Electric single-seater with Formula E — check. Electric rally racing Paris-Dakar and Baja, California — check. Electric Hillclimb Pikes Peak — check. Isle of Man TT Zero — check. Electric sedan racing — almost check. So when are we finally going to have an electric MotoGP? By 2019!
The Electric MotoGP Is Coming!
Racing might not be for everyone, but one thing it does very well is advertise a given technology. So, what would be better than racing electric vehicles (EV) in order to advertise their inherent qualities?
I’ve been waiting for an electric MotoGP for a decade. Why motorcycles? Because motorcycles have pushed EVs a great deal, and most of the time in a discreet way. Think of Zero Motorcycles and its humble beginnings. These bikes have been raced in many places, including Pikes Peak for the past few years. Private teams such as Harlan’s Hollywood Electric has more than once dipped into his pocket to race and bring electric bikes into the public view.
Why race motorcycles? Because in these days of fractions-of-second wins and clinical-like surgery of modern racing, motorcycle racing is still the ultimate racing sport. A rider, a layer of leather, and a wildly powerful motorcycle that you need to tame even in a straight line.
Richard Hatfield already put over 20 seconds in front of the best Ducati with his wild LS 218 electric motorcycle at the 2013 Pikes Peak. When he walked back from the finish line, he smiled as he looked at me and said he felt vindicated!
Up until then, we had the Isle of Man TT Zero, which by the way is coming up May 27 to June 9, 2017. It gives us a taste of what an electric MotoGP could look like.
In a dramatic step forward for electric racing, there was also the announcement and birth of Formula E — Alejandro Agag and Lucas de Grassi came to Long Beach, California, in 2014 to announce the new series. Alejandro told me he couldn’t believe they pulled it off in fewer than two years. Lucas smiled and said, when all cars are on the track, it reaches the same decibel as one Formula 1 race car. I asked when we would see a motorcycle race series. No one could answer.
Finally, the much-awaited-for electric motorcycle series is hinting at as many as five MotoGP races by 2019.
Electric MotoGP — What’s To Get Excited About?
Electric motorcycles racing around at 200 km/h (~125 mph) should give us 10 laps of proof that EVs can race in almost any form. A few independent teams will show up and push the electric racing boundaries even further. We’ve seen the same thing with Formula E. If you need a primer, check out Charge, which will give you a great idea of the pioneering years of racing electric bikes. It always left me deeply hungry for more.
Electric Motorcycle Racing Will Be Clean
Formula E uses a carbon-neutral glycerine called Aquafuel to fuel the generators that charge the cars between sessions. When I spoke to Paul Day, CEO and founder of Aquafuel Research, he did confirm drinking it. The new MotoGP support series follows that spirit but uses something more common — solar panels.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, who is pushing an all-electric MotoGP series, says that the first season could happen as early as 2019. So far planned as a support series for the regular MotoGP, 18 electric bikes will be on the grid and we could see as many as 5 races in the opening season. Four manufacturers offered to supply electric bikes for the electric championship.
The series will follow the same approach as Formula E used early on, one-make motorcycles with the same power, battery life, and technology. It’s a smart way to get the series going, as the rider and team will make the difference. As an incentive, leading Moto2 teams will be given slots on the grid to invite to participate in the all-electric race.
One question still remains, though: When are we going to see a Sports Prototype electric race? Sports Prototype is perfect for electric racing. Interviewing the pioneer in this field at EVS26 in 2013, Sir Paul Drayson brought his highly converted Lola, now called the B12 69/EV, and asked where the competition was? I’m eagerly awaiting to see where it is.
In the meantime, we can rejoice that we will finally see an electric MotoGP soon.