MotoGP: FIM Launches the circuit-based Moto-e electric race bike
FIM intend to run 18 bikes as a support race to the MotoGP series, using a mix of the MotoGP satellite teams and selected Moto2\Moto3 teams. The road bike already has a range of some 90-125miles, so the race bike which is lighter, will although pressed harder should be able to complete a reasonable race distance, some 9-12 laps depending on the circuit. Thus, no bike or battery swaps mid race, just a single sprint race.
The Moto-e bike is based closely on the production Energica Ego road bike, the performance figures quoted by CEO Livia Cevolini are those for the road bike, so we can expect that the two models are very close in specification, aside from detail changes made between the road and race versions. So, although the Moto-e bike will race on a MotoGP weekend, it is not a prototype, but is a single make championship, which is very different from the MotoGP DNA. But these are early days in the series and we still have the prototype TTXGP electric bike series running simultaneously.
Of course, it would have been nice to see a bespoke race frame for the bike, then run the near standard electric powertrain. I think this is an error on the part of the organisers, but as this is the first season of Electric circuit racing for bikes, we can hope that more suitable rolling chassis is produced in years to come. Or even opening the field to powertrain competition, as is the case with TTXGP and on Formula E on four wheels. In the mean time we can have a closer look at the Moto-e bike as it was presented at its launch this week.
Moto-e’s first bike is made by Energica an established manufacturer of a range of electric road bikes. Energica are part of a wider group, most notably of the Cevolini business is CRP. They are specialist engineering business, consulting on design and manufacture with all sorts of industries. Most will know them for producing parts for F1, which they have done since the early 2000s, in particular precision machined and cast titanium parts. Although the business has expanded into 3D printing with several of its own materials such as Windform.
As standard, which is the specification the bike is expected to race with, the electric powertrain is relatively straightforward. The road bike is billed as being all Italian, although there are no doubt partners with the design of the electric powertrain, but none of these have been disclosed.
It is powered by an electric motor, being a AC brushless permanent magnet type cooled by dielectric fluid (oil). Judging by its dimensions, it’s a pancake format motor (Axial Flux), which has a different orientation of the magnets and stator coils to a typical (radial flux) motor. Where the layout is akin to a disc spinning facing each other, compared to the concentric cylinder within a cylinder design of normal motors. Think disc brake compared to drum brake, for the orientation, torque and cooling benefits. This design characterises the motor as being lower revving and producing more torque than conventional motors, while cooling and installation is also easier.
Its rated at 110kw (147hp), with the expected high torque output of 200nm between 0rpm – 5000rpm. This power delivery will be quite a departure for the rider, as racing motorcycles are typically quite revvy with little low-end torque in order to push peak power higher up the RPM range. Out of corner the bike will pick up much faster, despite its weight. In the wet this should be quite interesting too! With the high torque output the bike also requires no multi-speed gearbox, instead the motor mounted ahead and above the swing arm pivot driver through reduction gears to a conventional sprocket and chain drive. So, there are no gearshifts and no clutch. Although quoted as oil cooled, there doesn’t appear to be a separate oil cooler for this.
From the video of the race bike testing, the charging point and hardware also appears to be standard. Starting with the battery, with a 11.7kWh energy capacity from its LiNmc cells. Also similar to the road bike, Cevolini confirmed the charge time is some 20 minutes to 85% charge. Unlike most EV’s Energica run an air-cooled battery, firstly as the battery is more openly mounted for passing air than in a car, but also a bike’s tendency to lift the rear wheel under heavy braking, makes the rear wheel drive of the bike limited in energy recovery potential under braking. This greatly reduces the electricity cycling through the battery and should keep temperatures down. Sitting within its own cast aluminium enclosure with cooling paths built into the assembly, the battery unit also houses its own Management (BMS) system to monitor the cells inside. Still the area of greatest development for any EV, the battery forms a large part of the bike’s all up weight, but being slim its sits neatly within the centre of the bike’s frame, looking like the size of a small cabin sized suitcase. Viewed from the front the series of cooling inlets run up the centre line of the case, showing how air is fed into the battery pack.
Mounted above the battery pack is the inverter, this is the unit that converts the DC of the battery into the AC required for the motor. Three orange cables take the AC output into the top of the motor. As with the battery the electricity cycling through the inverters internal switches makes it hot, so it is liquid cooled with a small radiator mounted under the headstock.
Charging at the track will be with Series title sponsor Enel, the Italian power company also involved in EV infrastructure and Formula E. The charging will be via DC connection, so the battery is charged direct, rather than a Ac supply requiring the inverter to convert the supply to the DC battery.
Lastly there’s the VCU (ECU) as Energica call it, this provides the control for the; motor, battery, inverter and dash display. By the fact of it being electric drive the throttle is ride by wire, as there are no actual throttles to open.
In terms of the rolling chassis, the bike sports a steel tubular frame spanning from the headstock back to the swing arm pivot, with an outrigger on the righthand frame rail to support the single offset coil-over/damper. With the swing arm itself being a cast aluminium part. The choice of a single offset shock is unusual for a race/performance bike, with little damper travel as it is so close the swing arm pivot and without a rocker arrangement to tailor the ratio or rising rate curve. Still this set up remains in place for the Moto-e bike. Albeit the spec of the damper may be changed from the Bitubo production part. Likewise, with the Marzocchi forks, yokes, brakes and wheels, which are unlikely to be the standard fare. Most likely being replaced with higher specification parts for greater performance and less weight. The exact spec of these parts remains vague, images of the ‘Moto-e’ bike show both the standard hardware (even the ignition key and sidestand in some shots!) and Ohlins damper\forks. Additionally, the foot pegs, clip on bars and seat padding will be altered for a racing crouch. Brembo continue to supply the braking systems and Michelin the tyres based on other MotoGP series spec slicks. Inevitably lost from the standard bike will be the ABS system, lights, sidestand and heavy bodywork. These losses will be critical to get the standard bike down from 258kg to a much more competitive racing weight, but still the total weight will be easily over 200kg, negating some of the torque\power advantage of the electric drive. Bodywork changes are minimal, the headlight pods are removed and the seat tail unit is refined to fully enclose the rear of the bike.
With no gearshift and no clutch, the bike remains ‘normal’, with a righthand lever on the bars for the front brake and a pedal on the right for the rear brake. The righthand clutch lever and lefthand gear pedal are absent, although in the future this could make for a different set up to suit the rider, many MotoGP riders use a lefthand thumb rear lever, so there could be just two handlebar levers for the brakes, leaving the feet free to get the right position for cornering.
Testing is due to start in earnest to prepare the bike for racing. For at least some testing to date ex MotoGP rider Loris Capirossi (@LorisCapirossi1 ) has ridden the bike and was present at its launch. Speaking to MCN journalist Simon Patterson (@Denkmit) spoke to the Italian who said “the Energica is really nice to ride - linear power, low centre of gravity. ‘All the things a rider wants from a normal bike”. Stats for performance are quoted the same for the standard bike, 250kmh, 0-100kmh in three seconds. The bike’s power to weight ratio puts clearly between Moto3 and Moto2, although laptimes are expected to be closer to Moto3.
Future Moto-e racing
Of course, the potential for an electric MotoGP could easily be in excess of this, while weight and range remain the drawback, the performance of a high torque motor in a motorbike could make for an incredible amount of performance, especially at corner exit with the low-end torque of electric and no fussing with gearshifts. Then with electronic control and rider aids such as traction control and anti-wheelie, anti-high side, the rapid response of an electric motor could make riding even quicker and safer.
Looking forwards, the ability to add a Motor Generator (MGU) to the front axle will allow far greater level of energy recovery under braking and extend the bike’s range. With anti-wheelie control software allowed and at higher speeds once the front end is better planted on the track some power could be fed back into the front MGU for further acceleration with two wheel drive!
Electric road bikes are yet to become mainstream, none of the major manufacturers produce an e-bike, but with regulations becoming ever tighter on noise and emissions, electric may be one way to go, if perhaps better for super bike categories. With the high torque output of the bike, they will still be exciting, although range will be limited depending how aggressively you are riding. But as charging times are reducing so quickly, a longer ride can be broken up with a stop for a stretch, a coffee and recharge. The other elephant in the room for motorcyclists, many of who prefer to run open and loud exhausts as part of the character of riding a motorbike, is the noise. Moto-e launched with the motto ‘changing the sound of speed’, which is right on the money for electric vehicles. Just as skiing is exciting despite there being nothing but wind rush and scraping ice, so too could be riding a performance bike without engine noise.
But for now we have the opportunity to see electric bikes race around the world with MotoGP, for better or worse, with a bike bearing an almost direction relation to the road bike.