Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Harry Mallin that was originally published on the eMotoRules blog. Mr. Mallin is a lawyer by day, and in the motorcycle world is better known for his work as Brammofan, the Brammo Motorcycle enthusiast blog, and as the TTXGP Technical Rules Wiki moderator. In his post Mallin explores concerns about the FIM’s alleged anti-competitive behavior, and postulates about how the FIM may find itself brought up under antitrust charges in the European Union.
The sport of motorcycle racing has a rich history that winds its way through 20thcentury United Kingdom like the narrow roads on the Isle of Man. Recently, this history has included a new avenue of opportunity: electric motorcycle racing. But controversy, no stranger to motorsports, has already touched this new sport, and recent events indicate that a shockwave of change may be in store for the sanctioning bodies that currently organize the upcoming racing series.
According to an email recently published on, of all places, the personal blog of Ivar Kvadsheim, a Norwegian journalist who writes primarily on the subject of electric motorcycle racing, a UK government agency is likely to bring charges of anti-competitive behavior and monopoly practices against the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (International Motorcycling Federation, or the FIM).
After Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), the Governator took a tour of electric vehicle companies in the Golden State. The new law lops $1,500 off the sticker price off an electric motorcycle for California residence, which in many cases means over 15% off the sticker price.
Taking a look at both Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors, Gov. Schwarzenegger made endorsing comments about the two companies and how they are allowing California to take the lead in the emerging electric vehicle markets.
Ending our two-part series that looked at the the MotoCzysz E1pc, we ask ourselves: why do motorcycles look the way they do? Probably the best answer to this question is that motorcycles today represent an amalgamation of 100 years of design evolution centered around the internal combustion engine. When we look at motorcycle racing, we see the design in its purest embodiment of function over form. While surely some semblance of aesthetics remains, the ultimate goal is to shave the next tenth of a second off a lap time. Each minor improvement adds up, and these aggregated can translate into substantial improvements when racing the clock and the competition.
So it surprises us when we look at electric motorcycle racing and see so many teams approaching their designs with the same ideas and concepts that were born out of this century of internal combustion engine (ICE) racing. While the two offshoots of the same branch carry over with them many similarities, the fundamentals of attaching wheels, suspension, and seat to a running motor has changed, and with that change surely there would be a large movement to rethink the way we build motorcycle frames. The fact of the matter however is that many electric motorcycle designers choose to pursue cramming an electric motor and batteries into a frame, and ultimately into and architecture, that was refined for a gasoline pumping motor and doesn’t fully integrate the chassis’s from with its function.
In an industry that rethinks motorcycles from the ground up, the biggest paradigm shift has been left out by all but a few teams and manufacturers. Looking for the next generation in motorcycle chassis design, Asphalt & Rubber recently got to sit down with Michael Czysz to get an up-close look at the 2009 MotoCzysz E1pc electric motorcycle, and also got a sneak peak at the 2010 frame and chassis. As one of the few entities to rethink how a motorcycle should be design and produced, Czysz’s insights into his design give a glimpse as to what the next 100 years of motorcycle evolution will look like.
MotoCzysz has confirmed today that they will be racing at the Isle of Man’s TT Zero event. The Portland based team has been hard at work on a new bike design that they feel not only has a chance of breaking the 100mph barrier, but possibly winning the event as well. MotoCzysz was a favorite in last year’s event, but failed to finish after suffering a failure to its Agni electric motor drive system. Learning from that hard taught lesson, Czysz & Co. are expected to return to the Isle of Man with their new 2010 E1pc, and tackle the Mountain Course once again.
In the flurry of press releases sent out by TTXGP regarding what teams were signing up for its racing events, TTXGP mentioned that several teams had agreed to exclusive deals to compete only in the TTXGP series of races. At the time, this meant that the teams would be racing in their local TTXGP series events, the Isle of Man, and possibly at the Championship event in Spain. However with the announcement that TT Zero would replace TTXGP at the Isle of Man, teams that were hoping to race at the Isle of Man, may find themselves precluded from the event because of these prior obligations. Talking to a number of American electric motorcycle teams this past week, it is clear the first priority for all these teams is to race at the venues where the best competition will be…wherever that may be.
For many teams the Isle of Man represents the pinnacle of electric motorcycle racing. Having already run the Mountain Course before, there is a tangible baseline in electric racing that is defined by the historic course. On top of this, the Isle of Man offers an opportunity for teams around the world to compete against each other in a race that has gained a great deal of exposure over the past year, and is a known entity to everyday motorcyclists.
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.
Chongqing Zongshen Power Machinery Co. announced today that it has signed a memo of cooperation with Mission Motors, which could see the Chinese company link up with the San Francisco firm to develop electric drive systems for the emerging market and in other markets throughout the world.
In the memo, Zongshen outlines its intent to become a major shareholder in Mission Motors, and to also inject capital into the small startup after it presents a three year plan to the Chinese company. For Mission Motors the move would be valuable strategic partnership to gain a foothold in China, which already has a booming two-wheeled market and need for reduced CO2 emissions.
This weekend, Asphalt & Rubber‘s very own John Adamo (skadamo) met up with Harry Mallin of Brammofan & TTXGP moderator fame, and the Dynamic Duo went on the EVcast with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield. The trio covers everything from cages, DIY cars, TTXGP, the Epo-Bike, the eCup, and more. Click after the jump to hear the show, and see why Rubber is underlined in our post.
Last month a video of the DERBI GPR EV showed up on YouTube. It was posted by someone who appeared to be working with Sevcon and it was hard to tell if DERBI was behind the bike. I recently found the blog of Derbi Project Manager Carles Carrera. And guess what, he has a detailed picture of the Derbi GPR EV front and center.
Carles describes the ground up development methodology DERBI and their partners used in designing and building the bike over the course of 3 months. He cites flaws in Brammo, Zero, Quantya, Vectrix mentioning thier “poorly developed mechanical platform” and saying they fail to deliver an electric motorcycle that has all drive components communicating in an orderly fashion.
TTXGP will be getting an added layer of transparency for 2011, as the Azhar “The Czar” Hussain has put his electric motorcycle racing series rule book up in wiki form, and invited competitors and experts to make, modify, and discuss the regulations that TTXGP competitors will have to adhere to in 2011. Acting as arbitrator and moderator over the wiki is lawyer Harry Mallin, which electric motorcycle fans might know better as Brammofan.
UPDATE: You can find Azhar Hussain’s response to this article on Brammofan.
Last week when I wrote my op-ed, I was content to say my piece on the issue of TTXGP/Mavizen conflict of interest, and then move along with other things. But considering the response the piece got, not only by Azhar Hussain himself, but also by others in the industry, as well as the recent announcements of Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors entering the TTXGP racing series, I thought I’d give the issue another pass. Ignoring the name-calling, accusations of professional misconduct, and general pettiness that followed, I wanted to address and few things that have developed in this space, and why I’m still thankful the FIM split from TTXGP.