Hillier to race Zytek Kawasaki in TT Zero race

Published: 23 May 2012

British Superbike racer James Hillier is to debut a ZX-10R-framed electric bike in this year’s TT Zero race.

Hillier’s BSB team, Pr1mo Bournemouth Kawasaki, and electric powertrain innovators, Zytek Automotive, have joined forces to develop a new machine for the Isle of Man SES TT Zero race on June 6.

This late announcement adds another element to an already exciting line-up of 17-times TT winner John McGuinness on the all-new Mugen Shinden and two-time TT Zero champions Moto Czysz with brand new machines for last year’s winner Michael Rutter and 2010 winner, American Mark Miller.

The team, supported by Kawasaki Motors UK, are using a race-proven ZX-10R chassis, powered by a Zytek Permanent Magnet oil-cooled KERS motor.

At a proven 100kW (the equivalent of 134bhp) the design has previously been used in a hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour racing car, and uses technology similar to the extremely successful 2009 F1 Zytek KERS system.

The machine differs from many of the other entries by making using the original clutch and transmission gears, which Zytek claim will give a wide spread of torque, as well as the ability to match the motor power with the prevailing race conditions - and a (theoretical) geared top speed in excess of 200mph.

Hillier, 25 and a TT rider since 2008 when he won the ‘best newcomer award’, said: “I’ve seen the bike and it looks the business. I’ve not ridden it yet, but I’m hoping to get a chance to test it before we set off down Bray Hill in practice.

“Zytek say that the gearbox will let the motor run at optimum levels while conserving battery life - one of the most important factors in racing this type of machine.”

Zytek Project Manager Des Hill added: “I watched the TT Zero race last year from the Gooseneck and, frankly, many of the entries were very slow. Using direct drive and no gearbox, they didn’t have the torque to pull away from Ramsey Hairpin and accelerate up the mountain as a conventional bike would.

"By using the Kawasaki six-speed transmission we haven’t just built an electric motorcycle, but a machine with performance nearing that of a conventional racing machine.”

By using multiple 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cells, Zytek managed to squeeze an 11.8kWh battery of their own design into the twin-spar aluminium frame in four separate packs, each of a bespoke design.

Working with Battery Management experts REAP Systems, the distribution of the battery packs was a real challenge according to Hill: “The shape of the frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery.

"We ended up filling the area normally used by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs and have 240 power cells distributed around the bike.”