With Technical Contribution from MotoGP Electronics Engineer Francesco DiGoro
While most bloggers report on events from the comfort of home, Examiner.com writer David Herron and I grossly enlarged our CO2 footprints and flew to Albacete, Spain to witness firsthand the crowning of the champion of the inaugural TTXGP season. Although David has attended every American TTXGP race, I only made it to Infineon. Contributor Francesco DiGoro met me in Madrid and we drove to Albacete, a small town southeast of Madrid. We both went expecting some quiet, dusty outpost and were pleasantly surprised with a vibrant, small city with bustling nightlife and no obvious signs of the economic slowdown which has hit the EU harder than most parts of the world. On the highways between Madrid and Valencia we also saw acres of windmills and solar panels, showing that electric motorcycles in Spain could easily be truly zero-carbon. It was an amazing weekend not only because of the racing action, but also for Sunday’s epic dinner with some of the most talented people in the electric motorcycle industry.
Electric vs. Two-Stroke Race Engines
Saturday we went directly to the track and enjoyed the music of children on dinosaurs vying for pole position in tomorrow’s 125 race. The death of 125cc 2-stroke racing in the world series is the final nail in the coffin to this heavily polluting yet immensely entertaining form of racing. Dorna continues to adapt to environmental concerns by moving completely into 4-stroke racing because the manufacturers need to race bikes that at least vaguely resemble the bikes they sell. While 2-stroke engines become increasingly illegal, they must move forward into the cleaner 4-strokes.
Although fans of electric motorcycles would rather see the Moto3 class full of electric bikes than the comparable 250cc 4-strokes, the class is dominated by manufacturers who are not currently selling electric motorcycles. Those companies have been working closely with Dorna for too long to be shunted aside for the lesser-known electric manufacturers. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and the rest of the 125GP field are not currently selling electric motorcycles. For many of them, this is not yet being taken seriously. And with the best lap of the winning TTXGP still 10 seconds behind that of the winning 125, electric racing still has some catching up to do.
TTXGP 2010 Champion Matthias Himmelmann pulling into victory circle.
A Tale of Two Motorcycles
What’s interesting is that TTXGP champion Matthias Himmelmann is significantly larger than most motorcycle racers, at approximately 95kg. Power to weight ratios (7kg=1.5hp) are not as important for electric bikes given their enormous torque, but still have an impact. This shows that the Siemens-powered Münch motorcycle was clearly outgunning its competitors. For the eCRP to do as well as they did considering not only the problems they’d had with their controllers all weekend, but also the fact that their motor had 1/3rd the power of the Münch, was truly impressive. In case you missed it, I toured the CRP factory in May days before they first tested their eCRP 1.2
In this inaugural year, it has been an open-class battle where motors originally designed for cars have frequently beat their twin-Agni powered competitors. Agni Motors inventor Cedric Lynch and CEO Arvind Rabadia were on hand to support their team and competitors. The Agni DC motor has been the default motor of electric motorcycle racing, but many others are developing their own motors, and Arvind hinted at major developments in the works for Agni. So the competition amongst motor manufacturers is poised to heat up.
Himmelmann and 2nd place finisher Alessandro Brannetti had a close battle, with Branetti outbraking Himmelmann into T1 on lap 5 and leading by a close margin until Himmelmann was able to draft past Brannetti before the Start/Finish line on lap 9. He made the pass early enough on the front straight that he was able to maintain the lead until the end, whereas on previous attempts Brannetti had responded by outbraking Himmelmann into T1.
The bikes were as different as their riders:
- 2x Agni motors – brushed (2x 16kW = 32 kW)
- Lithium-Polymer batteries (unknown capacity)
- Total weight: 160 Kg
- 1 Siemens motor – brushless permanent magnet (90 kW)
- Lithium-Ion batteries (8.2 kWh)
- Total weight: 190 Kg
Racing Toward the Future
For 2011, the TTXGP series will have two classes, one limited to 7.5KwH of stored energy and the other remaining unlimited save for a reduction in the maximum weight from 300kg to 250kg. While gas-powered bikes need weight minimums, electric bikes require weight maximums. Otherwise, competitors would just keep piling on the batteries to the limits of handling. More about 2011 rules here. Over 100 teams have expressed interest in competing in TTXGP 2011, a significant jump from the 30 teams who participated in 2010. It will be interesting to see how the technology develops over the winter when teams have more development time.
CRP’s Brannetti at Albacete. Photo Courtesy CRP Racing