Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel [Review – Rider’s Library]

With new start-up companies building electric motorcycles seemingly all over the place, the idea of anybody considering building an e-bike solo hadn’t seriously occurred to me.

On further consideration, the DIY impulse has always been a big factor among motorcyclists. In fact, over the hundred-year-plus history of motorcycles, there has probably never been a time when production motorcycles have not ended up with at least some degree of DIY effort expended on many of them.

Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle: Book Review

Taken to the next level—that of bespoke, hand-built, homemade customs in traditional piston-powered motorcycles—there are so many they represent an entire market segment all their own. So, it follows that the e-bike would naturally be a part of that hand-built segment of motorcycling.

Carl Vogel has anticipated that movement. To help the would-be electric motorcycle builder avoid some common problems and get to a workable, well-designed result, he has written Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle.

As I began reading the book, I kept thinking that I had no intention of ever attempting to build an electric motorcycle. However, as I got deeper into it, it occurred to me that it wasn’t outside the realm of reason that I may at some point own one. Then, as I got even further into the narrative, I began to realize the book is a trove of practical, technical information that any motorcyclist will find valuable to know.

So, even if you have no intention of trying to build an electric motorcycle, or don’t even think you’ll ever buy a factory-built e-bike, you may find Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle an amazingly informative book about things that apply to your piston-powered bike, car, ATV, side-by-side, and so on.

You may be thinking, “Who’s this Vogel guy, anyway? The world is full of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ self-publishing DIY books on just about everything. How do we know what he’s talking about?”

It turns out, Vogel is a Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineer and President of Vogelbilt Corporation, which describes itself as “a research, engineering, and development company for alternative fuels and alternative-fueled vehicles.” He is currently a professor at Farmingdale State College—a State University of New York—and helped develop a new green automotive engineering curriculum, such as the first electric vehicle course. Also, he’s on the Board of Directors of the Electric Auto Association.

And, who was Vogel’s publisher? McGraw Hill—yep, the textbook people who tend to demand editorial content of extremely high quality and accuracy.

Vogel hits several topics in impressively deep, yet clear, detail that any motorcyclist—regardless of the bike’s powerplant—may find very useful.

For example, in his discussion of chassis design, he covers the fundamentals such as rake, trail, frame geometry, fork angle, fork length, fork dive, total travel, spring rate, what these terms mean, and how they apply to chassis design and selection of suspension components.

Vogel provides surprisingly detailed immersion in aerodynamics and why it matters to motorcyclists. Any rider could benefit from that part of the text. To those interested in privateer road racing, drag racing, land-speed racing, and the like, the book brings together fundamentals and formulas you probably can’t find in any other one place. He demystifies frontal area, coefficient of drag, aerodynamic drag force, and airflow, and how those factors affect performance and range.

He covers rolling resistance, tire selection, transmission and final drive system options, horsepower, torque, current, battery, and electric motor fundamentals, charging systems, motor controllers, wiring systems, specifications, and nearly every aspect of the build, down to the details of tools and safety.

If it sounds like this book covers a lot of ground about a few things every rider should know, whether they ever ride an electric motorcycle or not, well, that was my thought, too.

Title: Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle 

  • Author: Carl Vogel
  • Published: 2009. Paperback. 359 pages. 7.5 x 9.25 inches. Black and white images, charts, and graphs.
  • Publisher: McGraw Hill
  • ISBN: 978-0-07-162293-6

Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle Price: $29.00 MSRP