How electric motorcycle series E-Xplorer plans to build the “Amazon for two-wheelers”

Ahead of E-Xplorer's first ever race this weekend, Valentin Guyonnet, founder and chief executive of the series and a member of BlackBook Motorsport’s Electric Energies Commission, discusses the new all-electric off-road motorcycling championship’s mission to disrupt the status quo.

“The goal is to be the coolest action sport on the planet, and I’m pretty sure we have all the cards to make it happen.”

In a world where new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030 – and from 2035 in Europe – it’s easy to see why Valentin Guyonnet, founder and chief executive of E-Xplorer, is so excited about his new electric motorcycling series.

On its website, E-Xplorer says it is aiming to ‘tap into the escalating demand for electric motorsports’ and serve as ‘a testing ground for the latest two-wheel technology’. In many ways, it’s much more than just a new series trying to go racing.

It may be about to embark on its debut season, but E-Xplorer already has one full-scale event under its belt from last year, when it was supposed to host its inaugural campaign. Due to a parts supply issue, however, the season was delayed by 12 months, but that non-public event enabled E-Xplorer to iron out any kinks. Now, it will officially get underway this weekend in Tarragona, Spain.

While championships like Formula E and Extreme E have helped to showcase four-wheeled electric vehicles, there has long been a gap in the market for an all-electric off-road motorcycle racing series. Currently, the only prominent two-wheeled electric series is the underpromoted Moto E championship, which runs alongside select MotoGP races. Even then, that is a one-make series with little room for technological innovation.

In stark contrast, E-Xplorer hopes its competitive environment will encourage technological advancement in all areas and, with giants of the motorcycling world like KTM and Harley Davidson showing interest, the wheels are already in motion to have a global impact. And like Extreme E, each team will field a male and female rider, ensuring gender equality across the competition. 

Humble beginnings

In December 2020, Eric Peronnard, the man behind Endurocross’ inclusion in the X Games, picked up the phone to Guyonnet, who as the International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) project coordinator helped launch Formula E before joining the series as senior partnership manager in 2019. Inspired by Guyonnet’s work in electric motorsport, the old friends discussed an idea and, eventually, the foundations of E-Xplorer were born.

Guyonnet describes Peronnard as “the Bernie Ecclestone of Motocross”, and it was clear that it was crucial to get him onboard as a consultant for E-Xplorer, especially with the lack of motivation elsewhere to get a project moving.

“We needed to start a conversation with the FIM [International Motorcycling Federation] and they were completely open to new promoters to lead that,” explains Guyonnet. “I think they were quite happy because nobody wanted to take care of it. The motorcycle industry is always a few years behind the automobile [industry].”

These conversations allowed E-Xplorer to explore the framework which would allow it to operate under the FIM and resulted in the signing of a ten-year agreement between the two parties.

In order to get the series up and running, research had to be conducted into how far along the industry was in terms of the development of the technology required to support electric motorcycle racing. Once that was determined, the next step was finding manufacturers to invest in the idea.

“We did a rough call, an expression of interest, to four manufacturers,” Guyonnet outlines. “We got more than 12 manufacturers who came back to us, so that was quite a surprise. That showed clearly that the industry was ready to do something.”

When the likes of Austria-based KTM and US giants Harley Davidson responded, Guyonnet knew the series had potential. But the issue was few manufacturers had a project ready to go, which is evident from the lack of major brands on the grid for the debut season.

Instead, E-Xplorer had to shift its business strategy to target private racing teams in order to kick off the project, which it believes will allow manufacturers to track the progress of the series and join when they see fit.

“It was really important that we started because if you wait for the big manufacturers to be ready, they are never ready,” Guyonnet adds. “They are monsters and it takes time for them, so they need to see [the series for themselves].”

Building a marketplace

Like it was in Formula E, the opportunity to use the series to develop and showcase technology will be a key draw for manufacturers to join E-Xplorer. The ultimate goal, according to Guyonnet, is for the series to become not just a sport, but also a marketplace. Or, as he puts it, “the Amazon for two-wheelers”.

“What we need to keep in mind is that a motorcycle is an accessible product,” Guyonnet continues. “You can purchase the same bike, it’s not like a Formula One car where it’s so far from anyone – even if you have a lot of money, it’s going to be very hard for you to purchase and drive an F1 [car].

“Here, what the manufacturers are developing is for the end consumer. The sports bikes you can buy at an entry price of €4,000. You can get a very good bike for €12,000 to €15,000. So it’s a very affordable point.”

The goal is for viewers to be able to purchase the same equipment they see racing during live broadcasts

Given the size of the motorcycling market, especially in Asian countries like India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, E-Xplorer has the potential to target millions of people around the world. Guyonnet also claims that the growth in use of electric motorcycles in India is currently sitting at 300 per cent per year, illustrating that the adoption of more environmentally-friendly vehicles is increasing.

Being at the heart of this shift towards electric motorcycles will enable E-Xplorer to become the destination not just for fans, but also consumers. Plus, the next generation of consumer is increasingly concerned about the environment, which means manufacturers need to consider new technologies if they want to remain relevant with younger audiences.

“There are a lot of brands who are scared that, if they don’t make a move to new technology in ten years, they can be rejected by the next generation of user,” Guyonnet continues. “For example, if a brand says, ‘I will stay 100 per cent petrol’, maybe in ten years Generation Alpha will be like, ‘okay, you are a baby boomer brand, you don’t care about what we are doing.’”

The clock is ticking

How effective E-Xplorer is in building its marketplace will be directly tied to the success of its media strategy, which marks a bold departure from the traditional way of doing things.

Yet to be announced, E-Xplorer races will be broadcast live on social media platform TikTok. A highlights programme will be created for more traditional broadcasters, with Guyonnet expecting around 15 deals to be signed. For the series chief executive, those who are not a core fan of a sport have no reason to sit in front of the TV to catch live coverage.

“I would prefer they show the [series] on a Saturday morning at 11am, when you wake up from your party from the previous day and you’re in front of the TV with a pizza,” he notes.

With the expectation that E-Xplorer would make little to no money from its broadcast rights, Guyonnet says the series approached TikTok to discuss opportunities. The original plan was not to go down the live route, but the solution became too good to ignore once both parties came to understand the potential.


A post shared by E-Xplorer (@fimexplorer)

For new series attempting to break through with a younger audience, the days of pursuing a traditional linear broadcast deal are clearly numbered. Guyonnet also points out that E-Xplorer has an advantage because it is not tied to legacy media agreements like more established motorsport series.

“This is something that MotoGP or Formula One cannot do,” he says. “If they want to switch live [coverage to] TikTok tomorrow, you’ve got [the likes of] Canal +, BT Sport [to deal with]. They are paying millions [to broadcast the championships].

“Our main audience is people below 30 years old. How will someone who is below 30 consume sports? Is it important to be in front of their TV on a Saturday afternoon at four o’clock? Is it the case? We don’t believe in that.”

Another benefit of having E-Xplorer’s live broadcasts on TikTok is that it will allow the series to promote the marketplace that Guyonnet is attempting to build thanks to some of the features on the platform.

“The goal for us is that we get traffic from an audience and we convert this audience into a customer,” says Guyonnet. “So, for example, [a rider] crosses the finish line with a certain bike. On TikTok, [the option comes up] to buy this bike. We are making money on every transaction.

“We’re going to do a review of all the new models, the gear, and stuff like that on a global level. Right now, our strategy of media is giving access to the sport and making money when we convert the audience into a consumer.”

What’s the goal?

There are two areas in particular where Guyonnet wants E-Xplorer to have a significant impact: youth culture and action sports.

The latter will come with crazier destinations and more outlandish racing. The 2023 calendar takes on a traditional layout, touching down in three continents. Moving forward, however, the opportunity to race anywhere in the world means there are no limits to the possibilities.

“We’re going to be the coolest action sport,” claims Guyonnet. “We can ride anywhere. On the sand, 3,000 metres high in altitude, downtown, inside a mall, inside a museum. We’re having conversations [about] riding on the Great Wall of China.

“The goal is to be the coolest action sport on the planet, and I’m pretty sure we have all the cards to make it happen.”

Each team will field a male and female rider, ensuring gender equality across the competitive action

In terms of influencing youth culture, E-Xplorer’s TikTok-centric broadcast strategy will allow for a direct line to the younger generation. Its mix of male and female riders will also help the series reach a diverse audience. But Guyonnet wants to go even further than that.

“I really compare our sport to skateboards,” he considers. “I would love to see in a few years that style is being influenced by the bikes. Maybe we get it into fashion week or into a music . It’s super urban when you see where the culture is growing.

“That’s the beautiful thing, you cannot control the future. But you need to find a way to give expression to those kids, [just] like skateboarding. At the beginning, people are rebels, they’re skating in the middle of the city, and after you create skatepark environments and give them the infrastructure to ride.

“I think it’s going to be the same [for us]. Right now, it’s illegal [to drive e-scooters on public roads] and that’s why it’s trendy, because it’s dangerous. But we’re going to embrace this culture and create a cooler environment.”

The Electric Energies Commission is BlackBook Motorsport's advisory group in the arena of electric motorsport. To find out more about the board, click here. To enquire about opportunities, email our executive director Peter Jones.


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