Electric v Gas: the first practice

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Pictured is Chip Yates, traveling at 154mph. Tomorrow, Chip will enter his 295lb/ft, 194bhp electric superbike in a race for gas-powered motorcycles. Entering the WERA Heavywight Twins Class, he’ll be the first person to pit a modern electric motorcycle against ICE (Ducati 1198, KTM RC8 etc) on the same track at the same time. Today’s practice session was only the second time he’s ridden the bike. How’d it go? Let’s refer to Chip.

Photos: Julie Yates

In an email, Chip writes:

Today we had a challenging day but very productive as we worked to set up the bike after moving 1/3 of the battery pack from the rear of the bike up to the “gas tank” area.

The day was cold and there were a number of crashes that caused red flags that resulted in us only getting in 6 laps before noon.

The best of those 6 laps was a 1:47.06 and top speed of 154.5 MPH on the NASCAR banked oval front straight at Auto Club Speedway!

Like Infineon, the acceleration was absolutely unrelenting – the bike is simply incredibly and viciously fast.  The handling is much improved but with only 6 laps, I didn’t get much chance to lean over and start getting racey.

Our day was cut short by 1 of our 102 lithium ion polymer pouch cells failing and being significantly lower than the other 101 cells in the pack.  The risk of drawing this cell down below its critical voltage and potential for additional cell damage or fire made us tow the electric superbike home to our shop this afternoon, where we carefully extracted and successfully replaced the cell, but missed the rest of the trackday.

As I write this at 8:20PM, our team is still at work balancing the pack with the new cell and things so far look perfect!

Tomorrow morning is race day and we will only get one practice session in the morning for 4 laps before I have to bring the bike into the pits for complete charging prior to our first race (Race #2) at 11:30AM to be sure we have a topped off battery for the 6-lap race.  We calculated that at the laptimes I want to do, I will need a minimum of 27Ah in my pack – we have a 30Ah pack, but charging the last 3Ah is very time consuming as the BMS shunts the topped cells while the lower cells catch up.

The low number of laps today and the 4 laps we get tomorrow means that I will be in pretty poor shape experience-wise and setup-wise to do a great job in the first race, but we are raring to go and I am excited to do my best and use it as a test race to further improve the settings.  After our first race, we will immediately start recharging and will barely have enough time to fully charge the pack before our second race (Race #11), but I expect to be able to improve my results and laptimes in the second race.

We also had a Kilovac contactor go bad 2 days ago (our second Kilovac failure), and we had to rush to contact Gigavac and overnight order in 2 new contactors and reconfigure and rebuild our high voltage switching box on the bike to fit them, which killed a day’s time in preparation for the race.

However, the upshot of all these challenges is that I am very happy with the bike on a technical level. I just desperately need more laps on it to learn how to ride it and start pushing the limits.

  • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

    ooooh, this is going to be very exciting! I hope he beats all the gas bikes in his race tomorrow. I’m so stoked it’s at my backyard track!

  • Zane H

    This is going to be very interesting.. Great story guys

  • Thomas

    Keen to read more about! Good luck on the track!

  • http://michael.uhlarik@amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

    This is a very interesting experiment, and a very interesting architectural approach to the EV motorcycle. Whether it works or not, whether it wins or not, all drawbacks aside, I love the balls of these guys for finding the money and courage to try it.

    I think a lot of people who are convinced that motorcycling in America means cruisers, choppers and a defensive attitude regarding foreign competition, ought to be very proud of this new wave of entrepreneurs in the EV space. No where else in the world do ordinary individuals have the gumption and resources to take on established OEMs and try to reinvent industry like they do in the US. As a Canadian, I think this spirit is one of the things my culture envies.

    I sincerely hope that Brammo and Michael Czysz become the Triumph and Edward Turner of 21st century motorcycling.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Turner

  • Corey

    Ouch, they had better find a whole bunch of speed today. A 1:47 at Auto club speedway is NOT competitive in any WERA class.

  • BrammoBrian

    Nice job, Yates! And thanks for the KUDOS, Michael. If you think it takes courage to build one of these machines, try having the b@lls to throw a leg over and run 150+ mph on an experimental prototype!

    • http://michael.uhlarik@amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      I have always widely acknowledged my riding limitations, and respect for professional racers. I am very happy that Yates did as well as he did, more than you can imagine.

      M