Michael Czysz's Mind-Bending Electric Superbike - Dreaming in Digital

American motorcycle designer Michael Czysz embraces electric power

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Adam Campbell

Even the original looks obsolete alongside the e1pc v2.0. The batteries have been completely redesigned, with advances in chemistry allowing the 10 individual cells to be downsized to decrease overall bike width, yet still carry more energy. The old batteries were 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) each; the new ones are 1.25kWh, for a total energy capacity of 12.5kWh-or roughly 10 times the capacity of a Toyota Prius. The batteries are now wireless, too. Last year's stub harnesses are gone, the terminal posts on each battery now mating directly to the CAN-bus inside the frame. Wireless construction is safer and more reliable, and the plug-and-play construction makes hot-swapping spent batteries for a freshly charged set a 2-minute task.

New chevron-shaped battery packs provide more front wheel clearance and allow the motor to tuck in beneath the bike, not that motor clearance was an issue. The brushless DC, permanent-magnet motor MotoCzysz designed, using a rotor and stator sourced from Remy, is the most compact ever built for its given power output. The secret is Czysz's sophisticated liquid-cooling system that negates the need for a large surface area to absorb and disperse heat. Exceptional thermal efficiency allows a continuous power rating of 135 bhp and a mind-boggling 250 lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers are so impressive that Remy-one of the biggest and oldest names in electric-motor technology-has partnered with MotoCzysz to adapt this cooling strategy to its own products.

Remy also supplies the motor controller, which is extensively modified by MotoCzysz. Controller software development is being brought in-house to maximize Czysz's ability to fine-tune the acceleration and regenerative braking (read: engine braking) strategies, which are almost infinitely variable. "The potential to tune is just amazing," he says. "We can adjust the motor, digitally, in ways ICE guys can't even imagine. It can be one motor under braking and something completely different under acceleration. Using GPS, it could even be programmed differently for every corner. It's like Photoshop with horsepower. The possibilities are endless."

Revised bodywork breaks even further from conventional motorcycle design than the original prototype. Slimmer batteries and a reshaped upper fairing reduce frontal area by almost 30 percent, significantly decreasing aerodynamic drag. Fairing side panels are separated from the upper to form massive vents that reduce wind pressure against the front of the bike. White-painted "winglets" create turbulence behind the vents to suck air through a radiator as big as anything on a conventional motorcycle. The abbreviated tail is purely pragmatic: "This bike was built under a compressed timeframe," Czysz explains. "We didn't have time to go to a wind tunnel. I knew that a bad tail could do more harm than no tail, so I left it off."

All this possibility gives Czysz a new sense of purpose, and renewed commitment to motorcycle design. "I love racing," he says, "but I always knew, somewhere deep in my mind, that on some level it was kind of pointless. You risk lives, you waste tons of fuel, and for what? To ride around in circles? Now I feel like I'm doing important work. The work I'm doing with this motorcycle might someday actually make the world a better place."

Others get it too, especially the investors and large manufacturers he tried-and mostly failed-to attract with his C1 project. Conventional racing is about extracting maximum power, no matter what the cost. Electric performance, on the other hand, is a quest for efficiency, making it the perfect pursuit for this post-millennial, conservation-obsessed era. Developing the e1pc has made Czysz hyper-focused on efficiency, and that hyper-focus has made his ideas very relevant to the future of vehicle development.

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