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College of Engineering student team to debut new electric motorcycle at New Jersey race

July 11, 2014

Bolt Bike

Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech College of Engineering

A Virginia Tech College of Engineering student team this weekend will publicly debut its new self-built electric-powered motorcycle at a race in New Jersey.

The Battery Operated Land Transportation (BOLT) team of Virginia Tech will compete in the latest eMotorRacing Series event at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey, part of an international effort dedicated to zero-emission motorcycle racing. Virginia Tech is the only university team in the series, squaring off against professional racers and motorcycle enthusiasts in the public race.

The motorcycle is a rebuilt 2004 Suzuki GXR-1000. The bike – starting at roughly 400 pounds – was stripped down to a rolling frame with the gas motor and exhaust system ousted for a battery pack system for power and an electric motor. The braking system was spiffed up, and cooling system also were installed. The bike – painted in Virginia Tech colors of orange and maroon, along with white – now weighs roughly 535 pounds, under the 600–pound weight limit set by race series organizers.

The public race takes place this weekend, July 11-13, with multiple rounds and race opportunities. The team’s goal for this weekend is not to win, but test the bike’s power for a short, fast run. The team wants a bike that can deliver top speed in a short distance and time frame versus a street electric motorcycle – Harley Davidson recently introduced a new highway model, a company first – that would be designed for the greatest distance possible and comfort.

“We want to complete in both sprints so we can return home and make improvements,” said current team leader Kyle Harvey of Erie, Pennsylvania, and a senior in the Virginia Tech Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We want to optimize power delivery.”

The New Jersey race marks the first time the motorcycle will be raced competitively on the track. A stationary performance test put it at a top speed, thus far, of 170 miles per hour. An alumnus of the College of Engineering and former member of the BOLT team will race the bike in New Jersey, said Harvey.

Data will analyzed post-race and used by the 25-member team to improve the bike’s performance during the next academic and leading up to future competitive races. “Our goal is to transmit the energy from the battery pack to the pavement as efficiently as possible over the length of one race,” said Harvey.

This the second fully electric racing motorcycle built by Virginia Tech students. The first BOLT bike in 2012 competed in several races of the North American TTXGP eGrandPrIx competition, finishing as the fastest 75-class bike in the western hemisphere. The TTXGP eGrandPrIx has since shifted owners and names to become the eMotorRacing Series.

As with the previous bike, the BOLT team has been helped with support financially and with bike components from a variety of sponsors, including the Virginia Tech Student Engineers’ Council, Lockheed Martin, and Radford, Virginia-based Kollmorgen, which has supported the BOLT team for several years and has hired several team members after graduation. Collision Plus, based in Blacksburg, painted the bike as well.

The team is based in the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory.

Follow the team at their blog or on Facebook


Steven Mackay