Last week I had a chance to ask Chip Yates some questions over email about the progress of the SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing Electric Superbike program. Chip’s responses tell us his team’s ambitious performance goals are on track and they are quickly signing on sponsors. SWIGS.COM Pro Racing remains the only electric motorcycle race team to put the cards on the table for 2010 in regards to target performance.

In late 2009, Chip announced he had assembled a team including two MIT grads turned aerospace engineers to develop an electric superbike to compete in the TTXGP race series. The press release mentioned some very impressive and somewhat controversial goals for the SWIGZ.COM bike including the ability to turn AMA SuperSport lap times (GSX-R600) and a KERS system to return braking energy back to the battery.

Since the announcement, the electric motorcycle racing landscape has changed dramatically with the entrance of the FIM e-Power series and the TT Zero race replacing TTXGP at the Isle Of Man. Some races have conflicting schedules that will force teams to choose one event or the other. Chip explains what series the team will run and which they will not. Unfortunately the team is not releasing any of the electric drive specs and vendors yet but some details should be announced next month.

See the full Q&A with Chip Yates after the break.

Interview with Chip Yates SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing – Electric Superbike Program

Skadamo: Have you had any sponsors sign on?

Chip: We have had some good founding sponsors signed on, we are currently in very active discussions finalizing deals with additional sponsors including a major sponsor, and we are finding the effort of convincing sponsors to help us invest in this green racing program is much easier than normal sponsorship negotiations – people seem convinced this is the right way to go for electric powertrain development. Even non-motorcyclists quickly understand when we explain the acceleration effect the motorcycle racing application has on technology. Firstly, racing itself accelerates development. Secondly, the motorcycle application is perfect because it forces a precise and optimized design due to the limited space and weight constraints – we can’t fill up a trunk with batteries to give longer range, so we are forced to innovate, and that “tension” combined with the fact that we’re racing on a world level, will advance electric powertrains rapidly. The motorcycle application is more closely related to aerospace because of size and weight, than it is related to electric cars. That is why we hired MIT engineers from aerospace who had recently designed electrical powertrains and control systems for helicopters. Of course, the benefits of such powertrain advancement can be realized by all transportation sectors including the car guys and will make electric vehicles more palatable to the general public by extending range, efficiency and performance.

Skadamo: Has your race schedule changed with the ePower and TT Zero announcments?

Chip: Our race schedule is to compete in all of the FIM e-Power rounds, plus the TTXGP North American championship. For 2010, we will not contest the Isle of Man TT or the other TTXGP events other than the finale in Albacete. The reason for not competing in the TT, is based on the design direction we have chosen for our superbike – namely to win on short circuits and that is our sole focus for 2010. Next year, we may study the design of a bike aimed at winning the TT. I discuss this issue in more detail in my upcoming monthly column in Roadracing World Magazine’s April 2010 edition, and I have a recurring column in that publication as well as in the FIM Magazine “Ride with Us”. It would be great if you encourage your readers to check out those publications as well. I also have an article in the current issue of Roadracing World Magazine (March 2010) on data acquisition with some mentions of our electric program.

Skadamo: How is the bike progressing?

Chip: The bike is progressing well, with motor, controller, ECU, data acquisition system and drivetrain set in our race shop in Laguna Hills, California. Our revolutionary KERS system is in design and patent phase and parts will be fabricated shortly. Our battery pack is designed and specified and we are in talks with several top suppliers, but have not made the purchase yet – one supplier may sponsor us and those talks are underway.

Skadamo: Many electric race teams including Brammo, Derbi, Zero have stated that regenerative braking does not provide enough energy to justify the additional weight and complexity to design it in. They also mention it can be dangerous with regards to maintaining traction. Are you still planning KERS on the SWIGZ bike?

Chip: We are absolutely planning to run a full KERS system on our bike. We do respect the decisions of other teams and we respect the engineering approach of “lighter is better”, but we have designed a bike that we feel is capable of winning on short circuits while delivering laptimes competitive with my AMA GSX-R600 and showing the crowd and any skeptics that electric power can be fast and exciting. Because of our very powerful drive system, we are deploying KERS to keep our battery pack weight to a reasonable level for 2010. We expect battery technology to migrate in a direction that is beneficial to us and as that happens perhaps we can back off KERS and use higher energy density batteries.

Skadamo: How close are you to your goal of building electric that can match the lap times of an ICE race bike?

Chip: Our bike is currently capable (according to MATLAB) of delivering AMA laptimes (albeit over a much shorter race distance – 25 miles).

Founding Team Members – Electric Superbike
(as of February 6, 2010)

Chip Yates Owner / Rider

Jimmy Summers Crew Chief / Trainer

Song K. Jung McKenna, Long & Aldridge – Program Executive

Lance Hagenbuch Program Manager, Human Assets

Matt Schweitzer Program Engineer – Software / Electrical

Ben Ingram Program Engineer – Hardware / Controls

Mitch Pederson MP Tuning – ECU, Data Acquisition, Network Integration

Chris Norris Swift Engineering – 3D CAD, FEA, Wind Tunnel

Casper van Der Schoot Swift Engineering – Race Engineer

Julie Yates North America Team Logistics

Marc Hoegee Hoegee Motortechniek – European Team Logistics

Renzo N. Rocchegiani McKenna, Long & Aldridge – Patent Attorney

Founding Team Sponsors – Electric Superbike

(as of February 6, 2010)

SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing

Chip Yates

McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP

Swift Engineering Inc.

Ohlins USA

Yoyodyne (Brembo Master Distributor, USA)

Check out this video filmed late last year by On The Throttle to find out more about the Pro Racing team.

Source: Plug Bike

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  • Andrew

    Why does this even make the news? There isn’t even a motor or batteries in that bike. They still have the rad in place (which obviously wont be needed). So from we can see here they have only modeled the bike performance/efficiency in Matlab which only translates so well into the real world.

  • MTGR

    The rad may be needed. Just as in an ICE design, heat is a major limiting factor in overall performance and longevity with elecric motors. A few other electric designs out there already use, or state plans to use, liquid cooling to control heat under race conditions. I suspect it is just the first of several existing technologies that will convert over from ICE as the electrics try to up their performance.

    Electric power is not as different as many believe, power is still power and generating it at anything close to the level current mainstream bikes do or ravcing demands will still create similar issues.

    Everyone thought 4 stroke MXers would be lower maintenance and cleaner running than 2 stokes too, because everyones’ 4 stroke play bike was that way. Then they actually tried to get the same levels of power out of them and now they require more maintenance than a 2 stroke and it is not uncommon to follow a modern 4 stroke and have you eyes water due to the amount of raw fuel pumped out the exhaust. As the demands on a design increase many of the same issues start to crop up. You don’t ever get something for nothing.

  • Andrew

    Well actually the heat produced by the electric motor is several times less than an ICE. Most electric motors are operating in the 85%+ efficiency level compared to >40% for an ICE. Often the really heat limited component is the batteries which lose capacity if operated outside their optimum temperature and voltage range. I have seen liquid cooled AC motors in electric vehicles but this is where an existing vehicle design is being used and airflow is limited. Using a liquid cooled system on a race bike seems silly as it is parasitic and the airflow over the motor and batteries should be sufficient.

  • MTGR

    Noted Andrew. I don’t claim to be an expert on electrics and am not part of that team so clearly I was guessing as much as anybody else, but my point was this is not intended to be a normal electric application so the normal stats may not apply.

    These guys clearly stated intent to match 600cc supersport pace and to do that I doubt they will be able to operate anything at the current “typical” level for an electric. It all boils down to give and take, the extra drag of the rad would be worth it if the return in overall performance was enough.

    Consider that it takes something like 1200 hp just to turn the superchargers used in top-level drag racing, which sounds majorly parasitic and silly, until you consider that those same superchargers provide somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional 3000 hp. Bottom line is you end up faster despite the 1200 hp drain so it is still worth it.

  • Brammo and using watercooled AC motors too…

    Look at the plugbike blog from more comments.