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James Hillier leads Kawasaki-Zytek effort in SES TT Zero at 2012 TT

Thursday 24 May 2012
James Hillier

British Superbike team Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing and electric powertrain innovators Zytek Automotive have joined forces to develop an electric bike for the SES TT Zero race

The one-lap challenge will take place on Wednesday, June 6, as part of the 2012 Isle of Man TT fuelled by Monster Energy.

An established part of the TT, the clean emissions challenge is now in its fourth year and showcases the Isle of Man’s clean technology capabilities, as well as encouraging enterprise and innovation via the use of electric motive power.

The team, which is being supported by Kawasaki Motors UK, is using a race-proven Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R chassis, powered by a state-of-the-art Zytek Permanent Magnet oil cooled KERS motor. At a proven 100kW (the equivalent of 134 horsepower) the design has previously been used in a Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour racing car, and uses technology similar to the extremely successful Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 season.

For 25-year-old rider James Hillier the chance to ride in such a cutting edge competition will bolster a CV that already includes experience in the British Superbike Championship and a short, but successful TT career on a conventionally powered Ninja ZX-10R.

The Hampshire racer achieved 8th in the 2011 Senior race and the honour of being named “best newcomer” in 2008.

He said:

“The TT course is over 37 miles long and is reckoned to be perhaps the most demanding road racing circuit in the world. Having competed here several times I can attest to that reputation.”

“I am really excited by the challenge of piloting the electric-powered Ninja through the myriad corners and ascents that includes the famous “mountain” part of the TT circuit. As a test of contemporary and possible future two-wheeled technology there could be no better stage than this.”

With a machine that differs from many of the other entries by making use of the original Kawasaki clutch and transmission gears, the team expects Hillier will benefit from a very wide spread of torque, giving the machine rapid acceleration from the traditional standing start race format, as well as the ability to match the motor power with the prevailing race conditions and a geared top speed in excess of 200mph.

Zytek Project Manager Des Hill said:

“I watched the TT Zero race last year from the Gooseneck corner at the start of the steep “mountain” section and, frankly, many of the entries were very slow. Using Direct Drive and no gearbox they simply didn’t have the torque to pull away from Ramsey Hairpin and accelerate up the mountain in same way as a conventional-engined bike would.”

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

By using multiple 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cells, Zytek have managed to squeeze an 11.8kWh battery of their own design into the twin spar aluminium Ninja ZX-10R frame in four separate packs, each of a bespoke design.

Working in partnership with highly respected Battery Management experts REAP systems of Southampton, the distribution of the battery packs was a real challenge according to Hill.

He explained:

“The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery. We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

The Motor control Power electronics are also a bespoke design, included as part of the rider’s seat unit, the Three Phase Power Inverter uses the very latest microprocessor technology to implement the state of the art control algorithm loop 10,000 times per second.

Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing provides the team with a road racing pedigree missing from many of the other TT Zero entries.

Team Manager Peter Extance said:

“This is not a simple “plug and play” race and there is a vast amount of transferable experience that we bring to the party that others on the grid simply won’t have.”

“You can’t underestimate James Hillier’s circuit knowledge, but that is simply the tip of the iceberg. In terms of preparation, team organisation and approach to what is certainly going to be a gruelling, hard fought race I believe that, along with Zytek and the help and support of Kawasaki Motors UK, we have a winning combination.”

Zytek Automotive Managing Director Neil Heslington added:

“Our desire to highlight the technology we are developing at Zytek Automotive dovetail’s amazingly well with the ambitions of the Isle of Man Government and this SES TT Zero race. Marry that with the hard earned experience of Bournemouth Kawasaki and I think we are justifiably confident about our chances for success.”

For Howard Dale, Kawasaki Motors UK General Manager, the chance for the company to lend support at such a pivotal time in transport technology played a fundamental part in a decision to become involved. He said:

“It is fitting that, as a base for their machine, the team have decided on such a successful road and racing platform as the Ninja ZX-10R chassis and gearbox.”

“While this is a wholly independent effort with no link to Kawasaki in Japan, we wish both Bournemouth Kawasaki and Zytek well in their endeavours and hope that theirs is the machine that both wins the Zero emissions TT and also breaks the much anticipated 100mph average lap for the class which now appears to be tantalisingly within their grasp.”

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