The Norton Motorcycle Co Ltd. is proud to support students at the University of Warwick who are researching the future of electric racing motorcycles. The group of students undertaking the project are aided by the donation of a sports bike frame by Norton Motorcycles, which has been adapted by the student team to be fitted with an electric powertrain, with batteries and control systems designed in-house.
The group of 13 students at WMG, University of Warwick, made up of a cross-functional team from first- to final-year degree students, with the support of some EngD students, are joined by a selection of leading academics, engineers and researchers representing WMG, at the University. On-campus research has been reinforced with input, support, mentoring and technical guidance from Norton’s own designers and engineers, further to the supply of the frame.
The research team supported by WMG Centre High Value Manufacturing Catapult have developed an electric motorcycle powertrain, using a high-performance sports frame as a platform. The motorcycle developed using this frame has been called the Frontier. The electric powertrain designed to work in the Norton frame is rated with a power output of 160kW or 201bhp and delivering 400Nm of torque from a standing start. The acceleration and speed characteristics of the electric bike in motion roughly translate into a combustion-engine equivalent of around 900cc to 1,000cc.
The electric motor draws power from an immersion-cooled battery pack that has been designed and tested by the students and is the first of its kind for application in an electric motorcycle. The battery with a capacity of 16 kWh is designed to last longer with the application of robust thermal management strategies, while also allowing for larger short-term power peaks required by a racing motorcycle. In addition, the cooling system will enable the team to operate at a more efficient temperature range by optimising the starting temperature of the dielectric fluid prior to a race or testing, based on the requirements of the track.
The battery can be recharged with the common CHAdeMO connector, facilitating fast charging where available and allowing for a full charge of the battery in around an hour (up to 80% from empty in just 32 minutes). These impressive figures have supported the testing and development of the electric bike prototype, with research teams able to maximise riding time on the track thanks to reduced charging times, allowing for further track-side development and optimisation with the help of a fully instrumented bike.
The battery case was manufactured using laser welding techniques developed at WMG, The University of Warwick, a manufacturing process that is easily repeatable for potential serial production, while also incorporating process-control to maximise reliability and strength of the joints.
Students have been able to craft a functioning electric motorcycle based on the Norton frame in just seven months. The project began in October 2020 with the donation of the frame and associated parts, with students working hard to realise their goal alongside studying for their degrees. The bike has undergone significant testing including much computer-based validation such as CFD of battery cooling, modelling around thermal management, along with physical testing of cells and modules – whilst constantly reviewing engineering decisions to minimise and mitigate the risk of failure.
Dr Robert Hentschel, CEO of Norton Motorcycles, said:
“We are thrilled to be able to support the engineers of the future, who are developing tomorrow’s technology today, on the basis of a Norton frame. Our support by means of donation of the frame is just the beginning. Norton’s team of designers and engineers have been very interested to observe how this project is taking shape, supporting the student team wherever possible with advice and guidance.”
Aman Surana, Chief Engineerf the Warwick Moto team, said:
“Ever since we started the Warwick Moto project, the overall goal has always been around learning and enhancing our engineering experience. We have gained practical experience in our research that is required to deliver a real-world project, along with balancing considerations such as tight budgets and deadlines, while learning logistics and everything around delivering an industry project. This has made us all the more proud with the way the Frontier looks.
“To have access to Norton’s engineering team, years of experience and data has been a great resource, integral to the design of the bike. Combining the motorcycling knowledge from Norton, with the leading research at WMG, University of Warwick has been a fantastic learning opportunity for all students involved. We’re very excited to see what this collaboration leads to.”
The finished electric racing bike ‘Frontier’ next to a model of the Norton Motorcycles frame it is built on. The full team from left to right are: Robert Driver – Battery Testing & Characterisation Engineer, David Cooper – Precision Engineer at WMG, Professor Dave Greenwood – CEO of WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Tom Weeden – the professional rider for the team, Lee-Rose Jordan – Project Manager, Student Projects at WMG, Malcolm Swain – Lead Engineer a WMG, Martin Neczaj – Chief Chassis Engineer at Norton Motorcycles, James Grohmann –Lead Design Engineer (Student), Aman Surana – Chief Engineer of Warwick Moto team (Student) Credit: Norton Motorcycles.
About Norton Motorcycles
Norton Motorcycles was founded in 1898 as a manufacturer of fittings and parts to the two-wheel trade. Norton Motorcycles went on to become one of the most iconic British motorcycle brands, manufacturing famous models such as the 650SS, Atlas, Commando, Dominator, Manx, Navigator and more – constantly innovating in motorcycle technology, with features advantageous for lightness and strength in motorcycle racing. Norton Motorcycles has an unrivalled history in motorsport and the brand name is synonymous with Isle of Man TT racing. In April 2020, Norton Motorcycles was acquired by TVS Motor Company, India’s third-largest motorcycle manufacturer. Under the leadership of TVS, Norton is based out of a new manufacturing facility in Solihull, West Midlands, building British bikes in England using traditional hand-crafted techniques with modern day machinery for consistently high quality.
About Warwick Moto
Warwick Moto is a student led project, with the ultimate aim of creating an electric motorbike to race at the Isle of Man TT. Despite the temporary moratorium of the TT Zero, the team’s ambitions to develop a leading electric motorcycle remain. Originally based on the Honda Fireblade platform, the team switched to a Norton platform in October 2020 for their first electric motorcycle.
The group of 13 students at the University of Warwick, is made up of a cross-functional team from first- to final-year degree students, with the support of some EngD students from different disciplines across the University. They are joined by a selection of leading academics, engineers and researchers representing WMG, University of Warwick.
2016 Senior Manx GP winner, Tom Weeden is the development rider for the team with experience both on track and road racing events. Tom has been an integral part throughout the development process.
The project is possible thanks to sponsors: WMG University of Warwick, WMG centre High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Norton Motorcycles, DYMAG Performance Wheels, Michelin Tyre PLC, MIVOLT Immersion Cooling by M&I Materials, PWR Advanced Cooling Technology, laserlines Ltd., Xometry Europe, RS Components, Embed Limited, HEL Performance, Renthal, R&G Racing, Rock West Composites, Pro-Belt & Wraptastic.