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Quick Overview

Designing, Converting, and Owning Electric Motorcycles By John Bidwell

Introducing El Chopper ET

Smooth, fast, quiet, comfortable, clean, and economical—that’s what El Chopper ET is all about. It’s long, low, and has a fat rear…it’s a chopper, and it’s electric. At 50 mph, the sound of the wind is all you hear unless you turn on the optional MP3/speaker system that plays a rumbling tailpipe recording. The attention you’ll get from onlookers will be well worth the price of admission (about $1,200 in parts including the motor, controller, and motorcycle rolling chassis). And we’ll show you how you can build it yourself!

The Unique design

El Chopper ET combines a lightweight customized motorcycle (based on a stock motorcycle rolling chassis) with a high-power electric vehicle motor, a controller, and a set of inexpensive, readily available batteries. The result is a long-range (30-40 miles), high-performance, 60-mph-class machine.

El Chopper ET’s design accommodates standard and custom motorcycle seats, tanks, and other accessories so you can personalize your machine with off-the-shelf parts. The unique, stretched-out, custom chassis and stylish motorcycle seat allow you to cruise around town in comfort and style. El Chopper ET’s low seat height (25") and adjustable foot peg positioning accommodate riders from 4’9" to 6’7" tall.

EL Chopper ET Short and Standard Versions

(Full 3D CAD computer software was used to develop all the details of El Chopper ET)

You Can Build Your Own El Chopper ET

The El Chopper ET Builder’s Guide shows how to begin with a Honda Rebel 250 chassis and convert it into El Chopper ET. It walks you though the building process, step-by-step, providing descriptions, dimensioned CAD drawings and photographs for the two different wheel-base options shown above.

Complete instructions and plans are provided in this 67-page, 8 ½ x 11-inch, photo-illustrated manual. CAD drawings are provided in both 2D dimensioned layout drawings and 3D perspectives to give you a complete view of what you are building. Many detailed photos and CAD sequences show each step of the build-up of the welded steel frame and the assembly of all the parts to make a complete motorcycle. A full list of the materials used to build El Chopper ET is provided in the El Chopper ET Builder’s Guide. A list of parts vendors with addresses, phone numbers, and web site addresses is also provided.

El Chopper ET Builder’s Guide also includes an introduction to vehicle dynamics and electric vehicle technology to provide you with a basic understanding of two-wheeled electric vehicles, and how to apply electric vehicle components.

The motor used in the current model of El Chopper ET is the high-performance Etek motor that can be operated at 24, 36, or 48 volts. At 48 volts and 400 amps, the Etek delivers 15+ peak horsepower. The design accommodates a variety of controller and battery options as well. The motor, controller, power switch, and throttle are available from mail-order and/or Web electric vehicle component suppliers. (Even though the Etek motor is perhaps the most powerful and efficient DC motor available for light electric vehicles, Briggs and Stratton is said to be working on a next-generation Etek motor and controller that promise to be even more efficient!)

Motorcycle rolling chassis (*) are available from local motorcycle salvage yards or from old motorcycles selling in the classified ads. Harley-Davidsonâ motorcycle parts may be purchased from your local dealer or after-market parts dealers, or at swap meets. Many of these parts (Sportsterâ tanks, Badlanderâ seats, foot pegs, mirrors, etc.) will easily bolt right onto El Chopper ET.

Building El Chopper ET is primarily a frame-customizing-and-assembly project. If you don’t have welding skills or the necessary welding equipment, you can take the rolling chassis and the frame drawings from the El Chopper ET Builder’s Guide to a local welding shop and have the frame built for you.

Length 89 standard wheel base/ 85.5 inches short wheel base
Width 17 inches
Height 46 inches
Seat height 25 inches
Wheel base 68.5 standard wheel base/65 inches short wheel base
Power (continuous) 7 HP (48 Volt, no electronic governor)
Power (peak) 15 HP (48 Volt, 325 amps)
Weight (without batteries) 195 lbs.
Weight (with long range batteries) 375 lbs. (stock Hondaâ Rebelâ ~345 lbs.)
Front wheel 300-18
Rear wheel 130/90 - 15 66P
Range 30 - 40 miles (depends on trip profile)
Charge time < 4 hours ( with 25 amp charger)
Top speed 30-80 mph (depends on gearing, controller, and voltage)

Registering and Licensing El Chopper ET

When configured with the full-power options, El Chopper ET is registered, insured, and operated as a motorcycle. However, El Chopper ET’s design includes a special electronic governor that allows you to limit the top speed. This makes it possible to suit new or less experienced riders, or to meet the 30-MPH moped or scooter licensing rules in most states.

Why Electric?

In addition to zero local pollution (ozone, nitrous oxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate) from riding El Chopper ET, the cost of electricity per mile to power El Chopper ET is about one-third the cost of riding an equivalent gasoline-powered motorcycle. Plus, the maintenance on El Chopper ET simply consists of periodically filling battery water, adjusting the drive chain, and checking the tire pressure! It’s clear that electric vehicles bring the future to us now, by providing transportation that’s clean, quiet, fun, easy to maintain, and reduces our dependency on oil.

El Chopper ET Comes from a Line of Proven Winners

El Chopper ET’s unique design evolved from several generations of electric motorcycle predecessors that were tested and improved through extensive electric vehicle racing, including winning three previous National Electric Drag Racing Association records.

*There are other motorcycle rolling chassis available that you can use instead of the Honda Rebel 250 to build a comparable motorcycle, but still using the technology described in the El Chopper ET Builder’s Guide. The Honda Nighthawk , Honda Rebel 450, Kawasaki Eliminator 125, Suzuki Savage 650, Suzuki GZ 250, and Yamaha Virago 250 chassis are just a few.

The words Honda and Rebel are registered trademarks of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. ©2002 American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

The words Harley-Davidson, Sportster, and Badlander are registered trademarks of Harley-Davidson Inc.

All other brand names or trademarks or registered trademarks in this Builder’s guide are the property of their respective holders.

Information about Etek Motor Alternatives

Top speed (MPH)
Approx. steady 30 MPH range (miles)
stop-and-go range
Approx. best acceleration 0 to 30 MPH (seconds)
Approx. maximum weight (lbs.)
Approx. cost to build (excluding the cost of donor gas MC)
Approx. cost to replace battery pack


Stock Status N/A
Country of Manufacture United States

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