MONTGOMERY , W.Va.For their capstone engineering design project, four West Virginia University Institute of Technology students decided to build an electric motorcycle.
Justin Cole, Kris Williams, Chad Dickman and Todd Sanderson resurrected a 1974 Suzuki GT 750 into an environmentally-friendly vehicle named MEEV , which stands for Mechanical Engineering Electric Vehicle. The MEEV is capable of going 25 miles on a single charge and can reach a top-speed of 50 miles per hour. The bike can fully charge in eight hours from the onboard charger, which is stored in the gas tank.
For WVU Institute of Technology classes System Designs I and II, the aspiring mechanical engineers proposed designing and fabricating all the necessary parts to convert a 35-year-old motorcycle into a plug-in electric motorcycle. The team felt confident that they could successfully complete the project due to their experience with the institutes Society of Automotive Engineers off-road racing team.
The team began by outlining what materials and components were needed to make the endeavor a success. The list began with the bike, motor, batteries and a variety of controllers. The students built all other parts of the bike, including engine mounts, a battery case and a charging system, from scratch. The team faced financial challenges with the total cost of the project reaching $2,100.
The team turned to James Cercone, interim dean of the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Science, for help with their financial dilemma. The students presented a project proposal to Cercone and were able to acquire the necessary funds from various departments in the college.
The students demonstrated a real passion for the project, and it is our mission to support our students. They made a good case and planned to produce a motorcycle that had the distance to cover the average commute and deliver highway speeds,Cercone said.
Construction of the bike began in January. The motorcycle was stripped of the combustion engine and prepared for the conversion. Once the frame had been stripped down, the team began to assemble the electric engine and controls. Adversity soon followed.
We had some setbacks, but each time through persistence and teamwork, we overcame the unexpected,said Justin Cole, now a recent mechanical engineering graduate.
The team worked long days and late nights to complete the MEEV by the end of the spring semester. During the first field test of the vehicle, rain deterred the teams progress, so they waited until the engineering labs were empty and successfully took the bike for a test run through the building.
In the end, the motorcycle was a success, and each team member received top marks for their efforts. Bernhard Betting, professor of mechanical engineering, is currently working on curriculum adjustments to increase the number of projects students complete by adding more hands-on experience to sophomore and junior classes.
A motivated student is a great asset to this institution and that is why I love teaching. These students went above and beyond on this project because they loved what they were doing,Betting said.
Williams, Dickman and Sanderson are returning to the WVU Institute of Technology next year with ambitions of making their electric motorcycle street legal. Future modifications will include a speedometer and other safety requirements. Cole graduated in May and is currently looking to build more electric motorcycles in the future.
WVU Institute of Technology offers more than 50 career-focused, four-year programs in the engineering, sciences, business, social sciences, public administration, humanities and health fields.