Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Agni’s home-brew bike crushed the flashy, high-design, high-technology bikes of the American teams with a keep-it-simple strategy.

Team Agni may be a study in minimalism and eccentricity, but it also has something formidable: more than 50 years of experience. Lynch recounts how he first became interested in electricity. “I left school when I was 12 because I couldn’t stand it, and I went home to read,” he says. “Mostly theoretical treatises and that sort of thing.” For fun, he puttered around in a workshop with his father, one of the engineers who had built the Colossus computer and broken the Nazis’ war codes. As a young man, Lynch made a career of entering electric-vehicle races. The first one was in 1979, when his poverty proved to be no disadvantage. “DC motors were very expensive then,” he recalls, “so I made one of my own design out of tin cans.” Lynch came in second, as his tin-can design proved to be more efficient than that of the factory-made competition. In the 1980s and ’90s he would come to dominate the Battery Vehicle Society races. “We won most of the things we entered,” Lynch says. “It was good fun.” Back in the BVS days, Rabadia was Lynch’s protégé, but now it’s Lynch who works for Rabadia. The latter set up Agni in his native India to commercialize his mentor’s design: the so-called pancake motor. He’s brought Lynch to the TTXGP “because our motor is the best, and we need to get the respect we deserve.”

“Just a Miscalculation”
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the island, Team MotoCzysz has rented out a small test track to get some last-minute performance data. Things are not looking good for the best-looking bike. In the first qualifying lap around the island, MotoCzysz blew two of its three motors, and in the second, the rider had to cross the finish line under human power, paddling with his feet like a duck. “Humiliating,” Czysz admits, “but just a miscalculation.”

Like Agni’s machine, the bike has no software, no onboard data-logging computer, no odometer. The bike is smart enough to know how much charge it has left, but the state-of-charge meter–the “gas gauge,” in essence–had yet to be calibrated. To make sure that the bike has enough juice for the race, the rider has to know what’s left in the “tank.” And without a dynamometer, the only way to get the calibration information is to ride the bike in a circle for a few miles and then hook it up to a digital multimeter. Czysz makes the best of it while climbing onto the bike. In full leathers, highly styled hair, and designer sunglasses, he looks like the Derek Zoolander of electric-vehicle racing. He even speaks with Zoolanderian opacity: “Other teams have data acquisition,” he boasts. “We have rider acquisition.”

Adrian Hawkins, the lead MotoCzysz engineer, sheepishly holds up his stopwatch and ledger. “Our acquisition system,” he says.

Just before launch, the owner of the track–a practical joker–suggests to Czysz that Imperial miles and U.S. miles are different.

Czysz turns to Hawkins, and asks how long each lap is.

“One point five miles,” answers Hawkins.

“U.K. miles or U.S. miles?” Czysz quizzes.

Hawkins is stumped: U.K. miles or U.S. miles?

“U.K. miles or U.S. miles!” Czysz demands, more forcefully this time. Czysz has a reputation as a screamer, and his voice is rising.

“U.S. miles,” Hawkins stammers, gently telling Czysz that miles are consistent across borders.

A voice from the small crowd that’s gathered to watch comes to Hawkins’s rescue, politely informing Czysz there’s an Imperial gallon and a U.S. gallon, and perhaps that is the source of his confusion.

“It’s gallons that are different?” says Czysz to no one in particular, “Okay, I didn’t know.” And with that, he zips off.

10 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credits: Jude Edginton, Ian Kerr
Video by Lansons Communications

Tagged: Energy, electric vehicles, greenhouse gases, electric bike, motorcycle

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me