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.”

How to Lose $4,500 in Single Corner – AKA “The Pass” Between Tyler O’Hara & Michael Barnes at NOLA

10/08/2012 @ 12:18 am, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Whether your poison is World Superbike or AMA Pro Racing, this weekend provided some excellent motorcycle racing. Out of all the memorable moments where we yelled at the TV this race-day Sunday (and there were more than a few), our favorite, hands-down, has to be “the pass” that Tyler O’Hara pulled on Michael Barnes coming down the final stretch at NOLA.

Full-throttle on the Harley-Davidson XR1200 race bikes for the win, a race that would also who would win AMA Pro Racing XR1200 Championship, O’Hara pulled a classic move on Barney — no really, he pulled Barnes back by the arm just ahead of the finish line.

It is debatable whether O’Hara would have caught Barnes on the drive to the finish, and both riders have a good on-track rivalry, and off-track sense of humor, but Barnes was clearly not pleased with O’Hara’s race shenanigans (we think it is sort of winning, in the Charlie Sheen sense of the word).

Nonetheless, the AMA ruled it an “avoidable contact” and displaced O’Hara from 1st to last in the race, which sent him into third place for the Championship points.

In other words, Tyler O’Hara lost $4,500 dollars in prize money ($2,000 for second in the race, $2,500 for the drop from second to third in the Championship), while perpetrating one of most awesome/punk-kid moves we have ever seen in motorcycle racing. The video of “the pass” is after the jump. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

2012 Lightning Motors Concept Sketch – Two Bike Team

05/09/2011 @ 5:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

After our Bothan Spies brought back photos of the new Lightning Motors electric race motorcycle, we got this concept sketch of the new 2012 “Flying Banana” that gives us some idea or what to expect this weekend at Infineon for the first round of the North American TTXGP series. It is hard to glean any real information off the sketch, other than of course that the machine will have two-wheels, a seat, and some fairings.

What we can tell from this information though is that the Lightning is suspiciously svelte compared to last year’s racing machine. Though it’s easy to hide a motorcycle’s mass in two dimensions, it looks like Lightning Motors has gone on a diet with its design philosophy, which backs up the information we got that the machine has lost 150 lbs from its previous bulk. Time will tell what sort of sacrifices the team had to make in order to achieve that feat, but with two bikes listed on their card, Lightning seems to mean business this year.

MotoCzysz Wins e-Power at Laguna Seca

07/26/2010 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The FIM’s e-Power Championship came to American soil this weekend, as the series piggybacked off the Red Bull US GP. Twelve teams from around the world arrived at Laguna Seca to test their mettle against the historic and technical track. While the racing would technically be bike against bike, the undulating tarmac of Seca was certainly also an adversary as well.

Lightning Motors and Michael Barnes took the pole position during Saturday’s qualifying, leaving MotoCzysz and Michael Czysz relegated to the second position on the starting line. Coming from behind on Sunday’s race, MotoCzysz won the e-Power race at Laguna Seca with a dramatic pass just 10 feet from the finish line.

TTXGP: Zero/Agni Takes Victory at Infineon After An Early Battle with Lightning Motors

05/16/2010 @ 1:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

TTXGP’s inaugural North American race is in the bag at Infineon, as race fans got to see two close battles for first and third place this weekend. Blasting off the line was the yellow Lightning Motors bike, or the “Flying Banana” as it’s become known here in the paddock. Lightning’s rider, Michael Barnes, made quick work of Shawn Higbee and his Zero/Agni race bike off the line and on the straights, showing a very strong power package.

With all the power on-board though, Barney was limited  by his heavy and bulky bike, and wasn’t able to carry that speed into the corners as well as Higbee and his more slight Agni bike. Higbee, known for carrying a lot of corner speed, made up a lot of ground on Lightning, making it a close battle between the two riders.

Zero/Agni Sits On TTXGP Pole – Lightning Close Behind as Both Teams Do Sub-Two Minute Laps

05/16/2010 @ 3:52 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Qualifying ended today at Infineon Raceway, with nearly all the riders improving on their times in the day’s later qualifying session. While all the entrants will get to compete in the race regardless of whether or not they qualify, the two outings for Saturday gave us a preview as to what we can expect on Sunday’s race. As we’ve mentioned before, the Zero/Agni motorcycle looked very strong with Shawn Higbee at the helm.

Also looking confident was the “flying banana” fielded by Lightning Motors. Piloted by Michael Barnes, Barney took the yellow lightning machine around the course at a pace that was just seconds off what Higbee & Co. were lapping. We know the yellow bike has a lot of power on-board, and could give Zero a run for their money if they’ve been sand-bagging it during the practice sessions. Finishing out the top three was Thad Wolff and his stunning Norton, which blended a little bit of old with new with his streamlined retro bike chassis. Click past the jump for photos from qualifying and a full list of results.