Erik Buell’s Newest Project Is an Electric Street Bike

Erik Buell, we have missed thee. It has been almost a year since we last reported on the demise of Erik Buell Racing, but it has been over two years since we talked about the man himself. What has Buell been up to? Well, from the look of things, making a pivot into the electric motorcycle arena, it seems. Teaming up with New York City boutique bike brand, Vanguard Motorcycles, as well as Formula E car supplier, SPARK Racing Technologies, Buell is part of the new VanguardSpark venture. For its debut, VanguardSpark has two machines on offer. The first is an electric motorcycle (above), called the VanguardSpark Commuter. It’s a simple design, which we don’t find terribly appealing, though one should always reserve some judgments when only looking at a concept machine.

This Week’s “Ducati for Sale” Rumor

The Volkswagen Group got a new CEO last week, and in less than seven days, that news has already sparked renewed rumors in the German automobile conglomerate divesting itself of Ducati Motor Holdings. For those who have been following Ducati’s saga, there was much talk last year of Volkswagen selling off a number of its other brands, all under the reasoning that the German company would need to raise capital to cover its mounting Dieselgate liabilities. The logic for that reasoning wasn’t sound, but the actions were certainly there, with Volkswagen tendering offers from a number of would-be suitors. There was a fly in the ointment though: Volkswagen’s labor unions, who control half of the VW Group’s board seats, and were vehemently opposed to any brand divestitures.

Battery “Thermal Events” Lead to Zero Recall & Buy-Back

Zero Motorcycles is reporting a very serious defect with its 2012 model year bikes, specifically affecting the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DSP (Police) models. The recall concerns Zero’s battery architecture for the 2012 model year, which may cause cells to fail, and thus create a runaway “thermal event” (read: catches on fire) within the battery pack. In total, this recall affects 218 motorcycle units – the entire volume of Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DPS motorcycles that were sold for the 2012 model year. In its recall documents, Zero cites three instances (one in Hong Kong, and two in the USA) where the battery packs on the affected 2012 model bikes have failed and lead to a thermal event.

Benelli’s Grom-Killer Debuts for the US Market, A Review

For years, Benelli has lain dormant, at least in the US market. That changes with the Chinese owned, but Italian-run, firm releasing the first of many street bikes for American consumption. It kicks things off with the 2018 Benelli TnT 135 ($2,499). US importer, SSR Motorsports, hosted a quick day ride that began atop Southern California’s Ortega Highway, and concluded in Newport Beach. Renowned for its twists and turns, Ortega Highway is an amusing, but also very high-traveled ribbon of blacktop that links the bustling inland and beach communities. This stretch of roadway is known for accidents as well – would the tiny TnT be able to keep up with “always in a hur

UK Salary Data Shows Gender Gap at Triumph

The United Kingdom has a new law, requiring companies with 250 or more employees to report to the authorities the earnings of its workers, by gender. The topic has been a sticking point in the British news cycle right now, with woman across the company showing median earnings that are 12% lower than men, which is a sizable gap in income equality. Where does the British motorcycle industry falls into place in all this? Well as Visordown initially reported, that is more difficult to say, as it appears that only Triumph Motorcycles meets the reporting criteria, amongst motorcycle manufacturers. Technically, it is two brands that meet reporting criteria for gender pay gap, as Triumph Motorcycles Limited and Triumph Designs Limited split their duties for the British marque.

What Caused Jorge Lorenzo’s Crash at the Qatar GP?

After a poor start, which saw him drop from ninth on the grid to thirteenth at the end of the first lap, Jorge Lorenzo was making steady progress through the field at Qatar. His lap times were starting to come down to match, and on some laps even beat, the pace the leaders were running. As the halfway mark approached, and less than four seconds behind the leaders, Lorenzo started to believe he was capable of salvaging a decent result from a difficult start. That all ended on Lap 13. The Spaniard crashed out of the race at Turn 4, when his front brake failed and he had to drop the bike in the gravel. “I just felt that the level of the front brake was getting closer to my fingers and I didn’t have brake,” Lorenzo described the incident afterwards.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Looks Good Wearing Termignoni

For a long time, the name “Termignoni” was synonymous with “Ducati exhaust”, with the popular scarico-maker being a constant fixture in the Ducati Performance parts catalog. So prevalent was the brand, that if you see a turn-of-the-century (21st century, that is) Ducati clacking down the street with its dry clutch, chances are the exhaust you are also hearing was made by Termignoni. But that has changed in recent years, with Slovenian marque Akrapovič supplanting Termignoni in Ducati’s good graces. To find out why, all one had to do was examine the products themselves – where Termignoni’s pieces were poorly fabricated and over-priced, Akrapovič was infinitely better built and often cheaper.

Honda CBR1000RRW Debuts for Endurance Duty

What you are looking at here is the bike that Honda hopes will win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race this year. It is called the Honda CBR1000RRW. It is not all that different from the WorldSBK-spec model, the one that Leon Camier and Jake Gange are competing with currently (and that PJ Jacobsen is helping develop), save for some interesting changes. For starters, the Honda CBR1000RRW dumps its Cosworth boxes, and instead runs the Magneti Marelli electronics package that Jacobsen is using in WorldSBK. Also, there are some obvious bodywork changes, namely where the exposed front spars of the frame would be, which are now covered by a silver painted panel.Then of course, there are the mechanical changes for endurance duty, like quick-change wheel pieces and functional lights.

Honda CB300R Coming to USA with Retro-Modern Looks

One of the surprise pleasures at last year’s EICMA show was Honda’s family of “Neo-Sports Café” street bikes, which brought a retro-modern look to Big Red’s approach road bikes. While the new Honda CB1000R tickled our fancy the most, we were delighted to see that the theme extended all the way to the Japanese brand’s small-displacement platform, the Honda CB300R. An attractive and affordable entry-level bike, the Honda CB300R looks like it was designed in Europe, rather than Nippon, which is probably why the 286cc commuter is doing so well in the European market. Seeing that success, American Honda has confirmed the CB300R as an early 2019 model for the US market – available in July 2018.

Motorcycling’s April Fools Round-Up for 2018

Another year, and another April Fools Day is done and dusted. I am fairly certain that for journalists, April 1st is better than Christmas, as it marks the one day where media outlets make the news they wish they could report on daily. And as usual, the imaginations of the motorcycle media pool didn’t fail to disappoint. My colleague David Emmett had a nicely done story about the MotoGP World Championship. For my own part, I took advantage of the long-con approach, and fit a story into our ongoing series about the upcoming Suzuki Hayabusa, which seems to have no shortage of weekly rumors about this bike’s supposed features and technical specifications. How about from the rest of the industry though? In case you missed them, the highlights of April Fools Day are after the jump.

Zero Motorcycles is reporting a very serious defect with its 2012 model year bikes, specifically affecting the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DSP (Police) models.

The recall concerns Zero’s battery architecture for the 2012 model year, which may cause cells to fail, and thus create a runaway “thermal event” (read: catches on fire) within the battery pack.

In total, this recall affects 218 motorcycle units – the entire volume of Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DPS motorcycles that were sold for the 2012 model year.

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Solid-State Batteries, A Game-Changer for EVs?

09/29/2017 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles.

While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries. 

That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.

This is because solid-state batteries offer higher energy density (2x-3x), faster recharge times, better heat management, more safety (wont catch on fire), and cheaper costs than today’s current crop of cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries.

In short, solid-state batteries are poised to be a game-changer for electric vehicles, and address all the major issues EV companies (especially electric motorcycle companies) are dealing with in their vehicle designs.

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There is an easy and quick way to lighten your bike, lower its center of gravity, and marginally improve its dynamic performance for $200 or less: the starter battery.

Lead-acid, absorbed gas mat, and gel batteries have been around for years now, and while they provide cheap, reliable, and robust performance, they are obtrusively heavy and large.

In terms of packaging and placement, most bikes have them mounted high and away from the center of gravity; basically, it’s like carrying around a brick at arm’s length all day.

Luckily, the market for starter batteries has been moving in the direction of new battery technologies with the latest iterations utilizing lithium iron phosphate chemistries.

These batteries are not plagued with the same issues that lithium ion batteries faced (read: exploding when cycled improperly), and are more environmentally friendly and theoretically last longer than the equivalent lead-acid or AGM battery.

We had two companies send us their most popular models for testing and we came away impressed with the weight savings, performance, and overall value that they had to offer.

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Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

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Reports are coming out from the Spanish media that Hector Barbera, of the Avintia Blusens MotoGP team, has been arrested for the assault and battery of a woman identified as his girlfriend. The incident took place after the Spanish GP, as Barbera and his girlfriend were staying in Jerez for a few extra days before heading to Le Mans for the French GP. Coming to blows during a heated argument, Barbera’s girlfriend was treated for bruises and contusions, and spent the night in the hospital.

Receiving a lightning-speed trial, both Barbera and his twenty-three-year-old girlfriend were found guilty of assault and battery against each other, with Hector being sentence to six months in jail, and his girlfriend receiving five months of jail time. The sentences can likely be commuted to community service time, according to the Spanish media.

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Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from the Grand Prix of the Americas this week, and things are already off to an interesting start. With a fire breaking out in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage during the night, the gear for the satellite Yamaha squad was flooded by the Circuit of the America’s fire suppression system, which also affected the garages for Yamaha Racing, LCR Honda, and Cardion AB.

Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis explained that while the small fire was quickly put out by COTA’s sprinklers, the team lost one of two servers and several computers to the blaze before it was extinguished. It is not anticipated that the fire will have any affect on Sunday’s race, though it could pose a problem for the teams, since they have a quick turnaround for the Jerez round.

Currently, the cause of the fire is presumed to be the lithium battery to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s electric starter for the GP motorcycles, making this incident another eyebrow raising episode in the handling of high-tech battery packs, which have different tolerances and operating procedures than conventional battery pack types.

While certainly a setback to the start of the race weekend, the teams involved dodged a serious bullet by having the fire occur while MotoGP is at COTA, since the Texan track has a sophisticated fire prevention system in place.

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Zero Motorcycles continues to upgrade its model line-up, with the 2013 Zero Motorcycles bikes getting a motor and battery upgrade. Offering bikes now in 8.5 & 11.4 kWh packages, Zero claims city mileage ranges to be 103 & 137 miles, respectively. The motors on the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero MX have been bumped up to 54hp spec, the Zero XU retains its 27/28hp configuration, and the new Zero FX gets a 44hp lump.

The big addition to the family is the 2013 Zero FX (pictured above), which follows the lines of the Zero DS dual-sport, but uses the same chassis as found on the MX. The Zero FX appears to be the more off-road capable version of the Zero DS. While the DS will have 8.5 & 11.4 kWh options for its battery packs, the Zero FX will come with only 2.8 & 5.7 kWh unit options — the same as the Zero XU and Zero MX. Pricing on the Zero FX starts at $9,495.

The added battery and power boosts should help keep Zero Motorcycles in check with Brammo, which is set to finally bring its Brammo Empulse R street bike to market later this year. With 2013 rumored to have a “Brammo Killer” in the line-up, we’re not quite sure if the Zero S design lives up to the hype, even with its upgraded power train, but considering the sales figures between the two companies, we might be wrong on that assessment. Photos after the jump.

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Things aren’t going so well for Zero Motorcycles, as the electric motorcycle manufacturer has submitted a second recall to the NHTSA, this one for the 2012 model line-up. Recalling 254 units because of insufficient weatherproofing, the motorcycles may be subject to an electrical short inside the battery management system (BMS) during wet conditions. A short-circuit could cause the electric motorcycle to cut power, which could potentially cause an accident (the recall notice from the NHTSA says nothing about possibility of electrocution).

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Recall: Kawasaki ZX-6R & ZX-10R

02/24/2012 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Kawasaki is recalling certain ZX-6R & ZX-10R motorcycles for a regulator/rectifier that may be improperly charging the motorcycle’s battery. Concerning Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R motorcycles from 2009-2012 and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R motorcycles from 2008-2011, the NHTSA is reporting that 20,544 motorcycles are affect by the recall, all of which were manufactured between December 14, 2007 and July 26, 2011.

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Clarian Labs Rotary Generator Hybrid Solution

06/16/2011 @ 7:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Clarian Labs, a Seattle-based tech startup that has been working on power source for the Department of Defense Humanoid Robot Program, has just pulled-out of stealth mode its rotary generator (read the patent here). A battery-sized hybrid generator solution, Clarian’s invention basically creates an electric power source that can be rapidly refueled by swapping out a fuel source pack (a host of fuels can be used in this regard including bio-fuels and hydrogen).

These fuels then in-turn power the rotary-piston motor, exactly as you’d find in any sort of Wankel-powered vehicle, except for one small detail: there’s no output shaft. Instead of mechanically driving the wheels of the vehicle, the unit uses rotational induction from the rotary-piston to create an electrical current, which would then power the electric motor of your choosing. In reality, the system isn’t that different from what is found on modern diesel locomotives (modern trains use a diesel motor as a generator which in-turn powers electric motors), except obviously more compact.

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