In one word? AWESOME!
One of the great aspects of the 2014 Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival is the commitment to parameters for different racing classes so there are common benchmarks for power output to retain a level of competitiveness, an important aspect in Electric Bike racing. In the 1500 class, bikes are limited by battery capacity to 1500Watt Hours (1.5kWh) as the main constraint, with some other racing class regulations. The race takes a similar approach for defining power capacity limits for the High School classes, which keeps the racing competitive and focussed on efficient performance to squeeze the most out of a 384Wh battery.
The Stealth Fighter, with a 3500W motor and weighing in at 34kg, fitted with a set of street tyres like Schwalbe Crazy Bobs is an easy choice for this racing class. Whilst working below class capacity for the battery, Stealth have made sure the power is delivered efficiently for effective range as an off-road electric bike and ready-to ride product. With plenty of suspension travel, there's little risk involved if you find yourself drifting off-track. In fact, it almost eggs you on to give it a go, since this is what it's built for.
1. Human-scale speed: With a top speed of around 60-65km/h, we find that this is an effective human-scale speed for this racing class, which allows for lower risk in the event of a slide, reduced impact and damage to the rider and bike. With a long history in dirt bike riding and mountain bike racing, we know full well the downside risks when things go wrong. Having a set of compliance rules that encourage solid protection for the riders head plus all major joints+points (hands, elbows, knees, feet) helps add to the safety of the rider. The level of adrenaline and attention required still ensures a high level of cardiac output, which can be seen in the race plot below, so there is some interesting stuff happening physiologically as the riders concentrate on the race;
2. Silence: Aside from the Solar Challenge, we can't think of another powered racing class that is so quiet. As you move at top speed around the track, its possible to engage with other competitors in friendly banter, egging each other on, or passing on observations about smelling overheating motors being pushed to their limits, or simply calling a warning during overtaking. It makes for a very social, yet friendly competitive event. Engine sound effects are optional, left to the inspiration of the rider and their engine style preferences (2stroke or 4? Inline or V?) - other riders just hoot and laugh at the fun they've having;
3. Safety: As a business owner and father of 3 young kids, I can't afford to take the same risks I once did - the consequences are far more dire in terms of life impact than if I were young and single. As a Health Professional working in injury rehabilitation I've seen my fair share of people who think they can take the same risks they used to when younger. The body doesn't bounce back as fast as we might like to think it will, and injures more easily than we might expect (go look up Optimism Bias), which is a consequence worth thinking through before committing to a corner overcooked. With plenty of run-off spaces, a GoKart track makes a great medium for racing, with tight turns preventing high speed and rewarding a skilled rider who picks their lines as a counterpoint to a rider on a faster bike, using the full 1.5kWh capacity.
1500 class electric bike racing reminds us of the now defunct 50cc GrandPrix racing class, with teams extracting maximum power from little engines within a lightweight chassis. Its a similar racing format, but made safer and more acceptable with lower speeds and no noise. When combined with solar charging, it makes for great EcoFriendly racing. Loads of fun, easy on the ear and planet, yet exhilarating, adrenaline inducing and within an acceptable risk margin for human limits of the average rider. For anyone using a Stealth in the class, they can rest easy knowing they can then still turn it to off road action that is every bit as much fun when the racing is done. Now I wonder how it might look if we were allowed to actually pedal?
QuietRush wins 2014 HunterEVPrize 1500 eBike class and energy-autonomy award in National Science Week
Quiet Rush are delighted to have won the 2014 Hunter EV Prize 1500 eBike class amongst a diverse team of entries, including converted motorcycles and high powered eBike kit bikes, racing a standard Stealth Fighter as part of our range of Australian designed and made Offroad Electric Bike range from Stealth Electric Bikes. Whilst not designed specifically for tarmac racing, their versatility and leading-edge performance and reliability made the race thoroughly enjoyable, backed up by the knowledge that they can be ridden just as hard in off road settings. The bikes truly are a unique vehicle, developed from Australian ingenuity into an internationally recognised export, regarded by many as the worlds best electric bikes. We relied on quality products from Kali Protectives and Troy-Lee Designs to keep us safe whilst racing.
Quiet Rush was also recognised as an innovator for energy-autonomy, taking 3rd place in the National Science Week Cup-Sparking Innovation in EVolution Prize. Our in-vehicle solar charging system, built with Goal Zero products from Laughing Mind (http://www.laughingmind.com/energy-autonomy.html) attracted a lot of interest over the 2 days, showcasing the possibility of running grid-independent, portable eBike charging systems using solar power as our primary energy source. This makes powered adventure possible wherever you are, providing clean, renewably sourced power for charging a wide range of digital devices and recreational products. Whilst not at the grade of 1st place winner Elmofo with their world-leading electric race-car charging system, we are delighted to be recognised for effort in this category, using consumer products available from Laughing Mind as a Goal Zero dealer committed to innovating in new markets.
QuietRush wishes to acknowledge our sincere thanks to the Hunter EV Festival sponsors for making the event possible, with particular mention of the hard work of the event organising team at the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the University of Newcastle.
Quiet Rush particularly want to thank the following parties:
One of the interesting aspects of running an eBike is the extent to which you can eliminate fossilised fuel dependence out of your riding - as the folks at Shrinkfoot have identified, your EV power source does matter. We get quite a few enquiries from people living offgrid, disconnected from electricity mains and running self-sufficiently with their own power generation.
The bikes are well suited to being used in these kinds of settings, but we need to address some of the issues of equipment specification to make it clear for owners and prospective customers what sort of capacity is required. Of course, an EBike is going to have a larger footprint than a standard bicycle, but that footprint can still be minimised.
The Stealth Bomber has the largest battery capacity in the Stealth range, which requires at least the following:
In our case, since we're mainly using a Stealth Fighter as our preferred demonstrator, we've opted for a middle of the road, RV-style configuration that consists of the following:
Whilst there are nicely prepackaged RV style kits such as this, they do take up a fair bit of space. In our case, we wanted a bare-bones setup that minimised space requirements and could be transplanted readily between fleet vehicles. So, we opted for an alternate inverter/charger and portable PV as the main changes from this example prebuilt bundle.
Other options that we considered on the way through this exercise were some of the products available from GoalZero, including their Yeti off-grid generator and panels (shown below). We'll be taking a closer look at that setup over the next few months.
This means that when we're attending ebike or sustainable living events, we're now power independent and have plenty of juice on hand for running a mobile office from our van, along with capacity to do a replenish charge in the event we drain the battery of one of our demonstrators.
A setup like this provided us with ample power to recharge at the recent 2013 HunterEVPrize race between qualifying practice and race time. It also forms the basis of our mobile office for the work we do at Laughing Mind, providing us with a high level of flexibility for working anywhere, anytime.
We're proud of the work being done by schools as part of building their entries for the HunterEV Prize, so we thought it fitting to make a contribution by adding in an incentive prize to the overall potential prize pool for school entrants - we're calling it EcoGeekFactorX, recognising the importance of the Festival in National Science week as a breeding ground for the next generation of manufacturers, makers, designers, innovators and -maybe- physicians.
We wanted to have a way of rewarding and recognising integrated responses to climate science challenges, based on hands-on engineering and 'making' whilst also building an understanding of the role of considered design, taking into account materials selection, intended functionality, versatility of use and the ability to integrate human effort.
Whilst the EV Prize requires entrants ebikes to be solely powered without pedal assistance, we know there is also a need for designs that can allow for rider input, so we're going to be looking for adaptable designs that can be easily retrofitted for accommodating rider effort. That means having a way of thinking about the design to incorporate another of the sciences - the science of Ergonomics (see more on that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomics)
EcoGeekFactorX will be an incentive prize based on the best integrated design that embodies eco-design principles, visual aesthetics, versatility, ergonomics and responsiveness to climate change and population health challenges. After all, eBikes are sometimes also about their ability to be pedalled in comfort for extended distances, across a wide variety of terrain, making sure we're also able to be active when we want to. We think our Stealth Fighter and Bomber ebikes handle that brief pretty well, but want to reward teams efforts for matching such a profile.
After all, the Hunter, whilst recognised for its innovativeness, also has some serious population health challenges that we encounter in work done at our sister company (Laughing Mind) - see http://www.newcastle.edu.au/news/2012/07/23/shed-it-motivates-blokes-to-battle-beer-bulge.html and http://www.myhealthycommunities.gov.au/medicare-local/ml111 - which need appropriate responses.
We want to recognise the work of each schools entry and their role as future makers, wish them well in getting their entries in place and ready.
We'll look forward to announcing the recipients of EcoGeekFactorX at the event and awarding our incentive prize to the winning team.
We find that having a ride of one of our bikes is the best way to get a proper impression of how they handle in a wide range of conditions. It's why we run our business the way we do, setting times and places to meet up with people, taking the time to understand the context of their rides and background skill levels to give them a tailored demonstration.
In our last blogpost we mentioned having set other riders loose on our Stealth Fighter demonstrator at Cameron Park as part of the HunterEV Festival Prize practice day in the lead up to National Science Week.
One of the lucky 3 riders was the owner of EagleBikes, Rob Luck. Rob has a long history with the off-road riding scene in Australia, so we were keen to hear his impressions of the (brief) ride:
"Another dimension in flat-out fun – that's my verdict from a circuit trial on a Stealth Fighter at Cameron Park Raceway. I've been fortunate enough to have some previous bursts on Stealths at other events we've attended with Quiet Rush and always been impressed. But taking to the track pushed the adrenalin rush to a new level. The immediate observation is that riding the Stealth on a track is more like a motorbike experience than a pushbike experience. The Stealth comes out of the box fast and the acceleration rushes you to the corners at near-motorbike velocities. Adopting a motorbike hunch, you can tip the bike right in to the corner at angles you couldn't achieve on a regular bike or e-bike. And get on the throttle early to maintain corner speed and flow to maintain momentum down the next straight and into the next turn.
(Ed: It's just as well the chequered flag came down. We were wondering if we'd ever prise him off the bike..Thanks for sharing the ride impressions Rob.)
We had a chance to spend a brief bit of time this week at Cameron Park raceway with the good folks behind the Hunter EV Festival as part of the Hunter EVPrize and in the leadup to National Science Week.
It was primarily a practice and shakedown day for schools sorting their electric bike entries - we thought it was also a great opportunity to have some of our commercially available Stealth Fighter demonstrators there on show to help give some added inspiration to the school students, teachers and visitors attending.
Whilst the race day itself is on 18August 2013, this was a good opportunity to see how our bikes fare in standard form on a fast GoKart track dedicated to racing, ridden at full power output of 3kw. The verdict? More fun than a barrel of monkeys!
It was great to have a chance to compare the relative stickiness of our Schwalbe Crazy Bobs (on the yellow Fighter) with the Duro Razorbacks which come standard with the Stealth Fighter. Naturally, the Crazy Bobs come up well ahead, with some quite impressive lean angles possible. It's the first time we've seen tread wear getting closer to the sidewalls.
The Duro Razorbacks, as you'd expect with a hard compound rubber, were predictably squirmier on the margins of traction, walking across the bitumen when pressed into hard lean angles. Still, it was manageable and gave good feedback to the rider about the impending loss of traction, allowing me to back off safely without sliding out. After all, we're still talking about the downside risk of hitting tarmac hard at 50km/h, so we're looking to ride within a safety margin.
One aspect we loved about the day was a chance to see what some of the school students had cooked up, with some really novel approaches and inspired designs. it's a great opportunity to blend some practical lessons in science, electronics, maths, physics and construction. Whilst there might be less emphasis on commercial viability, there were one or two designs that leapt out, including some inspired work with plywood. Which of course invites natural comparison against other awesome bikes made of wood. We're always keen to hear of rides with an ecologically sensitive design edge, for which timber is a naturally inspired material.
With a strong emphasis on rider safety and hands on participation, its an event that we'd love to see well supported and attended, so spread the word. Also keep an eye out locally for other National Science week events near you.
Sincere thanks to the supporting sponsors listed at the Hunter EV Festival website. We'll have more material up after race day - we were too busy doing laps to grab too many shots, so we're using images supplied at https://www.facebook.com/hunterevfestival.
Here's a small sample clip - even the wind on the circuit is louder than the bikes themselves..
Now that the Hunter EV Festival is all done and dusted for 2012 and we're back into the swing of daily business and the demands of the IT Consulting day job, I've had some time to reflect on the festival and lots of conversations held whilst we were there demonstrating. Before I get into the details of it though, I've been checking out some of the stuff coming out of Interbike 2012 (where Stealth Electric Bikes will be attending and demonstrating - see their nice white Bomber at left), including this moped redux from GasBikes in the USA (below left).
I'd made the point during a brief interview with 1233 ABC Newcastle that this is exactly the kind of stuff being built in sheds all around the country, by backyard tinkerers and kids looking for some easy speed, with some real frankenbikes getting churned out that I don't think I'd throw a leg over anytime soon. I'd also mentioned during that interview that people could make a brief visit to Campbells Store in Morpeth to check out the museum section there and have a glance at an old Malvern Star petrol powered Auto-Byke (pictured below right, circa 1950).
Note the similarities between the two, with the superior standover height, low CoG and comfy saddle on the old skool rig. Just don't ask me to take either of them off-road. Got me smiling when I thought of the advantages of going electric - no more 2 stroke to mix, riding in blissful silence free of fumes, able to enjoy the places I find myself in without creating a disturbance.
Seeing these got me thinking about what's happening with the SmartGrid-SmartCity initiative for Newcastle, which we discussed as part of an industry workshop during the Hunter EV Festival. They'll be using a fleet of 20 Electric Cars across Sydney, Central Coast and Newcastle to do some modelling of electricity demand on electricity grid to see if they can make some predictions about how that load and user behaviour might extrapolate at scale. Current market prices put a Mitsubishi iMiev at around $48,000 excluding OnRoadCosts, giving us a vehicle that has an effective range of 155km maximum.
Gee. Wow. Gosh. Oh My. It reminds me of one of the posts from a US-based Stealth electric bike owner that had participated in a group ride with 15 other standard bikes for up to 145 miles (230km). And had a blast, being able to chat along the way with the group whilst averaging about 25-32km/h. Not that you can do that in Australia, with our 25km/h power assist cut-out limit.
I wonder what sort of modelling went into thinking about the net impact of the iMievs on longer term health of its occupants, who'll remain sedentary. Who'll still be just as stuck in traffic congestion as their non-EV'd car based cousins. Who won't feel the pleasure of wind across their face as they cruise past lines of stuck traffic in their morning commute. Who'll be stuck behind glass, disconnected from their context, coccooned and sated.
I bet they won't be having as much fun as the guys in the video below, who are getting waaaayy more bang for their buck, on a bike that represents a very modest investment compared to an EV'd car. Remember people, an EV car is still a box on wheels that does little to fix congestion issues. They get stuck in traffic too. They also need to be parked, just like any other car. And there's no way you can use one for a quick ride on a local bush trail with all the grin factor and fun that's involved.
I also wonder why someone hasn't yet set up an EBike or Active Transport CRC in a city where obesity is a looming health issue, with some decent cycling infrastructure. Maybe it's because there's plenty of the former, too little of the latter. I'm sure they could do a lot with the $980,000(49k x 20) that's just been spent on Mitsubishi EV's. When I asked the question of attending Infrastructure Australia representatives, health and social benefits don't factor directly in their decision making for community infrastructure projects. Go figure.
It's time for change. If there is anyone wanting to partner on Active Transport research involving Ebike trials as part of that mix, I'm all ears and ready to help. Or perhaps the role they have to play in replacing dirtbikes as an environmentally friendly alternative. Either way, there's more modelling to be done than just presuming we're all buying into a transport future that's centered on car usage. Because that's a one way trip..
Revitalising Hunter roots, exploring Newcastle's Electric Vehicle identity and transformation
I'm looking forward to getting back to Newcastle on 18 August, 2012, for the Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival (backed by the good folks at Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment and the Festival partners). After all, with Hunter as a middle name and birthplace, I'm kind of obliged to get along and see what sort of EV vibe exists for Novocastrians. I'm well familiar with the area, having grown up at various locations like Stroud, Stockton and Morpeth, studied at Uni, raced MTB up around Killingworth and adventured at various times in the Barringtons.
My regular uni commute (whilst I was studying Health Science at Newcastle Uni) was a longish one, at about 30km, from Duckenfield/ Hinton through East Maitland or Raymond Terrace (see the Google Maps link below for an idea). How I wish one of the Stealth Electric bikes had been around then. The ride to Uni was bearable, but the ride home was usually slow in the last part after a long day. The decision to ride or cage-dwell it would have been much easier with 3kw under me - it would have been fun hitting Cadel Evans time trial averages in Uni clobber and burdened with a laptop+textbooks (+printer on occasions).
Back then (we're talking 90's people) I watched the rail lines running through swampland, providing a much more direct link to the city, without the meandering path taken by the roads at the time. I remember wishing at the time that the rail corridor could be considered for dual-purposes, letting bikes run alongside for a more certain and direct commute. It's easy to avoid a train - just stay off the tracks!. They're a lot more predictable than some of the cars and obnoxious drivers that I had to deal with at the time.
I've been back recently, catching up with family, and watching as the Hunter goes through its transformation into a new identity, taking on a mixed identity of part quarry, part innovation-centered regional city. I've got a soft spot for Nukes, with friends and family still there now. Chances are they're going to be in the near vicinity of our display stand, so forgive me if I get caught between family obligations to reconnect and the chance to talk about either the Fighter or Bomber that we'll have along with us for the display. Remember, these bikes are not just for sitting on and twisting a throttle - you get the best out of them by using their potential as Active Transport - something Newcastle blokes might do well to reflect on, with 70% of Hunter men being rated as either overweight or obese. Now that's something to consider tackling at scale..I wonder what the folks at Transition Newcastle might have to say about it.