High-speed Motor Racing Goes Green in Charge


Charge opens with the noise, velocity, and adrenaline of the Isle of Man’s TT motorcycle race, a 37-mile mountain course taken at speeds of 200 mph. But this story is about the TT’s zero-emissions grand prix, a looming folly. Even some proponents of the 2009 experiment seemed circumspect, and fans raged. People come to the TT “to see hard men ride hard motorcycles, not piss about on battery-powered scrap,” rants one pub-goer. These are quiet bikes—birds smash into them!—that in the first year couldn’t approach 100 mph. The riders marvel at the scenery, which blurs by in regular races. But documentarian Mark Neale, with drama provided by narrator Ewan McGregor and editor Rochelle Watson, shows there’s no dearth of adrenaline as engineering teams face challenges every bit as bumpy, winding, perilous and exhilarating as the famous course itself. They harness amps and volts with wires and duct tape, but most of all, with true belief. The characters are irresistible, especially gentle, long-haired Brit genius Cedric Lynch, who’s been playing with electric motors since childhood and collected judgments from corporations that ripped off his ideas. (He has invested none of his money on shoes.) Another is Michael Czysz, an Oregon designer with the most American of advantages: money and unfailing determination. Advances in the bikes’ speed, performance, and design in subsequent years are thrilling. Bikes top 100 mph. Change, minus emissions, is in the air. And the pub-talk turns friendly and even proud.