The history book (or Wikipedia page, if that’s your thing) on electric motorcycles is rather slim, especially compared to its internal combustion counterparts, but what you’ll find is a myriad of ideas and concepts. Such is the beauty of a technology in its infancy. The section on electric racing motorcycles is even thinner. If you discount the inaugural MotoE championship running alongside MotoGP this year, the biggest stage for electric racing motorcycles has been the Isle of Man TT Zero race, wherein each entry tries to complete one full lap around the 37-mile course as fast as possible. Well, it was until the event was put on hold for at least two years. The machines you would have found at the TT Zero are full of ideas and concepts to win the race, but the one constant is the fact the batteries dominate the vehicle’s overall design. It’s understandable, considering you need a lot of battery to travel nearly 40 miles at 150-plus miles per hour.
Yes, it rained for the better part of two weeks. Until it didn’t. And then all hell broke loose on the Mountain Course. The pubs, hotels, and campsites emptied, the Parc Fermé lit up, and qualifying and racing got underway as an unusual and stirring race fortnight on the Isle of Man drew to a fitting climax.
Over in the car world, the Formula E series has gained massive interest from manufacturers. The all-electric racing series is the pinnacle of electric sport on four wheels, and while the early days of the sport were laughable – the cars were slow and there was a mandatory car switch at mid race for range purposes (the next generation Formula E cars are reported to be able to last a whole 50-minute race) – there’s no avoiding the fact that almost every major car maker is embracing electric propulsion as part of their model range, whether its standalone electric cars, or as part of a hybrid system. And just as it’s been true about internal combustion engines, there’s no better way to improve the electric breed than by going racing.
Recently, at the 2017 Tokyo Motorcycle Show, Mugen unveiled the latest version of its Isle of Man TT-Zero racer, the Shinden Roku, the bike that’s heavily favored to take the top two spots on the podium this year with riders John McGuinness and Guy Martin. The Shinden Roku is an impressive bike in its own right, with claims of 160.9 hp and 154.9 lb-ft of torque, and a weight savings of more than four pounds compared to last year. However, as impressive as the Shinden Roku is, as far as sheer “Wow Factor” goes it’s got nothing on the other bike Mugen unveiled: The E-Rex electric motocrosser.
I have heard the future. And if you listen closely to the video snippet below, you will as well. It’s the whining sound barely discernable under the commentary on the loudspeaker and the beating rotors of the helicopter. That is John McGuinness rounding the corner at Creg-ny-Baa on his way to winning today’s Isle of Man TT Zero race, at a new lap record of over 119 mph. The snippet following that is of Lee Johnston on the Victory electric prototype. Johnston claimed third place at 111.620 mph, a stellar accomplishment for the American brand that is pressing forward into segments and markets virtually unthinkable just a few months ago. Johnston had been running increasingly faster laps throughout practice as he became more familiar with the bike, and he rode his fastest lap when it mattered most.
The Isle of Man TT, which kicks off yet again this Saturday, May 30, occupies a special place in the world of motorsports. An unmatched two-week spectacle in an idyllic setting with almost unimaginably brave athletes, the TT proudly sticks a middle finger in the face of the banality and conformity that rules modern life and more pedestrian sporting events.