Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Zero wins eSuperStock award - almost as fast as Czysz/Barnes were in 2010

Zero Motorcycles put out a press release today saying they, well, Kenyon Kluge, had not only taken 2nd place in the eRoadRacing World Cup race just held at Laguna Seca, but that they won the eSuperStock Production Award at the race.  I must have missed that award being given out.  It wasn't part of the official award ceremony, and I don't recall it being discussed by the eRoadRacing organizers. 

The eSuperStock concept was developed during the 2012 season when Zero Motorcycles ran a fleet of 4 Zero S's in every North America TTXGP race.  The definition at that time was "production" electric motorcycles with sales over 25 units.

While I agree that "production electric motorcycles" should have a sales volume requirement of 25 bikes or so at a minimum, I think this definition of eSuperStock is flawed.  If you're going to define a racing class it should be based on performance, not sales volume. 

In any case the press release also mentions how Kenyon Kluge recorded the fastest laptimes ever for a production electric motorcycle - 1:48.706 - and that makes me want to go back in history to 2010 when it was such a miracle that we were having electric motorcycle racing at all.  That was just 3 years ago, but my how far have we come.

The top bikes that year were Lightning Motorcycles and MotoCzysz.  MotoCzysz had just returned from winning the TT ZERO on the Isle of Man, and the FIM e-Power series held the first electric motorcycle race at Laguna Seca in late July 2010.  They invited teams in from both Europe and North America, and it was probably the largest grid for electric motorcycles in the four times we've raced the Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend.

The leading bike during the race was made by Lightning, with Michael Barnes riding.  This was their first race bike, the one with the unobtanium EV1 motor, and unobtanium A123 battery pack.  He led strongly throughout the race until the last 100 yards or so of the last lap when his bike slowed down, and Czysz was able to zoom in front to take the victory

As exciting as that race was - it gives us an interesting contrast to the times recorded during the 2013 eRoadRacing race during the Laguna Seca MotoGP.

The race length in both cases was 9 laps, 32.49 km. 

2010: Michael Czysz' total time was 16:02.596 (9 laps), Barnes' total time was 16:03.834 (9 laps). 

2013: Eric Bostroms' total time was 14:13.799 (9 laps), Kenyon Kluges' total time was 14:54.902 (8 laps).

2010: Michael Czysz' best lap time was 1:44.496, Barnes' best lap time was 1:44.620.

2013: Shane Turpin's best lap time was 1:32.581, Eric Bostrom's best lap time was 1:33.012, Kenyon Kluge's best lap time was 1:48.706

That's three years, and look at the improvements. 

In 2010 all the bikes were some kind of prototype.  In 2013, all the bikes were either proper factory manufactured bikes, or factory prototype bikes.

In 2013 the speeds of the manufactured Zero S, widely regarded to be a 250cc/350cc equivalent, were almost as fast as the best bikes in 2010.  Well, almost as fast in lap time, but faster in terms of the total time to complete the race.  Oh.. wait.. that's because Kluge only completed 8 laps because he got lapped, while Bostrom completed 9 laps significantly faster than Kluge completed 8 laps. 


SANTA CRUZ, Calif., (July 23, 2013) – Zero Motorcycles, the global leader in the electric motorcycle industry, had another record breaking day of racing this past Sunday, July 21, 2013, at the 2013 FIM eRoadRacing World Cup at Laguna Seca MotoGP. Following very impressive performances at last month’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Zero Motorcycles continues to showcase the high performance results possible with their 2013 production-based line up. With four motorcycles qualifying to compete at this year’s event, Zero took both second and third places on the podium. Kenyon Kluge, Director of Electrical Engineering for Zero Motorcycles, won not only the eSuperStock Production Award, but also took second overall amongst all electric motorcycles competing and recorded the fastest times ever for a production-based Zero Motorcycle (1:48:706).

“This weekend was incredible and the Zero team really put an incredible bike under me to get the job done. My qualifying time was nearly 12 seconds faster than our best time from 2012 and our factory improvements to the 2013 model line really helped to make up the difference,” said Kenyon Kluge, Director of Electrical Engineering for Zero Motorcycles. “All of the riders on Zeros this weekend showed how impressive our production-based bikes are and big congratulations go out to everyone at Zero, the individual racers and most importantly of all, the support crews.”

Finishing third overall behind Kluge was Jeremiah Johnson, sponsored by BE-EV.com, who also scored his impressive race result on a production-based Zero Motorcycle. In addition to Kluge’s and Johnson’s podium results, both Brandon Miller, well-known as the “Electric Cowboy,” and Ted Rich, sponsored by SBKtraining.com, also competed on minimally customized 2013 Zero S ZF11.4 models. All Zero Motorcycles entered in the event used 2013 production-based technology with racing modifications applied.

“This is simply amazing,” said Scot Harden, Vice President of Global Marketing for Zero Motorcycles. “We’re still riding the high from our historic showing at Pikes Peak and now we’ve done it again. Kenyon and the entire Zero team should be very proud of the results they achieved. This only confirms how much of the success we are currently enjoying, both on and off the track, is due to the passion and commitment of our engineering and manufacturing teams who supported the Laguna Seca MotoGP. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

The eRoadRacing World Cup is a successor series to both the TTXGP and e-Power electric motorcycle series. It replaces both series, and is sanctioned by the FIM. Held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the racetrack is 2.238 miles in length with a 180 feet elevation change. It has eleven turns, including the famous "Corkscrew.” Zero’s recent successes at both the 2013 FIM eRoadRacing World Cup at Laguna Seca MotoGP and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb further validate the impressive performances specifications available from the 2013 Zero Motorcycles model line-up. With 68 ft.-lbs. of torque, 54 hp, top speeds of 95 mph and up to 137 miles on a single charge, the Zero S is available to consumers through Zero’s North American dealer network and global distributors. For more information on Zero Motorcycles visit www.zeromotorcycles.com.

About Zero Motorcycles
Zero Motorcycles is committed to transforming the motorcycling experience by bringing to market highly innovative electric motorcycles that offer exceptional value and performance. Zero is powered by innovation, driven by passion, guided by integrity and measured by results. Through extensive research, insight and experience, Zero combines the art and science of motorcycle development to create and manufacture products that excite consumers and inspire brand loyalty. Zero is determined to be the preeminent global electric motorcycle company.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What's the business model for manufacturing high end electric superbikes competitive with the gas bikes?

In the gas motorcycle market one can purchase street legal versions of bikes that are almost what the pro motorcycle racers ride on the track.  I haven't checked to see what the difference is, but if you want to spend enough money a fully amped up Honda 600cc superbike can be yours.  In  the electric motorcycle world one cannot quite do this, at least not from the major manufacturers in this field.

The Zero S and Empulse R exist primarily to be sold to regular riders who want an electric motorcycle for commuting around town.  Right?  Why aren't Zero and Brammo selling a proper race bike that can play with and beat the gas superbikes?

The potential for eRoadRacing to grow is in part limited by the limited number of high end superbikes existing in the world.  And, more importantly, the willingness of the teams who do own those high end superbikes to bring them to eRoadRacing events to race.

Lightning Motorcycles is selling replicas of their race bike.  However the production volume is low, and what I'm thinking of here is the higher volume manufacturers.  Mission Motorcycles is promising deliveries of their race bike replica, but it's also at relatively low volume.

What's the size of the prospective market?  Who is the prospective market?

One part of the prospective market is the people who buy top gas superbikes, but want to go electric.  Another part is those who are actually taking bikes to races, either in club racing or professional racing.  And of course a part of that market is the eRoadRacing series.  In 2014 the eRoadRacing will be a proper World Cup series with racers flying between continents to take part.  And the bikes are supposed to be proper electric superbikes.

Richard Hatfield, CEO of Lightning Motorcycles, did tell me one time there are plenty of people who've bought a Tesla Model S, whose garage also contains high end gas superbikes, and who would want a high end electric superbike, and who have the personal budget to pay for it.  I've never lived the lifestyle where $100,000 is a reasonable price to pay for a car, but I do understand there are people who do think so.  I can imagine, then, that what Hatfield said is correct.

That's one part of the market - ultra rich who feel the need for high powered toys to ride or drive.

Some of them may also be active in club racing, and want an electric club racing bike.

Now, how about proper racing either against gas bikes or in the electric motorcycle series, the eRoadRacing World Cup?

Lightning Motorcycles did prove recently it's possible to enter an electric motorcycle in a race dominated by gas bikes, and to win decisively.  Namely, the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race where they won outright by over 20 seconds.

Maybe an electric motorcycle team could get a lot of racing action without entering the eRoadRacing series?  Just don't expect electric motorcycles anytime soon in events like the AMA Superbike racing or in the MotoGP.  Until the high end electric superbikes can complete a 22+ lap race with enough juice to be as racing competitive at the end of the race as they were at the start, the AMA will not let the electrics anywhere near the starting line.  That's going to require a 30+ kilowatt-hour pack on the bike plus motor/controller systems that can last that long a race without overheating.

What about the eRoadRacing World Cup starting in 2014?  What I know is it's slated to be an International series, with the teams following a schedule almost identical to MotoGP, racing as a side event within MotoGP events.  At least initially.  That means teams with enough budget to fly back and forth all over the place.

It strikes me to ask, and I don't know the answer -- where is the money going to come from?  Where will the bikes come from?

Currently in the entire world there are existing a small handful of high end electric superbikes that are competitive with the 600cc gas bikes.  These are approximately:  2 Brammo Empulse RR's, 2-3-4 Lightning Superbikes, 2 MotoCzysz e1pc 2013's, 2 Meunch bikes, 1-2 Mugen Shinden bikes, one Zongshen AC bike, and an unknown number of the Mission R's.

How is eRoadRacing planning to fill out a grid?  Who will be the manufacturers of the bikes for their 2014 grid?  Who is going to provide the sponsorship dollars to pay for it all?  Where will the audience come from to make the sponsors willing to pay?

I dunno.  What I do know is, at the moment, Brammo and Zero are the volume manufacturers of electric motorcycles, and their production bikes are aimed squarely at the typical commuter bike market.  They have different takes on what that means, but that's where they're focused.

Performance comparison between Empulse TTX and Zero S at eRoadRacing Laguna Seca

Last night before going to bed I attempted to put together some thoughts on comparing relative performance between the Zero S's and Empulse TTX's at the eRoadRacing event at Laguna Seca yesterday.  The goal was to take a close look at the actual performance in race conditions of those two bikes.  It's one thing to look at a spec sheet and say "Oh, the Empulse should be faster" but it's another thing to see them at a race and see the Zero S's beating the Empulses and wonder what happened.  Is it because of upgraded controllers, or rider skill?

Brammo Empulse TTX Shelina Moreda (#93) Team Parker Brammo Unknown - one expects they tweaked the controller settings
Brammo Empulse TTX Arthur Kowitz (#8) Independent He worked with Ely Schless for 3 weeks in Ely's shop reconfiguring the bike, perhaps mostly the battery box
Zero S (Zero Motorcycles) Kenyon Kluge (#96) Zero Motorcycles employee, races as K2 Racing Upgraded to gen4 size6 controller, added cooling fan to controller, added cooling ducts directing air to motor, added a different fairing
Zero S (Zero Motorcycles) Jeremiah Johnson (#64) Independent Upgraded to gen4 size6 controller, added a different fairing, added a gas tank top so he'd have better leverage, added cooling ducts directing air to motor, unknown other tweaks by Hollywood Electrics
Zero S (Zero Motorcycles) Ted Rich (#28) SBKTraining.com Did not upgrade controller, added box around size4 controller to hold ice water, presumably some suspension tweaks
Zero S (Zero Motorcycles) Brandon Nozaki-Miller (#10) Independent Upgraded to gen4 size6 controller, cooling ducts directing air to motor, unknown further tweaks by Hollywood Electrics and his own line of upgrade/tweak gadgets

That's the raw data.  Again, going by numbers on the stock spec sheets the Empulse TTX should beat the Zero S.  Most of these Zero S's were upgraded to have the same controller as is used in the Empulse TTX.  One was not.

Ted Rich 1:51.386Kenyon Kluge 1:48.068Kenyon Kluge 1:48.706
Shelina Moreda 1:51.419Ted Rich 1:49.061Jeremiah Johnson 1:52.361
Kenyon Kluge 1:52.205Shelina Moreda 1:51.019Arthur Kowitz 1:55.586
Jeremiah Johnson 1:55.736Jeremiah Johnson 1:52.046
Arthur Kowitz 1:57.091Arthur Kowitz 1:54.417
Brandon Nozaki-Miller 2:05.759Brandon Nozaki-Miller 1:55.625

During the race, Shane Turpin, Shelina Moreda, Ted Rich and Brandon Nozaki-Miller all crashed out.  We don't have lap time data for them because they didn't complete enough laps.  The table is also focusing solely on the TTX's and S's, not the Empulse RR's because they're in a different universe of capability.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Documenting the modifications to Zero S's at eRoadRacing Laguna Seca 2013

One of the questions about the eRoadRacing grid at Laguna Seca is the relative performance of the Empulse TTX's and Zero S's.  These are manufactured electric motorcycles from Brammo and Zero, and there's debate over which approach (transmission versus direct drive) is better.  The results of the weekend showed the two makes being relatively equal, and it appears to me to be more about rider skill, as I noted in writing up the qualifying round results.  But there is a factoid to accommodate in interpreting those results:  All the Zero S's in the race had modifications, primarily to use a larger (more powerful) controller. 

To see the data in tables go here: Performance comparison between Empulse TTX and Zero S at eRoadRacing Laguna Seca 

Stock the 2013 Zero S uses a SEVCON Gen4 size4 controller.  The bikes ridden by Jeremiah Johnson, Brandon Nozaki-Miller, and Kenyon Kluge all had been upgraded to size6 controllers.  The bike ridden by Ted Rich had a size4 controller, but he'd built a special box around the controller into which he poured ice water to keep the controller cool.

Duct work on Kenyon Kluge's bike
Using the size 6 controllers meant the potential to pump more power into the motors.  So is this modification going to make the bikes more powerful.  I understood however that they had the controllers turned down, in one case to 50% power.  Another item is that they faced overheating issues, especially in the motor.  All the Zero S's had another modification to install some air ducting, generally from Home Depot, to direct air onto the motor to improve the air cooling.

Jeremiah Johnson observed to me that the motor is located BEHIND the battery box, meaning that it won't have good air flow.  In normal riding this isn't going to be important, but for a race where the rider needs to has to push the bike as hard as he can, cooling the motor and controller is vital.  Zero's design team is aiming for the typical daily rider, not for the needs of the racer.  This is understandable because they can sell a lot more bikes to typical daily riders than they can to racers.

I was told that Kenyon's bike was "stock" except for the upgraded controller, the duct work shown above, and a fan mounted to the controller.  Dunno if they tweaked any controller settings.

Brandon's and Jeremiah's bikes had some prep work done by Hollywood Electrics, and had the size6 controller.  Additionally Brandon has been developing various addons, but one in particular he claims gives him an important speed boost.  This is a sound system that responds to various bits of information such as throttle settings and perhaps lean or speed, and makes different sounds based on the conditions.  This gives him auditory feedback about the behavior of the bike that's missing because the bike is naturally quiet.  Loud vehicles naturally give us auditory feedback that we naturally use in driving.  Brandon believes the auditory feedback helps him take in information audially that he'd otherwise have to receive visually such as reading dials on the dashboard, but because it's audio input he can keep his eyes focused on the track where they belong.

In surprising finish, Bostrom, Kluge and Johnson take podium at eRoadRacing Laguna Seca

After yesterday's eRoadRacing qualifying at Laguna Seca, todays race looked to be a shoe-in for Brammo to win 1st and 2nd, a three way contest for 3rd, and so on, just like it was in qualifying.  Today was one of those race days where the results leave you scratching your head, saying "the results are the results."  In 1st place we had Eric Bostrom, in 2nd place we had Kenyon Kluge (who'd qualified at 3rd place), and in 3rd place we had Jeremiah Johnson (who'd qualified in 6th place) ... AND, only 4 bikes out of the 8 starting made it to the finish line.

Shane Turpin, Brammo
That last point was very important for one Shane Turpin, who completed 8 laps just like all the others (he'd lapped the field) but who failed to finish the race.  On the results sheet he scored a DNF, thanks to the battery pack running out of juice on his last lap.  Turpin had led for most of the race, was hitting 140+ miles/hr speeds on the front straight, and even broke Mission Motors' lap record during a race by hitting 1:32.581.  During the 2011 e-Power/TTXGP, Steve Rapp (Mission Motors) had a 1:33.194 best lap time during the race.  Rapp's faster lap time, 1:31.376, occurred during qualifying and that record still stands.

In 2012, Michael Barnes (Lightning Motorcycles) had a 1:33.860 best lap time during practice,  and during the race had a 1:35.319 best lap time.

Basically, Turpin was tearing up the track running much faster than team-mate Eric Bostrom.  Team Manager Brian Wismann claimed this was because the bike had an old battery pack, with cells they'd wanted to replace but hadn't done so during the race.  I'm wondering if he was hitting the throttle too hard.

Eric Bostrom, Brammo
In any case, Eric Bostrom came in with the 1st place finish.   His best lap time was 1:33.012, which also beat Steve Rapp's record from 2011.  His total time was 14:13.799, and he had lapped the whole field.  His lap times were consistently 1:33.xxx until the last three laps when he slowed to 1:34.xxx and then 1:35.121 for the last lap.

In the first lap Shelina Moreda went sliding in the corkscrew.  The race took place at 9:30 AM, and conditions had been foggy just a few minutes earlier, with the fog lifting just before the race.  Apparently the track was a bit wet/damp still, and she lost traction in the middle of the corkscrew.   The corkscrew is a blind turn, where you're racing up-hill, take a small turn at the top of the hill, and then you're on a downslope that's supposed to be like going down a cliff, but there's a few turns to negotiate along the way.  Jeremiah Johnson was just behind her and Ted Rich, and had a good look at what happened after Moreda went tumbling.  Ted Rich was just behind her, and as Johnson crested the hill to enter the corkscrew he saw Ted Rich impacting Shelina's bike, which was already sliding into the dirt.

That took out two riders - Moreda and Rich, who were part of the trio that was going to be contesting 3rd place.  Moreda's bike was scraped up pretty bad on the left side, and her leathers were muddied, but both her and Ted Rich were fine.  Rich even raced in the AMA Superbike race shortly later.

The next to get knocked out was Brandon Miller.  He'd not been allowed to take the warmup lap because of some mechanical problems due to a mishap in the paddock.  He was able to start the race, and completed 1 lap doing really good, but in turn 3 of the 2nd lap the bike slid out from under him, for unknown reasons, and he ended up in the dirt banging up a lot of parts on his bike.

Everyone else rode fine and made it home.

Kenyon Kluge took 2nd place with a total time of 14:54.902, best lap time of 1:48.706.  In the post-race interview, Kluge said he hadn't known that Moreda and Rich had crashed out, and rode like they were behind him.  His best laptime was the 2nd lap, the others were 1:50.xxx-1:52.xxx.

Jeremiah Johnson took 3rd place with a total time of 15:18.040, best lap time of 1:52.361.  His first lap took 2:00.478, if only because of having to dodge past Moreda and Rich with their accident.  Otherwise his laptimes were consistent, hitting 1:52's for the next four laps, then 1:54 and 1:55 for the last three.

Arthur Kowitz took 4th place with a total time of 15:35.766, best lap time of 1:55.586.  He consistently hit 1:55-1:56 lap times the whole race.
Jeremiah Johnson

Shane Turpin, race-prepping the bike
Brandon Nozaki-Miller, on his one lap

Brandon Miller on his broken bike

Zero Motorcycles crew, celebrating

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shane Turpin takes pole position at eRoadRacing World Cup, Laguna Seca

Shane Turpin (Brammo)
In todays qualifying round for the eRoadRacing World Cup at Laguna Seca, Shane Turpin (Brammo) took pole position, with Eric Bostrom (Brammo) taking second, and Kenyon Kluge (Zero) taking the last spot on the front row.  Zero S's did very well, with two of them beating the fastest Empulse TTX rider (Shelina Moreda), and almost everyone improved their game considerably, including Brandon Nozaki-Miller who knocked 10 seconds off his time to be within the 120% threshold for qualifying.

Eric Bostrom (Brammo)
One interesting result is that the gap between the fast bikes (Empulse RR) and the not-so-fast (Empulse TTX and Zero S) has shrunk over previous years where there was a vast gulf of performance.

Another interesting result is simply that the grid is full of production bikes (Empulse TTX and Zero S), other than the two Empulse RR's which are manufacturer prototypes.  In previous years the grid was full of prototype bikes.  This is simply a sign that the field is maturing rapidly.

Kenyon Kluge, K2 Racing, Zero Motorcycles
The qualifying race was held at 5pm local time, in beautiful clear weather and temperatures in the 70's.  Those of you in other parts of the world that are roasting right now, I apologize, and let me say that the California Coast is blessed with cooling breezes from the ocean that make our climate fantastic.  But it is also known to give dense fog in the morning, and given that the race is scheduled for 9:40 AM there's a decent chance that it will be rescheduled due to fog.

Ted Rich, SBKTraining.com
The Brammo Boys, Shane Turpin and Eric Bostrom, were in fine form and matching each other quite well.  Shane again had a faster best lap time, 1:32.516 over Eric's 1:33.087, but their total time was 0.571 seconds apart meaning.  Both of them improved quite a bit over yesterday's lap times in the 1:34 range.  Both appear to be within striking distance of beating Mission's lap speed record, 1:31.376, set during the 2011 e-Power/TTXGP.

Shelina Moreda, Brammo
For the 3rd place spot, Kenyon Kluge, Ted Rich, and Shelina Moreda, reshuffled the results.  Both Kluge and Rich improved their performance, while Moreda gave about the same performance as yesterday.  This means she slipped from 4th to 5th, and because Kluge improved more than Rich he came in 3rd with Rich coming in 4th.  Kluge, best lap time 1:48.068, Rich, best lap time 1:49.061, Moreda, 1:51.019.

Jeremiah Johnson, Be-ev.com
Next down the results is Jeremiah Johnson, Arthur Kowitz and Brandon Nozaki-Miller.  All improved their time, but their order did not change.  Johnson, best lap time 1:52.046, Kowitz, best lap time 1:54.417, Miller, best lap time1:55.625.  Miller knocked off over 10 seconds in his lap time, getting within the 120% threshold necessary to qualify.

We really really wish one or two other top teams (Lightning, Mission) were present so that there'd be more of a contest for the top spot.  In previous years, this event at Laguna Seca had some pizazz because it drew so many top electric bikes to it.  This time...?  But we get the race that occurs because of the teams who choose to show up and play.  So let's focus on this.

Arthur Kowitz
The main take-away this time around is that the whole field has taken another big step forward.  The Laguna Seca race has always been a benchmark we could use to track the improvements of the electric motorcycle field.  This year the improvement is not only speed improvements, but the overwhelming presence of manufactured production bikes that fit the common definition of "production bike" (over 25 units built and sold).

Brandon Nozaki-Miller
Another interesting takeaway is the presence of AMA pro racers who are able to easily join the field because of the production bikes.  Ted Rich runs a superbike training school (SBKTraining.com) and has been involved with electric racing since at least 2011, when he rode for Lightning Motorcycles at that years North America final race.  In 2012 he rode for Zero at Laguna Seca, and this year he rode for them at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and now at Laguna Seca.  The second example is Arthur Kowitz, whose AMA career dates to the 1980's and who had won his share of races back in the day.  He has been racing vintage bikes in the AHRMA series, but then had a desire to race electric bikes.  He's bought both an Empulse R and Empulse TTX, and is racing with the TTX.  He explained to me that by racing electric he feels he can make more of a positive impact on the world than he can with his vintage bikes.  Racing vintage bikes is like looking behind, to the past, while racing electric is like facing forward into the future.
This would have been a totally awesome picture
of Eric Bostrom and Shane Turpin together
if only the camera had chosen to focus properly....

Friday, July 19, 2013

At eRoadRacing Laguna Seca, it's a Brammo-a-Brammo fight and no sign of Lightning

The big show this weekend in electric racing is the 2013 eRoadRacing event at Laguna Seca.  It's being held in conjunction with some other little event you may have heard of, MotoGP, and is a continuation of the e-Power/TTXGP joint events which began in 2010.  The last three years it has been hands-down the best electric motorcycle action of the season if only to see the competition develop between Mission Motorcycles, Lightning Motorcycles, MotoCzysz and Brammo.  However, this year it seems Brammo may be the only team fielding top-end bikes.

Eric Bostrom, Brammo, in the corkscrew

Brammo's lineup is Eric Bostrom and Shane Turpin for "Team Icon Brammo," and Shelina Moreda for "Team Parker Brammo".  Additionally one of their customers, Arthur Kowitz, an AMA pro racer, is present with his personally owned Empulse TTX.  Yes, Brammo has an Empulse TTX customer.  No, Steve-O is not on Brammo's roster.

Ted Rich, SBKTraining.com on a Zero S
Zero's lineup is Kenyon Kluge (a Zero employee) and three of Zero's customers, Ted Rich, Jeremiah Johnson and Brandon Nozaki-Miller.  Rich, Johnson and Miller are all riding Zero S's prepped by Hollywood Electrics, while Kluge is riding something we should consider to be a prototype bike.

It's 8 bikes total.

I haven't been to the track yet to see what's actually going on, but the results sheet from Friday's practice does not show results from:  Lightning Motorcycles, MotoCzysz, nor Virginia Tech.

We understand MotoCzysz' absence because of Michael Czysz' health challenges.  Also it was going to be a surprise if Mission were there, because they've been focusing more on the business of designing and building stuff and less on racing.  But, both Lightning and VA Tech promised they would contest the eRoadRacing season.   Virginia Tech has been working on building a proper superbike and regularly posting updates and pictures on Facebook.  Lightning had sent out a press release a few months ago saying they'd be contesting every event they could get to, and this one is in their back yard.  Further, they're coming off having made an astounding win at Pikes Peak, demonstrating they've got a powerful bike on their hands this year.

What I've been able to learn is that Lightning either never signed up, or pulled out last Friday, and no, I don't know why.  As for VA Tech, their last Facebook posting is from a week ago and made it clear they're still building the bike.  MotoCzysz, well, let's all wish Michael Czysz good health and a well-deserved speedy recovery.

Let's get back to the business at hand which is the results from the practice round.

Basically there are two segments to this race, the fast bikes and the not-so-fast bikes.  In the fast bikes all we have left are the two Brammo Empulse RR's.  In the not-so-fast bike category we have a mix of Empulse R, Empulse TTX and Zero S's.  The results are mixed together in this group, so it's not clear which manufacturer makes the fastest bike.

Bostrom and Turpin gave nearly identical performances.  Turpin, had a 1:34.119 best lap time, to Bostrom's 1:34.134, and Bostrom finished all of .015 seconds behind Turpin.  This is shaping up to be a fun battle of the Empulse RR riders for 1st and 2nd place.

For 3rd and 4th was a battle between Ted Rich (Zero S) and Shelina Moreda (Empulse TTX).  The two of them finished 17 secs behind the leaders, and only .033 seconds apart.  Rich's best lap time was 1:51.386 to Moreda's 1:51.419.

Behind them was Kluge (Zero S prototype), Johnson (Zero S) and Kowitz (Empulse TTX), with best lap times between 1:52-1:57.  Brandon Nozaki-Miller, also on a Zero S, had a 2:05.759 best lap time, which was well slower than the 1:59.856 threshold for the 120% margin.  It may be that Miller won't qualify for the race, unless some kind of special dispensation is granted.

Shane Turpin, Brammo, Empulse RR
Shelina Moreda, Brammo Empulse TTX

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zongshen big winner of eRoadRacing first round, Oscar Pena ahead on points

Oscar Pena, Zongshen
Zongshen team member Oscar Pena is leading the European eRoadRacing series after taking 2nd place in both of the races at Valencia, and leading team-mate Ho Chi Fung crashing out in the 2nd race.  Overall Zongshen took almost all the podium spots, and are the big winners of the weekend.

The Zongshen line-up is an AC-motored bike, ridden by Fung, and two DC-motored bikes ridden by Pena and Su Rong Zai.  In the first race Pena and Zai were battling for 2nd and 3rd the whole race with Pena taking 2nd by a .3 second margin over Zai, while Fung took 1st with a 17 second margin.

In the 2nd race, Fung crashed out in the 1st lap allowing Julian Miralles to lead for a couple laps.  Eventually Miralles fell back in the ranks, with Zai and Pena ending up in the 1st and 2nd spots.

Adrian Menchen, Renegade Z
Despite having failed to qualify on Saturday for the 2nd race, Harald Gasse was on the grid and participating.  The press release doesn't explain how this happened, however in the past at e-Power events the staff had appealed to a higher board for permission to allow a bike on the grid despite having fallen below the threshold to qualify.  However, according to the press release he didn't make it out of last place.

We see from the Sprint race results sheet that the total time margin between 1st and last place was 1:56.144 meaning that Fung was about to lap Gasse when Fung crossed the finish line. Haven't seen a results sheet from the 2nd race of the day, but we assume it's similar but for Ho Chi Fung being at the bottom with a DNF.  The point is to simply notice the gulf of speed between fast and slow bikes.

The fast bikes on this results sheet aren't as fast as the ones we have in North America, but the speed gulf remains. 

In gas powered racing they have the luxury of having enough bikes of a given speed/power class to fill a 20-30 bike grid with just those bikes.  In the electric world we don't have that luxury, there aren't enough bikes to fill a proper grid, and instead run what should be two classes together as one class.

Sprint race results

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zongshen takes pole position in both eRoadRacing events this weekend in Valencia

 Zongshen has the pole position in both eRoadRacing races this weekend at Valencia.  Both qualifying rounds were held today, with two Zongshen riders finishing 1st and 2nd in each race, giving them 1st and 2nd positions in the starting grid for both races.

Because there will be two eRoadRacing races on Sunday, the two qualifying rounds are each assigned to one of the races.  Qualifying 1 determined the starting grid for the sprint race on Sunday morning, while Qualifying 2 determined the starting grid for the full race on Sunday afternoon.

The results sheet for Q1 show 7 riders with Ho Chi Fung getting the fastest lap speed, 1:58.218.  Fung is a perennial top rider in Team Zongshen.

This is the starting grid for the 4-lap sprint race:
  1. CHI FUNG, Hoi (01.58,219) – Zongshen
  2. RONG ZAI, Su (02.03,579) – Zongshen
  3. MIRALLES, Julian (02.08,177) – Renegade Z
  4. PENA, Oscar (02.15,044) – Zongshen
  5. WEST, Sam (02.15,265) – Agni Racing
  6. MENCHEN, Adrian (02.17,434) – Renegade Z
  7. GASSE, Harald (02.27,667) – Renegade Z
Zongshen is the team from China that has raced with the TTXGP since 2010.  They're currently racing with bikes that have AC motors.  Agni Motors has raced with the TTXGP since 2009, and is an electric motor manufacturer from India, commercializing motor designs developed by Cedric Lynch.  However, I've never heard of "Renegade Z" but we see from the results sheet that their top two riders are Spanish and Harald Gasse is German.

A posting on the eRoadRacing website says Renegade Z is an "independent Dutch Team" using 2013 model Zero S's.  Their aim is to show factory-produced bikes work not just for commuters, but also racers.  Their S's have the 11.4 kilowatt-hour packs.  The spec'd top speed of those bikes is close to 100 miles/hr.  A group of Zero S's were entered in the recent Pikes Peak Hill Climb, with official support from Zero Motorcycles and Hollywood Electrics.

The results sheet from Q2 showed 7 riders, but this time Harald Gasse was too slow to qualify for the race.  The starting grid is:
  1. CHI FUNG, Hoi (01.56,505) – Zongshen
  2. RONG ZAI, Su (02.02,920) – Zongshen
  3. MIRALLES, Julian (02.04,301) – Renegade Z
  4. MENCHEN, Adrian (02.05,890) – Renegade Z
  5. WEST, Sam (02.13,387) – Agni Racing
  6. PENA, Oscar (02.18,327) – Zongshen
  7. GASSE, Harald DNQ (02.25,736) – Renegade Z
Why did Gasse not qualify?  This never happened under the TTXGP, but did happen under the FIM e-Power series.  What's happening is that FIM has a rule effectively requiring all the bikes in the grid to be within a certain lap speed of each other.  Look at the spread of lap times here and we see that Gasse is going quite a bit slower than Fung.

Between the two qualifying rounds everyone posted better lap times, so Gasse must have just barely fallen below the threshold to qualify. This is the explanation on the eRoadRacing site: "Unfortunately, Gasse failed to qualify due to the 20 per cent speed-variant rules set by FIM sporting regulations."
The other thing we notice is the two Spanish riders in Renegade Z did very well indeed.

The images below come from Facebook postings, most of which are in an album located here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.700942073256132.1073741835.148160931867585&type=1
Qualifying 1 results
Qualifying 2 results
Sam West, Agni Racing
I see from the motors that Agni is still using the Agni-95 series motor
Oscar Pena, Zongshen
Adrian Menchen, Renegade Z - Zero S ZF11
Julian Miralles, Renegade Z
Su Rong Zai, Zongshen

Harald Gasse, Renegade Z

eRoadRacing unveils new website, new logo, in time for the Valencia race

One of the puzzles in the process of replacing the e-Power and TTXGP series with the eRoadRacing electric motorcycle race series has been - where's the website? The eRoadRacing crew have unveiled what they're calling a "temporary installment" and are promising a fully integrated website that will "offer fans all the latest FIM eRoadRacing news in a fun and engaging manner".

They also unveiled the logo for the eRoadRacing World Cup. Azhar Hussain MBE, founder and CEO of eRoadRacing, said: ‘We are pushing the boundaries of motorsport on a daily basis, whether it is teams developing technologies of the future or riders putting that technology in front of the fans. We wanted a logo to match the ground-breaking work we are doing. This logo does exactly that and we hope the fans are proud of the branding because they will make FIM eRoadRacing the future of motorsport.’
FIM President Vito Ippolito said: ‘These are exciting times for FIM eRoadRacing. Electric powered motorcycles have seen huge developments over the past four years and they are here to stay. The new website has been designed with the fans in mind and it is a great way of engaging with the next generation of motorsport fans. FIM eRoadRacing offers a high-competitive racing platform for electric-vehicle technology to progress further and I am looking forward to the first race at Valencia on Sunday 14 July.’

I have to say - I think the white background and other color choices are an improvement over the black background of the TTXGP website.

It is now visible at eRoadRacing.com

Friday, July 12, 2013

eRoadRacing season opens, practice round results in Valencia

The eRoadRacing 2013 season is now underway with an event in Valencia Spain.  I've been seeing postings on Facebook about the practice round today, and the eRoadRacing organizers have now sent out a press release.  It says Zongshen, Agni Racing and Renegade Z are racing, which means a conspicuous absence of Muench a long-time stalwart of the European TTXGP and e-Power. 

All the teams ran 11 laps during practice, with Zongshen pulling the fastest laps.

Riding for Agni is Sam West, who, while he's an experienced motorcycle racer, is a rookie to electric bikes. He said:  ‘Practice went really well.  We had a bit of an issue with the amount of power the bike was giving at the start but we made a couple of changes, went back out and I started to get the hang of running without any gears and without an engine!  The bike is fantastic. It is great to hear it running without any noise and to get such a pure riding experience. You can really hear what the tyres are doing, what the chassis is doing and you get lots of feedback from the breaks, which you wouldn’t normally get.  It was a bit unusual to have no engine breaking. There was a bit of locking up and a bit of backing it into the turns while I got used to that but it was a fantastic experience. We are making a few changes to the suspension for tomorrow to get it how I like it. We are also going to ramp up the power and hopefully go a bit quicker.'

Zongshen’s team manager Daniel Chung said: ‘Practice went okay but the temperature on the machine is a little high. We will try and get more wind into the system to help it cool down. This year we increased the batteries’ capacity and the AC motor is reacting really well, so we are happy about that. We should be okay for qualifying; we just want to see what speed we can get with the new batteries now.’

The first qualifying race is at 11:30 AM local time (GMT+1) and the second is at 4pm.  The schedule is for two races, the first being a four-lap sprint race at Noon on Sunday, and the second an eight lap race beginning at 4pm.

From their press release it's unclear what the actual results are, and how many bikes are present in total.  In the past Zongshen and Agni have both had multiple bikes, but perhaps this time they only have one apiece, and perhaps there are only 3 bikes present in total.

Formula E completes 2014 season calendar choosing Berlin as 10th city

Just a few days ago Formula E had announced that Spark Racing Technologies (SPARK), their technology subsidiary, had been approved for homologation by the FIA to provide cars for Formula E's 2014 season.  Now they've announced selection of Berlin as the 10th city in the 2014 season.

This completes the schedule for the 2014 season, which will comprise events in these cities:- London, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Putrajaya, Bangkok, and Berlin

The Formula E is an electric car racing series that will launch in 2014, assuming the FIA gives its approval to everything the Formula E organizers have put together.  The series is to have 10 teams with two drivers apiece and two cars per driver.  The events will be held in city centers, rather than at race tracks.

Senator Cornelia Yzer commented: “Berlin, as an international city and leading metropolis of electric mobility, is an ideal venue for Formula E. We are pleased to be able to host the event in this cosmopolitan city and for Berlin to present new and innovative technologies. Formula E will also inspire people to consider Electromobility.”

Gernot Lobenberg from eMO commented: “Formula E in Berlin will show a wide audience that electric mobility is fun and free of emissions. Formula E also suits the city as to date we have introduced more than 150 projects in the field of electric mobility in Berlin and Brandenburg."

Gerhard W. Steindorf, CEO of Tempelhof, added: "We are very pleased that Formula E will be held at Tempelhof Airport. Since 2009, the historical building has been the scene of numerous, very different events. The airport building is always a spectacular setting for the presentation of innovative ideas and technologies. Formula E is something completely new and pioneering and fits it perfectly into our idea of how this unique place is used.”

Source: Formula E ready to build electric race cars, adds Berlin to 2014 calendar

Who Cares If Electric Racecars Are Not As Fast As Gas Race Cars?

One of my colleagues over on PlugInCars.com (where I write news articles) wrote a piece that tried to diminish the need for electric racing.  The thesis is a) the current crop of electric race cars is slower than gas race cars, b) what we need is longer range, not faster performance, and that fast electric cars will have a shorter range.

There's a certain amount of "hmm, good point" to what he says.   But then the commentators came along and made it clear that high performance is a desirable trait for electric cars and electric motorcycles.  Just scroll down past the article and read the comments.  Many of them say they disagree with that writer, if only because there are several kinds of needs that electric vehicles can fill.  Not everyone needs to carry a lot of people or stuff, and some people legitimately want speed.  Further, racing acts as a test-bed for technology development.

As for the question at the top of this post... we recently had a historic win in the motorcycle category at Pikes Peak. (see also on PlugInCars)  This is something the electric motorcycle racing teams have been working towards for years - to win outright, against the best gas bike racers in the world, with an electric motorcycle.

Preceding that win was years of development work.  Years in which the electric motorcycle races were slower than the gas bike races.  The electric motorcycle races were ignored and shunned in part because they were slower than gas bikes. 

To racers what matters most is the speed and capabilities.  They don't seem to care about whether it's piston driven, or electrically driven or warp driven, they want speed.  An electric bike, or electric car, that's dressed up as a race bike or race car, but is slower than the gas powered equivalent, that's just not interesting.  

Hence, as cool as the electric motorcycle racing has been the last few years it was slower than the gas bikes and was ignored by all but the most die-hard electric fanatics (like me).

To answer the question at the top - it may not be important that today's electric race vehicles are slower than todays equivalent gas powered race vehicles.  The last several years of electric motorcycle racing had exciting races, after all, even though they were slower than the gas bike racing.  What does matter is to keep developing the technology.  Soon enough the electric race vehicles will be faster, and with a few breakthroughs in battery technology they'll have enough range. 

It's just a matter of technology development.  The problems holding electric race vehicles back from full parity with the gas powered race vehicles are all solvable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spark Racing Technology approved by FIA to produce cars for Formula E

Spark Racing Technology today announced they'd created a consortium of companies that together will produce the electric race cars for the Formula E racing series.   A decision by the FIA World Council on June 28, 2013 formally approved SPARK's application for homologation as the supplier of all the electrical single-seaters to the first season of Formula E Championship.

SPARK will provide 42 cars Spark-Renault powered solely by electricity to compete in the heart of major cities all over the world. 

The consortium includes the companies we already know have been involved with parts of designing and building these cars.  These are:-
  • Renault: Powertrain architecture, systems integration, powertrain electrical safety & performance optimization 
  • Williams: Design, manufacture and assembly of batteries and their battery management systems.
  • McLaren Electronic Systems: Development, manufacture and supply of electric motor, gearbox and power & control electronics.
  • Dallara: Design and construction of the monocoque
  • SPARK: Car design and conception (chassis, aerodynamics, assembly, suspension)

Patrice RATTI (CEO Renault Sport Technologies): “As a global leader for the production of electric vehicles and with a unique expertise in motorsports ever since the company was founded, the choice of Renault as technical partner to develop the fully electric SRT_01E car for the FIA Formula E championship was obvious.

Renault engineers and motorsport experts are directly contributing to the overall powertrain architecture and are in charge of electric systems' specifications and integration, benefiting from the experience acquired while developing the new 2014 Renault-Energy-F1 Power Unit.

Renault is also working with Spark to enhance the performance and safety level of the SRT_01E car powertrain. The objective is to design an outstanding racecar that will be clean, reliable, safe as well as fast and responsive.”

Sir Frank WILLIAMS (Team Principal - Williams): “Williams Advanced Engineering, the division of the Williams group that commercialises Formula One based technologies, will design and assemble a battery system for all 42 cars that will be used in the FIA Formula E Championship. Williams’ battery energy storage capability first originated from its Formula One programme following the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) into the sport in 2009. Under the Williams Advanced Engineering brand name, Williams is now active in developing both battery and flywheel energy storage systems for motorsport and non-motorsport applications.”

Tim STRAFFORD (Business Development Manager - McLaren Electronics Systems): “McLaren Electronic Systems is proud to be developing, manufacturing and commissioning the all electric powertrain, including electric motors, motor drives, gearboxes and control systems, that will power the open wheel racing cars contesting this new and innovative championship. This will draw on our expertise accrued over two decades supplying advanced electronic and powertrain systems into professional motorsport and high performance road cars. McLaren Electronic Systems is the Official Supplier of Engine Control Units to Formula One, NASCAR and IndyCar. The company is a two times winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, for Innovation in 2009 and for Export in 2013.”

Andrea PONTREMOLI (CEO - Dallara Automobili): “With our single seater cars running successfully in the most important categories and championships all over the world, we could not lose the opportunity to be part of the new Formula E exciting challenge and we are very thankful to our long term partner Fred Vasseur for the credit he gave us. We will use all our experience and know how to design and build the best possible chassis in terms of performance, reliability, ease of use and safety. The safety aspect is particularly important for us and we are working hard with Spark and the FIA to set new safety standards for such an innovative championship.”

Alejandro AGAG (CEO of Championship promoter Formula E Holdings): “With Formula E being an open championship, the series gives manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their electrical energy innovations and we’re delighted to have Spark Racing Technology as the first, and for them to produce our new fully-electric Formula E car. Spark has enlisted the very best companies in motorsport to aid with its development, with Dallara, Renault, McLaren and Williams all leaders in their respective fields. This clearly shows their commitment to cleaner energy and sustainable mobility, and we’re looking forward to unveiling the first SRT_01E later this year.”

Frédéric VASSEUR (President of Spark Racing Technology): “I am extremely proud and happy to work with the partners SPARK has gathered together to form this unique consortium, a first in the history of motorsport. I regard each and every one of these partners with the highest esteem, I have worked with them throughout my career and they have accompanied me in a lot of the successes I have been fortunate to achieve in my other activities in the traditional motorsport. All consortium members are driven by a motivation to make this innovative project a success. The project is progressing well; we are on schedule and strictly adhering to our specifications. The first car will be officially presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and the first outing will be in the following month.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chip Yates tries out Empulse R at Thunderhill for a feature in Motortrend Magazine

Browsing on Facebook I found this item posted by Brammo showing some pictures with them meeting Chip Yates at Thunderhill Raceway.  Thunderhill is of course Brammo's usual test track.

Chip Yates is an AMA licensed racer, and in 2010-11 he had built an electric motorcycle meant for racing.  He'd originally meant to race it in the TTXGP, but the final build was too heavy for the TTXGP rules, so he went on his own to race in other venues.

More recently he was going to race with Lightning Motorcycles at the Pikes Peak race last weekend, but that arrangement broke up.  One wonders.. does this mean he's gonna do something more with Brammo than this?

"Chip on Camera"

Setting up GoPro



Trying out the Empulse TTX