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Academics & Motorsport Combine as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology & International Partners Enter an Electric Motorcycle in The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Tuesday, May. 17 2016

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COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. – A unique mix of academic excellence and motorsport will be a featured attraction at the 100th anniversary race of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Brought to you by Gran Turismo on Sunday, June 26.

An international partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Electric Vehicle Team (MIT EVT), and race companies Komatti (Isle of Man) and Mirai (Japan) has led to the production and development of a high-tech electric motorcycle that will compete in this summer’s 94th running of the Race to the Clouds under the team name of KOMMIT EVT.  With engineering support from Zero Motorcycles and additional academic partners from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and London’s Brunel University, KOMMIT EVT’s race bike will be a true global effort.

“We are thrilled with the work that has gone into this unique project by MIT and the others who collaborated on it,” said PPIHC Executive Director Megan Leatham. “This is a great example of the race’s international presence and ability to be used as a platform for developing innovative automotive technologies.  It’s amazing to see some of the world’s most gifted young minds come together to develop a vehicle that will compete in the 100th Anniversary of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.”

KOMMIT EVT is using their academic strengths to mathematically predict the vehicle’s performance; These and other simulation tools are being used to develop the 2016 KOMMIT EVT ZERO FXS, an extremely efficient and lightweight motorcycle with improved aerodynamics.  The team will monitor the energy use of the vehicle and rider behavior during the race with an onboard telemetry system.

Fulfilling the racing duties in addition to assisting the engineering team with the bike’s development is 2015 PPIHC Electric Modified Motorcycle winner Yoshihiro Kishimoto, founder of Mirai.

MIT’s involvement with the project is thanks in part to Lennon Rodgers, a researcher at the MIT International Design Center who led the team to a 4th place finish in the 2011 Isle of Man TT Zero race while he was a PhD student.

“The Isle of Man project showed me the impact these design-build-race projects can have on engineering students. They attract a student that is not satisfied just solving textbook problems. The projects are so real and unforgiving that there is no room for fluff or bad engineering decisions. Through these projects, students learn to be great designers and manage risk,” said Rodgers.

Members of the EVT have gone on to work at Google, Apple, Porsche, BMW, Tesla, in addition to starting their own companies. Rodgers has been amazed and encouraged to see the impact former EVT students are having in the Electric Vehicle (EV), alternative energy and autonomous vehicle fields. Recruiting and developing these future engineering leaders is his main motivation and he hopes to continue doing so through their participation in the Race to the Clouds this summer. There are eight active MIT EVT students, ranging from freshmen to PhD, working on the project as part of a design course taught by Rodgers. The EVT has other electric vehicle projects and is led by MIT students Jarrod Smith and Nick Arango.

Beyond the educational benefits, Rodgers has been able to apply some of the findings from the Isle of Man race to study an electric vehicle’s “Distance to Empty,” a prediction of how far an electric vehicle can travel before depleting the battery. These academic interests are what brought the EVT in contact with Koen Matthys from Brunel and Björn Möller from KTH.

Matthys is the program director for the motorsport engineering degree program at Brunel and oversees the activities in the Brunel Motorsport Centre. This center is home to several student and research-led racing projects, including the Brunel Racing TT Zero team that has participated in every Isle of Man electric motorcycle race since the inaugural Grand Prix in 2009.

“Lap time simulation and future race vehicle design is at the core of my academic research,” said Matthys. “While we have great experience at the 37.73 mile TT course for many years with Brunel Racing, I am very excited to team up with MIT EVT and the other partners to try our hand now at the new challenge that is The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.”

Matthys is also the founder of Komatti, a racing motorworks company grown out of cleantech racing and special projects for the performance automotive sector. Through Komatti came the partnership with Japan’s Mirai EV (meaning “Future” in Japanese) and its founder Kishimoto.

Kishimoto and the Mirai team bring the professional racing perspective to the mix. Their interests and experience are about going faster and winning. Their PPIHC triumph in 2015 was made possible by engineering a custom machine that was extremely lightweight and fit for the Race to the Clouds.

Kishimoto, riding his own motorcycles, has an impressive international racing resume, with wins in prestigious endurance events in Japan such as the Motegi 7-hour Endurance Race and high ranking finishes at international gatherings including the historic New Zealand Cemetery Circuit road race where he finished second in his class in 2014.

The KOMMIT EVT team was formed in March and is still gaining momentum. Regardless of what their result in the PPIHC is this June, the team is laying a solid groundwork for a long-term collaboration and future success. Companies or individuals interested in partnering with the team should contact them at evt-contact@mit.edu

Click here to see footage of KOMMIT EVT’s preparations for Pikes Peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIKfKRfsMBM

Get all the information about The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb including the competitor list, schedule, how to get tickets and more at: www.ppihc.com

ABOUT THE BROADMOOR PPIHC

Founded in 1916 by Spencer Penrose (also the founder of The Broadmoor Hotel, Pikes Peak Highway and El Pomar Foundation), The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on a 12.42 mile (19.99 km) public toll-road boasting 156 turns, while competitors climb 4,720 ft. (1,440 m.) from the 9,390 ft. (2,862 m.) Start Line at Mile 7 marker on the Pikes Peak Highway to the 14,115 ft. (4,300 m) Finish Line at the mountain’s summit.  As the drivers climb toward the summit, the thin air slows reflexes and saps competitor’s mental and muscle strength in addition to robbing internal combustion engines of up to 30% of the power they are capable of at the Start Line. Competitors and vehicles must be in top shape and condition simply to finish, let alone win.

The race is self-sanctioned and is the most diverse one day motorsports event in the world with everything from Sidecars, Motorcycles, Semi-Trucks, and 1,400+hp EV & Unlimited Racers being able to compete in the same event.

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