Tuesday morning on the Isle of Man, John McGuinness didn't merely raise the bar by circling the 37.7-mile Snaefell Mountain Course in 19:17.3 minutes at an average of 117.366 miles per hour during the running of the annual TT Zero. Despite an ailing wrist, he snatched the bar from its moorings and threw it javelin-like into the chilly Irish Sea, adding an additional 7.691 mph to last year's record speed and becoming the first to complete an electric race lap in under 20 minutes. His Mugen team mate Bruce Anstey, also aboard an improved Shinden San – which sport drivetrain components from Mission Motors, we hasten to add – came in second with a more-than-respectable 115.048 mph average speed.

Bruce Anstey came in second with a more-than-respectable 115.048 mph average speed.

Though McGuinness was clearly in control of the contest from the start, and only continued to stretch his lead as the miles wore on, qualification and practice laps leading up to final event demonstrated a win was by no means a forgone conclusion. He and his teammate took turns breaking the unofficial record and during one session, Anstey's machine suffered a fire while under way when an undisclosed part failed. Luckily, the assembled Mugen mechanics made a quality repair and the bike went on to set a lap record during Saturday's qualifying.

With MotoCzysz ending its 4-year winning streak due to team principal Michael Czysz's personal health struggle, the battle for the bottom step of the podium was left to Ohio State's Buckeye Current and newcomers Saroléa after the Kingston Ion Horse retired early. Though we absolutely love the style of the Belgian bike, the Buckeye student effort was our sentimental favorite, and with veteran rider and first winner of the all-electric contest in this venue, Rob Barber in the saddle, they took the 3rd spot by an eyeblink – .37 seconds, to be exact.

The result underlines the speed at which the best battery-powered bikes are improving. In six years, the fastest time has dropped over six and a half minutes. Compared to the progress of traditional motorcycles, this is blazingly quick progress. To get a sense of the improvement, we included a couple graphs from previous MIT-team competitor Lennon Rodgers below which put the two technologies in perspective. We've also included a pair of pre-contest videos from Mugen promoting their TT Zero effort, which feature some footage of their bikes in action.
electric vs gas performance at the TT races
electric  motorcycle performance versus gas at the TT races






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  • 18 Comments
      BipDBo
      • 6 Months Ago
      It looks like today, these electric bike stand where the fastest gasser did in 1988.
      DarylMc
      • 6 Months Ago
      Thanks Domenick for the article. It would be very interesting to get some feedback from the riders about the machines. Also more about Mission motorcycles involvement.
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 6 Months Ago
        @DarylMc
        Mission provided them with at least the motor, perhaps more than that. But definitely the motor.
          DarylMc
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          Hi Ricardo Then it seems Mission Motors have done an excellent job with their motor. I hope to read more about it.
          protomech
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          Almost certainly the motor controller as well.
      • 6 Months Ago
      It's Bruce Anstey...
      CoolWaters
      • 6 Months Ago
      What you failed to do with your graphs was "extrapolate". 2016: Electric bikes will Match Gas. 2017: Electric bikes will surpass gas.
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 6 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        It'll be a lot longer than that actually. Since to match gas, they'll have to maintain those speeds for multiple laps. The TT Zero is a single lap race. One lap at Isle of Man is 37 3/4 miles. Lightweight and Sidecar races are 3 laps, Supersport and Superstock are 4 laps, Superbike and Senior are 6 laps. Electrics have a long, long ways to go before they can match the ICEs.
          protomech
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          Ricardo: We may eventually see different electric race formats: one lap, two lap, three lap. Would you rather see single-lap 130 mph races or two-lap 117 mph races? There may eventually be room for both formats. The 2012 Mugen Shinden could probably have completed 3 laps; but probably only at 65-75 mph average. That's not particularly exciting to me. For that reason I hope they stick with the sprint format for a while to come yet. The fastest hot lap in the Lightweight TT 650 class this year was only 1.5 mph higher than the Mugen's standing start lap .. in terms of raw speed the electrics are respectably fast.
        GoodCheer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        That would be awesome. I suspect, however, that the rate of improvement will slow as batteries and PEUs cease to be limiting factors, and we start to run up against suspension, traction, aerodynamics etc that electrics share with ICE bikes.
          Dave D
          • 6 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          I was thinking the same thing. I still think the electrics will pass the ICE bikes up because they will have more acceleration and that advantage is hard to beat. But they can't pass them by too much because the laws of physics on the bike itself or even the riders starts to limit what you can do.
        BipDBo
        • 6 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        It's looking that way, but in reality, perhaps not. The energy density of a battery will be much lower than that of gasoline for a long time, perhaps always. Electric motors are lighter, per hp than an engine. In the next 3 years, will the total weight of an electric drivetrain, including batteries drop below that of a gas drivetrain, including enough fuel to get around the track? I have doubts on that. Perhaps, though if these electric drivetrains do not surpass the gassers by becoming lighter, they might do so by becoming more powerful.electric bikes.
          Dave D
          • 6 Months Ago
          @BipDBo
          No, they don't have to have the energy density of gas. Electric motors and all the circuits can be over 95% efficient (if you use newer SiC inverters, etc) compared with something in the range of ~30-35% efficient for a racing ICE engines. Also, the electric will have more torque for acceleration and more hp at some point down the road...and they're pretty close on the hp already. Just limited by the weight tradeoff for the batteries to power it right now. You also have to take into account that the Superbike and Seniors may do 6 laps...but they also do 2 pit stops. If they want to do a quick battery swap as MotoCzysz was designing for, then the electrics might have been able to do something similar.
      throwback
      • 6 Months Ago
      Love the TT, sadly we could never have a race like that stateside. We are too litigious a society. On a course like this, the electric bikes will probably reach parity with the gas bikes in terms of speed.
        DarylMc
        • 6 Months Ago
        @throwback
        I don't think you can deny the appeal of a public road based racing circuit but the following link shows the high cost. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Snaefell_Mountain_Course_fatal_accidents
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @throwback
        We'll give up our lawsuits when you pry the paperwork out of our cold, dead fingers :)
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 6 Months Ago
        @throwback
        The closest we have is Pike's Peak. But that's a far cry from the badassery of Isle of Man. Pike's Peak, now that it's fully paved, still won't allow for sportbikes to officially compete, except in the exhibition class, which doesn't actually count.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Months Ago
      Very nice :D
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