Written by Andrew Jones
What have Pikes Peak racers and WWII fighter planes got in common? Well believe it or not, they both face the same challenges when it comes to making engines work at higher altitudes. As with the old fighters, the internal combustion engine on a racing bike might be fine at sea level, but will rapidly lose power as the air gets thinner. Pikes’ 14,115 ft summit means that the air is only around 60% of the density it is down below. WWII engines dealt with this using superchargers, but there is another way. Electricity. So Bottpower’s head honcho David Sánchez and his French design prodigy Rémy Roland set out to climb mountains with electrons.
How did the internship come about?
David: From time to time we have students doing their engineering or industrial design internships here at Bottpower. Rémy contacted me, I saw his portfolio and I liked it a lot. So Rémy came from France to Valencia and he spent several months on this project.
Rémy: I reached out to Bottpower and the next thing I knew, I was working alongside David. It really went well, I learned a lot about all the steps for creating a motorcycle. From the very first sketches to the physical mock-up. I worked on the project pretty much every day and sometimes I went to the workshop to see how the team made motorcycles for customers. It was a real pleasure.
What are Pike’s Peak’s main challenges?
David: From a technical point of view, the main challenge at Pikes Peak is the altitude. With a petrol engine, we have already a 30% power loss at the start line and at the finish line this increases to a 40% power loss. And because it’s only a 10 minute run, you don’t need a big battery. For these reasons Pikes Peak is the perfect scenario for an electric race bike.
Rémy: Because electric engines don’t need air to work, they are more consistent during the race. Moreover, there is an electric category for this race so David and I agreed we would design a Bottpower electric racer concept with the intention to build and run it in 2019.
What was the inspiration for the design?
Rémy: The basic inspiration was hyper-roadsters like the KTM Superduke 1290; a compact and aggressive design without protection and with wide handlebars for easier handling. I also took some inspiration from the current Formula 1 and Moto GP designs. And of course the DNA of Bottpower.
David: I didn’t want to influence Rémy’s design too much, so I gave him an open brief. I think that his inspiration partly came from previous Bottpower models, like the XR1R Pikes Peak racer and also our 2013 Morlaco bike with its alternative front end.
[superquote]“The basic inspiration was hyper-roadsters like the KTM Superduke 1290; a compact and aggressive design without protection”.[/superquote]
What was the design process?
Rémy: The first step was to analyze the Bottpower DNA. We also studied all the current electric motorcycles on the market, both for road and racing. The second step was to draw a lot of different ideas and concepts to arrived on the final key render as you see here. I then started working on the 3D modelling to fix some details and add a little refinement. They were then rendered photographically, which really brought the concept to life. The last step was to mock it up using a 3D printer and to paint it. David worked closely with me through the entire process.
David: Rémy did many pencil sketches on paper to explore different ideas. He was sitting beside me and I really enjoyed watching him draw; for me it was like magic. Once the design was more or less defined, he started doing more detailed sketches. Later on, he started working on a 3D computer model and the last phase was to make a 3D printed version of the design.
What were the ups and downs of the project?
Rémy: I loved the first phase, because it’s here where creativity really expresses itself. And seeing the renders for the first time was amazing. The hardest part was the 3D modelling because I was relatively new to the software. But thanks to David’s advice, I really improved my skills a lot.
David: Apart from Rémy’s drawings, I had to work on a Spanish championship Superbike race as a data engineer and Rémy spent several days with us in the box, so he experienced a race from ‘inside’. He also saw how we built several bikes and he came to the studio for the photography. For me it was very important that this was an interesting and enjoyable experience for him.
What do you like best about the final design?
Rémy: I really like the front shock system with the forks. I’m pretty proud of the front air intakes and the wings, because when I first came up with the idea it was something completely new and now it’s being used in Moto GP and also on the Honda Interceptor Concept and the Aprilia RSV4 EICMA bikes.
David: I think that the bike is a really good start for the Bottpower electric race bike for Pikes Peak; it’s taken the idea one step closer to becoming a reality. I also really like the cooling system – it’s a great idea.
Rémy: The goal of this project is to participate at Pikes Peak in 2 or 3 years, but for the moment the project is just getting started. I think there is a long way to go yet.
David: We are pushing to build an electric racer for Pikes Peak. Right now we are in the preliminary phase: just compiling information, looking for resources and evaluating how we could move the project forward. In that regard, Rémy’s hard work is very important for us. His first thoughts for the industrial design of the bike will have a big affect on the finished product.