History made today as Team Segway beats 100mph at TT Zero on Isle of Man [updated]

It is being hailed as one of the greatest events in the 105 year history of the world’s most famous motorcycle race – the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy).

Earlier today Team Segway Racing MotorCzysz rider Michael Rutter set a 100+ mph lap record for an electric motorcycle at the TT Zero. The landmark lap also earned Rutter the £10,000 prize from the Isle of Man Government. This is only the fourth year of the TT Zero, while it took more than 60 years for the same milestone to be reached by a conventional bike (by Scotsman Bob McIntyre in 1957).

Not only did Team Segway MotoCzysz take first and third positions in the TT Zero, but Rutter achieved the highest speed during a heat (152 mph) and third-placed Mark Miller achieved highest speed during the race (132.6 mph). Rutter won the TT Zero in 2011 and Miller won the TT Zero in 2010. The three fastest entrants of the 10 electric motorbikes racing in damp conditions around the 37¾ mile Mountain course all broke the 100 mph barrier (and only 4 out of the 10 entrants finished the course on the day):

  1. Team Segway MotoCzysz – Michael Ruttter: 104.056 mph (lap time 21:45.33)
  2. Team Mugen Shinden (Honda) – John McGuinness: 102.215 mph (lap time 22:08.85)
  3. Team Segway MotoCzysz – Mark Miller: 101.065mph (lap time 22:23.970)

The official website reports a delighted Michael Czysz saying after the race:

“The greatest motorcycle riders and manufacturers in history are synonymous with the Isle of Man TT Races and I am so proud to be adding the name Segway Racing MotoCzysz to that list. What the team has achieved today is truly ground-breaking and is the culmination of years of hard work.”

The MotoCzysz bikes incorporate Segway’s world-leading experience with energy management in personal electric vehicles – the interplay between software, batteries and propulsion systems. When the TT Zero began in 2009 battery packs provided about 10 kWh of energy – today they are about 20 kWh. Because battery improvements benefit all bikes about equally, of prime importance is how power delivery and regeneration between these systems is controlled, and this is one of Segway, Inc.’s fields of expertise. Riders use their experience to balance speed against conserving power over the length of the course. Previous generation MotoCzysz electric race bikes were specifically designed with attention placed on items such as drive systems and suspension dynamics. These were  further refined this year, and other areas have been targeted with these all-new machines, as explained by MotoCzysz founder and CEO Michael Czysz:

“The design of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc focuses on overall vehicle and system efficiency, with aerodynamics being a high priority. By 2012 we were capable of building an eGrand Prix machine with sufficient torque and HP, handling and reliability, so what was next? We want more for longer.  Adding range is simple; you could add more batteries or you could do more with less!  Racing, the automotive industry and the world in general desperately need to recalibrate from using more, to using less more efficiently.  Nowhere is this more critical than when creating an electric machine.”

The new MotoCzysz E1pc weighs 238 kg, some 20 kg lighter than its main competitor (Mugen Shinden, for all intents and purposes an entry by Japanese behemoth Honda – the largest manufacturer of motorbikes in the world). The bike’s battery packs total 14kWh of stored energy, and the it can achieve 200+ peak horsepower. Asphalt and Rubber reports additional details about changes between this years and last years models:

Noticeably apparent on the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc are the aerodynamic fins and ducts, which the team has developed through the use of Solidworks, and hopes will help make the Ep1c slip through the air on the Mountain Course with ease. Since wind resistance is a square-function in relation to velocity, a two-fold increase in speed results in a four-fold increase in wind resistance, and as such MotoCzysz has placed a high priority on aerodynamics for the 2012 season.

Making refinements to the 2011 design, MotoCzysz returns with its under-tank suspension design, which uses two shocks with forward and aft linkages to facilitate the front forks and swingarm suspension duties. Other improvements have been made to the bike’s electric drivetrain, which include increased efficiencies, more accessible packaging, and better mass-centralization.

“We’ve done a lot of what we call connectivities and interconnections…they are all small changes, and that’s what happens. Look at it this way: let’s say we do 100, 102, or 104 mph this year. It is going to be hard to add another 5 mph next year, and another 5 mph the year after that. It gets more difficult obviously, and it’s the same thing we’re talking about with these components. It was easy the first couple of years to make big adjustments, but there weren’t those big obvious ones to make this year, just lots of little ones.”

“Physically the battery pack is slightly bigger, but that’s because we have changed some dimensions for other dimensions. We don’t have air flowing through it this year, so we’ve had to make up that cross-sectional area. We’ve also done a much better job of cooling our batteries, which has meant doing some thermal stuff inside the batteries.”

None of the competitors have had the opportunity to actually test their 2012 zero-emission motorcycles on the course at Isle of Man prior to practice and qualifying rounds. Michael Czysz says that this is proved a challenge, because it gave them only two passes through the Mountain Course in which to set up each bike to each rider’s specifications. This includes changes to the upgraded systems dashboard, which displays data such as speed in relation to the course and other essential information about what is occurring inside the systems of the motorcycle so the rider can make decisions to maximise performance over the length of the course.

“We’re communicating to the riders very simple, clean, and efficient strategies on what they can do with the bike — and that’s on-the-fly as they go,” said Czysz. “This is really one of our secret sauces this year.”

The Mountain Course is perhaps the most challenging course on the Isle of Man TT races, according to Examiner.com, who write:

The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course is one of the toughest racing circuits in the world.  It winds its way around the Isle of Man, on regular roads on the island, for a distance of 37.5 miles, and crosses Mount Douglas reaching an altitude over 1400 feet.  The TT Week has over 100 years of history inmotorcycle racing, and it is a select group of riders who are qualified to race on the Mountain Course.  The gas bikes race for two laps, but the electric bikes (TT ZERO) race for only one lap.  That’s the limitations of battery energy density, and it will require a breakthrough in energy density before the electric bikes will be able to go for a full two laps.  They’ll get there, in time.

The TT ZERO results serve as one of the benchmarks measuring improvements in electric motorcycle technology.  This, and other electric motorcycle races like the TTXGP, give electric motorcycle developers an excellent R&D opportunity to push the technology forward.  In 2009, Rob Barber (riding for Agni Motors) won with a 87.434 miles/hr lap speed. In 2010, Mark Miller (riding for MotoCzysz) won with a 96.820 miles/hr lap speed. In 2011, Mike Rutter (riding for MotoCzysz) won with a 99.604 miles/hr lap speed, and this year he won with a 104.056 lap speed.

Segway New Zealand’s site at SpeedShow 2012 (21-22 July) will feature a special display about Segway’s success at the TT Zero.

Michael Rutter wins the TT Zero 2012 on his Team Segway Racing MotoCzyz electric motorcycle

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