lets break it down even further .

The average American saves less than 10% of their income

If you make $20 an hour, only $2 is going to savings for every hour of work you do.

Every time you save $16 on your house, your making up for an ENTIRE day of work.

Be your own general contractor and save 12,500 days of working!

These numbers have helped me look at being our own general contractor from a whole different direction. When I put in the time and research it takes to find the best deals, I am not just saving $5 here and $20 there.I am saving my husband hours and hours of work.Now instead of only caring about the big savings, I care about saving those 2 little dollars.

How many hours of work would you save by being your own general contractor?

I also want to tell you that over the past two years I have rented at least 20 books from the library about building your own house. Only one of them was worth buying and that book is The Owner Builder Book by Mark A Smith. I still use it almost every single day for a reference and a guide. It has everything in it that you need to build your home from how to get a loan, to what insurance you need. It walks you through the whole process and even includes specific things like what questions to ask your sub contractors, sample contracts, and lists of what you need to do and when. I cant recommend this book enough if you are building your own home.CLICK HEREto buy or learn more about that book. *affiliate link

So here is the deal. My head is chucked full of all this new information and I want to share it!

I want to tell you every time I learn a new secret or a new trick.

I want to tell you how to plan your home so you can save more.

I want to tell you how to read the building permits that seem to be written in a different language.

I want to tell you what stores have the best deals and the best service.

I want to tell you exactly what questions to ask the septic designer.

I want to tell you what a good price for cement is.

I want to tell you what things you can DIY and what things you need to hire a professional for.

I want to tell you how to save thousands on lumber.

I want to hold your hand through the entire building process so you can build your dream home too and save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It doesnt take a construction genius, it just takes someone who is willing to make it happen.

You want your dream home more then anyone else in this world. You care about it more, and you will do whatever it takes to shave off $200,000

OnAugust 12,the website will launch. Sign up now, and you will receive my articlewhat you MUST do before building your dream home, so that you can be preparing for this awesome adventure.

**** website has launchedCLICK HERE to visit Farmhouse From Scratch, how to build your own custom dream home for a fraction of the price.

This is not your average website guys, this is teaching youa legitimate way that you can be hundreds of thousands of dollars richer, and its absolutely free to sign up! Most owner builders save between 15-50% on their house. I know a guy personally that saved over $100,000. Is that worth it to you? Thats up to $250,000 on my home.Whats 50% off of your dream home?

ATTENTION all Real Farmhouse subscribers! This is NOT the same subscription as my farming/gardening/homesteading blog. If you want to be subscribed to the new house blog you need to click on the link above.

Lets start saving money! Woo hoo!

Impulse control, moderation and easy does it makes the cost less and the pleasure more building your own place slowly. Banks wanting place complete to have a closing make it harder to build as you go slowly. Great points to save money and feel good about building your own place!

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How To Build Septic Tank Systems

for systems other than for the average home – jump To:

septic systems for churches and theaters

septic systems for waterfront lots – tight sites

septic systems for small shops – offices

septic systems for larger rural homes

septic systems for commercial wineries – car washes – kennels etc

of hiring a septic designer and excavator, but

you that these jobs are without value. Beaspect of homesteading, if not handled with cold reason and great care, could ruin Thanksgiving dinner and many restful nights sleep. How to build septic tank systems? Its all here.

Why not do it yourself ?Doinganythingyourself can be heroic or crazy depending on the outcome. In more than 25 years spent designing site layouts and septic systems in the scenic countryside of beautiful Washington State, I have seen more than one home-site ruined forever by sloppy excavation, poor water well placement and the dozens of other pitfalls awaiting an eager baron or baroness heading up the country with a heart full of dreams.

Homeownerscansave money and prove to their friends that they have mastered this aspect of house construction. However, be warned that a few down days with a rented backhoe can quickly eat up any anticipated saving by doing-it-yourself. Remember also that digging up a power line and darkening your block cannot only embarrass you but it could cost you more in repairs than your entire project budget.

The skills of an experienced septic designer or excavator increase in value withsmaller sitesand inpoor soil conditions. If you know in your heart that you lack these skills, dont risk your peace-of-mind.

1. Thesite evaluationis step one:Get a scale map of your property if you dont have one.The scale drawing belowis from an application for a septic tank system that was drawn by a professional septic designer and submitted to the local health department. The site, classified as a difficult one, is for a small lot in a rural subdivision with a community water system (tank in distance). At least a water well does not have to be worked into the layout.

The closest neighbors house can be seen in the photo to the left.The dirt dug from the two test holes can be seen at the back of the lot at the edge of the farm field above and on either side of the green power transformer. The site is ready for thesite evaluationwith local health. Design and construction will be cramped. Withevery inch of space is needed. A survey is usually advised to ensure that setbacks from property lines are met. Note the red survey steak marking the lot corner pin behind the transformer.

Local health will usually provide a package of forms and information explaining the application process.The helpfulness of health inspectors is generally better in the rural counties, but they will not tell you how to build septic tank systems. That information follows;

Important note:The site shouldnotbe cleared, scraped, leveled or otherwise disturbed until the details of the site layout have been figured out.If a water well is required on the site, it should be witched or locatedonlyafter a place has been found for the septic system.

Besides the description of soil texture and depth, the site evaluation usually has a scale hand drawn map like the one above.The map must show the location of the test pits. Most health departments require this evaluation to be done by a licensed person. Also, the surrounding conditions are shown in scale including property lines, buildings, wells, pipes, paved areas, surrounding septic systems if known, roads, easements, trees and banks. You must also show slope direction, drainage ways, surface water, and surrounding land uses. You can go to your local health records to see what your health department requires here and to see if you can make your own map.

A couple of 6 foot or deeper pits are usually required by local health in most counties.The pits or test holes have replaced the traditional percolation or perc test that used to be common in most areas. Today, the soil expert must have one or two or more pits dug with a back-hoe 5 or more feet deep, and wide enough and sloped so that he or she may walk down into them and sample the soil in the side walls.

Soil stability and safety are always considered for the inspectors and for casual members of the public. Kids are drawn to equipment and holes in the dirt. Leaving the holes open for later inspection is inferior to having local health attend the site inspection and close things up in a single trip for the backhoe. If the holes must be kept open, say for a later visit by local health, barricade or safely cover the holes to keep the public out.

Thesite evaluation by backhoeis a better test than the old perc test because itallows a wider look at the soil.

2. Soil classificationis next:The soil classification system used in most places in the USA (and in some other countries), is called theUS Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Classification System. Be aware that the ability to determine such qualities as soil texture and soil structure comes with experience.If you blow the soil classification, you may wind up with less or more drainfield than you need. More drainfield means needless expense. Less drainfield means early failure, usually with guests over.

The most restrictive soil type found in any of the pits in the area of the drainfield should guide your choice in the case of mixed or confusing soils anywhere within the drainfield area.Most test pits involve four or more soil types as you look down through the soil profile within each pit so study the soil directly below where the drainfield will be (between 36 inches and 48 inches below grade usually).

3.Younowdetermine the area of trenchfor your home: Dig a couple of six foot holes at each end of your drainfield area and check the soil type.

How to use the chart:In spite of what you think, the drainfield size isnotdependent on the number ofbathroomsorfixturesin the home. Almost all health departments use the number ofbedroomsin a home as a way to size drainfields.The number of people in the house (usually two to a bedroom), and their usual daily water use (usually sixty gallons per person per day), is how the flow rate is established.This flow rate of about three hundred sixty gallons of water use per day inside a three bedroom house determines the amount of sewage that must be sent to the drainfield. Once you have decided what type of soil is found under your future drainfield, look up the drainfield area required for your house size in the chart below and you have the required drainfield size. Note: The chart below was compiled from the rules of various states and many years of practical experience.Yourcounty may have very different sizes and by law youmustuse the chart from your local health department.

Soil Type:5 ft below grade in drainfield area by digging a person sizedtest pitat each end

2Bedroom House240 gallons of sewage/ day

3Bedroom House360 gallons of sewage/ day

4Bedroom House480 gallons of sewage/ day

Commercial Projectsfor every 100 gallons of sewage/ day

CoarseSand- most sand soils will requirepressure distribution if gravel is present and/or the lot is small

FineSand- Loamy CoarseSand- Loamy MedSand

Very Fine Sand – Loamy Fine Sand – AllLoams

OtherSilt Loams- AllClay Loams -AllClaysNote: some clays may not qualify foranysystem

bed type drainfields allowed if the soil type is fine sand or coarser – pressure distribution required with all bed designs andif soil isextremely gravelly or very gravellyplus asand liningmay be required under the drainfield

one square foot of drainfield is measured like a carpet looking down from the top – sidewall is not considered although some health

departments continue to give credit for up to 6 inches of sidewall calculated by measuring the perimeter of the bed or trenches – using

sidewall confuses calculations and has been discredited due to the fact that water in soil seldom moves sideways except when saturated

Return to Drainfield DesignReturn to Site Evaluation Perc Test

Drainfield layout requires at least 2 equal sized trenches.From the septic tank a single drain line is no longer advised. The separation of flow into two, three or more lines is accomplished with a distribution box orD-boxto split the flow. In the D-box pipes are equipped with simple flow control valves in the form of eccentric plugs that evenly split the flow between lines. The effluent (sewage that has gone through the septic tank) flows downhill from the tank outlet, through the D-box and down to the individual trenches where it spills out onto the floor of each trench where treatment starts in the soil at that location. Dont forget, the individual trenches areNOTsloped, but aredead levelfrom one end to the other.

Your local health department rules.Your county health department has rules and guidelines to follow. Sometimes rules are the same as state guidelines, but sometimes more restrictive rules special to your county must be followed. These rules include depths and setbacks and construction details. Such things as how far you can place the drainfield from a water well (usually 100 feet), a building (usually 10 feet), a water line (usually 10 feet), a stream, pond or lake (75 to 100 feet), the septic tank (generally 5 feet), or even a tree (5 to 50 feet depending on species) cuts and banks (varies state to state, and county to county) are spelled out. They will specify how deep the trenches can be (usually no deeper than three feet max from final grade down to the floor of the trench), and even whether you may use the plastic vault technology shown here. The key to getting the correct results from your health department people, is to present your ideas clearly and completely inyour drawings.There is often someback and forthwith the health department. You may be asked several times to return with fresh drawings to meet all of the site requirements and rules that the department has on its books.

Before you begin drawing your project, you must have all the rules from local health. This may be in the form of a two-page handout or a thick ordinance of dozens of pages.

By the way, asquare foot of gravel in a drainfieldis measured like a carpet, covering a 12 inch by 12 inch piece of ground, except the gravel is one foot thick. Therefore, a drainfield trench covering 300 square feet, is a pit, three feet wide and one hundred feet long, with a foot deep of gravel in the bottom. (In reality, you will use two trenches at 50 feet long each.) The gravel is covered with a tough but thin fabric to keep the dirt out calledfilter fabric. The whole thing is buried with a cover (backfill) of one to two feet of native soil. The thickness of backfill depends on the desired trench depth. The gravel is not really gravel at all, but a uniform clean washedrockwith granules one and a half inches in diameter known to a gravel pit operator as inch-and-a-half drainrock.

You may now in most areas substitute rows of plastic chambers instead of the old school leachfield gravel.are two companies who supply this productThe vaults hook together like a freight train and are very easy to transport and build. The green pipes are inspection/squirt ports for the homeowner looking into the drainfield especially if trouble occurs down the road. The ports are also used for periodicsquirt testingand are cut down to the finish depth after the drainfield is backfilled.Construction details for this house and dozens of other systems are shown in our drawings.

Excavators and installers usually prefer the vaultsover drainrock once they have tried them.Most health jurisdictionsare recognizing the value and efficiency of the vault technology and the use of vaults is becoming widespread across the USA. Gravel is used for geometric reasons and can be cheaper particularly if the job is close to the supply. Gravel is also used if livestock or vehicular traffic could invade the drainfield. Drainrock is a little more robust than most vaults.

Also, some health inspectors give credit for the increased storage capacity of the vaults over gravel systems.Each linear foot of standard vault in the ground yields around 10 gallonsof storage.A linear foot of 3 ft wide gravel trench yields less than half of thateven with the highest quality drainrock. You may get 400 Sq Ft of credit for our trench that actuallycontains only 300 Sq Ft of ground. This may save vital space on a tight site.

Vaults now come in several widths, lengths and heights. However, the standard width is a little less than three feet wide (but generally 3 feet is the width used for design and space planning) and two standard lengths 6 and 4 feet.

TheSeptic Design CDavailable on this web-siteallows you to create plans that may bemodified and editedto meet the needs of your local health department whatever they are.Often a few simple notes or other changes can satisfy the specific rules of most health jurisdictions, but notes and requirements must usually be typed onto the plans. Drawings are the language of construction of anything. Besides,this isnotyour grandfathers septic system. Our drawings talk the new lingo.

Study the drawings shown below.Permit drawings also tell others how to build septic tank systems.These two sheets represent the complete drawing set for agravity designfor the three-bedroom house on our model property shown below. The level of detail required may depend on the inspectors preference. However, all buildings, walkways, property lines, retaining walls and the location of the original test holes must be shown.

4.apply for the permit:Now Make Your Application to Local Health:Submit your plans at the counter of the local health department. You will have to fill out the application form and pay thepermitfee. The example septic system drawings for r our model property are shown below.You now must wait forthe drawingsto be reviewedandapprovedbefore going on to the construction phase. Ask local health what the customary time frame is for permit application review. It should not take more than two or three weeks at the most to receive the approved construction permit in the mail unless there is a local backlog, a staff shortage or a deliberately slow process in your area.

Local Health Will Approve Your Drawingsusually with a signature and a nstruction should usually begin within one year of that date to avoid losing the permit and having to start from scratch with a new fee.You should get a copy of the permit in the mail once the drawings are approved. You must follow all the notes and details on the drawings exactly.Look for and follow the printed instructions and any special notes that local health adds to the permit face. Local health will inspect your work before anything is covered so plan your job carefully.Click on the drawings for a close-up.You will naturally apply your logo and address on the plans.

The left hand drawing shows the Site Planwith all of the required information in scale. The drawings are for printing on standard 8.5 x 11 copy paper. This format is the most handy size for filing and favored by health departments for storage convenience. Some health departments have gone all electronic and our drawings convert into PDF files with ease. Click on the drawings above to see them in PDF format.

Thedrawing on the right above is ourdrawingGTGV3WDDfrom ourCD for gravity septic designs. You can see it in our archive about half way down on the page under the topic Vault designs using 3 trenches only.Once you have a plan view layout for your system, find the matching detail page for your trench cross section, trench layout and standard notes.

The layout stage of the job transfers the design to the ground.Excavation is like sewing. The Layout of all parts of the design (the pattern) must be projected onto the site (the cloth) and cutting in more than once will increasewastage.If there was acaution for young excavatorsit would benever to over excavate.Measuring twice and cutting once applies here. Before you begin, be sure that the drawing is accurate and that it matches the site pare the site plan on your approved design to a plat map of the site if you have to, to make sure that the drawings match and show the correct scale.On theapproved drawings from the health department, add up all strings of dimensions to make sure that a critical measurement has not been missed.Always find and mark the corners of the property.Do not use existing fences or the advice of neighbors unless you are sure of the property lines from a legal survey.

Here in the image to the left,the construction crew is checkingthe location of the third trench. A long200 foot tape, aLufkintwenty-five-foot tape,wooden stakesand ared rattle can of spray paintare the tools of choice for this stage. Gravity systems willonlywork wellif the bottom of the trench sits in undisturbed ground and is level. Sewer slope doesNOTapply in the drainfield.Level means dead level. Read this caution again if you are not with me.

Be careful not to begin excavation until local health has approved your plans, no mater how eager you are to get started.Even though you have applied for and paid for a permit – If theinspectorhas not approved the design, they may require layout changes. He or she willnotlisten to excuses such as we had to get the backhoe back, so we started without the permit.RULE: Once you have applied, listen to the inspectorand follow all instructions, or start reading this page againfrom the top.

The tripod on the sidewalk on the left side of the picture to the right is a.This tool has been around for twenty years and developed with public money. Do not begin this job without one. With the special level rod, an assistant may walk around the site and find the elevation of any point of the excavation within an inch (2 cm) anywhere within sight of the tripod by listening to a beep from the box on the rod when you are on elevation.

This tool(the laser level)is particularly useful to ensure that the trenches are notover excavated.Constant attention to elevation is the key to a successful job.Older leveling technology such as asurveyors transitmay be used as long as you know how to use it, but dont ever think you know how to build septic tank systems with a standard construction bubble type level. I do not care if your level is 20 feet long.Laser levelsandallthe needed tools are availableeverywhere to rent.

Once you are done excavating, the health inspectormustbe called for afinal inspectionof the job. Then backfilling occurs. The tanks, pipes and vaults can and should be backfilled around their sides during construction though. More counties are requiring leak testing of the tank these days. Vacuum testing, pressure testing or water testing of all tanks may be required in your area. Backfilling around the sides of concrete tanks may be postponed until the final inspection to check for leaks if desired by the county inspector. Most plastic tanks will distort under such stress and must be backfilled at the same time as they are filled with water for the first time.

In the picture to the right, the crew is using the top of the septic tank in the foreground as a work table and a datum. Notice the difference in elevation between the top of the tank and the surface of the nearby sidewalk (hint – about a foot or 30 cm.) This tank will be less than a foot underground when the lawn is planted.

A word here about pipes and drainage.comes in a variety of sizes and types. Pipes in a gravity system are either 4 inch diameter.ASTM Schedule 40. These pipe types arebetween the house and the tank. These pipes can not be crushed by stepping on them.(perforated drainfield pipe is made of this thin stuff) andto stand up to being driven over with a car, etc when placed in shallow trenches (a normal condition in modern septic systems.)counties allow the thin wall pipe between the tank and the drainfield – we do not.

Pipe2pipe slopesused in septic systems, thesewer slope(contains solids) andeffluent line slope(no solids.)The building sewer must besloped(sometimes called fall) atbetween 1/8 per foot and 1/4 per foot.In other words the pipe must drop at least one inch for every 8 feet of sewer line, and not more than one inch for every 4 feet all the way to the septic tank. Less slope and the flow is too slow to clear the pipe. More slope and the water theoretically drains off too quickly and the solids will become stranded and cause a blockage. This idea of maximum slope no greater than 1/4 per foot has been challenged recently, but an engineering justification is required to allow this in practice. Almost all health departments require this minimum slope of 1/4 per foot and will require stair stepping down steep slopes. However, do not ignore the minimum slope requirement in a sewer line for any reason, or that spot on your property will become a perpetual problem in the system.Effluent lines can slope less than the sewer, and more.They can fall with as little as 1/64th of an inch per foot (experiencedexcavators only) and effluent lines drop atany maximum slopeyou choose.

Drainfield Slope:It never hurts to remindeveryonelearning how to build septic tank systems, that thedrainfield trenches and bedswhether vaults or gravelare built dead flatwith no slope at all end-to-end or side-to-side. Some ancient drainfield plans call for a slope in the drainfield, but this practice went out with the manufacture of clay sewer pipe. Resist the advice of friends and neighbors to put a slope in the drainfield. Trenches can naturally be at different elevations based on the ground contours, but each trench or bed (leaching bed) should be levelwithin an inch up or down over the entire bed or each individual length of trench.Your system will last longer.

down to the tank from the house slopestoomuch, thesewermust be dropped straight down in a series of drops followed by propersewer slopeto the next drop. The drops are good places for cleanouts. Remember also that anyright anglebends in the sewer pipe arenotallowedwhen changing direction in the sewer, down or side-to-side. Always usetwo 45 degree elbowsor90 degree sweepsinstead of a 90 degreeelbowto allow proper cleaning with a snake or roto-rooter. Also put in aclean-outto direct a snake (a metal probe for cleaning out blockages from the surface) starting at the outside of the house toward the tankevery 50 feet(100 feet absolute maximum) in thesewerline. Clean-outs and 45 degree elbows are not needed in the effluent line. If the ground slopes towards the house from the drainfield area, or if the site is flat, you may need to pump the effluent from the elevation of the septic tank up to the drainfield (or leach bed.)

Afterthe septic tank, andafterthe D-Box all the way to the drainfield, the slope may beeffluent line slope,as little as 1/64 per foot. This requires expert excavation practice. The effluent line may drop down at any angle. All effluent lines must drain fully andnothave a sag in the line that could cause pools to form and in cooler climates cause aline freeze. Clickhereorherefor more aboutfreezing septic systems.

This view of the site shows the layout:

The septic tank can be seen on the right of the view between the first trench and the patio. On this job, and normally, the septic tank is delivered from the tank manufacturer andlowered from the truckinto a hole prepared by the excavator. The tank hole has a flat floor at the exact depth. Call the tank supplier to get the exact tank height and depths of the inlet and outlet. In rocky ground, two or three inches of pea gravel may be needed to protect the tank bottom. The septic tank is often the first thing to be added to a new house site.

A concrete tank in our area runs about $550 delivered up to 40 miles, and further for a few dollars more. Fiberglass tanks and ribbed polyethylene septic tanks are not usually advised as they are not only more expensive but they may not be sturdy enough to do the job. Flexible tanks tend to distort over time particularly when they are pumped out. Dont trust a tank that cant safely be filled with water in the parking lot without distorting or leaking. Steel tanks are still used in remote, colder locations such as Alaska, but sewage is corrosive to steel. Metal components have a limited life in septic systems and should be avoided if possible .

In the view to the left, the backhoe is working on the third trench. The vaults are in place in the first two trenches and the vault units seen near the backhoe are waiting to go into the third trench when it is finished. The site is being watered with the hose as work progresses. The site may need to be sprinkled for a day or more prior to construction for the same reason. Although this keeps dust down, the primary reason for adding water to dry soil is to provide proper moisture for compaction of the dirt around the pipes and parts. Water is usually used to soak the sides of the tank to compact the soil and fill in voids to avoid sink holes in the lawn. Very wet or very cold weather is not the time to build septic tank systems. Good excavators avoid working in extreme conditions except in emergencies. Working in poor weather usually involves return trips to smooth and refinish surface grades and is more expensive.

are placed in the trench, the side walls of the trench are roughened with a garden rake. This important step prevents the formation of bacterial scum on the trench walls called smearing which can cause earlyfailureof the drainfield. In some areas, the excavators weld teeth to the side of the backhoe bucket to do

Septic systems are plumbing systems:

In this view, the concrete D-box has been placed where it belongs and the effluent lines are being pushed into the seals. Although all the other pipe joints are glued together, where the lines enter thetank and D-box, the pipes are pushed into thespecial seals without glue.Older construction methods require lines to be sealed into D-boxes and tanks with concrete grout. To the left bottom of the picture to the right, the yellow plastic rotatable flow control seals are waiting to be placed into the pipe ends to evenly distribute the flow between the trenches. Next to the excavator is the level rod for checking the level of the D-box and the pipes.The system works because of the difference in elevation between the sewer line leaving the house, the septic tank, the D-box, the effluent lines to the trenches and the floor elevations of all of the trenches themselves.These final elevations must be taken from theapproved plans(see above.) The finish grade and backfill will have to cover everything at the required depth when you are done. Often the top of the septic tank is used as a datum or benchmark. The floor of a well house, an existing slab, any reasonably immovable object will qualify as a benchmark but many of these things are builtafterthe septic. Property corners on a site can change elevation.

is ready to go. The flow control has been set by pouring a bucket of water into the box and rotating the seals to make the opening in each seal break the surface at the same elevation. This evenly distributes the flow between the three outlet lines leading to the three trenches. The inlet to the d-box is on the right and does not have a flow control seal.

The sandy dirt around the pipes has been walked and compacted to ensure that the lines will not be disturbed during backfilling.The backfill will form a slight hump over the drainfield so that eventual settling will not cause low spots over the drainfield over time. Note the expandable urethane foam sealing the effluent line at the top of the view to the left where the northeast effluent line disappears into the vault. This attention to detail by some excavators distinguishes the best from the rest.Skill and attention to detailswill help you more than anything elseto ensure that the septic system will notfailwithin its useful life of fifteen to twenty-five years. Most Owners say at the first meeting with the designer I dont want to have to mess with it. They will call the contractors back to the site at the first sign of trouble. D


About: Ordinary guy with no special skills, just trying to change the world one backyard invention at a time. See more at: On Twitter – @300MPGBen and at

The finished project is a 1981 Kawasaki KZ440, converted to electric. It is powered by four Optima Yellow Top sealed (AGM) lead-acid batteries, that drive a Briggs & Stratton Etek electric motor. The speed of the motor is controlled by an Alltrax brand AXE programmable controller that can run at up to 48 volts and 300 amps. Contrary to popular belief, and electric motorcycle is NOT silent, but is CONSIDERABLY quieter than a typical gas cycle.

The cycle is GEARED to 45 mph, has fairly good acceleration, no clutch or transmission. Theres no oil to change, to mufflers to rust off, no air filter, no carbs to tweak, and no gasoline. I designed it for primarily city riding. The top speed and acceleration could be easily changed by swapping out a $20 stock sprocket.

The cycle recharges from the wall, through arenewable energy program, and if there is a blackout, I can actually run my house off my electric motorcycle! In the future, I hope to expand my system to include charging the cycle with photovoltaic solar panels. Real-world range per charge is 23-32 miles, and charging takes less than 10 hours for a full charge. ( A different charger could charge them even faster – see details on the Batteries PDF)

In this Instructable, Ill walk you through the work required with the motor, batteries, controller, and mounting all components, including showing you some low-tech paper and cardboard CAD tricks.

But what do you want? You might not even know yet. I always encourage people to take a look at theEV Album. Its an on-line listing of mostly home-converted electric vehicles. Each listing shows the make and model of the vehicle, the cost to convert, the speed and range, and other specifics of each project. You can also search by type of vehicle or brand name.

For example, if you go to youll see a wide variety of electric motorcycles. Different brand names, lithium and lead-acid battery types, and a wide range of costs of conversion. Likewise, if you want to see Scooters, Mopeds, and Minibikes, you can visit

Give some thought to what cycle you would like to convert. Do you like sport bikes? Great! They have a lightweight and strong aluminum frame! Do you like standard? Great! Theres lots of those out there and you can show off the motor and batteries. Hang out at biker events with your unique ride!

If you arent sure what to expect in terms of range per charge and top speed, dont worry, online calculators can help you out.

For more on my electric motorcycle,electric car, and other projects, swing by my blog at

If you are interested in building your own electric motorcycle, but want even more information, more details, and hands-on style instruction, check out theINSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO DVDthat I created to teach how ANYONE canBuild Your Own Electric Motorcycle!

As of January 2018, Ive now posted the Instructional DVD, the entire 2 hours and 40 minutes of it, FOR FREE on YouTube. The DVD is broken down into shorter sections and available as a playlist.

It may be cliche, but every shop class, repair book, and seminar starts off talking about safety.

The reason why is because ITS IMPORTANT! Any type of work always has some sort of risk to it. Minimize that risk, and protect yourself by thinking ahead and using proper safety equipment.

Ill hit a few of the basics here, as well as a few you may not have thought of that are particular to this project.

Wear yoursafety glasses, work gloves, and hearing protection. If you already wear eyeglasses, the larger boxy type safety glasses work well over your eyeglasses. Otherwise, add side protectors to your existing glasses. If you dont wear eye-glasses, I like the the slimmer style that fit tight to the face. This is the same type some motorcycle riders wear out on the road. Heck, get yourself a nice pair, and they are multipurpose!

Wearingwork-gloveswill save your hands a lot of cuts and scrapes. Thick leather gloves are durable, but clumsy. Mechanics gloves give you much more dexterity. I prefer these, as I can leave the gloves on while using any type of tool. If you have to take gloves on and off to use a particular tool, it doesnt take long to give up on wearing gloves. Wear welding gloves when welding. Latex or other rubber gloves are sometimes handy for working with fluids or while painting.

Wearhearing protection. During any drilling, cutting, or grinding, you should be wearing hearing protection. Soft ear plugs are cheap and disposable, and pretty comfortable. I like the big ear-muffs because they are easier to take on and off than soft plugs are to take in and out. I like having normal hearing while I am not cutting and grinding.

Remove jewelry, or at least cover it up. Besides getting caught on a moving part, most jewelry is also extremely electrically conductive. Remove rings, wrist-watches, necklaces, wallet chains, and that big key chain hanging on your belt loop. Dont wear big conductive belt buckles that can also scratch paint-jobs. If you cant or wont remove a piece of jewelry (wedding rings, etc.), cover it up. Wearing work gloves will cover a ring, and a necklace can be tucked inside your shirt.

Clothing.Im sure youve worked on enough projects that you know what appropriate clothing is. Typically, you want long shirt sleeves and long pants. Dont cuff your pants. Metal shavings, dirt, and possibly hot metal likes to get caught in there. Wear closed-toe shoes or boots, preferably leather, and safety toe if you have them. Natural fiber clothing is also preferable. In a bad situation synthetic fibers can melt (onto a person!) At least wear a cotton T-shirt under your fleece sweatshirt….

Now onto a few things that are more specific to this project.

Motocycles are powerful, heavy enough to hurt if they fall on you, have chains and sprockets, and run on electricity by the time we are done with it.

That brings up a few safety cautions of particular concern:

Pinch Points:Be really careful where the chain and sprockets come together! Always make sure you have the chain guard in place. Build a custom chain guard if the project requires it. I once got my finger pinched between the chain and back sprocket when I was adjusting the chain. YEOWCH! That was just with me turning the back wheel slightly by hand. Id hate to imagine if the same thing happened with the motor running!

Electric Spark and Shock:Always keep covers on the battery terminals. Never work on the cycle with the power connected. Always have the real wheel off the ground when testing the vehicle. Keep conductive materials away from the batteries. 48 volts is right on the border of what is generally considered low-voltage or not. Risk of shock is fairly minimal, but all electricity should be taken seriously. SPARK is a greater concern. 48V short circuited has the potential to create large sparks that can melt battery terminals and propel molten lead. Always wear safety glasses when working on batteries and battery connections.

I recommend covering the handles of your battery wrenches with shrink tubing. You get a nice snug grip on your wrench and greatly increase its electrical resistance. You could also use electrical tape, but thats just going to make everything sticky eventually.

Lifting and Jacking:Chances are, you will want your cycle elevated. It makes it much easier to work on, as it prevents you from bending over, and working from floor level. I recommend a motorcycle lift. A small, sturdy table can also make a good stand, but its challenging to get the cycle on and off that stand safely.

Whether using a lift, jack, or stand, make sure the cycle is SECURELY attached to it with straps or some other means. An elevated vehicle could easily become unbalanced while working on it, falling off the stand, damaging the motorcycle or landing on you, your other projects, or someone you love.

Use your multimeter correctly.Many typical multimeters allow for you to test voltage, amperage, and resistance. To test amperage, you have to physically move one of the probes to a different jack on the multimeter. MAKE SURE YOU MOVE IT BACK when you are done with the amperage test. Even if you flip the control on the multimeter back to voltage reading, but forget to put the probe back in the right connection point, the next time you go to test voltage, you will melt the tip of the one probe off in about one billionth of a second. And it scared the bejeezers out of me. I mean you. In theory, if that happened, it would really startle you. So make sure you use your multimeter right.

Dont smoke: Smoking is a fire hazard. Especially when you take the gas tank off.

Dont drink alcoholwhile or before working on the project. It impairs judgement, and you might do something stupid. Likewise, do not drink, smoke, or do other drugs while RIDING. Go for a ride, come back, and THEN have your beer.

Isnt getting insurance the last thing you do before you go on the road?

You do NOT want to go through all the time and expense of building an awesome electric motorcycle, only to find that you can NOT legally ride it!

Some legal reasons you may not be able to legally ride your cycle in your area may be due toRegistration, Insurance, or License.

None of these things are that complicated, but you must comply with whatever the rules are in your area. (If you have a large private property, and will not be using this vehicle on-road, you may be able to ignore this.)

Registering your cycle should be done exactly the same way any typical gasoline powered cycle would be done in your area. In some places, cars are required to pass a smog test, but motorcycles are exempt from that. A vehicle may also be exempt from certain tests or requirements if over a certain age (Classic or Antique) or primarily for show and exhibition or part-time use (Hobbyist.)

It seems that motorcycles are sold much more often WITHOUT a title than cars ever are. Make sure you get a title and bill of sale with the VIN – (Vehicle Identification Number) printed on it. If you do NOT get a title, make sure that you will be able to get one. This can sometimes require additional cost, paperwork, and/or vehicle inspection. Sometimes an inspection may require a matching number on the frame, engine, and transmission. Because of that, I recommend registering your vehicle as it is BEFORE removing the engine or transmission, even if it doesnt run.

A VIN is extremely important. I personally know somebody who built a pretty nice electric motorcycle from scratch. He made EVERYTHING on it, from the frame on up. He couldnt get it registered or insured. Without a VIN, registration may be possible (but lots of jumping through hoops) but extremely difficult. Without a manufacturer Make and Model, he couldnt get insurance. Eventually, he just took the cycle apart and used the parts on other projects.

By CONVERTING an existing motorcycle to electric, we have the VIN, Make, and Model to make the project fit inside the box for the government and insurance.

INSURANCE:One of the first things I did before really getting going on this project was to call my full-service insurance agent. I told her exactly what I wanted to do. Motorcycles are commonly modified and customized. This was really no different. I had no problems getting insurance. My insurance is about $100 a year and provided through Progressive.

Before starting your project, talk to an insurance agent. The year, style, or engine size of the motorcycle frame may dramatically effect your rate. A 1500cc crotch-rocket is likely to cost more than a 250cc standard cycle. Since you are removing the engine anyways, just get a cycle that you like, with enough room in it for the motor and batteries.

License:If you dont already have a motorcycle drivers license, get one. I signed up for a course at my local college. Besides being excellent training for a first-time rider, the class also gave a benefit of streamlining the process (and reduced the cost!) of getting the motorcycle endorsement at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if you are a long-time rider, an electric motorcycle will perform slightly different than an engine powered machine. Some colleges and other training centers also offer advanced and specialized rider training.

I have heard of people converting a small to medium sized motorcycle to electric and getting it titled as a moped. In that case, you do not need a motorcycle endorsement, but you cant legally carry a passenger either. You may also be restricted to which roads you can ride on.

Once again, make sure you check AHEAD OF TIME on all the legal requirements in your area for vehicle operation. Its pretty exciting once your electro-cycle is completed, and youll want to be ready to hit the road!

Now that we made it through the basics of safety and legal, you want to start that search for your

. You may already have something thats been sitting around with a bad engine or transmission. Otherwise start looking for your cycle. You may want to check out Craigslist, the local newspaper classifieds, or stop and see every motorcycle for sale on the side of the road.

Besides just overall style and finding something that fits your budget, heres what to look for in the donor bike.

It might sound obvious, but get something thats in fairly good condition. You want to do a conversion, not a restoration! Make sure the turn signals and headlight work. The horn should work. It shouldnt be all rusted out. Get something that looks nice enough and will be fun to ride. If you happen to be somebody who regularly builds custom motorcycles and restorations, just ignore what I said. Go hog-wild instead. I do have to admit that the cycle I bought to convert to electric was not in very good shape. The price was right though. In the end, fixing all the little things on it took a fair amount of time and work. Looking back on it now, I would have preferred to spend a little more money and and have had fewer things to fix.


In this conversion, the original engine and transmission are NOT used. If you buy a motorcycle that is in pretty good condition OTHER than a bad engine or transmission, you might be able to get a really good deal on it. Just make sure to keep the engine and transmission with for a while to confirm proper registration.


If you choose to buy a cycle in good running condition, make sure to carefully remove the engine and transmission. Keep all the parts together, label everything, and keep it out of the weather. Sell the engine and tranny to make some money back on the purchase of the cycle.

Most motorcycles are driven by a chain, but some use a belt or even a driveshaft. Get a donor bike with a chain. This will give you the most flexibilty and efficiency. Chains are cheap, dont slip, and are easy to change gear ratios by swapping out an inexpensive sprocket. Electric motorcycles CAN be built with a belt or driveshaft, but it is more of an advanced project and has other considerations.

You will want a cycle with enough room in its guts for the motor and batteries. A too-small cycle will limit where you can put the motor and batteries, and how many batteries will fit. An extremely large cycle gives you plenty of room, but the frame may become heavy quickly. Popular choices include sport bikes and medium-size standard cycles.

Sport bikes typically have an aluminum frame (light-weight) and it is shaped with two supports over the engine, and two under it. This gives you a box to mount your batteries. Sport bikes also usually have some sort of plastic fairing over the engine. After conversion to electric, you can put the fairing back on, and look almost stock.

A medium-size standard will have two frame supports under the engine, which can be re-used as a base or tray for mounting the batteries. You will most likely want to avoid any cycle that has a single piece of frame above or below the engine. It just makes it more difficult to find a way to mount the batteries. You can always fabricate something custom, but its best to start with a solid foundation.

Most cycles have a mechanics repair manual available for them. You might be familiar with the Haynes or Chiltons brands for car repair. Find the book for your cycle. Although it wont cover the new custom electric system, it will tell you how to fix your brakes, align the chain, painting tips, general repair and maintenance, and have plenty of other useful information.

Once you have your donor bike, you need to De-ICE it. ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine. Youll be removing the engine, the transmission, and anything else related to that system. That includes the gas tank, the exhaust pipes, and a radiator if it has one. Remove these parts carefully, so you can re-sell them.

You will want to know where to put the electric motor for the conversion. The easiest way to do that is simply to put the electric motor exactly where the output shaft of the transmission was. Locate where the chain goes to on the transmission end and mark that location on the frame. Use a wax pencil or silver marker with a speed square to put a mark on the frame both vertically and horizontally from the output shaft of the transmission. You will later use these marks to position the electric motor.

Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownloadStep 4: Electric Motor

To power your motorcycle, youre going to need a motor. But what type, what size, and where do you get it from!?

This project used a Briggs & Stratton Etek. Its a DC (Direct Current), brushed, pancake motor, rated at up to 48V and 150 amps continuous. I got it used, through Craigslist, from a college student who built those robots that battled each other. He was using this motor to swing a hammer, but it was too powerful, and he kept breaking hammer handles!

Direct current motors are very straight forward. They are easy to control the speed of. Also, batteries use direct current. By using a DC motor, theres no intermediate step of converting DC battery power to AC power to run the motor.

The Briggs motor has eight holes on the end (the face) of the motor to make it easy to mount to a piece of flat steel or aluminum. Some motors have a foot on the bottom of them for mounting, which wouldnt have been as easy to use in this situation.

Permanent Magnet motors tend to be very compact. They create rotational energy (torque) by pushing two magnetic fields against each other. The one magnetic field is produced by current from the batteries (an electro-magnet). The other magnetic field is from mineral permanent magnets. These magnets are much more compact than a second electro-magnet would be, allowing for an overall powerful, yet small motor. The limiting factor in the design is the strength of the permanent magnetic field. Many permanent magnet motors spin equally well in either direction. Just swap the positive and negative battery cables for it to spin the other way. The permanent magnets are ALWAYS magnetic! So dont drop a washer near one of the vent slots, or it will get sucked in and you have to take the whole thing apart to get it out! Since then, I made sure ALL washers are stainless steel (not only are they corrosion-resistant, but they are non-magnetic as well.)

I chose this motor knowing that many other people had used the same one in their electric motorcycle designs.

Permanent magnet motors are generally designed to spin equally well in either direction. If the motor spins the opposite direction of what you intended, all you have to do is swap the two cables. On a large motorcycle, you could take advantage of this with a reversing contactor to have a reverse gear.

Electric motors are rated differently than gas engines are in terms of their power. A gas engine is rated in horsepower with the engine running at nearly maximum speed and fuel consumption (full-out!) An electric motor is rated at how much power is can put out continuously – for hours at a time. So, a horsepower rating between an engine and an electric motor is not apples to apples.

More and more engines are also now being rated in Watts. A watt is a unit of power used. Most people understand watts, as in that a 100-watt light bulb uses more power than a 75-watt lightbulb. It puts out more power (as light and heat) but also costs more on your electric bill.

In electric vehicle design, keep in mind that volts x amps = watts. Also, 1 Horsepower is roughly 746 watts. So, its pretty easy to do some simple math to figure out the power of our motor.

By being connected to four 12V batteries in series, the system nominal voltage is 48V. The motor is rated at 150 amps continuous. 48 x 150 = 7,200 watts. Divide that by 746 (watts to horsepower) and you get about 9.6 horsepower. That doesnt sound like a lot. However, you can pull much higher amperage briefly through the motor – typically three or four times as much. My system amperage is limited by the fact that the motor controller maxes out at 300 amps. That still means we can get DOUBLE the power out of the motor compared to what you might think it can produce, just based on the numbers stamped on it.

Combine that with increased efficiency (by completely losing the transmission) and the fact that you haveFULL TORQUEright off the line (a gas engine has to rev up to several thousand RPM to get into its best power band) and even a compact electric motor has far better acceleration than you think it might.

I later had my cycle tested on a dynometer at a large Harley-Davidson gathering. The cycle officially clocked-in as 12hp. But when the guy first went to ride the cycle up to the dyno, he almost threw himself off with how quick it accelerated!

What other motors might you use in your electric motorcycle? Besides permanent magnet DC motors there are also Series-Wound and Brushless DC motors as well as some new AC motors. Series-wound motors are similar to permanent magnet DC motors. They are bulkier, but produce fantastic torque! You could use a series-wound drive motor out of a junked electric forklift. Do not use a pump motor. Those typically do not have a male driveshaft. Same goes for electric golf cart motors. They may otherwise sound like a good motor for a cycle, but unless you have a way to easily connect a standard sprocket to the motor, they will be a lot of tinkering to make work for your project.( A friend of mine is currently working on designing a kit with a specialty part allowing anyone to build their own electric motorcycle using an off-the-shelf golf cart motor. Look for that in the future.)

Brushless DC and AC motors are very similar. They require dedicated controllers designed specifically for them. If you go that route, buy your motor and controller as a matched set through a reputable dealer.

in general, all these motors are air-cooled, so you dont need a motorcycle with a radiator on it.

For planning purposes, you want to know that your motor will FIT in the motorcycle before you buy it! Made sure to measure the space you have and the physical size of the motor before you buy. If the motor is not in front of you in person, dont worry, most mainstream manufactured motors have diagrams that you can download, that include the physical dimensions. (See Etek_Diagram PDF file attached below.)

Besides the diagram showing physical dimensions, it also lists important information on torque, voltage, RPM, etc. That helps you plan out your cycle design as well.

Once you have your motor selected and in-hand, you need some way to physically mount the motor where you need it to go in the motorcycle.

To do this build an Adapter Plate or Motor Mounting Plate.

I built mine from a piece of scrap 1/4 aluminum plate that I had around. The plate needs to have a hole in the middle of it for the driveshaft to pass through and four holes in the appropriate locations for the bolts to mount the motor to the plate.

The plate also needs mounting points to connect it to the frame of the motorcycle. On this project, I re-used the existing mounting points in the frame of the cycle where the engine and transmission originally bolted in place. Those holes are already just about where I needed them and it meant I didnt have to make any new holes in the frame.

Rather than making a template from scratch, or drilling holes based on careful measurements of the motor, I simply made my own paper template based on the PDF file that I already had of the mechanical drawing of the motor. In a graphic design program, I simply made sure that the measurements on the diagram matched up to 100% actual scale, and printed it out on paper. The motor is compact enough that the whole image fit on one 8.5×11 sheet.

I cut out the piece of paper and then glued it (rubber cement) to the aluminum plate. Using a drill press, I simply drilled holes of the appropriate size (the size is marked right on the diagram!) right through the crosshairs on the piece of paper. That gave me a plate of aluminum with a central hole for the driveshaft, and four holes to mount the motor to the plate. I test-fit the plate in place on the motorcycle, with the drive-shaft hole lining up with the marks on the frame indicating where the chain originally went. I then sketched right on the plate tabs of where the plate would extend to the existing mounting points on the frame – one on the bottom and one on the high side of the back. I will later add another attachment point on the front with an angle bracket.

At that point, I could just put the motor and plate together to confirm that all the holes lined up. I also traced the outline of the motor on the plate.

Once I rounded off all the edges, I put the plate in the motorcycle, and ran threaded rods (3/8 and 5/16, which matched the holes in the frame) through the frame attachment points, through the plate, and through the matching attachment point. Stainless steel nylock nuts and washers went on both sides of the adapter plate and on the outsides of the motorcycle frame. If I ever need to adjust the position of the motor side-to-side, I can loosen the nuts on either side of the plate and move it one direction or the other.

This motorcycle is powered by four off-the-shelf batteries. They areOptima Yellow-Tops, rated at 55 amp-hour capacity, and cranking current of nearly 900 amps. They areAGM- absorbed glass matt. Thats a style of lead-acid battery that is sealed up and the electrolyte is soaked into coils of fiberglass matting. They cannot leak, spill, or slosh around.

While there are other types of batteries available, this seemed to be the best combination of price and performance for my project.Floodedlead-acid batteries are really not acceptable for a motorcycle. Besides being challenging in adding water, the movement and possible tipping-over of a motorcycle would not be good for flooded batteries.

Sealedlead-acid batteries (VRLA) would also be fine, as wouldgels. However, neither of those can crank the power as well as an AGM can, which is what gives the cycle good acceleration. Lithium batteries are excellent for weight, capacity, and power, but are currently only for those with higher budgets. If you use lithium batteries, everything else about the project is the same, except for a different battery charger and a battery management system.

Going back to some simple math, we can get an estimate of motorcycle range. I have four batteries, each of which is 12 volts, but they are wired up in one series string of all four of them, so its really 48V in total.

So, in theory, 48V x 55AH = 2640 watt-hours capacity. 100 watt-hours per mile is a typical ball-park number for energy consumption per mile on an electric motorcycle. (Of course that does vary by weather, speed, riding style, etc.) But this is just a rough estimate.

Just a real rough estimate, but its good enough to say Will this vehicle meet my needs? Will it perform the way I want it too?

In this case, yes. I only live a couple miles outside town, and the next town is ten miles away. I can use this cycle to drive all over locally, and head to the next town over and back on one charge.

In real-world driving tests, the single-charge range of the cycle came to 23 miles if I drove full-tilt, and 32 if I was doing easy acceleration and in the city 25 mph zones.

Lead batteries are NOT light. It helps to make a mock-up from foam or cardboard, so that you have a LIGHTWEIGHT, easy-to-handle version of the battery to experiment with. I like to think of this as the poor-mans C.A.D.

If you are into computer design, there are many great programs out there to help you create 3D images and think in three-dimensional space.Google Sketchupseems to be getting fairly popular. Still, you really cant beat an actual, physical object in your hands. I just prefer something that weighs less than lead.

In my earliest version of the cycle, I had three batteries in it. Then I moved up to four (for more range and higher top-speed.) I was never sure how to fit four inside the frame in a way that fit well and looked good. By using cardboard mock-ups, I was able to experiment with various arrangements of batteries until I found one that I liked. In this case, the fact that I could mount these batteries turned on end allowed me to come up with a configuration that I liked.