Chip Yates On Pro Racing Electric Superbike Progress

Chip Yates With the SWIGZ Pro Racing Electric Superbike

Last week I had a chance to ask Chip Yates some questions over email about the progress of the SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing Electric Superbike program. Chip’s responses tell us his team’s ambitious performance goals are on track and they are quickly signing on sponsors. SWIGS.COM Pro Racing remains the only electric motorcycle race team to put the cards on the table for 2010 in regards to target performance.

In late 2009, Chip announced he had assembled a team including two MIT grads turned aerospace engineers to develop an electric superbike to compete in the TTXGP race series. The press release mentioned some very impressive and somewhat controversial goals for the SWIGZ.COM bike including the ability to turn AMA SuperSport lap times (GSX-R600) and a KERS system to return braking energy back to the battery.

Since the announcement, the electric motorcycle racing landscape has changed dramatically with the entrance of the FIM e-Power series and the TT Zero race replacing TTXGP at the Isle Of Man. Some races have conflicting schedules that will force teams to choose one event or the other. Chip explains what series the team will run and which they will not. Unfortunately the team is not releasing any of the electric drive specs and vendors yet but some details should be announced next month.

See the full Q&A with Chip Yates after the break.

Interview with Chip Yates SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing – Electric Superbike Program

Plug Bike: Have you had any sponsors sign on?

Chip: We have had some good founding sponsors signed on, we are currently in very active discussions finalizing deals with additional sponsors including a major sponsor, and we are finding the effort of convincing sponsors to help us invest in this green racing program is much easier than normal sponsorship negotiations – people seem convinced this is the right way to go for electric powertrain development. Even non-motorcyclists quickly understand when we explain the acceleration effect the motorcycle racing application has on technology. Firstly, racing itself accelerates development. Secondly, the motorcycle application is perfect because it forces a precise and optimized design due to the limited space and weight constraints – we can’t fill up a trunk with batteries to give longer range, so we are forced to innovate, and that “tension” combined with the fact that we’re racing on a world level, will advance electric powertrains rapidly. The motorcycle application is more closely related to aerospace because of size and weight, than it is related to electric cars. That is why we hired MIT engineers from aerospace who had recently designed electrical powertrains and control systems for helicopters. Of course, the benefits of such powertrain advancement can be realized by all transportation sectors including the car guys and will make electric vehicles more palatable to the general public by extending range, efficiency and performance.

Plug Bike: Has your race schedule changed with the ePower and TT Zero announcments?

Chip: Our race schedule is to compete in all of the FIM e-Power rounds, plus the TTXGP North American championship. For 2010, we will not contest the Isle of Man TT or the other TTXGP events other than the finale in Albacete. The reason for not competing in the TT, is based on the design direction we have chosen for our superbike – namely to win on short circuits and that is our sole focus for 2010. Next year, we may study the design of a bike aimed at winning the TT. I discuss this issue in more detail in my upcoming monthly column in Roadracing World Magazine’s April 2010 edition, and I have a recurring column in that publication as well as in the FIM Magazine “Ride with Us”. It would be great if you encourage your readers to check out those publications as well. I also have an article in the current issue of Roadracing World Magazine (March 2010) on data acquisition with some mentions of our electric program.

Plug Bike: How is the bike progressing? team collecting data from their AMA Supersport bike Pro Racing collecting data from their AMA SuperSport bike

Chip: The bike is progressing well, with motor, controller, ECU, data acquisition system and drivetrain set in our race shop in Laguna Hills, California. Our revolutionary KERS system is in design and patent phase and parts will be fabricated shortly. Our battery pack is designed and specified and we are in talks with several top suppliers, but have not made the purchase yet – one supplier may sponsor us and those talks are underway.

Plug Bike: Many electric race teams including Brammo, Derbi, Zero have stated that regenerative braking does not provide enough energy to justify the additional weight and complexity to design it in. They also mention it can be dangerous with regards to maintaining traction. Are you still planning KERS on the Swigz bike?

Chip: We are absolutely planning to run a full KERS system on our bike. We do respect the decisions of other teams and we respect the engineering approach of “lighter is better”, but we have designed a bike that we feel is capable of winning on short circuits while delivering laptimes competitive with my AMA GSX-R600 and showing the crowd and any skeptics that electric power can be fast and exciting. Because of our very powerful drive system, we are deploying KERS to keep our battery pack weight to a reasonable level for 2010. We expect battery technology to migrate in a direction that is beneficial to us and as that happens perhaps we can back off KERS and use higher energy density batteries.

Plug Bike: How close are you to your goal of building electric that can match the lap times of an ICE race bike?

Chip: Our bike is currently capable (according to MATLAB) of delivering AMA laptimes (albeit over a much shorter race distance – 25 miles).

Founding Team Members – Electric Superbike

(as of February 6, 2010)
Chip Yates Owner / Rider

Jimmy Summers Crew Chief / Trainer

Song K. Jung McKenna, Long & Aldridge – Program Executive

Lance Hagenbuch Program Manager, Human Assets

Matt Schweitzer Program Engineer – Software / Electrical

Ben Ingram Program Engineer – Hardware / Controls

Mitch Pederson MP Tuning – ECU, Data Acquisition, Network Integration

Chris Norris Swift Engineering – 3D CAD, FEA, Wind Tunnel

Casper van Der Schoot Swift Engineering – Race Engineer

Julie Yates North America Team Logistics

Marc Hoegee Hoegee Motortechniek – European Team Logistics

Renzo N. Rocchegiani McKenna, Long & Aldridge – Patent Attorney

Founding Team Sponsors – Electric Superbike

(as of February 6, 2010)
SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing

Chip Yates

McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP

Swift Engineering Inc.

Ohlins USA

Yoyodyne (Brembo Master Distributor, USA)

Here is an earlier interview with Chip Yates and his team by On The Throttle.

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10 Responses

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  1. Written by Christian
    on February 10, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    KERS = kinetic energy recovery system

    While closing the throttle the motor will work like a generator.

    As I see they have no generator in the front rim. I guess the recoverd energy is less than 5%, because while hard braking the rear wheel gets very light.

    If you adjust the controller to recover more engery the rear wheel is stopping by now.

    It is like driving a supermono or a ducati without slipperclutch.

    In street mode without hard braking you can regenerate a lot of kinitec energy, thats correct.

    Some words to the lap times:
    Ohms laws will work on e-bikes too, for quick accelaration you need a lot of power, and power is known as Voltage*Current

    If you have a two speed gearbox you need a lot more energy.

    I guess, without the new lithium air cells every race bike will be as slow as a 125 street bike on a distance of 40km.
    Maybe for one or two laps with high current cells you can go a bit faster…

    Let`s go!

  2. Written by travis
    on February 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Regen is just a marketing ploy to draw sponsors and buyers…. in motorcycles, unless its on the front wheel, there will be little recovery in a race application, but engine braking may be useful in some cases.

    I think the bikes that we see in 2010 will be pretty fast and definately go the 25 miles. TTXGP at IOM was a little long for the first year, but with the batteries that some of the teams are using, I have no doubt that 25 miles at race speeds will be achieved.

    The good thing about a 2-speed, it may not need more energy, but it will allow the motor to sit at a happier torque/power band to allow for brisk acceleration without drawing tons of current. I think energy will be SAVED by using a 2-speed.

  3. Written by Christian
    on February 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Travis,

    you forgot that a two speed gearbox with clutch (for quick gear change) with housing is at least 5kg weight extra, then you loose around 3-5% for friction

    FIM E-Power courses are flat and very smooth, no stop and go courses like calafat where I did my first test.

    At the moment there are three different typ of cells available:
    1) (high current LiFePo4) A123
    2) (low current LiFePo4) Headway
    3) (Li-Ion) Kokam

    If you loose 5% for friction you need 5% more batteries, 80kg*5%=4kg.

    A123 and Headway have nearly the same wh/kg ratio, kokam is a bit better

    Don`t forget, on race tracks you loose a lot of energy while braking and accelarating all the time, on IOM you go a long time with the same speed, I guess that the required the capacity is nearly the same.

    If Chip likes to go as fast as a supersport bike he will need two front brake discs, because topspeeds have to be the same…

    A 600 burns at least 6.5l fuel for 40km, each liter has a around 9kWh -> 6,5l*9,5kWh/l=61,75kWh.
    Efficiency is around 20% = 12kWh for 40km

    The complete e-drive has a total efficiency of ~ 85% 12kWh/0,85=14,11kWh.
    Agni used a 10,7kWh battery for the IOM.

    I will use a 4 or 5kWh battery with headway cells with a weight of 45 or 56kg.
    With the kokam cells you can save around 15%.

    10 weeks to go…

  4. Written by travis
    on February 11, 2010 at 11:29 am


    You forgot that the transmission can put the motor in its most efficient RPM range, negating any losses you might see by a single speed. The more in its efficient range that a motor is, the less likely you are to see much difference in efficiency between the two.

    At the moment, there are a lot more cell types than those. Headway more of a medium current cell, Thundersky and Hipower are low current cells, but large format. Kokam is WAY more dense than A123, but their C-ratings aren’t as high as some other batteries (5C cont, 8C peak). Others: PSI, BMI, Lifebatt, Turnigy, Valence, Thundersky, Sky energy, Hipower, PHET, K2, DLG, Sony, Panasonic…..

    I don’t think you’ll see that much overall efficiency drop due to the extra weight and friction, see above comment. If you run the motor in its efficiency band (whatever RPM that might be for the motor), you actually have a higher efficiency than running that motor with a single gear at a higher RPM outside its Efficiency band…..

    As far as electrical drivetrain efficiency, I think your calculations are a little off. Agni motor efficiencies are 93% peak. Thats also not at peak RPM. Your controller efficiency is what, 95%? Battery chemical—> electrical efficiency is about 95% or higher, mechanical efficiency is no higher than 95%, add another 1-2% loss for electrical connections/other current draw (contactor/dc-dc/gauges)/various mechanical loss…. total below 78% ASSUMING you ONLY run the motor in its most efficient range. I know you’ll see way below this in the end.

    You can only calculate so much on paper….

  5. Written by skadamo
    on February 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Hey guys, thanks for the great technical insight.

    The pictures of the SWIGZ bike are from the original press intro of the bike which was a few months ago. In this time it is possible that Chip’s team added front wheel regen. I could ask him but he did not want to give up too many tech details at this time….

  6. Written by Christian
    on February 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Travis,
    thanks for the explanations.

    If you look to the agni graphs you will see that the range of top efficiency is very wide:

    It is not like driving a combustion engine ;-) Over 25% load there is nearly no difference in efficiency.

    I know that there are more cells available, this was just a explanaition for the three different types (high and low current LiFePo4 and Li-Ion) which can be used in a eletric racing bike.

    85% is a bit liberal, I know. But here you see that if you need around 12kWh to beat SSP bikes your battery has to be larger then 12kWh/0,78=15,4kWh

    Such a battery has a minimum weight of 123kg! (Kokam)

    I was thinking about a front generator too, but I decided that it is impossible to use a hubmotor in a racing bike.

    In a SSP or Superbike you need at least a motor like a agni to recover enough energy to safe some cells…

    11,7kg unsprung and rotation mass, haha ;-)

    Go on!

  7. Written by travis
    on February 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm


    I’ve looked at those darn Agni graphs explaining the same thing to everyone….. No one ever understands what they’re actually looking at…..

    For the last graph at 72V, Those graphs are ONLY 4800 to 5200RPM, its only relevant for that RPM range, it is not a normal torque curve and its VERY misleading. You are correct, if you keep the motor at ~5krpm, its very efficient, anywhere else though, and its less efficient. You’re going to be running this motor from 0rpm up to 6krpm, and the efficiency will NOT be at its peak over that entire range. That is only a PORTION of the RPM range. Look at a different torque curve that goes across the whole RPM range…. you’ll see what I mean:

    Headway are not really low current, they’re just not A123 or Kokam…. they’re very good power batteries. 100A out of a 10Ah battery ain’t bad. 600A out of a 6p setup. 300A continous.

    I don’t think you’ll be able to beat ICE bikes, mostly because the motors going in aren’t powerful enough to sustain race speeds that the ICE’s will, nor do they have the RPM range to have good low end, and good top end without a transmission. You need more than 17hp continuous/motor to get above 120mph with acceptable acceleration. If you’re fine with breaking 100mph, then yes, they’ll work just fine. Its not the battery energy I’m concerned with (Throw kokam in there and you’re done), I’m more concerned with continuous power of the motors.

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