Saturday, August 16, 2014

History making race with streamlined motorcycle coming to eMotoRacing near Salt Lake City

Historical streamlined race bike - the NSU SportMax from 1955
History is about to be made at the upcoming eMotoRacing event near Salt Lake City.  For the first time in decades a streamlined motorcycle will race in a sanctioned event.  If you're scratching your head and going "why's that important" we have to ponder motorcycle racing politics, and the abysmal inefficiency of regular motorcycle design.

Until 1957 streamlined motorcycles were allowed in FIM sanctioned races.  That year the rules were changed to outlaw such bikes, leading to the sort of sport bikes now used in motorcycle racing around the world.

Terry Hershner testing the streamlining on his bike
in October 2013
Yes, these bikes have a "fairing" and there is an efficiency difference between a naked bike and one with a fairing.  However, a motorcycle with full streamlining is clearly going to be far more efficient than modern sport bikes.  As I noted last fall when writing about Terry Hershner's cross-country speed record attempt, Craig Vetter has run this test.  He's taken two identical Ninja 250's, added a fully streamlined fairing to one, then had riders take them on exactly the same route, at the same time, riding side by side, and compared the fuel efficiency.  The bike with the streamlined fairing had much higher miles-per-gallon of fuel.

The motorcycle shown above is an NSU SportMax from 1955, and with this motorcycle H-P.Müller won the world championship 1955 and Hans Baltisberger won the German road race championship.  The image comes from Wikimedia where it's shared under Creative Commons CC CC-BY-SA 3.0.  The Wikipedia page on motorcycle fairings is worth a read.

What's going on with typical motorcycles is they aren't designed for fuel efficiency.  Most motorcycles are designed to look like the superbikes running in motorcycle races.  And because the FIM bans streamlining in races, the superbikes cannot be streamlined, and therefore the guys who want bikes that look like the one which won the race on Sunday do not seek out a bike with streamlining when going to the motorcycle store on Monday.  Instead, the bike they get is less efficient, uses more fuel to achieve the same result (high speed), and humanity is saddled with a fleet of motorcycles on the road consuming more fuel than is required.

In theory, if riders in FIM sanctioned races were riding streamlined bikes, the motorcycle-buying-public will want to buy streamlined bikes, and humanity won't have to burn as much fuel to power motorcycles.  Taking that reasoning to all other vehicles, introducing proper aerodynamics to all vehicles would mean an across-the-board fuel consumption decrease, with matching positive effects on a range of issues including peak oil, middle east geopolitics, the environment and climate change.

When the TTXGP electric motorcycle race series was launched back in 2009, one big feature was that the rules allowed streamlined bikes.  But two things happened.  First, nobody entered any TTXGP event with a streamlined bike.  Second, that rule was dropped when TTXGP died and eRoadRacing took its place.  In other words, the FIM was able to preserve the ban on streamlined bikes.  When I asked Azhar Hussain about this back in early 2013, he told me approximately that since nobody showed up to race with a streamlined bike it wasn't worth fighting to preserve that rule.

Brian Richardson & Thad Wolf
July 2009


Those were the closest anybody came to a fully streamlined bike in TTXGP racing.  The first is Team Electra during the 2009 TTXGP event at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days event in Ohio.  The second is again Team Electra, but sometime during the 2010 season.

What about the history-making event mentioned earlier?

It turns out that in the Spring of 2014, Arthur Kowitz visited Craig Vetter.  Vetter has been working on motorcycle aerodynamics since the 1970's, sponsored a fuel efficiency event in the early 1980's, and more recently has sponsored another fuel efficiency series the last few years.  Kowitz is the instigator of the eMotoRacing series - which I've not been giving as much coverage as they deserve, I apologize but it's been a crazy-making year for me.  In any case, Kowitz left Vetter's place with a Vetter Streamlining Kit and set about adapting it to his Brammo Empulse TTX.

With the kit adapted to the TTX, they took it to a track day at Roebling Road near Savannah GA.  Kowitz already had GPS data of the same bike on that track when eMotoRacing held an event there earlier in the year.  They were able to compare data with and without the streamliner, and adjust etc.

He reported that a couple turns were a little harder to manage, but there were no crosswind challenges.  He tells of another rider who tried to pass Kowitz, but found there was no "air wake" behind the streamlined TTX.  That's with a stubbier tail than other bikes on which the Vetter Streamlining Kit has been installed.

The speed difference was minimal - only a 4 miles/hr top speed improvement.  But, Kowitz says the GPS data showed faster acceleration, and lap times were 2 seconds faster than in February.

Having proved the effectiveness of a streamlined fairing on the Empulse TTX, it seems Kowitz is planning to race with that combination in the upcoming eMotoRacing event in Salt Lake City.

You can see pictures and a full report on Craig Vetter's website via the link above.  I, for one, am pondering my budget to consider whether I can make it to Salt Lake City for the race.

Renovo Motors unveils Shelby CSX9000 based electric supercar

Taking the shape of a muscle car from an earlier era, Renovo Motors has unveiled the Renovo Coupe all electric supercar.  The car, based on a factory-modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis (“Cobra Daytona Coupe”), has a 0-60 miles/hr time under 3.4 seconds and a top speed over 120 miles/hr.  That's faster than the Tesla Roadster, FWIW.


That performance is generated by a mid-mounted dual-motor drive train, with "sequential axial-flux motors" producing more than 370 kW (500 hp) and 1,000 lb-ft (1,356 N·m) of torque.  It has a single-gear transmission, and various energy mappings for various driving conditions.    The power ramps to FULL in under 37 milliseconds - essentially full-torque-at-zero-RPM.

The battery pack is built using the company's patent-pending modular battery pack system.  Instead of making the pack as one block, it's spread around the car - which supposedly lets Renovo optimize the weight distribution.  It is also supposed to support fast charging in under 30 minutes, so that it would be a great track day car allowing multiple runs in one day rather than spending the day waiting for a recharge.

Having been to more than a few race tracks I can say that high power electricity supply is a major problem, and therefore achieving a 30 minute recharge at most tracks will most likely require special arrangements.  For example, at the 2014 REFUEL, Tesla Motors brought the hardware for a full Supercharger station so the Model S's could quickly recharge between sprints.  However, Laguna Seca was only able to support the required electrical service because when MotoGP comes to Laguna Seca the press/media tent and a bunch of other MotoGP infrastructure is set up at the same spot, and therefore the Laguna Seca Raceway already had a massive electricity supply.

Specs:
  • 0-60 miles/hr in under 3.4 seconds
  • 1000 ft-lbs of direct-drive torque instantly available
  • Twin sequential axial flux motors producing over 500 horsepower
  • Incredible throttle response with full power available in just 37 milliseconds
  • Patent-pending modular lithium ion battery technology
  • A curb weight of just 3,250 lbs
  • 30 minute quick charge and 5 hour level 2 charge
  • Genuine, factory modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis
  • Flexible control system with dynamic in-cabin regen adjustment
  • Proudly built in Silicon Valley, USA
  • Entering limited production in 2015
  • Featured at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • Preview at the Gold Rush Rally to benefit the Taylor Lynn Foundation

“Renovo Motors sought to create an aspirational vehicle that demonstrates the performance, control, and excitement that is possible with EV technology,” said Renovo’s CEO Christopher Heiser. “We have poured our passion and innovation into the Coupe in an effort to deliver a truly amazing driving experience, and we’re honored to present the Production Prototype of our car at the Concours d’Elegance.”

“Our motivation to design and build our cars is not artificially tied to any particular propulsion technology,” notes Jason Stinson, Renovo Motors CTO. “Simply put, we can do things with electric vehicles that can’t be replicated by any other platform. Exploring these areas, reducing them to practice, and building them into our products is at the core of what we do best.”


The company was founded in 2010, is based in Silicon Valley, and is normal for startup companies located here, has been operating in stealth mode ever since with a staff of just 3 people.

Being located in Silicon Valley one should expect a venture capital company in the background.  Tony Schneider, the former CEO of Automattic, lists himself as an advisor to Renovo Motors and in a blog post explains that True Ventures is an investor in Renovo. He says: "The team at Renovo is world class and the car is spectacular – I’ve witnessed its acceleration and it’s totally awesome!"

The Renovo Coupe is now on sale for the princely sum of $529,000

Sources:  Green Car Congress, Renovo Motors  (all images copied from Renovo's website)



Thursday, July 17, 2014

CRP launches Energica Ego world tour - information, and test ride report

Energica Ego in San Francisco
CRP's Energica Ego has been several years coming - in 2010, CRP came onto the TTXGP scene with the eCRP, a bike patterned after the Agni Motors entry in the 2009 TTXGP on the Isle of Man.  This was the act of a motorcycle manufacturer getting their feet went in electric bikes, and with that first effort they won titles in the 2010-11 TTXGP and e-Power seasons.  Fast forward to 2014, and the company has developed its own superbike, has begun a tour of North America showing off the Energica Ego.  The Energica Ego is expected to go on sale in mid-2015 at a price beginning in the mid-$30k range.  Today I was lucky enough to snag a test ride along with other journalists.

The first stop on the North America tour - Alice's Restaurant, in the mountains just south of San Francisco - is a great choice   There are plenty of twisty mountain roads, and Alice's is a hangout for serious motorcyclers.  Additionally, there are several electric vehicle entrepreneurs living close to Alice's.  For example, when I arrived this morning they were having a meeting with Martin Eberhard, the other co-founder of Tesla Motors besides Elon Musk.  

The Energica Ego

The Energica Ego doesn't share anything with the eCRP from several years ago.  Everything you remember about those bikes, with which they had major wins in the 2010-11 TTXGP seasons, forget all that.  This is a complete, ground up, custom motorcycle design, just as you'd expect from a company like CRP.  

The CRP group is a family business based in Modena Italy, with decades of experience in technological achievements.  They supply parts and technological expertise in Formula 1 and NASCAR racing, and to NASA for spacecraft.

The components and overall design of the Energica Ego is a clear simple statement:  This is a proper superbike, that happens to be electric.  And that's not just my opinion - while hanging out with the bikes, several motorcycle riders came by and said the same thing.  They dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's.

Those components?  Try, Marchesini Forged Aluminum wheels front and back, Pirelli Diablo Rossoi tires front and back, Brembo disc brakes front and back, Marzocchi front suspension and Ohlins rear suspension.    Oh, and there's an ABS system from Bosch that CRP is working on validating.

The drive train is a 100 kilowatt permanent magnet AC (oil cooled) electric motor, mounted above the swing arm pivot point, driving the rear wheel through a single-gear transmission.  This system produces 190 Nm of torque.

The 11.7 kilowatt-hour battery pack is rated for 1200 charge cycles.  It has a 3 kilowatt on-board charger, and a level 2 charging port underneath the seat, for a 3+ hour recharge time.  Additionally the charging port will support DC Fast Charging using the SAE Combined Charging System plug, giving a 30 minute recharge time (to 85%).  

The bikes on display didn't have the fast charging support, but it's on the spec sheet, and the charging port has the appropriate cutouts.  They were showing both the American style J1772 plug and the Mennekes Type 2 plugs on different bikes.

Mennekes type 2 connector
This supports the J1772 charging protocol,
but through a different connector
There are three (four, actually) competing DC Fast Charging standards:  CHAdeMO, Combined Charging System, Tesla Supercharger, and the Chinese system.  I've written this up in a blog post on longtailpipe.com and a page on greentransportation.info.  The CCS system chosen by CRP for the Energica is not (currently) deployed very widely, but it's expected CCS-compatible fast charging stations will be more widespread as the other automakers (besides Nissan and Tesla) start ramping up electric car sales.   

All this gives the Energica Ego an electronically limited top speed of 240 km/hr (150 miles/hr) and a riding range of about 100 kilometers at 100 kilometers/hr (60 miles @ 60 mph).  Or, 50 kilometers at race speed (30 miles).  The 0-60 miles/hr time is under 3 seconds.  That's enough range for club racing but not for regular racing.

The dashboard and rider controls are still under development.  It currently supports four riding modes depending on your appetite for speed or economic energy use, and supports three regenerative braking modes.  It has a cool computerized dashboard, and the plans discussed by the team are to make it even better and expand to multiple screens.  There's also a datalogging feature with which you can retrieve ride data over bluetooth, and the dashboard even includes a GPS receiver to tag that data with location markers.   They wouldn't commit to a navigation system on the dashboard.

The Energica Ego includes an ingenious reverse mode letting you back out of tight spots.  This mode is initiated through manipulating the brake and start button, rather than by just twisting the throttle backwards like on the Vectrix.  Speed is tightly regulated while in reverse mode, of course.

The Energica Ego 45

CRP is slated to launch two bikes in 2015.  The Energica Ego, and the Ego 45.  The latter is a limited production edition (45 bikes total) of the Energica Ego.

The EGO 45 line will be individually numbered, and feature some parts manufactured using CRP's 3D Printing technology, as well as Zircotec ceramic and metallic coatings.

Enough about that, how does it ride?

The first thing you have to know is it's a heavy bike - about 258 kilograms or about 530 lbs.  Get used to it.  That weight is in line with other electric superbikes, and is simply a fact of current technology.

Second - it rides like a dream.  

The seating & riding position are like other race bikes.  You're on tippytoes when stopped, and while riding it's probably best to rest on the "tank".

You turn the bike on with a key near the dashboard.  It's not ready to ride until flipping what we'd normally refer to as the engine kill switch, and then by holding the right break and pressing what we'd normally call the start button.  In other words, the controls are familiar and repurposed to controlling the electric drive train.

Once it's ready to go you twist the throttle, and it goes as smooth as can be.  Getting up to highway speed is effortless and quick.  With no transmission there's none of that dance between the clutch lever and the gear selector.  That's the convenience of the electric drive train, because you have fewer details to worry about.

Handling is excellent, and one almost doesn't need the brakes.  The regenerative braking handled the necessary slow-down-for-the-curve in most curves, with only a few requiring the manual brakes.  Of course coming to a complete stop requires using the regular brakes.

Brakes are the familiar lever on the right handlebar, and a pedal for the right foot.  There is no clutch or transmission, so the left hand and left foot have no controls to operate.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to take a complete ride and I'm too embarrassed to say why.  Let's just leave it at that, okay?  If I had made the full ride, I believe I would have had more glowing things to say about the Energica Ego, its that good.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Electrics on track for outright Pikes Peak wins, following excellent results at 2014 Pikes Peak for both cars and bikes

In last weekend's Pikes Peak Hill Climb race, electric car drivers took 3 of the top 4 results in the overall ranking, and both electric car and electric motorcycle racers claimed hugely positive results.  While this isn't as stunning as Lightning Motorcycle's overall win last year with a 20 second margin over all motorcycle racers, that Mitsubishi's drivers came within 3 seconds of an overall win is astounding.  Jeff Clark set the record for production electric motorcycles on a 2013 Zero, Jeremiah Johnson gave an excellent first outing for the Brutus Motorcycles V2 Rocket, and more.

Comparing results across classes, the electric vehicles gave great results holding out the promise for outright wins within a couple years.  The Mitsubishi team almost took the outright win this year, coming up less than 3 seconds short.  But in the electric motorcycle camp, while at first read you see Jeff Clark taking 72nd overall and be disappointed, he beat everyone in the 250cc class and would have finished middle of the pack in the Lightweight class.  Similarly Jeremiah Johnson would have finished in the middle of the Middleweight class.


Here's the top electric performers for 2014, this class is for custom built electric race cars.  We see that Greg Tracy (Mitsubishi) finished in 2nd with a 9:08.188 lap time, and his team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka, came in 3rd just a few seconds behind him with a 9:12.204 lap time.  Monster Tajima came in 4th a full 30 seconds later at 9:43.900.  The Yokoma Tires sponsored Summit car driven by Ikuo Hanawa came in at 81st place at 12:19.109.  This class is rounded out by Janis Horeliks, the Latvian team that modified a Tesla Roadster, came in at 96th place with a 12:57.536 lap time.

To compare this with the rest of the field - the overall winner this year was Romain Dumas, in the Unlimited class, with a 9:05.801 lap time.

That puts about 2.4 seconds between the overall winner and the Mitsubishi entry.    Oh.. My.. God..  Could we be seeing an electric team as the outright winner in the 2015 Pikes Peak race?

Here's a video during qualification - the siren is not a police car chasing him, but a noise maker required to be carried by all the electric vehicles.


Upon taking 2nd and 3rd in the overall results, Mitsubishi claims "the stage has been set for highly energy-efficient and sustainable electric-powered vehicles like the Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution III to soon become the dominant force in this challenging one-of-a-kind motorsport competition."

Monster Tajima's team put out a press release explaining that warm weather, and heat within the vehicle, caused their result to be less than expected. This is a very Japanese thing to say, isn't it? "The team regrets that their improvements on the machine could not be well versed in terms of time."

And this: "This year I am both disappointed and pleased at the same time. Yes of course, I am disappointed that I did not win. However I am greatly pleased that our work in promoting electric vehicles have raised so much awareness that even a major motor company such as Mitsubishi Motor is inspired to win the race at full force. Now Tesla, Toyota, and Honda are also participating in the electric car division. I am hoping that this movement would catch more speed where the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race would be known as the forefront of tackling the environmental problems we face today. I give kudos to the Mitsubishi Motor Team that have won this merciless race. Congratulations! Finally, I would like to thank all our sponsors and supporters from the deep bottom of my heart and appreciate all the cheers from all."


There were two production electric cars entered - a Honda Fit EV, and a Gen2 Toyota RAV4 EV.  The Toyota appears not to have finished, but the Honda Fit EV turned in a respectable 12:55.591 lap time, and took 95th place overall.  That beat the modified Tesla Roadster, which sure is an interesting result.


Now let's get to the Motorcycles.  First up is the production electric motorcycle class, with Jeff Clark (supported by Hollywood Electrics) taking 1st place.  He scored an 11:59.814 lap time, taking 72nd place overall.

This is the first sub-12 second time for an electric motorcycle.

The interesting thing about this is Jeff's bike is not a Zero S or Zero DS, but a 2013 Zero FX.  That bike is the "street fighter" in Zero's lineup, and is noted for its light weight.

The time for Jeff's first segment, 2:06.879, was very impressive and even beat the fastest of the Exhibition class riders - Guy Martin's 2:09.930 time.

“We’ve shown that it won’t be long before the top riders in all classes at Pikes Peak will be on electric,” said Harlan Flagg, Founder of Hollywood Electrics. “There is no faster bike off-the-line than an electric motorcycle. We’re really excited to prove our tuning abilities on Zero Motorcycles up the mountain, besting all the prototype bikes and the talented engineers behind those.”

“Congratulations to Jeff Clark and Hollywood Electrics on a monumental victory. To break the 12-minute mark on such a challenging course is truly remarkable,” said Richard Walker, CEO of Zero Motorcycles. "It shows what electric motorcycle technology and entrepreneurial spirit can accomplish, and we are proud to be with them at the forefront.”

Asked about how the race went, Jeff Clark said, “I had a couple of close calls, but at the end of the day bested my time from last year. So proud to be the fastest electric bike up America’s Mountain. Thanks to my crew and my sponsors, without whom I couldn’t have done it.”


Photo by Brandon Nozaki-Miller


Last but certainly not least is the Electric Modified class, won by Jeremiah Johnson.

Johnson was riding the Brutus Motorcycles V2 Rocket. The bike had only been "finished" the week before, and Johnson explained the suspension hadn't been tuned or any other bike "setup" work that would have helped him get a better time. As it is he won his division, taking 83rd overall, with a 12:20.448 lap time.

Here is his video from the race.


Again, the noise maker is due to PPIHC regulations, it's not a police car chasing him up the mountain.

There's a close call partway up the mountain when someone on a motorcycle kinda rolled out onto the road.  Good save, Jay.

Yoshihiro Kishimoto was riding a bike that I gather was originally built for the Isle of Man TT ZERO, but this year they chose to enter the PPIHC.  He came in 103rd overall with a 13:36.654 lap time.

According to Brandon Nozaki Miller (shown in this picture) the bike got a couple battle scars when "Kishimoto San had a disagreement with the pavement in the second half of the race".  We imagine that means he took a spill but was able to get back on the bike and finish.

Speaking of Brandon, we want to make a special shout out to him and his participation in the 2014 PPIHC.

Even though he wasn't registered to race this year, as he was last year, he did take a week of work to travel to the event as part of the Hollywood Electrics support crew.  Judging by his Facebook postings during the week, Brandon was helping all the electric motorcycle teams with his technical skills as well as taking pictures.

He put together a "Story" over on Google+ about the week that's well worth clicking on.







All the electric motorcycle teams

The electric motorcycle racing teams have always had a special camaderie - in most cases - between the teams.  Here's an example, with all of them together grinning for the camera looking pleased with their accomplishment of moving the needle forward a couple more notches.

While most of them took results pretty far down the overall ranking, the results of this group show considerable improvement.  That is, improvement for the production electric motorcycles.

One wonders how Jeff Clark would have fared against a 2014 Zero SR (Brandon!!) or against a 2014 Empulse TTX, but he improved his time over last year.  Further, while the Brutus V2 Rocket is a prototype bike, it's nearly ready for production (apparently) and Brutus does have it listed on their site with a $26,000 price tag.

In other words, a few years ago the story for electric motorcycle racing was far out prototype bikes by Brammo/Lightning/MotoCzysz/Muench and others.  The production bikes of that era weren't capable of finishing something like Pikes Peak until the 2012 Zero model line, and now both Brammo and Zero are hitting their stride with excellent production electric motorcycles.

Now it's possible for a rider to just buy a Zero or Brammo bike, do some tweaking, and get performance similar to or better than 250cc gas bikes.  Jeff Clark's 11:59.814 lap time beat the pants off the Pikes Peak 250cc class whose fastest rider was Matt Meinart with a 12:09.513 lap time.  He would have finished in the middle of the Pikes Peak Lightweight class, had he been entered in that class.  Jeremiah Johnson would have finished in the middle of Pikes Peak Middleweight class, had he been in that class.

Within a couple years the Production Electric Motorcycle class could be a significant force at Pikes Peak.  They're already giving results in the middle of their respective gasser classes.  Given the rapid progress being made, it's a certainty that more electric motorcycle racers will do as Lightning did last year, and win outright.  It's just a matter of "when" not "if".

It's within the realm of likelihood, now, that the outright winner could be electric next year, or the year after.

Won't that catch the attention of lots of gear-heads?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Risking life and limb to electrify racing - is it worth it? PLEASE, do it safely!

Bobby Goodin, R.I.P.
A question in my mind since the 2014 TT ZERO (and TT) at the Isle of Man is the carnage happening in this kind of race.  The TT course, the Pikes Peak course, and some other races, are severe challenges between person, machine, and the elements.  The challenge is higher than at regular race tracks, and while track based racing see's a fair amount of injury and even death, courses like the Snaefell Mountain Course (Isle of Man) or Pikes Peak seem to have a higher rate of injury and death.

What I'm pondering is my role in this process.  By covering these events as news I'm contributing my little bit to the spectacle around the event, and contributing my little bit to encouraging other riders to participate.  Some of whom have wives and children at home who would be devastated if it was their husband whose face appears on TV thanks to a fatal accident.

I've covered the electric racing scene since 2009 - including Zero Motorcycles' "24 Hours of Electricross" event, and at the Vintage Motorcycle event in Ohio that year where the TTXGP made its first appearance in North America.  Following that was several years attending TTXGP, e-Power, eRoadRacing and REFUEL races, as well as remotely covering events like the TT ZERO and PPIHC.

Covering electric racing has been, for me, a matter of recognizing that in order to change the worlds transportation system, we have to go into and transform every field of transportation.  That includes racing.

For this project of electrifying all transportation to work, we have to convince the serious gear heads to begin racing with electric vehicles.  That means building, racing, and winning with electric vehicles that catch attention of the gear heads, breaking the haze of their gasoline addiction.  That also means entering the territory, getting into the same events, as regular racing - and obviously it'll take a "few" years to fulfill that destiny, but it must eventually happen.

Fortunately the electric race vehicles are improving rapidly - as evidenced by events like Mugen's win at the TT ZERO this year (117 miles/hr lap speed) and Lightning's win at Pikes Peak last year (10 minutes).  The 2014 Pikes Peak saw a smaller electric field, but the first sub-12 minute time by a production electric motorcycle ridden by Jeff Clark, and an excellent first showing Brutus Motorcycles with Jeremiah Johnson riding (I'll be getting to the details of this later - if I'm misrepresenting this somehow, bear with me, I haven't looked up the details yet).  All this is proof positive that electric motorcycle capabilities are moving forward rapidly.

At the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, motorsport.com reports that Bobby Goodin died shortly after finishing the race.  He's an experienced rider, had just finished 4th in his class ("Pikes Peak Middleweight", gas powered, with a 11:07 time), and unfortunately when he raised his arm in victory he lost control of his bikes, hit some boulders, destroying his bike, sending him flying, and he died on the spot.

The same report says deaths among racers and race officials at the Pikes Peak race is fairly infrequent.

The Isle of Man TT event has had enough deaths that there's a very long Wikipedia page to list deaths at that race.  There were two deaths this year, Bob Price and Karl Harris, and I know from having listened to lots of ManxRadio coverage during TT Week that several other "incidents" resulted in serious injury.  In 2009, the first year of electric racing during TT Week (when it was still run by the TTXGP), John Crellin died in the Senior TT race after completing the TTXGP.

To give a sense of conditions at Pikes Peak, consider this video shot as riders were returning down the mountain last week during practice.  All of a sudden a riderless motorcycle comes tumbling down from above, and fortunately the impacted rider was able to avoid a serious crash, performed a perfect roll on the ground, and didn't fall off the cliff himself.  But just look at the narrow margin these guys have, and how far they have to fall if they do go off the edge.


Obviously, racing on this sort of course comes at the risk of injury and death.  Some people enjoy taking that risk.

What is our role, as spectators and journalists, in this scene?  It's not far removed from something like the fights in the Roman Coliseum where people were literally fighting to the death.

Don't we, as the spectators and journalists, have on our hands the blood of every racing death?

Those of us who choose to participate in electrifying the racing scene - PLEASE PLEASE do so safely.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Harley Davidson shocks electric motorcycle world with electric motorcycle announcement

Harley Davidson just dropped a bombshell, stunning the motorcycle world by announcing the company's first electric motorcycle.  Instead of the obnoxious Harley Sound, the bike has the high pitch whine we know and love from electric motorcycle racing.  The bike looks awesome, and initial response in the articles I've seen have been great.

Normally I'd cover this news on ElectricRaceNews, but thought it was an important enough item to cover the announcement on LongTailPipe.com.  To learn about this, click on the link to head over there.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

John Wayland starting a business selling Black Zombie electric muscle cars

John Wayland of Plasma Boy Racing, builder of the White Zombie electric 1972 Datsun, has teamed up with Mitch Medford (a Texas Tech CEO) to start building ultra high end electric muscle cars.  The first car they're planning is the Black Zombie, which is a 1968 Mustang powered by twin Netgain Warp 11 motors and dual Zilla controllers.  The car is expected to deliver over 700 horsepower, about 1,800 ft-lbs of torque, and a 120 mile driving range.  That is, if you can keep your speed "normal" rather than lead-footing it around town.

Should we change that phrase?  "Lithium-footing it"?

The team are starting a business, Bloodshed Motors, where the idea is to build amped up conversions of classic muscle cars.  The target market are rich guys with a Tesla Model S who yearn for a muscle car that doesn't get them dirty.

I wasn't able to find a website for Bloodshed Motors, and the Plasma Boy Racing website doesn't have details about this business.  (Wayland's last blog entry is from over 2 years ago, a fascinating story about when he rented an EV1 back in the day.)

The spec's I've gathered from other news reports are:
  • 1968 Mustang - rust free, found in Houston
  • Dual Netgain Warp 11 motors
  • Dual Zilla controllers
  • "Gear Vendors overdrive unit"
  • 40 kilowatt-hour Kokam pack
  • 120 mile range (they didn't specify test procedure for this)
  • 750 horsepower
  • 1,800 ft-lb torque
  • "Street or Track-developed coilover shocks" in the front
  • "Strange Ford 9-inch axle" in the rear along with "Street or Track" suspension
  • 13 inch brakes on all wheels
  • rollcage
  • 0-60 miles/hr - 3 seconds
While the Black Zombie is street legal, and you could take it grocery shopping or whatever, it's set up with a particular goal:  Drag Racing.  Would we expect anything else from John Wayland?

To demonstrate what they've built, they're taking the Black Zombie to an Austin drag strip this week.  They've borrowed a "1.5 megawatt battery pack" from Don Garlits, that he used in an earlier record run, which in the Black Zombie should put down 1,500 horsepower.  With whatever performance it delivers, they'll open the order book.

The price starts at $200,000 if Bloodshed Motors supplies the donor car.  If the customer supplies it, the price drops.

While they're starting with Mustangs, they expect to branch out to similar muscle cars in the future.  The Camaro's, etc.  They may even get into the business of selling kits.