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Ducati’s MotoE Commitment Should Provide Huge Development Advantages

You may have heard that Ducati will be the sole motorcycle supplier to the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup beginning with the 2023 season, just one year away at this point.

This is ironic, in a sense, because Ducati does not currently have an electric motorcycle for sale and does not plan to introduce one in the immediate future … at least, until satisfactory levels of performance and battery range can be combined. By developing the MotoE race bike, and racing with it beginning in 2023, Ducati must learn first hand how to deal with the harshest circumstances associated with running an electric motorcycle. Learning to extract maximum performance over race distance (while lasting that race distance) could give Ducati a huge advantage in the development of street motorcycles.

Here is a press release from Ducati following a recent test at Misano of the Ducati MotoE prototype with Michele Pirro aboard:

  • The Ducati prototype that will race in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup from 2023 has completed its first laps on the track at Misano
  • Michele Pirro, official Ducati rider and test rider, took part in the tests

Borgo Panigale (Bologna, Italy), 20 December 2021 – The Ducati MotoE bike took to the track for the first time at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, right where the agreement with Dorna Sports was announced in October. In fact, starting from the 2023 season, the Borgo Panigale motorcycle manufacturer will be the sole supplier of motorcycles for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, the electric class of the MotoGP™ World Championship.

The electric motorcycle prototype, code-named “V21L”, is the result of the joint work of the Ducati Corse team and the Ducati R&D engineers, led by Roberto Canè, Ducati eMobility Director, and was taken out on track by Michele Pirro, professional rider and Ducati test rider since 2013, who evaluated the technical characteristics and potential of Ducati’s first electric motorcycle.

Roberto Canè, Ducati eMobility Director: “We are experiencing a truly extraordinary moment. I find it hard to believe it is reality and still not a dream! The first electric Ducati on the track is exceptional not only for its uniqueness but also for the type of undertaking: challenging both for its performance objectives and for its extremely short timescales. Precisely for this reason, the work of the whole team dedicated to the project has been incredible and today’s result repays us for the efforts made in recent months. We are certainly not finished yet; indeed, we know that the road ahead is still very long, but in the meantime, we have laid a first important ‘brick’.”

Michele Pirro, Ducati test rider: “Testing the MotoE prototype on the circuit was a great thrill, because it marks the beginning of an important chapter in Ducati history. The bike is light and already has a good balance. Furthermore, the throttle connection in the first opening phase and the ergonomics are very similar to those of a MotoGP bike. If it weren’t for the silence and for the fact that in this test, we decided to limit the power output to just 70% of performance, I could easily have imagined that I was riding my bike.”

The most important challenges in the development of an electric racing motorcycle remain related to the size, weight and range of the batteries. Ducati’s goal is to make electric motorcycles that are high-performance and characterized by their lightness available to all FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup participants. The focus of the project are, in addition to better performance, the containment of weight and the consistency of power delivery during the race, obtained thanks to the attention in the development of a cooling system suitable for the objective.

Ducati’s experience in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup will be a fundamental support for product R&D. The goal is to create, as soon as the technology allows it, a Ducati electric vehicle for road use that is sporty, light, exciting and able to satisfy all enthusiasts.

29 Comments

  1. motorhead says:

    Having only one supplier (a monopoly) is a proven way to stifle innovation and give customers stuff they probably don’t want at a price that’s too high. A one or two year exclusive for Ducati may be OK to lay the groundwork, but no growth and excitement will come from EV bike racing until we engage a half dozen bike manufacturers.

  2. Mick says:

    I kind of wonder about tire issues as the bikes get more powerful. I was surprised by long term Alta Redshift riders commenting on rear tire wear. It may not be an issue for road racing. But tire spin does happen and there is something about the way the electric bikes spin their tires that wears them much more quickly. Interesting thing to watch.

    • Jeremy says:

      I wonder if it has to do with there being no power pulse from an electric motor, just a constant drive being delivered to the knobs? Or perhaps the lack of a clutch to help better control the wheel slip.

    • Jim says:

      As software evolves that shouldn’t be any more of a problem than IC bikes. If anything an EV is even more software driven and power curve can be whatever form is desired for the application.

      • Stinky says:

        I’m with you on this. TC, ABS, wheelie should be MUCH easier on electric bikes versus ICE bikes. No cutting ignition, fuel, clutch so precisely. It boggles my mind that it can work at all on ICE bikes. Just keeping track of all these factors on a 15000 rpm engine is hard for me to grasp.

    • Dave says:

      It should improve. With virtually no power “pulse” from the drivetrain and what should be vastly more accurate traction control systems the race engineers will have more control over it. Most racing classes already have excessive power to manage.

      When we went from 2T to 4T, the tire makers worked hard to improve wear life in anticipation of more power and weight. It turned out the new bikes were much easier on the tire despite the engineer’s worries.

    • Gary says:

      That’s the whole purpose of digital rider aids … to maximize acceleration right to the point of wheel slip. Same with braking.

  3. Jim says:

    I like Ducati but they should not be the MotoE supplier. It should be a company that will bring this tech mainstream for the masses not a boutique brand. Should have been Honda or Yamaha in my opinion.

    • Jeremy says:

      Because of the cost, it almost has to be a boutique brand to get some traction. Tesla didn’t get to where it is by selling an everyman’s car. They got there by selling a luxury product.

      • Jim says:

        That reasoning makes no sense. It should have been LiveWire if that was the case. At least they currently produce an expensive EV (ala Tesla).

        • Jeremy says:

          Perhaps you are correct. Though, you are assuming the Livewire was considered a luxury product. Simply making something expensive does not make it so. While I think that was Harley’s intention, they didn’t succeed in positioning the Livewire as such. Harley doesn’t have the panache to it’s brand name with the current “cool kids.” It’s the motorcycle industry’s Cadillac. Plus the type of riders in the US who are willing to pay premiums for impractical machines have been trained over the decades that a bike powered by something other than an American made Vtwin is not a motorcycle.

          Generally speaking, I just think street bikes are poor candidates for electrification with current technology. Even when the bikes are too heavy, they still don’t have the range and have the unfortunate burden of being pretty expensive for what you get. Dirt bikes and scooters make more sense in that space if one can justify the buy-in cost. But I still believe what we would consider a street bike need to have a little flash to the brand to make some headway unless some technological breakthrough makes electric motorcycles practical and price competitive.

        • Dave says:

          Ducati is Piaggio group’s most visible racing brand. This move gives them the opportunity to learn fast and market their gained expertise,

          While it’s no straight line from a marketing perspective, Piaggio group makes Piaggio, Aprilia and Vespa scooters. That seems like the most logical place for their accumulated ev knowledge to collect.

          Like Jeremy points out, e-motors are either heavy or their range is short. Piaggio’s scooter assortment already has platforms that absorb those disadvantages pretty well. Light city scooters aren’t expected to have great range and MP3 customers don’t seem to care that their bikes are heavy.

  4. Magnus says:

    Once Ducati has set the bar in the first year, then I say let everyone play. No one will enter if they aren’t competitive. If they let everyone play the first year, the field may be embarrassingly uneven like the first Isle of Mann electric TT and may put off race fans. No one like to watch a total mismatch or a bunch of DNF due to running out of juice!

    • Thad Stelly says:

      I lot of progress has to take place in many areas including infrastructure not to mention performance.
      I appreciate your enthusiasm, but the weight is also unacceptable not to mention that Moto3 bikes are turning faster lap times with much more economy.
      Now Bradly Smith racing the GPScooters clearly represents the current joke which must be overcome.

  5. Magnus says:

    As an early adopter of electric motorcycles, I’m thrilled that there is serious effort going into electric GP bikes. If you’ve never ridden a real electric motorcycle you simply can’t understand, it’s that different. Electric motorcycles don’t replace ICE motorcycles, they add another category.
    The batteries are the limiting factor; electric motors are insanely powerful! Technology is progressing in this field exponentially so expect major changes between now and race day. There will be a day when recharging your electric vehicle will be faster than filling your gas tank today. It will takes many more years but we are only 20 years in now and look how close electric cars are to trumping ICE cars!
    I’m glad there is only one manufacturer. After following the Isle of Mann eTT it would be a mistake to open up the field to something that isn’t moto GP level. People need to see serious racing with lap times close to ICE GP bikes to create any interest.

    • fred says:

      ev’s have been around as long as gasoline cars. In fact, in the early days of automobiles, steam, electric, gasoline cars competed on pretty even levels. Gasoline won the market easily, even though steam and electric had an early infrastructure advantage.

      EV’s are, and will continue to be the modern version of “Free Beer Tomorrow” for the foreseeable future for most use cases.

  6. Brinskee says:

    I agree with some other commenters here. I believe that the diversity of approach you’d see with multiple suppliers would bring more radical ideas to bear, and with those approaches, a faster time to true improvement and innovation.

    Imagine if one manufacturer supplied all bikes to MotoGP? You’d never see oval pistons, V5 configurations, desmo (heck, even hydraulic or electric) valve systems, etc.

    Diversity times competition equals innovation. Period.

    That being said, I’m betting somebody’s pockets were lined by Ducati to secure this position, and I agree, it will be of tremendous advantage to them in the development of their sure-to-be-coming electric bike. Why else do it?

    Lastly, a question on my mind when I see many of the latest electric bikes lately (including the Ducati pictured above): why make them look like traditional ICE bikes? For example, why have a fuel-tank lump? Why not flatten that area out a bit more, reorient the battery location a bit lower and possibly wider? Why have fender insets to vent heat? ect. etc. etc.

    On one hand I understand evolving slowly so you don’t polarize folks with something totally new and unfamiliar, but on the other hand, new and radical can also be incredibly attractive. Cybertruck, anyone? (I kid…)

    I’m sure there are many efficiencies that have been ironed out over years of wind-tunnel testing and going with tried-and-true have something to do with it, but come one, let’s get wild, or at least inventive, manufacturers!

    • Magnus says:

      GP bikes look the way they do because rules make it so. There are ways to make the bikes much faster but safety is jeopardized (dustbin fairings come to mind). Changes specific to the E class of GP racing will get its own rules as issues come forward. We may even see some rules be removed specifically for eGP because they become redundant (fuel tanks come to mind).

  7. Thad Stelly says:

    I am disgusted with the politics and mindset accompanying this brave new world involving electric motorcycles and cars.
    While Ducati had previously stated publicly that they would not pursue electric motorcycles, parent VW has conversely announced going all in. I am sure this has had an effect on Ducati’s latest venture.
    Give me alternative ICE fuels… hail Porsche’s research in this area!

    • Magnus says:

      Agreed! Alternative ICE fuels are a must. Electric motorcycles will be limited until the battery storage can equal the kind of range available from gasoline and this is a ways off. Range is the ONLY limiting factor though.

      • fred says:

        Range is only one of many severe limiting factors. Current cost is prohibitive. Infrastructure is a severe limiting factor. Recharge rate and time are huge limitations.
        Understanding the difference between AC and DC will open your eyes as to just why it will be a long time (if ever) before ev’s become mainstream.

  8. Mick says:

    I don’t think having a sole supplier for MotoE is a good idea. It’s a new technology that needs more people trying out more ideas.

    • Harry says:

      Mick, you are absolutely right. This comment is a little off the beaten path. I own a 2020 Tesla model S ‘long range plus’ (400 mile range). My Tesla does not like cold weather. I started the trip with 320 miles on the battery. Cruising at 75 mph all the time on I89. Total distance covered was 200 miles. Heater temp set at 66 degrees. I had 40 miles left on the battery. So it used 280 miles of battery where in warmer temps it would only use 200 even with AC use. The outside temp was for the most part around 20-24 degrees. We are at the infancy of battery technology.

      • Jeremy says:

        The problem is that battery technology is highly developed. You are currently enjoying hundreds of years of development – 40 years of lithium ion development, specifically in your Tesla. There are probably some big breakthroughs out there yet to be made. Might see one in the next few years. Might not see one in our lifetime.

    • Bob Krzeszkiewicz says:

      Can’t agree on multiple suppliers at this time. The disparity could be tremendous and make for absolutely boring racing if, per chance, the one who wins is the one who didn’t run out of juice of fry a winding.

      With one supplier, everyone has the same odds off winning or losing.

      When the technology matures to a point where performance and reliability can be made on par, then I say let them all play. Then they’ll probably all be subject to spec electronics again, which, IMO, is bad for the development of e-bikes because it’ll hinder creativity dramatically and that’s what’s needed for this technology until the masses can be made a believer in it.

      At this time, I have zero use for a MC that can only last an hour of spirited riding. I want 8 to play all day. But even more to the point, I want to ride 1300 miles in a day and only stop for 10 minutes max so I can rech my final destination. As such, I’m not one of those believers yet.

    • Trent says:

      I think it probably is a good idea to have a sole supplier. It means you get a bigger sample of bikes and batteries to test, versus figuring out what is going on with (possibly) different batteries on different bikes.

    • Jeremy says:

      I agree with you. Give them a spec battery cell and max cell quantity, and let the OEMs figure out how to get the most out of those kwh’s over race distance.

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