The State of Sustainable Racing 2012 Case Study
The noise pollution from dirt bikes makes holding events difficult or impossible in certain areas, and many individuals see electric bikes as the solution. Additionally, ever increasing public concern for air quality and the environment is making the emissions released by 2-stroke or 4-stroke dirt bikes difficult to validate.Electric motocross bikes have been on the market for several years, and their level of performance has been increasing every year. Companies currently producing electric motocross bikes are Zero Motorcycles, Quantya, Brammo, and KTM, and many more have planned entry into the electric motocross industry. These companies have begun competing in race events in recent years in order to test their machines against one another and against some traditionally fueled bikes.
In 2010, Zero Motorcycles and Quantya competed in the MiniMoto SX in Las Vegas, the largest mini-bike competition in the world. This is an annual event hosted by the AMA and features bikes with smaller wheel sizes and less power than traditional motocross races. It was a good opportunity for a direct competition between electric motorcycles and traditionally fueled bikes.
The specific event in which the electric bikes competed was the 150cc, 16-inch wheel size bracket. This is the largest and most powerful competition in Mini Motocross. The electric bikes were pitted against gas powered bikes, and the incredible torque and lighter weight of the electric bikes made the competition a runaway. The top five positions were taken by electric bikes, and only three gas powered bikes placed in the top twelve.
For the 2011 MiniMoto SX, Zero Motorcycles returned to compete along with new entrant into the electric dirt bike world Brammo. Unfortunately, Quantya did not make the journey from Europe to race their bikes. Due to the overwhelming domination of the electric bikes in the 2010 150cc event, the electric bikes were given a 10-second handicap at the starting line. A few crashes throughout the race prevented any electric riders from overtaking the entire field of gas-powered bikes, but it was clear that the electric bikes were quicker and more powerful than the 150cc bikes.
The results for the race were divided as into two separate events even though all the bikes were on the track at the same time. Zero Motorcycles swept the podium in the electric class, leaving fans wondering if the Brammo machines were underpowered or if their gear ratio was not dialed-in. Either way, the ability of electric motocross bikes to compete with gas powered machines is encouraging for the future of electric racing. The true test will happen when electric motorcycle manufacturers are prepared to have their bikes compete in an event with full size gas powered bikes.
Electric MX Bike Horsepower Matrix
Toward the end of 2011, Brammo acquired Quantyaparx, a network of motocross tracks in Europe. These tracks are not primarily for racing, but run on a business model of renting dirt bikes by the hour. Brammo plans to rename the tracks as Brammoparx, and also has plans to open tracks in the US. While this market is separate from racing, it will be interesting to see how successful these tracks can be in the US and whether it positively impacts electric motocross racing. Overall, it is encouraging to see the signs of financial success in the electric motorcycle world, for it ensures that electric motorcycle technology will continue to progress as gas powered machines become increasingly obsolete.
Research by Dominican University’s Green MBA Program
Authors: Jake Baker, Robin Carew, Diana Connolly, Jack Decker