Ducati's electric MotoE racer makes its track debut at Misano
Ducati is set to replace Energica as the sole bike supplier for the FIM MotoE series, starting in 2023, and the Italian company's new electric race bike prototype has now made its track debut with a test session at Misano.
Electric race bikes face basically the same problems as electric road bikes, of course – those being the size, weight and relatively low specific energy carried by lithium batteries, and the fast power drain experienced by these batteries when the throttle's right open at high speeds.
To date, the MotoE series has been supplied by electric motorcycle specialist Energica. A race-focused Corsa version of Energica's Ego sportsbike has been the control steed to date, making about 120 kW (160 hp) and topping out at around 270 km/h (168 mph).
Its ~20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack makes it an absolute porker, with a minimum weight of 262 kg (578 lb) compared to the 157 kg (346 lb) minimum weight of the MotoGP bikes – and even with that much battery on board, the MotoE bikes are limited to seven-lap races at circuits like Jerez. The MotoGP bikes race 46 laps at Jerez, carrying 22 liters (5.8 gal) of fossil fuel, which weighs around 16 or so kg (36 lb).
Let's do the maths for the sake of the argument: a liter of gasoline carries around 8.9 kWh of energy, so a 22-liter fuel tank represents nearly 196 kWh on board as a MotoGP bike rolls out of the pits. Even assuming a relatively inefficient 50 percent conversion of energy into torque through a combustion motor, it's obvious what a challenge lithium still presents to top-level race teams. Power has never been an issue; electrics are capable of extraordinary motor performance, the bottleneck's at the battery.
But historically, racing has been an invaluable technology testbed for the automotive industry, and Ducati clearly sees promise and potential for electric motorcycles.
"This agreement comes at the right time for Ducati, which has been studying the situation of electric powertrains for years," said Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali when the decision was announced in October. "We will work to make available to all participants of the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup electric bikes that are high-performance and characterized by lightness. It is precisely on weight, a fundamental element of sports bikes, that the greatest challenge will be played out. Lightness has always been in Ducati’s DNA and thanks to the technology and chemistry of the batteries that are evolving rapidly we are convinced that we can obtain an excellent result."
Today, we get our first look at the bikes themselves, as Ducati has released photos of its V21L prototype out on the track, with long-time factory test rider and frequent wildcard substitute Michele Pirro on board.
No technical details have yet been released, and presumably things like weight, power, battery capacity and the like are all still up in the air with plenty of development to go before the bike first races in 2023. We'd be interested to see under the fairings, too, since Ducati has been an industry leader in monocoque frames and the extensive use of carbon fiber. The V21L appears to have at least one decent-sized metallic frame structure, but we'll have to wait to learn more.
Still, Pirro seems impressed: "The bike is light and already has a good balance," he said in a press statement. "Furthermore, the throttle connection in the first opening phase and the ergonomics are very similar to those of a MotoGP bike. If it weren't for the silence and for the fact that in this test, we decided to limit the power output to just 70% of performance, I could easily have imagined that I was riding my bike."