OSU Engineering Students Building Battery Powered Super Motorcycle

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Buckeye Electric Motorcycle Race Team Co-Founder Sean Ewing (l) and Team Member Jay McCoy
Buckeye Electric Motorcycle Race Team Co-Founder Sean Ewing (l) and Team Member Jay McCoy

A group of Ohio State University engineering students is scrounging every penny to complete a project that has world-class implications. The Buckeye Electric Motorcycle Race Team is building a high performance, battery powered motorcycle.

A group of students is working in a large laboratory at Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research. The lab is essentially a large, high tech garage which houses among other things, the Buckeye Bullet the world’s fastest electric vehicle. But these students are working on something a bit different; they’re building a high performance electric motorcycle. Mechanical engineering graduate students Sage Wolfe and Angelica Liu are studying highly-detailed computer images of the bike-to-be

“We’ve been designing a mount to hold the motor on the frame,” says Wolfe. “So we’re trying to get the bolt pattern in order to have an accurate motor mount,” Liu says. “So we took pictures and we can actually import them into the software and then trace over where those bolts are actually located.” Wolfe and Liu are among dozens of students working on the BEMRT – the Buckeye Electric Motorcycle Race Team. The co-founder of the project is Sean Ewing, a graduate computer engineering major with a passion for high speed motorcycles. Once the “race vehicle,” as Ewing calls it, is finished, the team will hit the electric motorcycle racing circuit: known as the TTX GP. Ewing wants to win.

“This year our race vehicle will be racing against other electric motorcycles. That’s fine, that’s dandy,” says Ewing. “The way we’re really going to be proving this technology is going against gas bikes; and we will have several races against gas bikes. This is the new generation of American muscle and this is absolutely positively the forefront of it.”

With electric vehicle technology in its infancy, it’s hard to believe that a battery powered motorcycle could match the performance of a fuel injected sport bike. But Ewing has experience behind him. Last year he personally financed, built and raced his own electric motorcycle. “Here’s what the bike sounds like,” says Ewing, as he twists the motorcycle’s throttle.

“Electric motorcycles are definitely not for Harley riders. But I love the sound. I think it’s sexy and it’s got gobs of power,” Ewing says.

Ewing won’t provide many details about the new bike being built, not even its name.

“Right now that’s actually classified,” says Ewing. “It’s a play on words and our expected top speed for the vehicle so when we hit that top speed you’ll know.”

But he does say this:

“It’s very, very powerful; around 160 horsepower; 12 kilowatt hours of capacity. Quite simply a little monster. It’s going to be great,” Ewing says.

Marcello Canova is an engineering professor at Ohio State and the faculty advisor to the motorcycle race team. He says he sees the motorcycle’s development as the natural next step.

“The Buckeye Bullet today is rated as the world’s fastest electric vehicle. We have a lot of experience with four-wheelers, so I think the battery motorcycle team is definitely the natural evolution of this tradition that we have at Ohio State,” says Canova.

But why build a high speed motorcycle designed to compete on the race track? Canova says that valuable information is gained during the process.

“Testing electric motors and testing new battery technologies in a racing environment will help resolving several engineering issues that today are making large scale implementation of battery technology in electric vehicles difficult for the market,” Canova says.

Canova says the project is an excellent way for engineering students to apply what they study in the classroom. “They learn how to apply their engineering skill in solving practical problems. They learn the importance of solving engineering problems for the society, in this case for clean transportation, for sustainable mobility and also they deal with real world project management, building and prototyping products with budget constraints and with timing constraints,” Canova says.

The team is painfully aware of budget constraints. Ewing says they’re scraping by, allocating every penny toward the best technology. The team must also come up with funding for travel expenses to various racing competitions.

But it’s about more than winning, Ewing says, it’s about advancing electric transportation technology for future generations.

“If we can slam as much power into this little vehicle as possible – have the most powerful motor in this little tiny vehicle – I believe it’s going to be great for the young adults on the team to learn about this technology and hopefully they’ll take it to the mainstream and make an electric future,” Ewing says.

The team’s first competition is in California in late spring.

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