Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride a TT Zero electric motorbike: Michael Rutter

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


How I ride a TT Zero electric motorbike: Michael Rutter

Just over one week before MotoGP’s first MotoE race we find out how the world’s top electric motorcycle racer wins with sparks instead of explosions

Motorcycle racing’s first major electric championship gets underway at next weekend’s German Grand Prix, a decade after the sport’s first major electric race.

The Isle of Man TT staged that historic EV (electric vehicle) event in June 2009, when the winning speed for the one-lap race was 87.4mph. Three weeks ago the 2019 TT Zero race was won at a speed of 121.9mph. That’s some progress. If superbikes had improved at the same rate the outright TT lap record would now stand at 183.6mph.

Ironically, TT Zero is the MotoGP of electric racing, featuring money-no-object prototype bikes, while MotoE is the World Superbike Championship of electric racing, using street-based machines. The reason for this is simple: MotoE needs a full grid of competitive bikes and currently the only way to attain that goal is by using pimped-up production bikes, like MotoE’s Energica Ego.

The TT Zero is totally dominated by the Mugen Shinden, which this year lapped the TT course three minutes faster than its closest rival. If MotoE pursued the same formula there wouldn’t be much racing worth watching.

The Shinden is built by the performance company founded by Hirotoshi Honda, son of Soichiro. Mugen builds two Shindens each year, so the bikes are even more exclusive than an RC213V MotoGP machine. Mugen has won every Zero TT since 2014, during which time the company has greatly improved battery efficiency as well as overall performance. When Mugen began its TT project in 2012 it took eight hours to charge the Shinden’s batteries; now it takes 80 or 90 minutes.

The Shinden is very trick. Mugen can adjust the power output around the 37.75-mile TT course via GPS, onboard data or rider-controlled boost button. At maximum output the oil-cooled, three-phase, brushless motor produces the equivalent of 200 horsepower.

Mugen’s 2019 winner was veteran racer Michael Rutter, son of four-time TT F2 world champion Tony. The 47-year-old Midlander also rode three other bikes: an RC213V-S in the Superbike and Senior races, a BMW S1000RR in the Superstock race and a KMR Kawasaki ER-6 in the Lightweight.

Rutter has contested five TT Zero events and won them all; the first three on the American MotoCzysz, the last two on the Mugen. No one knows more about racing electric bikes, so this is how Rutter does it…

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Comments

Not a very accurate article. Athough reading the comments of Michael Rutter is interesting, technically there is a lot incorrect. First of all, a bike with an electric motor is not powered by sparks (especially in a brushless motor) and our internal combustion engines are not powered by explosions, but controlled, gradual combustions. Hence the name.

The Mugen Shinden does not produce the equivalent of 200 horsepower, it produces 200 horsepower. Or 147 kilowatts, which is the official unit for power. Just like a conventional superbike with 200 hp produces 147 kW. It is the same.

That the Mugen (or any other 'current' electric bike) is not accelerating fast from slow corners is logical. Not only is it very heavy, it also is constantly in top gear because of a lack of gearbox. Imagine exiting a slow corner in 6th gear on a GSX-R1000 or whatever. So although there's a lot of torque at the motor itself, the neccessary tall gearing reduces that to something not very impressive at the rear wheel. That it feels faster at 150 mph/240 km/h is therefore logical, because then a normal bike would also be in a high gear, plus then the wind resistance becomes a bigger factor than the weight. Still, with 200 hp and 260 kilos it can definately not be as fast as an S1000RR with some 230 hp and around 170-180 kilos (or thereabouts in race trim).

Also, I would not say that MotoE is the World Superbike Championship of electric racing. These are all identical bikes, so it is actually a single-make cup class. More like a Harley 883 Cup or something. And calling the Mugen more exclusive than an RC213V MotoGP bike is strictly speaking true, but then you could say the same thing about any home-built unique machine (or something that sells very badly), so it does not mean much.

And comparing the rate of improvement with superbikes during the same period is also artificially making the electric bikes look better. It is always easier to improve something that is very poor to begin with than it is with someting that is already much, much better and more refined. This is the typical playing with statistics to support your point, which by the way politicians are experts at.

Needless to say I am not a fan of electric race bikes. I do see an immediate future for electric bikes for commuting though, especially in and around cities. Scooters are perfect for an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine, for lots of obvious reasons. Short distances, they don't have gear shifting anyway, they don't need to make sound, they don't have to be as light as possible, it's just easy transport and not emotion. And no emissions in a city is brilliant. But for racing or anything sporty or emotional, no thanks. 

Edit: Reading my own post back, I realise I could have written this in a nicer tone. Sorry about that. Changed the title, left the rest as it was...

Total votes: 6