Transportation

Supercross to debut first EV class and tap startups to go digital

Comment

Motorcycle racing series Supercross will add e-motos and more digitization to its franchise (aided by startups) in the near future, according to Director of Operations David Prater.

The sport — where riders race high-performance machines on jump-filled stadium dirt tracks — currently fields only gas-powered two-wheelers.

This fall, Supercross looks to launch its first EV class, starting with the earliest of early adapters: seven to eight-year-olds.

The series plans to convert its Junior Racing program, sponsored by manufacturer KTM, from gas to electric.

“They’ve been working on an electric 50cc equivalent motorcycle and their goal is to launch that in October,” Prater told TechCrunch. “We haven’t one-hundred-percented it yet, but it’s fairly close and we’re…going to race that electric KTM in October at the Monster Energy Cup. 

KTM North America would not comment on adding EVs to the junior Supercross class. The Austria-based motorcycle manufacturer released its electric debut in the U.S. in 2018 — the Freeride E-XC adult off-road e-motorcycle. This made KTM the first of the big gas companies to offer a production e-motorcycle in the U.S.

KTM unveiled its SX-E 5 (50cc equivalent) electric junior motorcycle in late 2018, saying in a release it would have a ride time of 25 minutes to 2 hours and be “available in North American dealerships in fall 2019.”

This will be the motorcycle to usher in Supercross’s first all-electric class in KTM’s Junior Racing competition later this year, according to Prater.

That program is embedded within the Supercross series and allows seven and eight-year-old girls and boys to race three laps on the same stadium track used by the adults in the main events.

On shifting the juniors to e-motos, “It’s really exciting, and I think the strategy is let’s start with the small bike, put the kids on electric bikes, and grow from there,” Supercross’s Prater said.

Combining EVs and youth could roll up into a broader strategy of established companies and e-moto startups to revive interest in motorcycles to a new generation.

The U.S. motorcycle industry has been in pretty bad shape since the recession.

E-motorcycle startups such as Zero have worked to produce models that close gaps on price, distance, charge times and performance with gas motorcycles and attract a younger, tech-savvy market segment.

Zero Motorcycles leads in electric motorcycles as BRP scoops up Alta’s remains

None of the big-name producers — Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW — have offered a production electric street motorcycle in the U.S. (KTM’s Freeride E-XC isn’t street-legal).

Harley-Davidson will enter the market this summer with its LiveWire. H-D has also indicated it plans a full electric pivot, with additional e-motorcycles in the pipeline, as well as e-bicycles and scooters. The Milwaukee company acquired kids electric bicycle maker StaCyc in March.

Supercross’s upcoming electric program with KTM is significant in that it will be one of the few all-electric motorcycle competition classes in the U.S., and likely the most visible.

The American Motorcyclist Association, the primary organizer of motorcycle competition in the country, allows e-motos to compete in trials and flat-track, according to AMA off-road racing manager Erek Kudla — they just have to race against other electric motorcycles.

One of the off-road specific e-moto startups, Alta, had been inching its way up to finding a way to compete with gas-bikes in Supercross and motocross, but went bankrupt before getting there.

As a sport, Supercross will create a big venue for the new electric junior class. The Feld Entertainment-owned series has an air time partnership with NBCSN and claims the title of America’s fastest-growing motorsport — which Prater quantified by growth in race attendance and broadcast ratings over the last five years.

For its season semi-finals in MetLife stadium, 61,247 fans turned out to watch eventual Supercross champion Cooper Webb clinch the 2019 450cc class title.

In addition to adding the junior e-moto class, Supercross looks to further digitize toward more fan interactivity, cord cutters and viewers outside the U.S.

“We’re a young sport with a young demo, so we always want to be pushing the edge on the digital side,” Prater said.

He includes comparison for best practices. “We’ve been looking at NASCAR, the NFL and NBA and what they’ve done with e-sports and gaming and using that to increase their international appeal.”

NASCAR launched its own app — NASCAR Mobile — in 2013, where fans can track live-broadcasts, follow live race stats and video from inside race cars.

Supercross will explore similar digital options, including developing its video-game and VR functions, while seeking partnerships (including with startups) to link fans to race action, according to Prater.

“We’re shopping around for different possibilities, but I think the next step is an app that people can have at an event or sitting on their couch to connect to the sport live with,” he said.

The sport is already working with one startup, LitPro, that could factor into a future mobile platform. The Southern California venture creates hardware and software that Supercross riders use to track motorcycle dynamics, rider biometrics and lap performance.

There’s still a question of if or when Supercross could convert more of its overall racing line-up to e-motorcycles.

While attending a stadium event this spring, several older fans told me they couldn’t imagine preferring e-supercross to the roar of 22 93-decibel gas machines reverberating throughout a stadium.

And that could be why Supercross and KTM are going all-electric with seven to eight-year-olds.

By the time they’re teenagers, e-motorcycles could be all they’ve raced or known — leading to different preferences from the gas-loving motorsports fans of today.

 

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo