Monday, April 29, 2013

MotoCzysz commits to not only TT ZERO but eRoadRacing at Laguna Seca

MotoCzysz announced today their team lineup and plans for racing in the 2013 season.  It included the expected visit to the Isle of Man for the TT ZERO at the end of May, but a very welcome move to participate in the eRoadRacing series.  The team lineup is full of top racers, namely:  Michael Rutter and Mark Miller for the TT ZERO, and Shane Turpin and Steve Rapp for the eRoadRacing series.

The team goals for 2013 are quite ambitious, but I think achievable.  At the TT ZERO they hope to break through the 110 miles/hr lap speed.  At Laguna Seca they plan to not only win the race, but to hit lap times really close to MotoGP times.

They have some big goals for themselves, and doubtlessly they'll have seriously improved their bikes for this year.  Their competitors haven't been sitting still, however.

Michael Rutter rode with MotoCzysz at the TT ZERO in 2011 and 2012, winning the race both times.  In 2012 he and team-mate Mark Miller both broke the 100 miles/hr lap speed.  “With two wins under my belt, I’d like to go for the hat-trick this year and with Team MotoCzysz providing the equipment, I think we can get it done,” said an enthusiastic Rutter.  Mark Miller has ridden with the team since 2010, winning the race that year.  “The team and I have shared many memorable moments over the years and I look forward to being surrounded by my extended family again at the Isle of Man TT and to ride the latest permutation of their mind-blowing e1pc," said Miller.

MotoCzysz has also raced in TTXGP and FIM e-Power events at Laguna Seca, on the MotoGP weekend.  In 2010 Michael Czysz rode, beating Lightning Motorcycles by a nose.  In 2011 Czysz rode again, beating Lightning again by a nose.  In 2011 they also came to the TTXGP North American final at Miller Motorsports Park, and with Shane Turpin riding they beat Lightning by a much wider margin. "I've raced everything from Singles to Superbikes, but nothing as special as the MotoCzysz e1pc,” stated Turpin. “The Czysz group is truly leading the world in electric-bike technology and that has been proven in race results and in lap times that are rivaling conventional bikes. Anyone skeptical of electric-bike technology needs to see this thing run!"

At that 2011 Laguna Seca TTXGP/e-Power, Steve Rapp rode for a different team, Mission Motors.  While the Lightning/MotoCzysz contest ended up with MotoCzysz beating Lightning by a nose, Rapp on the Mission bike beat both of them by a long margin.  A margin so big that in 2012, even though the rest of the field made huge strides forward, they didn't beat the 2011 lap record set by Rapp.  “I'm very excited to get the chance to ride for Michael and the entire MotoCzysz team, and also to ride their latest creation," said an eager Rapp. “Ever since I first met Michael, he has always pushed limits and set new boundaries in the motorcycle industry. I think we will make a great team!”

A few paragraphs back I suggested their competitors haven't been sitting still.  That's a part of racing, that the teams are always striving to best each other.  At the TTXGP 2012 World Championship, Brammo's bikes were hitting 170 miles/hr in race conditions, a huge improvement over just a couple months earlier.  We won't see until some of these teams get into a race against each other, but I'm expecting that Brammo, Lightning, and MotoCzysz will have each upgraded their performance in a big way for 2013, and that the Laguna Seca race is going to be even more awesome than any previous instance of that event.

The MotoCzysz press release does not commit to anything in the eRoadRacing series other than the Laguna Seca event.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Renault announces Twizy Sport F1, souped up with Formula 1 KERS system

Renault made their super-duper announcement about "when the worlds of Formula 1 and electric cars meet," and, no, it wasn't about Renault joining the Formula E.  Instead it's the most unlikely thing you could expect.  They've souped up a Renault Twizy with Formula 1 racing components, including a KERS system that puts the Twizy on steroids.  Yes, a Twizy.  I checked, the date is not April 1.

The regular Renault Twizy has a 13 kilowatt (17 horsepower) electric motor, and a top speed of around 50 miles/hr.  Seems like the last sort of vehicle you'd soup up with that kind of technology.

It so happened that members of Renault's KERS team also helped to develop the Twizy's electric drive train.  That gave Renault's marketing department the idea of using the F1 KERS system, which has an electric motor-generator unit in its heart, in an all electric car.

Renault's engineers linked a KERS unit to the Twizy's drive shaft. When the driver activates the KERS system it boosts the power level to 72 kilowatts (97 horsepower), adding 80 horsepower, and raising the top speed to nearly 70 miles/hr.

So much for the Formula E idea.

Source: Renault soups up Twizy urban car with Formula 1 racing technology

Monday, April 22, 2013

Detroit Electric's SP:01, fastest production electric car, being shown in Shanghai

Coverage of Detroit Electric's electric sportscar, the SP:01, is portrayed as if the SP:01 is the fastest electric vehicle on the planet.  At 155 miles/hr top speed it's a fast electric vehicle, but it's not the fastest electric vehicle in existence.  It isn't even the fastest production electric vehicle in existence.  Detroit Electric is showing the car at the Shanghai Auto Show this week, making it the first public unveiling of the SP:01.

The company has existed for about 5 years originally as a joint venture between Albert Lam and ZAP, but the ZAP connection has been severed since 2009.   Lam was formerly a top executive at Lotus Engineering, so if you're scratching your head muttering "doesn't that look like ... " there's a reason for this.  The car is built on a platform provided by an unnamed automaker, and Detroit Electric adds an electric drive train, carbon fiber body, and passenger compartment stuff, to make a complete car.  I'm pretty confident that unnamed automaker is Lotus, FWIW.

I wrote up coverage of the SP:01 at  The specs are:  The SP:01 is a rear-wheel drive car, with a compact mid-mounted 201-bhp electric motor (delivering 166 lb-ft of torque), based on a lightweight bonded all-aluminum platform and all new carbon-fiber bodywork. The SP:01 weighs 2,354 pounds, and has specialized performance-tuned suspension, steering and brake systems. The combination provides a 155 mile an hour top speed, while zipping from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

What I want to cover here is whether the SP:01 is the fastest electric vehicle or what.  For the record, Detroit Electric describes it as the fastest production electric car.  The problem is that some of the news coverage is not being as careful in the phrasing  It's faster than the Tesla Model S, so yes it is the fastest production electric car.

The fastest production electric vehicle is the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike.  This bike is race tested and holds the land speed record for electric motorcycles, at 215 miles/hr.  And it is in production, in small quantities.  The next fastest electric car in production is the Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S, of course.

Here are some pictures they've released of the car:

Formula E shows electric race car in Los Angeles during Earth Day demo event

Today is Earth Day, and the Formula E guys went to Los Angeles to show off their electric race car and give Angelenos a preview of the racing championship.  Los Angeles is one of the 8 cities that have committed to hosting Formula E during 2014.

The FIA Formula E World Championship is an electric car racing series, featuring Formula 1 style cars, and is slated to be held in city centers around the world.  But if you read this blog you probably already know this.  During 2013 they're going to be giving demo events around the world, to raise awareness and interest.

Along with the demo in Los Angeles, they released a few pictures that may be the actual car meant for the racing series.  The car looks somewhat like the sketch released a couple months ago, and it looks nothing like the Formulec car that have been the only pictures we had available until now.

I've written up a news article based on the press release.  Here's the pictures they provided:

For comparison - this is the sketch released 2 months ago

Renault may be getting ready to join Formula E electric racing series

Renault has announced they will announce something about "When the worlds of Formula 1 and electric cars meet...".  That obtuse announcement of a pending announcement was accompanied by a nearly useless picture showing something vaguely electric performance car related.  I hesitated posting anything, preferring to wait until the April 25 announcement so I could have something solid to chew on.  However last week there was news floating around that Renault is looking to get involved with the Formula E electric race car series. 

Renault's entire announcement read as so:- "On Thursday, April 25, Renault will present its latest concept car at its Valladolid plant in Spain. This prototype vehicle, which features muscular styling and impressive performance credentials, provides a bridge between the world of Formula 1 and that of electric vehicles. It's a concept car that will make a lot of noise... but in total silence."

Doesn't say much more than a promise to make an announcement.  However, ...

Last week reported: Renault keen to get involved in Formula E

That report claims Renault is keen to get involved with the Formula E, should it actually launch in 2014 as planned.  "Formula E is something that we are looking at very closely," Carlos Tavares, COO of the Renault group, told AUTOSPORT. "It's very probable to say that, if it happens, we will be involved in one way or another. Renault is the EV sales leader in Europe and the Renault-Nissan alliance is the sales leader in the world.  [Formula E] is completely consistent with our mastery of the technology, and we're eager to use that platform to show to the people what we can do."

Apparently Renault wants to see Formula E as an open racing series, rather than a spec racing series.  The difference is that in a "spec" series, every vehicle in the race conforms to a tight specification and it might be that all race vehicles are made by the same manufacturer.  Open racing series, on the other hand, are, well, open to vehicles from any manufacturer and have looser requirements.

Autosport quotes the Renault spokesperson saying "There is a big difference between conventional racing and zero emission racing," Tavares explained. "A zero emission racing series is about promoting new technologies. If you are promoting this, you must realise that the best technology must win.  Renault as the EV leader in zero emissions would want to compete in a championship to demonstrate [its] technology is the best.  I would not like to be under the threat of Balance of Performance criteria, so I think we should be consistent with that.  After all the role of motorsport, in its purist form, is to promote the efficiency of new technology."

This sentiment is what brought me to pay attention to racing in the first place - because of the potential for electric racing to serve as a proving ground for electric technology.  That, and to prove to the public that electric vehicles aren't slow boring ugly golf carts.

So far the 2014 Formula E season is shaping up as a "spec" series with all the cars to be provided by Formula E.  They'll be designed and manufactured by a consortium of Spark Racing Technologies (SRT), McLaren and Dallara.  Even Drayson Racing, who has been showing their own electric race car design for a few years, will race in the 2014 Formula E using cars provided by Formula E

What Renault's Tavares said isn't consistent with entering the 2014 Formula E using cars provided by Formula E.  Leaves me wondering just what their announcement on the 25th will say.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chip Yates riding with Lightning Motorcycles at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Chip Yates is making a return to electric motorcycle racing for the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, riding in the saddle of a Lightning Motorcycle superbike. The press release sent by Chip Yates describes it as a an electric head-to-head battle between Yates and 6-time Pikes Peak motorcycle champion Greg Tracy (#555).

While Yates' stead in this challenge is a Lightning Motorcycles superbike, the stead chosen by Tracy is Amarok's electric superbike.

During his brief career in electric motorcycle racing, Yates set a record for electric motorcycles in the 2011 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. On the paved section of the course, his rookie split times landed him 9th overall among 112 motorcycles before the ensuing 2.6 miles of bumpy dirt roads in the middle of the course slowed his final result to a 12:50.094. The course is now paved all the way to the top of the mountain.

As to why he chose to ride with Lightning in order to defend his title, they're the only manufacturer of a bike that has gone faster than the one he built.  CHIP YATES: “The Lightning Electric Superbike is the only electric motorcycle to ever show a higher top speed than my electric bike, which is enjoying retirement at the Petersen Automotive Museum right now! When I heard Greg was coming to the mountain on an electric bike this year, I realized my Pikes Peak record time was at risk and so I turned to Lightning Motorcycles to help me raise the bar and hang on to the title.”

We need a little divergence into history of the 2011 season.  Yates had built his electric superbike and raced it in a few events during 2011, racking up impressive performances.  At the Bonneville Salt Flats he set a 196.420 miles/hr land speed record.  While that's impressively fast, a speed that has never been beaten since, and was 20 miles/hr faster than the 2010 record set by Lightning Motorcycles, it did not beat the 215.96 miles/hr record achieved three weeks ago by the Lightning Motorcycles team.  This is what Yates referred to.

The electric vehicle field at the Pikes Peak event is shaping up to be a big deal: Ted Rich has joined a team being organized by Hollywood Electrics, with Zero Motorcycles and Hollywood Electrics directly collaborating to support riders on Zero Motorcycles bikes, including Jeremiah Johnson, and several electric cars and motorcycles are on the roster.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tesla takes Model S to the Circuit of the America's

Tesla Motors just posted on their facebook page that they'd taken a Model S to the Circuit of the America's.  MotoGP is going to be there next weekend (and... uh... if the TTXGP/e-Power merger had happened more quickly, the eRoadRacing race would have been happening that same weekend). 

They took 6 laps around the track - and don't say anything about the characteristics of that lap but did leave this picture for us.

This isn't, of course, the first time Model S's have run on a race track.  A whole fleet of them came to the 2012 REFUEL race at Laguna Seca.

AMA pro Ted Rich joins Hollywood Electric's Pikes Peak racing team

This years Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is shaping up to be a major feast of electric racing, and it's just gotten better with a second AMA Pro racer signing up to ride an electric production bike up the mountain.  As we had noticed earlier, Hollywood Electrics is organizing a large team of electric Zero's to race the 2013 Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Ted Rich, the owner of SBK Training, is no stranger to electric motorcycles or electric racing.  He's been a development rider for Lightning Motorcycles, and had competed with the team in the 2011 TTXGP North America Championship at Miller Motorsports Park.  Additionally he rode a Zero S at the 2012 TTXGP/e-Power at Laguna Seca.

The other AMA Pro racer in the group organized by Hollywood Electrics is Jeremiah Johnson.  He will be riding a Zero S he personally owns, but with modifications by Hollywood Electrics. 

What Hollywood Electrics is doing is supporting, in collaboration with Zero Motorcycles, a group of riders on production electric motorcycles manufactured by Zero.  It is the first year the PPIHC has had a class for production electric motorcycles, and it expands the number of electric vehicles in the PPIHC over previous years.

Aston Martin to greenwash itself at 24 Hours of Nürburgring with hydrogen powered race car

British sports car maker Aston Martin is planning to take on the 41st ADAC Zurich 24 Hours of Nürburgring in Germany -- with a hydrogen powered car.  The Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S, based on the company's new four-seater Rapide S sports car, will become the first hydrogen-powered car to compete in an international event as well as the first zero CO2 emissions sports car to complete a race pace lap at the Nürburgring 24-hour race.

Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S

Let's not let "hydrogen race car" make us jump too quickly to the assumption that we're dealing with a fuel cell car.  Instead, what Aston Martin has done is to developed a prototype twin turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 engine that is capable of running on pure gasoline, pure gaseous hydrogen, or a blend of both. 

The Hybrid Hydrogen race car, as they're calling it, is meant to showcase Aston Martin's commitment to engineering innovation.

It takes some careful reading of the press release to tease this out - but the Hybrid Hydrogen is going to run in hydrogen mode only for the first lap.  (or so)

Aston Martin is promising that they "will be first to race with hydrogen power" and that it will be the "first zero CO2 emission lap in mainstream racing."  They are not promising a hydrogen powered race, nor a complete zero-CO2-emissions race.  Because this car can burn either gasoline or hydrogen, and because the tank is at a low enough pressure that it won't store much hydrogen, they're planning to run most of the race on gasoline, perhaps adjusting hydrogen mixes to change the burn characteristics, and to complete only one lap on pure hydrogen.

In other words, this technological feat is being performed for the purpose of a marketing stunt and to paint Aston Martin with a fine coating of greenwash.  They'll supposedly gain some green credibility unless one manages to work out the truth.

Schematic drawing
Note the ENGINE ... sigh

The modified engine comprises a hydrogen fuel rail, storage tanks and proprietary
engine management system.  This enables flexibility in the control of the combustion process according to each particular driving situation: either pure hydrogen, gasoline or a arbitrary blend of both can be selected to ensure optimum power, acceleration and CO2 reduction.

The hydrogen storage system includes four ultra-high strength carbon fiber tanks holding a total of 3.5kg (circa 7.7 lb) of hydrogen stored at a pressure of 350bar. Two of the tanks are in the passenger compartment, next the to the driver, and the other two are in the trunk. (Or, the 'boot', as they called it)

Aston Martin Chief Executive Officer Dr Ulrich Bez said: "As we celebrate our centenary in 2013 and look back on a century ofexcitement, innovation and style it's also the perfect time to look to the future with this astonishing race car.  Aston Martin has a strong track record of innovation and, with our superb history of competition and testing at the Nürburgring, it is only right that we showcase this amazing new technology at this year's 24-hour race.  Working with Alset Global to unveil this system in such a challenging environment as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring shows once again how confident we are in our cars, our people and our partners."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Brammo confirms rumored fourth 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup event in North America

The 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup calendar that's been published so far is incomplete, with the organizers claiming they're working on confirming at least one more date in both Europe and North America.  As it stands the published calendar shows 3 events on both continents, but I'd been told of a fourth event in North America that's not on the published calendar.  Brammo just published an event calendar that contains the fourth North America event I'd been told - so I feel safe to go ahead and discuss the calendar I'd been told.

Brammo's calendar shows these events:-
  • 05/04/2013 - 05/05/2013 - AFM Race - Infineon Infineon Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA with AFM
  • 06/01/2013 - 06/02/2013 - AFM Race - Thunderhill Thunderhill Raceway, Willows, CA with AFM 
  • 07/19/2013 - 07/21/2013 - Red Bull US Grand Prix - TTXGP North America Championship 2013 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
  • 08/16/2013 - 08/18/2013 - Red Bull Indianapolis GP - TTXGP North America Championship 2013 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway 
  • 09/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 - Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, UT - Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, UT
  • 09/27/2013 - 09/29/2013 - FIM Superbike World Championship - FIM Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 
What Brammo has done is to merge events from the AFM series with those of the eRoadRacing series, while neglecting to have the calendar read eRoadRacing rather than TTXGP.

The AFM has announced they are allowing Brammo to race electric bikes against gas bikes, plus are allowing other electric bike owners to arrange to do the same.  Two of the listed dates are AFM dates.

The remaining dates listed are the eRoadRacing series.  What was announced by the eRoadRacing organizers are the first three of the dates shown, and the official calendar ends with the Miller Motorsports events.  The fourth event, FIM Superbike at Laguna Seca, is not on the official calendar.

However what Azhar Hussain had explained to me as the constraints is that eRoadRacing, as a FIM racing series, had to be held at tracks which are homologated by the FIM.  There are very few such tracks in the U.S. giving eRoadRacing a limited set of events/tracks to appear at.  Given the late start of the U.S. eRoadRacing season, the only way it would work out was to hold the fourth eRoadRacing event at the FIM Superbike event.

Formula E business arrangements and other details

How did Formula E come into being, what are the business relationships between Formula E and the teams, or Formula E and host cities, and just how did Formulec get to be the provider of cars to Formula E?  Those questions and others are covered in an article in Square Mile Magazine, that was the source for the previous post about Formula E looking to add Monaco to the 2014 schedule.

Alejandro Agag is a businessman, and active in the world of Motorsports.  For example he owns a racing team in a Junior series to the Formula 1.  When he married a relative of the former Spanish Prime Minister, the wedding was attended by the likes of Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch, indicating that he is one of the Elite. 

Formula E is entering a sphere where the gasoline-powered game is incredibly expensive.  For example cities that host Formula 1 races pay a "hosting fee" to Formula 1 of £18 million, and fans are paying perhaps £110 for a three day pass to see the full weekend.  Big money, and gives a sense of the challenge Formula E faces in getting itself established.  For what it's worth, the TTXGP has faced a similar challenge in electric motorcycle racing, and was trying to establish itself without the support of the equivalent organization (FIM), and has recently been able to negotiate a deal with the FIM.

How did Formula E and the folks at Formulec get hooked up?  Agag heard of Formulec, and the article describes that company as the makers of the "first prototype single seater full electric race car."  The people at Kleenspeed or Drayson Racing might quibble with this, but there's no arguing that Formulec was a pioneer in this field.  In any case Agag got investment money from a Spanish real estate developer and bought Formulec for an amount in the tens of mullions of dollars US, under $100 million, while ensuring that the Formulec team stayed on board. 

The purpose of buying Formulec was to give Formula E credibility, and to give the teams a car to drive.
Concept drawing of
Formula E race car

What they've developed is a Formula-style racing car, electrically powered, with a top speed around 150 miles/hr.  To put that into perspective, the Detroit Electric sports car just announced is claimed to have a 155 miles/hr top speed, and at the 2012 TTXGP World Championship the Brammo Empulse RR's were hitting 170 miles/hr in racing conditions and could possibly have gone a bit faster if the controllers had been less wonky at that speed.

The business arrangement between Formula E and host cities is different than it is for Formula 1.  Rather than demand a large fee, Formula E asks for $0 in fees, but requires that the city provide the best position in the city, introductions to local sponsors etc, and provide police and infrastructure assistance.  Hence, the host cities are ponying up some resources but not monetary ones.

Formula E in Rome
Where Formula 1 races last 90ish minutes, the Formula E cars have battery pack capacity for 25 minutes of racing.   To get around that the racers will have two cars apiece - two racers per team - for four cars per team.  The race format includes at least one phase (should be three or four phases) where the racers switch from one car to the second car.  To make that switch, the racer parks the car in one spot, then has to run 160 meters to where their second car is parked. 

The Square Mile article does not say this, but if they want the Formula E race to follow the format of Formula 1 races (be the same total length of time) it will mean more than one car switch.  To last 90 minutes with cars that have 25 minute capacity means three switches between cars, and each car is used twice.  That in turn will mean a complete recharge within 25 minutes.  And that in turn means some sort of fast recharge capability.  That will either mean a fast battery swap, or actual fast recharge.  FWIW, Drayson Racing has been experimenting with the Qualcomm Halo wireless fast recharge system.

During a race each car will have "access to three power boosts" and a fourth "power boost" will be granted to the driver who gets the most number of telephone votes during a race.  

There will be a Formula E video game that will offer a unique feature - the ability to compete in the race online while the actual race is running. 

The prize fund will be £330,000 ($500,000) per race giving a total of £3.3m ($5m) per year.

Another way Formula E diverges from Formula 1 is in the cost of participation.  Formula 1 teams build their own cars and also have a large staff, sometimes 600 people.  It's thought the annual budget for a Formula 1 team is £120 million.  Formula E is providing teams with cars, though teams have the right to build their own if they choose, on a lease basis, and Formula E rules also limit the number of people who can be at the race thereby limiting the size of the team.  It's thought the per-team budget will be on the order of £2 million.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Formula E electric car racing looking to add event in Monaco for 2014 season

According to an article on, the Formula E series is planning to add two new cities to the 2014 season, and they're working hard to make one of those cities Monaco.  When we last covered Formula E a month ago, they'd announced 8 of the 10 cities in the 2014 schedule.  Formula E, of course, is the electric race car series sponsored by the FIA which is slated to have its first season of racing in 2014.

Monaco is of course closely associated with Formula 1 racing.