Mavizen TTX02, an electric superbike for the streets
The motorcycle I was riding had no lights. It lacked turn signals. The side panels had been removed to help cool the twin DC motors, and the single mirror on the bike was added at the last minute so, at the very least, I could see any swerving semis that threatened to mow me down from behind.
The bike was the Mavizen TTX02 -- the second incarnation of a line of production electric sportbikes commissioned by Azhar Hussain, founder of the world's first electric superbike race -- on the Isle of Man last year -- and the 2010 TTXGP world series that concluded last weekend in Spain.
The TTX02 had been raced in the U.S. series over the summer and made a brief pit stop in L.A. last month, where I had the chance to test its low-speed handling on Hollywood streets, and to then open up the throttle along the 170 Freeway. Powered with twin 96-volt motors and a 7.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Mavizen is capable of reaching 130 mph -- a speed I wasn't foolish enough to test on a non-street-legal machine that was scheduled to be crated up the following morning and shipped overseas to be raced one week later.
I did, however, push it close to the buck mark. Previous electric-bike experience had me primed to expect a sudden drop in voltage along with any radical twist of the grip, a drop that would dramatically decrease the bike's range. But cranking the throttle, even for sustained periods of time, didn't significantly tap the bike's battery reserves -- a fact I could readily observe on a dashboard screen that uses an Intel processor to constantly calculate and manage the bike's battery cells and power output.
The first bike to run with an Intel processor, the Mavizen is also equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, so its brain can be remotely accessed to troubleshoot and update its software from anywhere, even another country.
The Mavizen uses the same Agni motors that propelled the Agni bike to victory in the inaugural TTXGP last year. About a third of the bikes running in this year's TTXGP race series use the same DC motors, which generate power by resting a brush over magnets, and are cooled with air. Although this year has seen the rise of more powerful, and complex, AC motors in electric racing, the Mavizen uses DC because they are smaller and more cost-effective for a street-oriented sportbike.
Motors make heat, which is why the side panels had been removed on the bike I was testing -- to allow more air for cooling. Still, after riding the Mavizen for 45 minutes, I didn't feel my thighs crisping like a rotisserie chicken the way I often do on internal-combustion sportbikes.
If electric motorcycles stand a real chance in the U.S. market, they have to play to the market that currently exists: one that covets speed, power, performance and handling. In that regard, the Mavizen more than succeeds. The Mavizen uses the tried-and-true chassis of a KTM RC8, the only outward evidence being the engraved gas cap that bears the KTM name.
At 374 pounds, the Mavizen weighs less than an RC8. Although the Mavizenss power-to-weight ratio isn't as favorable as that of an internal combustion superbike, its handling characteristics are flickably similar, despite an entirely different drivetrain. The space that would normally house the gas tank and engine are, on the Mavizen, taken up by a carbon fiber box that holds the batteries, controllers and twin Agni motors.
A direct-drive machine, there are no gears, no clutch, no shifting on the Mavizen. On takeoff, that translates into less control because there isn't a clutch to feather. The version I was testing was also set up for racing, so even a slight twist of the throttle meant the bike was ready to roll out from under me. In motion, and at freeway speeds, however, that torque was more than welcome.
Mavizen has only built four bikes so far, and the track version I tested cost $32,000. The goal is to get the price to about $25,000, which, like all new technologies, will only happen as people buy in. The big question with Mavizen, as with all electric motorcycles on the market so far, is: Will they?
Base price: $30,000
Price as tested: $32,000
Powertrain: twin 96-volt Agni 95R DC brushed motors, 7.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, direct drive
Curb weight: 374 lbs.
Top speed: 130 mph
Horsepower: 69 equivalent
Torque: 74 lb.-ft.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: The Mavizen TTX02. Credit: Mavizen