Catavolt sets the record
On Friday 12th March 2010 Team Catavolt set the World Record for a Modified Partial Streamlined Electric Motorcycle and the Australian Land Speed Record for an Electric Vehicle on the Australian Salt Lake event, Speed Week 2010.
The Catavolt bike saw speeds of 115km/h during testing on a 72V system but reached 177km/h when run at 144V. Not bad for a forklift motor running at six times its rated voltage limit! The 48V Nissan electric forklift motor was expertly rewound to 24V (yes 24 volts) by Kenshaw Electrical at Newcastle. Under load the Odyssey 925 lead acid batteries fed the Curtis Controller with the 400 amps required to propel the bike and rider to 177kph.
Mixing it with the petrol an nitro heads on the salt was an experience in itself. When the bike finally hit 177km/h the recommendations of extension leads and sound systems with V-Twin soundtracks were replaced with congratulations and a barrage of questions about the bike. Even the audacious ‘Animal’ offered words of encouragement and wisdom with the classic “May the course be with you!”
The course was indeed ‘with’ Kearon de Clouet as on the final day the conditions were perfect for the 177km/h run. Kearon eased the throttle on and passed the first time marker at over 160km/h. The second marker showed 177km/h. After returning to the pits it took several hours before Kearon could lose that EV Grin.
Also on the salt were the Fast Sparks team from Bathurst who achieved 156kph on their Electric Kawasaki setting the record for a naked electric motorcycle. The Fast Sparks team were also using Odyssey Lead Acid Batteries at 144V. Both teams shared a pit area together and traded expertise and encouragement at the event.
Finally the bar has been set and the race is now on. Next year, electic motorcycle expert Jon Eggenhuizen promises 300km/h+ and Team Catavolt is anticipating many more electric teams on the salt for 2011.
Catavolt on schedule for the salt (March 8th – 12th 2010)
All reports from the lake say that the track is in a suitabe condition to race. The bike is in the final stages of having the fairing made and the team has received some great support from many sponsors including the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), Odyssey batteries and APW Motorcycles Brookvale.
The battereries on the bike this year will be lead acid as opposed to the LiFeBATT lithium batteries from 2009. If Jon’s calculations are correct the large 8″ motor in Catavolt should be able pull some serious amps from the lead. Rumour has it that the guys are using a custom controller also. One thing is for certain. The excitement is mounting.
Catavolt – Preparing the streamlined fairing for the salt flats
Kearon and Andy spent all day Saturday with Bob the expert plastic welder from APW Motorcycles in Brookvale, Sydney working out the streamlined fairings. Some new brackets need to be fabricated to hold everyting in place.
Bob gets busy with the tools. The guys at APW motorcycles are helping out with the custom fairing.It has been a busy week and the bike is now back at Newcastle NSW for battery fitting.
Catavolt is getting a new paint job for the run this year. Jon has been busy painting the wheels and we think they look awesome! The Odyssey batteries have arrived and Jon has been busy working on the mountings. The motor has been custom wound, thanks to the guys at Kenshaw Electric. The controller will be mounted shortly and then we can get some testing done.
The motor has been completely rebuilt with custom winding and fitted with low resistance bearings which should reduce any drag in the motor. Already the motor has been tested at 72V however the controller for the salt will be 144 Volts.
Lake Gairdner 2010
After an amazing attempt to set the Australian land speed record for an Electric Motorcycle in 2009, CATAVOLT is back and under construction.
Presently the bike is being fitted with new batteries and having a new streamlined fairing constructed. The team leave for the salt from Sydney on Friday the 5th March for Speed Week 2010.
Catavolt at Lake Gairdner 2009
Once a year, hundreds of motor enthusiasts from the Dry Lakes Racers Australia (DLRA) descend upon the sacred Aboriginal ground of Lake Gairdner to drive their souped-up vehicles as fast as possible over a nine-mile stretch of the salt lake. This year there was a new contender, the Catavolt electric motorcycle.
Built by Jon ‘Egg’ Eggenhuizen and Mark ‘Camo’ Camilari in a whirlwind of spanners, grinders and welding rods, the bike was completed in record time for the competition. In fact, the guys didn’t even have time to test out the LiFeBATT pack before setting off on the two day trek from Sydney to the lake, which lies 180km from the nearest sealed road.
The guys enlisted the help of fellow EV guru Kearon De Clouet (of EV Capri fame) and managed to convince him to bring along his race leathers for the record breaking attempt run on the bike. As this was virgin territory for electric vehicles on the salt, any speed would be a record. The guys decided that 150kmh was a respectable speed to aim for.
144 Volts for Speed
Jon wired up the new 14Ah LiFeBATT cells in series to make a 144V 14Ah pack. This would give the bike enough punch to break the 100kmh mark easily. The Curtis controller was limited to 60 amps just in case things got a little too hot! On the test track, an area adjacent to the main track, the bike performed well. At 60 amps the rear hub motor propelled the bike to just over 100kmh before running out of road. Kearon reckoned that it was still accelerating.
Charging and instrumentation
The LiFeBATT cells went in raw and were charged with what became known as the ‘Frankencharger’ as pictured below. This charger was ingeniously fashioned by the guys in record time. The batteries worked flawlessly in all test attempts, charging them at 2C, everything worked fine. The main instrumentation used in the bike to monitor charge voltage and current were a set of multimetres placed on various parts of the bike. For speed and distance a Garmin GPS was used. Each time the trip was reset and top speed recorded. Above you can see that in one run the bike reached 98.5kmh over a 2.1km stretch.
Preparing for the scrutineer
The bike had to be thoroughly checked before it could be timed on the track. It was very interesting to see the race officials reaction to the Catavolt. Much of the inspection involved ICE components, none of which are present on this bike which just resulted in the officials shaking their heads and ticking boxes on the sheet.
All of the critical nuts and bolts had to be lock wired so Camo got busy with his drill and the 0.9mm wire. Other than that, there was not much mechanical work to tend to. The guys set about painting the race numbers onto the fairing. Magic marker dries quickly in forty degree heat!
The guys remained on the salt well into the evening time ensuring that the bike was fit for the run. Word was out that there was another electric vehicle there. The other bike, while registered, did not materialise on the day.
There was plenty of space for testing the bike but the Marshalls kept a close check on everything. The salt on the course itself had been skimmed so that the surface was smooth but off the track it was a lot like riding on wet sand. The salt got everywhere! Not good for electrical components so it was important that everything was shielded against the spray.
Before a vehicle can run on the track it must do a licensing run at restricted speed. This is so that the officials can see that both the bike and rider are fit to ride fast. After a long queue Kearon finally got to the start line. The atmosphere was indeed electric.
Once the track was clear it was time for the Catavolt to make its debut run. As Kearon eased on the throttle everything worked smoothly. He reported that it was going somewhat faster than the test laps and that everything worked perfectly. Just two miles later the bike started to lose power and Kearon had to abort the run, much to the dismay of everybody there, the Catavolt motor had fried!
Too many amps!
After multiple successful test runs with the bike the guys decided to raise the amp limit on the Curtis controller. During the first licensing run the commutator burned out and the bike stopped one mile short of the final timing gate. As this was a prototype motor the guys missed out on their target and failed to get a timed run.
Just one more mile and the record would have been set! The guys were not giving up easily though. Within minutes Jon had the rear wheel stripped. Unfortunately, inside the motor was bad news.
Determined to set the record straight in 2010
Before the bike was even loaded onto the trailer next years tactics were already being discussed. The event has given everybody involved a renewed determination to not only get a record next time, but to set a much higher speed that will be difficult to beat.
Lake Gairdner – getting there
Bringing the bike to the lake was a feat in itself. This massive expanse of salt is accessible only by dirt road. A 4WD vehicle is highly recommended for this. After an 1800km drive the guys had to traverse 180km on unsealed roads to reach the lake. It was however, a spectacular, if somewhat unusual venue for such an event. Many of the vehicles that compete here also make their way to Lake Bonneville in Utah for world record attempts. The track is very susceptible to weather conditions and during the event there was a lot of waiting around. Who would imagine that rain would delay a race in the Australian Outback?
Camping was the order of the day and luckily there were toilet and shower facilities on hand to make sleeping in a swag all the more comfortable. They even had a burger joint, as you can see from my raincoat shaded photograph above.
One thing is for sure. I will be there next year. It’s an amazing event and the scenery is just spectacular!