THE MISSION: Be the first to finish a TT on an electric production bike
Can a standard electric production bike, one that can be ridden legally on the road, take on the hardest race track in the world? We don’t know, but from the showroom to the Mountain Course, we are trying to be the first team to ever race an electric production bike at the TT.
We know it sounds crazy, but it might just be possible. Back in 2009 Rob Barber won the first all-electric race to be held at the TT, with a winning lap time of 25m 53.50s, averaging 87.434mph. The then named TTXGP has now morphed into the TT Zero and the lap times have tumbled, with John Mcguinness currently holding the lap record of 18m 58.743s, averaging 119.279mph set in 2015 on a Mugen. Top speeds are now approaching 160mph with William Dunlop recording 159.8mph last year on the Victory RR race bike.
Japanese giant Mugen spend millions on their TT Zero preparation. Their bikes are the most expensive and advanced racing at the Isle of Man and we simply can’t hope to compete at that level. But can we get close to the winning time of 2009? The late Mark Buckley finished third in 2009 with a time of 30m 02.64s, averaging 75.350mph, and there’s a good chance we can match that.
Averaging 75mph around the TT may not sound that challenging but, remember, our bike will be road legal and isn’t a prototype with a throwaway battery – it even has reverse and, after a 30-minute re-charge, could be ridden home after the race. We’ll still be approaching 140mph through villages and towns, clipping kerbs and brushing walls on a 258kg road bike!
A calculated approach
The Energica Ego has no gears, a twistand-go throttle and runs in silence. It’s so heavy they’ve even fitted a reverse gear. We don’t know how it’s going to cope with the TT course’s notorious bumps and jumps and have no idea what Kirk Michael is going to be like at 150mph. I’m massively out of my comfort zone.
The Ego has a quoted top speed of 150mph, and a claimed power and torque output of 136bhp and 144ftlb. You can walk into dealers Motor Corsa, based in Gillingham, hand over £27k and ride away on the same bike we’re racing. It has fully adjustable suspension and Brembo brakes, optional power modes and four levels of engine braking, which also help recharge the battery when you’re off the throttle.
With no clutch and no gears and no engine noise, testing felt distinctly alien (I never realised how noisy knee-sliders are when they come into contact with the track). Initially I rode the Energica like a normal bike, getting 100% throttle whenever possible, jumping the brakes, turning, hitting the apex and jumping back on the power again. Acceleration is seamless, gearless and impressive but hard riding vastly reduces battery life. Simply put we’ll never complete TT Zero’s 37¾-mile distance by riding flat out. I need a more calculated, mature approach – to stay tucked in for longer and be as aerodynamic as possible. The key will be smoothness, carrying corner speed and momentum.
We wanted to keep the Energica Ego as standard as possible. As there’s no oil or sump we don’t need to lockwire the non-existant sump plug or fit a catch tank as there aren’t any fluids. We need to fit an emergency stop button, for safety, and replace the standard Pirelli Rosso rubber with stickier Pirelli SC3 tyres, but otherwise it’s standard.
We can adjust the suspension, gearing and tyre pressures, even try different compounds, but that can only be done once we’ve completed our first practice lap. We don’t know how it’s going to cope with the demanding track. We don’t know how much the famous mountain is going to take out of the battery. We don’t have any previous race data as nobody has ever raced a standard production electric bike around the TT. We might not even finish a lap. But if everything comes together we’ll make a bit of biking history.
‘The key will be smoothness and corner speed’
MCN’S Adam Child tests the Ego he will race at this year’s TT Could this be the first production electric bike to finish a TT?