Charge: A Documentary About World's First Zero Emission Motorcycle Grand Prix (Movie Review)


Photo: Charge promo photo

A Breeding Ground for Electric Transportation Technology

I've recently received a screener copy of Charge, a Documentary about the first ever and second zero-emission motorcycle grand prix at the Island of Man in 2009 and 2010. I've been following the Time Trial Xtreme Grand Prix (TTXGP) since 2009, and while some people care more about the speed and skill of the riders, I've always been more interested about the "wild west" technological experimentation that goes on, with many small teams trying different things (all kinds of motors, power electronics, battery configurations, etc) to make the best electric propulsion system possible, and hopefully these innovations will find their way in more mainstream vehicles (like this)...


Photo: Charge promo photo

My Review of Charge

I like how the first part of the movie focuses heavily on the inventors, engineers, designers and technicians that created and built the electric bikes that later ended up participating in the races. Too often we only see the end results, and this can blind us to all that goes into making it happen.

For example, there are great scenes where they show how the team Motoczsyz was creating the parts needed to make their bike, first in CAD software and then in a high-precision machine shop. And all this only a couple months before the race... That's high-pressure engineering for you!


Photo: Charge promo photo

I also loved the speech about how an electric bike only has a few moving parts in the motor and that's it - very simple and elegant - compared to hundreds of moving parts in an internal combustion engine (ICE). Vehicles powered by fossil-fuels are relatively reliable now not because their design makes them so, but rather because we've been working for a hundred years on making them reliable despite their mechanical complexity. But there's little doubt in my mind that after a few generations of electric cars, they'll beat gas cars when it comes to reliability; there's just a lot fewer things to go wrong (fewer moving parts, fluids, seals, etc).

The film also covers resistance from fans to the transition to electric racing. Many are skeptical and think it'll "never" go anywhere. That's not too surprising, as many technologies go through resistance at first. When cellphones were first introduced, they were as heavy as bricks, had bad reception and cost thousands of dollars... Electric vehicles, like cellphones back then, have a lot of room to improve. On top of that, people are resistant to change, but once they've had some time to get used to something (like hybrid cars, which people didn't know what to think of at first), they become more receptive.


Photo: Charge promo photo

As for the actual race itself, and all the technical problems the teams are having first, you have to see them to believe it. That track looks incredibly dangerous and treacherous. These riders show amazing skill, especially since they are on bikes with which they aren't completely familiar...

Final Words

This movie isn't quite as accessible as Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car because there simply isn't as many people who ride motorcycles as there are people who drive cars, but if you have any interest in motorcycle design, racing, or in electric vehicles in general, I recommend it. It's a great behind the scene look at not only an exciting sporting event, but also at what it takes to be on the cutting edge of independent vehicle design (and that now thankfully means electric motors rather than simply a bigger gas engine).

You can see a trailer for the documentary here. You can also check out the official website at ChargeMovie.

More on Electric Motorcycles
Badass Electric Motorcycle Gets 185 Miles on a Charge
7 Electric Motorcycles You Must See (including 1 that does 0-60 MPH in 0.97 seconds)
Mission Motors Unveils the Sexy Mission R Electric Motorcycle
The Makers of Record-Breaking Electric Motorcycles Will Become Suppliers of EV Technologies

Tags: Electric Vehicles | Transportation

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