Despite the indefinite postponement of the TT Zero, students at the University of Warwick are ploughing on with their plans to build ‘Frontier’, an electric race bike, with help from Norton Motorcycles. The machine they’re working on is said to produce 160kW, equivalent to about 201bhp, and a tarmac-tearing 400Nm of torque. Fair play, Warwick Uni, if that’s true, it’s going to be one hell of a thing!
But let’s just hold the phone for a second, shall we? Because it’s alright being able to make all that power, but how long can it make it for? Well by my reckoning, with its 16kWh immersion-cooled battery pack, that’s about six minutes. You won’t get very far in six minutes, even with 200bhp. You certainly won’t get all the way around the IOM TT course. I know that’s minor details at this point, and I’m sure they can dial the power down to give the machine the longevity it needs. I’m simply pointing out that we needn’t get all excited about a 200bhp electric bike. Not yet.
The team of thirteen students at the University of Warwick is made up of first to final-year degree students. Helping them achieve the Frontier dream is a selection of leading academics, engineers and researchers, as well as designers and engineers from Norton Motorcycles.
But Norton’s involvement doesn’t stop there. The team have been gifted a ‘high performance motorcycle frame’ from the good people at Norton. That came after having started the build around a Fireblade frame.
Warwick Uni have also drafted in the help of 2016 Senior Manx GP winner Tom Weeden. Tom is the official test rider and has been an integral part of the development process. He’s also the person that’s likely to be racing it round the TT course, if the TT Zero ever returns.
And I think the TT Zero will return. Because electric bikes are not only becoming more popular, they’re becoming slightly more viable. Ok, maybe they’re not a sensible option for a road bike just yet, but they’re getting better all the time. Battery tech is improving in leaps and bounds, as well as the charging systems and the motors themselves. But I also think if the Zero class does reappear, you’ll see a lot more people competing on ‘production’ based electric bikes, rather than university built prototypes.
In the meantime though, I’m more than happy to continue racing petrol powered motorbikes on the Isle of Man and anywhere else that’ll let me. Sorry Greta.