Charging up for the Nightshift
As battery technology advances, is there a silent revolution coming to the world of custom motorcycles?
Increasingly we’re told that the future of four-wheeled transport is electric and as battery technology advances, and costs come down this is indeed looking like reality.
One of the frequently occurring questions about this future is what happens to the old batteries? Recycling is one option but there’s an amateur bike builder by the name of Matt Candler in New Orleans, Louisiana, that is looking to these as the source of power for his custom bikes.
Built under the name Nightshift Bikes, Candler has created a handful of very different custom bikes. By day he is an educator and founded 4.0 Schools which serves as an incubator platform to help get great ideas off the ground. At night Candler’s other passion for motorcycles takes over, modestly describing it by saying “I build electric motorcycles after my kids go to bed. It’s mostly an excuse to buy tools and surf eBay.”
Candler’s latest creation is called the Leafy Savage. It has evolved over time to what you see now and was built using the frame from a 2003 Suzuki Savage, lending itself to part of the bike’s name. This is where most bike builders would source an off-the-shelf BMW or Harley-Davidson motor to fit into the frame, but Candler took a different approach.
He was able to obtain a salvaged battery pack from a Nissan Leaf, and this is mounted into the frame and at an angle not dissimilar to what an in-line four would typically sit. It’s only around a sixth of the overall Leaf battery. The pack consists of seven modules, each containing four cells at 30Ah.
Above that, where you would typically expect to find a fuel tank, lies an Eltek charger that can provide up to 3,000 watts and 220 volts. This enables the battery to be charged via a standard household plug. The other equipment needed to make the whole electrical system work is neatly packaged underneath the saddle. A full charge takes less than three hours and provides enough energy to give a riding range of close to 100 miles.
Driving the rear wheel is a custom built Enertrac rear hub that is fully enclosed and no larger than the diameter of a conventional rear sprocket. With the power from the battery the power output equates to roughly 40hp, and while that might not sound like a huge figure, it’s worth remembering that electric power means that all of its torque is available instantly. So throttle inputs do require some restraint.
The result is a relatively light and nimble bike that travel at a brisk pace in near silence. It may seem like a complicated machine, but the simplicity of the design that Candler has created deserves credit.
Among the majority of mainstream motorcycle makers, electric propulsion is still some way down the road. Companies such as Zero and BMW have made electric production models while Harley-Davidson plans to introduce its electric model in the next five years.
It remains to be seen whether electric bikes will become a new trend with custom builders. But with significantly fewer moving parts, almost no running costs and the prospect of higher power outputs, custom electric motorcycles could be the next big thing.
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