Home built electric Norton impres

TEAM NORTON ELECTRA Though sharing a name with Norton's 400cc lightweight of the early 60s, Brian Richardson's Norton Electra is actually powered by an electric motor. Brian enjoys restoring motorcycles on his Blue Grass, Virginia, farm but a TV programme, 'Who Killed the Electric Car', was the inspiration for him to build an electrically-powered bike and being a Norton fan the Featherbed frame seemed a good place to begin. The chassis uses a 1966 Atlas frame with front forks, wheels and brakes from a 250cc Kawasaki.

Three components are squeezed into the Featherbed. A 50hp three-phase AC electric motor, ex-golf buggy, a 550amp Curtis controller and a bank of 24 LiFePo lithium polymer batteries. This 72-volt 100Ah power source produces an internal combustion equivalent of 48bhp with 115ft-lb torque. The unit includes regenerative braking -converting the bike's kinetic energy, during braking, to recharge the batteries. Battery power gives the 420lb machine a 100 mile range under normal conditions, but on track they need recharging after 30 racing miles. The instant linear torque of the motor needs no gearbox, so there's no clutch and the throttle is twist n' go.

Dr Robert Prins of the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Lab, at James Madison University, assisted in development. In 2009 the Electra, (complete with dustbin fairing), debuted in the first US TTXGP electric exhibition at Mid Ohio, where it hit 108.6mph, staying with the more expensive Electric Motorsports Yamaha Rl-based TTXGP Pro Class bike, which won the inaugural Open Class TTXGP at the Isle of Man in 2009. In August the same year, Team Electra set a new quarter mile world record for 72-volt vehicles at Mason-Dixon Dragway, Maryland.

For 2010, Team Electra's motor saw over 120mph with a lighter chassis, mag' wheels and a more aesthetically pleasing JPN fairing. Despite a DNF at the opening round, rider Thad Wolff, finished the four-round series in joint fourth of a 16-bike field.

Plans to attend the TTXGP world final in Spain, in October 2010, were scuppered by air freighting difficulties from the USA to Spain. There are strict regulations concerning electric vehicles on aeroplanes and Richardson was warned that the bike could be confiscated. However, Wolff was scheduled to race a modem Triumph 900cc twin at the AHRMA event at Barber's Vintage Festival, Alabama, and suggested taking the Electra along. Following impressive lap times, Richardson and Wolff asked AHRMA if they could enter the Norton in a race, the first time an electric-powered bike pitched against conventional machines. As Wolff's lap times proved that the Electra would be competitive, the race director let him run in the 350GP class, a staggered start that included 350 Sportsman and F250 machines.

A late entry, he started from the back of the grid, but used the speed and handling of the Norton to pass all the 250s and all but two of the 350s to not only win his class, but also finish third overall. Sunday's race was a carbon copy as Wolff quickly passed all except Saturday's front two, Bob Demetrius (Honda CB350) and David Crussell (Kawasaki Bighorn 350cc two-stroke single). After leading one race, the top spot proved elusive when the Norton's chain snapped. You might think Wolff's performance was merely against 350s, but his fastest lap was faster than his best on the 900cc Thruxton, on which he won both races in the Trans Atlantic Challenge. What's also amazing is that unlike others in the TTXGP series, the Electra is built entirely from readily available and commercially produced components - and that's not all, it's the only bike that's road legal ... and registered as an antique vehicle!

Above: Brian Richardson - a lawyer by profession, a sheep farmer by trade and a creator of an amazing 'motor1 cycle.

Left: "Ihe 50hp three phase motor is usually found in golf buggies.


Ter blanche joinsHopioq)

Pierre Terblanche, the man behind Ducati's Sport Classic and Hypermotard, has joined Norton, The 54-year-old South African took up his post in January and his first task is to design a range of liquid cooled, overhead cam engined models to run alongside the 961 Commando range.

Terblanche told our sister publication Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, "Norton is one of the great names in motorcycling and it was too good a chance to pass up to be involved in bringing it back to its former glory, by creating something fresh and new by drawing on its history but expressing it in a modern context. Many of the bikes built down the years that I've admired, most have been Nortons - the John Player monocoque is one of my all time favourites, but I really like the original Commando. I think we can do things at Norton and do them very quickly."

Norton boss Stuart Garner said, "Pierre's experience of bringing innovative new products to the market place will be a vital factor in developing the Norton range. Combining his flair for original concepts with Norton's sporting traditions, will allow us to create a range of motorcycles bearing the historic Norton badge that'll be unlike anything else in the marketplace."

Having begun his career in advertising, Terblanche was sponsored by Ford and graduated from the London Royal College of Art, in Transport Design. He then joined VW, working on car interiors before joining the Cagiva owned CRC design studio, in Rimini and later San Marino, where he worked with Massimo Tamburini on the 907 restyling of the Ducati Paso 906, the 888 Superbike and then the 916. Others include the Supermono racer, the Cagiva Gran Canyon 900, the 900 Supersport, the MH900, and the Multistrada. He was later promoted to Director of Design. He was also responsible for the 999 Ducati -the replacement for the Tamburini designed 916 and 996 - which received an overwhelming thumbs down from customers.

Last callfor Bristol season starter

The 31st Carole Nash Bristol International Classic MotorCycle Show takes place at the Bath and West Showground at Shepton Mallet, over the weekend of 19-20 February. As always, the clubs are at the heart of any classic show, with a fine selection already booked in for Bristol. In addition, there'll be the usual plethora of autojumble stalls, trade stands, private entries and boundless enthusiasm - the traditional season opener, is always much anticipated and warmly greeted. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8.50 for senior citizens and £3.50 for under 15s. The gates open on both Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 at 10am and close at 5pm. To pre-order tickets call 01507 529529 or visit www.classicbikeshows.com

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