Biodiesel-Powered BMW Bike Breaks Land Speed Record

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Sep. 13, 2007, Photography by Chip Chipman

"With 78 per cent lower emissions than a standard diesel engine and more than 130 mph already achieved, we’ve proved that style, speed, and environmental efficiency can come together in one vehicle.”

Well, that tells us just about everything we need to know. How about you, readers?


From BMW:

An innovative custom-built biodiesel motorcycle has shattered the World Land Speed Record for diesel motorcycles at the BUB International Motorcycle Speed Trials at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, achieving a speed of 130.614 mph (210.203 km/h).

Interestingly, the ‘motorcycle’ – which started life as a BMW R 1150 RT – was in fact powered by a two-liter diesel engine from a BMW 3 Series car. Michael Sturtz, who rode ‘Die Moto’ to the new record at Bonneville, also made history by riding the first ever non-gasoline powered motorcycle at the world famous salt flats, setting the record using Greenline Industries’ B100 Bio-Diesel fuel.

“It’s great to know that we have the fastest diesel motorcycle in the world right now,” said Michael Sturtz, founder and executive director of The Crucible ( – an innovative industrial arts education facility in Oakland, California, that designed and fabricated the Die Moto project. “But it’s about so much more than that. Both The Crucible and Greenline share a commitment to address the world's environmental and socio-economic issues, and promote biodiesel as a viable alternative to diesel.

“The challenge for the Die Moto team was to demonstrate new capabilities of biodiesel and call attention to the need for automotive technology to integrate environmental responsibility with performance. With 78 per cent lower emissions than a standard diesel engine and more than 130 mph already achieved, we’ve proved that style, speed, and environmental efficiency can come together in one vehicle.”

The Crucible’s volunteer team – known as the ‘Diesel Dozen’ – was comprised of highly skilled professionals in the fields of engineering, motorcycle mechanics, design, fabrication, environmental health, and industrial arts. They constructed Die Moto from a BMW R 1150 RT, replacing the engine with a high-performance BMW 3 Series diesel engine that they found at a German car dismantler in England (this model is not sold in the USA). The result is a motorized work of art that pays homage to the early pioneers of motorcycle racing—a car engine on a motorcycle chassis encased in a gleaming hand-crafted aluminium fairing reminiscent of the early GP racers.

“Although we call the team the ‘Diesel Dozen’ there have been about 25 people working on this exciting project and about 10 of them made the journey from California to Utah for the speed trials,” said Sturtz. “Bringing a vehicle like this to Bonneville made a real statement – especially among the ‘petrolheads’ who were surprised at first, but soon became very positive about what we were doing. A place like Bonneville is all about high octane and there we were with this machine that can run on vegetable oil, biodiesel or straight diesel!”

The team would have loved to have also tried to break the standard diesel record and establish a new record for ‘straight vegetable oil’ power, but stormy weather at the salt flats prevented any further progress.

“We’re not done with this project yet,” comments Michael. “This is an ongoing challenge for us. Die Moto was recently featured on the cover of Popular Science, and its impressive showing at Bonneville has opened the doors and set the bar high for other alternative fuel vehicles to compete in speed tests. The mission of the ‘Die Moto’ project was to demonstrate that environmental responsibility and alternative technology have a place in the headlines and the history books, and we expect to get it up to over 160 mph on our next run! We’ve had a few problems with the car’s computer engine management system, which has shut down as if someone was tampering with the key. We’re also about 700 rpm short of where we want to be, but once we can sort out these computer glitches, I’m hoping we’ll see 165 mph (265 km/h) on the clock.”