How I got to Shandoka

ERNEST EICH, FOUNDER

My journey to bring a clean fuel vehicle to market began 20 years ago, as I gained my first exposure to sustainability practices and zero-impact design in undergraduate studies at North Carolina State University. Engineering School still considered the environment as a giant heatsink, but a new wave of “green” thinking was starting to enter the picture. For me, it was introduced through recreation program and facility design courses by professors who thought – and taught – beyond the envelope of conventional practice. Sustainability would change the way we think about the world.

At the turn of the new millennium, it was uncertain whether fuel cells or batteries would power the electric cars of the future. Our Pre-Smartphone-era Energy Tech pointed toward Hydrogen at first, and I looked at Internal Combustion Engine conversions as a way to bridge demand while a hydrogen infrastructure could be established. As the infrastructure was built, we were all certain that fuel cell technology and hydrogen storage density issues would be solved so they could be commercialized and take the helm. I made some good moves toward a small local infrastructure in Telluride, CO and brought all the important stakeholders on board.

Well, that was wrong. The advent of the LiFePO4 battery at scale proved it.

Now that we’ve arrived in yesterday’s future and battery technology is on the verge of yet another leap forward, the advantages of batteries continue to win over the complexities of on-board fuel cell systems. But even these seemingly advanced Lithium chemistries will seem like Nikola Tesla’s paper-wrapped carbon batteries in a another decade.

—Mountain Zen, and the Motorcycle—

In Colorado early 2000s I learned to ride a motorcycle – a solid fit with my natural vehicular abilities and professional experiences operating a wide range of cars, trucks, limousines, construction equipment, and off-road tour machines. Plus, what a place to ride a motorcycle! Now to resolve that noisy BANG machine between by legs…

As I began to form the idea for an electric motorcycle into something physical, the constant evolution of the power source was at the root of my thoughts. The design required an intrinsic adaptability for energy-tech advancements. Batteries would evolve, and might move beyond a battery or fuel cells in a swift leap of new thought.

My initial inspiration came from the frustration of an old bike I couldn’t get running. The carburetor floats and jets had been touched by so many people – and the no-title machine was dropped and hammered so much anyway – I was doubtful it would ever run right again. But when I stripped it down, I could see beneath the form of the machine to find a new function – as a converted Electric Motorcycle.

That was Spring 2011. In just a few weeks, and with several rolls of duct tape spent, I had a basic form for the adapters to easily bolt a massive battery pack onto the frame. But there were only a few prismatic lithium cells to design with, all outside the budget of a driveway engineer and none certain to function … at all. So I refined my design, and waited as the technology was developed and brought to common production.

This year, 2019, I am proud to offer the first edition of the Modular Electric Motorcycle ™ from Shandoka, llc. The patent-pending system will open the door to the rescue of many excellent motorcycles from the scrap-bin, and serve as a basis for an all-new motorcycle system to meet a wide range of user needs.

Join the Community

I am thrilled to be able to bring these great machines from drawing board and hobby garage to the winding, hilly roads of the real world. While the journey continues to form in front of us, I hope you’ll bookmark the page and join our monthly newsletter list to grab our postcards from beyond.

Gather the Storm!

Ernest

The Fuel is the Problem

Recently produced motorcycles are capable of handling fuels containing ethanol up to 10%, but older motorcycles have no chance of surviving an ethanol-fueled diet for more than a few years without extra maintenance. Even higher percentages, as currently proposed by the petroleum industry, will lead to worsening deterioration issues.

In addition, over the next 20 years, we can expect gasoline stations to be more and more difficult to locate as the world moves to electric powered mobility. For these reasons and more, Conversion to electric drive is one of the few long-term solutions for keeping an older motorcycle on the road. Fuel additives can help, but you don’t really want to pack a bottle of ETHANOL FIXER everywhere you go – that’s some poisonous stuff.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every motorcycle will need to be converted to electric drive to keep it on the street…

But the days of easy fueling for old motorcycles are on the way to zero.

 

HOW TO PREPARE FOR “NO GAS HERE”

There will be a future demand for canned gasoline, and boutique-antique filling stations will be popular for all types of classic vehicles that require petroleum fuels. Collectors and aficionados will be charged special licensing fees and probably find restrictions on where they can drive their old vehicles, especially in cities.
There are many classic motorcycles that just aren’t suited to conversions.

Many will consider it sacrilege to swap out the noise-making gas-hog for electric propulsion, and others that will simply learn to home-brew the fuels they need as filling stations become charging-only locations. But considering a gallon of “engineered fuel” for 4-cycle lawn equipment sells for $72us at the local garden Big Box store, you see obvious indication of what’s written in our future.

So when we consider that major automakers are already planning the end of combustion engine production lines, we must also expect the reversal of the range anxiety felt by early adopters of electric cars. The route will be specifically planned to get the old bikes home before the tank is empty, while the electron-riders in the group can pick up energy everywhere.

And that will be an interesting problem to have.

 

— Ernest Eich

Know Your Tire Date Codes – It Could Save Your Life

More than any other system on your motorcycle the tires are critical to your safety. And although that statement seems to be self evident, there are many new riders and used-bike buyers that don’t give a first or second thought to the age of the tires. An older tire can still look as if it’s brand new, especially when you are accustomed to four-wheel vehicles where the physical demands on the tires are very different than the forces at play on a motorcycle.

The generally accepted safe age for motorcycle tires is five years – and I saw firsthand how quickly a tire which is exactly 5 years old can fail. I’d picked up an old bike and the rubber looked good; the tread was clean and pliable. However after only 100 miles – cracks started to develop between the tread blocks. Cracks are failures – and can split at any moment.

Old Tires mean Old Valve Stems, too.

When you go looking for a used motorcycle, knowing the age of the tires is a great bargaining tool on price. You’ll have an idea when the bike was last maintained, and how long it has been sitting. Old tires also mean old valve stems, which can fail suddenly, too.

A motorcycle tire will not give you a lot of warning before it fails – and when it does there’s very few options for landing safely. If you lose a back tire you can generally get to the side of the road. But a front-tire blowout will be dangerous at almost any speed, and require more skill than most new riders have to recover safely. The best insurance is a new set of tires – even the cheapest tires you get will be better than old rubber.

What are the date codes? In the US and many other locations, it is a four digit code molded into the sidewall of the tire, at the end of a long series that describes the tire like a VIN number. The last two digits are the year it was manufactured and can tell you a lot about how to price the bike as you buy it. The first two digits are the week of the year, and are more helpful to the manufacturer.

 

bike
bike

So, if you haven’t verified the age of the tires on that used motorcycle you bought last year – make sure you look as part of your seasonal readiness check. At the very least, you’ll know you have good tires on the road and at worst – you’ll get new tires.