Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoE: Make some noise

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.


MotoE: Make some noise

Next year MotoGP gets its first new world-class championship in more than half a century, but the electric MotoE series must sound great

Within the next few months MotoGP fans will see a MotoE machine ride a few demo laps at a Continental Grand Prix: perhaps Jerez, Le Mans, or most likely Mugello, because both MotoE’s Energica motorcycle and the series sponsors Enel are Italian.

So far the MotoE World Cup hasn’t got fans agog with excitement, mainly because an electric motorcycle race doesn’t involve a quarter of million earth-shaking petroleum explosions. In other words, MotoE is too damn quiet, for the moment, at least.

But the championship is hugely significant in all kinds of ways. MotoE is Grand Prix motorcycling’s first completely new world-class category since the 50cc class born in 1962.

It also an important pointer to the future: governments across the world are calling time on the internal combustion engine. These announcements cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth among purists, but nothing is forever. Once gas-powered bikes leave the roads, how much longer before they disappear from world-class meetings to find sanctuary at classic events, where oldies like you and I will go to sniff the petrol fumes, just like today’s oldies romance about the whiff of Castrol R?

MotoE had its official launch in Rome last week, but I think a trick was missed. Dorna could have nicely linked the future with the past by staging the launch a few miles further down the River Tiber at the Circus Maximus, where two thousand years ago the Romans raced four-horsepower chariots around a 600-metre course in front of 150,000 spectators.

Many petrolheads hate the very idea of electric racing, firstly because the bikes don’t make enough noise and secondly because they’re not fast enough. They are wrong on the second point: the fastest electric race bikes make well over 200 horsepower. Indeed MotoGP’s director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli believes that a top-of-the-range electric race bike could already beat a MotoGP bike over a single lap, using a short-life battery.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about electric race bikes is their dramatically upward curve of performance. The only electric bike race worth talking about – the Isle of Man’s Zero TT – got underway in 2009 with a lap record of 87.4mph. The lap record now stands at 118.4mph, thanks to multiple winners Mugen, the go-ahead company owned by Soichiro Honda’s son. If superbikes had improved at the same rate, the outright TT lap record would now stand at 189mph.

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

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Total votes: 36
Total votes: 23

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Comments

Make 'em sound like a V4 2 stroke with simulated gear change relative speed changes. This would salivate many a ol' school racers passion of the glory years. I would imagine this is not too difficult and riders may respond to thus noise. This is surely the future of transportation, why not give it a bit of flavour to make it desirable.

 

Total votes: 37

"We are all used to riding with internal combustion engines, so we sub-consciously make allowances for the way these engines build torque. We open the throttle in a certain way to compensate for the shape of the torque curve. No need to do that with an electric motor – all the torque is there immediately – which gives you much better control." - Understood.

I prefer to use my senses, training and situational awareness to exert control (fallable as I may be) and not seek out a smooth power curve in an electric motorcycle (or automobile) that robs me of the connection to the bike (and the road) I so much value.   I want the bike (and the road, wind, conditions, etc.) to present challenges and problems to solve.  I might be mis-interpetting this design, but it sounds like homogenization and sterilization of motorcycling.

Total votes: 42

I will ride anything with two wheels. Nothing makes me Happier. Making noise doesn't really matter.

Total votes: 52

No way that I ever visit a race held with electric bikes, I just got over the loss of the 2 stroke racing bikes!!

Total votes: 52

For me, electric vehicles show who the real enthusiasts are.
The automotive world has long had the "non-compromising" status quo loving group of people who just never fail to shout that real bikes have exhausts.

Personally I think that gimmick is tiring. If you can't see that the beauty is in movement then maybe you've shifted your focus to the less relevant things.

Yeah, the symphony of noise that internal combustion engines make is to me, and many others enticing, but you know what? I can live without it. Hell I'll be frank, both sound and silence to me are equally beautiful, but in different ways.

Maybe sometimes I'd like to blast a soundtrack behind me, but maybe sometimes I'd like to enjoy the relative silence and let the sounds of my surroundings speak to me. Which ever way you turn it around, so as long as it's moving, I will be happy.

To say that racing is purely about ICEs is to miss what racing is about. Battles could be had on tricycles, and as long as there was some hard racing, it would be considered beautiful racing by me.

gtutunjian's comment states:

"I prefer to use my senses, training and situational awareness to exert control (fallable as I may be) and not seek out a smooth power curve in an electric motorcycle (or automobile) that robs me of the connection to the bike (and the road) I so much value.   I want the bike (and the road, wind, conditions, etc.) to present challenges and problems to solve.  I might be mis-interpetting this design, but it sounds like homogenization and sterilization of motorcycling."
 

Regular men often try to create a vision of themselves taming a wild beast, but the funny thing is, the best among us never want that. Ask Marc if he wants Honda to make an even wilder machine, or Jorge if he wants Ducati engineers to make the GP18 understeer more than the previous version so he has to wrangle it harder.

Personally I think it's an unnecessary machismo. I want my bike, car, any vehicle, to co-operate with me, I want it to be a symbiosis, not a forceful submission. I don't care for glory if glory pushes me into that unevitable ditch when it breaks traction.

And if someone thinks "easy" machinery will make a gap between riders disappear, you are mistaken. If it is difficult to be good at something, it is difficult, and if it is easy, it is even more difficult. If everyone can be  good at something, then the chances of you being the best are even slimmer. Along those lines, the best will still be the best, there will still be faster and slower riders, and the fact that machines are easier to push will just make riders push them harders.

I Invite any new form of racing with an open heart, it's merits will be shown on the race tracks and in the battles, not in the comments of those who find it difficult to get along with the times.

Also you need to remind yourself that that same racing will make batteries and electromotors perform better over time as the manufacturer (and hopefully later, manufacturers) gain experience and start improving parts. And if you're thinking "Well I don't care, I will never ride an electric motorcycle!", then remember that batteries are in you laptops, your phones, your back-up power supplies, and even more important, in your pacemakers and your deep brain stimulators.

Racing might not be the most altruistic of bussinesses, but it does work towards a common good, so remind yourself of that the next time you are ready to throw something out just because it is new and slightly different.
 

Total votes: 46

Heavy, short range.

But getting lighter and going farther quickly!

I am for sure interested. Looked into the Ego and Eva. Went and looked at Zero here in town. Why?

For a second bike and a custom build. To be used in a revolutionary way. I have built some custom bikes. Crossover genres and uses. A few race only smaller bikes primarily for racing at Kart tracks. My sport/track bike is not going to get replaced by an E one.

But, my 2nd bike does some interesting stuff. A 3rd is usually a high performance small framed scooter to mess around kn. The 2nd though, Supermoto hooligan craziness around town and Kart track excursions - the plated CRF450 was loud as hell and literally drew police from sound only far from sight. Dirt riding I sound like a menace. And take away from the peace of being in nature for me.

Plans started for a Supermoto built into a vintage looking cafe racer/scrambler. But now I have started thinking about an E bike.

Before motos it was mountain bike cross country technical single track that I loved. Descending much more than climbing. Getting out in the middle of nowhere. Quietly. Moab, radical trials - like stuff. What about a crossover between a trials bike and a downhill mountain bike? To go ANYWHERE with? Silently.

Btw with cars I do bio fuel in a diesel VW. 50 miles per gallon! So what if my second bike could be solar tended from panels on the roof of my shop, linked to a small deep cycle battery storage that can then charge the bike? Two batteries, one charging. An occasional use/play machine?

Have you gone to buy a skill saw lately? Not a lot of chords around, just lithium ion batteries. I just got an electric chain saw. And tree trimmer pole saw.

The Zero Supermoto is already competitive with gasoline peers. It isn't too heavy! What if I make take the old cafe stuff and make that bike look REALLY cool with patina? Rip as good as the 250 class Supermoto? Silently terrorize my town with wheelies, slides and stoppies? Go out into the woods and play peacefully?

The E power delivery will be able to do some really cool stuff for something like technical climbing off road I bet. You can't stall it. It will have adjustable multiple maps.

It is coming quickly. Not yet for me. Nor likely the next generation of them. But the one after THAT, watch what rolls out. And from where - China will be in the race re the batteries.

Total votes: 38

And who will Dorna choose to ride these bikes??  Since the race will start prior to Moto3, maybe the Motogp riders could, then we bring back the chances of a dual world champion in one season. Highly unlikely scenario though.

 

Total votes: 29

The technology is very interesting, the racing not so much. The gap between rival manufacturers is astronomical at present and hearing the whoosh of the tyres as they sweep by is no substitute for the angry rage of a full blown racing engine being thrashed to within an inch of its life. Despite the best efforts of all, the TT Zero race is a non event, other than waiting to find out if the winner of the one lap race has managed to go faster than last year! 

Total votes: 23