Rumor: OEM Entering Electric Racing This Season

02/14/2011 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

There’s a quiet rumor going on in the electric racing circles that a major OEM of internal combustion motorcycles is poised to enter one of the electric racing series this season. Which manufacturer and which series is not being openly discussed, but judging from whom is talking about the possibility, and perhaps more importantly who is not talking about it, our best guess would be a Japanese manufacturer like Honda is at the center of the rumor. Honda has already been caught testing hybrid componentry at the 25hrs of Thunderhill, coincidentally with technology produced by electric motorcycle upstart Mission Motors.

The addition of a company, like Honda, would be an effective kingmaker to the fractured state of the electric racing landscape, and could be the definitive action that sees one series outshine the other(s). Current race teams would surely want to test their mettle against an established brand name, and with an OEM’s presence there surely would be more buzz about the series and the events it holds. There is also of course the added allure of David beating Goliath in such a race, which could appeal to smaller companies who are trying to make a name for themselves.

The issue of what would happen when the OEMs comes out to play has been one of great prognostication in the EV world. Not only would there presence legitimize the space of electric motorcycle racing, but it could facilitate more money and exposure to the sport. In a sport where homegrown efforts have dominated the entries, the addition of an OEM could also help mature the field. We’ll let you decide in the comment section if that’s good or bad for the evolution of electrics. Watch this space for more developments on this rumor.

  • Dan

    Good for the biz, bad for the small guys. Especially in typical Honda fashion, they ride in on a multimillion dollar rail of hightech advancement.

  • I’d love to see Honda enter an EV bike, especially at the TT, where the course itself is still a great test of any street bike. Given the high efficiency of electric motors and the widespread belief that no one has a particular jump in basic battery technology, I don’t see even Honda having an inherent powertrain advantage over much smaller players. (There are marginal advantages to be had with front-wheel KERS, two-speed gearboxes, smarter GPS-based battery management software, etc., but how complex do you want to make your first bike?)

    Where a Honda or BMW would have a big advantage is in chassis dynamics and/or aerodynamics. So far, the smaller ‘EVpreneurs’ are really following conventional sportbike architecture (or actually building on conventional rolling chassis) because they can’t afford to create a new vehicle from scratch. So basing your geometry on an existing ICE solution is the devil you know.

    I believe that, if EV bikes are going to weigh over 100 pounds more than ICE bikes (as they will for the foreseeable future) a ‘blank page’ chassis solution could look a lot different than a conventional sport bike. I think a long, low, fully-enclosed solution (think some devil love child of a Gurney alligator and a late ’30s dustbin roadracer) would reduce drag, minimize the inherent problems of monowheeling under braking or acceleration, and make front wheel KERS – perhaps in the context of a 2WD system easier to execute.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘conventional’ sportbikes. I’m just not really a fan of conventional thinking.

  • We hope that the rumor is true. Having one of the big 4 OEMs compete in electric motorcycle racing will raise the bar and speed the development of all electric motorcycles. We look forward to competing!

    Richard Hatfield
    Lightning Motorcycles

  • Tom

    Richard, I hope that you forward to competing more than did Tucker or DeLorean.

  • Dr. Gellar

    If this turns out to be true, it’ll be very exciting. For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how cool it would be to see an electric MotoGP (or equivalent series) racer produced by one of the big manufacturers in the not-so-distant future (I always pictured Yamaha for some reason, but Honda works just the same). Honda entering the fray will certainly raise the bar in electric motorcycle racing in general, and force the current main players to up their game. That’s a win-situation for pretty much everyone.

    Hopefully the machine will be something just as top-notch as their MotoGP machines, only powered by an electric motor instead of an ICE.

    At the same time I am excited by Honda or another OEM potentially racing an electric motorcycle, I hope the teams like MotoCzysz, Lightning and Brammo can show them that the small guys can make a bike every bit as innovative and competitive as theirs, if not better.

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  • Westward


  • Mike L.

    Here we go.

  • BenFaster

    Its time – come on lets make the switch ;)

  • I am fairly sure this rumour started life when Paul Phillips the TT and Motorsport Development Manager for the Isle of Man government included the following paragraph in a letter he sent to teams on January 12th 2011

    “To assist with your expectations, we are expecting a starting grid in the region of 25 machines, potentially including one of the big four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers up against the best the EV specialist the world has to offer, not to mention the University teams who this year are competing for a special cash prize. The Department has created a new ‘University Prize’ of £5,000, which will be awarded to the fastest University or College team as part of the 2011 Race. “