One year ago, I was beyond excited about the TTXGP race. It was the beginning of a new era. I rode up from LA to witness and document this world-changing event. An exciting, action-packed year has passed, culminating in a packed grid at the world final in Albacete last October.
However, the 2011 season began with a whimper this past weekend at Infineon Raceway, as only 4 bikes made it to the grid. It was really heartbreaking, knowing what a heroic effort the skeletal TTXGP team have put into running this series. I really hope to see much deeper fields throughout the season, as that’s what makes it exciting for the fans.
There are now two classes, TTXGP and TTX75. Brammo’s 2010 Empulse set the track on fire in the TTXGP class with a fastest lap of 1:55.150, beating Zero’s 2010 lap record of 1:56.948 in Sunday’s race, and lapping the slowest bike 3 times in Saturday’s race. For comparison, this is about 23 seconds shy of the lead bikes in the AMA Superbike race, which are all 200hp machines. In this video I interview race winner Steve Atlas on Saturday, after he won the first race.
In the next Brammo video, I talk to CEO Craig Bramscher about their mini-moto bike. It’s difficult to hear over the announcer, but essentially what he tells me is that even though the minibike may not need six gears, they are developing it with 6 as a way to leverage that development to all their bikes.
You’ve Got to be In It to Win It.
The top two bike came from (one of) the top two electric motorcycle manufacturers- Brammo. To me, this shows the clear advantage that can be gained with actual production. Although Brammo is not selling anywhere near the volume of the major OEM’s, they have experience in building bikes that can meet consumer demands, as well as income to help support their racing efforts. This sets them far ahead of the competition, many of whom are developing all-new bikes on limited funds.
Correction- The Volt, winner of the TT75, while ridden by Zero’s Director of EE and developed by a relatively new Zero employee, it is not a Zero. It is a Volt. Eland Eggers and Loren Crotty built and raced it before Eland began working for Zero. I should know, I interviewed them and am working on a separate story about their development process.
Lightning did an excellent job bringing the GM EV1-powered bike to the top spot for the US in 2010. For 2011 they are developing two all-new bikes, one for TTXGP and one for TTX75. However, neither bike was ready for the opening round. Mission also intended to race, but electrical gremlins prevented them from turning a wheel this weekend.
As with any development process, there are bound to be challenges. Last year, the majority of the field were amateur builders, so while the field was deeper, it was also slower and suffered more DNF’s. With so many new electric bikes being announced (Amarok, Concept Zero, Roehr, to name a few) it’s only a matter of time before they make it to the TTXGP circuit. I’m sure each round will see a deeper field than the last, with closer competition as the technology advances.
But Who Will Enjoy the First Mover Advantage?
Personally, I think Brammo is crazy to not capitalize on this success and launch the Empulse as is. Although electric motors can benefit from a transmission as much as any other type of motor, is it worth waiting until the competition beats you to market? Market entry strategy is critical, and one can only wonder what the majors (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki) are doing with all the consumer interest information being generated by all this buzz. What if Steve Jobs had announced the 1st gen iPod then delayed it until it could be made with an SD Card? Would we all be running around with Zune’s?