Tacita will debut its 2020 T-Race Rally electric motorcycle at the Dakar
Italian electric motorcycle manufacturer Tacita is preparing to launch a new rally-focused bike in early January – and has just announced that it'll take the T-Race Rally out for a public debut at the world's greatest and most historic rally event.
The bikes will be officially unveiled on the 4th of January, at the Dakar podium in Jeddah, and they'll follow the Dakar circus as a display, with its solar-powered trailer, through the rally until the final day, in which "the Tacita T-Race Rally 2020 will join the full field of competitors at the 'Qiddiyah Grand Prix' to make his first Dakar debut."
The Dakar, of course, will be in the scorched wastelands of Saudi Arabia this year, with more than 75 percent of the rally over sand – "all types of sand," the organizers promise to those who worry it might get a bit samey. The final stage will roll into Qiddiyah, a giant sports and leisure district outside Riyadh that is yet to be built, far as we can tell, with a scheduled opening in 2022/23.
The stage we believe Tacita will join in for is the "Qiddiyah Trophy," a 20 km (12.4 mile) stage with no impact on general classification for the rally proper. Here's the announcement, on Tacita's Facebook page:
We obviously haven't seen specifications yet for the Tacita bike, but the brand's current-generation machines make a maximum of 44 kW (59 hp) and their maximum energy storage is 18 kilowatt-hours. That's good enough for 125-odd miles (220-odd km) of granny-level bimbling or maybe a quarter of that at full-throttle race pace. Weight isn't specified, but it's likely to be much closer to road bike weight than dirtbike weight with that much battery on board.
So we'd expect the bike rolled out to carry less battery, probably just enough to get the demo stage done, and if that's the case it has probably got a chance to make a decent showing of itself. Finishing 20 km of a 7,856 km (4,881-mile) rally isn't much to crow about, and electrics are a long way off being able to stand up to the all-day torture of a flat-out desert race that covers up to 900 km (560 miles) in a day.
To give you a sense of the energy challenge electrics are facing, let's consider how much energy a Dakar bike tends to carry on board. Yamaha's bike last year ran a 33-liter (8.7 gallon) fuel tank, which, if filled with regular gasoline, would equate to somewhere in the range of 290-odd kilowatt-hours of energy. Now, electric motors tend to operate around five times more efficiently than gasoline ones, which lose a lot of energy in friction, noise and heat. So in order to roughly match the range of a 33-liter tank, an electric motorcycle would have to carry close to 60 kWh of energy storage, and be able to charge that up roughly as quickly as the gasoline guys can tip a liquid into a bottle.
That ain't happening any time soon, folks. So, short of a lithium energy density miracle, or potentially a hydrogen fuel cell bike, we can write off the idea of a fully electric, solar-charged Dakar bike until sometime well into the 2020s, and accept Tacita's demo run next year for what it is: a marketing move and a chance to take a look at what might be quite a decent electric dirt squirter when it drops. Nothing more!