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Freeride E

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Debuting the KTM E-Speed at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Austrian company seemed to find a renewed interest in electric two-wheelers, which was interesting development since recently KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had dismissed the viability of electric motorcycles, and told Italian journalists that the KTM was scrapping its plans to build an electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E.

Taking an about-face from that statement, zie Austrians have green-lit the electric scooter for production, and say that both the KTM E-Speed and KTM Freeride E will be available in European KTM dealerships within the next two years: the Freeride E by 2014 and the E-Speed by 2015.

The first OEM to show a near-production electric motorcycle to consumers, KTM unveiled the KTM Freeride E concept at the 2011 EICMA show, and said it would trial the machine with a select number of European consumers, before rolling out the electric dirt bike to the masses later in 2013. With nary an update since then, it would seem that the Austrian company is rethinking its position on electric motorcycles. Talking to Italy’s Motorciclismo, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke of the safety and cost concerns surrounding electrics, and concluded that the timing is still too soon for EV’s to replace petrol-powered machines in the two-wheeled sector.

The KTM Freeride E is quite the buzz in the electric world, as it is the first proper electric motorcycle to be announced by an OEM. As it did with its street-bike debut with the RC8, KTM is set to test the market’s waters first with a limited production run of 100 units in 2012, likely to pre-select KTM owners/dealers. Assuming a favorable review, the Austrian brand would then presumably ramp-up production of its €10,000 electric dirt bike.

With 30hp peak & 10hp continuous, the KTM Freeride E boasts four-stroke 125cc specs, albeit on the heavy side with a 204 lbs curb weight. Running time is said to have a 20 minute ride time in the hands of a professional, the KTM Freeride E is rated to last 45 minutes in the hands of an amateur…whatever that means. While the world at large will likely have to wait another year before it can truly asses the KTM Freeride E, we do have at least our first glimpse in the bike’s performance.

As we already know, the KTM Freeride E will be out in 2012 in limited numbers, as the Austrian brand tests the waters on the electric dirt bike market. Building an electric not because they believe in the technology’s immediate relevancy, but because they believe in its future and want to continue being a market leader, KTM is the first big motorcycle OEM to bring an electric motorcycle to market. Giving Zero Motorcycles (and soon Brammo & BRD) a run for its money, the KTM Freeride E is a modest design with its 30hp (peak) PERM motor and 2.1 kWh battery pack.

As a dyed-in-the-wool street biker, I was a bit disappointed that KTM was only bringing the Freeride E out as a dirt bike, with no supermoto variation available. Thankfully I was not alone in that sentiment, as Kiska Senior Pixel Pusher Piers SP also longed for an electric Austrian backing-it-in machine. The difference of course is that as a blogger, I have no concept of creating something of my own (that’s moto-journo humor right there folks), while Piers SP is a zen voodoo digital samurai (truth). Needless to say, photoshopping ensued.

The writing has been on the wall for sometime now, as the entire electric motorcycle community has been waiting for a major OEM to debut its own electric motorcycle. Answering that call, KTM unveiled at EICMA today the new 2012 KTM Freeride E. Saying that as the leading off-road motorcycle manufacturer (KTM accounts for about 50% of the worldwide dirt bike market), the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer could not afford to sit idly by while other companies innovated in its space.

Built along the Freeride’s ride anywhere mantra, the KTM Freeride E comes with 2.1kWh of battery power on-board, and is powered by a permanent magnet synchronous motor. With a rated output of 10hp, KTM says the electric motor is good for 30hp peak, with a maximum of 300 Volts going through the system. Helped by its small battery size, the Freeride E weighs only 204 lbs and can be recharged off a 220V socket in 90 minutes. As for range, KTM has an interesting rating system for the electric Freeride, quoting a 20 minute ride time in the hands of a professional, while the KTM Freeride E is rated to last 45 minutes in the hands of an amateur.

What looks like a cameraphone photo of KTM North America’s product road map for the next three model years has hit the interwebs. Showing the bikes that will hit American shores in 2012, 2013, and 2014, we get a glimpse of what new models will grace the showrooms of KTM dealers, as well as which models will be receiving facelifts and revisions. The presentation slide really speaks for itself, but perhaps the most interesting item on the list is what sounds like a 350cc version of the company’s Moto3 race bike and a bevy of electric Freeride models.

As we reported back in March, KTM’s electric dirt bike is coming closer and closer to being ready for consumers, and now information has come out that it will be a 2012 model from the Austrian company. This information is in-line with a November EICMA debut that we’ve been hearing, but perhaps the most tantalizing news we’ve heard is the bike’s sub-€10,000 price tag in the EU. This would put the KTM Freeride (oh man, we hope that name gets changed) directly in competition with Swiss electric dirt bike manufacturer Quantya and American electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero Motorcycles, both of whom are in the sub-€10,000 category with their dirt bike offerings.

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.