The Fast Bike With The Funny Name (tm)
June 10, 2010 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Healthy competition can advance technology, and motorsports is a good example of this. The Isle of Man TT has been a motorcycle proving ground since 1907, with a bike earning its mettle by doing ton-up on the 38 mile course. Enter Michael Czysz and his MotoCzysz E1pc. After disastrous failure at the Isle of Man TT the previous year, his company redesigned their electric sport bike from the ground up. The results could have wider implications for electric vehicles as a whole. Previously.

Some technical links for those inclined:

Information on the motor

Information on the battery system
posted by The Power Nap (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Racing electric cars and bikes is a really, really good idea. There's two benefits: it provides a way for companies to invest in research with the bonus of good publicity and advertising; second, it convinces gearheads that electric is fast, because holy hell do electric cars accelerate -- this is important because gearheads are who family members and friends seek advice from when in the market for a car. If we can convince the enthusiasts, I think we can convince the rest of the country that electric is the way to go.

As a side note, 1337-speak is a terrible way to name your products. "D1g1tal Dr1ve"? It's a flashback to IRC names from the 90s.
posted by spiderskull at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this catches on, sitting in the pubs next to the track won't be as exciting. But it's an amazing feat nonetheless.
posted by tommasz at 12:36 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The future of motorsport will sound... like a 100hp blender. With some funky harmonics at full power.
posted by anthill at 12:46 PM on June 10, 2010


Gearheads will get on board eventually. Electric motors are a whole lot simpler and more reliable than IC engines, and upgrading cars to get more power will be potentially a LOT easier (add batteries and a bigger motor). The drivetrain of the future will probably have a tenth of the moving parts and less than half the weight.

But...grrrrr...the sound is half the fun of racing. It's already bad enough that I have to listen to diesel powered race cars. Electric races are going to be awful. Imagine standing trackside at an F1 race and being able to hold a conversation. Awful, just awful.
posted by pjaust at 12:48 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This link is from last year but still a very good perspective on the whole race.

thanks, I've been following Czysz since he started this crazy project (back when it was a gas-powered motorcycle.)
posted by From Bklyn at 1:00 PM on June 10, 2010


Turned out nice again.
posted by biffa at 1:01 PM on June 10, 2010


Yeah, on the one hand, I love the possibility -- well, it seems more like the eventuality -- of having all that torque available almost instantaneously. On the other hand, I like IC engines. But it does seem inevitable that racing fossil fuel-powered motor vehicles will soon become as anachronistic as racing horses.

Nice article. It's good to see what the face of these changes will look like. I wish this guy and his team a safe race.
posted by mosk at 1:06 PM on June 10, 2010


This is why we need to lobby Brian Eno to design the sound of electric vehicles RIGHT NOW. Some twerp at GM is going to put an mp3 of an Impala revving as the curb-noise for the Volt and we'll be stuck with that shit for 100 years. But, if we ACT FAST and get Brian Eno on the job, our future cars will actually sound like the future.

Also, how do you pronounce that godawful name? Motosiziz...Motochize..motosysis.. If you are going for publicity, don't name your company MotoEyjafjallajökull for cripes sake.
posted by iloveit at 1:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


sizz
posted by Severian at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2010


Haha, woops, just RTFA'd. I guess the name isn't his fault. I can't tell the difference between leet speak and Polish.
posted by iloveit at 1:12 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


While looking for videos of the E1pc (which I did not find), I found this video of a different electric bike competing in the 2009 race, and to my surprise, it's far from silent.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2010


Ulp, bad link: here is the video.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2010


They did win the TT race but narrowly missed the 100mph lap.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:16 PM on June 10, 2010


But...grrrrr...the sound is half the fun of racing. It's already bad enough that I have to listen to diesel powered race cars. Electric races are going to be awful. Imagine standing trackside at an F1 race and being able to hold a conversation. Awful, just awful.

Sounds like a job for "hockey card in the spokes" technology!

I actually like the sound of a lot of electric vehicles, where you can sort of hear what the motor control algorithms are doing. Maybe if ear-splitting noise is a beneficial feature in motor racing, they could just mandate the inclusion of a large loudspeaker, to be connected in parallel with the motor windings?
posted by FishBike at 1:17 PM on June 10, 2010


“That’s how planes work, the air accelerates so fast over the top of the wing that it creates low pressure that sucks the airplane up.”
Sigh.
posted by 534154414E at 2:05 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Neat. With time, I think this will be the future of motorcycle racing, at least on-road (I think it will take longer to solve the impact and ruggedness issues of off-road racing).
posted by Forktine at 2:26 PM on June 10, 2010


Even with sound systems to give electric vehicles noise, they won't be as noisy as ICE cars. Part of the reason why ICE cars lose 80% of their energy before actually going anywhere, is because such a colossal amount of energy is lost to vibration. Ie, that noise doesn't come cheap - each time you fill the tank, a big chunk of that gasoline gets burned purely to supply the massive amount of energy required for all that noise.

Battery technology is going to have to get a LOT better before electric cars can carry enough energy to waste that much of it on sound!
posted by -harlequin- at 6:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fewer moving parts is always a good thing. More reliable vehicles seems to benefit everyone except maybe mechanics and the auto industry. Moving into a future with more efficient and apparently more power without burning gas seems like just the sort of thing that we need, approaching using alternative sources of energy from a rather novel direction.

I am not really a race enthusiast so the only thing I have to say about the noise issue is there have been a few relatively easy solutions listed above. Getting used to the sound of electric engines might lead to turning that noise into half the sound of racing, though change is usually hard.
posted by Ulquiorra at 6:14 PM on June 10, 2010


I fly electric model helicopters. The batteries we use run at around 12V and smaller ones have around 2000mAh. And these batteries, and their controller boards, sometimes short out. This will sometimes happen even when you're not doing anything aggressive--just a basic, stable hover and all of a sudden whoof!

When these power systems short out, they burst into spectacular and astounding flames. From nothing to a ball-park-sized cloud of smoke in about ten seconds. And this is from a model aircraft about the length of your arm.

While I very much want electric vehicles for the performance, it should be noted that they have very different failure modes from internal combustion engines.

With an ICE, the general failure mode is that shit stops working. This may be unpleasant or unfortunate, but is rarely spectacular. Outside of Hollywood, very rarely do cars burst suddenly into an uncontained fireball.

When a high-amperage, high-voltage electrical system fails, the results are often spectacular. In my experience, electrical power systems very often burst into uncontained fireballs. Add in LiPo batteries, and the failure gets even more astounding.
posted by Netzapper at 6:29 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Outside of Hollywood, very rarely do cars burst suddenly into an uncontained fireball.

It's certainly not unheard of, especially at the gas pump (or if you're a police officer driving a Ford Crown Victoria!).
I would be surprised if electrical fires came to claim more lives per vehicle than gasoline, though you're probably right in that there may be a transition period, where gasoline safe-handling is already well established in society, but electrical is not.

I don't think your helicopters are a useful analogy. Their rechargeable batteries are all but disposable - you deep-cycle them until they can't hold as much of a charge and then you replace them. That's not the model being used for cars, economics precludes it, so the batteries will have far more extensive nannying systems to control charge and discharge.

Having a truck t-bone you and shear the car - and battery cells - in two may be a fire risk, but that's a fire risk regardless of whether your engine runs on gasoline, electricity, or gunpowder.
(Though it's been a few decades since anyone has tried to make gunpowder engines. The powder just doesn't flow easily enough! :)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:41 PM on June 10, 2010


Actually, the battery explosion problem is, at this point in development, a problem. Regular lithium-ion is fine at containing the energy, as is NiMH. But Lithium polymer (which is what your model helicopter is very likely using) is much more tricky to contain. And it's a good bet that Lipo is the battery of the next decade.
posted by spiderskull at 8:08 PM on June 10, 2010


Regarding sound, I think the sound is freaking epic. It sounds like a futuristic F1 car. Besides, racing will still be a noisy affair -- the straight-cut transmission gears are going to squeal like crazy, and you'll still get interesting doppler effects. Once we get used to it, it won't be an issue.
posted by spiderskull at 8:09 PM on June 10, 2010


which is what your model helicopter is very likely using

Yes, they are.

In fact, LiPo batteries are what made electric helicopters possible. Until their development, nitromethane 2-cycle IC motors were the only option. Nothing else gives adequate power-density to weight ratios.
posted by Netzapper at 8:30 PM on June 10, 2010


"Vincent Black Shadow"
(HST, in elevator)
posted by ovvl at 9:05 PM on June 10, 2010


The battery fire problem isn't going to go away anytime soon. At its root there is a very simple quandary: as soon as you manage to store enough energy, you have the risk that this energy frees itself all at once. And the higher the energy density of the storage, the more spectacular its failure. Entropy is a bitch.
So, if we manage to make any sort of energy storage that stores as much energy as a tankful of gas, we must be just as careful or more with it as with a tankful of gas. In the presence of a lit cigarrette.
A similar issue has also hampered an interesting alternative to batteries: kinetic energy storage systems, that is, fancy carbon flywheels rotating at very, very high speeds. The problem there is that, if one such flywheel shatters, it explodes with all the energy of a dynamite stick. Not good.
posted by Skeptic at 1:20 AM on June 11, 2010


In my experience, electrical power systems very often burst into uncontained fireballs.

Yes, that's why amongst the millions of Priuses out there we keep hearing about them bursting into flames.
posted by rodgerd at 2:09 AM on June 11, 2010


But Lithium polymer (which is what your model helicopter is very likely using) is much more tricky to contain. And it's a good bet that Lipo is the battery of the next decade.

Allow me to introduce you to Lithium-iron phosphate batteries.

I fly electric model helicopters. The batteries we use run at around 12V and smaller ones have around 2000mAh. And these batteries, and their controller boards, sometimes short out. This will sometimes happen even when you're not doing anything aggressive--just a basic, stable hover and all of a sudden whoof!

Well, with a helicopter it doesn't make sense to include a fuse because if you're flying, there's an overcurrent, and the fuse blows, you'd have a falling helicopter on your hands - and because there are no human passengers and people like cheap toys, people don't want to pay a premium for the best safety.

On the other hand a ground vehicle carrying passengers could easily include safety features such as fuses as, should the fuse blow, the vehicle would just coast to a halt; and with human passengers on board people would be more willing to pay for safety devices.

I have worked with LiPo-powered ground vehicles for several years, and have not encountered any explosions at all.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:08 AM on June 11, 2010


Mike1024 -- how have I managed to miss these batteries? They sound awesome, thanks for the info.
posted by spiderskull at 12:39 PM on June 11, 2010


"With an ICE, the general failure mode is that shit stops working. This may be unpleasant or unfortunate, but is rarely spectacular. Outside of Hollywood, very rarely do cars burst suddenly into an uncontained fireball."

Today they don't regularly burst into flame because we have a hundred+ years of engineering mitigating the risks. And in places where we are pushing the envelope (IE: Racing) fire is still a problem.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on June 12, 2010


« Older How BP cleans up a coffee spill. (SLYT)...  |  The Spill, The Scandal and the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments