CarNewsCafe caught up with Jeremiah Johnson as he prepares for the world-famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPHIC). Jeremiah is an electric motorcycle race veteran and he’ll be up on the mountain again this year. Since our last Jeremiah Johnson Interview this electric motorcycle enthusiast has been up to a lot. Also he tells us what’s ahead for him this year at Pikes Peak and beyond, electric motorcycle racing, his partnership with Brutus, and his thoughts about electric motorcycles and the bright future the industry has.
Interview with Jeremiah Johnson
Nicolas Zart: Since last time we spoke, what is new with you and what can we look forward to this year?
Jeremiah Johnson: I think the last time we spoke was right after the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hillclimb race where I raced in the inaugural electric motorcycle class. We ended up doing a lot of races with the electric race bike after that. Finished 3rd in the TTXGP national championship. Also was part of a team that was the first ever electric motorcycle to finish a 24 hour road race against gas motorcycles. We are looking to build on those results with this year’s race season. I’ve teamed up with Brutus Electric Motorcycles in Las Vegas to race their new V2 Rocket motorcycle for this year. We are planning to début it at the 92nd running of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb race. I also plan to race it at semi-pro races against gas motorcycles where the rules allow. We are also going to do some drag racing and possibly a land speed run on it if the schedule works out.
NZ Are you still riding your Zero Motorcycles?
JJ On the street, don’t race it anymore. Going to do one more drag race on it just to complete the data on the latest change I made to it.
JJ Pikes Peak is obviously a huge race. It is a big international event and the history of that race is awesome. But to me it is also such a great ride. I grew up on Maui and racing at Pikes is just like riding to the top of Haleakala Crater. I feel like I’m home racing up there.
I also feel racing against gas motorcycles is very important in proving that electric vehicle’s time has come. A lot of people still don’t realize how great the performance is that we are getting out of them lately. When we start running with, and then beating gas bikes, people start noticing. It is always a cool thing when an electric motorcycle gets bumped out of a gas class because its level of performance is deemed to be too good for that class.
But honestly, in my mind every race I do is the most important race ever. Whenever I’m on track I try to put on the best show I can. Whether it is on a small backwoods track in front of 50 fans or at an international raceway in front of 100,000 fans, I try to lay it all on the line every time.
NZ I was speaking to Richard Hatfield, CEO of Lightning Motorcycles, we were talking about the importance of DC fast charging for electric motorcycles, how do you feel about that, and especially how do you feel about it at the race track?
JJ I think DC fast charging is really a great thing for motorcycles where there is a charging infrastructure to support it. When I’m doing spirited street riding, I can easily use up a charge and still want to keep riding, so a faster charge would be great. Also not having to carry the weight of a charger and opening that space for more batteries will just give the bikes better performance. It has already been proven by my friend Terry Hershner that an electric motorcycle can be ridden from coast to coast, but fast charging will make it more possible for normal people. Takes a special type of crazy to do it on the current charging infrastructure like he did.
I have mixed feelings on it for a race bike. With the current race day structures that we compete in, I don’t see the need. For doing testing and track days where you have multiple sessions on track per day, I see a great advantage to it. At a typical track day you get about 40 minutes of break between sessions. So getting a full charge in that time is important. That might even open the possibility of not having to carry so many batteries, which could improve the performance. Granted, you still have to work within the discharge C rating of the batteries, but it could be a step in the right direction.
NZ If there is one thing you would want to see happening in the world of electric motorcycles, what would it be?
JJ The holy grail: higher performance for a cheaper cost. We get closer every year, but in many ways it is a moving target. If we can get to GSXR 1000 performance for the GSXR price, then I think electric bikes will have made it. We are getting close.
NZ What do you think are the biggest roadblocks for traditional motorcyclists with electric motorcycles?
JJ I do a lot of interacting with fans, whether it is at the race track or in social media. I hear a lot of comments about what is keeping certain riders from swinging a leg over an electric bike. Honestly, most of it is just a misunderstanding of what electric bikes currently can actually do. I can’t tell you how many times I get comments from people telling me what electric bikes can’t do. Nearly every time I’m able to prove that they actually can do those things. Every once in a while I get the comment that someone will not get an electric until…. and they follow it with a completely unrealistic requirement that even gas bikes can’t live up to. “I’ll never get an electric till I can ride 1000 miles on a single charge.” Gas bikes can’t go 1000 miles on a single tank, so I just see that as someone who has their mind made up that they don’t like them regardless of the actual facts. Right now I think it really boils down to performance for the price. You can get electric motorcycles for less than the price if a lot of gas bikes out there, but the performance for that price doesn’t compare yet, but it is getting close.
NZ How do you view the electric motorcycle competition? It seems Zero has a well diversified portfolio, and Brammo still only has an entry-level and higher end bike. Lightning Motorcycle promises to be a fantastic player, but what about others, like MotoCsysz?
JJ There are definitely two different categories for electric motorcycles. The production category and the prototype category. Zero and Brammo are both pretty similar. Both are really good street bikes. For racing, both have certain areas that they excel over the other in. I had the opportunity to buy either one for racing last year. I choose the zero because I knew that I could modify it to be the faster bike around the track with my riding style. It would be interesting to get my hands on a Brammo TTX and see what we could do to it as far as making it a better race bike like we did with the Zero.
As far as the prototype classed bikes, it is hard to say as we haven’t had any head to head races between them lately. Brammo has done a lot of big improvements to their RR bike, and have been showing up big at road racing events the last 2 years. Lightning killed it at Pikes Peak last year and have done great runs at Bonneville. Motoczysz has had some great runs at Isle of Mann. I hear a lot of rumors about Mission but haven’t seen one compete in a long time. I guess it is just really hard to compare them till we start seeing some head to head races again.
The Brutus V2 Rocket is going to be priced in the Brammo TTX range, but performance is looking to be more in the prototype category.
NZ What would you say to a beginning rider looking to purchase his first electric motorcycle?
JJ Go for it! I think for a beginner rider, the Zero is the way to go.
NZ From motorcycles to car racing, what are your thoughts on Formula E? Will we ever see a MotoGP E? I know I wish!
JJ Honestly I have only been hearing snippets about the Formula E. From what I have heard, it seems like they are trying to do it right. But I can’t really comment on that as I really only follow motorcycle racing.
I do think we will soon see some MotoGP type electric bikes in the near future. However, I don’t think it will come from Dorna. They seem to really have a fear of electric bikes and seem to be doing whatever they can to suppress our international growth. But I believe it is inevitable. If they don’t embrace it, someone else will, and then that will be the new world class series. Maybe they will do something like they did with the transition from 2 stroke to 4 stroke. Run both side by side for a while till one proves to be the dominating technology.
END OF INTERVIEW
We appreciate that Jeremiah spent time to do an interview with CarNewsCafe, again, and wish him luck on Pikes Peak and all his future racing endeavors.
What strikes me the most about Jeremiah is earnest will to ride, have fun with it and the contribution to the world of electric motorcycles. Jeremiah Johnson is the epitome of this new wave of electric vehicle (EV) riders I’m happy to know, a cool guy who rides a mean race.
If you have questions or comments for Jeremiah Johnson please leave them in the comments below and we will try to get him to come back and answer as many as he can.