Electric vehicles can’t help but exhibit high-performance sensations. Waves of instant torque surge them forwards and companies such as Tesla make a marketing statement from this urgent and immediate motion. All-electric cars – and to a lesser extent – vans are now commonplace, but e-bike numbers still have some way to go to match those of four-wheeled machines. However, two-wheeled transport is impressively capable of showing a clean pair of tires to almost anything, too, especially when it has the backing of a successful Formula E team. On the last weekend of October 2020, a specially designed version of the all-electric Voxan Wattman motorcycle set 11 world speed records, proving that zero-emission record holders need only have one pair of wheels.
France’s answer to Britain’s Triumph, motorcycle maker Voxan Motors was founded in 1995 by businessman Jacques Gardette. Its V-twin café racer and scrambler motorcycles blended innovative mechanics and tubular steel chassis with Gallic style. The then Issoire-based company was bought in June 2010 by Gildo Pastor, president of Monegasque high-performance electric vehicle maker Venturi Automobiles, and a natural switch from combustion to electric powertrains followed. A series of world record attempts would headline this transformation, using a super high-performance version of Voxan’s Wattman motorcycle. A specially developed e-bike was unveiled on 1 July 2020.
Venturi Group technical director Franck Baldet states the project began in autumn 2018 and was under development for 18 months. The record-challenging Wattman was designed entirely at Voxan’s workshops in Monaco. Meticulous computer simulations and wind tunnel tests formed the core of the work, but input also came from Venturi North America, as well as the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University in Columbus in the US, which assembled the battery cells. The 140kg, 1,470-cell, 15.9kWh lithium-ion battery is mated to the same Mercedes-Benz electric motor used in the ROKiT Venturi Racing Team and Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team cars. Power of 367hp (270kW) is almost double that of the 203hp (150kW) street Wattman – and 20kW more than the Formula E car which donated its technology – already capable of posting a 0-62mph time of just 3.4 seconds. We benchmarked battery cells and selected the best power density available,” Baldet comments. “The challenge was to find the parts that offered the best possible power-to-size ratio since range is not a priority for a world speed record attempt. We didn’t want to compromise aerodynamics, so we decided not to fit an air/liquid radiator. The battery is not cooled down to save weight. The inverter/motor package coolant is cooled by a tank full of dry ice placed just behind the rider’s seat.” A powerful regenerative braking set-up also pumps energy back into the system.
“There is no front brake, for several reasons”, says Baldet. “It’s better aerodynamically at high speed, but, on the salt flats it takes a while to accelerate due to the low grip surface and we have plenty of room to slow down. Most importantly, front-wheel braking at very high speed on salt flats can unbalance the motorcycle. The rider does have a rear-wheel brake, which he controls with the left handlebar grip, and also engine-braking controlled by a small lever on the right handlebar grip.”
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