Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R – 201hp with Race Exhaust

11/12/2012 @ 9:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

We may have spoiled Christmas last month, as our predictions for the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R appear to be spot on as we get news from Ducati’s 2013 model year press launch at EICMA.

As expected, the highlights to the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R are the inclusions of titanium con-rods, a lightened flywheel, DLC-coated rocker-arms, a four-point adjustable swingarm pivot-point, a 500 rpm rev boost, and a bit more power (courtesy of a full-system race exhaust and ECU).

While the “R” spec Panigale officially makes the same power as the other models, the race exhaust included with the purchase of the machine is good for a few more ponies up top, giving the Ducati 1199 Panigale R a 201hp top figure, a modest 6% gain up top, but also a 15% increase in the midrange.

Like all Panigales, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R has ABS, ride-by-wire throttle control, traction control, engine braking control, and features all the amenities on the “S” spec model, like the DDA+ data logging system.

WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini

11/12/2012 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini

All the conjecture about Ducati’s factory World Superbike team can now come to a halt, as the Italian brand has announced that Francis Batta’s Belgian organisation, Team Alstare will take over the reigns of the company’s new WSBK effort.

At the helm of the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 will be former WSBK Champion Carlos Checa, who will be joined by Ayrton Badovini. Handling Ducati’s World Superbike campaign for the next two years, Alstare takes over from Althea Racing — a move that made headlines just a week ago.

Ducati Corse Confirms Carlos Checa & Panigale RS13 in WSBK – Hints at Factory Team for 2013

10/29/2012 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.

WSBK: Althea Racing and Ducati Corse Part Ways

10/28/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

In a surprise move, Althea Racing and Ducati Corse have parted ways in their World Superbike collaboration. The news sees Carlos Checa remaining with Ducati Corse and on the Ducati 1199 Panigale, though the Spaniard has no team behind him. Meanwhile, Althea Racing will retain #2 man Davide Giugliano, but will have to begin a search for a new manufacturer.

The issue under contention is the level of support Ducati Corse was willing to give the team, as Team Principal Genesio Bevilacqua has said to several Italian publications that Ducati was willing to give about as much support in 2013 as it did in 2012, which wasn’t a lot.

Left to develop the Ducati 1199 Panigale on its own, a large feat given the rumors that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not up to par for racing duty, Althea Racing is said to have balked at the idea of having to do all the heavy-lifting while Ducati reaps all the reward, and rightfully so.

Ducati North America Q3 2012 Sales up 24%

10/24/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Ducati North America has some impressive Q3 2012 sales numbers, as the Italian brand is up 24% over the same time period from last year. Its ninth-straight quarter of retail sales growth, Ducati North America owes a great deal of its success surprisingly to the Ducati Diavel, which was Bologna’s strongest model for growth in September. Ducati North America’s sales were up 40% in September.

Ducati hopes that 2012 will be a record year for the company, with sales from the Ducati 1199 Panigale helping fuel that enthusiasm. While Ducati remains bullish about the Panigale’s sales, our Bothan Spies have hinted that the new superbike hasn’t exactly met the initially high-sales expectations.

MotoCzysz E1pc vs. Ducati 1199 Panigale S

10/12/2012 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

When it comes to electric motorcycles, I am not interested in saving the manatees. I don’t stand around in Starbucks parking lots debating the finer points of offsetting my carbon footprint. It is perfectly fine if that is your calling in life, but when it comes to motorcycles, I am really only interested in one thing: going fast. I am not going to berate someone for wanting to save the environment, or decrease our dependency on foreign energy reserves — those are both worthy and important sentiments that I share as well, just not when it comes to my two-wheel decadence.

The only political debate I am interested in hearing during a discussion about motorcycles is the politics of the apex. If you want to talk about “the green movement” on a ride with me, it better be in regards to your Kawasaki, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with the electric motorcycle community. There are two types of operators in this space, and they are seemingly at odds with each other. One group is convinced that petroleum is an imperfect fuel source, while the other thinks that petroleum-burning motorcycles are imperfect machines.

We can reconcile both these factions with the notion that they are both correct in the big picture, but when it comes to adoption of electric vehicles, only the Steve Austin principle applies: better, stronger, and most importantly faster. The modern sport bike is an analog machine, and the electric superbike is its digital successor.

Over one hundred years of riding on the vinyl scratches and distortions of gasoline motors has blinded us to the future. We use words like warmth and character to justify our resistance to the inevitable change coming, but make no mistake that the mainstream will readily adopt the MP3 riding movement once it hits its critical moments in price and performance parity. This does not mean the death of internal combustion, after all you can still find audiophiles with tube amps and vast LP collections — a certain amount of the demographic has to be frozen in time, right Harley-Davidson?

There is this idea though that motorcycles can be better than they currently are now. They can be integrated machines, from fuel source to wheel-spin. Road inputs don’t have to be muted by engine vibrations, throttle adjustments can happen at the speed of light, and fine…we can also save the manatees in the process. The concept being discussed here is the Digital Superbike, and the man who coined the term is Michael Czysz.

Traveling to Portland, Oregon to see Czysz’s latest creation, I got see first-hand how the MotoCzysz E1pc was progressing with its digital revolution. Read-on for that account.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale – Now in Arctic White

10/02/2012 @ 3:39 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

While the Ducati 1199 Panigale is getting a number of revisions under the skin for its second year on the market, like an improved chassis and suspension setup (more on that later), it seems Ducati has also seen fit to offer its superbike in a color other than red. Behold from INTERMOT, the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale in Arctic White. Apparently this is the new matte black, which is what we’re all really waiting for. Photos after the jump.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R Coming Soon

09/28/2012 @ 6:36 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

In about six weeks, Ducati will be unveiling its 2013 model line-up. The star of the show will be the new liquid-cooled Hypermotard, but the Italian brand has several other new models it plans on debuting as well. We have already seen the updated 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200, with its implementation of the Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS), as semi-active suspension package developed by Sachs.

The updated Ducati Multistrada 1200 also features the second-generation Testastretta 11° DS engine, which uses a dual-spark configuration to boost mid-range power, as well as clean up some of the v-twin motor’s emissions. At Milan, we will also more than likely see a middleweight displacement Ducati Multistrada, and our Bothan spies confirm to us that a Ducati 1199 Panigale R will also be making its debut at Milan.

Ducati 1199 Panigale Gets Clean Slate for Weight in WSBK

09/27/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

World Superbike is expected to announce after the Magny-Cours round next week that the Ducati 1199 Panigale will not incur the same 6kg weight ballast penalty as the current Ducati 1098R Superbike. A part of WSBK’s fluidic formula for Superbike racing, World Superbike rules allow for the air intake to be restricted and weight ballast to be added to twin-cylinder motorcycles on an prescribed basis, to compensate for the 200cc displacement capacity advantage the twins have over the four-cylinder machines.

With Carlos Checa handily winning the 2011 Championship, the recipe was set for Ducati to continue to incur a 6kg disadvantage this season, which has sent the Spaniard to fourth in the World Superbike Championship standings this season. Mathematically out of the hunt for the Championship in 2012, Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati for the 2013 season, where he will campaign the Ducati 1199 Panigale, which will race without the 1098R’s restrictions.

Sorry, The Japanese-Spec Panigale is Not a Hoax

08/30/2012 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Never underestimate the power of denial. When we first published photos of the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale, the immediate reaction from readers was that the machine had to be a hoax. Oh no dear Ducatisti, Japan’s v-twin abomination of Italy’s latest superbike is very real.

With Japanese journalists now getting a chance to swing a leg over the machine, we get our first glimpse of the bike in motion. Noticeably quieter than our American-spec version, we still don’t understand the need for such a butchering of Ducati’s design. But then again, we’re bloggers, not engineers.

Featuring a single right-hand-side-mounted exhaust that taps into the under-slung units we are more familiar with, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale also features an enlarged plastic clutch cover, and a re-worked engine map (the S model also features the base model’s wheels). Check the video out after the jump. If any of our Japanese speakers hear something interesting in the video, post it up in the comments.