Energica CEO: Had Ducati not entered MotoE, it would have been "short-sighted"
Energica CEO Livia Cevolini assesses her company's passage through the MotoE World Cup and warns of the difficulties facing Ducati, the constructor that will supply the series from 2023 onwards.
Last week, in the run-up to the MotoGP Emilia Romagna MotoGP Grand Prix, Motorsport.com broke the news that Ducati confirmed a couple of hours later: the Borgo Panigale brand will take over from Energica as the sole supplier of the bikes that will compete in the MotoE World Cup from 2023 until 2026.
A few days have passed since the news broke and Energica, through the mouth of Livia Cevolini, its CEO, takes stock of its experience in the all-electric championship and the difficulties that the Bologna-based brand will face when it enters the scene.
Motorsport.com: What is your assessment of the experience of the last three years with MotoE?
Livia Cevolini: "The experience has been absolutely positive in all areas. Because it has been a launching pad, both for us in particular and for the electric motorbike sector in general. It has been the first time that a major firm like Dorna and MotoGP have bet on the electric sector. Like all projects, there are also things that need to be improved, but the overall balance is very good. In three years, the championship has grown a lot and all the parties involved, both riders and teams, are very happy. It has not been easy for them either."
Hikari Okubo, Avant Ajo MotoE
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Did you ever imagine that MotoE racing would be so spectacular?
LC: "I was always positive and very optimistic. Even more than the people around me. My technicians are very humble. I was very calm; they were not. I knew they could respond because they are very good. We are a small company that does incredible things. A company that motivates others, because the electric car market is much more advanced than the motorbike market. It wasn't an easy challenge, because we were asked to develop vehicles that wouldn't drop in performance. We redeployed the staff and took people who were focused on street bikes and asked them to move into racing. We didn't have and don't have a racing department. And that's while still taking care of the needs of the street product."
What aspect of the World Champion would you improve?
LC: "I am a dreamer and I am never satisfied. If I could ask for anything, I would ask for MotoE to be the electric MotoGP, and it's not there yet. It's a minor championship. I want that, electric MotoGP with the attention it deserves. If we are aiming for parity in the market between petrol and electric vehicles, we have to act accordingly and motivate it, with the entry of different constructors encouraging competition, which is what accelerates technological development. And with communication at the same level.
Why is Energica not renewing with Dorna?
LC: "This was a 100% consensual decision; both parties agreed on the need to make a change. We had been looking at other options for a year, because the projects we are carrying out in other markets, such as Micro Mobility, require a very high degree of dedication and effort. We believe that we have to do other things and we can't do everything. We have brought MotoE into being and made it grow; now it is only fair that we let others take our place. Dorna also wanted to renew a bit the faces of this event.
Have you spoken to Ducati?
LC: "We have known Ducati for many years and we have a good relationship. We didn't talk about this MotoE thing because they wanted to keep it secret. I think I could have helped them a little bit, but not much. It won't be easy for Ducati because making an electric bike is very different from a petrol bike. It's good that they are going their own way, although I know they have bikes of mine in their factory, which they are studying."
Sketch Ducati MotoE
Photo by: Ducati Corse
Were you surprised to see Ducati take on this role, when until now they have always been reluctant because of the limitations that batteries still offer?
LC: "Actually I always thought it was in their interest. If it hadn't been involved, it would have been short-sighted. I had hoped that he was also working on the electric way because that is the way forward, and it is useless to resist it. It's true that Domenicali's [Ducati CEO] statements were not always favourable, but that's a bit of his DNA: say one thing and then do the opposite. The challenge ahead of him is great. It's not easy to achieve the level of reliability required and for all the bikes to perform equally. That's what the market is asking for, for big brands to get involved. The advantage is that we will always be one step ahead of Ducati because of the ten years of experience we have.
And aren't you a little afraid to leave racing at a time when it has become the most interesting?
LC: "What I am afraid of is being afraid. What I want is for us to do other things. We have always tried new paths, unexplored until then. We are a growing company, and if we stop we are dead. We have to be the first to do something new. What scares me is that we will stay in our comfort zone."
Which element developed during these three years on the racetrack has had the most impact on street bikes?
LC: "The most important innovation has definitely been the battery. That's the main reason we decided to get into racing. Visibility, too, but with the idea that the technology used can be applied and sold to our customers. Racing should have two purposes: marketing and developing technology that will end up on the street. That new battery offered 50% more performance than the previous model, and that's a huge innovation. We get all of that from the extreme test bed that is racing."
What has been the financial impact of your MotoE adventure?
LC: "Not too much, really. What MotoE has done is to give credibility to the electric motorbike market. The whole market has grown, but we have not detected a cause-effect phenomenon in sales. Sales are growing every year, but that is independent of MotoE. Of course, everything helps, but it's not like with petrol vehicles. Especially in the USA, a big event immediately increases the sales of the winning brand. In our case, it is the global market that benefits."