KTM Freeride Concept Gets Closer to Being Ready

03/23/2011 @ 7:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When will the first true electric motorcycle from an large OEM hit dealer floors? Pretty soon by what we’re hearing come out of Austria lately. KTM’s Freeride is fairly straight-forward in concept, as it takes the tried and true KTM off-road package, and puts an electrical drive train inside it (easy enough, right?). Designed with help from Austrian firm Kiska, the KTM Freeride looks like a dirt bike, smells like a dirt bike…well, you get the idea.

While KTM Freeride concept has reportedly been more than peppy during testing, it’s big drawback during development has always been its battery life. That’s apparently about to change, as KTM’s lastest version has reportedly more power on-board (there’s been tremendous amounts of progress in battery density in just the past six months), and is set to come out later this year (we’d assume an EICMA launch in November).

This news is a double-edged sword for the electric space, as KTM’s long-awaited entry draws closer, it brings legitimacy to the space. From what we’ve gathered from our sources, the Freeride is more than capable of holding its own against its ICE compatriots, and sticks close to KTM’s “Ready to Race” mantra.

With the OEMs entering the marketplace though, the writing is on the wall for the current batch of electric startups, especially those in the off-road space right now. They’ll have to now compete on the merits (performance, price, build quality, etc) with a company that has a much larger dealer base, more money, and frankly more experience building, selling, and marketing motorcycles.

It’ll be interesting to see how KTM’s entry affects Quantya and Zero Motorcycles, since it is the obvious competitor to their offerings. Zero Motorcycles just held their press launch for its 2011 model line, garnering from the most favorable of outlets only mixed reviews for its updated motorcycles (one more critical test rider we spoke to simply called the bikes “total shit”).

Meanwhile the big positive point that journos are throwing Zero’s way in their reviews seems to be the company’s departure from bicycle components to more standard motorcycle fare. Certainly a step in the right direction for the California-based company, but sort of along the lines of giving bonus points for making a bike with two wheels, a seat, and some handlebars.

If that’s where the bar is set in this space, KTM might have a wreaking ball on its hands with the Freeride. While the idea that electrics can encourage non-riders to get on two wheels is intriguing, the triple digit sales figures we’ve seen from the companies hanging their hat on that approach suggests that the opportunity there is much smaller than it originally seemed.

Instead it would seem that from the quoting of non-rider purchaser figures there is proof that no one has made a compelling electric motorcycle that core enthusiasts will accept. From what we’ve heard, the KTM Freeride might change that.

Photos: desrestricted

  • 2strokesrule

    man its gonna be weird not having to shift..

  • Steve

    When can I buy it?!

  • BBQdog

    As long as the largest part of all electricity comes from fossile fuels electric bikes are a great way of fooling yourself and qua autonomy a big stap backwards.

  • fazer6

    Electrics have many more advantages than just lower emissions, but the real barriers still to overcome are range and price. I’m excited to see where KTM lands.

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  • independent

    I want an EXC version! Go anywhere, with stealth…

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  • GeddyT

    Can’t freakin’ wait. But I need to be able to ride (and ride HARD) for four hours and then swap batteries or no dice.

    And, as will be stated on the internet for the billionth time, even if 100% of the power generated for use in electric vehicles come from coal, they STILL have lower emissions and higher efficiency than gasoline engines. It is much easier to clean up emissions at a large centralized source than in a million little engines where exhaust weight is crucial and catalysts are expensive and heavy.

    But that’s not the point. The good news of this is all of the “off limits” trail systems that will suddenly become wide open. They’ll never know you’re there…

  • sculptor666

    the problem with zero, brammo, and the rest isn’t that they’re bad motorcycles… they’re bad motorcycles that cost $7-10,000. if they cost $3k, we’d all have one.. and for an extra few hundred bucks, we’d be getting them shipped to our door = no dealer network needed. why not go a little further… since the gov’t effectively owned the automobile industry, it could have exercised control and re-tooled detroit to make these things.

  • Dr. Gellar

    Great to see KTM is still pursuing an electric dirt bike. I’m interested to see how it ultimately stacks up against not only Zero’s and Quantya’s off-road e-machines, but KTM’s own ICE bikes as well.

    Speaking of Zero, there is a cool video over at plugbike.com showing a Zero MX competing in a Spanish off-road race. While the Zero gets beaten in outright speed on flat terrain by the ICE bikes, once things get tight and twisty, the Zero easily holds it’s own. That being said, if the Freeride is at least as good of a bike or better performance-wise, KTM could have a winner.

  • Dr. G.: I think the last part of this statement is what’s really important: “I’m interested to see how it ultimately stacks up against not only Zero’s and Quantya’s off-road e-machines, but KTM’s own ICE bikes as well.”

    How the Freeride compares to a KTM 350 is going to be a huge thing for buyers. Something that needs to be brow-beat into some of these e-bike guys is that it isn’t about being green — we’ve seen the market on that demographic, and it’s literally about 500 bikes or so.

    Electrics need to be compelling against ICE motorcycles. The electric motor has obvious benefits over gas-powered ones, companies need to play to those strengths and solve some of the issues around battery storage/charging time, with the latter being more important.

    I feel another op-ed coming on…

  • Bjorn

    It is as you’d expect with new technology; small non-traditional manufacturers do the the proof of concept work, watched carefully by the existing major players. If they can see a market, the traditional players step in and either buy up or attempt to out compete the innovators.

    I’m sure no-one at Zero et al assumed they would have the field to themselves once they proved the idea worked. This is where competition comes into play, whoever builds the best bike will win the most sales. Being an early innovator gives these companies a march on their rivals in the traditional motorcycle manufacturing sector. It is up to them whether they can hold that advantage by producing bikes that are competitive with the second generation offerings.
    As consumers we win when there is competition between manufacturers, because we have a choice of products that seek to win our purchasing dollars with their quality and features.

    Hopefully the original innovators can step to the mark, rather than becoming historical footnotes.

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  • Dr. Gellar

    Jensen: About electric motorcycles needing to be compelling against ICE bikes…I couldn’t agree with you more. Most of the electric motorcycles and scooters that have so far been offered for sale to the public appear to be pretty much junk, have major shortcomings, or are not nearly worth the price the manufacturers ask for them. These aspects are turn-offs to potential buyers.

  • Fons

    I’ve been waiting a while for the electric KTM’s and looking everywhere for news about it and at last I found this article. Great news!

    I’m curious about the specs but it is a pitty that they don’t put any gearbox in those bikes, it would increase speed, acceleration and maybe range. Great for my daily commute (with the street version).

    And like GeddyT puts it: it is more efficient to produce electricity in some central power plants (efficiency of max about 60% these days) then to burn fuel into many engines with an efficiency of about 25%. And it displaces the pollotion too: cities smell (and sound) like like sh*t these days and it affects the health of all its inhabitants directly.