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Student Builds Solar-Powered Motorcycle

Credits: ©2010 Curt Slyder

Many motorcycles can be heard approaching from several blocks away. But there's a Purdue University student who could ride his motorcycle up behind you and tap you on the shoulder before you know he's there.

Starting with a 1978 Suzuki, Tony Coiro has fashioned a motorcycle that runs on solar power. His creation will be on display Wednesday in front of Stewart Center as part of the Alternatively Powered and Fueled Vehicle Show during the university's third annual Green Week. The gas tank has been replaced by four batteries, wires and two solar cell "wings" that can be raised to catch the sun when the vehicle is parked.


Motorcycle Solar Powered2

Tony Coiro rides his solar-powered motorcycle Wednesday near Ross-Ade Stadium. He's a junior at Purdue University, majoring in physics. ©2010 John Terhune / Journal & Courier

The street-legal bike boasts a range of 24 miles per charge and a top speed of 45 mph. It can also be charged by being plugged in to an AC current.

"It's kind of like riding a magic carpet," Coiro said of the silent ride. "I get a lot of stares when I'm riding it around."

Majoring in physics, the junior from South Bend has had a long love affair with transportation and energy.

The idea to create his own solar-powered vehicle was many years in the making.

One of the biggest reasons he chose a motorcycle "is because it's a lot cheaper for a student budget," he said.

He purchased the Suzuki for $50 from Craigslist and embarked on an approximately eight-month process to transform it. All the equipment cost him about $2,500.

He was finished around the time of the inaugural Purdue Electric Vehicle Grand Prix, which he helped organize, last April. A second event is scheduled for spring 2011.

After getting the vehicle licensed -- which was easy -- and insured -- which was hard -- he started driving the bike last June.

"Insurance companies were a bit wary," he said.

The Wednesday alternative fuel/power vehicle show is one of several highlights of the third annual Green Week.

The annual campus event was Monday through Oct. 8, 2010 and promoted numerous environmental initiatives.

Every day had a different theme, according to Robin Ridgway, Purdue's director of sustainability and environmental stewardship. 2010's event was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of Engineers for a Sustainable World, Ridgway said. The many events included panel discussions, tours of local green initiatives, displays, green competitions between residence halls and dining facilities and other events. 


  Motorcycle Solar Powered Created by Purdue Student 11 OCT 2010 (128 kb)