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.”

Watch TTXGP at Infineon Raceway

05/26/2010 @ 2:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In case you weren’t able to attend the inaugural North American TTXGP electric sportbike race at Infineon Raceway two weekends ago, we’ve got a bevy of photos and videos to make you feel like you were right there at the Sonoma track (minus a lack of wine). Above we have the full race from the perspectives of Zero/Agni’s #21 Shawn Higbee and #14 Kenyon Kluge (courtesy of Zero Motorcycles). And after the jump, we have photos and clips from the race and practice sessions. Enjoy.

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.

Zero/Agni Dominates at TTXGP Practice

05/14/2010 @ 6:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

TTXGP hit American soil here at Infineon Raceway today, with two zero-emission practice sessions under its belt for the day. Although dubbed an historic moment, today’s big winner probably wasn’t the sport of electric motorcycle racing, despite ZeroAgni put on a strong performance during the practice sessions. At the helm of the ZeroAgni bike was AMA privateer Shawn Higbee, who looked the part on the former Team Agni Isle of Man bike. Higbee was carrying tons of corner speed, and was the only electric sportbike rider to lap the course at near sportbike speed, and to really go the distance lap-wise.

Zero/Agni Running Isle of Man Bike at Infineon

05/13/2010 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

As we get ready for TTXGP’s first race in the United States this weekend (and apparently the AMA is racing with them too, who knew?), more details are emerging about what we can expect from Sunday’s race. Our operatives caught Team ZeroAgni and K² out at Thunderhill last week, and saw a modified Zero S (K²’s entry), and a GSX-R piloted by Shawn Higbee taking laps around the track. With the GSX-R clearly not TTXGP legal, we were left to speculate what AMA privateer Higbee would be riding at Infineon, and now we know: it’s the inaugural TTXGP winning bike from Agni Motors (you can see the bike re-painted above, with it’s noticeable “tank-plank” protruding).

Spotted: What Do a Zero S, Suzuki GSX-R, and Shawn Higbee Have in Common?

05/07/2010 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

UPDATE: It looks like Zero is using Team Agni’s GSX-R based electric motorcycle, which won the inaugural TTXGP last year at the Isle of Man. Picture in the comments posted by our very own John Adamo (skadamo).

They were all at Thunderhill Park Raceway yesterday testing for Team ZeroAgni, that’s what. With a Suzuki GSX-R (600 we’re assuming, but impossible to tell) and a modified Zero S that was sporting the K² logo, the team from Santa Cruz was out getting their lean on with some special help from Shawn Higbee, of AMA privateer fame. The assumption from these findings is that Zero Motorcycles was out pacing the K² Zero S, against the sportbike to see how the two compare. We can only assume that the added presence of Buell-tour-de-force Higbee means the AMA rider has been tapped to pilot ZeroAgni’s race bike at Infineon on May 16th.

Zero Not Racing A Mavizen at Infineon TTXGP

05/01/2010 @ 10:35 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After hearing that Werkstatt Racing and Repair would soon be taking delivery of the first Mavizen to hit US soil, our ears piqued because we were under the impression that Zero Motorcycles must surely have recieved their Mavizens already, after announcing that the team would field two Mavizen bikes in the TTXGP series a while back.

With that apparently not the case, rumors suggested that Zero would be using another non-proprietary chassis at the first round of the TTXGP series at Infineon Raceway. While Zero wasn’t able to comment on their racing plans to us before the weekend, we do have some clues on what the company has up its sleeve from what we know already. More after the jump.

California Rebating $1,500 on Electric Motorcycle Purchases with Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

03/26/2010 @ 6:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

After Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), the Governator took a tour of electric vehicle companies in the Golden State. The new law lops $1,500 off the sticker price off an electric motorcycle for California residence, which in many cases means over 15% off the sticker price.

Taking a look at both Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors, Gov. Schwarzenegger made endorsing comments about the two companies and how they are allowing California to take the lead in the emerging electric vehicle markets.

Zero Motorcycles Grabs Ex-Bueller Abe Askenazi

02/27/2010 @ 12:25 pm, by John Adamo11 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles and other electric manufacturers are rising stars in the motorcycle industry where few American companies have seen large scale success. Late last year one of the most loved to hate American motorcycle companies in history closed it’s doors just as it was starting to win AMA races and claimed an AMA Daytona Superbike Championship.

Years of motorcycle experience hit the streets after Buell closed it’s doors and it appears Zero was able to grab 14 years of it by bringing on Abe Askenazi as Vice President of Engineering. With that much knowledge of motorcycles under his belt, it is a great sign companies like Zero are on the right track. Check out the press release after the break for more details.

Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler Talks (a lot) on The Motorcycle Nation Podcast

01/25/2010 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It was a busy weekend in the A&R office, not only was John Adamo out talking on the EVcast, but our own editor Jensen Beeler took some time this Sunday talk (at length!) to Steve McQueen and the Motorcycle Nation podcast. Jensen and Steve cover everything from how Asphalt & Rubber got its start (spoiler alert: he lost a bet with Warren Buffett), A&R StreetLevel, electric motorcycle startups, American motorcycle companies, and just about anything else that came up in-between.

Listen to the podcast after the jump, subscribe to Motorcycle Nation on iTunes, and listen to Jensen learn what life is like on the other side of the interview table after the jump.