We caught up with Michael Czysz this morning when rain delayed the Isle of Man’s TT Zero race until tomorrow and finally squeezed details of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc out of him. Is this new bike really a significant step forward from last year’s revolutionary machine? Is a 100mph lap finally in sight? What’s his response to MCN calling him a liar? How does he plan to steal Chip Yates’ thunder? The answers to those and many other questions below.
Photo: Grant Ray
On racing electric bikes at the Isle of Man.
“The speed isn’t there. The electric bikes are generally the slowest on the island. But, when you think that we are doing 7/8ths the speed with 1/8th the energy? That’s remarkable. There’s not one other bike out here that you could put one gallon of gas in that could beat us on our bike. Not one. I could be the rider and we’d still beat them. At some point in our lifetime, responsible consumption is going to become a higher priority.”
A two-pronged attack.
“We don’t have many miles on the new bike, of course, which is why we brought the old one. I was talking to Mark Miller [riding the 2010.5 bike] on a regular basis and said, ‘right now, our goal is to get that 100mph lap.’ Which is a lot harder than people think. We could take half the batteries out and do more than half the speed, but we couldn’t put twice the batteries in and do twice the speed. It’s a very elusive number.”
“There’s so many corners here that are so slow that it means you have to make up speed on the straights. You have to do 130, 140, Michael Rutter [on the 2011 bike] was hitting 150mph at some points. When you start pushing that much air, you’re consuming a huge amount of energy. It’s easy to do 190 on a straight for a mile or complete an eight-lap race. But, when you want to do both range and speed, it’s difficult. That’s why we brought back Mark’s bike. Sitting where we were a couple of months ago, that bike was still kinda leading the world.”
The differences between 2010 and 2011.
“Rutter’s bike has a lot more energy and a lot more power than Miller’s. When I rode it, dude, that thing is so fucking fast. It’s unbelievable. It hauls ass. It’s going to blow your mind when you ride it.”
The 2010 bike uses an ingenious solution to connect 10 individual 1.25kWh battery packs to its suitcase frame to enable fast, safe swaps. The protruding rods are merely guides, it’s the large white ports that support the weight while the smaller, black and white circles connect the positive and minus terminals. Photo: @CafeRace
“We were led to believe that a two-lap race would absolutely be done in 2011. So, I thought, ‘Man, that sounds scary! We better get a jump on that, it’s going to have a huge impact on the design.’ So, I started down the whole hot swap battery path in the understanding that this is, in fact, the future for electric motorcycle racing. Then, in 2009 and agin in 2010, we looked at all the other bikes and said, “Jeeze, where are all the other hot swaps?’”
“There’s a compromise associated with hot swaps, as you can imagine. You don’t want the packs too big or too heavy. That means you have to break them down into pieces. That means you’ve got more space between packs and more materials within the packs. So, I thought for us, there’s no reason to be the only company making such compromises.”
“Even with this year’s packs, we can still drop them in just a few minutes. That’s what we do when we’re working on the bikes or when we’re at the shop; the first thing we do is pull the batteries out. But, they’re not like 35, 45-second swaps like the 2010 bike. The top one, i can take out in 10 seconds, the one behind that takes a bit longer. They come out the back, which is part of the reason for the inboard suspension.”
The 2010 MotoCzysz E1pc that won last year’s race is more immediately radical than this new bike. In addition to those batteries, vortex generating winglets and a covered rear tire help with aerodynamics while a secondary seat to the rear enables riders to achieve a completely flat back while tucking on long straights.
“The back seat still has the same concept. It’s much longer than normal so, when you do slide back, you slide up also. It’s not a distinctive two-tier, but it is the exact same functionality, just a different aesthetic.”
“What has changed is the front. The oval forks allowed us to close down that front like crazy. It needed to get much tighter around the fork and the wheel. And then, of course, you want to protect the rider. So, if you look at where the rider’s envelope is and where the wheel envelope is, it’s protected by a lot more fairing than the first one.”
“We’ve made so many efficiency changes that I can’t, at the moment, pin the amount of gain on which component. But, we’re up over 20 percent on last year. That’s a huge step. If you talk to anyone else racing here, they’ve increased efficiency maybe one or two percent. That doesn’t mean we’re geniuses, it just means that our bikes were so bad before that there’s room to make gains.”
Moving the suspension inboard.
“Last year, we moved the shock on top of the swingarm because we moved the motor under it. If we’d kept the shock there, we’d have to remove much more stuff than I’d want to access the batteries. Plus, I keep wanting to push the envelope and try things. That’s what this is about, it’s prototype racing and we’ve got more ideas than we know what to do with. At some point, you probably should cool down the innovation, but we’re not there yet. We should be stirring the pot and trying to make things possible.”
On the ’11 bike, both the front and rear shocks are held on a shelf under the “fuel tank” and are connected to the forks and swingarm by carbon fiber pushrods.
“It all comes back to the bottom line of efficiency. On the lowest level of efficiency, it’s nice to have effectively the same springs for both shocks. Instead of having a drawer for shock parts and a drawer for fork parts, now we’ve just got a drawer for shock parts. That’s kinda cool.”
“The other thing is that it’s efficient for the structure of the bike. Near the headstock, where you’re going to have have all the strength already, we’re bringing all the forces to that area. I don’t have to have fingers of carbon fiber reaching out here and reaching out there to grab all these points. We’re effectively redirecting all the forces to the same area, where we already have the strength, so that makes it more efficient and hopefully a less expensive and more successful frame.”
“And then there’s the the whole thing of no or virtually no unsprung weight in the suspension. There’s not another bike in the world that has less unsprung suspension components than we do. The shocks aren’t hanging from anywhere, they’re laying in a drawer and they don’t have any influence on it. And, I can tell you, the effect of that is big. We had to recalculate all the suspension settings we thought we knew. The reduction in unsprung had a much bigger effect on our damping and spring rates than we thought. Is that better? I don’t know. Will we do it next year? All that is too early to say. But, there’s a substantial change going on here and we’re going to see how we can evolve it.”
This carbon fiber pushrod connects the swingarm to the shock, located under the “tank.” The swingarm itself is bolted to and covers the 200bhp, liquid-cooled motor, which is a stressed member in the frame.
“Typically, the top part of a shock is sprung and the bottom part is mounted to the swingarm. In theory, the shock weighs on the swingarm and that’s unsprung. And, you’ve got pistons and rods and whatnot that move with that unsprung. We probably have that same thing here, but because there’s a rocker in between those and because that rocker is suspended on the sprung part of the frame, I think you’d find that what’s acting on the swingarm are these pushrods. On other bikes, if you look at all the linkages and whatnot that are hanging off the swingarms and you added that up, I’m sure we have an awful lot less.”
“There is Zen everywhere on this bike. It feels amazing to do more with less.”
Starting from scratch.
“We spent an awful lot of time evaluating batteries and I came up with dozens and dozens of scenarios. I picked the minimum capacity, we couldn’t go smaller. Then, we fit the rider around that and built the cockpit around them. The way to keep the overall stiffness up for such a heavy bike was to go back to carbon again for the frame.”
“The forks are all new too. They’re an ovalized section and they carry no active springs or damping within them. They also have a Formula One pushrod solution. We’re pushing all the forces up into the shock that’s mounted in the shock tray.”
The entire fork assembly, slider and stanchion, is oval in section, aiding aerodynamics and torsional rigidity. At extreme lean angles, the forks are designed to flex somewhat side to side, providing suspension action.
“Last year, we had an oval bottom section, but the sliding components were round; you had your standard telescopic top end. This year, we have sliding components that are oval.”
“The shock residing in the head stock was another barrier to cooling and airflow, so I wanted to move that shock out of the airflow. I wanted to shrink wrap that front end, but also get good cooling, so we wanted the least amount of interference. I replaced basically a 2.5-inch shock with a 3/4-inch rod.”
What electricity can teach internal combustion.
“Many, many, many major manufacturers have been in here this weekend and what we’re spending a lot of time talking about is throttle control. They’re working on electronics to bandaid ICE and we have pure electronics.”
“There’s a huge potential for disconnect on early generation electric vehicles. Even yesterday, a guy on another team put on the throttle and the bike didn’t leave. He shut off the throttle and it kinda lurched. Put it back on and it kinda jumped. That doesn’t inspire confidence. You want to make sure that the riders feel that what they want, they can get. You want them to feel in control of the vehicle. We’re making advancements to those strategies. We want to make it as comfortable for the riders as possible so they can get the most out of the motorcycle as possible.”
Our buddy Guy Procter wrote an article for MCN earlier this week speculating that the MotoCzysz could only be making about 80bhp since its measured top speed in practice was only 142mph.
On MCN calling him a liar.
“Here’s the bottom line: Guy’s right, we are using about 80bhp. That doesn’t mean we have 80bhp, it means we’re using 80bhp. The reason we’re using 80bhp is because we’re trying to set a 100mph average over 40 miles. Not 37.7 because our racers don’t take those lines, they’re not on the edge of the tire. The distance they do is over 39 miles. To do that and to consistently go 100mph, you have to go as slow as you can. You have to accelerate slow and there’s no reason to have 190mph blasts. That’s just too expensive.”
“So, Guy took a negative and and tried to deduce a conclusion. Rutter used 50 percent throttle and went through the Sulby Speed Trap at 142mph. Here’s the other thing, the trigger mechanism — two wires in the pavement — is deep into the Sulby Straight. I’ve told our riders to primarily use regen and not braking. So, they’re both slowing down before they hit the speed trap. Rutter hit 150 on Sulby Straight, hundreds of yards before they measure and then he’s coasting down on the regen through the speed trap. So yeah, that speed isn’t so impressive. The speed trap represents 80bhp, but that’s not an accurate picture.”
“Don’t call me a liar. Guess what? Electric bikes are the only vehicles in the world that we can’t lie to you on because it’s a mathematical equation of volts times amps minus efficiency that’s going to give you what we’re spinning at the rotor. Ducati says a Desmosedici makes 200bhp, but when you put it on a dyno, it makes 175 at the wheel. Are they losing that 25 in efficiency or is it only making 190? You have no way of knowing. We can’t lie about that.”
“Our 200bhp might be peak, but how long are you going to hold your Desmo on peak? Five seconds? Those guys aren’t asked about the difference between peak and continuous. It’s absolutely fair to call our bike a 200bhp bike. What’s unfair is to take some bullshit snapshot with no information and then make up a headline about it.”
“We’re not going to brake as well as a 600 because there’s so much weight. But, if I was to go to a club race, one of those short WERA races, eight laps or so, I think I could really take those bikes down the straight. Would it be so much faster that it could offset the successful braking that a 600 has because of the weight? I don’t know yet. But, I’ll tell you that the straightaway speeds and getting out of corners, there’s not a 600 that’s going to touch it. I actually think it could pull the 1000s no problem. Last year’s bike, when we went out to Portland in preparation for Laguna, it was hanging with 1000s just fine and it was nowhere near this new one. I’d say we have half again as much torque and acceleration.”
“Could we break the land speed record? In a heartbeat. We could do it on the Isle of Man tomorrow. On the Mountain Course. Rutter’s doing 50 percent throttle and hitting 150mph. But, that would come at too much cost. The funny thing is that in this race, we need to go as slow as possible. I know that sounds like a ridiculous contradiction. What they need to do is keep the overall average as consistent as possible.”
“We’ll probably take it to Bonneville or one of those events just for fun. That’s a no pressure event, I don’t want to go there and worry. I just want to go, see what the bike does and get some data. Then, use that to help us make decisions for our next generation bike.”
“I love OMRRA, that’s our local club. That’s where I started racing and there’s just great people there. I will probably go out and do a race with OMRRA, for fun, and that will be an ICE race. We might do that in preparation for Laguna.”
The 2011 bike, ridden by TT vet Michael Rutter, is expected to win tomorrow’s TT Zero.
“The number of calls we’re getting from people that want to ride the bike is pretty significant. Case in point, John McGuinness was on the wall watching Rutter cross the line and absolutely wants to get on one of these electric bikes. Three years ago, those kind of guys weren’t even laughing at us because they weren’t even noticing us. Then, last year came and eyebrows raised. Now it’s, ‘Shit, that looks so fucking fun, I want to do that.’”
Additional images provided by Amadeus Photography, there’s 37 exclusive high-res images in this gallery.