A Short Primer on the History of the Etek Motor, and Other Tales

It doesn’t take more than a few hours of looking into building your own electric vehicle before you see the name Etek. The original Etek motor seems almost legendary, and the fact that the Briggs and Stratton name is associated with it makes it all the more interesting. After a while, though, a few things become apparent… the original Etek is pretty much not available, it seems to have been replaced by two newer models, the Etek R and RT, and as you delve a little deeper the confusion mounts.

Cedric Lynch designed the original Lynch motor, started LMC, which appears to still be around, went on to found Agni Motors, and there are rumors about technology from Lynch’s design being licensed to Briggs and Stratton for the new Etek R and RT. Depending where you look, you can find Lynch “LEM” motors listed, Agni motors, original Etek motors, new Etek replacements, even listings on Ebay in the Briggs and Stratton Outlet store for Etek motors. Then, there’s Mars.

Through a conversation with Steve Lorenz at Sevcon, I got in touch with John Fiorenza at Mars Electric LLC. John was a great help in answering some of my more pointed questions- in particular, solutions to the old “permanent magnet DC motors running regen and blowing up” issue- (John’s answer- “Sevcon MilliPak 4Q control was developed for PM motors. It will not blow up.” ) but in the meantime, we got into a conversation about the history of the Etek motor and the current situation. Yeah, I can’t stop myself from making that pun. But here’s the deal.

The original Etek motors were developed by Briggs and Stratton for OEM use, and actually, they were not allowing sales of the motors to any 2 or 3 wheeled vehicles capable of over 20mph for some reason known only, probably, to the lawyers. The early motors were purchased by EV guys resourcefully, through the Service channels. This is how legends are born.

The so-called Etek R and RT are actually Mars motors, designed by Mars (John, actually) without Briggs and Stratton or Cedric Lynch, either. There’s no licensing from Agni going on. Originally there was licensing from Lynch to Briggs and Stratton for the original Etek design- obviously a major source of the confusion.

The Agni, as well as the original Etek, by the way, is an axial air gap motor- see the previous post. The Mars is a radial air gap- a much more traditional basic design. The names, Etek R and Etek RT are names coined by some of the resellers- actually discouraged by Mars and probably an infringement of the Briggs and Stratton trademark.

The bottom line is that the Mars ME0708 and ME0709 motors are what you want, and what you’re going to be sold, if you’re looking for a new motor of “Etek” design. You want the best deal on them? Buy them from John, at Mars Electric LLC. If you want a kit or a package, and the support that comes with that, and are willing to pay a bit extra (usually only $25-50 more) then go with the resellers. (I’m a big supporter of dealers, and the service they provide- but you should know what you’re buying.)

As a little aside- you have, no doubt, heard about the Perm PMG 132 motors? Well, there’s a dirty little tale there, too- that company started as Cupex and was working to help act as supplier for Lynch. Instead, the company got their hand into the cookie jar- they started producing their own motor, the 132- an axial air gap design- and have been accused of infringing Lynch’s patent. The story goes that they don’t deny the design, they argue that the patent is invalid. As far as I’ve heard, it was never resolved in court, and they continue to produce the motor. (Update from Travis: the patent ran out in April of this year…)

From John:
“As to Mars Electric LLC, we are a niche motor designer and distributor for low voltage, high efficiency motors and controls. We design the motors in the USA, and have them made in China to reduce the product and tooling costs. We have been in business since 1997. Our core focus is to develop specialty motors for OEM applications, but we also sell motors to a few dealers in the EV markets. Our warehouse is located in Mequon, Wisconsin, and most of our orders are drop-shipped directly to the customer.”

Oh, and those motors on Ebay sold by Briggs and Stratton? Those are some leftovers from a failed outboard motor project- and with some questionable specs listed, to boot.

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5 responses to “A Short Primer on the History of the Etek Motor, and Other Tales

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