Read about the results and nail-biting lead up to the race from Team Principle Paul Brandon.
Senior lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering Paul Brandon and his super-keen team of students have been at the Isle of Mann all week with Kingston University’s award-winning electric bike. They were competing in the SES TT Zero, the electric bike race also known as the clean emissions race. Last year they came third; this year they were hoping for top spot.
Wednesday 6 June
Finally, race day. Unfortunately, we had to retire due to an electrical problem. Not the result we wanted, but from qualifying we know the 2011 bike was capable of around a 100mph average lap speed. The top three bikes all put in blistering laps of 105, 103 and 101mph respectively. We showed that we can run at this pace, but luck was not with us on the day. Our race result will not deter us and next week we will start completing the work on the 2012 bike.
We’d like to thank all our sponsors – Ecotricity, Vepro, Yasa motors, B-Tech Engineering, Goodwolfe, Sevcon, Ashwood, Populous, K-Tech, Dunlop, Bruntingthorpe, Camtech, Acorn Plating, Goodridge
Tuesday 5 June
Qualifying took place yesterday and we were ready to go with the 2011 bike. 18 bikes had registered and only 10 made it to the qualifying session.
We were 4th to go and the bike had the 3rd quickest time through the Grandstand speed trap. Luck was not with us and the new dash setup we developed, failed less than 1 mile into the session. The team was completely unaware of this failure as we can only monitor the bikes progress through the timings being broadcast and all seemed to be performing really well.
The bike was reaching the split times as arranged, a real credit to our rider who was just using his years of experience to set the pace we had asked for. After the mountain section we had an average speed of 99.5mph, with smiles all round. However, the batteries were used up just 800m before the end and the rider (George Spence) had to push the bike over the finish line. Not a good way to finish, but remarkable considering the problems George had.
The American team Motoczys (last year’s winners) put in a fantastic lap and came home with an average of 102mph, the first electric bike ever to achieve over 100mph.
The race is scheduled for Wednesday, subject to the weather and we have some setup changes to make before then. The 100mph lap is very close for us, but we need to ensure we cross the finish line.
Sunday 3 June
All qualifying was cancelled yesterday afternoon due to rain. Still waiting for parts; this will leave us with no track-testing time. I have to be pragmatic and consider the safety of the rider. The TT course is not the place to run the bike for the first time, so it’s with great regret I have decided not to race the 2012 bike. Our dream of two bikes on the podium has gone, but this does not stop us winning. All our efforts now shift to the 2011 bike.
Thursday 31 May
Over the winter we carried out some upgrades to the bike that finished third in last year’s TT Zero, resulting in a new aerodynamic package, improved ergonomics and an increase in power. We also developed another new bike for 2012 that will give us 40 per cent more power with a 30 per cent reduction in mass. Sounds ideal, but this came with a risk of parts not being developed in time. We’re still awaiting one of the key components. I remain the eternal optimist.
Will our new electric bike make the start line at the TT Races?
Last year, our electric bike took the University prize in the SES TT zero race – and the team are ready to take on the challenge again. But with another year’s worth of research and development under their belt, another bike is being pieced together as we speak.
Paul Brandon and his team are patiently waiting for newly designed parts to arrive so they can be assembled into a new structure designed to challenge last year’s best times. Although they achieved third place overall last year, they are hoping for the top spot this time. But will all the parts arrive in time? Will the Bike get there in one piece? Will the test trials have to take place on the Isle of Man test track?
Senior Lecturer Paul Brandon gives us a bit of background on the project and describes the massive efforts of his team who set out for victory on 31st May.
“ I took on the challenge of developing electric bikes to race around the famous TT mountain course in the Isle of Man 4 years ago – as the first ever Grand Prix for electric vehicles was back in 2009. “
“I lead a very small team of totally dedicated students and between us we take on the world at the TT, not just other Universities. Over the years we have competed against companies, universities and individuals from America, Germany, Italy, China, Sweden … the list goes on.
In 2009 we had a catastrophic motor failure, which was a bitter pill for the students to swallow considering the time invested in developing our first ever electric motorbike. My role was to make them understand that this is what racing is about – pushing to the limit – and sometimes being just the wrong side of that limit. In 2010 we came back with a completely new bike and finished 5th despite the bike suffering from motor overheating problems.
I had managed to secure substantial sponsorship in 2011 which meant we could develop the bike we had always wanted. This bike came 3rd – and was a potential winner – but we had a dash board failure just before the race. In September we decided to carry out some upgrades to this bike, to show its full potential – and to develop another new bike.
The 2012 bike is a huge gamble. We are using a powertrain that will give us 40% more power with a 30% reduction in mass which sounds ideal, but we’ve run the risk of the parts not being developed in time. However, I decided it was worth pursuing as whilst the 2011 bike would still be very competitive – the 2012 version would blow everyone away if time is on our side.
So, here we are, one week away from leaving for the TT, and we’re still awaiting one of the key components that has been problematic in testing.
We will take both bikes to the TT regardless and are prepared to work all night before race day to finish it if the parts arrive. I am the eternal optimist!
To give you some idea of the work involved in this project the team spends around 3000 hours developing 1 bike (this is all over and above my day job and the student’s academic studies). I have huge admiration for the students involved, who have to put up with my exacting standards and are prepared to give up weekends, evenings and mornings to achieve our goal of producing a world beating, winning bike. Plus, this project is would not go ahead without the fantastic sponsorship from external companies (90% of this project is funded by my external contacts).
So a huge thank you goes to everyone involved in the project…
And my family – who lose me for 2 months of the year!
You can find out more about the race at http://www.itv.com/sport/isleofmantt/