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Buckeye Current motorcycle team races to get ahead

Brent Hankins / Lantern reporter

A team of Ohio State engineering students are building an electric motorcycle – to the tune of about $55,000 – with the hopes of becoming the fastest collegiate electric motorcycle team at the Isle of Man TT Zero race.
To accomplish this feat, their motorcycle will have to maintain an average track speed of 100 mph as it races on the Isle of Man, said Nathan Lord, the electrical team lead and a third-year in electrical and computer engineering.
The Isle of Man TT Zero is held in the city of Douglas on the Isle of Man, which is located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The team, called Buckeye Current, is set to compete on June 5.
“Our goal here is really to develop the newest electrical vehicle technology, so we want to build an awesome motorcycle to take to the Isle of Man and really show that electric vehicles can be the next form of transportation,” Lord said.
Matt Herrmann, the mechanical team lead and a continuing education student in mechanical engineering, said winning the Isle of Man race is a long-term goal he hopes the team can achieve in the next few years if not this year.
Buckeye Current was not able to compete in the Isle of Man race last year, but the team won another title, Herrmann said.
“Last year we didn’t get there, we ran into some design issues, so we settled and changed some things on the bike and went after a land speed record, which we did get. And we’re now the fastest college team in the country with the ECTA, which is the East Coast Timing Association,” Herrmann said.
The motorcycle the team is working on this year is an entirely new bike.
Some of the changes from the old motorcycle to the new one include a smaller motor, which leaves more space for batteries, a better battery pack, which will be more stable and allow for much quicker battery changes, a more streamlined shape and a different frame, Herrmann said.
“The design challenge for us was how to take a gasoline bike and a frame set up for that and make it competitive with electric,” Herrmann said.
Julia Cline-Hare, a third-year in electrical and computer engineering and administration team lead, said in an email the group expects to spend roughly $55,000.
The breakdown of costs, she said, will be $12,000 for electronics and battery management, $20,000 for batteries, $9,000 for the bike’s frame and $5,000 for the body and miscellaneous costs.
The Isle of Man race started out as just a race for gas-powered motorcycles but more recently has allowed electric motorcycles to compete as well, Lord said.
“Just in the past two or three years, they’ve allowed electric motorcycles to go around. So, this is a time to show off what electric vehicles can do. And what’s really cool about electric vehicles there is that in the past and now, gas motorcycles maybe increase by a 10th of a mph average, but we’ve been increasing by 10 and 20 mph average every year,” Lord said.
While most of the Buckeye Current team consists of engineering students of various backgrounds, someone has to keep money, and products, flowing into the project.
Mazlow Petosa, a third-year in marketing, is the one who is in charge of making the business decisions for the team, he said.
“I’m the only business student on the team, so I handle getting the fundraising, sponsorships, making sure they get what we promise them,” Petosa said.
Many companies are willing to send some of their products to the team to use as long as the team gives feedback to the companies, he said.
“They (a company) just designed that motor, they want it tested and if we share our results … most companies are pretty happy to help us out,” Petosa said.
Polina Brodsky, a first-year in mechanical engineering, said working with Buckeye Current has helped supplement her classroom work.
“I think it’s really cool because, I mean, I sit through classes now and I get little or nothing about my actual major out of them because it’s all theoretical and it’s all, ‘Here’s the math behind it,’ but none of it is real or tangible,” Brodsky said. “But then when I come out here, it’s not only me designing parts and running analysis on them on the computer; it’s me designing parts that then I can build.”

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