Electric motorcycles have been something of a touchy subject for Ducati over the last couple of years. Back in early 2019 the company’s CEO Claudio Domenicali said that Ducati would “soon begin production” of an electric motorcycle. As the months wore on into years, it became clear that this plan had been scrapped without so much as a prototype being shown. For at least the last year Ducati’s tune has been that of a Debbie Downer, claiming that battery complexity and power density issues made electric motorcycles an impossibility.
Which is why the news on Thursday morning that Ducati would become the sole supplier to electric motorcycle racing series FIM MotoE from the 2023 season, taking over from Energica, was so surprising. What changed? What happened? Why did the Italian manufacturer change its tune so quickly? Ducati says it is hoping to transfer experience from the race track to the street, as it has for decades gone by.
The goal is to develop expertise and technologies in a constantly evolving world such as the electric one, through an experience familiar to the company like that of racing competition. This has been a consolidated tradition for the Borgo Panigale company starting from the Ducati 851, which inaugurated the trend of Ducati road sports bikes by revolutionizing the concept with its innovative two-cylinder water-cooled engine, electronic fuel injection and the new twin-shaft, four-valve heads, deriving from the Ducati 748 IE bike that made its debut in endurance races at Le Castellet in 1986.
Since then, this endless transfer of expertise has always taken place from the Superbike World Championships, in which Ducati has participated since the first edition in 1988, and from MotoGP, in which Ducati is the only non-Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to have won a World Championship.
The contract with Dorna Sports, which is the organizer and promotor of MotoE, extends from 2023 through the end of the 2026 season. It’s possible the contract will be expanded beyond that, but if the series continues growing at its current rate, it could become a multi-manufacturer championship. I fully expect at least a few dozen manufacturers to have developed electric sport bikes by the time 2027 rolls around, so that seems likely.
Claudio Domenicala, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding: “We are proud of this agreement because, like all the first times, it represents a historic moment for our company. Ducati is always projected towards the future and every time it enters a new world it does so to create the best performing product possible. This agreement comes at the right time for Ducati, which has been studying the situation of electric powertrains for years, because it will allow us to experiment in a well-known and controlled field like that of racing competition. We will work to make available to all participants of the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup electric bikes that are high-performance and characterized by lightness. It is precisely on weight, a fundamental element of sports bikes, that the greatest challenge will be played out. Lightness has always been in Ducati’s DNA and thanks to the technology and chemistry of the batteries that are evolving rapidly we are convinced that we can obtain an excellent result. We test our innovations and our futuristic technological solutions on circuits all over the world and then make exciting and desirable products available to Ducatisti. I am convinced that once again we will build on the experiences we have had in the world of racing competition to transfer them and apply them also on production bikes.”
The FIM Enel MotoE World Cup currently runs on a spec Energica Ego Corsa bike with 160 horsepower. It began in 2019 with a six-race season won by Matteo Ferrari, and expanded to a seven-round championship in 2020 with Jordi Torres winning twin titles on the trot. The races are held on the same weekend as Moto GP events — alongside Moto2 and Moto3 — making sanctioning, track rental, and event planning much easier for the all-electric series. It also gives teams and riders an opportunity to ride in front of massive fan-filled grandstands and the MotoGP heads of state, which always carries its own advantages.
I, for one, commend Ducati for jumping into the deep end of the pool and making this series a priority. Hopefully the racing will get even stronger with the support of a major bike manufacturer like Duc. I’d love to see more, longer, and increasingly competitive rounds from the series.