MIT’s ESuperbike Takes On The Isle Of Man


While the Isle of Man typically plays host to an array of gas-powered superbikes screaming through villages and mountain passes at unbelievable speeds, the island’s TT Race is a bit different. Introduced in 2009 to offer a greener alternative to the traditional motorcycle race, organizers opened up the course to electric bikes of all kinds. In order to entice participants, they even put a £10k prize on the line for the first bike that completes the race with an average speed of 100 miles per hour or faster. While no one has claimed the prize just yet, that didn’t stop the MIT Electric Vehicle team from tossing their hat into the ring this year.

Their entry into the race is the brainchild of PhD student [Lennon Rodgers] and his team of undergrads. They first designed a rough model of the motorcycle they wanted to build in CAD, and through a professor at MIT sourced some custom-made batteries for their bike. Through a series of fortunate events, the team found themselves in front of BMW management, who donated an S1000RR racing bike to the project. After a good number of alterations, including the addition of an Arduino to control the bike, they were ready for race day.

While the team didn’t take the checkered flag, they did finish the race in 4th place. Their bike managed to complete the course with an average speed of 79 mph, which isn’t bad according to [Rodgers]. He says that for their first time out, he’s happy that they finished at all, which is not something every team can claim.

32 thoughts on “MIT’s ESuperbike Takes On The Isle Of Man

  1. It is great when you can come to a site and get exactly what you expect: complete douchebaggery by most of those who read/comment.

    Seriously people? These guys are MIT engineers/students, one of which is working on his PhD. They are likely more intelligent than you and clearly have constructed far cooler things. But you know you are awesome too, sitting at your desk job bitching about stuff other people have built while you scratch your ass.

    I love that people thought this was cool until they saw the dreaded “A” word. Oh noes, an ARDUINO – it must be shit!

    FPGA? Great idea! Lets buy a system that is 3x more expensive than an Arduino! Then we will spend a bunch of time designing the hardware itself before having to program it to do what we need. Awesome! Or…we can use an Arduino that costs $30, has an IDE that does everything we need, giving us more time to ride our awesome ebike!

    To be good hackers you do not need to constantly reinvent the wheel. Most of you are not sitting at home building your own capacitors and resistors from scratch – you go to digikey. Who among you has built your own PC from scratch? Not many, if any.

    Working smarter not harder is the key to efficiency and innovation, pissing and moaning about people using an Arduino is not.

  2. the TT race wasn’t introduced in 2009, its the tourist trophy event that has run for longer than I’ve lived. If you followed the link to MIT then you’d see in the first paragraph how they talk about its yearly TT race but ALSO an electric event.
    Also show some respect and call it petrol, the isle of man isn’t in America after all.

  3. It’s not that Arduinos don’t have a place, but they’re better suited for hobbyists and designers who don’t mind something that’s underpowered and overly-complicated as long as it’s easy to set up and learn. I would have hoped that MIT wasn’t that place..

  4. @Devin and others,

    If the Engineering mecca that is MIT has embraced the Arduino, perhaps it is a signal that its time to get off the soap box and find something constructive to do.

  5. “Next challenge – drive the circuit both ways on the same battery and maintain at least 60 mph average speed.”

    they do 2 laps, and the zero record is an average speed of 99.6mph over the two laps… troll better (the petrol powered ones also do 2 laps before a pit stop for more fuel + new tires, 6lap total)

    attack the one thing that’s valid – recharge times :) needs an onboard hydrogen generator…

  6. $15000 Motorcycle, $30 Arduino. Proof that just because you go to MIT doesn’t mean you are a skilled engineer.

    What’s next, senior design projects based around mindstorms?

  7. I think that this is a decent enough project, but its not rocket science. The batteries were given to them by a commercial company (free advertisement!), the bike was given to them by a company (free advertisement!). brand association?

    o.k. they did a bit of work with the arduino, fair enough, and even did a bit of “machining and welding parts from scratch”, well done.

    But (maybe I didn’t look properly, quite possible) I can’t see the designs/code/drawings/plans etc. on the website, or a link that will reveal them. (IP issues?).

    So, in the end, whilst it might be mildly interesting to know that they did this, without knowing how they did this exactly, its not that educational.

    I don’t really understand the problem that people have with arduinos, I personally prefer the mighty mighty PICAXE (prefer BASIC to C/+ or whatever it is) but anything that enables people to do stuff they otherwise couldn’t do is great.
    Hats off to Banzi, Cuartielles, Barragan, Maeda and all those who contributed to the arduino.

  8. I’m pretty sure most of the anti-arduino people are the ones who learned the hard way of assembler and traditional C style programming. It’s like how Python is taking over the computer programming area, it appears to be “easy” and not enough low level coding, but in reality its a language that [i]makes sense[/i].

    I’m heading to MIT next year and my language of choice will be Arduino-style with a bit of traditional bit manipulation for speed. I don’t want to waste time for every single little project to set up a project (still takes me a couple minutes to make one on AVR Studio).

    I just hope they didn’t use the Arduino hardware and a shield for the bike, though!

  9. If you don’t like arduinos then you’re not cool..who cares how stuff works..we just want to attach everything to a programmable device..

    have they lowered the math prerequisites for grade school diplomas to addition and subtraction of integers in america yet? it’s amazing how lazy people have got there..good for other countries though.

  10. @Jack: I’ll sell you an Arduino for $2,400. Does that make it more suitable? What is the ideal control-to-hardware ratio?

    @AllTheArduinoHaters: What controls your electric motorcycle? Oh wait, you don’t have one. Do a better job or stfu.

  11. “Brainchild”???? I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

    Do eBikes already exist – in exactly the same format shown?
    Are all the components available as “off the shelf”?
    Does this offer ANYTHING novel?

    This is just a weak attempt to associate the terms MIT and PhD with Arduino… Isn’t that the definition of lame?

    @Mike: Where’s yours? Are you going for hypocrisy or irony, I can’t quite tell? Fisher-Price tools make for Fisher-Price thinking. Thanks for proving that point… again.

  12. @anti-fanboi: he probably has a hoveround with arduino controlled led arrays.

    There have been efficient electric scooter on the china market for years. This is just people throwing money around and achieving nothing..

    arduinos do suck..I have no favorites..I just don’t like everything based around a single device cause it teaches nothing..

  13. I just thought I’d mention that the isle of man TT races are not purely electric. The recently introduced TT ZERO race is the electric race, the rest of the races use normal bikes

  14. @Fffffuuuuuuu: You obviously don’t know what an FPGA is. IT’S NOT A COMPLETE SYSTEM like a shitty arduino, but a very capable integrated circuit. And the prices of average FPGAs don’t nearly reach the price of a crappy overpriced Atmega328 with a slow dev. environment and pathetic PCB, that’s used by people, who can’t design their own circuits.

  15. Heres how I see this, arduinos are usefull affordable one-off microcontrollers for people who want to build cool stuff and dont really care just how they get there or if it’s a viable commercial product. When the hell did hackers start caring about the quailty of the microcontroller?

    That said, this is MIT; and probably isn’t any place for arduinos or hacks in general at all. You expect a bit more from an institution or corporation.

  16. Just read the story, sorta reads like they just stuffed a custom made battery into a gas powered racing bike chassis. No regenerative braking? No weight reduction following engine removal? Come on guys :p

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