Even Lighter: Student Motorcycle Racing Team Innovates Their Electric Bike Subframe Design with Rock West Composites

Even Lighter: Student Motorcycle Racing Team Innovates Their Electric Bike Subframe Design with Rock West Composites

Rock West Composites supports student teams in universities around the country and around the world. We were happy to provide assistance to the Warwick Moto team from the University of Warwick by helping them with with information on carbon development and assembly for the build of their unique 1.3kg subframe.

Warwick Moto is a student-led university project building a highly innovative electric superbike, ‘Aurora’, a motorcycle designed around a superbike chassis known for its excellent handling. The interdisciplinary team is made up of 25 students and academics, with superbike racer Tom Weeden as their rider; they are innovating some impressive state-of-the-art electrical systems to be integrated within it. For instance, they are using an immersion cooled battery pack and a carbon fiber subframe design supported by Rock West Composites. Although racing is a primary target, the team aims to upskill young engineers and expose them to real world engineering. Warwick Moto does this by providing a platform similar to industrial environments. Working side-by-side with engineering companies like Rock West Composites has opened more opportunities for the next generation of engineers to also equip the applicable skills that come with industrial collaboration.

Despite the global challenge that coronavirus has presented, Rock West Composites delivered specialist knowledge on carbon fiber tubing, bonding requirements, and material capabilities to the Warwick Moto team. This was vital for the development of the bike’s subframe. The subframe is the rear substructure of the motorcycle on which the rider sits and experiences large forces as the rider slams down on the seat during races. A hybrid aluminum node was utilized, assisted by Xometry Europe who provided 5-axis machining capability, and coupled with a carbon fiber tube design. This enabled the team to creatively design a subframe lighter than the original found on the donor bike while also housing the inverter. Finite element analysis data were combined with Rock West’s composite expertise to select the correct type of tube for the application, considering layup, modulus and many more factors. The engineering support provided by Rock West enabled the team to develop innovative solutions to optimize the final performance of the part. Capable of withstanding 5G load cases, but with a mass of less than 1.3kg, the final subframe design built is a pioneering engineering development.