When Chip Yates set out to build an electric motorcycle, he insisted that it keep up with the 600-cc machines he races in the AMA. It was almost laughably ambitious, given that the fastest bikes in the electric-motorcycle racing scene currently lap tracks about 20 seconds short of that mark.
But Yates says he’ll pull it off.
He and the crew at Swigz.com Pro Racing USA are finishing work on what could be an exceedingly impressive motorcycle if it delivers on Yates’ promises. The bike can put down as much as 194 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque and features what Yates believes is the first kinetic-energy recovery system installed on a motorcycle.
Yates set out to build a machine for the TTXGP and FIM ePower electric-motorcycle grand-prix race circuits, but more than that he wanted to generate some excitement for the nascent sport and “prove EVs can be extreme.”
Chip Yates has been racing motorcycles since 2007 and made the jump to the AMA in 2009. But it wasn’t until he broke his pelvis in August 2009 that he started thinking hard about alt-fuels. The AMA had revised its rules to rein in the cost of racing, but Yates felt that took some of the innovation out of the sport. He got wind of the TTXGP zero-emissions motorcycle-racing series, which at the time had a class for bikes running on hydrogen, and saw a chance to break new ground.
“The team I originally brought together was aimed at developing an internal combustion motor to burn hydrogen via direct injection and a bunch of creative trickery we were excited to implement,” he says. “Still very green, but not electric.”
The TTXGP later went all-electric, leaving Yates with lots of ideas but nowhere to test them.
“I was initially skeptical that I’d really be able to bring anything to the electric-vehicle table since I was very new to EVs and battery technology,” Yates says. “But after digging in for a month, throwing out all of our hydrogen analysis and work, we started to see the beauty of electric powertrains.”
When Yates started the project about a year ago, he insisted that the bike be no slower than a 600-cc AMA race bike, it deliver “the maximum practical horsepower” and it push EV technology forward. He says his team delivered on those objectives and “produced a feasible grand prix–level racebike.”
Construction started in earnest in January. Yates started with a Suzuki GSX-R750 frame and swingarm but modified it for the kinetic-energy recovery system mounted on the front wheel. Yates is keeping mum about specifics of the system, because he has several patents pending — that’s why the fork is photoshopped out of the pic — but says it has a maximum recharge rate of between 5C and 7.5C (55 to 82.5 kilowatts) depending upon race conditions. (A current of 1C is a current in amperes numerically equal to the rated capacity of the battery in ampere hours.)
Yates says using KERS allows him to run the same size pack as other racing teams but produce 50 percent more power. He’s running a UQM Powerphase 145 motor good that produces 145 kilowatts (194 horsepower) peak and 85 kilowatts (114 horsepower) continuous. The motor makes a monstrous 295 pound feet of torque (peak). It weighs 110 pounds and uses a UQM controller.
The 11-kilowatt-hour pack comprising lithium-ion polymer prismatic cells is good for 25 miles under race conditions. That isn’t much, but it’s enough to complete a TTXGP or ePower race, Yates said. It’s recharged with a Manzanita charger at either 110 or 220 volts. The pack weighs 175 pounds, making it far less ungainly than an earlier pack that weighed 300 pounds and looked like a few cases of D-cell batteries mounted haphazardly to the bike.
The bike rides on a fork and shock custom built by Ohlins to handle the weight and distribution of the pack. The wheels and hubs are similarly custom, designed to work with the kinetic-energy recovery system, and made by Performance Machine. The bike is heavy, even by electric motorcycle standards, at 585 pounds. That’s about 135 pounds heavier than the MotoCzysz E1PC and 125 pounds heavier than the Brammo Empulse RR.
Electric motorcycle advocates say the bikes handle like far lighter machines because you aren’t dealing with rotational and reciprocating mass. And Yates says the Swigz.com bike handles like a “very powerful superbike with 295 pound feet of torque, with a passenger riding on the back.” Still, physics is physics, and 585 pounds is a lot of mass to toss around on a tight track like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Yates says he’d like to develop a feather-light carbon-fiber chassis with help from Swift Engineering, one of his sponsors, but it’s cost-prohibitive at this point. He’s already sunk $147,000 into the project, most of it out of his own pocket.
Yates had hoped to compete in the inaugural race of the TTXGP North American series at Infineon Raceway earlier this year, but a snafu with a Chinese battery supplier scuttled that plan. He’ll spend the rest of the year testing the Swigz.com machine on the dyno and on the track, then compete in the TTXGP and ePower races next year.
There are no plans to mass-produce the bike. Yates said he “developed this bike as a technology showpiece” and to run in electric-motorcycle grand prix races. But he hopes to work with automotive and motorcycle suppliers to develop his KERS and other technology for use in the electric-vehicle sector.
Top photo: Swigz.com Pro Racing USA (photoshopped by Swigz.com to protect patents pending)
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The UQM controller works with a UQM PowerPhase 145 motor.
Off-board testing an early battery pack. The latest pack uses prismatic cells. The kinetic-energy recovery system and its related components have been photoshopped out because the patents are pending. We’re curious about the baseball bat …
r this year), but this vid has more info on the team.
Originally posted 2010-11-17 08:36:01.