Battery Powered Motorcycle Concept Heats Up at Virginia Tech


Another year of competition is here, and with that comes new developments for Virginia Tech’s Battery Operated Land Transportation motorcycle team.

Their brand-new bike, the BOLT III, is shaping up as a solid challenger to gas-powered motorcycles.   “The BOLT III power train is what we are most proud of,” said Gordon O’Neill.  O’Neill began as a team member on the BOLT project as a sophomore in computer engineering and served as a team lead last year as a senior.   “Our motor, controller, and batteries all work well together.   It can be challenging for collegiate teams to tune all those components together.”

The prototype BOLT bikes are built by a team of students in all majors across the College of Engineering, including the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science.   Those on the BOLT project work in three subteams divided into power train, controls, and chassis.

The BOLT project began in 2011 with BOLT I, a light and simple bike.   Its successor, BOLT II, was more of a custom bike that could reach top speeds of 170 mph.   It last raced and won in February 2016 in Roebling, Ga.

“We did so well in that race the judges did not think we were a collegiate team and forgot to score us against the BRAMMOs, a class of commercial electric bikes,” said C.R. Gittere, the competitive motorcycle rider who drove BOLT II to a decisive win in its last race.

Gittere owns a motorcycle software company.

“I can see a direct correlation between the participation in the BOLT project and opportunities students receive in internships and other employment that set them off and running in life,” said Gittere.   “I enjoy working with the students because, in my experience, they are really intelligent and will do what it takes to find out how to solve a problem on the bike.  At the end of the day, the students always figure it out.”

BOLT III evolved into a formidable production like bike capable of reaching speeds near 190 mph.   The bike’s racing speed is about 150 mph and can go from zero to 60 mph in about 3.3. seconds.

One advantage of the BOLT III in the racing arena is the customizable battery pack.   Batteries can be removed, making the bike lighter when necessary for shorter races.

Sponsors of the team include General Motors, SolidWorks, the Student Engineer’s Council, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Qt.

BOLT III is scheduled to make its debut at the eMotoRacing Varsity Challenge July 15 and 16 in Millville, N.J.   

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