By Don Simpson | May 18, 2013
Director: Mark Neale
The International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (aka the “TT”) Race is a historically significant annual event in the world of motocross racing. The TT has lost it’s allure in recent years due to a rash of fatal accidents. It seems people are finally realizing that driving motorcycles at speeds as high as 130 mph along the narrow and curvy roads of the Isle of Man is a wee bit insane, but the ever-present danger has also become a major part of the excitement for the race’s faithful fans and participants. Maybe as a public relations attempt to soften the number of deaths incurred each year, the TT now includes the TT Zero, a green energy motocross race that prohibits the use of carbon-based fuels and requires zero emissions.
Director Mark Neale follows a handful of participants from their preparation for the first ever TT Zero in 2009 to the conclusion of the third race in 2011. It’s no surprise that when the TT first announced the TT Zero, many fans of the traditional TT races were dismissive of battery-powered bikes. Their biggest complaint, oddly enough, is the lack of noise. As it turns out, the bone-rattling grumble and roar of gas-guzzling engines is something that most motocross fans seem to enjoy.
Regardless, several teams saw the inaugural race as a technological challenge, not only to build a fast electric bike, but one that could travel 37-or-so miles without draining all of bike’s battery power. For the most part, the teams built their bikes from scratch. Since no one had ever created an electric motorcycle like this before, the teams started with a blank slate, not knowing what types of designs their competitors would bring to the starting line.
Charge does an admirable job of capturing the stress and tension of the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 race. From there, the narrative’s driving force switches gears from the creation of the first wave of TT Zero bikes to the improvements made to the technology of the electric bikes in subsequent years. The Isle of Man Government offered a prize of £10,000 for the first team to exceed a 100 mph average speed around the 37.7 mile course, so that motivated the teams to alter their focus from mere stamina to speed and stamina. Electric vehicles are often ridiculed for being slow or not being able to travel long distances without recharging. The TT Zero participants were highly motivated to destroy that myth and put TT Zero bikes on par with traditional TT race bikes.
The first few years of any competitive sport always seems to be the most exciting. Nothing is mastered, there is still a lot of learning to do. Just in the three TT Zero races covered during Charge, the bikes transform from the primitive experiments of year one to the more mature and refined bikes of year three. It is amazing to observe the rapid rate of evolution, specifically how the teams actively learn from their weaknesses and adapt accordingly for the next year’s race. While improvements in the technology of carbon-based fuel engines is barely noticeable from year to year, the TT Zero bikes continue to change drastically each year. Looking at the stats from the 2012 TT Zero race, these zero emissions bikes are now traveling at speeds that are comparable to traditional TT bikes.
Narrated by Ewan McGregor, Charge proves that electric vehicles can have the same power and allure as their gas-guzzling kin, just without the environmental and noise pollution. What green energy vehicle manufacturers need is motivation to excel; to discover new ways to compete head to head with vehicles powered by carbon-based fuel engines. Once they can prove to the general public that green energy vehicles are not slow or in need of constant recharging, the tables might finally turn in the car manufacturing industry. So, just imagine if green energy vehicle manufacturers could make cars that could compete on par with NASCAR or Formula One cars…