Ducati’s transition to electric

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Ducati is prepared to start a new phase by making the switch to electric power.

Ducati is transitioning to electric. Beginning in 2023, the Borgo Panigale-based Italian manufacturer will be the sole supplier of bikes for the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup. Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, announced this historic turning point after signing a contract with Dorna Sports until 2026, which has been organizing and promoting MotoE for the past four years and has relied on another Motor Valley champion, Energica Motors of Modena, until now.

As a result, Ducati is prepared to start a new phase by making the switch to electric power and venturing on designing a sports bike capable of competing in electric MotoGP races. MotoE will be the Formula E of the electric consumer market.

Claudio Domenicali and Carmelo Ezpeleta

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports.

Ducati intends to carry on its tradition of using racing to test new technology and ideas before implementing them in the real world. The Ducati 851, derived from the Ducati 748 IE, which debuted in endurance racing at Le Castellet in 1986, revolutionized the concept of Ducati road sports bikes with its innovative water-cooled twin-cylinder engine, electronic fuel injection, and new twin-shaft, four-valve heads. Since then, there have been a slew of skill transfers, beginning with the World Superbike Championship, in which Ducati has competed since its inception in 1988.

Ducati is also the only non-Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to have  been awarded a MotoGP championship title.

Ducati is a Volkswagen Group company, which provides one of the best platforms for a remarkable sharing of electric engine expertise. In a press release, Ducati stated that this agreement comes at an ideal time for the Italian company, which has been researching electric powertrain technology for years, and will enable it to test its notions in the well-known and controlled field of racing. The most difficult challenge will unquestionably be striking the proper balance between weight and autonomy. Ducati will concentrate on improving the FIM Enel MotoE’s weight and cooling system.

Because the technology isn’t quite there yet, it’s difficult to anticipate when production of the first electric Ducati vehicle will start. The size and weight of the batteries needed to implement a range comparable to that of a combustion engine, as well as the availability of charging stations, remain major impediments. However, technology advances, and Ducati’s experience in the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup will provide valuable data and information.

Ducati has not specified which semiconductor technologies were used, but we should find out more next year. Wide bandgap solutions can be used on the same level as an electric vehicle.

Both GaN and SiC are wide-bandgap materials. While these materials have an impressive performance, each has its own set of qualities, applications, and gate drive requirements. In high-power and extra-high-voltage (above 650 V) applications, SiC transistors may compete with IGBT transistors. In power applications with voltages up to 650 V, GaN may compete with current MOSFETs and superjunction (SJ) MOSFETs.

Silicon carbide has a higher bandgap energy than silicon as a wide bandgap semiconductor (3.2eV, about three times higher than that of silicon, equal to 1.1eV).

Higher breakdown voltages, higher efficiency, and better thermal stability at high temperatures can be achieved because more energy is needed to excite a valence electron in the semiconductor’s conductive band. Smaller circuits and less weight, improved weight distribution, and lower overall power consumption are all advantages of using SiC technology in inverters. This is due to the fact that SiC solutions can operate at a much higher switching frequency, reducing the size of many of the inverter’s circuit elements.

GaN significantly improves the efficiency of power-conversion stages, making it a valuable replacement for silicon in the manufacturing of high-efficiency voltage converters, power MOSFETs, and Schottky diodes. When compared to silicon, GaN offers significant advantages such as higher energy efficiency, smaller dimensions, lower weight, and lower overall cost. The market is being driven by the combination of more power-dense batteries, more efficient electric motors, and new wide-bandgap semiconductor solutions for the entire powertrain.
Ultracapacitors, chemical batteries, and solid-state batteries are some of the technologies used to store electrical energy. Lithium-ion (Li) chemical batteries currently provide the best balance of performance and commercial viability.

As long as lithium is present in batteries, there will always be a need for bulky and heavy batteries that compromise riding dynamics and are inefficient. The challenge will be to achieve high performance, which can only be accomplished by working on battery chemistry improvements.

Electricity will undoubtedly play a role in the future of two-wheeled transportation, but it will not be the only factor.

Ducati is looking into biofuels and synthetic fuels as alternative sources of energy, as well as electric technology, without rejecting the internal combustion engine. Racing could be an excellent proving ground in this case.

Borgo Panigale will soon produce electric motorcycles as part of a green transition affecting the entire Motor Valley and that a brand as important as Ducati cannot, and clearly does not want to, avoid. The bet starts on the racetrack. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next! The first Ducati electric model will be available within the next decade, based on the experience gained as the sole supplier of the Moto E bike.

This article was originally published on EEWeb.

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.


Leave a comment