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TT Zero Demonstrates Electric Racing Has Made Huge Leap its Second Year

Racing improves the breed: that’s just a fact. Almost as soon as there were motorcycles, there were motorcycle races, and that desire to win pushed motorcycle manufacturers, engineers and designers to build better, faster, more reliable motorcycles to keep them a split second ahead of the competition. As a result, the leaps and bounds motorcycle development has made in the last 120 years is remarkable, and the massive improvements over the last three decades is nothing less than incredible.

But those improvements—a doubling of power, adoption of vehicle electronics, great strides in tire technology—seem like new paint and graphics compared to what’s happened with electric motorcycles in just the last year and a half. In 2008, Azar Hussein (who has a company, Mavizen, that builds and rents electric racebikes) announced the inaugural TTXGP, the first all-electric motorcycle race at the 2009 Isle of Man TT. A surprising number of teams entered, and though the first-place finisher, the Agni team posted an average speed close to the 50cc lap record, the performance of the prototype machinery wasn’t exactly the death-defying breakneck speeds moto-race fans expect.

For 2010 (now referred to as TT Zero), we’re much closer to electric motorsport being an exciting thing to watch at the Isle of Man. The MotoCzysz entry (which failed to complete the race last year), piloted by Californian Mark Miller, absolutely smoked (or should we say zapped?) the competition, hitting speeds up to 140 mph and finishing with an average lap speed of almost 97 mph. But it wasn’t just the innovative and heavily developed MotoCzysz E1pc that showed huge improvements: the two Agni 01 machines (ridden by Robert Barber and Jenny Tinmouth) and the ManTTX ridden by James McBride ran speeds close to 90 mph, better than the first-place-finishing Agni in the 2009 event. And there was even some dicing action as Tinmouth and McBride battled it out for third place.

Key to the MotoCzysz victory is Czysz’s proprietary electric motor. Gone are the days of bolting a washing-machine motor into a GSX-R rolling chassis; the Czysz D1-10 uses liquid-cooling and brushless, interior permanent magnet to produce around 250 foot-pounds of torque and over 100 horsepower at the rear wheel. The whole assembly—including mounting plates and pump—weighs in at just 77 pounds and is compact enough to tuck under the swingarm, leaving room for the 200 pounds of battery cells. With the right power source (and granted, that’s a huge caveat with today’s technology, but massive strides have been made there as well), a middleweight sportbike would have a hard time keeping up with a Czysz, especially combined with the unique chassis we told you about last year. Just like Czysz told me in the interview, the E1pc is on its way to meeting the design brief: 115 hp and a 150 mph top speed. I was skeptical listening to Michael on the phone a year ago, but I’m not now.

Okay, the technology is there, but what about the main objection gear-heads have about e-motos, the almost total lack of sound from the bikes? I’m not a fan of noisy motorcycles, but the sound of a roaring V-Twin or shriek of a boiling inline-Four has its place. Well, the Czysz may have that handled too: watch this video of the D1-10 on the dyno and tell me electric motors are boring.

Will the angry whistling of high-tech electric motors stir the hearts of race fans enough to get mass acceptance of electric motorcycles and motorcycle racing? Maybe not from the guys living today, but they don’t yearn for the burbling cacophony of early board-track racers or the clatter of hooves on cobblestones, either. The next generation of race fans will love that whistling, and long for its return when electric bikes are replaced by atomo-nucleotide hoversleds in 2045.

29 Comments

  1. Manic says:

    I just wanted to a couple more points to my long-winded rebuttal. My solar panels will pay for themselves within 12 years, based on the reduction in my utility bill calculating cost savings (this is based on the historical increase in utility costs over that projected time). My solar panels come with a 10 year 90 % & 25 year 80% power output warranty. Now of course these savings are, as I’ve said, based on historical utility rates raised in my area for the past 25 years. Of course those rate increases could be less, but I really kind of doubt that! Let me explain a couple of things that you may not have noticed. New technologies – lord knows, solar shouldn’t be considered a “new technology” at this point – tend to get cheaper as they evolve. Doubt that, cosider how much you would have paid for that 16 Gb flash drive just five years ago, oh that’s right, you couldn’t get one! How about that BMW S1000RR. How much would it have cost you ten years ago to build such a bike, A bike I might add that would have probably dominated a World Superbike race in stock trim! As far as the Toyota Prius, don’t take my word for it, this is off of Toyota’s website.

    “Q: How long do the high-voltage batteries last?

    GS: We designed them to last for the life of the vehicle. We’re aware of owners who have racked up a quarter-million miles without replacing the batteries.

    Q: What would it cost to replace a complete battery pack?

    GS: Less than $3000, plus labor.

    Q: How long is the warranty?

    GS: The high-voltage batteries are warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles, and under California regulations the battery warranty extends to 10 years or 150,000 miles.”

    Again, this is a technology in it’s infancy. Sadly when I hear arguments like Resto’s, I only hear the old argument against flight “If man were meant to fly, he’d have been born with wings!”

    Oh yea, one other thing, I hope I did not offend any Harley Davidson owners in my previous comments. I was referring to the types of bikes they currently build, not the quality or dependiblity. Several friend of mine own late model bikes and they appear to be very reliable.

  2. Resto says:

    We need one more breakthrough in battery technology to make all of these electric vehicles truly feasible. We MUST invest in basic research to achieve it. Lithium (Ion/Polymer/Phosphate) has run it’s course. We need another doubling or tripling on energy density. While we are at it, lets work on longevity. Paying half the cost of the bike every 2-3 years to replace the batteries is not going to make a lot of owners happy. Tesla and most of the “electric cars” are appeasement gestures for governments or money pits for gullible investors. Finally, if you plug your electric vehicle into the wall, it is actually likely coal powered as hydroelectric and other forms of generation lag far behind. Don’t start with wind and solar which are pipe dreams if you can do elemetary grade level math (you would have to cover 3 northeast states, every square inch, with photovoltaics to satisfy current demand (which does not include electric transportation), that’s assuming the sun shines 24 hours a day and there are no clouds, at a cost of several times GDP which degrades from the moment they are installed, have to be cleaned regularly and replaced every 15-20 years)… unfortunately, nuclear remains the only viable option on the table to make all these electrics “green” and then we have the radioactive waste to contend with. No simple answers (unless you are deluded, ill informed, or a utopia bound unicorn rider member of the uneducated media), only tough choices.

    • Manic says:

      You have valid points Resto but I beg to differ about the “pipe dream” statement you made. The whole point is not only to change our energy sources from primarilly oil based, but to also reduce our obiese consumption of energy. It does not mean getting rid of oil altogether. It means reducing how much we use! As long as we have people commuting to work in their 12 mpg 8 pasenger SUV, by themselves and other such wastful practices, then yes you are right. On the other hand, if we start carpooling, use more efficiant forms of transpertation, stop sprawl and build a good mass transit infustructure, we can dramaticly reduce our oil dependicies and air pollution! Meanwhile we can continue to use those wonderful performance engines, two & four stroke, for what we really like to use them for! As far as the battery technology goes, of course it needs to advance, but will not do so until the demand – and therefore commercial viability – increases. I myself put a very small solar aray on my roof last year – about a third of my total roof area – and have seen my utility bill go from $1500. 00 per year to $300.00! I’ve also done things to make my house energy efficient, like installing a whole house fan (to remove latent heat before I turn the AC on) bought an energy efficient cloths washer and other appliances. Yes I’ve had to put out monies for these upgrades but I needed a new washer anyway ( the old one was close to 20 years old). As far as the cost and replacement intervals of current battery technology, how do you propose to do that if we don’t start making it a more common everyday product. When Toyota and Honda first marketed the Prius and Insight back in the 90s, it reportedly cost them about $32,000. to build each car, yet they were selling them for about $20,000. That’s called an investment and that how inovation happens! As far as your “deluded, ill informed, or a utopia bound unicorn rider member of the uneducated media” comment goes, I can only think of the famous saying that was probably coined in America, “Lead, Follow or get out of the way! I pesonally would like to see America lead! Hell, if Harley Davidson or GM could build the type of product I prefer that was dependable, I’d gladly buy one but so far they continue to let me down. You state that only tough choices remain. Well again to quote an old saying “When the going gets tough, The tough get going!” As you said Resto “if you can do elemetary grade level math” it’s a no brainer.

      Just so you know

  3. Manic says:

    I’ll have one for the road and one for the dirt please! It amazes me how people like bikerrandy associate leaps in technology like this with “Greenies” I for one love the sound of an inline four or two stroke at full tilt boogie! I also no that I’m tired of the enviromental damage our lust for oil is causing all over the world. I would be more than happy to tell the oil companies to shove their billion dollar profits up their ass! Not to mention, see America become a leader in this technology! Like Jay Leno stated about the Honda Fuel Cell car, it will alow us to hang on to our beloved hot rods because they won’t be able to hold them over our head anymore. Besides did you ever stop to think, by riding one of these, you’ve just eliminated one of the “Greenies” arguments against us! Take care and by the way, I look forward to blowing by you, like a gust of wind, waving!

  4. bikerrandy says:

    I have an idea, the Greenies use only electric transportation while us uninformed use gasoline transportation. You comnmit to your thing and we’ll stay with ours. A win-win.

  5. randy says:

    With all this high tech stuff I bet they still can’t even figure out how to standardize batteries or charging connections like cell phones.

  6. bushead says:

    Gary is right on point. We always assumed that we knew what the demand curve for oil would look like, and therefore when the oil would run out, but we were wrong. Both the Chinese and Indians have seen fit to join us as oil superconsumers. This rising demand will drive the price of oil up dramatically as soon as the world economy rebounds. Scarcity equals cost. And what’s left is exceedingly difficult and dangerous to retrieve and refine, and is mostly owned by folks who don’t like us.
    Tomorrow will not be like yesterday, or even today. If you want to get a glimpse of tomorrow, sit down with a kid and ask him/her about the future.

  7. al says:

    well, i am one of those guys who misses the clack of early boardtrack racers…exposed pushrods, valves, and i.o.e. intake systems. indian raced those on the isle too you know? top 3 positions once. dunno….i can see myself with a 500 gallon drum of dino fluid on the farm so i can go for a ride once a month in 15-20 years or so.

  8. Gary says:

    The question is not how much oil is left. The real question is how accessible is it, and how much will it cost? China is slurping up an increasing percent of what is left, leading oil companies to drill in deeper waters and more remote locales … which will result in rapidly rising oil prices. Ten dollars/gallon, anyone? Suddenly, whirring electric engines don’t sound so bad, eh?

    It is inevitable. There are electric vehicles in your future (and probably a nuclear power plant in your town). Like it or not.

  9. bikerrandy says:

    I witnessed the electric race @ Sears Point a few weeks ago. It was in the most primitive example compared to these Isle of Man racers, but all you heard was whirring sounds from motors or gears? Better than no sound like I heard from the later outlawed Andy Granatelli Turbo race car @ Riverside Raceway against the Lolas, Chapparels, etc. decades ago. I figure the turbo was disqualified because all you heard from it was the wind it was passing thru. But I digress…….electric street vehicles also have to deal with headlights on in most States, so what do you think that’s going to do to range and speed at the same time ? Right now a combination of a gas motor & battery motor is the best real world combination. The only reason gas motor vehicles might be banned pre-maturely is by cleaner pollution demands from governments. Their is at least 100 years of oil still available at this time world wide.

    • Vitamin D says:

      “Their is at least 100 years of oil still available at this time world wide.”

      I sure hope your right on that point. The future isn’t looking it’s brightest in many aspects.

  10. bushead says:

    A fool is a person who believes that tomorrow will be just like today, only more so. It won’t be. The end of the easy oil is upon us. Witness the current situation in the Gulf. While you guys are busy doing maintenance and saving up for that new exhaust system, visionaries like the folks at MotoCzysz and Agni Motors are busy creating the future. Remember: Things are always just the way they’ve ever been; until they’re not.

  11. bart says:

    You guys are missing the real on-coming point of the noise issue: NOISE!
    Where I live the local road race track is probably going to go to all-mufflers on all classes (bikes & cars) because of local noise issues. Glad I saved the stock header for my track bike! Motorcycle exhaust noise remains #1 complaint against bikers in town by the non-riding community (read: 98% of town.) I don’t expect to start seeing E-hogs any time soon, but muffler/sound checks are a-coming!

    When the neighors (don’t) hear e-bikes that will be next in line for the track and old-style “conventional” motors will have to get a special use permit (5 per year allowed, all events.)

  12. WFOWade says:

    These things sound like a cross between a dentists drill and my Makita 14.V cordless drill on fast forward. I am interested but not excited enough to write a check. But I don’t like going to the dentist either.

    For the record, I don’t mind mixing premix. I love the smell of Castor Oil in the morning! While the electric bikes show promising improvments, they must be put into the mix with four strokes on a head to head competive basis(can I ask for a V4-500cc two stroke while I am at it) if they are going to be taken as anything more than an interesting novelty. 115 HP won’t win too many races against 600 cc bikes putting 150+HP to the ground even with the torque advantage to offset the large weight penalty.

    No doubt they will improve over time but electrics have a long way to go when the power and fuel system weighs close to the all up weight of a 500cc two stroke bike with over 200 rwhp. If you want to win the market place, you have to win against the current suck, squeeze, bang, blow motors of today premix or not. Oh, and please do it at the same distances currently under contention.

    Back to my weaving…

  13. Vroooom says:

    100 miles as 100 mph, that’s what it will take capacity wise to get these into the hands of consumers who will use them. Not that they will drive that fast that long, but without being able to meet that criteria, this still won’t work for those of us with long commutes, or for Sunday riders.

  14. kirk66 says:

    Gabe- nice write up. We were discussing this very subject on your former employer’s site. I see a time in the not to distant future where these bikes will be putting up Supersport track times and they will be experimenting with running ebikes and petrol bikes side by side. Maybe, 3 yrs. Biggest detractor – lack of engine noise for the purist. Like the adjustment from 2 stroke to 4 stroke GP, time will help change the appeal of the racing. I’m fine with that.

  15. Gary says:

    “Okay, the technology is there, but what about the main objection gear-heads have about e-motos, the almost total lack of sound from the bikes?”

    Not true (at least not for me). My main objection is range … which would have been a nice add for this article. How far can the machine go before a recharge. If they develop a bike with decent range that can be recharged in, say, less than 15 minutes, and I am there.

    The days of internal combustion are numbered. It does no good to moan about how the sound is different.

  16. John says:

    The Ducati electric motor cycle would have two magnets per motor and desmodromatic brushes that need adjusting every 4000 miles.

  17. Thoppa says:

    How long will it be before we get electric-race-bike motor-technology filtering down into washing machines ?

  18. MalcolmM says:

    I would love a high performance electric street bike, and even better would be an electric off road bike.

    I fly remote control airplanes and helicopters. A few years ago these were all gas or glow (nitro + methanol) powered. Now electric has mostly taken over. Electric planes and helis are more powerful, and overall weight is the same or less – don’t forget to add the weight of the fuel when comparing electric and gas powered vehicles. As far as reliability, electric wins hands down. Nothing to adjust, and it either works or it doesn’t, and it almost always does work.

    The redesign of the website is great.

  19. Pat McDonald says:

    Regarding the sound. I saw another video of this bike on the track and it sounded more like a formula 1 car. That high pitched scream. Not all that bad. It shows real promise

  20. alan says:

    Does the electric motor deteriorate over time with use? And how long do the batteries last? Good to see they finally had some success.

  21. Fraga says:

    This is, no doubt, the future.
    But one of the biggest problems to solve (not the only one though) is the weight of the battery cells. 200 pounds is A LOT!

  22. ducatirdr says:

    I think this electric racing idea is great and I would love to see this racing expand from the TT to a MotoGP class someday. The top manufactures would have more budget for R&D to further development speed. It would also help smaller developers like Czysz get sponsor funds to aid their designs. Who knows? They could be the next Ducati-like small company taking on the big 4 in a world stage. I would expect battery R&D would escalate as well. That would always be welcome fallout. Who knows maybe the big 4 turn out to be Duracell, EverReady, Energizer and Rayovac ;-)

    For those that need more sound – You can always put playing cards in your spokes for that authentic motorcycle sound.

    • kpaul says:

      “For those that need more sound – You can always put playing cards in your spokes for that authentic motorcycle sound.” LOL wonder what the loud pipes saves lives crowd will do… I know they will all have CD of old harley bikes to blast via speakers on their handle bars.

  23. simon says:

    awesome story. The new web design still socks though.

  24. Sands says:

    In my honest opinion it sounds boring…I do enjoy listening to the vtwins and shrieking inline 4’s at an ama superbike race and I like the sound of a quiet street bike as well and prefer them that way for the street, but I’ve never heard an electric engine that sounded the least bit appealing…

  25. kpaul says:

    Awesome! Great article Gabe. Love the video. Would love to have a bike I could just plug in and ride. No more expensive valve adjustments, oil changes, etc. Just get new tires every 4000 miles or so. Electric motors are so dependable. Gasoline is so yesterday. I have cordless electric hedge clipper, weed whacker, and lawn mower. Don’t miss gasoline or mixing 2 cycle gas.