ELECTRIC GP IS GO
Motogp plans to launch an electric world championship in 2019. After several false starts will this be the moment electric bike racing finally sparks into life?
Motogp plans to run an electric bike championship from 2019, alongside its existing Motogp, Moto2 and Moto3 categories. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is already in talks with manufacturers with the idea of running it at five Motogp rounds.
“It is the right time to have an electric class in Motogp,” says Ezpeleta. “Now we are talking with different electric bike makers and then we will see. We have had a lot of interest from people. Our aim is to start the series the year after next, with maybe one race at the end of 2018.”
Dorna will make its first foray into electric racing with a one-make series because the Motogp rightsholders believe there’s currently too great a performance differential between bikes to ensure close racing.
“It will be something like Moto2, except with all the bikes completely the same,” added Ezpeleta.
Dorna also want all bikes to be recharged by renewable energy. “This is one idea we have – to recharge the bikes with clean energy,” Ezpeleta explains. “We don’t want the bikes to be recharged by mains power or by generators. We want to create the power at the circuits, with solar panels, or reach an agreement with a company that can transport solar panels to each circuit.”
The Motogp boss wants 18 machines on the grid, possibly a combination of current Motogp and Moto2 riders, although it’s difficult to see the teams risking prized riders in a support race.
This isn’t motorcycling’s first attempt at establishing a ‘green’ championship. In 2013 the FIM and TTXGP organised a nine-round e-road Racing World Cup at venues in Europe, the USA and Asia, but after only six rounds plans to continue it in 2014 were dropped.
Dorna won’t reveal which companies it is talking to, but the list almost certainly includes Mugen, winners of the last three Isle of Man TT Zero races.
Bruce Anstey won last year’s TT Zero at 118.4mph, a huge increase against the 87.4mph achieved during the inaugural electric TT in 2009. The 2017 Mugen Shinden uses the company’s latest oilcooled, three-phase, brushless motor that produces 120kw, or 160bhp.
Colin Whittamore of Mugen Europe believes electric motor and battery performance are improving at such a rate that a 125mph TT lap will possible in two years. That’s an astonishing 44% increase in performance since 2009.
Ironically, considering Dorna’s wish to run a one-make electric Motogp series, Mugen believes that electric vehicle (EV) racing needs more competition to move development forward.
“There needs to be a stronger depth of field to push it on,” adds Whittamore. “Mugen is relatively small, with fewer than 250 employees, and the Shinden programme is internally funded. So while we can do a good job with what’s available to us, what is really needed to fuel development is at least a couple of manufacturers who can commit the level of finance and resources necessary to take EV bikes to the next level.
“The best example would be to look at Formula One cars. When F1 first introduced hybrids into the power train a few years ago it was a simple push-to-pass button that lasted only a matter of seconds, which could have been classed as non-essential. But these days the EV element in F1 is crucial to performance – you would not win a race without it. That’s all down to competitive development driving the technology.
Mugen’s Whittamore is waiting for the great leap forward in battery tech Mugen’s lessons have been learnt through the Shinden project
Dorna boss Ezpeleta says one-make racing could start at the end of 2018