Phil Edwards of Weald Technology talks about how the UK’s quickest electric drag bike won the record in 2011 and his new challenge for the World Record.
What is your background?
My background is in engineering and manufacturing. I have always liked cars and motorbikes and built my own ‘kit car’ when I was about 21. I also like fixing things and have always been fascinated by how things work. The ‘engineer’ in me loves to explore innovation in science and technology and technical complexity while seeking reliability and simplicity.
When did you become self-employed and why?
In 2005 when I was made redundant I decided that rather than find a new job I would look into buying a franchise, which I did. However, this didn’t work out, but I did learn some valuable lessons along the way, including how to run a business and I started to build up a considerable network of contacts.
How did the UKs fast drag bike project come about?
During this time I decided to look on ebay for a bike project to work on in the garage. This wasn’t difficult as there are lots of old bikes in various states of condition, so they are going quite cheap.
So I bought one and started to work on it – dismantled it, painstakingly cleaned and tested each part to either get it to work or replace it using ‘good old ebay’ again. Eventually I put it back together and cleaned it until it shined – always taking pride in what I do. Then I sold it and promptly looked for another. In the process of looking I came across some really interesting websites, particularly the ‘alternative energy racing’ site. I got interested in the idea of electric bikes and the current UK record for the fastest drag bag. Always up for a challenge this got me thinking.
What did you do to get the ball rolling?
I was already doing a ‘project bike’ already in the garage, so decided to turn it into an electric bike. Not knowing anything about them I bought a couple of books and luckily found Steve Labib, from Peacehaven, who had done quite a few conversions, and he gave some good ideas.
Fast forward to a year later and the bike was finished and ready. So in May 2011 we took it to the ‘Alternative Energy Racing’ day at Santa Pod. We got the bike ready for its first run and were delighted to break the record on the first run (Youtube video) – 96 miles/hour on a ¼ mile drag track.
What’s happened to the bike now?
The bike has retired! It gets taken to lots of shows and in 2014 was proudly exhibited at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu for a year, along with other record-breaking vehicles.
Tell me about the next record breaking project
Having looked at a few challenges we decided in 2012 to build the world’s quickest electric motorcycle and beat the Americans. That needs a bike that will do over 200 mile/hour. This was a much bigger project and, even though we’ve been given a grant towards the cost by Innovate UK, it’s taken three years to get everything in place to start the project. We officially started the design in May 2015 and expect the bike to be testing in late 2016.
Who are you working with to make this happen?
We have two technical partners, Lyra Electronics, who are helping with the control system and GEM MC, who are designing special motors for the bike. We’ve also had a lot of help from Ioxus, the manufacturer of the capacitors we are using and their UK agent APC HI-REL.
Rob Moon who rode the first bike and will be riding this one, is designing the chassis. We hope that the University of Brighton will get some final year students to design the body work.
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