University Students Revs Up Electric Motorcycle

A 1978 Suzuki purchased for $50 on eBay has been turned into a street-legal motorcycle that can be powered by plug-in AC current or solar energy.

Tony “Danger” Coiro, a junior physics major from South Bend, Ind., redesigned and retrofitted the motorcycle and is now looking to build and commercialize a second-generation version that will be faster and more powerful. It cost him $2,500 to carry out the transformation of the vehicle.

Coiro’s project has already started to draw attention. He took second place in the undergraduate division of the fifth annual Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition in April, earning a prize of $500. His presentation also was named the most entertaining pitch in the undergraduate division, which earned him another $500. 

“This high-performance motorcycle will be powered solely by electricity. It should produce 100 horsepower and travel close to 100 miles per hour,” he said.

“The second-generation version will be similar to the first in two ways: it will cost less than a penny per mile to operate, and it will have instant, silent and constant acceleration that outpaces urban traffic because there is no shifting or clutch.”

Cairo says there is not a lot of competition in the market, but with as the price of gas increases and alternative vehicles become more sought after, he thinks it “will be cool to see how this market develops and grows, and I look forward to being part of it.”

He is now looking for an investor to take his project to the next stage and take on large-scale development to produce consumer-ready bikes. The technology is available for licensing through Jonathan Gortat, project manager for the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.