Cedric & PNB's Electric FF Challenges! (In BDN, Feb 2018)

Below is the text of Cedric Lynch’s letter to British Dealer News, printed in the February 2018 edition of BDN and illustrated with a John Mockett cartoon and a photo of Cedric with his electric streamliner, (built in 1991 and on the road since 1992). It is reproduced here with Cedric’s permission.
You can also see a reproduction of the letter and cartoon, along with photos of the TT winning Agni and many photos of Cedric and his streamliner in the Cedric Lynch folder here: http://www.bikeweb.com/image/tid/57

My recent discussions with Cedric have prompted thoughts of a triple-whammy challenge. Who will be the first person to build an electric vehicle capable of riding or driving from Land's End to John O'Groats on a single charge? Or further still: a thousand miles on a single charge?
Or the ultimate challenge for our times: to do 1,000 miles on a single charge in under 24 hours!
© PNB March 2018

Cedric wrote: "I have just read January’s British Dealer News, and noticed a lot of articles about electric motorcycles and scooters, lamenting their high cost and short range. May I explain what the problem is? I have 70,000 miles of experience of electric motorcycling, over 30 years, and I built the converted Suzuki GSXR750 on which Rob Barber won the first TTXGP electric motorcycle race in the Isle of Man in 2009.

At the current state of the art, batteries cost about £300 for each kilowatt-hour of energy they can store, and weigh about 5kg for every kilowatt-hour (some as little as 4kg, but these cannot be discharged at very high rates). A typical motorcycle or scooter needs about 2kw at 30mph, 5kw at 50mph and 12kw at 70mph (electrical energy, assuming it is converted to mechanical energy with 80 to 90% efficiency). This means that a moped or small scooter doing 30mph will, if it is to do 100 miles on a charge (as the petrol version can do on one tankful), needs 100/30x2 = 6.7 kwhrs of battery weighing about 30kg and costing £2,000. A larger machine on which it would be reasonable to expect 200 miles at 70mph will need 200/70 x 12 = 34kwhrs which will cost £10,000 and weigh 170kgs; that is just the battery, not the whole vehicle.

The battery in the 2009 TTXGP bike weighs 85kgs and cost £8,000 (which was, at the time, about the price of a complete petrol-powered GSXR750), and it holds just enough energy (10.5kwhrs) for one lap of the TT circuit at an average of 87mph. If someone comes up with a battery that can store four times as much energy for the same cost and weight as the present-day batteries, then a few simple calculations show that it will be possible to get an adequate range and speed with an electric-powered typical motorcycle or scooter.

However, there is another way: forget the typical motorcycle or scooter and design something with a streamlined body (yes, I know this is not allowed in motorcycle racing, but there is no law against it on the road). It won’t look anything like ‘normal’, but it has the rather nice side effect of keeping the wind and rain off the rider, giving car-like comfort but with motorcycle manoeuvrability and fun. It will slip through the air on about one-sixth of the power that a normal motorcycle needs at the same speed, and suddenly you achieve your dream speed and range on a battery that you can buy now and has a very reasonable weight and cost. Also, you only need one-sixth of the electricity to charge it; so little that you can get almost all of it from less than £1,000 worth of solar panels on the roof of a building next to where the bike is usually parked. The batteries will have such an easy life that they will last 12 years of more.

I say this from 25 years of experience with such a vehicle, which I made myself. It looks rather crude and home made, but if you put together an aerodynamicist and an industrial designer, you could come up with something that has ‘wow’ appeal and also performs even better. The first firm to crack this will clean up in the market. Such a vehicle will probably be ridiculed at first by traditional motorcycle enthusiasts; however, the Honda Cub was ridiculed by traditional motorcycle enthusiasts in the 1960s and it has gone on to become the best selling motor vehicle in history.

If anyone is interested in trying to develop a marketable, streamlined electric motorcycle, I am willing to provide free technical assistance. Just one condition: include the Saietta electric motor among those tested in the vehicle, and adopt it for production if it proves to give a longer range on a given battery than any other motor that you test.
© Cedric Lynch, Potters Bar

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It's not a technical problem

Leaving aside the relevence of doing 1,000 miles on a single charge (no-one practically needs that), there are a couple of issues with this 'challenge' One is that streemlined bodies are not banned in motorcycle racing and have not been for a few years now - see entries on these very blog pages. The lack of interest or attention paid to the FIM's agreement that FF's can be run in motorcycle racing, echoed by various other, American, race authorities is itself a big clue to the real problem. It's also the case that insisting on a Saietta motor is just another bar to the progress in motor development going on apace everywhere (See EMN), although I understand Cedric's interest.

I have no issue with the performance details claimed by Cedric. E-power is his bag. I just do vehicles.

The real problem, I submit, is the reactionary nature of the capitalist economic system, that resists innovation as high risk and costly - and the equally reactionary nature of most 'developed' societies which are much more interested in not losing what they have than developing anything really new. Lets break this down a bit.

Look at BMW. I've made my view clear that it's stupid to put a state of the art E-powertrain in a scooter (or a motorised bicycle) and Cedric agrees with this. It's like putting a gas turbine in a bi-plane. But in terms of BMW's bottom line it makes complete sense. They know thay can sell scooters, they already are. They know they can sell E-power, they already do. They don't know if they can sell the sort of high-efficiency FF Cedric and I and various other people have been trying to get them to make for decades. It would be a risk, to their reputation and profit. An individual working for BMW would have to take responsibility for that risk, potentially losing their job or at least damaging thier career. Richard Hiedenriech, one time head of BMW R&D was damaged by the relative failure of the "K" series in the market place. Most people didn't even realise that one of the last "working motorcycles" was a 'failure'. I know this is true because he told me so, while explaining why BMW wouldn't follow up on my 1985 visit with 001. "BMW does not want to be first, what we do make must be perfect"

And BMW is a progressive, brave, company compared to almost all other motorcycle manufacturers. Anyone doing innovation will be aware of the virtual impossibility of actually talking to a corporate about innovation - unless it's an idea to reduce costs or increase sales and profits with existing products - "Market development". Innovation takes place in three conditions;- Desparation, when all else has failed. Abosolute market dominance, when there is no risk or competitor. And on the rare occsions when a major new entrant wishes to enter and overturn an existing market. (The Honda Cub is a classic example - a copy by Honda of an existing NSU design to minimise technical risk). The problems of being first with a new idea are well understood in the corporate world, as the "First Mover Problem". This provides an excellent excuse for not doing anything*.

To further illustrate the non-technical nature of this issue here's Honda, responding to an introduction to FF's (sometime in the nineties) "We do not believe the market is ready yet, but in case would not require your input as the technical issues are almost simple"

My view is that there is one way to get FFs into corporate production. Sue them for making unnecessarily dangerous products. I've never taken this route because I expect it would mean the end of PTW production, rather than better ones, but don't let me stop you, the evidence is clear enough!

Now lets look at the societies. Basically, no-one actually gives a shit about comfort, handling, safety or efficiency. That's not why people ride PTW's. It's about "Lifestyle Choices", character validation, "cutting a dash" and so on. Everyone automatically assumes that adding any of these values to a PTW will reduce the 'excitement' factor. (But an SLK is not uncomfortable...). Very, very few people value the concept of joining the "closer to flying" experience of a PTW to the ergonomic values of all other vehicles. You know this is the case. Three "Cmax" conversions in fifteen years. The number of people on this site who have actually cut metal, or even plastic, can be counted on the fingers. I have no idea why most of you are here.

Talking about the vital need to drastically improve the efficiency of our personal transport merely produces blank looks - regardless of who is listening. Our cities will be underwater by the time any of this 'green crap' is taken seriously. And of all the human tribes motorcyclists may be the most reactionary.

So what is the realistic chance of FFs being "mainstreamed"? Almost zero. Do I care? Not really, I've got one.

*Here are some other real, as used, excuses for not doing anything;-

"We've never done it this way"
"We've always done it that way"
"Changing anything would be risky and expensive"
"We've already spent our R&D budget for this year" (Once used in February)

If you hear any of these, put the phone down, you're wasting your time

Cedric Replies to Royce

Cedric Lynch writes:
"I have read Royce Creasey's letter on Bikeweb about my offer. He is spot on with most of it, but he has misunderstood one point: I am not making the offer conditional on the adoption of the Saietta motor, just on its inclusion (together with any other motors) in any tests done and its adoption IF it proves to be the most efficient. I am confident that it will prove to be the most efficient.
Yours sincerely, Cedric."

fair enough

OK, just a case of finding someone who a. Can build an E-FF along the lines described, that b. Wants to do it. Not technically difficult (according to Honda). Just needs a corporate looking to break into the market with a totally new product. Anyone?

Further proof of the difficulties involved in change at this level; Elon Musks Efficiency X-prize, a more comprehensive test than just riding to the north of Scotland, was won by a typical 'special vehicle' with four wheels and not much more connection to a practical car. Second, winning 2.5 million dollars with an energy consumption almost as good, was an electrically powered Monotracer not dissimilar to the model Arnold is offering for sale this summer. A luxury production vehicle even more efficient than the world class ICE Monotracers he's been selling for years. There are various videos available showing these 'heritage' versions beating other vehicles in 'on-road' efficiency tests. Monotracers and their progentitors, the Ecomobiles have been around slightly longer than Voyagers.

And what was the public, media amd industry response to this overwhelmingly clear demonstration of the efficiency of the FF layout? (We're ignoring the comfort, handling and safety benefits for the moment).

Zero. Nada. It was ignored.

The CEO of the British Governement 'Niche Vehicle group' dedicated to the promotion of "Disruptive low carbon vehicle technology" was unaware of the existence of the Efficiency X-prize. This is the same group that declined to fund the Monoliner project because "after twenty years FF are no longer innovative".

Like I say, it's not a tehnical problem. It's political, social, commercial. It's fear of change, of the future, of risk. It's failure, of imagination, to face the inevitable realities of the future. And of course, failure of everyone involved in FF development to overcome these obstacles. The media Is brainless, corporates cowardly, politicians ignorant, the public reactionary and innovators inadequate.

But innovation has happened. It can be done.