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.”

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors

10/10/2012 @ 2:36 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word that Mission Motors has let go of a significant portion of its staff, both on the engineering and non-engineering sides of the San Francisco based startup. With the layoffs presumably the result of a lack of funding, the news comes interestingly just a few months after the departure of Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Moe, who made his return back to Vectrix in July of this year.

The bulk loss of its workforce is certain to be a blow to Mission Motors, which according to our sources, still has a core team in place to continue basic business operations. Making the switch from being an electric motorcycle company to supplying electric drive components to OEMs in Q1 2010, it wouldn’t surprise us if some of the now former Mission Motors employees found their way into other electric motorcycle manufacturers, and today’s news paints an interesting picture for the future of the Mission R electric superbike.

Rumor: Vectrix to Debut an Electric Superbike at EICMA?

09/11/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

With all the hype that surrounds the electric motorcycle industry, it is easy to forget the company that basically paved the way for the current batch electric motorcycle OEMs. Depending on how closely you follow the space, Vectrix may or may not be a name that is familiar to you, but it should be. By our last count, the American-based, now Chinese-owned (it went bankrupt in 2009), EV company had put more electric two-wheelers on the road in the USA than Brammo and Zero Motorcycles…combined.

Will the Mission R Actually Be Built? Yes, No, Maybe So…

08/06/2012 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

If you didn’t have the time to read my 3,700 word tome on what it is like to ride the Mission R electric superbike through San Francisco’s motorcycling playground, I will break it down for you: it was awesome. Of course, riding an entirely custom-built motorcycle with the absolute best components, design, and engineering available should be an awesome experience, especially when you add in one of the most sophisticated electric powertrains on the market. The Mission R isn’t some exercise in hugging trees and saving humpback whales though, it is an exercise in building a better motorcycle than what we have today.

We have known the downside to this discourse for some time though: Mission Motors is no longer in the business of selling motorcycles, and the Mission R is not, and will not, be available for sale (just ask Ryan Reynolds, who was turned down by Mission when he tried to get a Mission R of his very own) — sad trombone. If you too feel a might blue because of that news, I have some information that will pick you up this Monday afternoon. The guys at Mission Motors have been floating the idea of licensing the Mission R to a manufacturer, creating the possibility that if the right OEM was interested, the Mission R could become a publicly available motorcycle for your two-wheeling pleasure.

Tight-lipped on specifics, the only formal comment that Mission Motors will make about the subject is that conversations of this nature have taken place with OEMs, and that the company is open to the idea of either licensing the entire Mission R, or just its powertrain, to a well-qualified motorcycle manufacturer. While the Mission R in its current trim is easily a six-figure machine, using more obtainable components, and producing a run of some volume could bring the electric superbike’s price down into the $40,000 to $50,000 price range. Still a pricey endeavor to be sure, but not entirely unheard of when it comes to limited edition sport bikes.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

Mission R Spotted in Street-Legal Trim

03/01/2012 @ 10:31 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

To be filed under the heading: “right place, right time,” I had the good fortune of catching Mission Motors’ Mission R out on the streets yesterday, as one of the San Franciscan company’s engineers took the bike out while doing errands at the SF Dainese Store. Stopping by the store myself to show off the Zero S that’s been camping in my living room for the last two weeks, I quickly found my thunder stolen by Mission’s two-wheeled masterpiece.

Of course, any opportunity to see the Mission R is a treat, as the electric superbike is not only a delicious dish in person, but it also happens to have no problem doing supersport lap times at Laguna Seca when Steve Rapp is on-board. However, what made this sighting of the Mission R extra special was the fact that Mission Motors has outfitted the Mission R with a headlight, mirror, and most importantly, a California license plate.

Other choice pieces include an Android-powered Samsung tablet that fills in as the Mission R’s digital dash, which is sure to tickle the fancy of our geekier readers. If you are an SF native, keep an eye out for the Mission R on the city streets, the rider you see might be a Mission Motors engineer, a Hollywood celebrity (we hear Ryan Reynolds has been jonesing for a Mission R like something fierce), or a Fortune 500 executive.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Sprint Features Mission Motors in TV Commercials

08/30/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

On my way to the Indianapolis GP this weekend, I was sitting in coach (because that’s how we roll here at A&R) on Delta flight 147 to Atlanta (direct flights are for wusses), passing the time on the 5 hour flight by watching the airline’s 15 or so TV channels ($6 for an in-flight movie??! Who are you kidding Delta?). Suffering through mostly daytime soap operas, I opted to to watch the news stations instead. While the day’s headlines were mostly about the impending apocalypses that were hurricane Irene and the retirement of Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO, the segment I found the most interesting were the commercials (this should say something about CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News).

Somehow managing to stay conscious long enough through the advertisements, I hear a Sprint spokesman quickly say “what if we design an electric motorcycle?” Surprised to hear such a non sequitur on TV, I looked up in-time to briefly see a CAD drawing of a motorcycle, whose frame quickly reminded me of the Mission R (with and without its clothes). With the rest of the commercial talking about some Samsung tablets, I remembered that Mission Motors uses a Samsung Tab for the prototype Mission R dash (photo after the jump). Could it be the Sprint was hocking Mission Motors in a TV ad?

Co-Founder Edward West Leaves Mission Motors

08/23/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has learned that Mission Motors’s co-founder Edward West has left the company. West’s departure is contemporaneous with the San Francisco startup’s recent $9 million Series B funding round, which sees another $41 million in funding on-tap should the company need it. Helping start Mission Motors roughly five years ago, West’s next endeavor isn’t immediately clear, though, he was quick to praise the Mission Motors team, and the collection of highly talented individuals that he had the pleasure of working with throughout the years.

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

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.