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Our favorite brand from Milwaukee continues to surprise us, as we’ve gotten confirmed reports that Harley-Davidson is considering an electric model to its line-up.

Details are scarce on the project, but the company has made a poor secret out of its desire to return as an industry innovator (yes, there was in-fact a time when you could call a Harley-Davidson a trendsetter in the motorcycle industry…it just hasn’t been in this blogger’s lifetime).

Likely eyeing the next big trend in motorcycling, internally the Bar & Shield brtand has been exploring the idea of an electric or hybrid ICE/electric drive train.

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

We’ve gotten confirmation from several Bothan spies sources that Zero Motorcycle CEO Gene Banman will no longer hold a position at Zero Motorcycles. We first reported on a management shake-up at Zero last month, with news that high-level changes at the Scotts Valley electric motorcycle company were underway. At the time we could only confirm that Zero Motorcycles founder Neal Saiki was out of his position as the company CTO, and now we can confirm that then CEO Gene Banman was also shown the door during that uprooting.

There’s a quiet rumor going on in the electric racing circles that a major OEM of internal combustion motorcycles is poised to enter one of the electric racing series this season. Which manufacturer and which series is not being openly discussed, but judging from whom is talking about the possibility, and perhaps more importantly who is not talking about it, our best guess would be a Japanese manufacturer like Honda is at the center of the rumor. Honda has already been caught testing hybrid componentry at the 25hrs of Thunderhill, coincidentally with technology produced by electric motorcycle upstart Mission Motors.

The news coming out of the Santa Cruz area today is that there’s been a management shake-up at Zero Motorcycles, as multiple people at the top of the company’s leadership have been given pink slips, including company Founder & CTO Neal Saiki. Recently talking to PlugBike.com‘s John Adamo, Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman denied that Saiki had been let go from the company, saying that Saiki’s absence at the company was due to his child’s recent birth and Saiki’s desire to spend time with his newborn.

However multiple sources close to the company have confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that Neal Saiki was a part of a larger management shake-up that was precipitated by the company’s lead investor. With many of the terminations expected to be finalized next month, and spanning more than one division at the California-based startup, there appears to be a considerable personnel and culture shift occurring at Zero at this point in time.

2011 marks the end of the current Ducati Superbike 1198 as we know it, and Ducati has been hard at work on the successor to the crown jewel in its model line-up. Undertaking the most expensive model design in the history of the company, Ducati has poured a ton of resources into its 2012 Superbike in order to make it a market leader. Recently stretching the faith of the Ducati loyal by introducing bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and now the new Ducati Diavel that extend Ducati into non-racing segments, 2012 is the Bologna brand’s answer that it is heavily committed to its Superbike roots.

Starting from scratch with its design, the 2012 Ducati Superbike features two impressive performance figures: an additional 20hp (taking the Superbike up to 190hp), and a weight reduction of 20 lbs across the model line. Host to a bevy of street bike firsts, our Bothan Spies also tell us that the new Superbike is going to be a stunner.

Sometimes if you want to know where something is going, it helps to know where it’s been. That seems to be the case as Ducati News Today has esnagged some photos 2011 Ducati Diavel from way back in May of last year. Caught in the United States being fitted with a new swingarm (according to DNT), this version of the Ducati Diavel shows some interesting lines that depart from the photos we’ve seen earlier of the performance cruiser.

But why does this Diavel look so different from the clay models and spy shots we’ve seen? While some will say it’s an earlier model, our eagle eye spots a few parts from the Roland Sands Design parts bin. When we saw the latest spy shots of the Diavel, the bike had some wheels on it that screamed influences from Performance Machines. It’s no secret that PM and RSD have close ties, so we went digging, and our sources tell us that Roland Sands Design has been helping Ducati kit the Diavel with aftermarket parts (note the Öhlins shock which will surely be a Ducati Performance part for the Diavel). More info and photos after the jump.

Erik Buell Racing has quietly been “tipping” sites off to the fact that Buell’s record label, Rat Pak Records, is selling t-shirts for a Erik Buell Racing 1190RS motorcycle. What is the 1190RS you ask? “The 1190RS will be the new street bike from Erik Buell Racing! The design is currently in the pre-production / testing stage and is not yet available for public sale,” says the website (Asphalt & Rubber brought you the first teaser of the 1190RS way back in July). However, a video of the pre-pre-production 1190RS will be up on September 14th, officially making this a teasing of a teaser video (are you still with us?).

Before you Buell fans start getting all in a tizzy, we have to break the news that the hype being generated about the EBR 1190RS is more about raising money for Erik Buell Racing, than announcing an upcoming motorcycle. Erik Buell & Co. have been making the rounds to investors looking for capital to build-out its production line, reportedly with little success. With a company built around a “never say die” attitude, Erik Buell hasn’t given up looking for cash (buy more t-shirts people!), and the 1190RS announcement is a way for EBR to show that there is a market demand for its motorcycles. Once the market is proven to exist, EBR is hoping investors will then open up their wallets.

This sketch really explains itself. Porportedly coming from an unnamed Ducati dealer, we see that the yet-to-be unveild Mega Monster will feature the 1198cc Testastretta 11° v-twin motor. Also mentioned in the sketch is a ride-by-wire throttle and traction control system. If this is truly Ducati Project 0803, can we please move on to Project 0804…this one makes baby Jesus cry.

Source: Ducati.ms via Ducati News Today

What’s going to be mounted on these protruding brackets? So far the 2010 MotoCzysz E1pc has been lapping the Isle of Man without its full fairing on the motorcycle. If history teaches us anything, the presumption, of course, should be that MotoCzysz has something still up its sleeve before the team takes to the Mountain Course tomorrow for the TT Zero event. Last year it was batteries in the tail-section, this year it would seem to be streamlining the E1pc.

While Michael Czysz has derided the use of a dustbin style fairings in road racing, he has acknowledged that a course like the Isle of Man creates an opportunity for a race team to find some benefits in the design. As such, Czysz wrote three months ago that he would have a dustbin fairing at the ready, should someone else show up with one as well…and that’s exactly what’s happened.

UPDATE: We just got an email from Michael Czysz about the new E1pc, and the team’s progress so far at the Isle of Man. Read it after the jump.

Our Bothan Spies were hard at work this weekend, and have brought us this photo of the 2010 MotoCzysz E1pc that will be racing the TT Zero at the Isle of Man TT. From the pictures, the 2010 E1pc is sporting a significantly smaller tail (no hidden batteries here!), and a bevy of battery packs.

From what we can gather, there’s 12.5 kWh of battery power visible, assuming Czysz & Co. are using the same packs from the eDD. The front-end is the same MotoCzysz-patented design, while the rear of the motorcycle looks to have a longer swing-arm and conventional shock placement.

The motor is attached to the “suitcase”, low on the bike (as seen in the eDD renders) facing the clutch side of the motorcycle. It’s then linked via chain to a concentric shaft off the swing-arm (similar to the MotoCzysz C1), with the final chain linkage on the standard right-hand side of the E1pc. More info and photos as we get them. Big thanks to our anonymous tipster!