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ride the TT. However, the race's bloody reputation makes the TT, if
anything, even more prestigious than FIM-sanctioned events. To
compete in it, in the words of the legendary FIM rider Valentino
Rossi, "you need to have two great balls."
This year, the Manx government added a futuristic new event to
the June race schedule. The TTXGP, for "Tourist Trophy eXtreme
Grand Prix," was billed as the first zero-emissions motorcycle
race. While any technology could enter, as a practical matter zero
emissions means electric. Even the FIM got on board, making the
TTXGP the first FIM-approved TT race in over 30 years and the
first o cially sanctioned electric-motorcycle race ever. "It is either
going to be the most important day in the next hundred years of
motorcycling or a complete debacle," said Aaron Frank, an editor
for Motorcyclist magazine who traveled from Milwaukee to watch
the race. "But either way, it's worth watching."
As the day arrives, everyone watching knows that the TTXGP
will be slower than the "real" motorcycle race, the TT, because the
TTXGP is an energy-limited race. In e ect, the "gas tank" of an elec-
tric bike is minuscule, so to win the TTXGP the bikers must mind
their energy consumption. In contrast, the gas bikers in the TT run
with their throttles wide open. However, batteries' energy density
has been improving at a rate of about 8 percent a year, which means
that even without any other technological progress, electric bikes
should run head to head with gas in about 20 years. The TTXGP is
intended to make the future arrive sooner. The winner will not just
be the fastest in an esoteric class but the front-runner in the greater
challenge ahead: creating an electric bike that can compete in the
$50 billion world motorcycle market. In that sense, the TTXGP is
the proving ground for the next Honda.
Twenty-two electric bikes show up to compete. While many of the
entries are experimental one-o s from technical universities or
obsessive hobbyists, three entrants are so-called factory teams:
Brammo, Mission Motors, and MotoCzysz. All of them hail from
the West Coast of the United States. Brammo is in Ashland, OR,
The winner will not just be
the fastest in an esoteric class
but the front-runner in the
greater challenge ahead:
creating an electric bike that
can compete in the $50 billion
world motorcycle market.
Mission Motors in San Francisco, and MotoCzysz in Portland.
And all are entering the consumer market with an electric bike.
Brammo is set to sell its motorcycle o the floor at Best Buy: it's
a $12,000 runabout with a top speed of 55 miles per hour. For the
TTXGP, Brammo has upgraded almost every component in its
bike to create two 100-mile-per-hour crotch rockets, both entered
in the race. The Brammo racers are fast, light, and nimble but
under-spec'd compared with what Mission and MotoCzysz trailer
in: full-size race bikes heavy with batteries, capable of reaching
150 miles per hour. The Mission bike will sell for $69,000; the
MotoCzysz will probably sell for slightly less.
Mission and MotoCzysz are both targeting the high-end super-
bike market, and both promise to ship products in the next year or
two, but that is where the similarities end. Mission's charismatic
young CEO, Forrest North, is a computer geek who likes to specu-
late on the future of software design: he fantasizes about a wheelie-
popping autobalancing "Segway app" for a bike's control computer.
(Though he hastens to say that Mission itself is not working on such
an app.) MotoCzysz founder Michael Czysz is a designer---and his
bike is a looker. Exposed battery packs protrude from each side,
a fresh take on the naked-sportbike style of the insanely popular
Ducati Monster. The packs are modular and swappable, and the
bike is "green," Czysz explains, "because it's upgradable." Even
Infield Capital's David Moll, one of the investors behind Mission
Motors, is impressed when he sees the battery-as-engine design.
COURTESY OF BRAMMO
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