Sunday, August 16, 2009

Primitive Man and the Electric Motorcycle

In this case, the primitive man is me.

A few weeks ago, John and I were standing in the spectator gallery at the Mid-Ohio race course while a group of the TTXGP Electric race motorcycles were doing laps. They looked fast, but it was weird because there was no sound. In fact, there was an internal combustion engine warming up in the paddock which made lovely noise but didn't match the action on the track. I had the impression watching one show on the TV and hearing another show on the radio.

Its easy to see that electric powered vehicles represent the future but why is it that I feel like I'm missing something important, the sound?

By the way, the funny looking fairing that covers the front wheel on two of these bikes is called a "Dustbin" fairing. It was used on MotoGP bikes in the 50's and is very aerodynamic. Of course, it was outlawed along the way. One of these bikes is a 50's era Norton that has been converted to electric with a modern dustbin fairing added.

By the way, thanks to Schultz Engineering and Craig Vetter for the pictures of the bikes at Mid-Ohio which I found on the web.

This video was forwarded by Darius and it represents a celebration of internal combustion sounds. Why does this sound so good to me? I think every sports car and every motorcycle should sound this good. I even like the sound and motion of old steam engines. My guess is that men evolved hunting powerful beasts which made loud growls and powerful movements that challenged our ancestors in the hunt. I'm certain they had great respect for these powerful beasts and the opportunity to control such power in the form of a machine, somehow demands that the machine express its power in sound.

So how are us primitive male types going to deal with this new, quiet electric era? Ken Davis reminded me that we can always program our stereo to make the noise inside the car. Push a button and your electric car sounds like a Ferrari when you accelerate. Maybe we will even put some speakers on the electric motorcycle with the sound coming out of the fake exhaust pipe or little speakers in the helmet making powerful sounds. Man sure is a silly species.


  1. Jac,

    A racing car or bike without the roar of an engine would be like a warrior without a battle cry.


  2. I found this in RaceCar Engineering. From Aston Martin Technical Director George Howard-Chappell on the 2009 Aston Martin Le Mans racecar entry.

    "It has a really nice 12-cylinder sound. We were quite keen to retain this. As far as the emotion of the car is concerned the sound of it, as well as the looks, will be one of the defining factors." This he believes to be important to the programme, describing the rival diesel cars as sounding "like dish washers."