UPDATED November 28, 2008 It’s the first electric superbike and though its range is considerably less than the first modern four-stroke superbike, the 1969 Honda CB750, its top speed of 125 mph (200 km/h) is almost identical. Yesterday the first prototype of the TTX01 Electric Superbike was showcased at a press conference for the 2008 NEC Bike Show. Built to demonstrate the potential of electric sports motorcycles for the first emissions-free Grand Prix, the initial prototype is based on a Suzuki GSX750 frame and running gear and runs two 43 bhp Agni Lynch Electric motors arranged in line with the frame. Together, the motors produce 125 Newton Metres of torque and both have been modified to withstand high RPM using Kevlar-reinforced armatures. The vision is to create a lightweight, carbon fiber framed 2WD TTX02 with "hot swappable", 20 kilowatt hour battery packs, regenerative braking and a production run of 50 machines in 2010 with a target price of GBP20,000.
Though capable of 200 km/h with longer gearing, in the form presented yesterday, the bike is currently geared down to 110mph for greater acceleration which is quoted as 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds – not quite superbike territory, but certainly in the realms of supercar acceleration.
We’ve been raving about the potential of electric motorcycles for several years now and until today, only the Vectrix Electric Superbike prototype (see original story about the Robrady Design in 2005 and unveiled at last year’s Milan Show) of the dozens of electric two-wheelers we have covered has really promised genuine sporting performance on a par with large capacity motorcycles.
Similarly, we have enormous belief that the world’s first clean emission Grand Prix to be held at the Isle of Man during TT race week in June 2009 will flush out some really fast electric bikes for the first time.
The TTX01 was produced under commission by the organisers of the TTX GP in order to demonstrate the potential of the electric motorcycle. TTXGP founder Azhar Hussain told Gizmag that the bike was created because, "the public's perception is that electric motorcycles just aren't credible as race machines and to overcome that challenge, we built a bike."
"We've had many people contact us wanting to become involved in the race in 2009 or beyond, but there is just no electric machinery available as yet and that has been one of the major aspects of enquiry", said Hussain. "Now we've proven that there is genuine performance potential in electric motorcycles, we expect to begin turning the tide of public opinion."
"Seriously, we need to change the way people see electric motorcycles if we're going to change their buying habits and a large part of what we're doing with the TTX GP is pioneering those changes."
Hussain said there were currently around 60 teams preparing to compete in the TTX GP, with most opting for electric motorcycles, but several working on hydrogen machines and one in the process of developing an electric fuel cell hybrid. "If half of those people get to the line for the first race in June I'll be happy", he said.
"We're currently working with some of the overseas teams, 22 of the 60 are from outside the UK, to help them with getting riders who know the course well enough to be competitive, so it's fair to say that a lot of these teams are very serious about winning the first race - it's an historic event and the importance of winning the first of what we expect to become a very important event in history has not been lost on the competitors", said Hussain.
"We'll be having a closed track day in April and an open track day in May where all the competitors will get to see how competitive they are. Those days will be announced fully when we have decided on the race circuit to use, but it is certain to be one of the major racetracks in the UK", he said.
"So another aspect of what we're doing is to ensure that there are race bikes available if people want to compete, and the next step is to take advantage of the inherent strengths of the electric motorcycle. The GSX Suzuki frame and running gear are heavier and more robust than they need to be, and the size of the motorcycle, particularly its frontal area, can be reduced enormously - the GSX has a four cylinder motor which is much wider than an electric motor and hence we'll be able to make the next machine both lighter and faster, even if we don't get any more horsepower from the motors.
"The idea behind using a carbon fibre frame is to reduce weight as much as possible and to use the greater freedom of construction to enable battery swapping", said Hussain. "We're seeking suitable partners to work with in several aspects of the bike, so if there's anyone out there wishing to collaborate, we'd be more than pleased to hear from them."
Only one production motorcycle currently exists with a Carbon Fibre frame - the Bimota DB7 Oronero.
"The bike uses the Cedric Lewis-designed Agni electric motor which already holds the unlimited world electric water speed record of 68 mph set in 2005, and plans another record attempt with much higher goals.".
Cedric Lynch invented the Agni Motor in 1983. The Agni Motor achieves a remarkable 93% efficiency and it maintains high efficiency over a wide range of loads and speeds. It runs on D.C. up to 84 volts and the low shaft speed and high torque enable the use of a simple, cheap and efficient transmission in most applications.
One of the most significant aspects of the next prototype will be 2WD according to Hussain. At present, both engines power the rear wheel and Hussain says, "by adding an additional motor into the front wheel to create a 2WD motorcycle we can achieve significant improvements to handling and roadholding, particularly in wet conditions." Yamaha has been working on such a system for several years now.
"The aim is to have a bike which is road legal from the get go, and can perform well on a racetrack by unscrewing the mirrors and putting on the right tyres, and our target price is GBP20,000."
"One of the other critically important aspects of the next version of the bike is to have hot swappable batteries. If you want to go racing, no-one is going to charge their battery quickly enough in a pit stop, and it must be hot swappable because the computer-controlled power management system we have on the drawing boards will need rebooting if you cut the power. Accordingly, we're shooting for hot swappable 20 kilowatt hour battery packs, even though the current machine only has a 14 kilowatt hour pack."
Right now, the 20 killowatt hour battery pack weighs in at 75 kilograms, and fully charged, at road speeds, that should give the bike around 50 miles - obviously everything is geared around completing one lap of the 37 mile TT circuit at race speeds, but talking in roadgoing terms, the recharge time with a standard 13 amp power supply is under two hours."
"We'll be using the TTX01 as a promotional vehicle during the first six months of 2009 leading up to the TTX GP, with motorcycle journalists being invited to ride the machine to verify that it performs as claimed, and there will be a battery-powered European tour taking in Portugal, France, Germany and Italy promoting the TTX GP where we'll be using the bike."