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Around the world in 80 days – on an electric bike!

A group of 30 students at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands started the STORM project in the beginning of 2014. In September 2014 they started building their motorcycle. Now they not only have a working electric motorcycle with unheard-of specifications, they also invented a way to ride it around the world in 80 days. Mind you: with no use of fossil energy at all.

Thursday the 1st of October they presented their STORM Pulse and FEMA was there.

When I first heard of the 80 Day Race, a race around the world within 80 days without making use of fossil energy, and the plan to do this with an electric motorcycle I was immediately interested. I have ridden several electric motorcycles and while there is nothing wrong with the riding itself, in the back of your head you keep thinking “this is all very nice, but this way electric motorcycles will stay a niche in the market”. And now a bunch of students not only made a motorcycle with a range of 380 kilometres, they also thought of a concept to be able to use it worldwide. To prove it they are not only going to win the 80 Days Race (their words) in 2017, but also within two years after they started building the motorcycle make a test ride around the world.

Let’s start at the beginning: automotive students Texas van Leeuwenstein and Wilco Pessele needed a new challenge after completing the TU/ecomotive project. After hearing of the 80 Day race they decided to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a self developed electric motorcycle. They formed a multidisciplinary team of 30 students to fulfil the dream. The project is divided in pillars (sustainability, entrepeneurship, developing an electric motorcycle, etcetera). The team decided to make a unique motorcycle with new and proven techniques, a new design that would outweigh any other electric motorcycle. But also they believed that experiencing electric riding involved a change of mindset:  you can’t just fill up your tank and go to the next filling station. Therefore they invented the STORM Grid: a network of individuals, companies, universities, organisations that provide the rider with electricity, shelter and/or food. Everybody can join this grid and already this network spans the whole world.

The bike needed to be special:  an electric motorcycle with a range of 380 kilometres that can make a ride around the word is not to compare with the existing bike from Zero etc. that are light bikes with a limited range, at best 150 kilometres under optimal circumstances. The modular concept leaves room for  less batteries for less weight and better handling, or a full packet for longer range. Also the empty batteries can be swapped for full ones, the whole packet within 7 minutes. They use a self-developed Hossack suspension, the concept is better known as the telelever suspension from BMW. A new power train is developed, called Smeshgear,  with two modes: one for a fast acceleration (0 to 100 km within 5 seconds) and a touring mode with 100 efficiency: no loss of power in the gearbox.  The engine has a capacity of 35kWh and a torque of 125Nm. To finish the technical part: the battery pack has a capacity of 28.5 kWh, as much as a Nissan Leave.

Now why am I so excited about this project? First it is because of the specifications of the bike. This is the first electric motorcycle I could use for my travels. Until now there was always the threshold of the range. What use has an electric  motorcycle when I need a six hour reload after 100 kilometres? My normal travels are 130 kilometres long (and another 130 back). And then some more from one meeting to the other. Even public transport would be faster for me that way. Of course: it ‘s not a production model and the costs for such a battery pack will probably be sky high, but the TU/Eindhoven students have proven that it is possible.

Then there is the way these people have been thinking: to build a smart electric motorcycle is one thing, but they went further, they are thinking in concepts and that is what makes the difference. Third is the way they handle things: during the presentation I heard my name called by former national police motorcycle instructor Ferry Stomps.  The man who trained the elite of police motorcyclists told proudly that he had trained the STORM riders. Now that is what I call decent work.

Lastely there is the enthusiasm: these young people believe in their work. When I spoke to team members Bas Verkaik and Remco Mulders after the presentation, they showed no hesitation: they are going to do the journey in 2016, they are promoting electric riding in countries where people have never heard of electric vehicles, but all the same are prepared to open their front doors to let man and machine into their house, the whole scheme for 2016 they know by heart and of course they are going to win the race…

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Written by Dolf Willigers