Saturday, May 26, 2012

Electric bicycle "world championship" in Bristol England, sponsored by Atmosphere Electric Bikes

As part of the Brisol "Green Week" in mid-June, Atmosphere Electric Bikes has organized what they're billing as the "First ever Electric Bike World Championship Hill Climb" event.  Over 10 electric bicycle manufacturers are entering bikes for a series of races up Park Street, which is said to be Britain's steepest shopping street (see the picture below).

It's not entirely clear from the websites (see below) just what is involved in the "Championship" other than the "Hill Climb".  Hill climbing is a scenario where electric bicycles really shine, because adding an electric motor to a bicycle lets the bicycle rider go up hills w/o standing in the pedals.  On the other hand non-powered bicycle riders have to stand on the pedals or maybe even dismount and walk their bike uphill, depending on the steepness of the hill.  Hence, adding the electric motor to a bicycle makes the bicycle more practical to the average person, ones who would appreciate a power assist to climb hills and maybe gave up on bicycle riding because of hill climbing.

The point of a hill climb event is to test an electric bicycle in the most challenging scenario it can face, and where electric bicycles can give the biggest benefit to bicycle riders.   Hill climbing is challenging to both powered and non-powered bicycle riders simply because of the physics, it takes more energy to climb a hill than it takes to ride on flat ground.  The energy can come from the human body on a non-powered bicycle, or from a hybrid combination of human and electric energy on the electric bicycle.  In both cases the challenge is to organize enough energy for the hill climb, while keeping the whole bicycle unit light enough to make it an enjoyable bicycle ride.

It's clear from the event page that this is mostly a public demonstration of electric bicycles where the goal is to give the general public a generally positive experience with this style of bicycling.  The event is part of Bristol's Green Week, and there will be a "demo area" in which the public can "have a go" with electric bicycles to try them out.  Additionally Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf, Scrap Heap, and the Fully Charged podcast) will be on hand to "compere" something or other.  I'm not sure what "compere" means but he's been doing a variety of TV and Podcast work covering green technology and electric vehicles, and I suppose means he'll be MC'ing some of the events, as well as filming material for broadcast on TV and Podcasts.

I do have to point out that this is not the first time an uphill electric bicycle race has been organized.  In 2003 and 2004 a pair of events was organized by Ken Trough who at the time owned the V is for Voltage forum (which I now own).  I attended both events.  The first was held in the Marin Headlands and operated in cooperation with the National Park Service.  The second was held kind of on the sly, on a piece of road in the mountains of the San Francisco Peninsula.  While Ken had some big ideas of organizing yearly uphill electric bicycle and scooter racing, he did not bill it as a "World Championship," and in any case the event fizzled after 2004.  He did bill it as the Anti-Gravity EV Expo, and I have the t-shirts to prove it.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TTXGP Europe 2012 opener in Sweden

Sunday (race day)

Himmelman made light work of the season opener and set a blistering race pace that the other racers could only hope to match.

Himmelman led from the start. His team mate was unable to join the TTXGP season opener due to contractual conflicts however this hasn't deterred the team to deliver a solid performance on the track. All summer they have been busy developing their production race bike. This will only help more teams join the grid with a highly competitive machine without the pain and expense of developing a new platform from the ground up. It certainly will provide any smart team with a head start in a championship bid. More on this when we get a chance to catch up with 2010 and 2011 world champions.

Matthias Himmelman on winning the race commented "I loved this track, it is very fast and quick paced. My team were amazing with the setup of the bike we ran the same set up from qualifying apart from changing the front tyre. The bike is heavier than last year due to reconfiguring the battery pack, but I am extremely happy with the handling characteristics. It performed amazingly in the straights. I look forward to more bikes at the next round!"

Interestingly all four of the remaining competitors were running DC Agni motors which although much lighter than their AC counterparts do not have the enormous power offered by their brushless counterparts. We were hoping to see the all new Agni motor fielded by its inventor team Agni Racing, on the track for the first time since it was first mentioned in 2010 but sadly the team pulled out last minute citing last minute technical issues and stating they would be back for round two at Snetterton.

Cedric Lynch in an interview on the TTXGP forum has stated "We have more than one new motor. We have the 111R which is like the 95R but we have found a better insulation material for use between the copper strips. This material has a layer of resin-bonded mica flakes and is much more resistant to breakdown under abuse such as happens in racing, so we have been able to increase the number of copper strips without reducing thickness. This allows the use of higher voltage and also raises the efficiency. We are also working on a larger motor which we hope to have in production soon, and we are hoping to get 25 to 30KW continuously to start with." Something for us all to look forward to seeing in action and up close.

PosNo.NameLapsTotal timeDiffBest timeIn lapBest speed
149Matthias Himmelman1714:38.981 50.2742131.973
259HoChi Fung1614:40.6691 Lap53.64815123.673
326Tang Yu1614:50.6039.93454.4863121.771
453Peter Lindén1615:18.10937.44055.9014118.688
55Stefan Bernström1415:28.3003 Laps1:03.9316103.781

(Pictures from TTXGP's website, which credited Bengt Johannesson and Muench Racing)

Saturday (Practice day)
The rain had only started to fall, but was still changeable, so teams waited until the final moments before making their tyre choice. All teams with the exception of Zongshen ran with dry slicks, Zongshen being the only ones who opted for wet tyres.
The undisputed TTXGP world champions, Muench Racing, produced the fasted lap times of the session. We had a chance to catch up with the defending champ after the first practice.
“It nice to be here in Sweden, the track isn’t slow and safe one but I like, well I like every track. Our first practice went beautifully. We changed the setting on the suspension and it was perfect first time. From the first turn, I saw the Chinese guy, HoiChi Fung, and he was very quick, he overtook me on my within the first lap. I must say, he is a very good rider, but overall, we produced the fasted lap times. I managed to follow him, which was quite surprising as we do have a heavier bike. I can keep up with him in the corners but I know that I was much faster in the straights. I now feel that I know his riding style. My aim for tomorrow race is to consistently set lap times of under 50seconds, and thanks to my wonderful mechanics, I strongly feel that this is a possibility.”
“I found that the track was very easy to learn. I haven’t had a chance to get any real practice session in before the season so on my free practice session I decided to push the bike to its limit. Unfortunately, I pushed too hard and ended up sliding the bike as I entered a corner. For some time I thought that I was pulling away for the Germans, but it turned out that they were just too quick and managed to close the gap.”
Qualifying Results
PosTeamRiderNo.Best TimeDiffLaps
1Muench RacingMatthias Himmelman4949.82218
2ZongshenHoiChi Fung5950.9171.0957
3ZongshenTang Yu2653.8374.01522
4Linden RacingPeter Linden5317
5Team FiverStefan Bernstrom52

John McGuinness tweeting about the Mugen electric bike at IOM TT ZERO

The world et al is getting ready for the IOM TT ZERO race, and one of the people involved is John McGuinness riding for Team Mugen.  Shows some up-close pics of the Mugen bike.  It appears there are two of the bikes, and probably one is a backup bike.  Our friends at Manzanita Micro were especially eagle-eyed to notice the green box in the background of one picture, indicating Mugen is using Manzanita's chargers.

@jm130tt John mcguinness
Wed May 23 15:48:41 +0000 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 SES TT Zero Challenge attracts highest entry ever

In late April the SES TT Zero organizers posted the entry list at -

It is the largest entry list with this race under the TT ZERO name.  The inaugural year, under the TTXGP name, had a larger entry list, but not all of those teams made it to the starting grid.

Team Segway Racing MotoCzysz from Portland, Oregon - Mark Miller and Michael Rutter 

Team Mugen - (a branch of Honda Racing) - John McGuinness -

Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive - Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev - James Hillier -

Team Agni - had sat out 2011 - Jenny Tinmouth

Team Ecotricity Kingston - George Spence and Paul Owen

Brunel - Russ Mountford

Imperial College - Roy Richardson

Team Tork/Yaiyin Racing - Antonio Maeso

KomattiMirai Racing from Japan - Yoshinari Matsushita -

Team Vercarmoto

ManTTx - Dan Kneen

Sarolea - Paul Shoesmith

Lighting Motorcycles - John Burrows

Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing and Zytek Automotive Join Forces to Develop TT Zero Electric Racing Motorcycle

"British Superbike race team, Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing and electric powertrain innovators, Zytek Automotive, have joined forces to develop an Electric Motorcycle to take part in the Isle of Man SES TT Zero race on 6 June.

... The team, which is being supported by Kawasaki Motors UK, are using a race proven Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R chassis, powered by a state of the art Zytek Permanent Magnet oil cooled KERS motor. At a proven 100kW (the equivalent of 134 horsepower) the design has previously been used in a Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour racing car, and uses technology similar to the extremely successful Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 season.

... Zytek Project Manager Des Hill said “I watched the TT Zero race last year from the Gooseneck corner at the start of the steep “mountain” section and, frankly, many of the entries were very slow. Using Direct Drive and no gearbox they simply didn’t have the torque to pull away from Ramsey Hairpin and accelerate up the mountain in same way as a conventional engined bike would.

... By using the Kawasaki six speed transmission we won’t have just built an electric motorcycle, but a machine with the performance nearing that of a conventional racing machine” By using multiple 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cells, Zytek have managed to squeeze an 11.8kWh battery of their own design into the twin spar aluminium Ninja ZX-10R frame in four separate packs, each of a bespoke design.

... Working in partnership with highly respected Battery Management experts REAP systems of Southampton, the distribution of the battery packs was a real challenge according to Hill. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery. We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike” 

Slick electric motorcycle headed to TT ZERO, to be ridden by Yoshinari Matsushita

This was posted on Facebook (  It's an electric motorcycle, apparently heading to the TT ZERO race.  It also appears here - - posted by with the subtitle "TT ZERO Bike".  This doesn't seem to match any entry on the official TT ZERO entry list (

On the IOMTT forum I find this post at ( referring to information found on another site (マン島tt2012参戦宣言:英語版)/).

I, Yoshinari Matsushita, am pleased to announce my decision to take part in the 2012 International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Races.

This year again, I will belong to a German team, the BMW Racing Team, as I did in 2011, with BMW S1000RR 2012 model. The races I ride are “Superbike TT Race”, “Superstock TT Race”, and “Senior TT Race”.

In addition to these three races, I will compete the “TT Zero Challenge ”, in which only zero-emission machines are compete, from a joint team of the MIRAI Co., Ltd. (Aichi, Japan) and the Brunel University (London, UK). The machine I ride for this race is manufactured by the MIRAI in Japan. MIRAI Co., Ltd. is newly established company with cooperation from the Prostaff Co., Ltd. by Yoshihiro Kishimoto, who was the project leader of TT Challenge when the Prostaff (Team Prozza) ventured into the 2011 IOM TT with the first-ever made-in-Japan electric racing motorcycle to further promote research and development of electric vehicles.

Captian (Japanese):
XAM JAPANのカシマコートのスプロケット

Challenge Matsushita Yoshinari players used in the Isle of man electric bikes, you will help a little. EXACT wheel sprockets of the Kashima coat of racing disks XAM JAPAN this thing to say for the rear brake master engine brake and rabbit, expansion to the left clutch master so no really scary to think hard pine players under the (Translated by Bing)
 — with Toyoda Tetsuyuki.

Steve Atlas Icon Brammo Practice Infineon TTXGP North American Championship 2012

The TTXGP staff posted this video, some of which was an interview recorded just moments before Steve Atlas' accident during the practice round for the TTXGP race at Infineon, 2012.  During that practice round Steve Atlas had a high-side accident at turn 7, messing up one finger, and giving a compression fracture to six vertebrae.

BTW, Steve was present at the Brammo Empulse launch in LA a couple days after the race.  I spoke with him for a few moments, and he seemed fine, clarifying the injury he had received.  He also explained he had done quite a lot of the test riding of the Empulse during its development.  We were most happy to learn that Steve was okay, as demonstrated by not only having been sent home from the hospital on the day of the accident, but by being able to travel to LA so shortly afterward.

The TTXGP staff explained the video thusly:  Steve Atlas gives a quick run down on his hopes for the year, before doing a few laps on the 1st practice session at Infineon Raceway. Steve is riding for Team Icon Brammo, but highsided 3 laps into the session after unofficially breaking his own lap record from last year. He has hurt his hand, and the bike may be unrepairable. Check back for updates on whether they will be able to race.

Videos from Infineon Raceway TTXGP North American Championship 2012

Kenyon Kluge rides his Zero electric motorcycle during the first practice session on Friday, at Infineon Raceway. TTXGP North American Championship 2012, Round 1.

Tim Hunt Lightning Electric Motorcycle Practice 2 Infineon TTXGP North American Championship 2012 On board Camera.

Kenyon Kluge (KSquared Racing), Jason Lauritzen & Jennifer Everson Lauritzen (Ritz Racing) and Martin Szwarc (Martin Szwarc Racing), aswell as being in the full TTXGP Class, are also competing for the new 'eSuperStock Spec Award', which is a one off award for the highest placed rider of a manufacturer production machine. They are all riding standard Zero 'S' production Motorcycles, which are eligible for this award.

TIm hunt rides numberr 89 bike of Lightning Motorcycles during Saturday Morning Practice session.

Michael Barnes of Lightning Motorcycles sets a qualifying time of 1:47.553 during qualifying for Round 1 of the TTXGP North American Championship 2012 at Infineon Raceway. Michael also perfected his wheeling technique on the out lap.  Onboard footage thanks to Lightning Motorcycles.

Footage from Saturdays Practice and Qualifying sessions. Michael Barnes set the pace at 1:47.553, with Tim Hunt at 1:54.730. Steve Rapp (brought in to replace Steve Atlas after his injury) wasnt far behind on the less powerful but lighter Brammo Empulse, but Steve crashed on the same turn as Steve Atlas did, and also sustained injuries, along with the damaged bike its means that Brammo are out of the race.

Martin Szarc Set a time of 2:10.342, Kenyon Kluge 2:13.893, Jason Lauritzen 2:14.161 and Jennifer Everson Lauritzen 2:18.858

Michael Barnes celebrated winning race 1 of Round 1 of the TTXGP North American Championship 2012, at Infineon Raceway, by performing a burn-out.

2012 Sears Point Infinion TTXGP on-board race footage. All electric Zero Motorcycle Racing

One of the Zero engineers posted this youtube video from the recent TTXGP race at Infineon Raceway.  He wrote the following comment on the posting, and refers to the troubles faced by Lightning and Brammo that I documented earlier.
This is video from the 2012 Sears Point Infinion raceway TTXGP. The onboard footage is from Martin Szwarc, who won 1st place in the eSuperStock class, as well as 1st place overall. (Other teams struggled with reliability issues and couldn't finish 2 races without a DNF)
The whole event went amazingly smooth, no issues at all with the 4 Zero ZF-9 bikes entered. It's amazing that the bikes handle well enough to perform like this right off the showroom floor, just add race tires. We used Pirelli Supercorsa tires, which are both DOT legal and stick very well on the track.

EV West Enters Electric BMW M3 In Pikes Peak Hillclimb

Electric Vehicle West (EV West) is an electric vehicle conversion shop in San Diego which has built a drag car or three.  I first met them at the 2011 REFUEL race, where they had a large contingent of people wearing EV West branded t-shirts.

The company just announced they had entered the 2012 Pikes Peak Hill Climb.  I suppose we won't be seeing them at REFUEL, because that event is one week before and in a wholly different direction.

They released the following youtube teaser video, saying: This is the 2012 Pikes Peak entry for EV West. 1995 BMW M3 (currently) running on a Net-Gain HV11 and a Evnetics Shiva. For more information please visit or visit us on Facebook at

They posted this picture of custom designed brush holders that will be used in the car.

This shot taken in April shows twin air coolers that were installed

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lightning wins both TTXGP races, but Zero Motorcycles takes clean sweep based on points

In a surprise twist in last weekends TTXGP 2012 North America season opener at the Infineon Raceway, Zero Motorcycles ended up taking a clean sweep of the podium.  The upset result in the electric motorcycle race occurred after Team Icon Brammo pulled out (due to two accidents - Atlas and Rapp) and while both of Lightning Motorcycles riders each won a race (by a long mile), they failed to earn enough points to take podium spots.  It left riders on Zero S bikes holding more points than the Lightning or Brammo riders.  Because of the huge performance disparity between Brammo, Lightning and Zero Motorcyles' respective bikes, the results are nothing short of astonishing.  Any observer who knows the performance of these bikes would have said the podium positions would be held by Lightning Motorcycles and Brammo, and to suggest that Zero would take all three spots would cause jaws to hit the floor.

The teams riding electric motorcycles provided by Zero Motorcycles took a clean sweep of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd spots on the podium.  Because it's such a surprise, we need to carefully go over that weekends events to understand.  But let's say up front, the Zero Motorcycles bikes in the race ran flawlessly.  These are production electric motorcycles that offer performance similar to the Mavizen and other dual-Agni-motor bikes from two years ago, but at a much higher production volume.  That the Zero S bikes exist as regular production bikes, and can so easily be converted to meet TTXGP rules, is a concrete indication of how far and how quickly electric motorcycles have moved forward.  However the Zero S and Lightning/Brammo bikes are in completely different realms of performance.  The Lightning and Brammo bikes passed the Zero S bikes like they were standing still.  If this were gas bike racing, the race wouldn't be held with such a huge performance disparity.  For example there is a safety issue because the fast bikes will be so frequently passing the slow bikes.  Also, by contrast the Zero S bikes looked pokey, whereas if the race ONLY had Zero S bikes it would have looked great.

At the end of the day the Lightning Motorcycles team was shocked at the results, and feeling cheated.  It took me a fair bit of talking with that team, Rupal Patel, and Azhar Hussain to understand what had happened and why. 

The race day was split into two individual races. Those races together determined overall winners for the day.

Results from race 1 ( and Barnes and Szwarc win in first of todays TTXGP races at Infineon Raceway)

PosNos.NameTeamLapsDiffTotal TimeBest lap
180Michael BarnesLightning815:46.9481:51.548
25Martin SzwarcMartin Szwarc82:10.72617:57.6752:11.428
396Kenyon KlugeK Squared71 lap16:16.6362:13.022
47Kyle SchumacherRitz Racing71 lap16:30.1082:19.537
5619Ernest MontagueRitz Racing71 lap17:05.1432:23.605
689Tim HuntLightning26 lapsretired

Results from race 2 (

PosNos.NameTeamLapsDiffTotal TimeBest lap
189Tim HuntLightning917:40.9371:55.942
25Martin SzwarcMartin Szwarc81 lap18;05.5512:10.748
396Kenyon KlugeK Squared81 lap18:13.8732:14.629
47Kyle SchumacherRitz Racing71 lap18:44.1232:19.070
5619Ernest MontagueRitz Racing71 lap19:13.1682:23.208
680Michael BarnesLightning2DNFRetired1:50.96

Total race results & points won for the day

PosNosNameTeamRace oneRace twoWeekend totalChampionship points 
15Martin SzwarcMartin Szwarc20204025
296Kenyon KlugeK Squared16163220
37Kyle SchumacherRitz Racing13132616
480Michael BarnesLightning25DNF2513
489Tim HuntLightningDNF252513
6619Ernest MontagueRitz Racing11112210

The first thing to notice is the huge difference between the two Lightning bikes, and the Zero bikes.  I've already gone over it above, but the best lap time is a great objective measure to verify what I said above.

The key point is to notice the DNF (a.k.a. Retired) results in both races.  It is an unfortunate thing that the Lightning #80 bike DNF'd race 2, while the Lightning #89 bike had DNF'd race 1.  While each of the riders won the race they finished, it meant that neither of these riders had enough points for the day to reach the podium.

In order to get any ranking out of being in a race, you have to finish the race.

In race 1 Tim Hunt had a problem with his bike, and parked it at the side of the track for a couple laps.  He got back on the bike towards the end of the race and found it would start up again, and began riding it around the track in time for the last lap of the race.  However, instead of take a complete lap he went into the pit area to confer with Richard Hatfield, and then re-entered the track.  But by that time some of the bikes had taken the checkered flag which, by the rules, means that Hunt's last lap did not count as a proper race lap even though the flag waver person did wave the checkered flag over him.  Additionally, because Hunt completed so few laps his result would not have counted anyway even if he had properly taken the checkered flag, because the rules require a rider to complete more than half of the laps.

The only complication to that neatly shaved bit of rules interpretation is that following race#1 there was a Podium Ceremony, and Tim Hunt was on the Podium as having taken second place with Barnes having taken first place.  The Podium Ceremony following race 1 was conducted as if there were two separate classes with separate winners.  That is, at the Podium, four bikes were present, two from Lightning, two from Zero, and the announcer treated the Ceremony as if the two sets of two bikes were in separate classes.  But the TTXGP staff had said, the eSuperStock was not a "class" but an "award" which I discuss below.

In race 2 (I wasn't there so had this second hand) Michael Barnes' bike (#80) had a problem develop forcing the bike out of the race.

Why were the Zero and Lightning bikes in competition with each other?  As I pointed out above, these bikes have a huge performance disparity, and in gas bike racing they would be in separate classes, and probably not even be racing at the same time.  Electric motorcycle racing is at such an immature early stage that in order to have a big enough grid the TTXGP has to take whomever shows up to race.  If this sounds like it reflects badly on Zero, reread the paragraph at the top, and know I mean all the best to whomever does show up to race.  The question is really whether we should have such different performance levels racing against each other in the same race grid.

While the Lightning and Brammo bikes were showing great performance, they are only three bikes.  Can we have an interesting race with just three bikes?  When will we get to a point of having a full grid of bikes with the caliber Lightning and Brammo have developed?  

For example, both Mission Motors and MotoCzysz have developed bikes of this caliber, but both are not racing in the TTXGP this year.  Brammo isn't in the business of building and selling Empulse RR's, that bike is a prototype test platform, and it is the just-launched Empulse R that is Brammo's production electric motorcycle.  On the other hand Lightning says they can produce and sell duplicates of the two bikes the team is racing, and any interested motorcycle racing team with the bucks could perhaps swing a deal with Richard Hatfield and get into the TTXGP as well.  It seems that Lightning is the only choice to build a grid of high end electric motorcycles.

At the lower end of the spectrum there is a greater chance to build a significant race grid.  Zero Motorcycles is manufacturing the Zero S in volume and it is a small bit of reworking to make a Zero S compatible with the TTXGP rules.  Plausibly Zero could find more riders to set up a larger grid of just the Zero S's.   Additionally, Brammo just unveiled the Empulse and Empulse R and intends to develop the Empulse TTX for TTXGP racing in 2013.  It means the eSuperStock concept could develop into a proper TTXGP race class for 2013, and because both Zero and Brammo are in or going to volume production, there could be a significantly large eSuperStock grid in 2013.

The 2012 rules does not carve out a class that matches the performance level of the Zero S bikes.  The Zero S bikes were production electric motorcycles, identical to what can be bought at any Zero Motorcycle dealer, with minimal modifications required to meet TTXGP requirements.  The Zero S bikes were racing as a group named eSuperStock.   That was not a "class" but an "award" meaning that the Zero S bikes were in competition with Lightning and Brammo, and in addition were eligible for the eSuperStock award.  Therefore, when Brammo and Lightning had their respective issues, it opened the door for Zero's riders to earn more points and win the day.

This is one of those astonishing results that takes a bit of explaining to grok.