Thursday, July 17, 2014

CRP launches Energica Ego world tour - information, and test ride report

Energica Ego in San Francisco
CRP's Energica Ego has been several years coming - in 2010, CRP came onto the TTXGP scene with the eCRP, a bike patterned after the Agni Motors entry in the 2009 TTXGP on the Isle of Man.  This was the act of a motorcycle manufacturer getting their feet went in electric bikes, and with that first effort they won titles in the 2010-11 TTXGP and e-Power seasons.  Fast forward to 2014, and the company has developed its own superbike, has begun a tour of North America showing off the Energica Ego.  The Energica Ego is expected to go on sale in mid-2015 at a price beginning in the mid-$30k range.  Today I was lucky enough to snag a test ride along with other journalists.

The first stop on the North America tour - Alice's Restaurant, in the mountains just south of San Francisco - is a great choice   There are plenty of twisty mountain roads, and Alice's is a hangout for serious motorcyclers.  Additionally, there are several electric vehicle entrepreneurs living close to Alice's.  For example, when I arrived this morning they were having a meeting with Martin Eberhard, the other co-founder of Tesla Motors besides Elon Musk.  

The Energica Ego

The Energica Ego doesn't share anything with the eCRP from several years ago.  Everything you remember about those bikes, with which they had major wins in the 2010-11 TTXGP seasons, forget all that.  This is a complete, ground up, custom motorcycle design, just as you'd expect from a company like CRP.  

The CRP group is a family business based in Modena Italy, with decades of experience in technological achievements.  They supply parts and technological expertise in Formula 1 and NASCAR racing, and to NASA for spacecraft.

The components and overall design of the Energica Ego is a clear simple statement:  This is a proper superbike, that happens to be electric.  And that's not just my opinion - while hanging out with the bikes, several motorcycle riders came by and said the same thing.  They dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's.

Those components?  Try, Marchesini Forged Aluminum wheels front and back, Pirelli Diablo Rossoi tires front and back, Brembo disc brakes front and back, Marzocchi front suspension and Ohlins rear suspension.    Oh, and there's an ABS system from Bosch that CRP is working on validating.

The drive train is a 100 kilowatt permanent magnet AC (oil cooled) electric motor, mounted above the swing arm pivot point, driving the rear wheel through a single-gear transmission.  This system produces 190 Nm of torque.

The 11.7 kilowatt-hour battery pack is rated for 1200 charge cycles.  It has a 3 kilowatt on-board charger, and a level 2 charging port underneath the seat, for a 3+ hour recharge time.  Additionally the charging port will support DC Fast Charging using the SAE Combined Charging System plug, giving a 30 minute recharge time (to 85%).  

The bikes on display didn't have the fast charging support, but it's on the spec sheet, and the charging port has the appropriate cutouts.  They were showing both the American style J1772 plug and the Mennekes Type 2 plugs on different bikes.

Mennekes type 2 connector
This supports the J1772 charging protocol,
but through a different connector
There are three (four, actually) competing DC Fast Charging standards:  CHAdeMO, Combined Charging System, Tesla Supercharger, and the Chinese system.  I've written this up in a blog post on and a page on  The CCS system chosen by CRP for the Energica is not (currently) deployed very widely, but it's expected CCS-compatible fast charging stations will be more widespread as the other automakers (besides Nissan and Tesla) start ramping up electric car sales.   

All this gives the Energica Ego an electronically limited top speed of 240 km/hr (150 miles/hr) and a riding range of about 100 kilometers at 100 kilometers/hr (60 miles @ 60 mph).  Or, 50 kilometers at race speed (30 miles).  The 0-60 miles/hr time is under 3 seconds.  That's enough range for club racing but not for regular racing.

The dashboard and rider controls are still under development.  It currently supports four riding modes depending on your appetite for speed or economic energy use, and supports three regenerative braking modes.  It has a cool computerized dashboard, and the plans discussed by the team are to make it even better and expand to multiple screens.  There's also a datalogging feature with which you can retrieve ride data over bluetooth, and the dashboard even includes a GPS receiver to tag that data with location markers.   They wouldn't commit to a navigation system on the dashboard.

The Energica Ego includes an ingenious reverse mode letting you back out of tight spots.  This mode is initiated through manipulating the brake and start button, rather than by just twisting the throttle backwards like on the Vectrix.  Speed is tightly regulated while in reverse mode, of course.

The Energica Ego 45

CRP is slated to launch two bikes in 2015.  The Energica Ego, and the Ego 45.  The latter is a limited production edition (45 bikes total) of the Energica Ego.

The EGO 45 line will be individually numbered, and feature some parts manufactured using CRP's 3D Printing technology, as well as Zircotec ceramic and metallic coatings.

Enough about that, how does it ride?

The first thing you have to know is it's a heavy bike - about 258 kilograms or about 530 lbs.  Get used to it.  That weight is in line with other electric superbikes, and is simply a fact of current technology.

Second - it rides like a dream.  

The seating & riding position are like other race bikes.  You're on tippytoes when stopped, and while riding it's probably best to rest on the "tank".

You turn the bike on with a key near the dashboard.  It's not ready to ride until flipping what we'd normally refer to as the engine kill switch, and then by holding the right break and pressing what we'd normally call the start button.  In other words, the controls are familiar and repurposed to controlling the electric drive train.

Once it's ready to go you twist the throttle, and it goes as smooth as can be.  Getting up to highway speed is effortless and quick.  With no transmission there's none of that dance between the clutch lever and the gear selector.  That's the convenience of the electric drive train, because you have fewer details to worry about.

Handling is excellent, and one almost doesn't need the brakes.  The regenerative braking handled the necessary slow-down-for-the-curve in most curves, with only a few requiring the manual brakes.  Of course coming to a complete stop requires using the regular brakes.

Brakes are the familiar lever on the right handlebar, and a pedal for the right foot.  There is no clutch or transmission, so the left hand and left foot have no controls to operate.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to take a complete ride and I'm too embarrassed to say why.  Let's just leave it at that, okay?  If I had made the full ride, I believe I would have had more glowing things to say about the Energica Ego, its that good.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Electrics on track for outright Pikes Peak wins, following excellent results at 2014 Pikes Peak for both cars and bikes

In last weekend's Pikes Peak Hill Climb race, electric car drivers took 3 of the top 4 results in the overall ranking, and both electric car and electric motorcycle racers claimed hugely positive results.  While this isn't as stunning as Lightning Motorcycle's overall win last year with a 20 second margin over all motorcycle racers, that Mitsubishi's drivers came within 3 seconds of an overall win is astounding.  Jeff Clark set the record for production electric motorcycles on a 2013 Zero, Jeremiah Johnson gave an excellent first outing for the Brutus Motorcycles V2 Rocket, and more.

Comparing results across classes, the electric vehicles gave great results holding out the promise for outright wins within a couple years.  The Mitsubishi team almost took the outright win this year, coming up less than 3 seconds short.  But in the electric motorcycle camp, while at first read you see Jeff Clark taking 72nd overall and be disappointed, he beat everyone in the 250cc class and would have finished middle of the pack in the Lightweight class.  Similarly Jeremiah Johnson would have finished in the middle of the Middleweight class.

Here's the top electric performers for 2014, this class is for custom built electric race cars.  We see that Greg Tracy (Mitsubishi) finished in 2nd with a 9:08.188 lap time, and his team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka, came in 3rd just a few seconds behind him with a 9:12.204 lap time.  Monster Tajima came in 4th a full 30 seconds later at 9:43.900.  The Yokoma Tires sponsored Summit car driven by Ikuo Hanawa came in at 81st place at 12:19.109.  This class is rounded out by Janis Horeliks, the Latvian team that modified a Tesla Roadster, came in at 96th place with a 12:57.536 lap time.

To compare this with the rest of the field - the overall winner this year was Romain Dumas, in the Unlimited class, with a 9:05.801 lap time.

That puts about 2.4 seconds between the overall winner and the Mitsubishi entry.    Oh.. My.. God..  Could we be seeing an electric team as the outright winner in the 2015 Pikes Peak race?

Here's a video during qualification - the siren is not a police car chasing him, but a noise maker required to be carried by all the electric vehicles.

Upon taking 2nd and 3rd in the overall results, Mitsubishi claims "the stage has been set for highly energy-efficient and sustainable electric-powered vehicles like the Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution III to soon become the dominant force in this challenging one-of-a-kind motorsport competition."

Monster Tajima's team put out a press release explaining that warm weather, and heat within the vehicle, caused their result to be less than expected. This is a very Japanese thing to say, isn't it? "The team regrets that their improvements on the machine could not be well versed in terms of time."

And this: "This year I am both disappointed and pleased at the same time. Yes of course, I am disappointed that I did not win. However I am greatly pleased that our work in promoting electric vehicles have raised so much awareness that even a major motor company such as Mitsubishi Motor is inspired to win the race at full force. Now Tesla, Toyota, and Honda are also participating in the electric car division. I am hoping that this movement would catch more speed where the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race would be known as the forefront of tackling the environmental problems we face today. I give kudos to the Mitsubishi Motor Team that have won this merciless race. Congratulations! Finally, I would like to thank all our sponsors and supporters from the deep bottom of my heart and appreciate all the cheers from all."

There were two production electric cars entered - a Honda Fit EV, and a Gen2 Toyota RAV4 EV.  The Toyota appears not to have finished, but the Honda Fit EV turned in a respectable 12:55.591 lap time, and took 95th place overall.  That beat the modified Tesla Roadster, which sure is an interesting result.

Now let's get to the Motorcycles.  First up is the production electric motorcycle class, with Jeff Clark (supported by Hollywood Electrics) taking 1st place.  He scored an 11:59.814 lap time, taking 72nd place overall.

This is the first sub-12 second time for an electric motorcycle.

The interesting thing about this is Jeff's bike is not a Zero S or Zero DS, but a 2013 Zero FX.  That bike is the "street fighter" in Zero's lineup, and is noted for its light weight.

The time for Jeff's first segment, 2:06.879, was very impressive and even beat the fastest of the Exhibition class riders - Guy Martin's 2:09.930 time.

“We’ve shown that it won’t be long before the top riders in all classes at Pikes Peak will be on electric,” said Harlan Flagg, Founder of Hollywood Electrics. “There is no faster bike off-the-line than an electric motorcycle. We’re really excited to prove our tuning abilities on Zero Motorcycles up the mountain, besting all the prototype bikes and the talented engineers behind those.”

“Congratulations to Jeff Clark and Hollywood Electrics on a monumental victory. To break the 12-minute mark on such a challenging course is truly remarkable,” said Richard Walker, CEO of Zero Motorcycles. "It shows what electric motorcycle technology and entrepreneurial spirit can accomplish, and we are proud to be with them at the forefront.”

Asked about how the race went, Jeff Clark said, “I had a couple of close calls, but at the end of the day bested my time from last year. So proud to be the fastest electric bike up America’s Mountain. Thanks to my crew and my sponsors, without whom I couldn’t have done it.”

Photo by Brandon Nozaki-Miller

Last but certainly not least is the Electric Modified class, won by Jeremiah Johnson.

Johnson was riding the Brutus Motorcycles V2 Rocket. The bike had only been "finished" the week before, and Johnson explained the suspension hadn't been tuned or any other bike "setup" work that would have helped him get a better time. As it is he won his division, taking 83rd overall, with a 12:20.448 lap time.

Here is his video from the race.

Again, the noise maker is due to PPIHC regulations, it's not a police car chasing him up the mountain.

There's a close call partway up the mountain when someone on a motorcycle kinda rolled out onto the road.  Good save, Jay.

Yoshihiro Kishimoto was riding a bike that I gather was originally built for the Isle of Man TT ZERO, but this year they chose to enter the PPIHC.  He came in 103rd overall with a 13:36.654 lap time.

According to Brandon Nozaki Miller (shown in this picture) the bike got a couple battle scars when "Kishimoto San had a disagreement with the pavement in the second half of the race".  We imagine that means he took a spill but was able to get back on the bike and finish.

Speaking of Brandon, we want to make a special shout out to him and his participation in the 2014 PPIHC.

Even though he wasn't registered to race this year, as he was last year, he did take a week of work to travel to the event as part of the Hollywood Electrics support crew.  Judging by his Facebook postings during the week, Brandon was helping all the electric motorcycle teams with his technical skills as well as taking pictures.

He put together a "Story" over on Google+ about the week that's well worth clicking on.

All the electric motorcycle teams

The electric motorcycle racing teams have always had a special camaderie - in most cases - between the teams.  Here's an example, with all of them together grinning for the camera looking pleased with their accomplishment of moving the needle forward a couple more notches.

While most of them took results pretty far down the overall ranking, the results of this group show considerable improvement.  That is, improvement for the production electric motorcycles.

One wonders how Jeff Clark would have fared against a 2014 Zero SR (Brandon!!) or against a 2014 Empulse TTX, but he improved his time over last year.  Further, while the Brutus V2 Rocket is a prototype bike, it's nearly ready for production (apparently) and Brutus does have it listed on their site with a $26,000 price tag.

In other words, a few years ago the story for electric motorcycle racing was far out prototype bikes by Brammo/Lightning/MotoCzysz/Muench and others.  The production bikes of that era weren't capable of finishing something like Pikes Peak until the 2012 Zero model line, and now both Brammo and Zero are hitting their stride with excellent production electric motorcycles.

Now it's possible for a rider to just buy a Zero or Brammo bike, do some tweaking, and get performance similar to or better than 250cc gas bikes.  Jeff Clark's 11:59.814 lap time beat the pants off the Pikes Peak 250cc class whose fastest rider was Matt Meinart with a 12:09.513 lap time.  He would have finished in the middle of the Pikes Peak Lightweight class, had he been entered in that class.  Jeremiah Johnson would have finished in the middle of Pikes Peak Middleweight class, had he been in that class.

Within a couple years the Production Electric Motorcycle class could be a significant force at Pikes Peak.  They're already giving results in the middle of their respective gasser classes.  Given the rapid progress being made, it's a certainty that more electric motorcycle racers will do as Lightning did last year, and win outright.  It's just a matter of "when" not "if".

It's within the realm of likelihood, now, that the outright winner could be electric next year, or the year after.

Won't that catch the attention of lots of gear-heads?