“I’ve always been obsessed with speed.”
These are the words of Robert White, whose passion for two-wheeled performance can be traced back to his boyhood, when he raced BMX at a British national level. By the age of 15, he was working for the title-winning 1995 British Touring Car Championship team.
His career would take him to the highest levels of motorsport, working with Crescent Suzuki’s British Superbikes team, Mika Häkkinen’s Mercedes V10 F1 engine supplier, Prodrive’s Ferrari 550 Maranello GT program, and Mercedes-AMG HPP’s R&D team, which developed the hybrid V6 that’s dominated GP racing since 2014 — quite the racing pedigree, which has influenced his design philosophy:
“Everything on an F1 car is optimised and there is no real estate wasted. The packaging is utterly exquisite and you can really be inspired by what you see.” –Rob White
These experiences inspired White to found White Motorcycle Concepts (WMC) in 2018. In just two years, the company has developed the WMC250EV High Speed Demonstrator, a 250-mph carbon-fiber machine designed to set a new British electric motorcycle speed record this year, setting the stage for a world land speed record attempt in Bolivia in 2022.
Surely, you’ve already noticed the bike’s unique “V-Air” aerodynamic system, a central duct that allows airflow through the motorcycle rather than around it, resulting in a reported drag reduction of up to 70% — astonishing! Says White of the design:
“With a combustion-engine motorcycle, about 80% of the powertrain cannot be moved, it’s fixed within the frame. But in an EV you have electric motors which take up 10 to 15% of your full EV powertrain volume, and they are really the only things that need to be fixed into position…. But the electronics and energy storage, a significant part of any EV, can be packaged anywhere as long as it has the electrical links to the necessary components. That means you can end up with a battery pack that’s long and thin, tall, fat, square, round, triangular… It doesn’t matter as long as you have that vital energy density within the motorcycle.”
White goes on to explain that this “vastly more flexible” power packaging can be used to optimize the aerodynamic shape of the bike, and instead of pushing air around any unoccupied space within the frame, a channel can be created to pass the air straight through the middle of the bike.
“That is not an option with a combustion engine, but it is with an EV.”
The WMC team was able to put their theory to the test in late 2019, when they were joined by none other than Guy Martin and his 860-hp / 300-mph streamliner in the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) wind tunnel, where they came away with their 70% drag reduction figures:
“We were lucky to be joined by Guy Martin in the MIRA wind tunnel with his 300mph record-attempt motorcycle, currently the fastest semi-streamliner bike in Europe. Wind tunnel tests correlated almost directly with the CFD [computational fluid dynamics] modelling…”
What’s more, White and the WMC team believe that, as electric motors/inverters/batteries become increasingly smaller and lighter, the duct can become larger, paying ever better dividends in terms of speed and aerodynamic efficiency.
WMC’s ultra-low drag V-Air isn’t the only interesting piece of technology on the 250-mph WMC250EV. The bike uses a “D-Drive” motor unit, which powers the front wheel and harnesses regenerative braking energy, and also carries a unique “F-Drive” final drive system that boosts power and enhances efficiency — a technology that could be retrofitted to improve existing street bikes, they say.
WMC250EV: Breaking Speed Barriers
Robert White insists that, since drag increases exponentially with speed, going as fast as possible is crucial to proving their concept:
“If you want to demonstrate to the rest of the world you’ve just invented a new aerodynamic concept that means you can go faster for a given power, the best thing to do is go as fast as you can. So that’s why we’ve created our high-speed demonstrator, the most radical version of this new concept, and it works incredibly well.”
When it comes to those speed records, WMC’s main competition is none other than six-time world champion Max Biaggi, who set some 11 new FIM World records aboard a Voxan Wattman at the Chateauroux airfield in France last year. For the flying quarter-mile, his fastest two-way mark for the EV Partially Streamlined class was 245.10 mph (394.45 km/h), with a fastest one-way speed of 253 mph (408 km/h). For the flying mile, his record now stands at 228.00 mph (366.94 km/h). These are the speed targets the WMC will be gunning for aboard the WMC250EV, which White will pilot himself.
However, the team insists that chasing records, while great for making headlines, isn’t their true focus. Their real intention is to enable mass-market electrification of motorcycles to become a reality much sooner than current battery technology improvements predict. Says White:
“The records are all champagne, but are actually the insignificant part of the story. While this technology allows you to go faster, it also allows you to go much further for the same amount of energy. This has a direct and tangible benefit on C02 reduction. Market-disruptive ideas like this are uncommon, and if successful, have the potential to revolutionise industry.”
Real World Applications
When it comes to translating their concepts into a real-world application, the team has just completed a Proof of Concept study of their WMC300FR, a 300cc three-wheeled scooter that incorporates the V-Air duct system. White says the 300cc scooter could have performance equivalent to that of a 500cc bike, but with half the emissions:
“The results of this are that the duct reduces aerodynamic drag by 25%. This equates to an 18% improvement in fuel efficiency against the 300cc, from aerodynamic improvements alone, and when coupled with a small hybrid system creates a significant improvement in performance that is close to that of a 500cc bike, but with 50% less CO2 emissions.”
Throughout the summer, testing and shakedown runs will continue for the WMC300EV, with the attempt on the Motorcycle Electric Semi Streamliner British Record planned for later on this year. Then the focus for White and the WMC team will turn to the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, where he’ll attempt to set a new mark for the Electric Semi Streamliner World Record in July 2022.
“What started off as some sketches of an idea I was pondering, has become an initiative that can potentially change the motorcycle industry. I’ve always loved speed, and motorcycles. The challenge of breaking the world record satisfies a tenacity to achieve great things. But more importantly, it’s the perfect way to practically demonstrate that the theory behind this technology works.”
We’ll certainly be rooting for the WMC250EV to break those records, and we’ll keep you posted on the results!