Saturday, March 2, 2013

Electric motorcycle racing poised for blastoff with ever-improving production bikes from Zero and Brammo

The 2012 TTXGP season demonstrated one thing really well - that production electric motorcycles are now good enough for credible racing.  The electric car field doesn't have anything equivalent.  First, there isn't an electric car racing series with any history, well other than NEDRA electric drag racing.  Second, there isn't a production electric car on the market to which you can make a few simple modifications and have a credible racing vehicle, well, other than the Tesla Model S.  Among the 2013 production electric motorcycle's are not just one, but two, models, available from two manufacturers, that can be easily modified for electric motorcycle racing.

Jeremiah Johnson at
2012 TTXGP World Championship
The watershed for this was the 2012 TTXGP season in North America which included the eSuperStock award group, made up of 2012 Zero S's provided by Zero Motorcycles.  They raced the full North American season, performing admirably and reliably.  At the 2012 TTXGP World Championship in Daytona, while Zero themselves did not show up there was a Zero S in the race.  That was one prepared by Terry Hershner and Jeremiah Johnson.

Theirs was a most interesting story in which Terry rode his bike from Tampa to Daytona, and then he and Jeremiah set about converting the bike to fit the TTXGP rules.  I shot the following video interview with them following the race.  The goal of the video was to talk through the simple modifications required to take a stock Zero S and run it in a TTXGP race.

Before the video I want to make something clear.  In my reports during the 2012 season I kept returning to a complaint about the slow bikes and fast bikes.  Because of practicalities, the TTXGP organizers grid slow bikes and fast bikes together creating a condition in which bikes like the 2012 Zero S are getting passed by bikes going 60-70 miles/hr faster.  Flat out the stock 2012 Zero S would do 90 miles/hr, and the modified bike shown in the following video was hitting speeds around 100 miles/hr.  These are decent speeds and a full race grid of 32 Zero S's would be very exciting.  However both the Brammo guys were hitting 170 miles/hr top speeds, making the Zero's look bad by comparison.

This is not to diminish the advances represented by the Zero S's.  It is amazing, in fact, that starting with the 2012 Zero S it was now possible to just buy an electric motorcycle, make a few simple modifications, and take it racing.  The 2012 Zero S was proved to perform slightly slower than 250cc gas bikes, but the improvements in the 2013 Zero S should make it slightly faster than 250cc gas bikes.  And then there is the Brammo Empulse R which is now being delivered to customers, and which is probably a bit faster than that.

What I would prefer is for these 100ish miles/hr production bikes to be in their own race grid, and for the top bikes to be in their own race grid. The video below demonstrates just how close we are to being able to field a grid of 32 production electric motorcycles in one race.  These sorts of modifications are expected to be made into a kit, produced by the manufacturer, so that electric motorcycle owners could quickly and easily get into racing.

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