A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

This Is Pretty Much What the Monster 800 Will Look Like

With the advent of the Ducati Monster 1200, it was only a matter of time before Ducati’s middleweight liquid-cooled “Monster 800″ would be spotted, and unsurprisingly the machines have a great deal in common. The one big difference seems to be that the 821cc Monster gets a double-sided swingarm, which has become Ducati’s new way of differentiating between its big and medium displacement models of the same machine, see entry for Ducati 899 Panigale. With the spied Ducati Monster 800 looking ready for primetime, and a pre-fall launch isn’t out of the question. Giving us an excellent glimpse into what the Ducati Monster 800 would look like, Luca Bar has again used his Photoshop skills to render up images of the still unreleased “baby” Monster.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni. You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race. With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap). An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment. Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well. Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

KTM CEO Says It’s Too Soon for Electrics

03/06/2013 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

KTM CEO Says Its Too Soon for Electrics ktm freeride e 635x368

The first OEM to show a near-production electric motorcycle to consumers, KTM touted at the 2011 EICMA show that as an industry leader in the dirt bike sector, it could ill-afford to stand idly by while other companies explored the development of electric two-wheelers.

Then unveiling the KTM Freeride E concept, KTM said it would trial the machine with a select number of European consumers, before rolling out the electric dirt bike to the masses later in 2013.

With nary an update since then, it would seem that the Austrian company is rethinking its position on electric motorcycles. Talking to Italy’s Motorciclismo, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke of the safety and cost concerns surrounding electrics, and concluded that the timing is still too soon for EV’s to replace petrol-powered machines in the two-wheeled sector.

“I don’t see very good perspectives for the sector because the battery technology is not the level at which the bikes need,” Pierer told Motorciclismo. “In addition the lithium ion battery pack is dangerous in case of an accident they can cause explosion. It’s very very dangerous, just think about the problems that Boeing  is having at the moment.”

“The battery technology simply is not at a level which can justify the investment in the product,” he added. “Our electric bike is ready and developed, but the battery pack costs €2,000. That is just too much. The electric bike markets will take off only when the product is less expensive and more efficient, it has to be truly innovative for this technology to work.”

Pierer’s last comment about innovation is perhaps the most interesting line from the Austrian businessman, as KTM’s Freeride E was essentially an off-the-shelf build by the Vienna Development Institute’s “Arsenal Research” team (now the Austrian Institute of Technology).

Lacking any real proprietary or innovative designs in the drive system, it is perhaps little wonder then why the Freeride E concept was found to be wanting, and the project seemingly scrapped (with Pierer now the owner of Husqvarna, we assume the fate of the Husqvarna E-Go is the same as that of the KTM Freeride E).

Despite the deficiencies in KTM’s design, this news surely will take the wind out of the sails at many of the electric motorcycle startups, as KTM’s involvement with the Freeride E was seen by many in the industry as recognition of the future electrics have in motorcycling.

From our scorecard, KTM’s failure with the Freeride E comes not from the state of current electric vehicle technology (though, batteries et al still remain a large factor in this space), but instead from the lackluster product the company built.

At the time of its official debut, the KTM Freeride E boasted only a rudimentary 10hp motor (30hp peak) and a 2.1 kWh battery pack, which was good for only 20 minutes of proper riding. Instead of coming out with guns blazing, as many had expected from the OEMs, the real issue here is that even in the immature electric motorcycle market, KTM got caught bringing a spoon to a knife fight.

Source: Motorciclismo

Comment:

  1. Mr.X says:

    Too bad we have to wait. Electrics will someday be so great, but for now I’m thinking of a Chevy Volt (and of course the coolest fossil-fuel-powered sport motorcycle made in America.)

  2. Domenick says:

    While I would agree that the Freeride E was underwhelming, I don’t think it will take the wind out of the sails of either Zero. Motorcycles, Brammo or BRD. Rather, it gives them breathing room and time to get even further ahead of the OEMs.

  3. Julian Bond says:

    I really don’t think the bike was underwhelming at all. The specs aren’t that far from the Freeride 350. But the CEO is right, that current battery tech is just not quite good enough. The safety issue can probably be dealt with via LiFePo batteries but at the expense of an extra 50% in weight/bulk.

    This area of trail riding is perhaps better handled by going down spec rather than up, via a downhill mountain bike conversion with a replaceable battery pack. See the Stealth Bomber for an example. Trying to engineer something more like an MX/Enduro quickly gets into bad compromises. Too heavy, too expensive, too short a range.

    We really need a whole factor of 10 improvement in battery tech but I don’t think we’re going to get it in the next decade at least. That doesn’t mean that electric Bicycles/Bikes/MX/Scooters can’t work, but they’re definitely constrained in what we can design.

  4. paulus - Thailand says:

    Rather than reinvent… reduce the environmental impact.
    A small displacement diesel could be the answer. Great fuel economy, lots of torque and great tank range.

    With a professional company developing it, it need not be as heavy as a tank

    This would be a great Enduro bike concept.

  5. mark says:

    Until battery technology is at the point at which electric motorcycles can go 150 miles at highway speeds, then stop off and recharge the batteries in 5 minutes, electric bikes will continue to be a curiosity, or a commuter tool at most.

  6. Andrew says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I know we need to find alternatives to fossil fuel so I’m all for continuing development. But as the production offerings meant to compete with conventional vehicles, the current crop of EVs is just an embarassment because the batteries are letting them down. They need to be either a lot more powerful or a lot cheaper – actually they need to be both!
    I applaud Mr. Pierer for the honest assessment of the situation and for deciding not to inflict another half-baked product to the market.

  7. Domenick says:

    When it comes to motorcycles, going electric is not really about CO2, since motorcycles as a segment are really a very small part of the problem. It’s about the experience.

    The current crop of electrics from Zero offer 54 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque and enough battery to go 100 miles. Not exactly an embarrassment in my book, especially if you look at where they were 3 years ago.

    I would also applaud Pierer for having the business sense not to try to sell the Freeride E at this stage of its development but it would be short-sighted not to continue working on it.

  8. Andrew says:

    @Domenick: power and torque are not a problem, but range and value/price ratio are. The issue here is that advertised 100 mile range becomes less than 50 miles at open road speeds if you read the small print. This makes the bike useless for any open road riding unless you happen to live right in the middle of a fun country road and are satisfied with a half-hour blast around your neighbourhood. Forget about touring – even a weekend warrior who lives in the city will often need to travel more than 50 miles at speed just to get out of their city!

    For a city commuter 100 mile range is fine, but here the problem is price as in this role any small displacement scooter or motorcycle will do for a lot less.

    And so, until we make real progress on batteries, electric bikes are stuck – too expensive to compete on value, and too limited to compete on merit.

    I might also add that replacing our fossil fuel dependency with dependency on lithium is rather like the proverbial jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.

  9. BBQdog says:

    I don’t think it is too soon for nimble electric bikes. Max 100 kg. But I think it is far too soon for big electronic bikes.

  10. Steve_A says:

    This is ironic, as one of the few applications for electrics that shows outstanding promise is motocross. BRD’s prototype demonstrates its possible to build a seemingly competitive machine with current technology; if you project out with very reasonable extrapolations just a few years, by 2015-2016 it will be possible to build an electric off-roader that will out-accelerate any open-class internal combustion machine and weigh less. Such a 220-pound machine might have a range of 50-60 miles in low-speed off-road riding, or an hour on an MX track. Add another 40 pounds of batteries, and you could double the off-road range to something that would fill almost all the needs of many off-road riders. Of course, the electric machines will be substantially more expensive than conventional MX bikes for some time, but they should make up some of that with substantially reduced maintenance. And they will certainly help prevent MX park closures because of noise concerns, and open up new semi-urban venues for MX.

  11. Domenick says:

    @Andrew Price is definitely the biggest short coming for me. Still, they are finding a modest number of enthusiastic buyers. Electrics aren’t taking over the world tomorrow but it has to start somewbere.

    Regarding range, the figure given for the 2013 Zeros is actually 137 miles. Of course, no one is likely to get that which is why I said 100 miles. I suspect that’s about 70 miles hwy. Not enough range for a lot of people but it’s growing every year.

    Also, one can recycle lithium and it’s not an especially large part of today’s batteries.

  12. Tom says:

    A company spends millions in R&D developing an amazingly polished concept but who’s only downfall is material costs are too high and you write it off as a “failed” attempt?!

    Stay behind your computer, the world needs more people like you. (Sarcasm)

  13. protomech says:

    @Domenick:

    No need to suspect, the S ZF11.4 is rated at 70 miles @ constant 70 mph under the MIC highway test, 85 miles @ constant 55 mph. Huge one year improvement over my ’12 S ZF9, which is 50-55 miles @ 55 mph, 40-45 miles @ 70 mph.

  14. Off road bikes and electric motors seem to be made for each other, since instant torque is exactly what you need. It’s just a matter of providing a compact enough package with sufficient range, toughness and reliability. I see the advantages in racing as well as remote off-road, where riders could recharge their bike using the Sun or a stream. Imagine a motorcycle that doesn’t need to carry fuel and can recharge itself from the environment, like a horse. Off-road travel unconstrained by the need to find fueling station.

    Beaming energy remotely will certainly be possible in the not-too-distant future, making all electrical vehicles superior in every way. They may not even have to carry batteries, except as emergency backup.

    How about an electric trials bike that’s plugged in trailing an electrical cord behind it while it’s running the course, That should be doable right now. The other riders would probably laugh at you, until you beat them. :-)

  15. Andrew says:

    @Domenick: to quote from the review of Brammo Empulse R, the latest and greatest (and even equipped with a gearbox, which should further improve efficiency) : “We zapped through almost a full charge, with 15% remaining after 53 miles. But that stretch included 80 mph stretches on the freeway and a lot of 50 mph divided highways” … in other words, the sort of riding a non-commuter might want to do on their weekend. So never mind the ratings, 50-something miles is the real range in the real world.

  16. Domenick says:

    @Andrew: That’s why I didn’t mention the Brammo, it’s not the latest and greatest as concerns range. While it might look (and possibly handle and accelerate – I’m waiting for a comparative review) better than the 2013 Zero, it lacks the range. Heck, it lacks the range of the 2012 Zero. And that is because adding a gearbox doesn’t increase net efficiency.

    While the multi-speed gearbox may add to acceleration and help the electric motor stay in its most efficient RPM range, it also adds frictional losses (and weight) which undo any efficiency gains.

    I prefer the Zero approach. For 2013 they boosted battery sizes and went with a new, more efficient AC motor design. To help improve acceleration, they increased the voltage.

    Regardless, expect to see ranges continue to increase with each model year. If the near-term tech in the lab works out, one might see 300-mile ranges in the next 5 years.

    To reiterate my main point, it’s cool if KTM doesn’t try to market a machine that the ’13 Zero MX would do circles around (54 hp, 68 lb-ft, 5 kWh nominal.) However, building a competitive electric motorcycle is not as easy as it might seem – the hardware, software and energy storage is constantly evolving. Though currently tiny, this niche will continue to grow and I think it would be smart to keep a development program, so as not to be left behind when electric market gets big enough to enter. Innovation pays. Sometimes not right away, but eventually, it pays.

  17. Julian Bond says:

    @Domenick If you compare the specs, the Freeride-E is almost directly comparable with the Zero 2.8 range. Same kind of weight, range, power, battery capacity.

    Unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to see dramatic order of magnitude changes in performance in the next 5 years and probably not in the next 20. LiOn battery tech is already just about as good as it can get and the big changes in chemistry in the lab seem to be permanently 5 years from production. There are some small incremental improvements still possible in motor, controller efficiency but not anything that’s going to double range or halve charging time or halve battery cost.

    So the question for KTM and other entrants to this market is whether there’s a compromise in there that is “good enough” to be worth pursuing and that can find a market. I think there probably is, but I think it needs to play to its strengths of cheap running costs, silence and ease of use.

  18. Ray says:

    OK BRD, your move…

  19. protomech says:

    I’m not convinced KTM is so negative about EV bikes. The Google Translated version of the interview does match the quote posted in the story, but it’s possible that Pierer meant that he does not think the initial market will be huge, rather than that KTM is pulling out.

    Consider the following:
    * 2013-03-22, KTM shows an e-scooter based on the same Freeride E architecture at the Tokyo Auto Show
    Pierer: “We at KTM are completely convinced of electric mobility as a perfect complement to conventional powertrains. In the long term, the electric drive will come out on top for short distances – particularly in areas which are highly sensitive from an environmental perspective, like open nature and densely populated metropolitan areas! Vehicles like the ‘E-SPEED’ and FREERIDE E can help powered two-wheelers win back more acceptance in society.”
    http://blog.ktm.com/uncategorized/kutti-blog-from-tokyo-e-speed-breaks-ground/
    * 2012-11-30, guest blogger on KTM’s site posts this blurb:
    “Some people in the forums, however, doubt how serious this project is for KTM and whether the E will ever be available from dealers. This can be easily clarified: For KTM CEO Stefan Pierer the project has personal interest and he is not someone who reconsiders things purely because they prove more difficult to implement than initially thought. The E is coming.”
    ” … you had the opportunity to register here in the KTM blog for a test ride on the E in 2012 and be a volunteer beta-tester. The intention is to repeat this offer in 2013. So we will let you know here in good time how your opinion as riders can help in making the Freeride E available from dealers in a form as good as it can possibly be.”
    http://blog.ktm.com/bikes/guest-column-what-is-the-freeride-e-really-like/