C2I 2021 Automotive Award Winner: White Motorcycle Concepts – WMC250EV

4 min read

The winner of this year's Automotive category is testament to an engineer whose radical new motorbike design could not have been realized without a significant supporting cast of collaborators.

Conceived by Rob White, company founder and CEO of Northants-based White Motorcycle Concepts, the idea for the WMC250EV high-speed demonstrator prototype took shape whilst White was an employee at RML Group.

C2I 2021Category: Automotive

Winner: White Motorcycle Concepts – WMC250EV

Partners: White Motorcycle Concepts with ACE Composites, EY3 Engineering, John Keogh Design, RML and Total Sim

According to Ian Hird, WMC’s commercial director, White’s initial motivation was to achieve a world land speed record - improving a 500cc motorcycle's performance - by incorporating a venturi, a concept applied with great success in F1. It soon became clear, however, that the efficiency gained through this concept could solve a mass-market issue facing the introduction of e-motorcycles, namely that of relative parity against conventional fuels.

Before elaborating on the unique design of the WMC250EV, it is worth noting – said Hird - that the form of the motorcycle has not radically changed since Hildebrand and Wolfmuller introduced the first series production motorcycle in 1894.

“The last 100 years have seen numerous adaptations to improve motorised vehicle's aerodynamic efficiency,” he explained. “However, whilst significant aerodynamic drag reductions in cars have been realised, attempts to improve motorcycles aerodynamic efficiency have been, to date, less successful.”

The venturi running through the WMC250EV eliminates drag (Image: WMC)

White’s innovation is in the radical improvement to the aerodynamic nature of the existing motorcycle design, without compromising rider position and enhancing other facets.

“The solution identified reduces the frontal area of the motorcycle, placing a venturi through its centre,” said Hird. “The benefits of this patent pending concept provides enhanced efficiency over the current motorcycle design impacting upon fuel consumption, battery cooling, rider experience and rider safety; and can be applied to elite and retail motorcycles with significant enhancements at each level.”

CFD analysis undertaken at Total Sim showed that White’s initial design provided a 25 per cent aerodynamic gain against the Suzuki Hayabusa, which is said to be the most efficient production motorcycle. Further engineering development by EY3 and more CFD testing by Total Sim led to a design that was 70 per cent more efficient than the same Suzuki model. Hird said that work on the design was frozen at this stage, allowing WMC to work with ACE Composites on commissioning the carbon fibre body whilst RML conducted a feasibility study for the powertrain. By October 2020 the full rolling chassis was completed and was taken for tests in MIRA’s wind tunnel.

The WMC250EV represents a whole new radical design of motorbike (Image: WMC)

“At this test of the motorcycle we were delighted to confirm that the results gained from the wind tunnel correlated almost directly with those seen in the CFD, achieving a CdA of 0.108,” said Hird. “In addition, it was discovered that, due to the removal of the centre of pressure from the front of the motorcycle, there was five times more load on the front wheel than a traditional motorcycle.”

He continued: “This meant that we could develop a two-wheel drive system, with the additional benefit of being able to [incorporate regenerative braking] from the front wheel. A feasibility study was completed into this effect between October ’20 and December ‘20 and it was predicted that we would be able to re-gen about 10 per cent over the standard WLTP.”

“This concept achieves this efficiency gain through aerodynamics and hub motors, in a step change…not possible through engine design enhancements

This knowledge led to the development over seven months in 2021 of a two-wheel drive motorcycle with the front wheel motor being designed and housed within the disc bells. From July ‘21 the initial testing of a running WMC250EV began, incorporating an interim powertrain of 100kW motors.

“We are now engaged with several well-known British engineering organisations who have the capability to design and install the full powertrain - 250Kw - that will see the WMC250EV set a World Land Speed Record for electric motorcycles in July 2022,” said Hird.

A large section of the new design incorporates a monocoque body, which allows for production without disrupting the riding position. This also means that repair of these motorcycles will be much simpler and allows for manufacturing efficiency throughout the various generations of this design.

Five businesses are listed as collaborators in the WMC250EV project but in reality, up to 30 supported its delivery, said Hird, who was responsible for ensuring that all parties had the resources they required, the communication hub, and reporting progress and challenges on a weekly basis.

He explained that most of the team operate in elite motorsport and this race day excellence approach shaped the approach to their collaboration, which was underpinned and structured by the application of the seven principles, processes and themes of Prince 2 [process-based project management], using a Gantt chart [project scheduling tool] to outline/communicate the interdependency of tasks and deadlines.

“The Gantt chart was broken down into manageable sub-projects and whilst the end goal was fixed, the direction will adapt through the several testing phases, with the outcomes shaping the direction for the areas for further development,” said Hird. “The team had well defined roles and responsibilities, though given the team's size everyone's contribution was considered as part of the development.”

He continued: “This project was ambitious, but was eminently achievable with the team involved, encouraging the combination of many marginal gains to provide the optimum result. Coupled with the team's willingness to listen to authoritative voices, this attitude ensured the project realised the success it set out to achieve.”

Six months after the launch of WMC250EV, the company unveiled the WMC300FR, which is the first road going motorcycle incorporating the V-Duct. Developed with support from Northants Police Force, the WMC300FR features an electric hybrid powered by EGO detachable batteries.

The WMC300FR has arrived at a time when motorbike manufacturers find themselves at a crossroads in relation to Euro 5 regulations. Riders don’t want a reduction in bike performance, but manufacturers will be obliged to deliver expensive motors to produce the same power whilst reducing emissions.

“This concept achieves this efficiency gain through aerodynamics and hub motors, in a step change…not possible through engine design enhancements, meeting this challenge today and in the future,” Hird said.  “It is important to note that as the concept improves the aerodynamics of the motorcycle, this efficiency benefit will be achieved regardless of the power source. This means even if the future of non-fossil future is not electric, but hydrogen or any power source of the future, this concept is beneficial.”