The top brass at Italian company Energica have vowed to remain at the forefront of electric motorcycles despite the massive setback of the fire which consumed the MotoE paddock in March. The fire, which broke out at Jerez, saw Energica’s entire fleet of race bikes destroyed as well as top secret new technology being developed for the road.
"It won’t affect MotoE too much, but it’ll affect the new solutions we were testing for racing and the street,” Giampiero Testoni, Energica’s Chief Technology Officer, told MCN.
"We’ve got a plan and once the rush of rebuilding MotoE is over we will rebuild R&D and should be able to recover the time lost. We were testing a kit when the bikes were burned, a kit that privateers could use to take our street bike on track, and we lost it too."
CEO Livia Cevolini continued: "Some of the solutions we’ve been developing will go on the next generation of production machinery, so we can’t wait. We’ll launch those products soon, so we’ll have to work."
And despite the setbacks, Testoni is convinced that a big step forward for Energica isn’t too far away.
"You have to take into account that the battery we have now is over 30% more powerful than the one in the production bike. The steps we have made have been huge."
Energica are also working with a new investment platform in the hope of securing their future as traditional brands unveil their electric bikes.
"Big brands will come to the market sooner or later, but we’re smaller and faster, so maybe they’ll have to work with us," said Cevolini. "We don’t want to stay small forever, we want to use the investment to grow and be better."
"We have signed a term sheet with Disrupment Investment Platform, and they are a strategic investor from a technology perspective with a good expertise in investing in high-technology. They only work with the best disruptive companies, so it’s very nice for us to have good contacts with others doing similar things as us and to work in real innovation technology.
"Their last investment was in a company who have just received $500 million from General Motors to process data, and it should help us to evolve our technology much faster. It’s good for us, but also good for all the market.
"We’ll work mainly on two areas with it, one in the commercial area to grow our sales network. The other is research and development."
Energica's electrified future
MotoE will continue to develop and battery technology is a key part of that journey. Testoni claims that proof of success will be in the riding: "The first test is a journalist, and they generally give an idea. You journalists are critical, but that’s good, because it lets us know what is good or not good.
"That means that we have to have a bike that the biggest petrolhead can ride and be convinced that it is a good bike. It was a great success for us when we had ex-MotoGP riders like Smith and de Puniet get on our bike at the first test and say it was a good bike, because they are world-class riders and they would have bene the first to complain.
"The weight is there because you need batteries to do the length of the race – weight is range. We could do the same distance with lower speeds or less power, but the idea from Dorna has always been that the bikes shouldn’t limit power. Riders shouldn’t have to think about saving power, which is a big difference from other electric series. They told us from the start that riders have to be able to push from the start to the finish, and we would rather do one less lap and have the riders still be at full power. Based on the technology that’s available right now, this is one of the best things we could do.
"There is always some weight saving we could do, but we’re building 25 bikes not one prototype, and we have to look at the investment too. We could have saved maybe 15kg more with a carbon frame, a carbon battery box – but it’s not like we’d be saving 30% or something huge. If it were one bike and one team we could have invested more, but we wanted to derive the racing bike from the road bike, and this means our road bike was a good one to start with!
"That is where we are until the battery does another big step. One litre of gasoline has the energy of our road bike, but on the other side the efficiency of our powertrain is close to 90% when 30% is a big achievement from a petrol bike. If we could have 20 litres of energy we could already compete with a MotoGP bike!
"The timeframe of battery technology will make two or three big steps, then we will be on the flatter part of the curve, where petrol already is. Now they’re taking tenths of a second form every lap time when years ago they were taking seconds every year, but if you compare the speeds of electric bikes on the Isle of Man, one year of electric is 25 years of petrol development. We still have big steps to do, but that’s mostly dependent on big producers, because they are the people building batteries. You can save on efficiency, with electronics on motors, but the big steps come from batteries. Already we have power converters that are 98% efficient, so you put in 100% and get almost all of it out again, and you don’t need to cool them because there’s no energy being lost as heat – and we can reach 99% soon too.
"There’s more to come after the current generation of batteries. There are different chemistries of lithium still to explore, and then after that there are solid state batteries. They’re more power-dense, safer, and they can double the energy density of the current ones. That means that we can do half the weight or double the current range."
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