26 September 2010

Plug In to our Electrifying Motorcycle World

A friend sent me a video link to the soon to be released film “Charge-Zero Emission Maximum Speed”, by Mark Neale director of famed MotoGP movie “Faster”. When I looked at the video, the tantalizing sounds of these electric race bikes gave me goose bumps!

Electric motorcycles are upon us-they’ve been toyed with since the early 40’s. In 1973 Mike Corbin (best known for Corbin motorcycle seats) set an impressive land speed record of 162.5 kph (101 mph) on the first electric motorcycle, but in today’s world, the electric motorcycles’ zero emission value is ever more significant as our earth environment cries out for help.

We’re living amidst a “technological freedom frenzy” as was aptly put by Dave Luscombe Auto Cycle Union, the UK sanctioning body for motorcycle sport. Though the expansion of the electric motorcycle sounds exciting, it’s causing most of us, myself included, bounds of apprehension and quite some resistance. I’d say even a dose of denial at the thought of our gas powered combustion engine becoming extinct. Honestly, are we to come to grips with giving this ugly looking thing a chance and forfeit gear shifting to ride in silence as only the sound of wind whistles over our helmets? Is this the beginning of the end for our growling, beating combustion engine? “Loud pipes save lives” and “Hear me roar” will soon be redundant.

As our concerns and desires to save the planet push us to soldier a different set of priorities, we motorcyclists are looked upon to play our part; expected to join the zero emission technology band wagons ending the era of “dirty, smelly, noisy” things and take up the electric motorcycle “clean, fast, light”- this iPod on wheels.

The big question is will the thrill be gone? Will the unique sensation created by “motor”-cycling provide a lesser consciousness? If you watch the “Charge” movie trailer of the TTXGP, such bikes as the Mavizen exceed speeds of 241 kph (150 mph) as viewed by the on-board camera-is impressive! KillaCycle electric drag racing accomplished a new top speed record for an electric motorcycle of 272 kph (169 mph) proving performance is to be had. In fact electric motors make peak torque at all rpm. Manufacturer Zero in California claims its 20 hp Zero X bike produces 50ft-lbs of torque and this particular model weighs 140 lbs. There’s even more torque to be found from their 2010 street models.
You’ll be quick off the start with the electric motorcycle’s “twist grip throttle”, although taking some getting used to, uses no cable but sends electrical pulses to the controller. Evidently there’s a small amount of throttle play and then “zap” you’re gone!

The zero emission electric motorcycle is without a doubt the solution for short distances. Will this balance out the other trade-offs such as the silence creating a lack of feel in the bike? Really, the biggest challenge will be the duration of your ride. On average, and this depends on the size of the battery in your bike, you’re good for about 80 km (50 miles) followed thereafter by a 2-4 hr recharging. If you’re travelling between home and work this is a non-issue. Then there’s the cost factor as electric motorcycles are expensive, but then again, you’ll never need to “tank up”.

I’m hoping to test ride an electric motorcycle and get a better understanding for myself of the new technology. Alas, there’s an unfolding destiny with our internal combustion gas powered motorcycle and like powered “stink boats” to sailors and cigarette smokers to the general public; the piston operated engine will soon see its day. Who knows, once we’ve experienced the silent ride of this electrically propelled sensation, we’ll opt to plug in -but not because it’s our duty as a member of this planet, but because it’s something we choose. TTXGP creator Azhar Hussain said it best - “new day, new rules, new game”!

*column published in The Motorcycle Times under MOTORESSING by Vicki Gray

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