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.”

Ride in Peace, Michael Czysz

05/07/2016 @ 11:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Michael Czysz, who finally succumbed to his years-long battle with cancer today.

Michael is known best in our two-wheeled circles for starting the MotoCzysz C1 MotoGP project, which eventually morphed into the Isle of Man TT winning electric motorcycle race team of the same name.

However, Michael’s accomplishments outside of the motorcycle industry are perhaps even more impressive, as he was a prominent designer for the rich and famous through his Architropolis design firm.

I think it is Michael’s vision for ingenuity in the design world that fueled his work with motorcycles, as Michael’s machines featured a number of innovations of his own creation, which surely flowed from his creative personality.

While we mourn his departure, it is perhaps fitting to realize that Michael left us just a few weeks before the start of the 2016 Isle of Man TT, as a large portion of Michael’s legacy stems from taking the MotoCzysz team to four consecutive TT Zero race wins at the Isle of Man TT – his innovative motorcycles setting record laps in each attempt, no less.

2013 FIM eRoadRacing World Cup Finale Cancelled

11/22/2013 @ 8:11 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Did you enjoy all our FIM eRoadRacing World Cup coverage this year? No, you didn’t miss our postings, because we didn’t mention any of the rounds on A&R. You see, it is hard to get excited about the newly minted eRoadRacing World Cup, which in the United States has been dominated by a single brand, Brammo.

While the Isle of Man’s TT Zero event continues to make headway, both in competitive entries and close racing, the newly merged racing efforts from the previously competing FIM and TTXGP series has foundered — even in its new cooperative form.

At the center of the problem is probably a variety of issues: too much too soon, not enough commitment from OEMs, and a poor racing spectacle, which is why this week’s latest news on the e-racing front is a bit of a disappointment as well: the 2013 FIM eRoadRacing World Cup finale has been cancelled.

eRoadRacing’s Miller Motorsports Park Round Cancelled

08/08/2013 @ 5:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It’s been a while since we reported on the eRoadRacing World Cup series, the love child merger of the TTXGP and FIM e-Power electric motorcycle racing series, and that is for good reason.

While Asphalt & Rubber is a big proponent of the electric motorcycle uprising, and there are a lot of interesting things developing in this space (be sure read to our ride reviews of BRD RedShift SM, Mission RS, and MotoCzysz E1pc) the racing side of the equation has been rather lackluster.

So, it doesn’t surprise to hear that the FIM has cancelled the eRoadRacing event at Miller Motorsports Park, which was supposed to happen August 31st & September 1st.

Instead, the North American part of the eRoadRacing series will consist of only two rounds: last month’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, and this month’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow?

06/10/2013 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.

In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.

If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.

2013 eRoadRacing World Cup Provisional Calendar

04/01/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup Provisional Calendar

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After years of being competitors, the FIM and TTXGP have finally come together to form a new cohesive series, and now they are finally ready to debut the name of their new lovechild, the eRoadRacing World Cup.

Premiering with six racing events, three in Europe, and three in the United States, the 2013 eRoadRacing provisional racing calendar primarily piggybacks off the FIM’s other Championship events, with the Indianapolis GP being the highlight addition to the schedule.

With American teams racing at two MotoGP Championship races (the other being Laguna Seca), and the Europeans racing in front of two World Endurance Championship crowds (Oschersleben & Le Mans), the exposure factor should be conducive to sponsors as well as teams for the 2013 season.

Additionally, the eRoadRacing calendar leaves a big enough hole open in its schedule for teams that want to race at the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Now isn’t that sporting? A still unset World Final is expected to be held in Asia, at the conclusion of the American and Europeans series. The provisional calendars for both series are after the jump.

TTXGP & FIM Create New Electric Motorcycle Racing Series

03/05/2013 @ 1:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Suffering falling outs with both the Isle of Man TT and the FIM, the TTXGP electric motorcycle series has had to reinvent itself since its first event in back in 2009. A massive collision of three parties all trying to control the next big thing in motorcycle racing, fans of the electric motorcycle racing eventually saw it split over three competing series: the TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, the FIM’s e-Power Championship, and of course the TTXGP series.

The resulting fracture created a lack of cohesion in the sport, and created a situation where the heavy-hitters in the electric motorcycle industry would cherry-pick the events they attended, often with no formidable competition alongside them at the starting grid. This not only created a disparity in performance between competitors on any given race day, but also denied enthusiasts the chance to see real head-to-head racing amongst the brands that were dominating the newswires.

A major division in these different electric motorcycle racing series is about to heal itself though, as the FIM and TTXGP have finally come to an agreement on a future joint electric motorcycle racing series.

Video: Brammo Gets Ready to Dominate in Daytona

10/11/2012 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2012 TTXGP World Series Final is about to go down in Daytona the weekend after next, and if you are like us…you probably didn’t know that, and now that you do, you probably still don’t really care. Plagued with inconsistent grids, considerable performance gaps between machines, and small grid sizes on race day, the North American TTXGP Championship was less than memorable this year for spectators. However, for Steve Atlas and the folks at Brammo, 2012 meant another championship victory.

Putting together a nice promo video for the upcoming World Series Final at Daytona, you can’t fault the Brammo crew for celebrating their Championship win — after all, all the Ashland team can do is show up, and hope that the competition does as well. Still, it goes without saying that everyone involved with the series would have liked to see some more competition in the victory. Maybe when the top teams from the other regional championships arrive in Daytona we will have a better show. Probably not though.

Eric Bostrom Racing the Brammo Empulse RR at Seca

07/25/2012 @ 2:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

After its performance at the first TTXGP round at Sonoma, the Brammo Empulse RR returns to racing in California this weekend at e-Power/TTXGP round being held at Laguna Seca. With Steve Atlas on the mend fielding one entry, and Steve Rapp unlikely to take another chance on the Oregonian machine, Brammo has tapped Eric Bostrom to ride its second race entry at the iconic sea-side track.

Photos: One Crashed 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/06/2012 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Retaining the same basic shape as last year’s bike, the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR is still a looker, due mainly to its very “Iconic” livery scheme. Keeping things an Oregonian affair, the addition of Portland-based Icon as a sponsor to the Brammo racing effort bodes well for the team, and brings more validity to the budding electric motorcycle racing scene. It’s just a shame the color scheme lasted all of a few hours for Team Icon Brammo at Sears Point Raceway this weekend.

Crashing in yesterday’s first TTXGP practice session, Steve Atlas was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae. With a thrashed bike, the Brammo squad managed to cobble together the race bike again, and thanks to its busy black & white design, one could barely see the black gaffer tape and white electrical tape that was keeping things together. Now with 130 hp at the rear wheel, as well as 35 lbs less poundage on its bulk, the revised Empulse RR clearly has a problem with people named Steve, as the electric motorcycle once again bucked a rider off, also again in Turn 7 at Sears Point.

Highsiding Steve Rapp during Saturday’s qualifying session, it is not clear what caused the rear wheel of the Empulse RR to spool up, as Rapp said he was still straight up and down with the bike when he went airborn. With fluid dripping from the bike afterwards, and Rapp stopping a lap earlier or two earlier because of the bike cutting out, the Brammo team is surely still pouring over the data as we type. That effort will do little to change the fact that Rapp has likely broken his hand from the incident, and will be out of racing the rest of the weekend, much to the chagrin to the Attack Performance AMA Superbike team, which Rapp took to a sixth place finish that same day in Superbike Race 1.

As you can see from the photos after the jump, the damage does not look too extensive to the bike — though, our assessment is only skin deep. Two riders, two highsides, one corner…no bueno. Surely not the result the Ashland-based crew wanted before it launches the street-bike version of the Brammo Empulse on Tuesday next week, it’s not clear if Brammo will try and race tomorrow, or if they even can race sans a healthy rider who lapped during Saturday’s qualifying.

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.