The FIA, the sanctioning body for Formula 1 auto racing, has been running an electric car series since 2014. Formula E now has 13 races in 12 countries and seems to be growing in popularity.
Motorcycle racing? Other than the TT Zero at the Isle of Man, a one-lap timed race created in 2010 for zero-emission bikes, there’s been nothing.
Until now. Dorna, which runs MotoGP, will debut MotoE in 2019. Unlike the TT Zero, in which a lot of teams are run by amateurs on a tiny budget, MotoE will have fully-funded teams with professional riders.
It’s going to be different. Different for fans, because of how it sounds — very space age, frankly.
I might get in trouble for this (we’re not supposed to post video), but… how good do these sound?! pic.twitter.com/o0PHdFYTOy
— Simon Patterson (@denkmit) November 23, 2018
But also different for riders.
All teams will be running the same bike — an Energica EgoGP. Because of the battery, it’s massive compared to a MotoGP ride — 550 lbs, around 200 lbs more than a carbon-fueled racer.
And that will force riders to change how they attack a track. On the plus side, nobody’s ever going to miss a gear. There aren’t any. On the debit side, there’s trying to stop all that weight.
Bradley Smith, who’ll be competing in MotoE this season, just had his first practice session on the Energica, at Jerez. He shared some of his early impressions with British publication Motorcycle News (MCN.)
“They’re obviously very heavy, so braking will be the area that takes more understanding and ironing out, and will be key to taking the bike to the next level. People will figure out cornering fairly quickly and getting on the power will be straightforward, but finding out how to stop 240kg without overloading the front will take some getting our heads around.
“Surprisingly it doesn’t feel that heavy in direction change, but I think that might be because I’m more used to riding a MotoGP bike that has so much torque in acceleration that everything is heavy. The front wheel is never on the ground with one of them, but with this you’ve got so much time that you’re never struggling to change direction.”
– Bradley Smith; source: MCN
Other than mass, the other thing about electric bikes is the instant and complete torque. Smith said his team has come up with a software solution to keep it under control.
“The power is very smooth off the bottom and it’s not actually too direct. You have to be careful with the initial touch, but after that there is actually a power curve in there because they’ve smoothed it out. Even in the rain, you didn’t need to use the ‘safety’ mapping on the electronics, you could still control it in your wrist.”
Other than that, it sounds like he had a blast.
“It’s exciting! I got on with the bike a lot better than I thought I would, because normally I take a little bit of time to get my head around things. They’re very friendly, and Loris and the development guys have done a great job with getting the bike in the ball park, and Michelin have done a good with making sure that the tyres are safe and working with the bike, which isn’t always easy.
“In general, it’s a different concept and a different riding style and a different way of going about things. But I felt quite at home from the word go. Corner speed will be key, and making sure that you carry it – you end up using every single bit of track that you can get yourself onto to do that.”
Since this blog started a couple of months ago, we’ve worked two motorcycle shows. Our experience at both AIMExpo and EICMA was that electric bikes are growing in number and spreading to all classes — kids, scooters, dirt and cruiser.
So it makes sense for Dorna to keep pace with its changing industry.
Whether or not fans will embrace the radically different-sounding, 10-lap (those batteries, again) races are something we may not know for a year or five. Change takes time to get used to. But Formula E cars have been hanging in there for four years now. That may be a good omen.