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Ohio State’s electric motorcycle team revs up for illustrious international race

Veteran driver Rob Barber prepares to take Buckeye Current’s RW-2 for practice laps on the Island of Man’s Jurby Airfield.The Ohio State University College of Engineering’s Buckeye Current electric motorcycle team will reach the starting line at the world-famous Isle of Man TT Races in early June as the only U.S. collegiate team.

The student-led team, with professional rider and former TT champion Rob Barber, will compete in the TT Zero clean emissions race.

Getting to the race marks the accomplishment of a three-year team goal to compete in an international or national race and enables the students to apply their education in a real-world setting. In order to prepare for the Isle of Man, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and other students designed and built the motorcycle, named the RW-2, at The Ohio State Center for Automotive Research. RW-2, Buckeye Current’s second generation vehicle, features an innovative student-created battery management system.

Although the Isle of Man TT Zero will be Buckeye Current’s first race, the team already set an East Coast Timing Association (ECTA) speed record for electric motorcycles on July 8, 2012, with a speed of 144.352 mph. They earned the title of fastest collegiate motorcycle with their first vehicle, RW-1.

Competing in the race is more than an adrenaline rush for engineering students, it provides a unique opportunity to solve real engineering challenges.

“Being enveloped in this professional race atmosphere is a learning experience like no other,” said Julia Cline, Buckeye Current co-team leader and an electrical and computer engineering major. “The Isle of Man TT is brimming with the highest caliber riders and their staff. The environment forces additional constraints upon us and demands a much higher level of problem solving and increased sense of urgency. None of this is what you'd learn in a typical campus classroom.”

Ten Ohio State students have traveled to the Isle of Man and serve as both the engineering team and pit crew.

Teams must complete a full 37.7 mile lap along Isle of Man streets in less than 45 minutes, for an average speed of 50mph, in order to qualify for the final Isle of Man TT Zero race on June 5. The qualifying rounds will be held on June 1 and 3. Portland, Oregon motorcycle company MotoCzysz is the only other U.S. competitor in the TT Zero race. Three collegiate teams from England also will compete.

Cline and her teammates appreciate this unique opportunity to compete while learning.

“This is a new experience,” she said. “We are expected to perform above a collegiate level when jet-lagged, culture-shocked and working 16-hour days to overcome the next challenge to meet time deadlines of the race schedule. Here at Isle of Man, we are truly living and working as professionals.”

Buckeye Current’s largest sponsors are the Honda-OSU Partnership, a bilateral collaboration between The Ohio State University and Honda of America Manufacturing that supports initiatives in education, research and public service, and Advanced Electronics Energy. The team also enjoys support from RRW Engineering, Aaron Equipment Company and Commercial Vehicle Group, Inc., among many others.

Follow Buckeye Current’s race experience on their blog at http://current.osu.edu/?q=node and on Twitter at twitter.com/BuckeyeCurrent.

Closer to home, on August 18, the Buckeye Current team will run in the TTXGP in Indianapolis, Ind.

About Buckeye Current

Launched in 2010, the Buckeye Current team’s vision is to enhance the development of clean, electric powered motorcycle technology, teach students about electric vehicles, promote electric vehicle events and provide students with an engaging educational work environment through real-world experiences. It is one of five motorsports teams based in the College of Engineering’s Center for Automotive Research.

About the Center for Automotive Research

The Ohio State Center for Automotive Research (CAR) is the preeminent research center in sustainable and safe mobility in the United States and an interdisciplinary research center in the College of Engineering. CAR research focuses on: advanced electric propulsion and energy storage systems; advanced engines and alternative fuels for reduced fuel consumption and emissions; intelligent transportation and vehicular communication systems; autonomous vehicles; noise, vibrations, and dynamics; vehicle chassis systems; and vehicle and occupant safety. More info: http://car.osu.edu/

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Editors: To arrange interviews with team members or request photographs, including high-res images, contact Holly Henley at henley.53@osu.edu.