Burning Rubber, But Not Gas

Burning Rubber, But Not Gas

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The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, or “TT”, is one of the Worlds most famous and iconic motor races, where the public roads of the island are turned into a motorcycle race track.  A 38 mile (61km) course takes bikes around the island at speeds of up to 200mph (320kmh), with the fastest bikes averaging around 130mph (209kmh) over the lap.

This Friday, an important new page will open in the history of electric vehicles: the TTXGP.   The aim of the TTXGP is to build and race a zero-carbon superbike around the standard course, for two laps.  Although any zero-carbon technology is allowed, the entrants are all electric, powered by batteries; 76 miles is a long way, so clockwork or rubber-band powered is not going to be an option, and there are certain public safety issues associated with nuclear powered motorbikes, even supposing you could find a rider willing to sit on one.

Visually, the bikes look very much like petrol bikes, and in fact usually a standard road bike is the starting point for constructing the electric version.  Brakes, suspension, frame, controls are all fairly standard, but what is usually the petrol tank is now generally full of batteries.  The motors are electric, with no gearbox, and of course these vehicles are pretty much noiseless.

TTXGP BikeThe electric technology looks somewhat puny in comparison with the petrol bikes, but the electric vehicles are expected to be able to reach top speeds of around 70mph.  Of course it is hoped that if this kind of racing becomes a regular fixture, then this will drive innovation in battery and motor technology.  As any engineer will tell you, you can have a hundred ideas on paper about how to build something, but the execution of building something is where the really great innovation comes from.

I’m looking forward to seeing what these bikes can do on Friday, and also hoping that this does create practical road bikes in the not-too-distant future.  An electric bike with a range of, say, 200 miles at speeds of up to 70mph seems to me like a useful vehicle for commuting.




Picture courtesy of TTXGP

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  • Update: the Race was won by Rob Barber (AGNI) in 25:53.50, an average speed of 87.439mph.  8 of the 10 qualifiers finished the race.