Electric Bikes. If Not Now, When?

When will electric power overtake ICE in the race for tomorrow’s motive power? Energy storage is the most difficult hurdle electricity needs to clear overcome to win the race. Current battery technology delivers units that are too heavy, too costly, and have too little storage capacity to compete across the market. But everyone from the magicians at MIT to the state-employed folks at Beijing U. is working to “commercialize a promising new battery technology”.

Right now, if gasoline prices remain in the $4.00 range, a $12,000 electric bike could be a cost-effective tool for a rider with a 40 to 80-mile daily commute. That’s especially true in California, with its clogged freeways and motorcycles free to split/share traffic lanes. Electric power could save time and money. Consider, too that motorcycles are disproportionately heavy contributors to air pollution, and that will sway some potential buyers. For me though, a back country rider whose typical outing is a 150-200-mile scoot in the mountains, electricity works only for lights and sparks. Today.

But that will change. Battery development may not be on the same fast track as computer chips with their doubling of capacity every 18 months, but things are improving. People like Elon Musk are driving the technology curve upward, and it seems that electric motorcycles should be quick to benefit. I think that by 2020 there could be an electrically powered moto that would be an attractive alternative to the sweet song of my Honda V4. Maybe.

Meanwhile, Team Mugen Electrifies the Isle of Man

Mugen-Shinden-Yon 2015

Japan’s Team Mugen, mounted on “Shinden Yon(above photo) electric specials, dominated the one-lap (37.7 miles) TT Zero race. The machine, was newly developed to improve on last year’s ‘Shinden San’ model. ‘Shinden Yon‘, translates to “God of Electricity, number 4”.

Team Mugen, represented in the SES TT Zero Race by twenty-one time TT Race winner John McGuinness and outright lap record holder, New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey, who set the fastest ever lap around the Mountain Course, 132.298 mph (00:17:06.682), in last year’s Superbike Race. The electric machines are creeping closer to Anstey’s mark, posting times of 119.279 (McGuinness), and 118.857 (Anstey). The winner of the inital TT Zero Race in 2009 was Rob Barber at 87.4.

2015 SES TT Zero Challenge Results1 John McGuinness (Team Mugen) 18:58.743 119.279 mph2 Bruce Anstey (Team Mugen) 19:02.785 118.857 mph3 Lee Johnston (Victory/Parker Racing) 20:16.881 111.620 mph4 Guy Martin (Victory/Parker Racing) 20:37.987 109.717 mph5 Robert Wilson (Team Sarolea Racing) 21:15.256 106.510 mph6 Michael Sweeney (University of Nottingham) 30:56.695 73.156 mph

More on the race, including video, here...

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