Every electric racing motorcycle we’ve seen so far has suffered from one major problem: Physics.
They’re all perfectly capable of transforming electrons into motive power. And some, like Chip Yates’ 190.6-mph beast, are blindingly quick. But in their pursuit of powertrain innovation, the people building these machines have overlooked, if not forgotten, what’s made internal-combustion-engine motorcycles so successful: Less weight equals more performance.
Michael Uhlarik hasn’t forgotten that. He’s embraced it. The Amarok P1 that the Canadian motorcycle designer unveiled today weighs just 325 pounds. That’s firmly in Moto GP race bike territory and almost half what Yates’ 585-pound behemoth weighs.
That means the flyweight Amarok — Inuit for “wolf” — can do more with less. It needs a 7.5-kilowatt-hour battery to complete the 12 laps of a TTXGP race while its rivals need 12 kwh, or more. It also will be faster. The Amarok, like the Mavizen TTX02, uses a pair of Agni 95 electric motors. But the Mavizen weighs 375 pounds. Which one do you think will win a drag race?
The benefits of hauling less mass don’t end there though
“Smaller chassis dimensions means a tight handling package and a smaller frontal area, reducing aerodynamic drag,” Uhlarik says. “Less weight and less complication means lower costs to build and, using high-performance common metals instead of exotic alloys and composites, means simple tooling, hand fabrication and ease of repair and modification.”
How did Uhlarik build what almost certainly will be the lightest bike on the grid at any of the 14 races on the TTXGP calendar this year? He started from scratch. Whereas almost everyone else converted a conventional motorcycle, Uhlarik started with a clean sheet of paper. That allowed him to do something radical: The P1 doesn’t employ a traditional frame. The battery is the frame, and much of the bodywork as well.
“We’ve integrated the body, frame and battery into the same structure,” said Uhlarik.
The front suspension and rear swingarm are bolted to that battery, increasing simplicity, reducing parts and optimizing weight distribution because Uhlarik can put everything exactly where he wants it. He isn’t bound by the constraints of using, say, a Suzuki GSX-R750 or KTM RC8 chassis like his leading competitors.
That’s allowed Uhlarik to overcome one of the biggest problems everyone struggles with: Where to put the motors. Most bikes on the TTXGP grid use the Agni 95 because it has an excellent torque-to-weight ratio, it’s simple and it’s readily available. But the 95 has a terrible problem with overheating when pressed hard over full race distances. That’s why you usually see them bolted to the sides of a bike, out in the airflow. That helps keep them cool but spoils aerodynamics.
Amarok hid the motors under the seat, ducting cooling air through what looks like the fuel tank — something that’s proving tough to eliminate on e-motos because it provides a major point of contact between rider and machine when riding hard.
Amarok isn’t saying what kind of power the Amarok will produce, but the Mavizen is good for 100 horsepower and 77 pound-feet of torque.
The Amarok is one of only a handful of motorcycles designed from the ground up for electric power. The stunning MotoCzysz E1pc, which won at the Isle of Man and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year, the Brammo Empulse RR and the Mission R are ground-up designs, but they come from relatively large companies.
“Small” doesn’t begin to describe Uhlarik and the Amarok motorcycle consultancy he runs. He designed the bike on a coffee table and built it in the 140-year-old garage behind his house in Quebec. He drew inspiration from classic aircraft design.
“The DeHavilland Mosquito was made of plywood and glue, using (by today’s standards) low-precision tools and resulted in one of the highest performance fighter/bombers of the Second World War,” he said.
Amarok took his cues from the DeHavilland Beaver and Twin Otter float planes, both stalwarts of Canada’s frozen north. Much of those planes ruggedness and simplicity is attributed to their simple monocoque bodies, a principle adapted to the P1.
Despite a limited budget, Amarok has big goals for its fledgling motorcycle-racing program. While this year’s P1 is currently the lightest machine in the TTXGP field, the P2 we’ll see next year should be 50 pounds lighter, giving it power-to-weight parity with the purest, most elemental racing machine of all — the 250cc Grand Prix bike.
“I want Amarok to prove that with battery electric vehicles, less really is more,” Uhlarik said. “Less heavy, costly batteries, but more performance and better handling.”