At PHEW, we deal mainly in light electric vehicles like our bikes and trikes, but I feel like there are some interesting things happening in the world of electric motorcycles that should be mentioned. Much like the world of electric bicycles, tinkerers have been putting together electric motorcycles for a while now, but now there are some bigger manufacturers putting out serious, state of the art motorcycles that are even being used in competition.
Since 2009, the eGrandPrix has served as a venue for electric motorcycle builders to test their designs in competition, and a way for innovative new electric vehicle technology to be tested under rigorous race conditions.
Pictured above is the Motoczysz E1pc (like ‘epic’, get it?), which won the electric class at the highly prestigious TT motorcycle race at the Isle of Man in Britain. It was far and away the fastest in the electric division, and came in just shy of the course’s benchmark 100mph average speed.
While e-motorcycle racing is not the most purposeful step toward a low-carbon lifestyle, I see it as quite a significant positive step for all electric vehicles, e-bikes included. This type of racing draws more attention to the growing versatility that electric vehicles offer, and gets people talking and thinking about how they could use electric transportation. Because of the competition inherent in such a sport, engineers and designers are going to invest heavily in finding ways to make electric vehicles faster, more efficient, and longer-lasting. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what develops.
Recently MIT announced their new design for an electric assist bicycle wheel that has been getting a lot of press. Unlike most electric bicycles, which utilize a separate motor, battery, and controller, the Copenhagen wheel crams all three components into a sleek-looking housing in the bicycle’s rear wheel. This eliminates the snaking wires and protruding batteries that abound on many electric bikes, and aside from the screaming red color of the prototype, makes for a more incognito electric kit setup.
The motor uses regenerative braking, a system which generates power during braking and coasting, to provide power. Some current electric bike motors like Sanyo and BionX use regenerative braking, but MIT’s design is the first to use it exclusively. They haven’t released any hard numbers on how much power the wheel produces, weight, or battery life, so we’ll have to wait and see how it works in the real world.
Aside from the motor, the Copenhagen wheel is also unique in its many additional features. It has a bluetooth link that syncs with the iPhone and other smart phones, enabling the rider to control the wheel’s power output and display real-time info like speed and distance traveled. Personally, I’d like to see another option for controls that doesn’t involve strapping an expensive mobile phone to my handlebars, but I assume that will be addressed when this design moves closer to production.
All in all, I think it’s a good idea, and if the real-world performance matches the vague claims and fancy pictures on their website, this design and others like it could really forge a new direction for electric bikes.