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.”

Kawasaki Applies for Electric Motorcycle Patent

03/18/2015 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Need further proof that the future of motorcycling will include electrics? Take this recently published patent application from Kawasaki, that the Japanese OEM filed for back in 2011.

The claims are fairly rudimentary, though they do include a transmission, with Kawasaki’s lawyers mostly outlining the basics of a motorcycle powered by an electric motor, of course the news is less about the contents of the patent application, and more about the fact that it was applied for, in the first place.

Is Ferrari Working on a Motorcycle?

10/07/2014 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Lately we have seen a lot of car manufacturers taking an interest in the two-wheeled world — Audi bought Ducati from Investindustrial, and MV Agusta is expected to announce that Mecerdes-AMG is taking a minority stake in the Italian motorcycle company.

These collaborations and consolidations make a lot of sense from a business perspective: economies of scale, common four-stroke technology, shared R&D, and CAFE standard benefits, just to name a few.

So that’s why the latest news that Ferrari has filed a patent on a motorcycle engine doesn’t surprise us in concept. Nor does the press’ intensity of the subject.

Honda’s Forgotten “Frameless” Chassis Design Patent

03/27/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Before Ducati’s monocoque chassis design was all the rage in superbike design, the folks at Honda were busy toying with the same idea.

Outlining a patent in 2006 for a motorcycle whose engine would be fully utilized as a part of the chassis, Honda’s design, which differs in minutiae, predates Ducati’s patent by almost a year and a half.

A noticeable departure from Honda’s MotoGP design, one can argue whether Honda’s monocoque chassis was destined for the next iteration of the CBR1000RR or the next generation VFR at the time of its conception.

Honda V4 Superbike Engine Outed in Patent Photos

03/12/2014 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Honda’s road-going V4 superbike project has seemingly stalled, for the umptenth time in the past decade. While the bike has been rumored for years, the project just a year and a half ago was confirmed by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.

Since that confirmation, the project’s delivery time has been pushed back, thought the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has committed itself to building the MotoGP-inspired road bike.

With reports speculating on a possible price tag well into the six-figure range, the rumormill is on the rev limiter regarding this superbike, so if there is one thing we actually know about the machine, it is that we don’t actually know much about it.

A 1,000cc displacement is of course expected, along with a four-cylinder v-angle cylinder configuration. If we can presume a setup similar to what is found on the Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, then make that a 90° cylinder head arrangement.

If we had really been on the ball though, we likely could have told you all this, six months ahead of Ito’s confirmation, as patent documents discovered by Spanish magazine SoloMoto shows the V4 superbike engine in line-drawing form, from as early as March 2012.

More on Kawasaki’s Supercharged Motorcycle Engine

12/09/2013 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The tease of 2013 has to be Kawasaki and its supercharged four-cylinder engine, which the Japanese OEM debuted at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Showing the engine, and giving virtually no information about the intended uses of the supercharged power plant, we have been left to speculate over what Kawasaki’s intentions are in the two-wheeled forced-induction realm.

Diving through the Google’s database of patent applications though,  we see that over the years Kawasaki has published a number of patents that relate to adding a supercharger to a motorcycle. Not only has Kawasaki been thinking about how to fit a supercharger into a motorcycle for some time now, but the OEM has some clever tricks up its sleeve in order to optimize its designs.

Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

So You Want to Know How to Build a Front Wheel Regenerative Braking System on a Motorcycle?

04/20/2012 @ 12:23 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Eighteen months ago, Chip Yates filed for a patent on his front-end KERS design for motorcycles, which means that today the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) can disclose Yates’s patent application to the public. Detailing the only front-wheel regenerative-braking system for motorcycles that we know to exist, the design built by Yates allows a motorcycle to scavenge power from the braking force applied to the front wheel of a motorcycle, and store it in an electric battery system.

Current regenerative-braking systems on the market, like the ones that help power the 2012 Zero S that we tested just a few months ago, use regenerative-braking off the rear wheel, and are more prone to locking the rear tire up if too much force is applied to the system. With 70% or more of a bike’s potential braking force coming from the front wheel, a front-end KERS system has a substantially greater ability to put power back into an electric motorcycle’s battery pack, thus either increasing the range of an electric motorcycle or allowing more electric power to be used over the same distance.

Who Wore It Best? Del Rosario Calls Out the AGV PistaGP

03/26/2012 @ 10:24 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

While we are excited and anxiously awaiting the AGV PistaGP helmet, one American helmet manufacturer is less-than-thrilled with the Italian company’s latest offering: Del Rosario. A small boutique firm based out of New York, Del Rosario’s aim was to bring to market helmet designs that were “caught up to the rest of the industry.” Showing off a number of CAD renders since its inception, Del Rosario has clearly missed its late-2011 shipping date, and as far as we can tell, has not actually produced any physical prototypes or finished models.

Getting a fair bit of press and then falling off the radar, Del Rosario is back in the limelight as the company sent a worded warning to AGV through its corporate Facebook page. According to a message posted by Del Rosario on its social media portal, one of the company’s former advisors showed AGV Del Rosario’s stylebook, and now three years later the PistaGP has emerged with a shell design that has some obviously similar characteristics to Del Rosario’s renders.

There Are No Sacred Cows: Harley-Davidson Patents Cylinder Head Cooling System

06/20/2011 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

The rumors that Harley-Davidson has been eying a liquid-cooled motor design have always been in abundance, and 10 years ago we saw the company test the waters of that pool with the Porsche-engineered lump that was found in the V-Rod. While the VRSC line may not have been as big of a success compared to the other models in Harley’s line-up, the water-cooled bastard child of Milwaukee still seems to sell in the tens of thousands each year, even after nearly a decade of only cosmetic revisions.

Faced with an aging demographic, an uninspired motorcycle line-up, and 21 takes on the same motorcycle design, there’s a push internally at Harley-Davidson to break-out and find a new way to engage riders, especially younger riders. The core ethos of change seems to start at the motor itself, and Harley-Davidson has already done the rounds at various electric motorcycle and drivetrain companies. There also exists amount of external and internal pressure over Harley’s pervasive use of air-cooled motors, and now whispers of a water-cooled v-twin power plant have gotten louder in Milwaukee. With those rumors now reaching a boiling point (see what I did there?), Harley-Davidson has patented a very clever way of adding liquid-cooling to its iconic v-twin motor design.

Can-Am Files for Leaning Spyder Patent

02/08/2011 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Bombardier has been busy over the past two years, presumably working on something new for the Can-Am Spyder. While not exactly a new idea, the Canadian company has devised a control system for a leaning vehicle…a three-wheeled vehicle shaped like a Spyder according to the patent application that was filed in in July 2009, and published this January (yes, it really takes the USPTO that long just to publish an application, let alone grant a patent). While the technical drawings have little bearing on the final product, it would at least seem logical to conclude that we can expect a leaning Can-Am Spyder in the near future.

For now this technology is just in the application process, and Bombardier hasn’t received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office yet. Likely unable to get past the prior art for other leaning trike designs as a whole, Bombardier’s patent focuses on the linkage for the steering mechanism, and how to overcome some of the deficiencies in current designs. Diving into the claims of the patent, Bombardier actually has a pretty clever way of having the Spyder’s frame lean and not lean under the right circumstances, which should make for a more refined three-wheeled leaning chassis.