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.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

02/10/2011 @ 1:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

Talk Amongst Yourselves merge road sign 635x423

There’s something happening on the electric side of the motorcycle industry, but no one is talking publicly about it. It’s a fragile idea, and it feels like even mentioning it could jeopardize its very existence. Because of this, I’ve wrestled with putting words down to discuss the topic, not wanting to be the person to spoil the whole thing.

However, lately so many influential people involved with electric motorcycles have independently brought up the subject with me that this discussion is not only becoming unavoidable, but perhaps airing the idea out in public will facilitate some sort of greater dialogue between the different parties. The concept that I’m referring to is of course consolidation.

I sincerely doubt I was the first person to ever bring up the idea, but when I was on the Motorcycle Nation Podcast in January of last year, I voiced the idea that if one could take the best pieces from the various electric motorcycle startups, you’d have a formidable company that was capable of giving the OEMs a real run for their money. For me, this started a series of conversations with other, dare I say, influential people who had a similar feeling about the electric motorcycle landscape.

The conversation on consolidation was gradual at first, as you’d hear someone say in passing, “I really like what Company A is doing with Technology X, if only we could combine that with Company B’s work on Technology Y.” About six months ago, the pundits on the sidelines started getting more vocal about the subject though, and were fueled by the ailing economy and the nuclear wasteland that was passing for the motorcycle industry.

It wasn’t until recently however that I started hearing the companies themselves talk about the idea of consolidation. The driving forces behind this are probably equal helpings of listening to pundits, struggling to raise capital, and watching the established big OEMs begin to dip their toes into the EV waters.

A reoccurring question I asked the four companies highlighted in my “Tradition is Not A Business Model” series, was what was the game plan when (insert Japanese or European manufacturer name here) entered the electric motorcycle market? I never really got a satisfactory answer to that question, and my own thoughts have been that the outcome will look something along the lines of the complete decimation of the only real innovation to hit motorcycling the past decade or two. The exits for these companies are rapidly closing.

Every company should have an exit strategy, and the good startups have more than one. For electric vehicles the exits however are limited to acquisition, strategic partnership, market domination, and oblivion. The oblivion exit is an easy one to explain: it’s an exit to the trash can. Sadly for most of the companies playing in this market, the ones simply assembling off-the-shelf parts, that’s where they’re going to end up.

Electric powertrain technology is rapidly evolving, and if you’re not developing the cutting edge that’s pushing the evolution of motorcycling, you are going to be left by the wayside. This of course means that EV’s need to develop their own intellectual property, which we see the larger ones doing…in spades. There is a trend for these startups to become more like IP houses than actual motorcycle companies, and that’s because there is value in licensing the technology to larger OEMs and strategic partners. It’s an idea that plays to the core strengths of a small company that is high on intellect, but low on capital. The downside though is that it’s like playing Russian Roulette with the devil — given enough time, you know you’re going to lose…and by lose, I mean die.

IP-based strategic partnerships almost universally end with the larger company either reverse engineering the smaller company’s technology, or using that technology as a bridge, while the larger company builds its own IP up to the market standards. The strategic partnership is alive and well in the EV world, but throw an egg timer into some water because it is really only a matter of time before these startups are cooked and served up for dinner by the OEMs they are partnering with currently.

The more advanced variation of the strategic partnership exit, is the acquisition. The recipe is the same, except the intellectual property involved might be more advanced or more costly to reproduce. There could also be some elements of brand value at play, or considerable traction in a market segment. Whatever the case may be, at the end of the day the companies banking on this exit are hoping that an OEM comes along who wants to rapidly enter the electric market, and the cost of them doing it alone are greater than the cost of buying an established player already in the market.

While this strategy was the favorite son of investor pitches a couple years back, it has one fatal flaw that no one realized. The reason electric vehicle startups were able to dabble in the motorcycle industry in the first place, virtually unhindered by the OEMs, is because none of the OEMs had the available resources to compete in making electric motorcycles (apparently there was a recession going on).

Of course the same set of circumstances that created this EV sandbox are what’s keeping OEMs from making acquisitions now, as all the major manufacturers are still licking their wounds and watching their pocketbooks from the failed economy. Add into the mix that none of the electric motorcycle manufacturers are pumping out impressive numbers of bikes to consumers, and the call for acquisition becomes even smaller.

The strategy at hand for the OEMs is simple at this point, and was predictable two years ago. The major manufacturers are content to sit around and watch the various EV startups prove the electric motorcycle market, and develop the technologies necessary to make these vehicles practical for motorcycle enthusiasts. This is all while the OEMs sit in their R&D facilities, and polish their designs and technology, waiting for when the cost comes down and the performance goes up.

They’ll partner with a few companies, likely to keep tabs on them if for no other reason, but there won’t be a lot of money in these deals. All the while the moment for that quick exit through acquisition slips farther and farther away, until one day these startups will wake up and see a bevy of competitors with established brands, worldwide distribution, and budgets that rival the GDP of East Timor competing with them. The outcome won’t be pretty, and this is where the consolidation comes into play.

While the OEMs are able to cherry-pick the startups one-by-one at will, the combined resources of these companies, developing a truly intriguing electric motorcycle package, is a much larger obstacle to overcome. Not only could the strengths of each product offering be combined into one, but more importantly having a number of these companies under one roof would not only limit the options of the OEMs in piggybacking off of their developments, but it would also eliminate the current competition for fundraising, both in the private and public sectors.

If you power down the Powerpoint slides, and set aside the investor pitch decks, you’d find a universal element existed at the creation of these companies: to start an actual electric motorcycle company. That goal is still attainable, and could be the starting point for a shared collaboration between these firms.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Comment:

  1. CBR600RR says:

    Certainly food for thought. Thank you very much for that article. Something to ponder over my lunch break.

  2. Steve Guanche says:

    Ten years from now all the seeds being planted now with electric motorcycles will evolve into product lines and competing manufactures with technoligies, specialty bikes and a full plethora of alternative two wheel transportation to go head on with the tradional OEM’s. The key element will be fuel prices, emissions, design and pricing. It’s just getting started, stick around it gets better.

  3. Other Sean says:

    Fair enough, makes sense. Like when the Greeks had to come together against Persia. Strength in numbers, chaps!

  4. MajorTom says:

    It’s interesting that Electric Bikes are the only option being muted as successful in the future of biking. Unlike cars, I’m surprised that in the bike world the belief is to jump from Petrol to electric in one step, with cars there are a lot of middling steps with alternative power methods being used.

    I think I’m right in that there’s not a lot of “alternative” powered bikes with the same “drive.” Could someone enlighten me?

    I believe Suzuki did a fuel cell concept and a big moped too?

    A few brave souls have tried Diesel via conversions etc

    Have Hybrids bikes been tried? What were the results?
    I’d imagine something fairly basic like an ER5 or Hornet. If the engine was a smaller 350-400cc design with a battery pack occupying the spare space under the seat in the larger frame (Obviously optimised space to get the biggest possible without damaging the bike’s handling layout etc. too much.) Could an in-drive motor be used in the main drive to give a boost under acceleration and re-gen under braking? I know Gilera are making a version of their Mp3 with Hyrbid tech – obviously more space, though…

    Sorry; bit rambling and not succinct either!

  5. Brammofan says:

    I think @SteveGuanche is on to something.
    Wait…did I say “on to something”? I meant to say “on something.”
    It’s either young and enthusiastic idealism, or shrooms.

  6. BikePilot says:

    Well put. One more potentially huge advantage of consolidation is standardizing batteries. The more standardized batteries – or at least battery compatibility (maybe some bikes will take 4, others 10 – sorta like AA’s in flashlights) the easier it will be for battery-swap shops to rise. EV’s huge downfall – and why I wouldn’t give one a second thought right now – is that re-charging batteries takes way too long to make them practical for anyone who rides for more than a few minutes to a few hours at a time and/or parks somewhere without a power plug.

    The solution will either be new, yet-to-be-developed technology to allow a full charge in just a few minutes or relatively easy battery exchanges. Both models, but especially the exchange option, would benefit from standardization.

    An added benefit to the exchange model is that by leasing a battery service rather than buying batteries, the up-front cost of e-bikes can be significantly reduced and some risk related to uncertain battery life shifted to entities better equipped to manage that risk than the everyday consumer.

    One of the many difficulties is that larger, more powerful e-bikes may require more physical mass of batteries than can be easily swapped. If this is the rule rather than the exception the industry needs to focus on standardizing rapid-charge options.

  7. BikePilot says:

    MajorTom, the issue with bikes isn’t fuel efficiency – the mfg’s aren’t even remotely trying to make current ice bikes efficient.

    E-bikes will sell, if at all (in the near future), based purely on performance (unlikely) or the appeal of having something different or trendy or huge tax benefits. The same could be said of most hybrid cages generally – from an economic standpoint they make no sense, from an environmental standpoint they make no sense and most certainly don’t offer much performance. But, they got huge tax breaks and special treatment (hov access for one) and somehow became viewed as “green” and trendy.

  8. Keith says:

    That’s all welll and good, not to mention a damn brilliant idea. BUT it doesn’t address the one thing that the electric Motorcycle companies and I dare say the autos also, is well those god forsake damnablel worthless batteries.

    Until the battery issue is resolved the rest of the technology means exactly jack and shit…in that order. The batteries are teh ONLY issue right now…well that and the idiots in agni still using brushed motors last I checked. (Please lie and tell me they’ve gone to brushless ac) DC brushed motors are so 19th century…

  9. Damo says:

    Excellent article and thought provoking at that! Rare amongst most online motorcycle rags (which is why I usually come here).

    I for one will be the first fan boy on the electric train as soon performance is at least 90% of current litre bike levels. I just hope the bikes don’t stay too silent. I would love and electric two wheeler that sounds like a TIE fighter fly-by.

  10. MajorTom says:

    Hey BikePilot, thanks for the synopsis!
    My thinking was that modification of existing designs a la GilerA Mp3 might be more cost effective as a fuel efficient vehicle; but as you say, the manufacturers aren’t bothering. Brings to kind the fact that the OEMs dont tend to show the mpg in any form of advertising, be it headlining or small print.

    Keith, I believe the Agni’s new motor is the same as design as the old. The motor used in the race bikes, incidentally, is the same motor which is going to be used on that Agility Saietta(?) bike.

    I Am surprised that there are no ‘backroom boffins’ which work on such projects in OEMs, whether officially funded or otherwise (parts bin specials) I believe I am right when I say that the JAguar xj220 was a project built by just those sorts of chaps. Are there no compatible efforts in bikes? Nearest I heard was Rick Simpson’s Rotary hybrid under Norton two years back, but they’ve since parted ways.

  11. MajorTom, the OEMs are coming. Most of the manufacturers have shown off an electric scooter or two, KTM has a dirt bike that was mostly out-sourced, but I think you’ll see a more serious entry from the OEMs in 2011.

  12. BikePilot says:

    Yeah – I think if operating costs become a major issue to motorcycle buyers there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement. For example, my wife’s honda civic VX does no worse than 40mpg even when driven fast with two people and a ton of stuff in it (ok, not a literal ton, but a few hundred lbs of cargo). My liter bike barely manages that with just me on it and even slower bikes I’ve had didn’t do tremendously better at say 80mph (at slower speeds the civic will break 50mpg). The civic is pretty clean in terms of aerodynamics, but I find it unlikely that it has substantially less drag than a clean bike and its many times the weight of a bike.

    Anyway, all that to say a bike built with an eye toward fuel efficiency could probably obtain something on the order of 75+ mpg without giving up too awful much in terms of performance on a standard ICE platform. Fuel would have to be really expensive before the marginal cost savings from riding around on electricity over riding around at 75mpg became a deciding factor.

    One more factor that makes it worse (and applies to cars as well to some extent) is that the mfg’s really only care what the buyers of new bikes care about. People really worried about mpg’s tend to be people without a lot of cash and those buyers don’t generally buy new bikes. Now there’s a secondary effect in that new bike buyers might care about re-sale value, but I suspect the magnitude of that effect is small.

  13. phil says:

    Despite all the hype, I remain unconvinced about electric motorcycles. Bikes are meant to be visceral, loud, aggressive, and electric bikes are the exact opposite. I see no “green” benefit either. The money being wasted on electric technology would be much better spent making reciprocating engines more fuel-efficient and less polluting.

  14. Very incisive and thoughtful article. The challenge however is combining all of the egos in one company.
    phil, riding our electric bike on the salt at Bonneville is visceral, aggressive, and if you count the sound of the wind at 176mph, loud. Don’t discount electric bikes until you feel 145 ft lbs of torque hurtle you down the road.

  15. Westward says:

    I agree bout the egos comment. That is really whats going to kill the whole thing. Pride, one of the deadly sins and the second hardest to lick after lust (my opinion).

    Motoczysz has the swappable batteries and the style and design. Zero just introduced a rapid charging system (rapid as in 4 hours). And Brammo claims 100 mile range and a 100+ mph (not necessarily both at the same time).

    Mission has some interesting motor technology (but don’t know too much about it) There partnership with Honda seem more like roman politics BC, and the most likely victim of the treatment the article eludes to.

    The electric bike marketing seems to be catering to the wrong people. They are perfect for city commuting, college campus environment, and small town communities. They need to harken back to the days when Honda and Ducati appealed to the regular public with their marketing by changing the perception of bikers from Brando and the Wild Ones.

    Weekend riders (Brammo Emplse) and off road dirt biking (Zero) are not realistic, cause there ain’t no outlets in the desert or Canyons…

  16. GeddyT says:

    To me the (sorta) silence of the electrics is the big draw. I gave up the street riding a bit ago because it’s just not practical with my schedule and the weather most of the year in my neck of the woods, but still ride in the dirt as much as I can. I live in a state where the legislature is aggressively anti-ORV, so riding opportunities are scarce, and the nearest fishbowl they’ve crammed us into is nearly an hour away from my house (three hours for the next closest if I want a change of scenery). And yet my house sits at the base of a mountain featuring the best mountain bike trails in the state. Trails partly cut by dirt bikes over a decade ago, before they were banned…

    I love my loud, smokey KTM, but not as much as I would love walking out my back door every single day, hopping on my silent bike, and poaching the HELL out of that hill!

    To me it seems the dirt should be the focus for electric tech initially. There just isn’t a problem presented by current street motorcycles. What’s not to like about about insane power to weight ratios, zero handling compromises (light weight and near unlimited clearance), and 140 mile range followed by a five minute fill-up that can be done in any town? Although the noise from aftermarket pipes on street motorcycles has drawn the public’s ire to the point of new anti-motorcycling legislature being introduced, at least there hasn’t been discussions yet of banning street motorcycles from public roads. On the other hand, it really looks like the relative silence of electric motors is going to be the saving grace of the dirt bike industry.

    The problem, though, is that in the dirt the excessive weight of the current battery packs is an even bigger issue than it is on the street. You can get away with a 550 lb. electric street bike, as that’s no heavier than half the street bikes people ride anyway, but a dirt bike MUST be light. Therefore the packs are tiny, the motors are weak, and the range is short. I agree with the commenter above that the battery pack is the weak link. The motors and controllers are already ridiculously efficient, and there’s nothing stopping any OEM from just buying the rights to a really good motor and controller and plugging it in there. Or designing their own. If Honda can roll their own MotoGP electronics to the incredible levels of complexity and sophistication that they have, I don’t see why they don’t have the mind share to produce an electric motor controller every bit as good and then some as those seen from the startups. Motorcycle chassis are already very well understood–especially by the big manufacturers. They know that with x amount of weight positioned with y center of mass, the bike will handle well if given z geometry. They know how to build frames, they all have established supply chains for excellent braking and suspension components (very much lacking, it seems, from current electric offerings). It would be trivial for them to assemble and sell an electric bike.

    If you ask me they’re not passing up on the opportunity to do so because they’re licking their wounds from the recession. They’re holding off on building electric bikes (with any seriousness) because they currently have no source of batteries that will make the idea competitive with their existing offerings. As such, I don’t really see what it would be that any of the current electric manufacturers could offer the big OEMs unless they make their own batteries and hit upon a major breakthrough. It’s going to be the research company in China or that lab in Berkley or whomever it is that develops the perfect battery that’s going to get the major OEMs to open their wallets. The rest I’m sure they can do themselves.

    Give me a sub 240 lb. bike with high end chassis components that can perform like a 250F for as long as a 250F can on a tank of gas, price it under $11K, and I’ll take two please.

  17. Jim says:

    @Major Tom: There is a company in Pennsylvania that manufactures and distributes components for hybrid drive systems (sorry can’t remember the name) that built a hybrid motorcycle prototype. Beyond the hybrid drive it offered a bunch of other innovations, the ICE was a rocker crank, two-stroke diesel. About 10 years ago I interviewed the CEO for a never published article. At that time they were planning to build a dozen or so operational prototypes and have them field tested by normal riders and they were signing up their first dealers. To the best of my knowledge, none of that happened.

    The performance target for the bike was comparable to 400cc pure ICE powered bikes with a similar weight and overall size. The ICE was interesting in that it could run on most anything that was liquid and burned, and was efficient from an exhaust emissions perspective, but the downsides are that it only operated in a fairly narrow RPM range (IIRC, 5000-7000 RPM) and was incapable of idling. Low speed operation was handled by the electric motor with the ICE kicking in at about 50mph. The ICE and electric motor were configured in a parallel manner similar to the Prius.

    Too bad it never made it to production. I suspect they ran out of development funds and couldn’t find an investor as this was occurring about the time the tech bubble burst and the stock market crashed after 9/11.

  18. Steve Guanche says:

    Rebuttal @ Brammafan for the color commentary, your input although negative towards me missed the whole point. I believe the objective was to stimulate input and views from readers to expose what peolple feel and think, If you didn’t agree, you could stated your thoughts on why not. Hence, all the positve input generated so far by other readers. I have been racing since the late 70′s when home built cafe’ racers was the rage. A modern sport bike sold today could have easily won a superbike race 15 years ago…my point being that the momentum with green technology and the passion to create exceptional electric motorcycles will evolve into a new demension. It won’t be long before WERA or CCS create a category for elctric bike racing depending on KW output. It won’t be long before racers will buy production electric race bikes, and it won’t be long before we see an Electric Bike Dealer near you.

  19. Brammofan says:

    @Steve Guanche – I apologize. It was definitely a dickish comment. I guess my views today (because they change from day to day) are that the current innovators in the field will struggle mightily to survive because of the egos, as Mr. Hatfield observed, that will make their collaboration difficult to commence and challenging to maintain. Even if they were to band together and make it work, they will still be David to the many Goliaths of the OEMs. Sure, David won that battle, but he only had to deal with one foe, and he was single-minded about it.
    I think it’s much more likely that the successful ones from the current group will be slurped up by the OEMs.
    That said, I don’t know that such a slurping is a bad thing for the world. I am hopeful that advances in battery tech will actually help us achieve and surpass the lofty goals of a Xnumber of EVs on the road by 2020.
    And, despite what @phil said, there are many “green” benefits of electric vehicles.

  20. skadamo says:

    Jensen, think you summed it all up well, great post.

    Not sure if you covered a complete change of plan / reinvention.

    Mission kind of did this. They were smart to stay flexible and ride the fence on the Mission One superbike. They clearly explained the high performance electric superbike goal. They did the 2009 TTXGP, built and polished a drivetrain product other manufacturers with money could buy and now they are bringing in money.

    Could Zero start building electric bicycles? Something along the lines of Stealth Electric Bikes (http://stealthelectricbikesusa.com/) Electric bicycles make you go faster than pro bicycle riders where current production electric motorcycles make you go slower than you can on ICE bikes. Seems like a logical transition for Zero with their bicycle influenced background. Brammo has some folks bicycle background too. Not sure if it’s too big a jump really, I’m just giving an example of reinventing the company.

    I agree with Hatfield, too many egos to consolidate. Too many investors to make happy.

    I think the US government money is going to keep flowing to the *US based* company who shows promise. If Zero, Brammo, Mission, etc sell to a major OEM, won’t another American company step up with production electric bikes? Richard? :D

  21. cleffjark says:

    Great article Beeler. And some good comments too.

    I own and commute on an electric motorcycle about 40 miles total per day. I have roommates who split my electric bill and a boss who lets me plug in for free. That means about 45 cents per charge, of which I only pay a fraction of every other time. So I commute every day for about 10 cents. Pretty sweet deal eh? What does it cost you? Even if I had to pay for every charge it’s still only about $115 a year. My ZX12R gets about 30mpg. That’s $1,200 bucks of the good stuff every year at current prices.

    If you dress like a pirate and ride on the weekends with 15 buddies in matching jackets you probably don’t care what gas cost (I also doubt you’re reading these comments). But lots of people do care. More than 50% of the world population now live in urban areas for the first time in history, and it is estimated to shift more rapidly in the near future. That is a big deal folks. That means more people with a need for short distance low cost commuters. The e-motos available today are ready to meet that need.

    By aiming at the current weekend motorcyclist market, these startups will constantly be compared in performance and range to ICE machines. However, if we Americans begin to see motorcycles for more than cool recreation for live fast bad asses, that could change things. Europe and Asia for the most part see motorcycles as a cheap means of transportation. In that role Electrics shine.

    If the current start-ups can provide a product for individuals who want to get from point A to point B efficiently, and find a way to make it trendy, they may do well. If the heads of these company try to compete with the big boys at their own game forget it.

    Performance will come. Like we all know, when the batteries get to the right performance/price point it will be a level playing field.

    In the mean time, think cool like your iphone, not cool like your uncle’s Harley.

  22. Greg says:

    If they could make one sound exactly like my Monster with cored pipes, I’d consider hitting it…….

  23. Mark says:

    @cleffjark
    Although some folks like you use there bikes for basic transportation, the facts are that most motorcyclists in this country and in higher income European countries do not.

    I am a life long motorcyclist and would never consider riding my motorcycle regularly to work and back. My commute is a 20 mile expressway trip consisting of periods of bumper to bumper traffic, followed by a frenzy of frantic and ill-advised lane changers while putting on their make-up while on their cell phones. The weather is either oppressively hot and humid, raining in buckets, snowing or bitter cold. You can only ride comfortably about 4 months out of the year.

    My motorcycle is an escape from the regular day to day routine, and I enjoy nothing more than getting on my bike on the weekends to enjoy some winding open roads with no traffic or pressure.
    If I had to use my motorcycle for basic transportation, the last thing I would think about is getting back on it again on the weekend. For me, motorcycles are for fun and enjoyment, I use a car for commuting, as most motorcyclist do.

    The Brammo Inertia is a perfect example of an entry level commuter bike, they’ve sold less than 200 over the last 3 years if that, proof that Americans don’t buy motorcycles for basic transportation. They want something more to have fun with on the weekends, and electric motorcycles will never become popular until they become powerful and cool enough to appeal to those buyers.

  24. Westward says:

    @Mark

    I don’t think the issue is that Brammo’s sales reflect what americans wont do, it’s more of an issue of what americans wont pay. If the bike cost $4000- 5000 that might be easier to swallow. But at the prices they are, I would rather buy another Monster or instead of an Empulse 10 get an 848. Let’s be honest, a motorcycle is a hell of a lot more eco friendly than a car or truck (Prius not withstanding), one could save just as much money as cleffjark and be environmentally friendly if you were to get a Kawi 250R or the new Honda 250… In this current climate, economy is king, what cost less…

    “A life lived in fear, is a life half lived” — I ride my Ducati for commuting and weekends, it never gets tiring or boring. It’s just part of my life, like it is for billions in other countries. I was even struck on the fwy at normal fwy speeds and still I ride, in fact with even more passion and vigour cause I know more now, what it means – my soul is at ease…

    I want an electric bike so bad, but I’am not anxious to be a guinea pig either, like the first adopters of the iPad…

    @cleffjark

    What is the electric weapon of choice that you speak of, if one may ask…?

  25. Micah says:

    @ Westward: the Zero charges in half the time with the optional quick charge kits – so about 2 hrs with an S and 1 with an X.

  26. aptimus prime says:

    I don’t understand where you are coming from, Jensen.

    The competitive environment for ICE motorcycle upstarts is very simple–you can either build engines or you can’t. If a motorcycle has no engine, the big OEMs are mainly leaning on their brand names and their marketing departments. I don’t know branding will work (unless you’re Harley), but it is incorrect, imo, to assume that the manufacturers will slow play and then buyout the upstarts to maintain the current oligopoly. Tradition/Convention is not a business model. The same archaic buyout strategies will not work either.

    Electric motorcycle manufacturers are going for the jugular. You think Cycsz is going to sellout? You think Lutz got involved so he can do the donkey work for the Japanese? Engines are the primary barrier to entry. Cost is the primary ownership constraint, imo (excluding licensing and skill). In the eyes of many people, electric propulsion is the silver bullet. Batteries and motors could prove to be less expensive to produce than high-revving 4-cylinder engines, and the maintenance costs for electric propulsion are nil compared to the cost of keeping a 600 or 1000 in good nick. Electric propulsion also solves the problems with emissions and noise regulations. The yen is taking off relative to the dollar so domestic manufacturing is an opportunity for upstarts as well.

    However lovely the opportunities may be for electric bike manufacturers, they are not focusing on the product, imo. A big part of motorcycles is the performance, the sound, and the feeling of the machine. An electric motorcycle does not deliver compared to an ICE bike so I don’t see how electric bikes fit into the big picture. If they get cheap enough, young kids might start buying them to get around, and then it’s an entirely new ballgame. But that’s a big “if”. Mopeds have been cheap for a very long time and most kids still don’t ride them.

    The way things are going now, I merely see electric sportsbike manufacturers as pressuring the big OEMs to make reforms to the WSBK rules and the consumer credit policies. The first course of action is for the OEMs to clean their own house. My guess is that electric bikes will not look as appealing once the major OEMs have stopped defecating on their own dinner table. Electric bike startups will continue b/c they can create technologies that are relevant to other industries or other 2-wheeled marketplaces.

  27. Bill Smith says:

    Honda has been in discussions with Zero for over a year. There are no additional details (acquisition or IP/technology license) from our management friends at Honda. We do know that most acquiring companies will not go beyond one year in discussions without making a move (commence or walk).

  28. Stevil_Knevil says:

    Honda + Neal Saiki = Happy Valentines Day!!

  29. Very doubtful. As in, not the case. Let’s put the kibosh on that talk asap.

  30. Mark says:

    @aptimus prime, I agree with the idea that small volume electric manufacturers are not limited by their inability to produce and develop advanced high RPM engines. This is a major factor which is going to help small volume manufacturers compete with large OEM’s on a performance level.

    However, the large OEM’s have a huge advantage in economies of scale. They will be able to produce the same bike at a fraction of the cost of small OEM’s., which will essentially kill off the small manufacturers, even though their products have similar performance.

  31. BikePilot says:

    @ cleffjark – very cool to hear that an e-bike is working in the real world on a daily basis like that! I also commute daily by the motorcycle, but don’t find the ebike attractive yet. For me it’d be a commuter-0nly machine as the performance and range make ebikes useless for my personal recreational 2-wheeled activities. While it would save on gas, it’d take a long time to pay for itself in fuel savings (the bike I generally commute on now gets 60mpg which works out to about $500/yr in fuel) and may never do so depending on battery and component life. Even if electricity were free it’d take 20yrs (excluding the not-insignificant time-value of money) to pay for a $10k ebike and 10 to pay for a $5k e-bike. Even for daily-commuters ebike’s value proposition just isn’t there for me and I suspect most other riders.

  32. cleffjark says:

    I built the electric motorcycle that I commute on. By built I mean I gathered some parts and stuck them on an existing chassis, I was bored. I did it for $3k total including a donor bike to convert and only built in enough range and performance to meet my commuting needs.

    I know not everyone can or would even want to do build there own electric bike. I have however, done the same commute on a Zero S and it performs great. I’m almost ashamed to say how fun the Zero is. I understand that it’d take years to realize a cost savings as compared to a ninja 250 or other low cost bikes. With state and federal rebates the electrics get a little closer though, in Colorado the cost of a Zero S after incentives is shown on the Zero website as $5107. That’s not bad. Based on the price it is not an easy choice to make right now though. I believe in the future it will be the most inexpensive choice. I hope to see the current start ups survive until that time comes.

    I still own and ride a gas powered bike and the difference in performance is obvious. But I encourage everyone to get on an electric and give them a chance. It may surprise you. I can’t really explain why it is so fun. But it is. It feels like you’re getting away with something. And you seem to get lots of attention, that should get lots of Harley riders to give it a try right? Now if only the Zero S and the Enertia weren’t so Ugly….