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Buckeye Current nabs third place in Isle of Man TT Zero

The Buckeye Current electric motorcycle racing team and rider Rob Barber celebrate their repeat third place finish at the 2014 Isle of Man TT Zero.The Buckeye Current electric motorcycle racing team and rider Rob Barber celebrate their repeat third place finish at the 2014 Isle of Man TT Zero.The Ohio State University Buckeye Current electric motorcycle race team placed third—for the second year in a row—in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Zero race. The only U.S. collegiate team to compete in the race, Buckeye Current earned a podium finish and set a new collegiate record with an average speed of 93.531 mph.

Among a field of professional competitors, UK native and professional rider Rob “The Bullet” Barber steered RW-2.X to a narrow victory of 0.37 seconds over Belgian race team Sarolea. Buckeye Current averaged 93.531 mph—fast enough to break the collegiate record, which they previously set in 2013—with a lap time of 24:12.230. Fourth-place finisher Sarolea averaged 93.507 mph with a total lap time of 24:12.600. First and second places went to John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey, both from Team Mugen.

“We worked all year designing, building, and testing what we know to be the fastest collegiate motorcycle in the world,” said Nathan Lord, an electrical and computer engineering major and team technical coordinator. “Now, with our performance at the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, we proved we’re still the fastest collegiate team.”

At their inaugural TT Zero appearance in 2013, Barber piloted the team’s student-designed and -built RW-2 bike to a groundbreaking third place finish. During the 2013-2014 school year, the team built their third edition bike, RW-2.X on the same frame and drivetrain, while making vast design improvements. It features improved aerodynamics, a lighter, stronger frame and a state-of-the-art electronics system for a stronger, smarter and faster bike. And they accomplished it all on a shoestring budget of just $30,000. 

“In my three years on the team, Buckeye Current has taught me not only about solving technical problems and using my engineering skills, but also about working with a team and managing a big project,” said Polina Brodsky, a mechanical engineering major and technical coordinator of the team.

The team overcame initial technical difficulties on the Isle, making their podium finish even more impressive. They placed second in the first practice lap, averaging 89.07 mph. Two of the battery cells failed during practice, however, forcing the team to replace the failed cells and redesign the battery pack with limited on-site resources. With no spare battery cells left for emergencies, the team made the bold move to forgo the remaining practice run and focus on the final race. 

"While the Buckeye Current is the youngest motorsports team at Ohio State, the students have accomplished so much in such a short time,” says Marcello Canova, the team’s faculty advisor and assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “It is an honor to work with such talented and driven students, whose excellence, commitment and passion never cease to impress me, the Center for Automotive Research and the university at large."

The Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, hosts the TT, the most prestigious motorcycle racing series in the world. The TT Zero clean emissions race takes place on Snaefell Mountain Course, which wraps through the city streets and climbs the mountain for a total of 37.75 grueling miles. 

Launched in 2010, the Buckeye Current team researches, designs and races electric motorcycles to innovate electric vehicle technology and educate both students and the community about green technologies. In addition to their consecutive third place finishes at the Isle of Man, the team’s first bike RW-1 set the East Coast Timing Association record for electric motorcycles at 144 miles per hour.