BIODIESEL MOTORCYCLE: Proponent of alternative energy converts 1980 bike

CrazyJerry sitting on the Changzuki diesel motorcycle



Saturday, November 11, 2006

COLTON - Fuel economy is a given for Jerry J. Bartlett.

The Colton man can ride his 1980 Suzuki motorcycle from his home to Syracuse and back and have fuel left in the nearly 4-gallon tank. He averages 115 miles per gallon on the bike, which he retrofitted in a weekend to burn diesel fuel.

"The goal is to put the miles on it," said Mr. Bartlett, a SUNY Canton online learning technician. "I get 340 miles on a tank without letting it run dry."

He converted the motorcycle with parts ordered online and without plans. The conversion cost about $2,000, including the purchase of the used motorcycle. The motorcycle stalled just once after the conversion. Mr. Bartlett ended up pushing it home about 3 miles that day.

"It was trial and error with the bike," he said.

Mr. Bartlett, whose home is powered exclusively using alternative energies such as wind and solar power, made the diesel-powered motorcycle as one of many endeavors he's done to become self-sufficient or get "off the grid."

"The heart of the project lies in reducing energy usage," he said. "After years of failed promises for saving money on defunct projects by the big corporations, I decided to try my own version, and the diesel motorcycle is one such venture."

He uses biodiesel, which he makes himself, to fuel the motorcycle in the summer. Biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils or animal fats, mixed with petroleum fuel. It has fewer harmful emissions than petroleum diesel and is an alternative energy supply.

A drawback is that it produces more nitrous oxide emissions, a contributing factor in the formation of smog and ozone. And he switches to regular diesel in the winter because the biodiesel fuel gels in cold weather.

A diesel-powered motorcycle isn't commercially available in the U.S. because consumers today have a demand for speed and lighter rides.

"They're heavy, and people are looking for the instantaneous speed," said Brandon J. Baldwin, SUNY Canton assistant professor of automotive technology. "Diesel engines are very fuel efficient, more so than gasoline engines."

The trend is for diesel engines to become more popular in cars and trucks, but not so much for motorcycles, Mr. Baldwin said. But one factor could change a person's perception.

"You could see more people doing this when the price of fuel goes up," said Mr. Baldwin, adding that riding a diesel-powered motorcycle on long trips would be practical for the fuel mileage.

Copyright 2006. Watertown Daily Times, Inc., Watertown, NY. All rights reserved.

David Winters

Reporter - Ogdensburg Bureau

Watertown Daily Times

P.O. Box 505

Ogdensburg, New York 13669

Phone: (315) 393-0610

Fax: (315) 393-9656

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