Robert Barber rides the Buckeye Current motorcycle during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Credit: Mason Hayes.

Buckeye Current, Ohio State’s electric motorcycle race team, won first place in the electric class and 11th overall at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado June 26.

That’s a significant victory, considering Ohio State is one among a very small number of schools that participate in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. A vast majority of the competitors are professional automotive companies with more experience and higher budgets, Mason Hayes, a third-year undeclared engineering major and Buckeye Current member, said.

The competitor list for the race includes entries from notable companies such as Porsche, Yamaha and Honda.

The Buckeye Current team is one of few collegiate teams to compete in national competitions such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Credit: Mason Hayes.

“(Buckeye Current) is basically just a bunch of students, engineering and non-engineering, who come together to physically build an electric motorcycle,” Hayes said. “That includes reaching out and getting sponsors, giving presentations, going and meeting with different companies, all the way to designing components to the bike, getting them outsourced or making them ourselves in-house… everything you can think of, we do it all.”

“We (have) around 25 active members, with maybe about 10 of those being members that are above active,”said Alex Miller, Buckeye Current member and second-year master’s student in aerospace engineering. “Instead of just showing up to meetings, they’re consistently working throughout the week.”

The focus of Buckeye Current is on developing electric motorcycles that can compete with traditional gas motorcycles, Miller said.

“It’s common knowledge at this point that our natural resources, our gas and oil vehicles, are not going to be the way of the future,” Hayes said. “Maybe 10 and 20 years from now they are, but 50 and 100 years from now they’re not. So if you look at companies like Tesla, they’re starting to create alternative energy vehicles.”

“It’s just a very unique project,” Hayes said. “I think we’re one of three or four universities that have even started doing this at all and we’re now in our seventh year, so we are fine-tuning and really pushing our limits.”

The Buckeye Current team stands in front of their motorcycle at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Credit: Mason Hayes

The Buckeye Current team pushes those limits by competing in these national and international races.

“We race professionally. So the number of schools that are actually able to compete at this level are fairly limited,” Miller said.

“To go to the competition this year and see that we’re working against people who not only know bikes, but have been working on them their whole lives, for 40 and 50 years, (they) know the ins and outs of not just racing but the design of a motorcycle in general, and we are not just competing,” Hayes said. “We are winning. We are in the top tier of these bikes.”

Hayes said that this victory at the Pikes Peak has set the bar even higher for future races.

“Our goal every year is to be, not the best electric bike, but the best bike. Period. Being at Pikes Peak and placing first in the electric class gives us a bar, not that we set, but that we are required to be at every year,” Hayes said. “For us to be first (at Pikes Peak), that’s something we can never regress from in my mind.”