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VIDEO – Electrons versus Gasoline, electric motorcycle races Honda CBR

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VIDEO - Electrons versus Gasoline, electric motorcycle races Honda CBR

Bangkok (Thailand) – The throaty VROOM of a motorcycle is the sound of music to many adrenaline junkies, but in the future that vroom vroom could be replaced with a high-pitched WEEE WEEE of an electric motor.  Oakland-based Electric Motorsport is developing an electric motorcycle, the Electric GPR-S, capable of freeway speeds with enough juice to complete most commutes.  But could such a motorcycle beat a Honda CBR street bike on the open track?  Today we found out and caught it all on video and in pictures.

We first saw the Electric GPR-S at the recently completed Bangkok International Motorshow.  The prototype bike uses a regular motorcycle chassis from Thailand motorcycle maker Tiger Motorsports.  The motor has been replaced with a direct drive motor along with several lithium iron phosphate cells.  While this may seem like a hack job, Todd Kollin, the owner of Electric Motorsport, assures us that his company has years of experience converting motorcycles and has been selling electric conversion kits for quite a while now.

The show bike uses a 60 volt battery system that has a top speed of approximately 100km/hour, while the final production bike will probably use a 72-volt system capable of 115 km/hour. Range for the bike will be around 40 to 60 miles, but that can be easily configured through a laptop program.

Electric Motorsport employee Martin Guerra told us the current, voltage and gearings can be electronically changed on the fly for commutes or for racing.  “If you want to play on the track, you can sacrifice range for speed,” said Guerra.  And after racing at the track, you simply plug the laptop in and lower the current output for long-range commutes.

The motorcycle will come with a two-hour charger that plugs into a regular household power outlet.  Kollin estimates the electricity cost to be around a penny per mile, but adds that most employers are more than happy to let you plug in at work.  Your boss will probably balk at giving you free gas, but isn’t it weird how they’ll gladly give you free electricity!

A penny per mile definitely sounds inexpensive, but an electric bike should also cost much less to maintain.  Kollin said a gasoline motorcycle has more moving parts which include transmission, pumps, drive trains and filters.  Annual maintenance for a gasoline bike probably runs in the neighborhood of $500 to $1000 a year, while an electric bike should cost half or even one-quarter of that amount, according to Kollin.

One common concern of electric motorcycles is running out of electricity.  “Won’t you simply stop?” most people ask.  Fortunately, the Electric GPR-S will have a current limiter which will put the bike into “limp mode” when the batteries are low.  The motorcycle will drastically slow down, but will still drive for approximately five to ten miles.  You should easily find an electrical outlet in that distance.

But gory technical specs are one thing; motorcycle riders are a finicky bunch and probably want to know if the bike can beat a gasoline-powered street motorcycle.  So Kollin and Tiger Motorsports Owner/President Piti Manomaiphibul arranged a duel of sorts against a Honda CBR, a fairly typical “rice-rocket” motorcycle.

The exhibition race consisted of a few warm-up laps followed by three race laps at a motorcycle track on the edge of Bangkok. After all the customary picture taking and an extensive question and answer session, Kollin and his arch nemesis of the day took to the course for the warm-up laps and then the race.

Most of the fellow motorcycle racers at the track were shocked at the whirring sound of the Electric GPR-S as it whizzed past them.  The sound is definitely eerie to those who are used to the deafening roar of a regular motorcycle engine.

The Honda led for the first one-and-a-half laps because of its superior cornering and straight away speeds.  Kollin later told us that his bike wasn’t optimally configured for racing because it carried a full complement of batteries meant for a daily commute.  The extra batteries made the bike heavier than the CBR, according to Kollin.

Despite the weight and speed disadvantage, Kollin caught up to the Honda driver in the second lap, but took a spill on one of the corners which effectively gave the race to the gasoline guzzling CBR.  But Kollin isn’t giving up and plans on performing a few modifications to the bike.  “I want a rematch!,“ he exclaimed.

Afterwards the press was allowed to ride the bike and we saw several motorcycle-riding habits kick in.  Several of the reporters would instinctively kick down, as if trying to shift the motorcycle.  Another mistake is “goosing” the throttle or the typical revving of the engine you see and hear at intersections.  “That’s a bad idea,” Kollin told us.

While it takes a few moments for motorcycle pros to get used to the bike, Kollin said beginners could learn to ride the bike much quicker because they don’t have all the “bad” habits from gasoline bikes.  In addition, operation is simplified because there is no clutch or shifting.

The Electric GPR-S will be available later this year for approximately $8000 in the United States.  The motorcycle will be marketed as the E-Boxer by Tiger Motorsports in Asia.

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