Penn State e-Sportbike revs for 3D design action


By Michael Casper

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Students from Penn State’s recently formed e-Sportbike team are already deep into their first major project, 3D modeling and design to convert a high-performance motorcycle to an all-electric powered racing vehicle.

Penn State e-Sportbike is a research group dedicated to developing advanced motorcycle technologies. Key goals are to improve rider safety, vehicle performance and efficiency, including the reduction of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Penn State received a new 2015 BMW S1000RR motorcycle last summer from BMW North America via Kissell Motorsports, with the understanding that Penn State students will convert the machine to run all-electric and compete in professional racing events. 

Penn State e-Sportbike is housed within the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. The team works on the transformation of their two-wheeled machine at the Institute’s advanced vehicle research garage on Penn State’s University Park campus.

“Our students have many opportunities to be involved in industry-sponsored projects,” said Tim Cleary, faculty advisor for the e-Sportbike team, “and with e-Sportbike they get the unique experience of working as part of a team to develop a vehicle and compete professionally. Other universities have similar programs, but our goal is to surpass their vehicle performance using higher energy density batteries and more powerful drive systems developed at Penn State.”

Cleary said the Penn State e-Sportbike team intends to roll out its first bike July 14-16, 2017 at the annual EMotoRacing Varsity Challenge, a category dedicated to collegiate engineering teams, held at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, NJ. “With adequate funding, we intend to follow this event in coming years with larger national racing completions such as the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and compete against other collegiate and professional teams,” added Cleary.   

Penn State’s modified BMW S1000RR is being designed to compete at the highest power class of production motorcycles, Superbike. To achieve this, the bikes original 1000cc engine will be replaced by a higher power electric motor and lithium battery systems.

To develop the electric motorcycle, the team needed computer-aided design, or CAD. Representatives of Creaform, a developer of portable 3D measurement and analysis technologies based in Quebec, visited the team at Penn State, enabling the Penn State team to perform 3D scanning of the vehicle and its components.

“In order for this bike to be successful in competition, a powerful battery pack needs to be developed,” said Jenna Parke, a mechanical engineering student on the e-Sportbike team. “This battery pack needs to fit the inside shape of the bike. Due to the bike’s irregular geometry, these 3D scans will enable us to produce an envelope representing the inside of the bike in CAD, therefore making the development of the battery pack an easier process."

Using 3D scanning and design techniques will enable the team to perform design and analysis of the vehicle through 3D modeling, building virtually, testing for stress, strain, and performing finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics.

Currently there are relatively few university motorcycle development programs in the United States. “This is unique in that it’s a two-wheeled, high performance vehicle,” Cleary said. More information about the program is available at the team’s website:  

The Larson Institute is home for several transportation-related advanced technology and education initiatives, in addition to e-Sportbike. Students active with the Penn State Battery Application Technology Testing & Energy Research Laboratory (BATTERY) develop and test advanced chemistry batteries systems for the transportation industry.


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Michael Casper

Student learns to scan structural components.

Penn State mechanical engineering student Jenna Parke learns to scan the structural components of the Penn State e-Sportbike team’s project vehicle, with direction from Scott Mitchell, regional manager, Creaform. Photo: Michael Casper



The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute is Penn State’s transportation research center. Since its founding in 1968, the Larson Institute has maintained a threefold mission of research, education, and service. The Institute brings together top faculty, world-class facilities and enterprising students from across the University in partnership with public and private stakeholders to address critical transportation-related problems.

Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute

201 Transportation Research Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-865-1891