The concept behind the Monotracer-E is pretty clever. You start with the fact that motorcycles achieve great gas mileage because they’re light and basically the absolute minimum of what you need as a mode of transportation. From there, you start to address some of the motorcycles shortcomings. Lets start with exposure to the weather, safety and aerodynamics. What could you do to fix those things? Well, add an outer shell to the bike. That’s exactly what they tried on Mythbusters:
They were able to bring the mileage of that 250cc motorcycle up from 55 to 73 mpg with a teardrop aero shell made of conduit and heat shrink. Jamie and Adam also found that despite having a massive advantage in mileage, motorcycles are actually more harmful to the environment than cars. The reason is that though they produce less carbon dioxide, motorcycles emit more of the other gasses like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxides which are the main components of acid rain. This is the result of motorcycles generally receiving less clean combustion development to keep costs down. You also don’t see things like exhaust gas re-circulation systems and catalytic converters on motorcycles.
The Monotracer-E attempts to solve all of those problems. It uses running gear based off of the BMW K-series motorcycle which is the same one that police departments like to use. The chassis is stretched to allow two people to sit tandem and the whole thing is covered in a fiberglass and kevlar shell. Since you can’t put your legs down like you do on a regular motorcycle, it has outrigger wheels that automatically deploy when your speed dips under 5 mph. The first iterations of the Monotracer also used the engine from the BMW K-series donor motorcycle, but they equipped it with an AC electric motor to go after the X-prize.
Bradley Hasemeyer touches on this a little bit, but the Monotracer doesn’t ride like a normal motorcycle or bicycle because you’re not able to change it’s direction by shifting your weight. You have to do everything purely through counter-steering to catch the weight of the bike with the wheels. It encourages good riding habits, but it can be a tough learning curve for people who have gotten in the habit of riding by weight shifting. Translogic were the first journalists to successfully ride the Monotracer-E, but they weren’t the first to successfully tip it over. Pay attention to the handlebar inputs in this next video of Susan Carpenter from LA Times trying to learn how to ride the Monotracer-E:
The Monotracer-E was able to win the X-Prize by achieving 203 mpg gasoline equivalent (one gallon of gas contains 33.7 kilowatt-hours of energy, so the Monotracer-E can travel 203 miles on 33.7 kilowatt-hours of battery charge). That accomplishment in itself is impressive, but the company that produces the Monotracer, Peraves, took a big gamble developing the electric version of the Monotracer and the X-Prize money arguably saved the company. Unfortunately, what this means is that the world has another really expensive ($90,000) exotic electric vehicle that not many people can buy that was developed by a company that isn’t self-sustaining. This one just happens to have two wheels.