Interview - Corrado Cecchinelli On Electric Bikes: Charging Batteries, Upgrading Tracks, And The Question Of Noise

Transport is changing, and one of the biggest ways in which it is changing is the shift to electric vehicles. That change is slowly starting to seep into the world of motorcycling as well. Electric motorcycling manufacturers have sprung up in many places around the globe, though more often than not as tech startups in Silicon Valley rather than as engineering firms from more traditional motorcycling regions.

The more established manufacturers have also started to show an interest. BMW offers an electric scooter, the C Evolution, and KTM sells the Freeride E in three different versions. Slowly but surely, a solid engineering base is starting to form for electric motorcycles.

This change has not gone unnoticed by Dorna. The Spanish firm who run MotoGP are making plans for an electric bike racing series, provisionally scheduled to be starting in 2019. That is very provisional, however: a lot of work still needs to be done before such a series can take place. Bikes need to be found, and circuits need to be modified to ensure they have the facilities needed to host, and most especially, recharge the bikes ready for racing.

To find out more about what an electric bike series might look like, and how far along the planning stage Dorna is, we spoke with MotoGP Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli.

Question: How are you involved with the electric bike series?

Corrado Cecchinelli: I’m more in the present stage, which is finding out if there is any chance at all to make a good race, and to explore the technical possibility of the present machines, and guess what it will be in a couple of years, which is difficult. Because in that field you have to assume it will be a lot different. So this is what I’m involved in. Because no decision has been taken, even about doing it or not.

Q: Where did this push for an electric bike racing series come from.

CC: I'm not the right person to answer this, but my personal opinion, which is not necessarily Dorna's position, is that we cannot be not leading the motor trends, so we cannot forget that electric motoring will be dominant in the future. So, we need to be ahead of that. We need to at least test and see if it’s ready for racing or if we can push beyond it. This is just my opinion. To me we are in basically because we can’t be out. But, don’t ask me, I'm not the right person.

Q: Which bikes will we be racing? Will it be an open series full of prototypes, or a production series, or what?

CC: Proper electric motorcycle racing is so young and so far in time to me, that we are actually considering starting with a single spec series, in the hope that it will prove to be a good formula. Then maybe open it in the future or not, this depends. But it will not start as an open formula with different solution prototypes, because this is something too big that needs big investment, or to have different players and so on. You can have very different levels from different suppliers which could make bad racing. So if we start, we start with a single-spec formula, and maybe we will consider opening it up in the medium term where we realize racing makes sense.

Q: Will it be single make or have multiple manufacturers?

CC: Opening the category needs to come after someone comes knocking at our door to do that.

Q: The manufacturers you were talking to, are they existing manufacturers or are they the traditional manufacturers?

CC: We talked and are talking to a big number of parties, I would say. For me, I would prefer to stick to existing manufacturers

Q: Existing electric bike manufacturers?

CC: Yes. Because making an electric bike is not an easy project, and I am not confident that someone who doesn’t have one now will have one in a couple of years’ time. So, I would stick to those who have an electric bike, and try to guess what this one could be in a few years. But not just existing manufacturers, because we had a lot of interest for potential manufacturers that are not in the business now, but for me they come after the existing manufacturers. In an ideal ranking, all of them come after all of the existing manufacturers.

Q: So the way to look at this series is like Moto2, in a way? Because when you choose a Moto2 engine you want to be certain that the engine manufacturer can produce an engine which is going to be reliable, will perform, etc?

CC: Yes, but all of this to a much bigger extent, because the challenge is much bigger.

Q: Looking at it now, how long would a race be? Could you have a five-lap race, ten-lap race?

CC: A reasonable number to me is around ten laps in a couple of years. This is reasonable. All the rest is not founded, rubbish. It’s a multi-variable problem because race distance, speed, and bike weight all interact. If you adjust one of them, you touch the others.

So, if we talk about a reasonable race, which means a reasonable pace, a reasonable weight, the reasonable range that comes out with the technologies you can imagine in a couple of years, is around ten laps. It of course depends on the track and everything, but you cannot expect 25 laps and it would be silly to start with two laps. Aim to around ten laps, which may be twelve or eight, depending on the track and on the situation. We are not considering for instance switching machines to extend the race. We want to make a reasonable race, and we are not against the idea of a short sprint race.

Q: But it would basically be 15 or 20 minutes perhaps maximum?

CC: Yes, in that range.

Q: What would the expected pace be? When you talk about that, are we talking MotoGP pace?

CC: This is even more difficult to say, but we would expect something in-between Moto3 and Moto2 in terms of top speed and possibly lap time, but we are not sure. Of course this is really a guess, an ideal target.

Q: Racing electric bikes poses a unique range of challenges. How does the danger and difficulty of of handling electric bikes, batteries, etc change organizing a race?

CC: Of course. There’s a lot of side factors to consider that are not part of the show or which the public will see, but we must consider even a lower level of issues than you are asking about. Just moving the stuff around the world brings logistic issues. Of course we will have to handle that.

As for what you see, unfortunately lower voltages seem not to be able to hit the target we mentioned before, reasonable races. So, for sure, it will be something in the range of hundreds of volts. So, this brings issues with batteries and even for mechanics and so on. We’ll handle all of that with the partner we will choose. We are not experts in that, but we will take care that these problems are sorted out or considered. Like crash-safe batteries that are certified and tested. But still what happens even if this crash, even if it is certified not to crash, what happens if it breaks? What is the potential danger? All of this will be considered. Consider that electric cars and bikes are allowed on the road, so it’s not impossible to imagine a safe environment, you just have to take care about it.

Q: Is racing electric bikes more inherently dangerous than internal combustion engines?

CC: For me, I don't know, but my personal feeling is that I would not be sure which one is more dangerous to carry on, a battery like that or 22 liters of fuel. In the end, I would say that we sort it out for instance fire issues, because it’s very rare that there is a fire on a machine, so why should we be able to sort out other issues with different formulas?

I remember when we introduced the Moto3 in place of the 125, a guy that I will not mention came to me and said, “You will see. This is ****. You will see. Every time you will have to postpone the following races because of engines breaking and oil all over the track.” It has never happened. Sometimes it happened like in Le Mans oil spills because of broken pipes after crashes. You can handle potential issues and urban legends by just taking care. It’s something that it’s already in this world, and the world is ready to accept to have an electric bike.

Q: For many fans, the noise of a race bike is one of the most important aspects. Is this a problem with electric bikes?

CC: It depends. It depends on personal taste. To me, this is also sort of depending on the generation. Probably you and me would like to have a heartbeat when we go to a girl and ask her to go out with us. The boys now are really happy by texting a message.

To me, if you ask me, I like the noise. I have noisy cars, noisy bikes. I like that. This is what my passion has grown on. I was fascinated by noise. I have always been used to noise. So, I think I would miss it. But don’t think this is general, because probably the boys of the present times will be used to electric motors and new technologies.

Maybe in 20 years noise would be prehistoric and a sign of old times, like two-strokes are now. If you see a two-stroke you can be passionate and you can like it, but still you see it’s something that is prehistoric. You see the smoke. You can like it. You can like the smell, but it sounds old. But, when four-strokes were replacing two-strokes, people in your seat were asking me, “What about the smell?” So, I think that it’s an issue for people like me and maybe you, but not in general.

For sure we care about our series to reward the fans with the noise, but that’s different. It’s a different race. It’s a different concept. It’s something that you do now for the future and you don’t know if race fans of the future will appreciate the old-fashioned sound of a four-stroke, or would like the whine of an electric engine because they have their electric bullet at home and they like to play with it, like a Tesla for instance.

Q: So basically people just need to get used to the idea?

CC: There is a transition what is difficult, but I think it’s sure that this bike will sound old and out-of-date sooner or later.

Q: In general, does electric bike racing present specific, unique challenges to tires?

CC: I think so. I’m not a tire manufacturer, but this is a question I can ask. If the question is, do you think that tires for this machine would present specific issues, I can answer this. I think so because the bikes will in general, even if you put yourself in a couple of years’ time from now, the bike will still be fairly powerful, but heavy. Also energy saving will be a bigger issue than with the fuel. So, there will be a challenge of putting together a resistance with the energy saving.

Q: Possibly involving energy recuperation, so regenerating energy in engine braking or…?

CC: I think 99% will do that.

Q: Because again, that produces more of a challenge on the tires because you’re putting more stress?

CC: I think at least at the moment it is very hard to hit the target of race distance without the combination. Which is not a lot, but still it helps. Maybe it’s more luck.

Q: Is the the biggest challenge facing an electric bike series right now just energy?

CC: Sure. That’s the only challenge I would say. It’s very easy if you consider that the battery is the fuel tank, and the motor is versus the engine. Electric motor versus thermal engine is a no-brainer for power and weight, so the problem is the energy storage. There, the no-brainer is the other way round. That’s the issue. I don’t expect revolutions… There will be revolutions in consumption and everything, but if today you can deliver 250 horsepower with an electric motor like this, I’m thinking in a couple of years it will be the same. Maybe energy consumption will be a bit less, friction will be a bit better, cooling will be a bit better, but still to be a piece like this.

For batteries I would expect progress, from this to this to this. So that’s the challenge. That’s the real limit of electric motoring at the moment.

Q: Would you partner just with a bike manufacturer, or also with say a battery manufacturer or a power supply manufacturer?

CC: I don't know, but I would guess that the battery will be handled by the manufacturer, whereas charging on track maybe we’ll need a different partner. That’s a completely different issue. The tracks now are not ready. So, that will be an issue that probably will be handled by someone that is not the bike manufacturer but is in the energy distribution in the field.

Q: Basically at tracks there isn’t enough energy to actually charge the batteries?

CC: I don’t think that all the tracks at the moment are ready. I don’t think any of them, but I don't know. But for sure not all.

Q: So, at some point, you’ll also have to start having conversations with tracks about what's needed for electric bike racing?

CC: Yes. Of course it all depends on battery capacity, number of bikes, and everything. But I would assume that the scenario I told you about overall performance and so on, it would be difficult to charge 20 bikes at the same time in present tracks.

Q: Also you want to have a decent number of bikes on the track, so 20-odd bikes in race?

CC: I think 20 is a reasonable number. Maybe 18 or 22, but it’s not five and not 100.

So, in the range of ten machines, charging all of them at the same time is an issue, especially if you need a quick charge. There are difficult issues that you are not asking me about, like depending on the number of sessions during the day you have or not the problem of charging all the machines at the same time.

Q: So there could be a logistics issue where guys have multiple extra sets of batteries, some of which are being charged and some of which are being used?

CC: So, that brings to a technical detail which is, is it better to have for instance a bike that is designed to be very quick to change a battery – so you have charged batteries in the pit box and you just change the battery – or is it better to develop a quick-charging system and use the same battery for different sessions?

At the moment, the machines are not designed to have a quick battery change. So at the moment, it looks like quick charging is more promising than a quick battery change.

Q: So basically, just thinking about this series, it brings a completely new set of logistical challenges from what you’re used to?

CC: Challenges that you don’t even imagine. Like I told you, flying the batteries. That’s an issue.

Q: I didn’t even realize that the circuits wouldn’t have the charging.

CC: That’s an issue, which is new to me as well. I didn’t think about it but as soon as they told me I said, yes, clearly, that’s an issue.


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Total votes: 30

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Comments

With luck, I'll hopefully be dead - long before this soulless, robo-war happens.

Total votes: 72

That must be why so many people like to give their bikes names.

Personally I'm not so sure.  Perhaps we need to bring back horse races.  (At the risk of igniting an theological/ontological argument on whether animals have souls.)  My vote is a spec series, Arabians.  Do michelin make horse shoes?

Total votes: 45

Not sure about horse shoes but I know horses can be fitted with "rubber" boots. Police often use them during crowd control activities to prevent broken glass injurying the horses feet.

Maybe Michelin make them?

Total votes: 36

If you don't feel it, then you don't know it.

Engines are motorbikes - it's what seperates them from bicycles (and horses).

Total votes: 39

and a horse may point to some other distinctions, using one of those distinctions to do the pointing with, or to count the differences with a few solid stamps.

... but I get you're really saying that the engine defines the motorbike.  For me it's the whole package but the engine is clearly an important part.  I don't think that will change with an electric motor but it will be a vastly different feel and it will be much more similar between them all, depending how configurable they are.

I've often thought what it will be like, especially when barrelling into a corner stomping down through the gears.  Compression breaking will be a thing of the past, but then there'll be regenerative breaking, probably configurable.  Finding yourself in the wrong gear coming out of a corner will be a thing of the past too, or simply corners that don't well match any gear.

Although I appreciate a nice sounding bike it's certainly not anywhere on the priority list in terms of why I'd buy a bike (with the exception of avoiding straight through farty loud exhausts (mostly harleys) and the bucket of loose bolts dry ducati clutchs).  You might also get the option to have an accompanying sound - because you still want to be heard so you don't get pulled out on.  Maybe make it sound like your favourite old style bike.  Me, it'll be a sound that a cop couldn't possible book me on, maybe the benni hill theme, or the baby elephant walk, or just simply the sound of a clip clopping horse.

 

Total votes: 42

"Probably you and me would like to have a heartbeat when we go to a girl and ask her to go out with us. The boys now are really happy by texting a message."

Total votes: 57

Sounds to me like he needs to speak to someone with experience of running an electric bike race like say the organisers of the IOMTT.

Total votes: 49

This was the seventh year of the race. It is now fully embraced by the top TT riders and they are having a lot of fun and take it quite seriously.Part of this is due to the fact that a Win in this race goes in the books  as a full TT win. Record is 119.+ MPH avg around the mountain course . (133 avg Record for the gas burners) Top riders and bikes finishing 1 lap mountain course in under 20 minutes. By all acounts a blast to ride and race. I have ridden the "Indian" Electric and found it a lot of fun and certainly very quick into and out of a corner. This is where it is going and seems silly to pretend that a Prototype Series could not be in place by 2019, sans all the typical Dorna rigmarole. This would be a return to genuine Prototype racing, which is the best and most enjoyable. Moto GP needs to get going and stop looking at everything through a corporate profit lens and just go racing. Profiteering can come later,of course...

Total votes: 51

We did chat about both these series, but informally after I had switched my recorder off. The thing about the TT Zero race is that it takes place at the Isle of Man TT, under a completely different set of rules.

It's a time trial, first of all, making it an entirely different proposition. As bikes are racing against the clock, rather than each other, the spectacle is at best totally different (or speaking as someone who is not a fan of time trials in either motorcycle racing or cycling, totally absent) to a short circuit race with a mass start, where the spectacle is bikes competing against one another.

Secondly, the Mountain Course is a completely different kettle of fish to a short circuit. The start takes place in a major population center, where electricity supply is not an issue. Circuits are often some distance from civilization, and many have to use generators to provide sufficient power just to host a major championship. 

These are two very good reasons why Dorna must of necessity start from a different position. If the TT Zero bikes had competed on a short circuit this year, the racing would have been dire. Compare the results of the 2017 TT Zero. It's a good comparison, because Bruce Anstey's winning lap was 19'13.924, which is in the ball park for the race length Cecchinelli was talking about.

However, the gap between first and second was 42 seconds. In the last 10 years of MotoGP, the biggest gap between first and second was 37 seconds at Valencia 2012, and that only happened because of weird conditions and Jorge Lorenzo launching himself at the sky. The gaps behind the two Mugens at the TT Zero were even bigger: 50 seconds to third, 1'43 to fourth, 5'36 to fifth, 5'40 to sixth, 9'29 to seventh, 10'01 to eighth. Eight entries. 

Taking the above as example, at most circuits with a 1'40 lap, everyone bar second and third would have been lapped. Fifth would have been lapped three times, eighth would have been lapped six or seven times. The race would have been over halfway through the first lap. With eight bikes on the grid, it would not have been worth watching as a sporting spectacle.

Don't get me wrong, I think what the teams and entries do at the Isle of Man is amazing, and really, really important. But in many ways, the TT Zero is a far better platform for electric bike prototypes than a short circuit series would be, at least at the moment. Teams and manufacturers can develop with a minimum of pressure, any failure not glaringly visually obvious. The Mountain Course is also a more interesting (and arguably, more directly relevant) challenge in terms of terrain, with the bikes climbing to 422 meters before dropping down to near sea level again. The terrain is outstanding for developing energy conservation techniques.

However, Dorna cannot afford to put on a race if the level of competition is as varied as it is currently for the TT Zero. Better to start with a spec series, to get fans used to the idea of electric racing, and use that as a platform for learning about the logistical challenges of handling electric bike racing.

It is much easier to make a success of electric bike racing if the racing is close, and a spec series is the best way of guaranteeing that. Cecchinelli was clear (which may not have come across in the interview) that opening the series up to multiple manufacturers was very much an option in the future, but only once there were sufficient manufacturers with bikes capable of being competitive.

Total votes: 60

My battery is bigger than yours?

Spec racing? We'll all use the same frame and same battery?

This is the road to no-where - where does electricity come from? How are batteries made?

How on earth is this progressive?

Only a fool would buy into this nonsense.

Total votes: 38

I can understand questioning the feel of the bikes, and how the changes will alter the skill set needed (which you can judge in the negative - or positive depending on perspectives) but how is it not progessive when it's using state of the art technology.  There's also a radical simplification of the mechanics of owning and running a motorbike.  There's noise issues addressed (I look forward to being able to have motorparks in built up areas)   And that's before addressing other pollution issues which from your tone I suspect you don't think are an issue.

The electricity can come from all sorts of places which is most likely to be coal or nuclear in the short term moving to renewable sources as those point sources are replaced with newer technologies.

Similarly, the batteries are made in different ways depending on the battery technology used.  Currently predominantly lithium but there's a plethora of alternative technologies in the pipeline with varying degrees of promise, with higher energy densities and/or much lighter and/or cheaper more environmentally friendly raw materials.  The more electric is used the faster the technology will progress.

Total votes: 28

But they didn't get the TT Zero off the ground by worrying about what it was or wasn't...they just raced them.....2019 is a long ways away in development terms. And I don't think anyone would suggest an expectation or even a need that it be an ultra competitive racing series on par with the other three series in any respect whatsoever. Just race them. Let the manufacturers and and anyone else who can get one to the starting line worry about the competitiveness of their machine(Dorna can worry about safety and having a Green,Yellow and Checkered flag and maybe some trophies....)Lets see the racing. Fastest man on the fastest bike wins. 5 bikes one week, 20 bikes the next.Who cares. Race them. Development and advancement will follow. 

 

Total votes: 53

The thing is, if public support for electric racing is to grow, it has to be attractive. If you have five bikes one week, 20 the next, and the race is over in the first half a lap, no one will watch. (Well, not no one, but only a very few die hard electric bike fans.)  That risks creating the perception that electric racing is terrible. It takes years to get rid of a negative public image, so better to control the series early on, ensure public interest, then bring in competition later. 

As I said, I understand your point with the TT Zero, but that is a completely different concept. In a way, at this point in time, the TT Zero is a much better place to be developing electric bike technology. Short circuit racing should be better for refining a much more production-ready product.

Total votes: 46

At age 45 I don't know if I'm old or young, but I do know that I enjoy the engine noise, vibration, smell, etc. of my internal combustion motorcycle engines.  One of my bikes is a Ducati Monster 1200S with an aftermarket pipe that frankly is louder than I anticipated. The soulful, sonic sound of that beast makes me smile every time I start it up.

With that said, I'm intrigued by the potential new dawn of electric bikes. Yes, they'll sound and feel very different than what I'm used to now.  There may even be things I miss about gas powered bikes if there's a point in my life when everything is electric.  On the other hand maybe it'll be cool to hear birds chirp as I swoosh past them on an electric engine.  Maybe I'll like the feel of maximum torque straight off the stop line.  Maybe I'll look back at gas prices and wonder how I ever afforded to pay them.

My point is that I'm open to exploring change.  Just becasue I enjoy one thing now doesn't mean I might not enjoy something else in the future.  I don't know what exactly it is I like most about motorcycles, but maybe it'll still be there no matter what powers the engine.  I'm happy that Dorna is willing to be near the front of development of electric racing bikes because that gives me hope that the future might be as exciting as the past.   

Total votes: 70

Fastinating interview there David. There's no question, the landscape of Motorsport in general, is going to change rapidly over the next 20 years. Whether people like it or not, Electric is very much the future it seems.

There is obviously concern by some about the noise, or lack of, but it's not that bad really. I mean, don't get me wrong, the sound of a current MotoGP engine is absolutely amazing, as well as the old V10s/V12s in Formula 1. Nothing will ever beat the thrill and experience of those incredible engines for sound and all round experience. But the electric vehicles are quite fun to experience as well.

I've been watching the Formula E series from the very beginning, in 2014. And honestly I don't even really think about the lack of a normal engine sound. The racing is mostly entertaining enough, and ultimately whether it's petrol or electric, we all just wanna see good racing, whatever it is.

The whirls and whistling are kinda cool. Would I want it for ALL series in the future? Absolutely not. But having it's own place right now against all the internal combustion engines, it's kinda cool. That series has started off as an all one spec make series, but each year one area of development gets opened up to the manufactures they can work towards.

In the short term, they've had to do use two cars for each driver in a race to make the distance, but thankfully that will be a thing of the past come 2018 when brand new batteries will ensure full race distance with no swap overs. A lot of people were very doubtful of this series when it first started, but it's attracting more manufactures to join than Formula 1 now and is only going to improve as time goes on.

The technology has progressed quite quickly and will more teams coming in soon, it'll continue to get faster and more efficent. Hopefully this Moto-E series or whatever they decide to call it, can alsp help speed up the electrical development as well and have it's own place within the Motorcycle ladder. Ultimately, whether people like it or not, but for Motorcycling to have it's place in the future, it too has to adapt like the others and get involved too.

 

 

Total votes: 41

No problems with electric bikes here; glad to see them moving forward. I do, however, cringe at the thought of losing the sound of internal combustion, at least for the in-person experience. That noise, along with the actual sensation of speed, is (for me, anyway) the main reason to actually travel to a race...the visceral thrill of seeing those machines streak by at 200mph, so loud that you know you should plug your ears, but can't quite make yourself.

From an actual race-watching perspective, the broadcast is better. And there the sound doesn't make much difference...they just sound like angry mopeds anyway. So probably not too much difference with electric.

But I'd hate to see IC go away completely. The Goodwood events give me hope on that front, however... 

Total votes: 31

It's worth throwing in there that as well as the TT Zero there have been a couple of earlier short attempts at circuit racing championships, each of which largely passed without notice to the extent that Wikipedia articles are the sole source of information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TTXGP

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_FIM_eRoad_Racing_World_Cup

It's clear from road technology and Formula E that technology has moved on in since 2013 to make this more of a go-er than those cups were. The idea of starting as a spec series like Formula E did and then opening up bits (either open up the chassis or the power unit) would probably be the way to go. The TT Zero result spread is on account of it currently being Mugen vs various hand-built motorcycles (including at least one which is a university project, massively admirable but never likely to be near a big company) so a more spec series would clearly be closer. But you only have to look at the manufacturers in Formula E vs Formula One now and coming to know which way the future is headed. (not a popular question to ask in car racing circles but) With several countries due to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 or earlier and doubtless more to follow, how long before Formula One becomes Formula E or vice versa? Ten years? Less?

For me the biggest challenge comes from the fundamental difference in the torque characteristics of motors vs engines - with a motor the power comes in straight away. This is why Formula E tracks are different to Formula One tracks, smaller and tighter with fiddly little chicanes, because the cars need something where they have to slow down significantly to give a chance at overtaking on the power as well as just in braking zones. I can't imagine big fast sweeping corners produce much wheel-to-wheel when you get to full power pretty easily. Hopefully someone with more knowledge of race track dynamics knows more about this than my idle speculation?

Total votes: 33

I rather enjoyed the TTXGP races I watched at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.  The lack of noise was great!!  I must be young.  ;-)

All the differnt companies had their bikes on display and it was fascinating to see.  I'd like to see different manufacturers but of course it all takes money (and interest!).  Eventually we will get there.

Total votes: 41

for the Formula E tracks to be as they are. It is simply because the cars (in their current technological state) are not capable of performing on the full size permanant road courses. They would be through accelerating and at max velocity even before they reached the halfway point on most straights. They'd need to be doing 2 or 3 car swaps instead of just one if they were to actually race around them and not simply putt about in battery conservation mode all day. Keep in mind the one and only circuit that both F1 & FE race on is the street circuit in Monaco, the shortest (by far) that F1 races on and it has to be made even shorter for the FE race.
 
They also want to use the classic formula of bring the race to the people instead of make the people go to the track. This gets eyeballs on their product from people that didn't even have to buy a ticket. Being quieter and "cleaner", it's far easier for them to get approvals for temp. street circuits in city centers that would never have a traditional motor race as well as having tailor made circuits to run on as opposed to how silly looking running around newly carved up, even shorter versions of a given track's "club" or "national" circuits would have been. 
 
Think of it as the speed potential of the car is used up long before the speed potential for the circuit. Eventually that will change but we're not there yet...
Total votes: 46

How to explain Bathurst, the Nordschleife, Avus, Paul Ricard, Brooklands, etc?  Bathurst was built in the 30's, initially for bike racing, at the time mostly old one-lung pommy clunkers of at most 50hp, and yet it had a nearly 2km straight where those bikes would reach top speed pretty quickly.

I take the point about the range though, a lot of time at WOT (what is the electrical equivalent??) would deplete batteries quickly.  More slow corners after fast straights = more regen braking.  But worrying for us, more slow corners after fast straights = everythng Herman Tilke has ever built = terrible for bike racing.

The point of view of Dorna to noise is interesting, in that they probably want more.  Every GP event will be on the track's  'loud days', where they can go nuts - so they don't need to worry.  But at lower levels of racing, I see the electrics as being the saviour of riders and tracks with noise problems (which is almost all of them).  I can see some tracks going to electric-only for many (most?) days of the year, only having a limited number of 'noisy' days - eventually, inevitably, sadly, to be complained out of existence.

I think within 10 years electric track bikes will be common, and would be a lot better than not being able to ride a motorbike on a track at all.  As long as the tracks are saved from the developers while they still exist.

Total votes: 48

Sorry that was meant to be a specfic reply to patnicholls regarding the design of FE race circuits, not a general comment.

But I will say that I do not think everything Tilke designs is terrible. Given some terrain with some elevation and I think he does alright. I still really like the Istanbul Park Circuit (and COTA too) and I seem to remember some excellent 250cc races there.

Total votes: 46

Noted.

The current tech state of the Formula E cars is definitely right at the bottom end of a big mountain we're yet to go up. I know it started off in season one with spec everything and now the powertrains and a few other bits are open, but I suspect they froze certain things for the first few years to make sure the series survived and when they unfreeze them the technology will have moved on a fair bit (and the cars will be more powerful and faster), which will potentially make more regular tracks viable as well as the street courses. Although I definitely concur that the use of the street tracks is to entice in a new group of people to races - I went to the London races last year and the vibe was definitely more ' trendy family music festival' than 'grubby smelly garage'...

Total votes: 37

I assume Senor Corrado Cecchinelli is italian, that perhaps he communicates with his hands. When I read this "For batteries I would expect progress, from this to this to this." I thought, CC is probably indicating sizes, volumes & shapes with his hands. So I assume we have lost something, the non-verbal, in translation from live to recording(audio only I presume). then listening to the audio & reading your notes, typing it up...Thanks. gives me something to ponder while waiting for friday's free practice 1

Total votes: 45

Let alone being between Moto3 and Moto2, I'd be willing to bet my left nut that the first iteration of E-MotoGP (Moto-E?) will struggle to match Moto3 pace. Those bikes are mind-bogglingly quick. A stock superbike like an s1000rr or an rsv4 struggles to keep up with Moto3 bikes in terms of laptimes. I genuinely don't see how they could beat all those "mature" bikes with a brand new e-bike.

The only way I see this happening is if they run on tiny batteries that can only do 2 laps at once. Battery weight is a real killer. But then again, MotoGP is the pinnacle of motorcycling prototypes, maybe they'd surprise me.

Total votes: 34

I ride dirt bikes and so feathering the clutch on a bike is critical getting through the snotty sections ...on a road bike the clutch is the wheelie button .. allowing control  ...and fun !

when I have ridden electric bikes I miss the clutch  ...to me motorcycling is a two handed game with clutch and throttle interplay  ... 

i would be interested in feedback on electric bikes on the having some sort "clutch"

 

Total votes: 34

But they can be included and have been.

The snotty sections on a dirt bike is where they will shine.  You need the clutch to keep up the revs while modulating power picking your way through.  On an electric bike that will simply be giving less throttle.  Electric power for trials would be ideal.

Pulling wheelies should also be much the same, you simply wind on as much as you need.  A clutch could be used to build up some flywheel which when released gives a surge like a clutch and the inner workings of an internal combustion might, but not really necessary and is extra weight.

There will certainly be skills learnt rding internal combustion bikes that will be unnecessary on electric.  But they are skills required to overcome their deficencies.

Total votes: 36

While there are certainly issues to overcome, surely at some venues and in some limited initial format, a start could be made. We cannot simply look at this in terms of todays technology and say "we are not ready". Advancements are on-going and this will attract many visonaries.

This is an event which will grow with time and technology but certainly in the beginning it will face critics and challenges. The future is clear. I believe staying ahead of the game is vital for Dorna to keep it's franchise alive. 

Carmelo is a very smart guy and has taken MotoGP to heights dreamed of by Bernie's Boremula 1. We ought to have faith in the man and his team and see the positives in this. Any keyboard warrior, myself included, can reel off a list of reasons why it will be rubbish or worse, not work.

Total votes: 48

I think that a lap speed between a Moto3 and Moto2 machine is probably a fair guestimate. 

A Moto3 machine has lapped the IoM at 110mph, admittedly not a full spec job but ridden by a very competent rider. The TT Zero Mugens are lapping at 119mph whilst conserving battery power to enable the mountain climb. 

The unfortunate thing with TT Zero is the lack of interest from mainstream factories. Mugen, Moto Cysz and a few Universities appear to be the most successful entrants to date with fewer than ten starting a race. 

I believe that Mugen are near to the point that they could complete two laps but what is the point if others can not?

Unfortunately, this to me is the beginning of the end. F1 is reviewing its position as taking the lead in future technologies in favour of providing a spectacle. As Damon Hill says, people don't ride horses any more but we still race them. I can't see record crowds thronging to Brno or Valencia to watch a single geared, silent electric bike GP in 30 years or so.

Total votes: 25

Maybe gasoline to electric is a much larger leap, but weren't many predicting the end of fan interest when 500GP two stroke machines were dropped in favor of 4 stroke engines?

Total votes: 41

Considering hydrogen contains 80 kWh/kg and today's best batteries around 2 kWh/kg, why not opt for a hydrogen fuel cell electrical class instead of a battery powered class?

Total votes: 43

The factories do what factories do. They are motivated entirely by profit and when they can see a viable financial case, they will get in the water too. In the mean time, yes a few Universities and smaller operators will be doing most of the swimming. But the future cannot be denyed.

In the not too distant future the ICE will be no more and electric will be the main stream. Technology will advance and the energy storage dilemna will be solved. You can whinge all you like but you'll sound just like my grandfather did when the new fangled motorcar threatened the future of his beloved horse. "It'll never succeed! Someone has to walk in front of it waving a flag! Its pathetic!!" he grumbled from his rocking chair. 

The real question for Dorna is, do they wait for the technology to be become better or do they get in early and help drive the technology?

Certainly in the early stages of a MotoE class there would need to be more structure to the specifications to get some parity to create actual racing but as the class develops this could be relaxed. 

I am sure Carmelo and the team will do their due diligence. They have made MotoGP the premier motorsport spectacular in the world through some very trying times so I feel confident they will get this right too.

Total votes: 37

If a particular fan grew up in the era of thumpers ruling GP racing, the sound and spectical of multi cylinder machines must have seemed a travisty against the purity of the sport.  And a different fan became enamored with the sport during the multi period then was disgusted with the rise of the two-smokes.  One who came of age watching the 4 cylinder 2 strokes was likewise saddened with the (re)introduction of 4 strokes.  I suspect that the next wave of change from motogp to whatever comes next (be it electric, hydrogen, sail power, pedals, nuclear, etc) will cause us to pass through a similar process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I find myself as a fan from one of the generations of technology.  I have survived several technology shifts (personally and as a motorsports fan) with little listing harm.

Total votes: 38

...because it asks a fundamental question about the relationship of any racing series with technological progression in the wider world and we're not sure what the answer is.

We've certainly always had it that racing is at the forefront of technical development, but in recent years we've got to a point where in many racing series a lot of things in the technical regs get frozen for a number of years, or made spec, arguably because engineering development is so good and quick now (...with increased computing power as well as people) that if unchecked speed or grip or aero or whatever increases could be so fast it would make all the circuits obsolete (in either safety or quality of racing or both) pretty quickly. So to keep things 'about the same' - and keep the circuits relevant and the racing product fairly consistent - rules get tightened, spec stuff gets brought in, lap times stay about the same (they spent how many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars this year and haven't beaten the lap record from four years ago on the same circuit?). NASCAR literally needs the car to fit very precisely in a box of a certain shape, IndyCar has spec aero kits, most bike series have spec ECUs, control tyres, etc, many series have vehicles from the last year or two in them...this is how the technical regulations ensure we get a racing series that fits our idea of what one is (lap times of the field within a couple of percent, overtaking, entertaining action on TV or at the track). Some races from the past wouldn't stand up to the modern level of TV coverage and internet scrutiny; they would be viewed as uncompetitive or uninteresting (and the safety would be considered appalling).

Maybe the exciting/scary bit about this technology leap is that it is a step change of replacing the fundamental element of racing, and maybe also the idea of not far behind it of self-driving cars being developed for the road (or the track - Formula E is working on a support series called Roborace of AI-driven cars for technology demonstration - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgGwd8lhyG8 says the AI knows how to get round a track on its own at least, although a track full of other cars or a road in the real world is a bit more of a challenge). I'm 35 and it's both exciting and scary that I'm likely to drive an electric car for more of my adult life than a combustion engined car, and possibly ride in a vehicle where I don't have to turn a wheel or push the pedals for more of it too.

Maybe at some point major racing series dissociate themselves to a greater or lesser extent from technology if they'd like - there's nothing that says they have to follow it, or that manufacturers necessarily have to be a key part if the money to run it comes from elsewhere (TV/internet money?) - racing is racing after all and there are plenty of historic racing series out there.

I see many challenges ahead, but many more opportunities and possibilities (my career producing bland business-speak platitudes begins here).

Total votes: 38

If the future of racing is electric it might as well be dead for all I care.

Short races where everybody has to save energy as much as possible are terrible. FE has some excitement but that's only because there are good drivers in very very very slow cars. Put the F1 field in Formula Renaults and you will have a lot of fun too.

What good is new technology when it is inferior in every way to 'old' technology? Electric is not the future, it's the very annoying present.

Total votes: 36

TTxGP was a highlight of my 2012, as it closed the deal on my plan of flagging the USGPs in Leguna Seca and Indy.
Been in powersports business for 20 years, ktm950 as a dirtbike, so ya cant question my loyalty to motors, this is just perspective.

As a former speed boarder on snow, I have heard and felt the 100mph barrier against my body aero, as my primary calculation of building more speed. There was a thunder of sound in my helmet on snow and the sound of the Ebikes did not disappoint as they too, represented their dirty air with great volume, passing by. The high-pitched gear/motor was enough distraction to miss what they really sound like, as they dusted past, that sometimes I forgot to listen through it, to the wind of their accelleration.

We got training on the E-power disconnect at each race, in the event of a crash. Which my corner never needed. Ultimately, the diversity of tech and subsequint results were a clear indicator of what is keeping the development of race quality machines from hitting a stride:
Zero brought E-pitbikes with company fast guy at the bars, the battery company brought a 600Supersport chassis with a big sprocket and a generic 15000 rpm brushless motor, turning a OE clutch basket and gear box, with AMA racer at the bars. The German windpower company brought a true prototype chassis/powertrain that was pure CNC beauty, with pro racer and there was the one garage builder/national number racer that couldnt make the start with his bike, cause his hand sweated battery pac was not lighting up his power controller anymore. The two pro's duked it out of a few minutes then, a fast lap was Supersport fast, but pace couldnt be held for race distance, 5 laps.

The battery tech guys could benefit from a engineering association with the motor dudes and the chassis guys could tie the new dynamics all together, if a spec were chosen, at which race dev money could be thrown. Racers will beg to race anything when they dont have a ride, even if it isnt standard class.

So, if Dorna sees the battery guy needs infrastructure that doesnt exist or has the option of no facility to race in, where infrastructire exists, the whole thing is a logistical non starter.

But when they think a class will be worth running, dont worry, there will be a new vintage class born not long after.

One reason racing is hard to organize at Leguna Seca, the very limited number of "loud" days, available on the calendar.

The good old days will always be good, no matter the hero.

Oops did I just type all that??

Total votes: 38