Chip Yates on putting electric motorcycles’ money where their mouth is

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“The best I can say is that riding this is like riding the most powerful bike you’ve ever ridden in your life, with a passenger on the back that weighs 180lbs.” This morning, Chip Yates announced that he’s going to bypass series like the TTXGP and campaign his 232bhp+, 195lb/ft, 265kg electric superbike against bikes like the Ducati 1198 in the WERA Heavyweight Twins class. This afternoon we asked him if he really thought he could compete. Here’s what he had to say.

“I made a statement when I started that I had no interest in riding an electric bike that was going to do slower lap times than the 600 I was already riding,” explains Chip, who will be racing the bike himself. “I don’t have any interest in doing something where I’d be going backwards or going slower.”

“Although I’d benchmarked 600cc bikes, we’ve got a better power-to-weight ratio than 600cc bikes and that class is the most impacted with huge entry fields and, a lot of the time, young kids trying to become pros. So, we thought the better thing to do would be to enter a class where I’m at a power-to-weight disadvantage so we can sort of be mid-pack and sort of use that as a test to see how it goes. We’re coming in as a guest of the gasoline series, so our thinking was we should go into a class that’s not as impacted, where we don’t have a clear advantage. I don’t want to finish last, but I don’t want to win either, I want to struggle.”



“Achieving lap time parity with 600cc bikes forced us to decide on the level of power we’d need and it forces us to invent the [front wheel] KERS system. It forced us to do a lot of things, the result of which was that our bike was dramatically more powerful and advanced than the other electric bikes. I don’t know if TTXGP was worried that we’d come in and dominate [and instituted the 250kg weight limit as a result], we probably would have. I don’t know if it would make for that exciting of racing if it were sort of crushing everybody. I didn’t argue too much with the idea that, with no competition, it may not be an exciting race.”

“The MotoCzysz E1pc is superior to our bike from a packaging standpoint. He’s done an incredible job wit the hot swap battery pack and battery pack integration. He’s using a proprietary chassis that he’s invented. There’s a heck of a lot of refinement and innovation that’s gone into it. It’s for sure the most well-executed and beautiful electric bike I’ve ever seen. We’re significantly faster.”

“You gotta look where we spent our budget. When we say we brought in MIT software engineers, we’re not kidding. The work they’re doing on the control algorithms and the race-finishing algorithms and the lean angle and traction control, the wheelie control.”

“A 300 foot pounds of torque bike is unrideable, so all the stuff that makes that rideable and then the patented KERS system, we’ve spent our money on the powertrain and the software to try and make an unridable bike be rideable. In dong so, we’ve created the most sophisticated — from the standpoint that if you brought NASA engineers in here and showed them our wiring, our software, our ECU, our control strategies, it would pass a red face test with NASA or an aerospace company. That’s the level we’re operating at.”

“Our motor and controller is a matched pair from UQM, they’re designed to work together and it works very well. UQM is a US government supplier, they supply these sorts of things for tanks, so I have a lot of confidence in it.”

“It would be better if the battery pack was in the center, but there’s just no room to package that. To make 194bhp for 12 laps, you need a certain amount of battery. You calculate how many batteries you need and their size and where you’re going to put them. We could maybe fit 10 percent of the battery pack under the tank area, but it means splitting the high-power wires and splitting the battery managment wires and it added more complexity than it solved in weight.”

“It looks like [the battery pack] is in an awful position, but it’s exactly where the passenger would be. It’s just not that pretty.”

“I haven’t ridden it on track yet, just around here, trying not to get arrested in parking lots. Infineon will be the first time it will ever get on a track.”

“I do not expect to us to win in the near term. We’re going to have to make that power increase we’re talking about (+ 20% or more from 194bhp) and we’re going to have to decrease the weight and so some other things. But, I think eventually, mid-way through next year, then we should move maybe to a 1,000cc class or something. I’m very confident.”

  • Tony

    Can’t wait for the “Beauty and the Beast” references when we see this bike next to the MotoCzysz.

  • seanslides

    Not that I really know all that much about the inner workings of an electric bike, but I wonder if they could rotate the motor assembly up 90 degrees, and put together an L shaped battery pack that fits in front of and below the motor that fills the space under the tank, in front of the motor, and the belly pan. I suppose the kers drive would need to be shifted and changed a bit, but after seeing what christini does with those types of systems, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Then split radiators ala that sexy as …. naked Buell!

      • seanslides

        What, and ditch the classy mx (KTM maybe?) radiator setup he’s got going on? Pshh. That’s takin it one step too far…

  • mugget

    Sounds cool.

    With all the work that they’ve done on the software and controllers, if they partnered up with MotoCzysz…

  • Steve

    These photos play the angles harder than a fat chick on friendfinder, but everyone is beautiful on the podium. I wish them and their rolling wart well.

  • Darren

    I am so excited to see the level of R&D going in to ebikes these days. Specifically because it’s being done by by folks who want to go fast and have fun instead of simply ‘saving the earth’.

    I can easily see a time in the relatively near future where a significant (ie 10-20%) of new bikes are electric, and I love it!