Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

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.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

06/10/2016 @ 6:53 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors.

Details beyond this statement are lean however, though we can imagine that the news is in response to rival cruiser brand Victory Motorcycles continued push of its electric prowess with its Victory Empulse TT electric street bike, and its racing programs at the Isle of Man TT and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

This announcement is fairly superfluous, however. Lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.

The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

Polaris Trademarks “Victory Charger” – An Electric Cruiser?

02/05/2015 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Trademark applications with the USPTO show that Polaris has registered “Victory Charger” as a mark to be used with “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

The application is a strong hint that we could see an electric cruiser from the Victory brand, which is owned by Polaris, in the coming future.

The news is especially timely, as Polaris just acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and plans on building electric motorcycles at the company’s facilities in Spirit Lake, IA.

As if there wasn’t already enough fuel for the fire, on a product roadmap for investors, Brammo listed an “eCruiser” as a possible future model — a model that could easily be repurposed for the progressive Victory cruiser brand.

Matt Levatich Named The New CEO of Harley-Davidson

02/04/2015 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In a surprise press release late-today, Harley-Davidson announced that Matt Levatich will be taking over as the company’s CEO, starting May 1, 2015. Levatich will replace current CEO Keith Wandell, who took on his role in the company on May 1, 2009 — in the middle of the great economic recession.

The news is perhaps less shocking to industry insiders and analysts, who are familiar with the reasons behind Wandell’s tenure as CEO, and where Harley-Davidson stands today.

For sometime now we have been wondering when Harley-Davidson would initiate the next phase of its business plan, and whether Wandell would be a part of the company going forward.

As the symmetry of the tenure shows, today’s news is also a tip by Harley-Davidson that the swap in CEOs is due more to a new company direction than a reflection on performance.

Harley-Davidson Continues Search for EV Workers

12/31/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Think the Harley-Davidson LiveWire project was just a stunt for shareholders? No one can say for certain, of course, but the Bar & Shield brand is continuing its search for experts in electric vehicle production…which we doubt anyone would have believed 10 years ago.

Right now Harley-Davidson has two positions posted on its career portal — a Staff Technical Engineer and a Advanced Manufacturing Project Engineer — both of which refer to an EV/Electrical project at Harley-Davidson.

The One Overlooked Detail on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/20/2014 @ 10:44 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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At the time this article will be posted, it will make the sixth article relating to Harley-Davdison’s Project Livewire that is on the Asphalt & Rubber homepage. The Motor Company’s first foray into electric motorcycles made its way into not only every motorcycle publication around the world, but it also hit mainstream media like wildfire.

A topic more heavily saturated at this point than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and yet everyone of the publications carrying the story, including A&R, overlooked one critical thing about Project Livewire’s launch. The attached graphic is the five-day stock price of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), and that large spike is the Livewire’s unveiling time.

Leaked: Tech Details on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

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Thanks to our network of Bothan spy tipsters, we posted today the still-unreleased photos of the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire. Details were light from our sources though, but Bothans are a tireless breed (note: for new readers, we sort of have this whole Star Wars motif on leaked stories…just roll with it, we already know we’re nerds).

While the consensus on Project Livewire seems to be that it’s a looker, the devil is in the details…and now we have those as well. Featuring a three-phase induction motor with 55 kW of power (just under 74hp) and 52 lbs•ft of torque, the Harley-Davidson Livewire is packing more power than both the Brammo Empulse R (54 hp) and Zero SR (67 hp). That’s the good.

The bad is that despite its hefty casing size, the Harley-Davidson Livewire motorcycle is a little light in the loafers when it comes to battery capacity. Our guesstimate on battery pack size, judging from Harley’s quoted charge time and parameters, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 kWh nominal, a bit less than the 9.3 kWh and 10.0 kWh of the Brammo and Zero.

That means the Harley-Davidson Livewire is good for just over 50 miles of mixed city and highway riding that is limited to 92 mph (we’re not really sure how Harley-Davidson came up with that figure). Expect to go 0-60 in around 4 seconds.

Leaked: First Photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 7:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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The folks in Milwaukee didn’t invite Asphalt & Rubber to the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire launch and subsequent press embargo, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over publishing the latest find from our Bothan spy network (for the record, A&R has never broken a press embargo that we were invited to).

That all being said, here are the first official photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle — the Bar & Shield brand’s foray into electric motorcycle scene — for your viewing pleasure.

Details are still spotty of course (update: you can read the tech specs here), so we will leave that bit of journalism to the publications that Harley-Davidson deemed worthy (maybe it was something we said?). For our part though, we can see a full-glass dash though, which is another first for Harley-Davidson, as well as an LED headlight.

The big kickers will be the price and range, of course. South of $20,000 and north of 100 miles would really make Project Livewire a strong contender on the market. It will remain to be seen if Harley-Davidson can get under/above those two metrics, respectively, though.

Harley-Davidson Livewire Teaser Site Setup

06/18/2014 @ 6:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Three Harley-Davidson posts on Asphalt & Rubber in a single day? Surely the gods must be crazy. But like a Coke bottle to the head, things are about to get pretty out of control in the American motorcycle landscape in a big way. Setting up a dedicated launch site for its first electric motorcycle, Harley-Davidson isn’t tipping its hands too much officially, though in 11 hours we should know a lot more.

Usually with marketing lingo, you can see the hyperbole for what it is, but in the case of the Harley-Davidson Livewire, the Bar & Shield brand’s statement seems more like an honest assessment, rather than typical industry grandstanding:

“There are milestones that change history – those pivotal moments where the future is defined. This is one of them. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our 111 years. This is the next chapter of our journey. Whether you’re a rider or not, we’re inviting you to take part in the experience, and be there for this historic ride forward.”

Harley Trademarked “Livewire” for Electric Motorcycle

06/18/2014 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson is releasing an electric motorcycle tomorrow, did you know? Something that we were put onto two years ago, alluded to last year, and spied last week, a quick stroll through the US Patent and Trademark filings shows that the “Livewire” name was registered by Harley-Davidson, for use on “motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

Electric Harley-Davidson “Livewire” to Debut Tomorrow

06/18/2014 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson has just posted a video to its YouTube, which teases a new model coming tomorrow, June 19th, 2014. The video itself is devoid of any information, with a sole blurred motorcycle jetting past a Route 66 sign. The only hint we have on what to expect is the unmistakable sound of an electric drivetrain at full-tilt.

We first broke the news about Harley’s electric motorcycle two years ago, and we have already caught the electric Harley-Davidson on the Avengers: Age of Ultron film set, looking pretty much ready for production, including DOT reflectors, so this revelation isn’t completely out of left field.

A quick stroll through Harley-Davidson’s trademark filings shows the “Livewire” name being registered with the USPTO back in November 2012. The name can also be spotted on the side of the motorcycle that was seen on the Avengers set.

After our story broke last week, our spies reported that a launch of that machine was said to be coming later this week. With this announcement, all the pieces of the puzzle now seem to fit.