Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lightning Motorcycles sets AMA/FIM electric motorcycle land speed record

Yesterday I reported on the Bonneville land speed racing last week, saying that Lightning Motorcycles had probably set a new record.  I've now talked with Richard Hatfield, and learned that they did set an official AMA and FIM land speed record for electric motorcycles, however they didn't get to beat their personal best speed from two years ago.  The new AMA/FIM electric motorcycle land speed record is 203 miles/hr. 

The racing event was cut short by a rainstorm that Richard described as the worst storm he'd ever seen.  That meant they could plausibly have gotten a higher speed if they'd been able to take a few more runs.

I didn't get a listing of all the runs Lightning did.  Richard said they set the FIM record first.  Then, because the FIM and AMA rules for fairings are different, they had to modify the fairing before setting the AMA record.  The difference is in the rear, where they had to expose the entire rear wheel from the axle rearwards.   Look at the picture above, and ponder how the tail would be different with a notch cut out of it.

The AMA and FIM record now stands at slightly above 203 miles/hr, getting slightly above 203 miles/hr in both directions.

For a couple days they had the 3rd fastest motorcycle overall at the event.

Two years ago they'd gone to Bonneville for an event sponsored by the Southern California Timing Associated and set a record of 215 miles/hr, and a top speed of 217 miles/hr.   While that was amazing, the SCTA events are not sanctioned by the AMA or FIM and the record was not recorded in the official record book.  Two weeks later Chip Yates did so setting the AMA/FIM electric motorcycle land speed records at just below 200 miles/hr.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lightning Motorcycles may have set a record at Bonneville

KillaCycle Racing wasn't the only electric motorcycle team at Bonneville this week.  Lightning Motorcycles was there too, but they didn't post as much on Facebook and I haven't had a chance to talk with them.

On Aug 26 they posted: "We're super excited to say that today, on the legendary Bonneville salt flats, we've claimed the first SOLAR land speed record! Hearty shout-out to SMA America for all the support, and more to come soon!"

 What this shows is their race bike, but with the land speed record fairing.  They've experimented with several fairings over the years and the idea is to cut wind resistance.  Notice how this one has a leg shaped cut-out that's obviously so the rider can easily mount and dismount the bike as needed.

The solar panels are shown deployed in the first picture, and folded up in the second.  They're mounted in aluminum frames on top of the Sprinter van, that have gas struts to hold the panels in place.  When parked somewhere they deploy the panels, which then charge a 35 kilowatt-hour battery pack mounted inside the van.  Also in the van is a pair of 6 kilowatt SMA inverters.  The inverters are powerful enough to run high end Manzanita chargers letting them quick charge the bikes in under an hour.  Plus it powers all the tools they need on-site.

They didn't post any specifics about speeds etc.  I don't know what they mean by "solar land speed record" as I doubt the event organizers care about the source of the electrons that powered the bike.

The land speed record for this sort of bike is held by Lightning Motorcycles - 215 miles/hr in 2011.

Lightning did post this nice picture of conditions after the rain storm that canceled racing for the week.  Whatever they could have achieved this week got cut short by the rain storm.

KillaCycle Racing sets electric streamlined sidecar speed record at Bonneville - around 213 miles/hr

It's land speed racing time at the Bonneville Salt Flats and I see from Facebook that both Lightning Motorcycles and KillaCycle racing were there.  In this post I'll cover what KillaCycle posted on Facebook.  The big takeaway is that they made it into the 201+ miles/hr club, it's not clear if they got enough verification that they'll have an official record because a rain storm came in and turned the salt into a lake.

View from the cockpit

On Aug 25, they were doing a shakedown run and hit over 170 miles/hr - meaning to hit maybe 150 miles/hr instead. 

This is what the KillaJoule looks like this year.  Looks a lot like last year but I think that's because the outer skin is the same.  I've been following their Facebook postings all year and know they've rebuilt quite a bit of stuff under the skin including new batteries etc.  I see that A123 Systems is still a sponsor.

On Day 2 they made one run at 183 miles per hour, then went for a record run.  The outbound run they hit over 200 miles/hr, and on the return run hit 191 miles/hr for an average of 196.168 miles/hr.  At that point the controller was set to supply only 100 horsepower out of the 400 horsepower available.

On Day 3 they bumped the power up, they had an outbound run at 210. 844 mph and backup of 213.250 gave a new record of 212.047 mph (341.2 km/h). They were looking at changing gearing to see if they could go faster.  However, a little later they posted that rain had moved in canceling all the runs that day.

The next day they did a run at 214 miles/hr but then rain moved in for real and they had to skedaddle from the salt.  Because the previous days runs were close enough to this one, that means they can use one of those runs as the backup for this run.  If I understand the rules right that means they'll have made a record somewhere above the 212.047 miles/hr average from the day before.

For their troubles they get to own this spiffy new hat.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Camaraderie in the Pits at eRoadRacing Indianapolis - Kenyon Kluge's race report

Kenyon Kluge at Laguna Seca
Yesterday I referenced & summarized a race report from Brian Wismann - today it's Kenyon Kluge's turn.  Kenyon took 3rd place behind the Empulse RR's in Sunday's eRoadRacing race event in Indianapolis.  This makes him top dawg in the unofficial eSuperSport division for two races in a row.

Yesterday he wrote a Facebook posting summarizing the weekend, from his perspective. As for race strategy he described it as "my experience on the Playstation MotoGP game" and "my plan was to twist the throttle as hard as I could from the start and see if I could go faster than everyone else." As he said it - "I know, brilliant right!" (grin)

What can we say, the strategy worked didn't it? 

As for the race, he said that Ted Rich took the lead from the start but on the front straight during the first lap Kenyon "lined Ted up and drafted past."  After that Kenyon simply put in consistent lap times, kept lengthening his lead, avoided getting lapped by the Empulse RR riders, and made it into 3rd place.

What Kenyon closed with by telling of discussion reminding me much of something I've been missing from the 2010 TTXGP season. 
All the riders there at Indy spent a good portion of the weekend talking amongst ourselves about how we can better define, promote, and nurture our sport and grow it into something that can support the riders, thrill the fans, and make the manufacturers want to be a part of it.
I want to congratulate the Brammo team on their first place, Shane Turpin, second place Eric Bostrom, and Shelina who dropped a lot of time from her qualifying session to take 5th place. I was thrilled to have so many honest and productive conversations with the Brammo team and felt like there was more camaraderie at this race amongst all the teams than I have seen at any other race. I hope and look forward to this being the norm and to continue to grow our relationships in the future because I love the people in racing as much as I love the racing itself. So to everyone that was a part of this weekend, THANKS! And till I see you next time, keep the rubber side down.
This sort of attitude was prevalent during the 2010 season, because that year each race felt like huge cooperation between all the members of all the teams.  During the 2010 season, everyone was helping everyone else and there was a palpable feeling of camaraderie.  At least that's how it felt to me, the non-racer who was at every event trying to be a journalist telling the story.

Starting with the 2011 season it was harder to feel that camaraderie.  But, post-race at Laguna Seca it was there, and I'm glad it was there in Indianapolis.  Makes me wish to have been there.

As I wrote yesterday, the real competition eRoadRacing faces is the gas bike racing scene.  

The common goal among all eRoadRacing teams (or, for that matter, any form of electric racing) has to be, at this stage of the game, the mutual effort to publicize what's going on and gain the interest of the fans.

We who have been to these races know that it doesn't matter whether the bike is gas or electrically powered, it's still exciting racing to see riders skillfully duking it out with other riders.  We know that, therefore, there is no longer a need to burn irreplacable gasoline to have an exciting race.  But there's a whole slew of gas bike racers and gas bike racing fans who have to be convinced of these plain obvious facts.

May the day come soon when Indianapolis Speedway has to change its moniker away from Gasoline Alley to something else.

from Facebook
To get there means rearranging the preferences of millions of people through demonstrating the possibilities of different propulsion systems.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brammo's Wismann explained some factors at Indianapolis prior to the race

From Facebook
Just before Sunday's eRoadRacing race in Indianapolis, Brian Wismann posted a long "here's the latest from Team Brammo" on Facebook that gave some interesting details.

First and most heartening is that the Brammo paddock had a constant stream of visitors "since Friday" which is typically a slow day.  As Brian said, the real competition is the gas powered bikes, the MotoGP, Moto2 and Vance & Hines XR1200 series all of which were also racing that weekend.  I hope Brian agrees with me in saying that while this season has been a competition between Brammo and Zero (thanks to other teams who didn't show up) the real competition is to win the hearts and minds of the gas bike riders.

Second is the gearing required for Indianapolis. Their first thought was to gear the bikes for the long straight in the front, but then the bikes weren't good for the "VERY tight and technical infield section of the course".  A gearing change on Saturday worked really well for Eric, but made a negative impact on Shane.  For the race they reverted the setup on Shane's bike to what they'd used on Friday.  Given the margin by which Shane beat Eric on Sunday, that was a good choice for him. 

During last weekend they'd also switched cell suppliers. This is something Brian had told me about at Laguna Seca, but he didn't want to name the supplier. Shane's bike crapped out during the Laguna Seca race, and Brian is using that as proof the old "RR packs were getting tired and were in dire need of replacement cells". The new battery cell sponsor and supplier is Farasis Energy, of Hayward California. Brian described them as "fantastic cells that are proving to be just the ticket for dealing with these long straights at Indy" and that the "capacity at high C-rates is awesome!"

Let's explain the jargon a bit.

In batteries "C" is a charge or discharge rate where it is fully charged or fully discharged in one hour.  When we say a battery is "10 amp-hours" that means either a discharge rate of 1 amp for 10 hours, or a discharge rate of 10 amps for one hour, or maybe a discharge rate of 2 amps for 5 hours.  The problem with that is that batteries behave differently at high discharge rates than they do at low discharge rates.  Usually you can get more amp-hours out of a battery at low discharge rates, than you get out at a high discharge rate.

The sort of behavior that would make me say "capacity at high C-rates is awesome" would be for the battery pack to maintain its voltage at high discharge rate, and to provide all the amp-hours you need at a high discharge rate.

For example - to pull some numbers out of thin air that I have no proof that any of these numbers are accurate ...

I believe the Empulse RR battery pack voltage is 360 volts nominal.  To run at 150 kilowatts at that voltage means a 416 amp discharge rate.  If their pack is 15 kilowatt-hours, at 360 volts means it's a  40 amp-hour pack.  For a 40 amp-hour pack, a 400+ amp discharge is at a 10C rate.  That's a very high discharge rate.

Again, these aren't the actual numbers for the Empulse RR's but they're close.
Jeremiah Johnson (64)
Ted Rich (28)
Shelina Moreda (38?)
Clearly closely battling for 4th/5th/6th places
from Facebook

As for Shelina Moreda and her results with the Empulse TTX. He said they made some big changes for the qualifying round on Saturday, including giving it a new fairing. Brian said that while she did run faster, it "still wasn't enough to improve her position against the competition." In this case "competition" means the Zero S's at the race. Brian went on to say "At this point, we're hoping their performance is not be sustainable over the race distance." But, of course that didn't turn out to be the case.

As I discussed in Monday's posting, there is more to this equation than who has the best bike. There's also a question of rider skill. But weighing between Kenyon Kluge, Jeremiah Johnson, Shelina Moreda, and Ted Rich, I'm not sure that set of results are due to rider skill as the primary determining factor. Yes, Moreda had just raced in the Vance & Hines XR1200 Harley race just before the eRoadRacing event, and there's a case to be made for rider fatigue. But at Laguna Seca, I think if Moreda and Rich hadn't crashed out in the first lap the results might have been similar to what they were in Indianapolis.

The practice rounds at Laguna Seca, the practice rounds at Indianapolis, and the race results in Indianapolis, all had Moreda on her Empulse TTX finishing behind the Zero's.   There is a trend here, and it doesn't say good things about the Empulse TTX.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zero S outperforming Empulse TTX for less money, and a deep dive into motor cooling issues

It's way cool that the 2013 electric motorcycle racing season (eRoadRacing World Cup) is featuring manufactured bikes, where in previous years the majority of bikes were prototype bikes.  There are two manufactured bikes, Brammo's Empulse TTX and Zero S, in existence with race-ready performance.  Well, "race ready" so long as you're happy with 250-400cc levels of performance.  It's been pleasing to see these two bikes so well matched, and interesting to see the Zero's edging out the TTX's.

Some data has been posted since the race implying that, if Zero and Brammo were to solve an overheating issue present in both bikes, that the power level could be turned up in the controller and these stock production bikes could be so much faster.  See an earlier post for some thoughts on the potential business model for manufacturing high end, race ready, electric motorcycles.  Could Zero and/or Brammo develop a better cooling system for the controller/motor in the 2014 Zero S or 2014 Empulse TTX and jump the power level way up?

UPDATE: This post stirred up a bit of controversy over on Facebook in the Electric Racing group.   Basically, the results I discuss below should be taken with a grain of salt because the results have a lot to do with rider skill and bike setup as well as how efficient or powerful the bike is.  It's not all up to whether the motor can run at so many kilowatts for so long without overheating.  Put a good rider on a not-so-powerful bike and they can run rings around an inexperienced rider on a powerful bike.  But my contention is that rider skill and bike setup is not the entire story either ...

UPDATE: Travis Gintz posted an insightful comment on Facebook.  The Zero S is lighter than the Empulse TTX which the riders can use to their advantage.  The race reports I read talked about the Zero's beating Moreda in the technical section on the back of the track, while Moreda's more powerful bike would get ahead of them on the long front straight.  Gintz went on to say that, yes, the Empulse R/TTX is more expensive, but that it comes with Brembo brakes, etc, and that the TTX includes a year worth of racing fees with eRoadRacing and track-side support from Brammo.
What's the business model for manufacturing high end electric superbikes competitive with the gas bikes? - See more at:
What's the business model for manufacturing high end electric superbikes competitive with the gas bikes? - See more at:
What's the business model for manufacturing high end electric superbikes competitive with the gas bikes? - See more at:

Elaine Carpenter - wife of Ted Rich who is riding with Zero this year in both eRoadRacing and Pikes Peak - rode Brandon Nozaki-Miller's bike at Indianapolis while Brandon was recovering from injuries.  She posted this picture annotating the starting grid with an interesting interpretation

Elaine Carpenter - from Facebook
The $200k prototype bikes are the Brammo Empulse RR's which can't be beat by the rest of the field who showed up.  For the Empulse RR's to face actual competition would require certain other teams (cough cough) to show up and give them a run for their money.

But in the real race, the race between the eSuperStock bikes, the $15,000 Zero S's qualified ahead of the two $30,000 Empulse TTX's.  Okay, these are $15k S's with a $2000 controller mod, right?  Still a lot cheaper than the TTX, and that was Elaine Carpenter's point.

Where it counted, the race results, came out slightly different than the starting grid, but still along those lines.

Largely speaking the Zero S's beat the Empulse TTX's in the race.  Shelina Moreda did find some extra oomph to place a little higher than during qualifying.

Arthur Kowitz had this to say on a facebook postingArthur Kowitz upon reading my data from the race, it was revealed that my bikes electronics turned motor power down about 40% to protect the motor from a perceived overheat situation

Somehow the liquid cooling on the TTX is not enough for race conditions, where the duct-augmented air cooling on the Zero S's is enough.  For the record, I was told at Laguna Seca that while the Zero S's all had Gen4 Size6 controllers the power levels were turned way down to prevent overheating as well.  

This implies that if Brammo and Zero can solve cooling on their respective bikes, that these production bikes could be much more powerful than the 250-450cc range ...?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Turpin wins eRoadRacing Indianapolis - Kluge wins in eSuperStock category

Shane Turpin - from Facebook
Shane Turpin (Brammo Empulse RR) won overall in today's eRoadRacing World Cup race at Indianapolis Speedway, with Kenyon Kluge (Zero S) winning the eSuperStock category.  This was the first electric vehicle race held at the Indianapolis Speedway, a track that has the nickname "Gasoline Alley", making it a historic occasion.  May there be so many electric vehicles racing there in the future that they have to think up a new nickname, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Eric Bostron - from Facebook
It's of course not a surprise that Shane Turpin and Eric Bostrom took 1st and 2nd, they have no real competition other than between themselves.  Turpin had a total time of 15:18.967, and Bostrom came in 14 seconds behind him at 15:32.700.  Both improved their best lap times by about a second.  In both cases their lap times slowed during the course of the race - Turpin started with 1:53.412 lap time and ended with 1:56.584 lap time, for example, and Bostrom did about the same.

The real racing action was between Kenyon Kluge, Jeremiah Johnson, Shelina Moreda and Ted Rich.  All four had very similar lap times throughout the race.  Because Kluge was not lapped by Turpin and Bostrom, while the other three were, he ran for an extra lap and had a total race time of 17:30.962, while taking 3rd place overall and 2:08.228 best lap time.

In 4th place overall was Jeremiah Johnson, 15:21.611 total time and 2:09.698 best lap time.  In 5th place overall was Shelina Moreda, 15:24.708 total time and 2:10.326 best lap time.  In 6th place overall was Ted Rich, 15:25.143 total time and 2:09.275 best lap time.

Of those four, Kluge, Johnson and Rich were riding 2013 Zero S's while Shelina Moreda was riding a Brammo Empulse TTX.  If the Zero S's are still configured as they were at Laguna Seca, all but Ted Rich's have been upgraded to a SEVCON Gen 4 Size 6 controller giving a higher overall power.  Another modification is added ducting for cooling.  At Laguna Seca, Ted Rich had a box surrounding the controller into which he put ice to cool it before the race.

The Zero S's and Empulse TTX's are racing in an unofficial division called eSuperStock.  There is some discussion around whether the modifications render the bike unfit for what can rightfully be called eSuperStock, or not.  I'm just documenting what I know and am trying to not pass judgement.  However as we see in the quotes below, Kenyon Kluge makes an excellent point.

Namely, with the 2013 model year it's now possible to buy a bike from the factory, make a few modifications that add up to about $1000 expenditure, and have a race-worthy bike.   The results show it's possible not just with Zero but Brammo's Empulse TTX as well.  This is a big step forward for electric motorcycles.

SHANE TURPIN (No. 14 Icon Brammo Brammo Empulse RR, winner): “I got a little bit of a lead, and all I could think about was, ”Man, just keep it, maintain and keep it steady,’ and I kept looking over my shoulder to see where (runner-up Eric Bostrom) was. I just wanted to finish this time. Laguna Seca kind of bit me, and the bike shut off. We maintained a good lead and brought it home. It was very exciting. I was hammer down. All of us are like that. We just want to win. The bottom line with the Brammo team is incredible. Anything I ask them to do – bike, setup. anything – they fix it. We have just been jelling very well, and obviously it shows.”

ERIC BOSTROM (No. 32 Icon Brammo Brammo Empulse RR, second): “Shane (Turpin) showed up fast, and neither of us had a real lot of laps around this track. The bike was really fast, 160-plus (mph) on the front straight. I got through the turns well, but I wasn’t able to get comfortable here. We took a little gamble in our setup for the race. Shane had us beat from the time we hit the asphalt. The team did a fantastic job; we didn’t have a hiccup all week long.” (About historical impact of race): “This is the place that bears the name Gasoline Alley, so it’s kind of ironic that we’re running around on batteries. It’s an incredible place for this team to be here at such a famous circuit and perform in front of the same crowd that they have for MotoGP and race cars here. It was incredible. My first lap down the front straight, I was just filled with emotion: Wow! I’m racing in the king’s quarters.”

KENYON KLUGE (No. 96 K Squared Racing Zero S, third): “I was third place overall but first place in the eSuperStock division. All the other bikes (except first and second place) out here were stock bikes with minimal changes, just bodywork, throw $1,000 into it after taking it off the showroom floor. We think it is really historic to be able to race a bike that the average buyer could go out and buy and do the same times we’re doing. This was my first time here at the course, so I had to learn it. It was a little tricky, some of the tight switchbacks combined with the long straightaway. I think I got into the flow of it in the race.”

Shane Turpin taking the win - Facebook eRoadRacing

The line-up before the race
from Facebook

Elaine Carpenter - from Facebook

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ho Chi Fung (Zongshen) takes the pole at eRoadRacing Oschersleben

Can you spell Oschersleben?  If so, you're a better man than me.  In any case, Ho Chi Fung has taken pole position at the eRoadRacing Europe race #2 at that track.  It's a double header for the eRoadRacing this weekend with events in both Indianapolis (where Shane Turpin has taken pole position) and Oschersleben (Germany). 

The roster is three bikes from Zongshen, two from Agni Motors, two from Renegade Z, and one team named SBK City Racing.  One of the Zongshen riders is Thomas Schuricht, who had been involved with Meunch Racing since 2010, and in 2009 had raced the Isle of Man TTXGP under a team name I'm forgetting at the moment.  Another familiar name is Peter Linden, a Swedish racer (if I recall right) who has raced in TTXGP with various teams since 2010.  And, it's nice to see Agni Motors returning after an absence from the electric motorcycle racing scene, and I've seen a picture of Cedric Lynch at the track.

Here's the results:

One thing that stands out is the lap speeds for Zongshen's top bike is not anywhere near the Brammo Empulse RR top speeds.  The lap length is about the same (3.6 kilometers) and the 1:44 lap time Ho Chi Fung qualified with would have been mid-pack at the Laguna Seca race.  Kenyon Kluge who took 3rd place in the grid and 2nd place in the race had 1:48 lap times at Laguna, with Shane Turpin and Eric Bostrom with 1:32ish lap times.  That means the European series doesn't have the same caliber of top end bikes that we have in North America.

We see that everyone's speed improved a bit between Friday and Saturday, and that the 120% threshold moved from 2:13 to 2:10 as a result. 

The Renegade Z guys should probably think about calling Zero's headquarters to get some guidance on upgrades to the bikes.

The Agni bikes are giving good results and it makes me wonder what motors they're packing?  The Agni design is to mount two of their motors face-to-face on a common shaft.  Agni's top motor is still (I think) the Agni 95-R (I think) but at the 2010 TTXGP world final they'd rolled out a special motor that had never been seen or tried before.  That motor gave their top rider for that year (whose name I've forgotten) a big boost but never was put in the product line that I've been able to determine. 

Reading from their race report ...

Sam West (Agni) needed at least one lap in to qualify since he didn't get any laps on Friday. Once he had a qualifying lap, he wanted to see what the bike would do so opened it up to see how fast it would go. He said "The engineers had fitted some new components and the power was significantly better giving improved acceleration right through the rev range."  Nothing about just what the secret sauce was.

Rhalf Lo Turko, SBK City Racing, said there had been controller issues on Friday, but the bike still "isn't consistent" and there's still a lot to do.  He's riding a Mavizen TTX02 which may be a left-over bike from 2010 - I don't know if Mavizen has tried to upgrade the TTX02's beyond what they'd fielded in 2010.  In any case, the 2010 TTX02's had been very unreliable.

Thomas Schuricht #6 is described as "formally of Muench Racing team," and that " his new motorcycle is simply not ready but he was fortunate enough to be offered a ride from factory team, Zongshen Racing." We assume then that his billet with Zongshen is temporary until his new bike is ready. He is quoted saying “Today was not my first trip on a Zongshen. Two weeks ago I was driving a dirt bike off road! That was a lot of fun. Today, on the track in Oschersleben, I was very surprised how good the handling can be on the Zongshen E-bike and how easily it moved about the course. I’m glad to have the opportunity this weekend to be able to race for a professional team. The bike was perfect for Q2 and i am very happy with my time of 1:54.239 given I didn’t have any practice time at all. … I felt very comfortable from the beginning … I had planned to complete the race distance of 9 laps to go and had then in the penultimate round of the fourth Takeoff retracted. With this result, I am very pleased, considering that the other teams are training for two days on this track. I would now like to talk to thank my team who have worked hard to prep the bike. I hope tomorrow’s race to deliver a good performance for them.”

Harald Gasse is riding the Agni bike which had won the 2009 Isle of Man TTXGP, which had been raced in the U.S. during the 2010 season, and then later in the 2010 season by Zongshen racing.  It's still racing with the same pack as in 2009, and Gasse says: “this is so much fun and even more exciting for me because I am racing an iconic machine. The Agni motorcycle that won the very race in the Isle of Man 2009 is an incredibly special machine. That it runs so well still with the same batteries and other parts proves these ebikes are not only fun to ride and practical but also have longevity.”

So, um, yeah, it's cool that some bikes from early TTXGP history are still being raced in the European series.  However, in the North America series we left all the 2010 bikes behind and are racing with 2013 bikes.  Even Lightning's 2010 bike is not being raced, but instead is sitting in their workshop.

Pictures from facebook albums:

Cedric Lynch and Arvind Rabadia - Agni Motors
Cedric Lynch with Sam West

Shane Turpin has pole at eRoadRacing Indianapolis

The eRoadRacing guys are racing in Indianapolis for what may be the final race of the 2013 North America season, and I'm not there, missing a North America TTXGP/e-Power/eRoadRacing for the first time.  Whether there's something wrong with this picture remains to be seen, but in the meantime I'm combing through stuff I can find to deliver some news.  The top level items are that the roster is much like it was at Laguna Seca - Brammo and Zero bikes, and no sign of Lightning or others.  That leaves the Brammo top bikes uncontested in the series.  There is a new team, a college team named Electric Vehicle Team or E.V.T. organization of Southern Polytechnic State University, who apparently built a bike just before the race, showed up, had some problem that blew something, and won't be able to race.  While that's sure to be disappointing it's quite an accomplishment just to show up, so don't feel too bad, and make sure to come again when you can.

Shane Turpin has pole position, and Eric Bostrom is lining up at the #2 spot.  But this is what we expect from the roster, right?  Kenyon Kluge is filling out the front row.

In these results realize that the lap length is 4.216 kilometers, or 2.61 miles, versus 3.61 kilometers or 2.23 miles at Laguna Seca.  It makes it trickier to compare lap speeds between tracks.

In any case the qualifying/practice round 1 showed a fairly well packed field among the bikes other than the Brammo Empulse RR's.  There was as previously two races, the Empulse RR's and everyone else, of course.  The RR's look evenly matched with Shane Turpin doing a bit better than Eric Bostrom.  The other similar thing to Laguna Seca is that Kenyon Kluge and Ted Rich are outperforming Shelina Moreda.

Another thing to note is that Brandon Nozaki Miller is not riding the Electric Cowboy bike.  Instead Elaine Carpenter is.  She is the wife of Ted Rich and together they run  I haven't checked with Brandon to see what's up with him.

The race report from that round quoted people just getting used to the track and deciding on gear ratios. 

From looking at the detailed results it appears Ceasar Gonzales did make it out for at least one lap.  Going by the pictures in the album linked below, he crashed out and while the team tried to fix the bike they couldn't

The results from qualifying/practice 2 showed across the board improvement, and Elaine Carpenter moving up the ranks.

The only one who dropped in the ranking is Shelina Moreda.  She did find a couple seconds to shave off the time.  We remember that at Laguna Seca it seemed that during qualifying she may have been "taking it easy" and planning to race hard when it actually counted, but of course we weren't able to verify that assumption because of the crash in the first lap.

In the Friday writeup Jeremiah Johnson said that the Zero's had all been geared differently to see which gear ratio would work best at Indy.  He said his bike had been geared the slowest, and that for todays practice round it would be geared faster.  That's what we see here.

With a top speed of 250.3 km/hr, the Brammo boys are hitting 155 miles/hr. 

SHANE TURPIN: “It was amazing. I’ve never been to the Brickyard. The track is crazy, nothing like anything I’ve ever been on. Being on the electric bike here for the first time was unbelievable, and I’m so happy to have been a part of this whole new revolution. Everything really is the same as a regular motorcycle. The only thing different is I’m not shifting the bike. It’s quiet, but I’m making motorcycle noises in my helmet because the noise is gone. We raced at Laguna Seca, and I broke the track record for electric bikes. This system is just taking off, getting better and better.”

Most of these pictures come from a Facebook album posted by eRoadRacing.

Jeremiah Johnson

Shane Turpin - photo by Phil Hawkins
Elaine Carpenter

Ted Rich
Close up of Jeremiah Johnson's bike
He's sure made it look a lot better than at Laguna Seca
Jeremiah Johnson
The 2013 Zero motor

SPSU EVT team picture

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Will technical problems doom Formula E before it ever launches?

The Formula E electric car racing series may be doomed before it launches.  Or maybe not.  Over on they're claiming that Formula E is doomed because the organizers are not organizing a racing series, but are making poor choices based on marketing goals, and have created technical flaws.  I'm not sure I buy all the reasoning, but it's an interesting argument.

First point is the chassis, which follows the Formula 1 styling.  The problem is that this chassis design is very nonaerodynamic.  The car is all wheels hanging out in mid air, various grooves and wings and whatnot, all of which add to drag.  Maybe it should be more aerodynamic like, oh, say:

That's the 2012 Audi entry in the World Endurance Championship.  But Formula E wanted to tie onto the FIA Formula 1 series, ..etc.. marketing goals in other words.

The problem with this is the extra drag consumes more energy.  And in electric vehicles, consuming more energy means a shorter racing time.  The Formula E races as designed will last for 25 minutes per segment, with riders switching cars halfway through.  If the Formula E race cars didn't waste so much energy the segments could be longer and and perhaps the overall race could be longer as well.

Or perhaps they could hold a reasonably long race without having to switch cars halfway through?

The need to switch cars means the cost of launching the Formula E is much higher because each team has to be provided with four cars - two cars per driver.  If they could work it out so there's one car per driver, Formula E's cost structure would be that much lower, or perhaps they could have more drivers in the races.

Summary:  Poor aerodynamics means more energy consumption means shorter race time means two cars per driver in order to have a satisfyingly long race.

There's a couple more issues raised on ...

The decision to race in city centers means the organizers will build temporary tracks using concrete barriers.  The last point is important because these racers will crash, and the use of concrete barriers will cause more damage to the cars than will something like the generous sand pits and tire walls present at modern race tracks.  More damage means more expense, and bigger likelihood of driver injury.

Having the race split into multiple segments perhaps sends the wrong signal.  The format is 25 minutes of racing in one car, then switch to a second car.  But, because that gives 45-50 minutes of racing for what is supposed to be a 60 minute race, the first car needs to be fast charged and the driver switch cars another time.

Gets us back to wishing they'd chosen a more efficient car style.  But the bigger question is whether all this switching of cars sends the right signal.  We want electric racing because it means gear heads will see something other than internal combustion racing.  But, when the car goes for 25 minutes and has to be swapped for a second car, and later the driver swaps again for the first car, does that send a good signal to the audience?

Depends on how it's spun.  Gas powered race cars have to go into the pit to refuel and get new tires, right?  Isn't this about the same?  It would be better optics if it were the same car and you could quickly refuel it, but at the current stage of things EV's can't be refueled in the minute or two it takes to swap tires, unlike gasoline cars. 

In theory they could have worked out a fast battery pack exchange system (this has been done in electric racing before) the obvious partner for that (Better Place) went bankrupt a couple months before.

Another technical flaw is the need to fast charge the pack on the first car.  The driver is going to race for 25 minutes, then switch cars, meaning that between the two cars he'll have 45-50 minutes of racing time.  But the race is supposed to last for an hour.  The solution is to fast charge the first car.  But will they be able to fast charge the car fast enough for it to race again in 20-25 minutes?  And where will the power come from to handle simultaneous fast charging of 20 race cars?

That last point isn't quite as bad as makes it out to be.  In a city center there is plenty of power on the grid, especially on a weekend.  The question is whether the power can be delivered correctly and safely in the paddock.  They'll probably have to build the equivalent of a small substation near the paddock.

By the way, this is an issue which will have to be solved at race tracks before electric racing really takes off.  All the tracks I've been to have had weak electricity infrastructure at the pit lane, and in the paddock area.  As a result there is often lots of diesel generators humming away, even at the electric races I've been to.  Fast charging electric race vehicles will require lots of electricity, which the tracks just aren't built to handle at this time.  Fortunately race tracks tend to have lots of open land on which to build solar farms or wind farms which would mitigate electricity needs, as well as give the track a secondary income stream.

In any case - I know from previous reading that the agreement between Formula E and the host city includes all kinds of ancillary services and I'm confident power supply from the local utility was included in the agreements.  I don't think they'll have to bring along diesel generators to power everything, as the writer suggests.  If they do, however, it will look very bad and they'll deserve every ounce of failure they reap.

Will all this doom Formula E?   I don't think it's as bad as suggests.  The main problem IS whether the Formula E organizers will be able to put together a full day of festivities that are interesting enough that fans pay enough for tickets to make the whole business work out.  We don't know what the full slate of activities will entail.  And it may well be that the problems he states will interfere with fan enjoyment, and it will never catch on.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Formula E signs racing champion Gil de Ferran as Formula E Ambassador

Gil de Ferran is a 20+ year veteran of motorsports having won several championships including the IndyCar (twice) and Indianapolis 500.  The Formula E electric car racing series announced today they'd signed him up for two roles.  The first role is "Ambassador" and "spokesman" for the series, primarily in North America.  The second role is as advisor for the racing format.

I've written it up in more depth over on

The importance to this is it's further demonstration that the Formula E organizers are looking to traditional motorsports people or organizations to form the structure of the racing series.  Other than the guys from Formulec, and Drayson Racing, there has been no indication they're reaching out to the existing electric vehicle fanatics to build cars or race teams.  Instead, this is an electrification of existing racing.

I believe I met this guy back in 2010.  I'd been invited to observe that years IndyCar race at the track which was then known as Infineon Raceway and is now known as Sonoma Raceway and originally known as Sears Point.  That year IndyCar wanted to crow a bit about how they were using Ethanol to power the cars, and my oh my isn't that green.  I spent a couple hours hanging out with someone from the Andretti Motorsports team, and he showed me how the whole system runs in the pit area.  Afterward we met with one of the racers down in pit row, and chatted about the cars etc.  I believe that racer was Gil de Ferran.  Nice guy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

FOX Sports signs with Formula E as exclusive broadcaster

Formula E has signed up FOX Sports to handle broadcasting the Formula E races.  They'll have exclusive broadcast rights in the U.S. and a mix of exclusive and non-exclusive rights elsewhere.  FOX Sports has broadcast entities in over 80 countries on six continents.  Ohmy.. that's a big media organization. 

In any case, I wrote up more details on TorqueNews.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

eRoadRacing North America cancels event at Miller Motorsports

The eRoadRacing folks have posted a notice that the 3rd event in the 2013 North America series, at Miller Motorsports, has been canceled.

This means the North America series will be truncated to just two races.  UNLESS .. there is a slight chance of a race at Laguna Seca during the FIM World Superbike event.

The issue is that eRoadRacing, as a FIM series, can only run at FIM homologated race tracks.  This hugely limits the places in North America where eRoadRacing will be able to race.  The only remaining event in North America at such a track is the World Superbike event at Laguna Seca.

I have no idea whether eRoadRacing at World Superbike can be pulled off.  If it can, we may be able to have the race we weren't able to have during the MotoGP weekend at Laguna Seca.  Namely, because Lightning (and other teams) did not participate that weekend, the top tier results were left solely to Brammo.  Maybe, just maybe, the stars will align, and eRoadRacing will be given space during World Superbike, and maybe Lightning (and other teams) will decide to race.

The 2013 eRoadRacing calendar has been updated as follows:
European Series

Dates  FMNR Venue Support Race of  Country
14 July RFME Valenica   Spain 
18 August DMSB Oschersleben Oschersleben 8 Hours Germany
21 September FFM Le Mans  Le Mans 24Hours  France 

North American Series

Dates FMNR Venue Support Race of Country
21 July AMA Laguna Seca  FIM Road Racing WC GP United States
18 August AMA Indianapolis  FIM Road Racing WC GP United States