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Buckeye Current Team Faces Hurdles and Success at #PPIHC2016

The Ohio State University student-run Buckeye Current electric motorcycle racing team made another strong showing at Sunday's 2016 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race. 

This year the team made a time of 11 minutes and 16 seconds over the entire course, placing third place in the Electric Motorcycle Class, and 13th of all motorcycles at Pikes Peak that day. It also made them the second-fastest rookie of 2016.

As the Buckeyes pack up and head home, Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) student Aaron Bonnell-Kangas took time out to provide a run-down of their accomplishments and stats.

As an article from IEEE Spectrum reported just two days before the race, throttle issues almost prevented the team from even participating at all. Working overnight, they pulled together and fixed the issue... only to face a whole new set of problems associated with a wet course on race day. An early morning race time meant the all-electric bike faced possible icy and wet roads on the top of the mountain, an issue bikes racing even an hour later did not have to face.

"The officials delayed for about 30 minutes on account of the course conditions, but when they decided to send the bikes out, it was still bad on the upper sections. We got the bike back covered in mud and grime," Bonnell-Kangas said. "Considering all that, we’re thrilled with the result we got. Mark Miller, our competitor riding for Hollywood Electrics, started just before us and crashed out toward the top section. He was able to hop back on the bike and avoid a DNF, but his experience says to us that we were right near the edge with the lap time. Frustratingly, the course was significantly improved even 30 minutes after we ran, since the sun had just come out. The bike times improved throughout the day as later competitors got a drier track."

Overall, Bonnell-Kangas said the team is happy to report they hit all of their thermal performance targets – powertrain temperatures were well beneath set limits over the entire course, and the bike delivered full power across the finish line. The battery pack stayed cool the entire time, and the team's pro driver Rob Barber crossed the finish line with around 10 percent charge left in the tank – exactly as planned. 

"I think we’re all glad that we managed to get the bike out on the course at all, much less cross the finish line with a competitive time. All in all? I think it was a pretty decent year," Bonnell-Kangas said. "We’re packing up now for the trip home, in good spirits."

For this ECE student, the ending of PPIHC2016 is also bittersweet, as he is set to graduate this year.

"As most of you know, this is my last hurrah with Buckeye Current," he said. "It’s been a real pleasure. What a ride."

In 2017, the team plans to look at new design and control system improvements to get their race time up their dream - a world-class electric motorcycle level. Mechanical Engineering student Polina Brodsky is also set to serve as the new team leader. 

Note from Buckeye Current members: "Thanks to our fans, our sponsors, and everybody who lent us a hand leading up to this year's Hill Climb -- and congratulations to our competitors, we know exactly how much every one of you is working. We can't say enough how much we love this."