Electrifying Racing
January 25th, 2016 by Susan Hess
Marty Schmitz, left, and Adrian Hawkins invested their savings in their production facility in Odell, Oregon. Below, an electric motor Marty and Adrian designed and manufactured in their shop. Photos by Jurgen Hess

Marty Schmitz, left, and Adrian Hawkins invested their savings in their production facility in Odell, Oregon. Below, an electric motor Marty and Adrian designed and manufactured in their shop.
Photos by Jurgen Hess

Layer by layer, the 3D printer in AMRacing’s office built an aerodynamic wing profile for Chevrolet IndyCars. Co-owner Marty Schmitz will use the model to replicate the part in metal.

The part is for an IndyCar. It is destined for the fastest racetracks, but it will be manufactured on a quiet street in small town Odell, Oregon.

Historically, gas engines powered the fastest cars and motorcycles. But electric vehicles have been winning some of those super-fast races recently. This is AMRacing’s specialty.

Four years ago, a MotoGP project that Adrian Hawkins, 47, and Marty, 37, worked on began to deflate.

“Every day on the walk to the coffee shop, we talked about how to move forward,” Marty says. “It was 2010, the end of the recession. We both needed jobs, so we were like, ‘Why don’t we just work for ourselves—create opportunity rather than finding one?’ It was driven more by Adrian’s need to find a place for his high-end skill set.”

Adrian developed his skills during the 10 years he worked for Cosworth Racing, the leading Formula 1 race engine design house and manufacturer. On the MotoGP project, he was chief engineer.

Adrian designed the engines, and Marty made them.

The two started their business in a small garage in Portland, Oregon, with no clear vision of what the business would be other than that it would be in motor sports—logically, in gas engines. But they quickly found the demand was for electric vehicle powertrains. Rather than seek investors, they pooled their savings to buy a secondhand piece of machinery. They thought that if the business was going to succeed, it had to make money from the start.

“It’s proven to be completely accurate so far,” Adrian says. “Every day, our profit sheet has been better than our loss sheet.”

AMRacing became a business that designs, tests and manufactures high-performance electrical vehicle powertrains.

The end product goes into incredibly fast cars and motorcycles. These are not cars you can buy at a local dealer. Each car built using AMRacing’s products costs $1 million. Only six have been made.

In 2014, companies using AMRacing’s powertrains beat gas-powered engines in more than one event.

A Brammo electric motorcycle won the TTXGP championship. The racecar company ELMOFO-Radical replaced its car’s 460-horsepower gas engine with AMRacing’s electric drivetrain and won Australia’s CAMS race series.

In 2015, AMRacing products had great success at the Pike Peak International Hill Climb competition.

AMRacing’s products now lead the competition for overall powertrain supplier in this category. While the entire powertrain is AMRacing’s main product, the company also designs, manufactures and sells component parts.

With such a specialized product, why locate in Odell, far from suppliers and transportation hubs?

“With UPS, you can’t tell the difference whether we’re here or by the airport,” Marty says.

“The next-day aspect to shipping is one reason we can survive because we can get component to us and ship out to customers,” Adrian says. “So if you can work in a nice area, why wouldn’t you?”

After five years of nonstop work, the two men feel they are ready to offer the company’s capabilities to industries seeking high-power electric powertrain solutions, such as the wind-turbine industry sectors.

“We put together a state-of-the-art machine shop with some of the best technology available,” Marty says. “I know a lot of people could use that if they knew about it.”

“We’ve invested a lot of money in very high-end equipment and machine tools,” Adrian says. “There is a huge manufacturing capability here for very complex components.”

Like the five-axis milling machine.

“Marty’s skill base is to take a digital thing and form it into metal that replicates it in a manner the designer wants,” Adrian says. “Case in point is the wing profile the 3D printer is creating. That design has to be replicated accurately because the feedback loop of the testing has to validate the computational side of it, and it has to match accurately.

“Our customers have a lot of shops they could go to, but they always come back here. They can’t easily get quality like they get here.”