Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Believe I Can Fly . . .

Check out the rest of the posts below to see the history of this project, start-to-finish. If you think that what we're doing is cool and would like to help us 'touch the sky' on our next build, we kindly accept your support. This helps us with everything that the main sponsors can't provide, such as random electronic components, specialized tools, equipment for our shop, flights to our events, etc... Secured, tax-deductible and handled by MIT, the link is here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Isle of Man - Day 15 - Thank You!

The race is over, eSuperbike is packed up and waiting to be shipped back to Boston, and the MIT Electric Vehicle Team members have split off in all directions towards various summer adventures. The experience of building an electric motorcycle and racing it at the Isle of Man was amazing. The words and pictures here truly don't do it justice. Before we sign off and this blog goes quiet again for a while, the team would like to say thank you to our sponsors over the two years of this project.

THANK YOU... BMW for the motorcycle frame, and even more so for the CAD files which allowed us to design the bike electronically before any parts were actually fabricated. A123 Systems for building a custom battery pack to our specifications; for countless e-mails and phone calls as we trouble-shot our system and tweaked it for racing; and for coming to the rescue when we realized that only you had the paperwork needed to ship our batteries to the Isle of Man. In particular thank you to Yet-Ming Chiang, Brian Moorhead, Jerry Gohl, Doug Moorehead and Mobashar Ahmad. Rahn and Mark at Rahn's Motorcycle Engineering for hours of time on the dyno without which we never would have understood our motors; and for the general support and encouragement of the team. Their relentless support was extremely encouraging and kept us going during rough times. the MIT Energy Initiative, Transportation @ MIT and the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department for extensive financial support. The Edgerton Center for an incredible workspace, access to tools and equipment and your general support of student teams at MIT. (the picture is of our bike in the back of the Edgerton Center pickup truck) the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and the International Design Center (IDC) for general support of student groups and new initiatives. Thank you in particular to Pofessors Dan Frey and Sanjay Sarma for your long term commitment to the project. Derek, Scott and John at Boston Moto for the opportunity to test our bike during their track day at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and for your technical support and introduction to the world of motorcycle racing. Mark at for all of the extra work you put in to make our graphics look so good, and for your support and advice during our track day in New Hampshire. Dave at Evomoto in Ramsey for always fitting us in for those final dyno sessions as we kept rebuilding our motors in the days leading up to our race. the following companies for advice and equipment support as we brought our project to completion:
- KillaCycle Racing
- Kelly Controllers
- Boulder Electroride
- Woodcraft
- Lynch Motor Company
- Sharkskinz

Last but certainly not least, THANK YOU... Allan Brew for piloting eSuperbike around the course safely (and faster every time), allowing us to take over your garage as a workspace, and generally introducing a bunch of newbies to the world of the Isle of Man TT. Jan Brew for your wonderful Manx hospitality and English tea, and for allowing us to both take over your kitchen and send your husband out for more stress-inducing laps of the TT course.

From me personally, it's been an incredible ride both literally and figuratively. Thank you to the rest of the MIT Electric Vehicle Team for your hard work on the project both before and after I showed up on the team (Will, Manyu, Brent, Dianna, Dan, Romi and Mateo), flexibility when the team made tough decisions (Erick), dedication when the typical time constraints of MIT kicked in (Randall), focus when the going got tough (Radu), and for vision in the early days, innovative technical ideas in every aspect of the bike and relentlessly keeping the team on track (Lennon). It's been great working with you and we should all be proud of what we accomplished.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Isle of Man - Day 13 - Race photos

The weather was better on the postponed race day (Thursday), and the team drove down to the grandstands for the race at 3:30. Then the race time was shifted again, not weather this time, but because of shifting the order of events. So we waited.

Eventually, it was certain that the race would go off at 5:15. Nine teams went through tech inspection and set up in parc ferme.

eSuperbike received its' third and final tech inspection sticker.

Once again teams had a chance to wander among the machines (well, among the ones that weren't in their own little tents anyway).

Photographers roamed around snapping pictures of bikes...

...and teams.

Allan was interviewed on local radio.

Finally, at about 5 o'clock, the marshals let us up onto the track to the starting grid.

Once again the bikes lined up in order and were sent off at 10-second intervals.

No wheelies here, just a smooth start down Bray Hill.

And then we waited.

By this time we had discovered the TT Live website, where we could track bikes as they pass certain checkpoints on the course. The iPhone came out as soon as Allan was out of view.

Something got jumbled though, and Allan was listed as riding through the Sulby Speed Trap at 102mph, which is faster than eSuperbike was allowed to go! We'd limited the motor controller voltage in order to protect the motors, so something must have been wrong with the course's timing system or our transponder.

Or was something wrong with the bike? If Allan was actually going that fast, then the motors were sure to burn up and fail and we'd be out of the race. But nothing's gone wrong like that before. But why is the number so high? All we can do is wait.

We could tell from the website (watched from an iPhone) that a couple of the teams didn't make it through certain checkpoints. On a 37.73-mile course, the worst part about watching a race is the limited information you can get about the bike and rider while they're out on the course. But Allan's name kept showing up on the screens for each checkpoint: Ramsey Hairpin, The Bungalow, Cronk ny Mona...

And then we finally saw them.

Fouth place!

Allan did the course in 28 minutes and 35 seconds, with an average lap speed of 79.1 mph. He and eSuperbike were faster every time they went out on the course.

The team was all smiles when he came back through the pits.

Lots of congratulations all around on a job well done.

Congratulations to MotoCzysz for taking first and second place, and to Kingston University for third place and the university prize.

The most surprising outcome of the race was MotoCzysz not getting the 100mph lap. Their two bikes drafted off of each other for most of the race to save energy, but the faster of the two only managed a 99.6 mph average. So close! There is a GBP 10,000 prize for the first electric bike to break the 100mph barrier, and it's still up for grabs.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Isle of Man - Day 13 - Fourth Place!

Final stats:

1st place - Michael Rutter - Moto Czysz
2nd place - Mark Miller - Moto Czysz
3rd place - George Spence - Kingston University
4th place - Allan Brew - MIT
5th place - Yoshinari Matsushita - Prozza

32 - teams entered
16 - teams confirmed
5 - teams qualified
9 - teams started (including teams who did not meet official qualifying standards)
5 - teams finished

The team is very happy with the result. We were the fastest first-time entrant and one of only four bikes to complete both qualifying laps and the race.

Photos coming soon!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Isle of Man - Day 12 - Race Postponed

The 2011 TT Zero race was scheduled to run today, but got postponed (along with the other two races that were supposed to run today) to tomorrow due to bad weather on the course. Race officials started an earlier race (Supersport 2) despite riders' protests, but then stopped it due to worsening weather conditions. Finally, at about 2pm, just as the TT Zero bikes were scheduled to go into technical inspection, the announcement came over the loudspeakers at the grandstands that all further races for the day were postponed to tomorrow.

We were disappointed of course, though some teams are probably relieved to have another day to get the kinks out of their machines. We loaned the ManTTX team a set of motor rotors, so hopefully they'll be ready to run tomorrow. There is still a question as to who will actually be eligible to win an award, though. Of the nine electric motorcycles that started in the practices, only five completed the required qualifying lap. Race organizers, however, have stated that any electric bike that is running will be allowed to start the race. No official comment has been made on who will or will not be eligible to receive an award though. Similar situations came up in the first two years of the TT Zero, so we'll see how it's handled this year.

That is one of the big issues of testing new technology in a race setting... going faster always invites the risk of not making it all the way around at all.

Yesterday we pushed hard to have the bike ready by the evening. Monday's practice showed us that a plastic component (the brush holder) of the motors contributed to them getting out of balance with each other. That plastic part was a new development though... we still had spares of that part from older motors which were made of FR4. While more expensive, FR4 handles the heat of the motors much better than plastic and wouldn't allow the motors to get out of balance as quickly. So we decided to swap out the brush holders with the older part, so Radu went back into beast mode.

In the meantime, Erick worked on waterproofing some of our electronics.

Randall arranged for an improved data logging system.

This morning we did a little bit more waterproofing...

Here you can see the black tape on the sides of the frame to help keep moisture away from the electronics and cables.

We're pretty sure that we can handle any rain or wet-road conditions in which race organizers would actually start a race. Weather on the island is unpredictable and very local though, so it's never possible to predict exactly what the other side of the course will be like when you start.

Finaly prepping and cleaning in the garage...

...and then it was time to load up into Allan's van.

We piled into cars to drive the ~30 minutes to the grandstands, and heard on the radio on the way down that the Supersport 2 race had been stopped mid-race due to weather. Once at the paddock, we didn't even bother unloading the bike or any tools. Half an hour later it was announced that we wouldn't race today.

In anticipation of posting a blog about a successful race tomorrow, here are some photos of the grandstands and start/finish area.

From the main grandstands... the view of the start/finish line and results boards.

The main leader board. The stands in the foreground are to hold up the quick-fill fuel tanks for the gas bikes.

Map of the course and the results board. Under each entry number you can see a dial with points for Glen Helen, Ramsey and Bungalow to indicate where on the course that rider is.

I expect these stands to be completely full tomorrow.

View of the paddocks from the top of the grandstands. This is only maybe one tenth of the team paddock space.

As soon as the course was opened up after the cacellation of the rest of racing, the pit lane turned into motorcycle parking.