Buckeye Current gears up for Isle of Man TT Zero race
Buckeye Current is looking to make history on the Isle of Man—again.
The Ohio State University College of Engineering’s electric motorcycle team will be the only U.S. collegiate team to compete in the world-famous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Zero clean emissions race on June 4, 2014, for the second consecutive year.
More than 3,600 miles away from Columbus, the Isle of Man is a self-governing dependent territory of the British Crown, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.
In the 2013 TT Zero race, Buckeye Current placed third overall, beating out professional teams as well as every other collegiate team. The team’s RW-2 electric motorcycle, designed and built by students at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, recorded an average speed of 90.4 mph in the race. It was driven by former TT champion and professional rider Rob Barber.
The team made technical improvements to the motorcycle following last year’s performance, while keeping all of the same powertrain components—motor, controller and battery pack.
They also addressed several issues, including improving system reliability through dyno testing, reshaping the battery pack with a lighter material to provide more ground clearance and making the previously inefficient data logging system more robust.
Kyle Stewart, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and the administrative lead on the project, said the team’s goal this year is to hit at least a 95 mph average lap speed.
“For us, the 2014 TT Zero is about establishing a lasting presence for Buckeye Current in electric racing,” Stewart said. “We’re there to keep getting better and to show that Ohio State students can bring great ideas to the table.”
Buckeye Current will continue their tradition of competing on a shoestring budget against multi-million dollar professional teams again this year. Their 2014 budget of $30,000 is even smaller than last year’s—$20,000 smaller, in fact.
“Our entire budget is from corporate sponsors and private donations,” said Polina Brodsky, a second-year mechanical engineering major and technical coordinator of the team. “We’ve learned a lot on the marketing front, about the need to go to local sponsors and people who have been watching us the whole time.”
Besides advancing relationships with sponsors and attracting new donors for future projects, Stewart said there have been administrative challenges as well.
“We’re always trying to find new ways to involve more people and support the educational goals of our members. When I started volunteering with the team, we had probably three full-time members,” Stewart said. “Just a few short years later, we have over two-dozen. It’s been great for me to see the participation grow and to be able to harness the creativity of the whole team for new projects.”
Due to the poor condition of the bike after the 2013 TT Zero, the team has not participated in any races since, but plans to race in one more after the 2014 TT Zero race, if all goes well.
"We’d like to go to the East Coast Timing Association race in Wilmington, Ohio, in the fall, but it will depend on the condition of the bike after the race and how that fits into the build cycle,” Brodsky said.
The team set an East Coast Timing Association speed record for electric motorcycles in 2012, with a speed of 144.352 miles per hour. They earned the title of fastest collegiate motorcycle with their first vehicle, the RW-1.
Buckeye Current’s largest sponsors are the Honda/OSU Partnership, a bilateral collaboration between The Ohio State University and Honda of America Manufacturing that supports initiatives in education, research and public service, and Advanced Electronics Energy. The team also enjoys support from RRW Engineering, Lawless Industries and Commercial Vehicle Group, Inc., among many others.