Thursday, August 28, 2014

KillaCycle racing beat everyone at Bonneville with a 240+ miles/hr electric motorcycle

The Killacycle Racing Team just set a new speed record in their class (three wheeled streamlined electric motorcycles) and for the first time in history an electric vehicle had the fastest speed at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials event.  I don't know much beyond a couple postings from the Killacycle team, so I'll do my best to summarize what they posted.

Basically - they a) set a new record at 240.726 miles/hr b) was the fastest vehicle this week.

What this means is they scored the fastest time overall at this years speed trials.  This is big news people.  Perhaps bigger than in 2013 when Lightning Motorcycles beat everyone at Pikes Peak.  They beat everyone at Bonneville.

What did they do?  The sharp eyed will note a speed of around 240 miles/hr.

Here's the time slip.  Some math major in the Facebook comments calculated the average between the runs to be 240.726 miles/hr.  In this kind of time trial format, to certify a record time the team has to make a second run in the opposite direction.  This slip shows 241.852 miles/hr in one direction, and 239.600 in the opposite direction.

On the 26th they'd had a couple runs in the 224 miles/hr range, which was enough to set a record (in their class).  Here they're boasting to have the fastest electric motorcycle on the planet.

Of course there are multiple contenders to that status.  You have to pigeon-hole KillaCycle's claim into the class in which they're competing.  Lightning, Brammo, and all the others are competing in other classes than the three wheeled streamlined electric motorcycle class.  I'm not pointing this out to rain on KillaCycle's parade, because they sure deserve accolades, but to keep everything in perspective.

The the motorcycle in question is the Killajoule.  It's a custom designed custom built streamlined electric motorcycle built by Bill and Eva Dube, the duo that's behind the KillaCycle drag bike.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

History making race with streamlined motorcycle coming to eMotoRacing near Salt Lake City

Historical streamlined race bike - the NSU SportMax from 1955
History is about to be made at the upcoming eMotoRacing event near Salt Lake City.  For the first time in decades a streamlined motorcycle will race in a sanctioned event.  If you're scratching your head and going "why's that important" we have to ponder motorcycle racing politics, and the abysmal inefficiency of regular motorcycle design.

Until 1957 streamlined motorcycles were allowed in FIM sanctioned races.  That year the rules were changed to outlaw such bikes, leading to the sort of sport bikes now used in motorcycle racing around the world.

Terry Hershner testing the streamlining on his bike
in October 2013
Yes, these bikes have a "fairing" and there is an efficiency difference between a naked bike and one with a fairing.  However, a motorcycle with full streamlining is clearly going to be far more efficient than modern sport bikes.  As I noted last fall when writing about Terry Hershner's cross-country speed record attempt, Craig Vetter has run this test.  He's taken two identical Ninja 250's, added a fully streamlined fairing to one, then had riders take them on exactly the same route, at the same time, riding side by side, and compared the fuel efficiency.  The bike with the streamlined fairing had much higher miles-per-gallon of fuel.

The motorcycle shown above is an NSU SportMax from 1955, and with this motorcycle H-P.Müller won the world championship 1955 and Hans Baltisberger won the German road race championship.  The image comes from Wikimedia where it's shared under Creative Commons CC CC-BY-SA 3.0.  The Wikipedia page on motorcycle fairings is worth a read.

What's going on with typical motorcycles is they aren't designed for fuel efficiency.  Most motorcycles are designed to look like the superbikes running in motorcycle races.  And because the FIM bans streamlining in races, the superbikes cannot be streamlined, and therefore the guys who want bikes that look like the one which won the race on Sunday do not seek out a bike with streamlining when going to the motorcycle store on Monday.  Instead, the bike they get is less efficient, uses more fuel to achieve the same result (high speed), and humanity is saddled with a fleet of motorcycles on the road consuming more fuel than is required.

In theory, if riders in FIM sanctioned races were riding streamlined bikes, the motorcycle-buying-public will want to buy streamlined bikes, and humanity won't have to burn as much fuel to power motorcycles.  Taking that reasoning to all other vehicles, introducing proper aerodynamics to all vehicles would mean an across-the-board fuel consumption decrease, with matching positive effects on a range of issues including peak oil, middle east geopolitics, the environment and climate change.

When the TTXGP electric motorcycle race series was launched back in 2009, one big feature was that the rules allowed streamlined bikes.  But two things happened.  First, nobody entered any TTXGP event with a streamlined bike.  Second, that rule was dropped when TTXGP died and eRoadRacing took its place.  In other words, the FIM was able to preserve the ban on streamlined bikes.  When I asked Azhar Hussain about this back in early 2013, he told me approximately that since nobody showed up to race with a streamlined bike it wasn't worth fighting to preserve that rule.

Brian Richardson & Thad Wolf
July 2009

Those were the closest anybody came to a fully streamlined bike in TTXGP racing.  The first is Team Electra during the 2009 TTXGP event at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days event in Ohio.  The second is again Team Electra, but sometime during the 2010 season.

What about the history-making event mentioned earlier?

It turns out that in the Spring of 2014, Arthur Kowitz visited Craig Vetter.  Vetter has been working on motorcycle aerodynamics since the 1970's, sponsored a fuel efficiency event in the early 1980's, and more recently has sponsored another fuel efficiency series the last few years.  Kowitz is the instigator of the eMotoRacing series - which I've not been giving as much coverage as they deserve, I apologize but it's been a crazy-making year for me.  In any case, Kowitz left Vetter's place with a Vetter Streamlining Kit and set about adapting it to his Brammo Empulse TTX.

With the kit adapted to the TTX, they took it to a track day at Roebling Road near Savannah GA.  Kowitz already had GPS data of the same bike on that track when eMotoRacing held an event there earlier in the year.  They were able to compare data with and without the streamliner, and adjust etc.

He reported that a couple turns were a little harder to manage, but there were no crosswind challenges.  He tells of another rider who tried to pass Kowitz, but found there was no "air wake" behind the streamlined TTX.  That's with a stubbier tail than other bikes on which the Vetter Streamlining Kit has been installed.

The speed difference was minimal - only a 4 miles/hr top speed improvement.  But, Kowitz says the GPS data showed faster acceleration, and lap times were 2 seconds faster than in February.

Having proved the effectiveness of a streamlined fairing on the Empulse TTX, it seems Kowitz is planning to race with that combination in the upcoming eMotoRacing event in Salt Lake City.

You can see pictures and a full report on Craig Vetter's website via the link above.  I, for one, am pondering my budget to consider whether I can make it to Salt Lake City for the race.

Renovo Motors unveils Shelby CSX9000 based electric supercar

Taking the shape of a muscle car from an earlier era, Renovo Motors has unveiled the Renovo Coupe all electric supercar.  The car, based on a factory-modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis (“Cobra Daytona Coupe”), has a 0-60 miles/hr time under 3.4 seconds and a top speed over 120 miles/hr.  That's faster than the Tesla Roadster, FWIW.

That performance is generated by a mid-mounted dual-motor drive train, with "sequential axial-flux motors" producing more than 370 kW (500 hp) and 1,000 lb-ft (1,356 N·m) of torque.  It has a single-gear transmission, and various energy mappings for various driving conditions.    The power ramps to FULL in under 37 milliseconds - essentially full-torque-at-zero-RPM.

The battery pack is built using the company's patent-pending modular battery pack system.  Instead of making the pack as one block, it's spread around the car - which supposedly lets Renovo optimize the weight distribution.  It is also supposed to support fast charging in under 30 minutes, so that it would be a great track day car allowing multiple runs in one day rather than spending the day waiting for a recharge.

Having been to more than a few race tracks I can say that high power electricity supply is a major problem, and therefore achieving a 30 minute recharge at most tracks will most likely require special arrangements.  For example, at the 2014 REFUEL, Tesla Motors brought the hardware for a full Supercharger station so the Model S's could quickly recharge between sprints.  However, Laguna Seca was only able to support the required electrical service because when MotoGP comes to Laguna Seca the press/media tent and a bunch of other MotoGP infrastructure is set up at the same spot, and therefore the Laguna Seca Raceway already had a massive electricity supply.

  • 0-60 miles/hr in under 3.4 seconds
  • 1000 ft-lbs of direct-drive torque instantly available
  • Twin sequential axial flux motors producing over 500 horsepower
  • Incredible throttle response with full power available in just 37 milliseconds
  • Patent-pending modular lithium ion battery technology
  • A curb weight of just 3,250 lbs
  • 30 minute quick charge and 5 hour level 2 charge
  • Genuine, factory modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis
  • Flexible control system with dynamic in-cabin regen adjustment
  • Proudly built in Silicon Valley, USA
  • Entering limited production in 2015
  • Featured at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • Preview at the Gold Rush Rally to benefit the Taylor Lynn Foundation

“Renovo Motors sought to create an aspirational vehicle that demonstrates the performance, control, and excitement that is possible with EV technology,” said Renovo’s CEO Christopher Heiser. “We have poured our passion and innovation into the Coupe in an effort to deliver a truly amazing driving experience, and we’re honored to present the Production Prototype of our car at the Concours d’Elegance.”

“Our motivation to design and build our cars is not artificially tied to any particular propulsion technology,” notes Jason Stinson, Renovo Motors CTO. “Simply put, we can do things with electric vehicles that can’t be replicated by any other platform. Exploring these areas, reducing them to practice, and building them into our products is at the core of what we do best.”

The company was founded in 2010, is based in Silicon Valley, and is normal for startup companies located here, has been operating in stealth mode ever since with a staff of just 3 people.

Being located in Silicon Valley one should expect a venture capital company in the background.  Tony Schneider, the former CEO of Automattic, lists himself as an advisor to Renovo Motors and in a blog post explains that True Ventures is an investor in Renovo. He says: "The team at Renovo is world class and the car is spectacular – I’ve witnessed its acceleration and it’s totally awesome!"

The Renovo Coupe is now on sale for the princely sum of $529,000

Sources:  Green Car Congress, Renovo Motors  (all images copied from Renovo's website)