The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.

From the naming convention being used here, we can surely accurately guess that the Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive will be comprised of a Kawasaki ZX-10R with its innards replaced with electric drive components. Many have been content to leave the analysis there, but there is considerable evidence to suggest that there is more than meets the eye with this entry.

Here are three pieces of information that we know, and have also not piqued the interest of anyone else:

  1. Bournemouth Kawasaki is one of Kawasaki’s top racing teams at the Isle of Man TT.
  2. Zytek Automotive is a serious electric & hybrid drivetrain supplier for OEMs in the automotive industry.
  3. A Kawasaki Europe supported race entry was on the TT Zero list for 2011, but ultimately failed to come to the Isle of Man TT that year.

Other than the glaring fact that Kawasaki had been planning to participate in the 2011 TT Zero, the real fuel to this conjecture is the involvement of Zytek Automotive. Probably not well known in the hobbyist EV circles, one industry expert described Zytek to A&R as, ” like Mission Motors, but the real deal.” Engaged with a number of OEMs, Zytek has also done some work with a small shipping company called UPS, as well as electrifying the taxi cabs in London. The group also has racing experience, having helped power a winning entry in some day-long car race that is held every year in western France.

A company with serious experience and resources, partnering with Zytek comes with no small price tag, and would certainly dwarf the budget of a British motorcycle dealership like Bournemouth. Instead, what makes better sense in this situation is that a company with a sizable budget, like a motorcycle OEM for example, is footing the bill, and has engaged one of its most respectable Isle of Man TT racing teams to manage the entry from a racing point-of-view. Does that sound like anyone else we know?

A Top 20 rider, James Hillier, along with the Bournemouth Kawasaki squad, is Team Green’s answer to the McGuinness/Mugen entry made by Honda. While the Mugen Shinden is being regarded as the biggest competition to last year’s 1-2 winner MotoCzysz, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev is perhaps the biggest dark horse entry for the island race, and will be one to watch come race day on Wednesday June 6th.

Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • Brandon

    Let the OEM E Wars begin! Cant wait for an electric GP class.

  • Ervgopwr

    Indeed. To speed alogn the development of these E bikes, racing on Sunday will surely lead people to ask, “When can I buy one on Monday?”

    Not to mention the sheer bulk purchasing power of these OEM’s to help drive down the cost of production.

    Next questions; where you at Yamaha? Toyota?

  • Dr. Gellar

    When I first saw this Kawasaki/Zytek team listed in the TT Zero press release, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. This post makes it sound a whole lot more interesting.

    I’m with Brandon…very much looking forward to the day when electrics get a proper GP class of their own. And then after that, when they slowly take over MotoGP itself… :-)

    As Ervgopwr points out, I too wonder where Yamaha is. Considering that they are already in the electronics business, I actually expected them to have an elecric race bike of sorts even before Honda.

  • RJ

    Go Green!

  • remus37

    Hi Jensen,

    I know e-racing is still in its infancy, but it would be great to read an article on what we’ve learn so far. Like, aside from the obvious range and weight issues of this e-bikes, are they also facing the same traction issues of their IC counterpart that led to things like big-bang vs screamer plus traction control via throttle/ignition/cam duration etc…

    Anyways, great articles as always! Cheers

  • Westward

    I am in accordance with all who have posted prior, especially in regards to lower cost of production. Maybe now we will get a Brammo Empulse like bike from the major manufacturers that cost the same or less than a Kawasaki Ninja 650…

  • Isn’t it possible that Kawasaki proper isn’t behind it at all? Last year there was a Honda listed in the entrants, but it was just someone using a Honda chassis. I would thik there are plenty of superbike teams with spare chassis. Couldn’t it be like one of the CRT teams saying the bike is a BMW/Sueter. Neither BMW nor Sueter have anything invested per se. But the team bought their chassis and motor from them. If this is just a ZX-10 donor chassis, that leads me to believe that this is more the case than a proper Kawasaki effort with a properly designed elmoto chassis for the Zytec motor,controller, and battery pack.

    If it is a donor chassis I don’t think there is much real Kawasaki effort behind it. If it is an actual custom chassis, then I’ll buy that Kawasaki is involved.

    @A&R. Be careful getting too worked up over the numbers attending until they actually show. Teams in all three series made everyone look like idiots last year.

    BTW, there is electric grand prix racing. It just doesn’t happen with the MotoGP races. It could if the FIM wanted it to. They have the e-Power series. 3 bikes showed up to the first FIM round this year. 2 were from the same team. No one has the money yet. and they won’t be able to go for as long as even a Moto3 race for a few years yet. Even if the “big 4” got involved, it’d still be a few years before the racing got good enough to warrant running along side MotoGP.

    As far as comparing the TT Zero to the e-Power an TTXGP, the race I went to last September had the same number of bikes on the grid that the TT Zero in 2011. That was the final round of the NA championship. Also, Laguna has regularly out performs the TT (and everyone else) the last 2 years in numbers of bikes actually on the grid. The TT Zero gets little to no coverage outside of the UK as far as actual footage. You had to get the blue ray version of the 2011 TT video to even see the TT Zero. All we get in the US is some short you-tube videos from caera pones months later and half assed written coverage. The Motocysz video is the most coverage I’ve seen of the race. At least the TTXGP (of which you can watch every 2010 race on their website) eventually got most of the races up on youtube, as well as the FIM.

  • For starters, both BMW and Suter are very much involved with the BMW/Suter being raced in MotoGP.

    Did you read past the first sentence of the article? I directly mentioned that announced grid size ≠ grid size come race day. Also, one does not simply buy a single motor, controller, and battery pack from Zytec.

    That is sort of the crux of the whole article — you have to be someone special to be working with Zytec.

  • Wont tell my name

    Hello TTXGP fan, I don think you have noticed the Kawasaki guys at TTXGP-Brands Hatch(2010), who were there to check out the other bikes before building one. I am damn sure these guys are from Kawasaki, as they talked to me about the bikes that time. :)

  • Wont tell my name

    And as far as publicity concerned neither of them is doing its best. Think b4 u mention what e-Power is up to. Even ttxgp had 2 bike in its first race of 2012… lol…..

  • frogy6

    Ye think if the big manufacturers come in prices will shoot down range and power will go up,and there will be a great range of bikes to choose?

    It won’t happen, do ya think electric bike development has gone unnoticed by big manufacturers, not a chance. There not interested in something that won’t make them money, they want the tech to be developed first before they jump in properly.

    Range and power aren’t going to jump up, they have been doing there best with cars for years and the ranges are still shit, and power worse.

    And if the larger market of electric cars haven’t taken off why would they bother with bikes, that’s a even harder market to convince people electric is great.

  • The 3 Amigos

    Zytek are a force to be reckoned with in the car world – they won LMP2 Le Man last year with an engine and chassis package, as well as Brundle is driving for them this year. I believe they also did the KERS system for McLaren F1 as well as other electric car / hybrid ventures for major car makers – including some sports cars.

    They know their mustard when it comes to electronics.

  • mxs

    Indeed. To speed alogn the development of these E bikes, racing on Sunday will surely lead people to ask, “When can I buy one on Monday?”

    This myth has been around for ages. Early 90s when it was born ….

    Next questions; where you at Toyota?

    Oh dear lord …

  • mxs

    Hello TTXGP fan, I don think you have noticed the Kawasaki guys at TTXGP-Brands Hatch(2010), who were there to check out the other bikes before building one. I am damn sure these guys are from Kawasaki, as they talked to me about the bikes that time. :)

    And your name is????

  • JRl

    Every year it gets more interesting. I LOVE the fact that we are WATCHING this happen from its infancy. We were there (on the web), when the first race happened, and now we get to watch it grow, like a baby to a child. Soon our electric racing series will be like a teenager and everyone will want to fuck it or fuck with it! Very interesting years ahead.

  • Westward

    Tesla has a car with the range of 300 miles on a full charge. I don’t know very many people that drive that distance on daily bases. Few do over a 100 miles in a day, and for the majoring, a Nissan Leaf is sufficient.

  • Castrophony

    “Have Kingston uni entered every year and second to Moto Czysz last year without anyone noticing” should be the title of a retort article to this. The rest of team Kingston/Ecotricity cannot believe the focus on Moto Czysz who, of course, can throw many thousands of bucks at producing leccy bikes for the TT every year, and here is another article without a mention of the triumph experienced by a student team on, literally, a student budget. Sheesh.

    If it makes any difference, one of the big wigs from Kawasaki Japan (not Bournemouth!) came and had a look around our bike last year in the paddock and seemed quietly impressed; its not surprising to us that they’ve popped up with a neatly brokered deal with Zytek.

    JRI, your comment has warmed cockles here in the Kingston uni lab as we ferret around in our own time putting together this year’s entries! We are all honoured, designers, fabricators and spectators alike, to see the regeneration of a totally fresh kind of motorsport which is challenging how we think about vehicles and use them. Lets not confuse that concept with having to put up with slow, heavy vehicles which are, in motorsport terms, a cul de sac. Just look back at the lap records from the IOM TT Zero races since 2009 and you’ll see progress moving at a pace which far outstripped internal combustion racing during its infancy.

    If anyone’s interested in info on us and our team for an article, we would be so chuffed!


  • Anvil

    Westward, forgive me, but I won’t believe a 300-mile range claim until its verified. EV manufacturers have been claiming unrealistic ranges from the beginning, even Tesla.

    If they can get 150 realistic miles on a charge, I’ll be impressed (and that’s with the 85kwh battery option, which starts at $70,000). There still needs to be a major advance in battery technology before EVs approach ICE vehicles for range and performance. And despite all the talk of great leaps, there has been mostly incremental improvement. You might not see the wonder battery for a decade or more.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like what Tesla is doing, and I do think that there’s a place for EVs, but there really isn’t one, be it four-wheeled or two, that can truly replace an ICE as a do-it-all vehicle. And it doesn’t seem likely to happen in the very near future.

  • frogy6

    Teslas ranges is very debated. Can be as low as 90 miles.

    Remember top gear needed 2 to do a review on it, couldn’t get the batterys to last, and top gear aren’t against alternative fuels, they very much supported hydrogen fuel cells

  • Richard Gozinya

    That was a Tesla Roadster, the 300 mile range is for the Model S. Two very different cars.