eTrackside Logistics

I've been wanting to put this post together for awhile in the hopes that it will help others trying to think through the more mundane, but equally important logistic side of campaigning an electric race bike. While not quite the glamorous side of racing everyone typically wants to hear about, it is an important part and one that can be frustrating for anyone wanting to get started racing any motorcycle, much less an electric one.

Ok - Sometimes you do get to be in the garages with the cool kids. Turns out Laguna Seca has some 208Vac / 30A outlets in the GP garages. Not as good as a 50A outlet, but we made it work through planning around the charge time limitations. We also scouted a Nema 14-50 outlet at the end of the garages in the event we needed a faster way to charge.

FINDING POWER:

First things first, if you're planning to race or even attend track days with an electric bike, you're going to need to become an expert at your track's electrical infrastructure. Do they have RV spots with 30A or even better - 50A NEMA 14-50 outlets? If so, you're in luck. If not, it's going to take a few calls to the track's maintenance department to learn about where you can grab some higher power outlets for charging. Sometimes it's a strange outlet type that's been installed either for a TV crew or a European event that came through years before (like at Utah Motorsport Park, which used to host World Superbike). If your track has an odd outlet type, you'll need an adapter cable with that plug on one end and a NEMA 14-50 to plug your charger into on the other. You can order these adapter cables online or at a local RV shop. Don't forget that you'll also need 110Vac for tire warmers and fans as well. Usually, if you can find the high power outlets, you'll find the 110 outlets next to them.

In the US - this outlet is your friend. These are common at RV hook-up sites as well as for facilities maintenance or mobile vendors. At 220Vac and 50A, you'll have over 10kW of charging power available.

Once you find your power source for the day or weekend, you may realize that the best area for you and your motorcycle may not be directly next to the outlet. You want to be able to have easy access in and out of your pit area, stay out of the dirt, and have a line of sight to what's happening on track. So... you'll need some long extension cords for the 220V and 110V power to provide the maximum flexibility. I have a 50' NEMA 14-50 extension cable that's reached the outlet for all but one event, where I needed to borrow a second 50' extension to reach a RV power post which was way out in the dirt.


On this occasion, the needed power was on the side of the tire shop at Buttonwillow Raceway as all RV spots were taken. I needed to run a long 110V extension cord to the outlet for the soda machine to get power for the tire warmers and fans. Photo credit: Stephen Gregory

CHARGE ROUTINE:

Keeping the charge level up on the bike is one of the keys to a good day and maximizing time on track. It's a pain to hustle immediately to get charging as soon as you come off the track, but that's how you maximize your time there. Typical track days and race organizations allow about 1 hour between practice sessions and hopefully you're not draining the pack to 0% SOC on each session. This hour of charging on a 10kW circuit should be able to keep you going through a full track day, maybe losing a single session if they're not doing a full lunch break. I suggest getting a routine down for getting the bike up on stands and back on the charge, so it becomes second nature. If you've got help at the track, it's a good approach to have your assistant focus on getting the warmers back on while you focus on getting the bike charging so you're not juggling too many activities at once - which will eventually catch up to you with a mistake.


THERMAL MANAGEMENT:

The next thing you need to realize is that being out in the hot sun on concrete or asphalt all day is not good for man or machine. Your battery is going to get HOT when you're out on track and it needs to cool down when you've brought it back to the pits to charge. Bring some shade for you and the bike. This is probably the no.1 rookie mistake. A simple white 10 x 10 pop-up tent from Costco or the local hardware store is the go to choice for racers. More often than not, finding the electrical power you need may mean you can't actually pit in those fancy garages that all the cool kids rent. You're going to be out with the RVs, between track operations buildings, behind bleachers, or out in the middle of the paddock next to a power pole, so you need to make sure you're self sufficient and bring some shelter with you.

Note 10x10 canopy providing some shade on this 108 degree F day. I usually bring a section of cheap outdoor carpet and have recently upgraded to some SwissTrax flooring as well. Photo credit: Stephen Gregory

The Zero crew know the importance of a good pit set-up. Dual 10x10 branded canopies, Kenyon's race trailer, plenty of extension cords and adapters, and even the occasional back-up generator means this crew can be up and running no matter the venue.

Key (but not exhaustive) pack-list items for Lightfighter race events:

-Charger (I use a Manzanita Micro PFC-40, but if you have a production bike, you'll likely need a Type 2 to NEMA 14-50 adapter EVSE charge cord)

-Tools and toolbox (I use a Beta Tools C-27S collapsing tool trolley). I can't afford all Beta tools, but I've got a set of their T-handle allen keys that I love.

- Carpet/Mat/Cardboard to work on (it gets old kneeling on concrete) - or get fancy and use SwissTrax modular flooring

- Chairs - Those collapsing hammock chairs work just fine, but I prefer the director's style chairs.

- Fans - to cool the bike after each session. If the bike's ok, then face them on you and enjoy the breeze. I have two of these and they are awesome. On really hot days, I have them aimed at both sides of the bike when it comes off the track to aid in bringing the battery and motor temperature back down.

- Tire gauge - I use a Motion Pro digital gauge, but there are others. It's important to use a consistent gauge and ideally one that's been checked or calibrated if you can.

- Spares - I've got a couple of those handy bins with the yellow lids that you see at Costco or the hardware store. They're great for transporting spare gearing, spare parts, and make nice stands for the fans as well.

- Folding card table.

- Plenty of fluids. Water, Red Bull, Iced coffee, or whatever keeps you hydrated and alert.



On hot Buttonwillow trackdays and races, these fans are a lifesaver, and possibly a bike saver.

Using the RV hookups at Buttonwillow. Note the charger in the back left of the shot with the long 50' extension reaching back to the RV hookup post. This allowed us to place the bike on asphalt and out of the dirt. Those yellow top bins make it convenient to pack up at the end of the day and keep all my "race" specific equipment together.

MotoE this is not:

Faced with similar challenges, but at a much larger scale, MotoE has developed portable infrastructure with their sponsor Enel to bring 50kW capable paddock charge stations and 10kW portable chargers (w/ 6kWh battery storage) for each of the approximately 20 MotoE bikes. The photo below is from our friends at www.epaddock.it who have some great technical information about this system as well as the MotoE bikes themselves.


They also use these portable chargers with onboard battery storage to top off the bikes after their warm-up lap prior to the race. That's some serious investment in charging infrastructure, but bringing your own infrastructure with you certainly provides the most control over the event - clearly important when you've got a television deal and a show to put on!


I hope this post was helpful for anyone out there trying to size up the total investment needed to start racing electric motorcycles. See you out on the track!

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