Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

While MotoCzysz has a considerable amount of road-racing experience under its belt, having competed in all three electric motorcycle races at the Isle of Man TT (not to mention more than a few closed circuit races as well), our sources in Honda HQ suggest that the Japanese manufacturer is no stranger to electric motorcycles as well, and has had an electric motorcycle project in the works for over the past decade.

Whether or not Honda is involved with the Mugen racing effort at the TT Zero we will leave for debate, but certainly some of that expertise has been passed down to the Mugen squad — we also hear that McGuinness fellow is no slouch behind the handlebars, and he’s not a bad photographer either (see photo above).

From the company’s own photos, it appears there are multiple Mugen Shinden race bikes in existence, which should not be too surprising from such a well-organized racing effort. Getting to see some more details of the Shinden’s carbon frame and structure, a massive battery pack can be deciphered from the bike’s lines.

Also, judging from the words of the British rider and from these track photos (below), the Shinden’s 570 lbs of bulk is clearly not meant to create a nimble machine, but if that weight comes from a massive amount of battery storage, as we surely believe, it should suit the electric motorcycle extremely well over energy intensive Mountain Course.

More photos and details on the Mugen Shinden as we get them here on the Isle of Man. Until then, these photos from Mugen’s testing session(s) in Japan will have to suffice.

Source: Mugen & John McGuinness (Twitter)

  • Is that a pillion pad?

  • Looks really beefy. I like the fact that this electric bike thing is starting to take off. I look forward to someday owning one once the battery technology and recharging infrastructure is improved and expanded. The sound of an electric motor whining is different but cool none the less.

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  • I think the explorations into alternative fueling is all win, but with the emphasis on rare-earth metals that these current technologies employ makes them unsustainable. I think fuel cell technology, while further from reality than we’d like, is still the view of a sustainable future.

  • Richard Gozinya

    @Trane Francks

    Actually as it stands right now, batteries are a more sustainable and practical approach, though even they’re still not ready for mass consumption. The methods used to make H2 end up costing more energy than is provided, much like ethanol. At least H2 doesn’t ruin gas tanks like ethanol does. In either case, whether it be batteries or fuel cells, it’s still quite a ways off. The very best batteries still have less than 1/20th the energy density of gasoline, a hurdle that could be cleared within the next few years, but even then, there’s still production issues, and as you stated, the rare earth elements.

    Still we need people developing this technology, otherwise it’ll never get anywhere, and we’ll be stuck with an ever dwindling resource.

  • @Richard: I completely agree that current battery technology makes them more practical than fuel cells, but because of the rare-earth metals, they’re not sustainable. That said, until better tech comes along, projects such as the Mugen push represent the very best of breed.

  • Random

    @ Richard Gozinya

    Putting ethanol on a tank (and fuel line) prepared for it brings no problems for most of the projected duration of the vehicle. It’s common to see flex-fuel cars (ethanol or gasoline-powered) with 10+ years in perfect condition. Even ethanol-only cars from the 1980’s still run today with no more care needed than gas ones. Just like rust can be avoided on external surfaces it can be dealt with on the internal ones. The reduced lubricity (sp?) of ethanol compared to gas is much more of a concern, because it affects valves, valve sealings and chamber pressure.

    Sugarcane ethanol production may consume a lot of energy, but it is still viable economically. A lot of money was dumped on it for research, but nowadays it doesn’t enjoy any tax benefit here in Brazil – well, at least compared with gas as both have a small subside. Production and transport of the fuel also utilizes subproducts that would be otherwise wasted.

    Ethanol works, is ready for mass consumption, is a renewable resource, and pollutes less than gas. Besides, it is helped by the 100+ years of development of combustion engines and gives the range needed for most people. It may not work in every country but saying as someone living in one it does work, it seems the perfect energy density solution for personal transport, making our bikes (and cages) sound, feel and ride just like gas (despite the funny smell).

  • Ed Gray

    I know I am showing my age, but the way the frame blends with the body work reminds me of the first rendition of the NR500 with the “engine” bolted into the “body work”.

  • Richard Gozinya


    It’s misleading to say that ethanol fueled vehicles run as well as gas. Ethanol vehicles get worse fuel economy, and have less power. Because ethanol lacks the energy density of gasoline. Ethanol has about 2/3 the energy density of gasoline. On the plus side, at least for Brazil, sugarcane ethanol takes significantly less energy to produce than corn ethanol does, which is what makes it a viable alternative. Though from what information I’ve seen, Brazil’s the only country to make it in an environmentally friendly way, the rest seem to make ethanol that’s dirtier than gasoline. I don’t know what the difference in processes are, but everybody else’s sugarcane ethanol is some of the dirtiest stuff out there, up around the level of coal.

    As for the damage it can cause to vehicles, I was referring specifically to the problem Ducati fuel tanks have had with American gasoline, which often contains small amounts of ethanol. Something I’m not sure they’ve managed to fix yet.

  • Bob

    I’d be curious if Brammo, Lightning, Zero or Mission Motors plans to attend. Anyone know? I guess Mission is doubtful, seeing as how they haven’t raced since the first TTzero, where their bike crapped out.

  • Brammo: No
    Mission: No
    Lightning: Yes
    MotoCzysz: Yes

    FYI, Mission Raced at Laguna Seca last year, and decimated the field.

  • Random

    @ Richard Gozinya:

    It boils down to what you understand by “running well”. From a efficience standpoint ethanol is worse than gas, increasing consumption by about 30%. However, I was talking about the performance (i.e. torque and power) using the fuel. I’m no expert, but ethanol somehow needs (or sustains) higher compression rates, and thus it is also capable of delivering higher power and torque . For example, the brazilian Corolla is rated 132cv w/ gas and 136 w/ethanol – using a relatively high (for gas) 11,3:1 compression rate. Ethanol-only cars of mid 1980’s used compression rates of up to 14:1, and despite the richer fuel mixture they always performed better than gas-powered ones.

    From a user standpoint there are no differences in performance when using both fuels, and in low-power/speed situations (i.e slow city driving) consumption is pretty similar. In highway driving there’s a bigger difference, but other factors (e.g number of gears in auto boxes, cruising rpm, foot weight :) ) influence much more than the fuel.

    Judging from TV and newspaper investigative articles ethanol production seems to be a self-contained process: the cane is smashed for sugar, the remainings are used to fertilize the land and a part is burned to enhace the fermentation process. “Green” initatives use a part of the subproduct to produce generic “PET” plastic for coke bottles an “plastic” bags (yeah, just what we need to be green, more plastic).

    I’ll remember to look for tank problems when I trade my 250 ninja for a Duke! :)