There is an old saying that…”racing improves the breed”. It certainly reveals any weaknesses, and because of that, it forces designers to throw aside their pre-conceived notions, and focus on what actually works in the heat of battle…The pic in the header is courtesy of Kerry Rawson Photography, and features the entry from Nova Racing, winner of the 2017 Moto-E. Notice the lack of turn signals that are normally found on street-legal superbikes, and there are also no rear-view mirrors, because…in the words of Raul Julia “What’s behind me…is not important”.
TTXGP, TT Zero, and Moto-E
In 1881, the Isle of Man granted women the right to vote (unless she was married, or still living with her father), and presumably this was in order to entice some women…(ANY single women)…to move to this rocky island located between England and Ireland. Roughly 111 years ago (1907), somebody realized it would be an excellent place to hold a motorcycle racing series, since there wasn’t anything going on there to interfere with anything else you might want to do. I’m told the sun is visible for several days between May and June, and the “boiled potatoes and herring” festival during that time is quite lovely.
Since I am a victim of the US educational system, I’m not entirely sure what country is located to the south east of the map shown. One acquaintance tried to convince me that it was a mystical place called “France”, but…if it isn’t in the UK, it’s not really that relevant, is it?
For decades, the Isle of Man racing series (with many different classes) was quite a prestigious trophy to win. the “TT” in the racing series name stands for “Tourist Trophy”, and as the name suggests, anyone who can afford to race is just visiting, because…who would ever want to actually live there? Though, I’m told the mutton is excellent, and the Celtic music festival is an absolute delight.
If you ever have the pleasure of visiting the Isle of Man, make certain to sample their beer, which is brewed locally from the Okells and Bushy’s breweries. The master brewers there have achieved a level of flavor and quality that is rarely seen, which the locals use prodigiously in order to forget the fact that…they live on the Isle of Man. For some reason, the flag of the Isle of Man appears to show a three-legged man running away from the Isle of Man as fast as he is able.
All classes of TT motorcycles race on “public streets”, much like the historic “Mille Miglia” (Thousand Miles) race in Italy. And the course runs a scenic 37-mile route through the beautiful local mountains, and contains breathtaking views of the ocean. Although some timid journalists have described the Isle of Man races as the most dangerous in the world, I prefer to point out that the riders who died there chose to die while doing what they loved best, rather than to slowly shrivel up of old age while writing articles (like me).
In 2009, a group was formed calling itself the “TTXGP” (TTX stands for Time Trial Xtreme, and GP is for “Grand Prix”), and presented itself as a governing body to codify a common set of rules. There was a demand for an electric motorcycle racing series, but potential contestants were reluctant to invest in building a race team without any certainty that their build choices might be disqualified (See: Chip Yates KERS Swigz), or that another team would have an unreasonable advantage. The driving forces behind TTXGP were Azhar Hussain and Rupal Patel.
TTXGP clashed with the established global and long-standing FIM racing organization (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) until they both agreed to start collaborating in 2011. The TTXGP only had one racing season independent of FIM control, in 2009. After that the TTXGP expanded to several international racecourses, notably the Laguna Seca course in California.
In 2010, a new class of motorcycle race was instituted on the Isle of Man which used an electric drivetrain, and it was called the “TT Zero” (the Zero referred to zero emissions). The entrant vehicles needed to weigh between 100 to 300 kg (220-661 lbs), and were restricted to a maximum of 800V when fully charged.
The global long-standing FIM MotoGP racing circuit (using gasoline-powered motorcycles) has finally agreed to add five electric motorcycle events to its 2019 calendar. The motorcycles will be provided by the Energica company in Italy. In order for the individual racers to display their skill, all the race bikes will be identical examples without any technical design advantage between the teams…
#1 Team Agni
2009 was a great year for electric motorcycles. The first TTXGP was won by Team Agni (in the “Pro” class), and they are a globally-known supplier of electric motors. Agni Motors has a presence in the UK, and also in India. The engineer crouching behind the winning bike (in this picture below) is Cedric Lynch, inventor of the Agni motor. Kokam is from South Korea, and is one of the largest suppliers of high-amp batteries. Mavizen is a British firm that produces electrical components such as high-performance controllers, and they have recently been renamed “eBaracus”. In 2010, Team Agni partnered with Suzuki.
This E-moto uses two of the high-efficiency axial-flux Agni-R motors on a common shaft. They are each mounted outboard for better air-cooling, one on each side. These use brushes (considered by many to be old-tech), but…they still performed quite well. By using brushes (instead of the more common brushless designs), the controller can be much simpler
#2 Morris Motorcycles Racing Team
In 2010, the advent of the TT Zero series on the Isle of Man meant that the TTXGP was moved to other venues. Including tracks in California, Canada, UK, Italy, and Spain. MMRT won the 2010 TTXGP with Annie Seel riding to victory. This team is from Sweden, but…after such an exciting start, they unfortunately had to declare bankruptcy in 2013. Their main sponsor was KTM, a motorcycle company based in Austria.
#3 Münch TTE-2
2011 was a breakout year for TTXGP. There was a race series in the UK for European teams, a series in California for US teams, and then…a final series in Spain for the winners of all the previous races. The 2011 winner of the TTXGP was the Münch TTE-2, from Germany.
Although the full 2011 TTXGP series was won by the Münch TTE-2, the early US portion was won by Mission Motorcycles on their Mission-R, so I feel they deserve a special mention. Especially in light of a logistical failure on the part of the TTXGP staff, who recommended a shipper for whom it was found at the last minute that they were not certified to carry large lithium batteries from the US to Europe (Ooops!). This [of course] prevented Mission, Motoczysz, Brammo, and Lightning from participating in the finals in Spain…and some of their posted laps were faster than the winning Münch team.
Racing is expensive, and it is often done as a form of advertising, so…it requires the company to be selling a viable product. After this spectacular start, Mission Motorcycles sadly closed operations in 2015. Although they were instrumental in consulting on the development of the Harley-Davidson “Live Wire” electric motorcycle, their own street-legal Mission-R model did not garner enough sales to warrant continuing a race program.
On July 11, 2012, Jim Higgins rode the street legal Mission-R at the Sonoma Raceway drag strip and set a NEDRA record for the SMC/A3 class with a time of 10.602 @ 122.57 mph in the 1/4 mile.
Mission used a liquid-cooled 3-phase AC Induction motor. Many of the former Mission Motors technical staff are now working for Team Mugen/Honda. The motorcycle depicted above is not just a racing weapon, it is a mechanical/electrical work of art…
#5 Lightning Barracuda
The entry from Lightning Motorcycles placed 3rd in the 2011 TTXGP. It used a three-phase AC motor that was pulled from a General Motors EV-1. It also won the 2012 FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca. The batteries are A123s, and they are cradled in a custom chromoly-steel trellis frame. It is worthy of note that Lightning is partnered with the KillaCycle drag racing team.
The commercial version (called the Lightning LS-218), won the 2013 Pikes Peak, but…not just it’s own class, it defeated all of the gasoline-powered motorcycles. ALL…
#6 Brammo Emplulse RR
Brammo is based in Ashland, Oregon, and they “came out of nowhere” to place 3rd in the 2009 TTXGP Pro class, and 4th place in the contentious 2011 TTXGP (see: Mission-R above). The Polaris corporation took notice, and invested in Brammo immediately after this.
Their commercial version uses an “off the shelf” conventional clutch with a 6-speed transmission. Doing this can provide adequate performance from a smaller motor and a battery pack that is optimized for longer range, rather than higher amps. However, most electric motorcycles prefer the simplicity and efficiency of a single-speed drive from the motor to the rear wheel.
#7 Motoczysz E1pc
This was the first place winner of the very first TT Zero in 2010, and the builder is based in Portland Oregon. It is named after Michael Czysz (pronounced “Sizz”), who sadly died of cancer in 2016. Michael was not only the designer, he rode many of the victories for Team Motoczysz. Their winning design astoundingly went from a paper sketch to their first race in only ten months. Team Motoczysz also took first place in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 TT Zero.
The E1pc had taken second place in the 2011 TTXGP in the early US leg (see above under “Mission-R”), but an admin screw-up prevented them from competing in the finals on a track in Spain. They used a liquid-cooled Permanent-Magnet Brushless DC (PMDC) motor.
By oil-cooling the motor, they were able use a smaller motor. And by designing a custom motor and swingarm to their exact spec (rather than adapting existing units), Motoczysz could place the motor inside the front of the swingarm, freeing-up all of the frame for the massive battery. They also water-cooled the controller, and the ten battery cases used active air-cooling.
That year, the voltage limit was 500V, and this entry was running close to that using ten sealed modules that were designed to be quickly “hot-swappable”, because they hoped to run in various types of races. Because each module was running close to 50V, I suspect the lithium cells were configured as 12S. If true, the E1pc would be using a 120S pack.
#8 Zero Motorcycles
These guys deserve an honorable mention. 2012 was the first year that TTXGP had an eSupersport class. This class can only be run by completely stock factory models that are for sale to the public. The only modification allowed is racing tires (and of course the deletion of kickstand, turn signals, etc). They entered two Zero-S ZF9’s, and won both first and second place.
#9 Mugen/Honda Shinden
Team Mugen (a partner with Honda) won the 2015 TT Zero. They developed their Shinden line of electric racing motorcycles to compete in the TT Zero. The Japanese word Shinden means “Magnificent Lightning”. Their 2018 version is called the Nana (Japanese for “Seven”). I have to hand it to Honda and the Mugen team. Rather than wait for electric motorcycles to get big enough to be “worth it” to sponsor a race team, these guys were early adopters when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is. Team Mugen/Honda also won the 2016, 2017, and 2018 TT Zero.
It is worthy of note to mention that some of the Team Mugen/Honda technicians are former members of the now defunct Mission Motorcycles company (see above).
#10 Saroléa SP7
The Sarolea company is located in Belgium. They started by producing bicycles in 1892, and began adding engines in 1929. They competed in the TT Zero and finished 4th in 2014, and 5th in 2015.
#11 University of Nottingham
These guys deserve an honorable mention. They placed 6th in the 2015 TT Zero, and then 3rd in 2016, 3rd and 5th in 2017, and then 2nd in 2018. They haven’t placed first yet, but when you are in competition with the deep pockets at Mugen/Honda, 2nd place is a spectacular victory. Well done!
#12 Electra Racing Norton
This bike holds a warm place in my heart. It uses a British Norton 1966 “featherbed” frame, the fork from a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 250R, the brakes and 17-inch wheels from a Honda RS125, A Curtis high-amp controller, and a 37-kW AC golf cart induction motor that provides a significant 120 ft/lb of torque.
#13 Victory RR
Victory placed 3rd and 4th in the 2015 TT Zero, and 2nd place in the 2016 TT Zero. The Victory brand is most known as a street cruiser in competition with Harley-Davidson, and it was started by the Polaris company in 1997, based in Minneapolis. Polaris had also purchased control of the defunct Indian motorcycle production rights in 2011. Due to the success of the revived Indian motorcycles brand, they announced in 2017 that they would discontinue the Victory brand.
I can only hope this means that Indian motorcycles will return to racing soon, and that they will also have an electric motorcycle division.
#14 BMW eRR
The very large and well-financed BMW motorcycle division produced a running electric prototype they called the “eRR” in 2015, but…I haven’t found any information that is more recent. i would be surprised if BMW was not continuing to fund E-moto’s, since they are in production with electric cars.
#15 University of Twente Liion-GP
This was designed and built by students in the Netherlands, and it appears the pack is made from a large number of 18650 cells.
#16 Mavizen TTX02
All I’ve found so far is that this used twin Agni motors, and it’s from the UK. The frame is a KTM RC8.
#17 Brutus V2 Rocket
It looks like these guys ran at Pikes Peak. I will collect more info as soon as I can.
#18 2019 FIM Enel MotoE “World Cup”
I think there is still room for racing teams to try different things in order to help high-performance electric motorcycles make progress with new designs. However, the upcoming MotoE series in 2019 will focus on international teams of riders, so all of the bikes will be identical, and they will be using the Energica Ego Corsa from Italy.
In spite of this. I am still certain the MotoE series is a very good thing for electric motorcycles.
Energica is a super-sport electric motorcycle company formed by CRP engineering, and is based in Modena, Italy. Enel is a global energy distribution company that originated in Rome, Italy.
This may seem a little out of place, but…it is electric, and it does have two wheels. If I can get around to writing a full article on this historic pioneer of electric motorcycles, i’ll cut it out of this article. Until then, it stays…
Only 19? What’s next?
This article only covers a short index of some of the significant electric motorcycles that popped up in the early days of a completely new sport. There were quite a few that made a short appearance, and then never raced again. If you know of an important one that I missed, email me and I might add it.
The TT Zero “timed trials” still exist, and I suspect they will remain an important annual event for builders to show off a new type of electric motorcycle. 2019 will be the first year of a global FIM-sanctioned head-to-head Grand Prix race series, but…all of the electric motorcycles will be the same, so…the race coverage will focus on the riders, and the sides of the motorcycles will focus on the sponsor advertising. I suppose that’s a good thing in the long run, but…I’m really not that excited about that…I’m more interested in the electric motorcycles…
Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, June 2018
To be added?
Brutus V2 Rocket