Gary Boulanger

The Swedish Chief: Ola Stenegard

A little back story: the Indian name on two-wheelers predated motorcycle production, but was one of bicycle manufacturer George M. Hendee's product lines.  Hendee was a multi-time champion bicycle racer in the 1880s who turned manufacturer in the 1890s, and looked for a reliable pacer motorcycle for his racing teams in 1899.  Swedish engineer Carl Oscar Hedstrom, trained as a watchmaker, built lightweight racing bicycles in the 1890s, and turned his hand to making a better version of Count DeDion's ubiquitous F-head motor in 1900.  Hedstrom did improve on the motor, but even better, he designed the first 'spray' carburetor that worked reliably, and was a milestone improvement in the motorcycle industry.  Unlike everyone else's pacers, Hedstrom's started and ran and finished races, which caught the eye of Hedstrom.  A (very lucrative) handshake deal in 1900 was the foundation of a new partnership, with motorized bicycles being produced under Hendee's Indian brand as 'motocycles' from 1901.  Thus, a Swedish motorcycle designer founded Indian, and much of the American motorcycle industry, as his motor design was licensed to dozens of manufacturers [Read the Indian origin story here]. The choice of Ola Stenegärd as Indian's new chief designer was thus an elegant closure of a century-old circle, with the very DNA of the brand having a half-Swedish flavor.

Still our favorite photo of Ola Stenegärd, holding the starting pistol at an illegal street drag race in the Pyrenees during the 2012 edition of Wheels&Waves, flagging off Roland Sands on his Concept 90 BMW prototype. Good times! [Paul d'Orléans]
Vintagent Contributor Gary Boulanger caught up with Ola Stenegärd around the launch of the new Chief designs this week, and this is his interview:

Ola Stenegärd is almost three years into his second tour of duty with Indian Motorcycle. As director of product design, he’s in the catbird seat as Polaris shapes and modernizes a 120-year-old brand. I first met the affable and unfailingly polite root beer drinker during the 2017 One Moto Show in Portland, Oregon, when he and the Roland Sands Design crew jammed onto a couch in the old pickle factory. They were starving, and Jean happened to have some of her homemade country sourdough bread. In 2018, Henri and I hung out with Ola at the Sturgis Rally, watching flat track racing on our way to Bonneville Speed Week. With product development cycles beginning well before the consumer gets an eyeful, it would take awhile before we could see Ola’s DNA appear on an Indian; he spent 15 years at BMW Motorrad, giving us the R nineT before looking West to Medina, Minnesota in March 2018.

Ola lives and creates on Gotland, an island surrounded by the Baltic Sea five hours by ferry south of Stockholm. It’s been a year since we hung out at The One Moto Show, and with the recent Indian Chief cruiser line introduction it was time to talk. It’s not everyday that a brand launches something on the 100th anniversary of the original.

Ola in his former role as chief designer for BMW Motorräd, here at the Concorso Villa d'Este on a charming 1930 BMW R16. [Paul d'Orléans]
Q: You're approaching three years at Indian. How do you navigate getting projects done while not being able to travel due to COVID?

"Been a tough year, no doubt. But we’re a small creative team and we quickly doubled down, adapted and adjusted. Our boss - design VP Greg Brew - has been awesome and supporting us 100 percent around the clock! So we started doing more rapid prototypes, even 1/2 scales, that we could send and print out at our different locations and in our different studios in the EU and US. This allowed us to get a feel and even sign off design proposals without losing speed and agility. We also dove deeper into using video, clay models as well as extensive CAD spins.

Usually there’s a lot of traveling, but I gotta admit that COVID brought a silver lining for me personally that I’m allowed to see my kids and family every day. Our global work setup also made the transition quite easy. And now I have had  time to spend the mornings in my shop too! I’m still a garage rat, and if I can’t cut some shit up or weld something, the day is not really well balanced!"

The thought process behind the new Indian Chief began with the frame, which had to meet many requirements, including that it be adaptable for many styles and customization. [Indian]
Q: Walk me through the development process for the new Indian Chief model line. When did it begin, and how many people were involved?

"Everything started with the frame. We literally built the it old-school style, motor on a block, bending tubes. When the frame sits right on the wheels, tins and seats come easy. Then we went into traditional clay modeling. No CAD can ever replace the human hand. But make no mistake: CAD has its right time and place too! Super important and we had a great team that supported the whole project wholeheartedly! But the frame was the key: with all the bones in the right places, it looks great naked as well as fully dressed.

Also, customizing was key. We can’t make every single motorcycle perfect for every single customers. But what we can do is create the PERFECT base for all riders to make it their own! The perfect blank canvas! Bottom line, it’s all about keeping it simple. It’s very easy to complicate things these days. But keeping it simple in itself complicated."

A final design sketch of a new Chief variant, which effectively captures the spirit of apex 1950s custom motorcycles better than any OEM 'bobber' to date, with its blackened cylinders, abbreviate fenders, side pipes, leather saddle, small tank, tucked in headlamp, and raised handlebars. [Indian]
Q: There are eight variants of the Chief. How do you decide what to spec?

"We took a lot of inspiration from different eras of the American moto culture we love and kinda nerd out on and basically what we grew up with. It kinda celebrates the era as well as all the guys/gals that carried the flame of the chief from the Fifties until the early 2000s by customizing, chopping and bobbing original Chiefs, and thus keeping the legacy alive! I dreamed of this new Chief for 20 years, since I worked for Indian during the Gilroy times.

The story of the three flavors of the new Chief in a nutshell:

We wanted the Chief to be the bare bone bad-ass base for the whole family, with mids, narrow bars, cast 19”/16” wheel combo and stripped down fork and shocks. Kinda rooted in the late Seventies, early Eighties when Arlen Ness, Perry Sands and Dave Perewitz started experimenting with cast wheels and mid mounts and spiced up their scoots with more performance parts.

• The Chief Bobber takes a lot of inspiration from the mid Sixties: kinda Dave Mann meets a young Perry Sands and visits Ben Hardy who all gets cast in an early biker flick. The timeless style that brings us to our knees: 16”/16” wheels, mini apes, floating solo seat, covered fork and shock for that righteous ol’ school vibe.

• With Superchief we thought it should feel right at home in Hollister 1947 or The Wild Ones. When vets and blue collar cats and chicks were true rebels riding bad-ass sickles! We tried to reflect that kinda spirit: ride hard to get there, ditch the bags and screen, shred main street to take a turn on the dirt oval before going bonkers Saturday night. Sunday, you collect the pieces and pack it all back up and ride on back home. An homage to the style that made bobbed and cut-down Chiefs legendary back in the day.

The common thread is that all these bikes gravitate toward the club-style bikes of their specific era. Paul d'Orléans [publisher of TheVintagent.com] and I talked a lot about this, and he is totally right: throughout the years these were the bad-ass, ride hard, purposefully-looking custom bobbers and choppers we always tend to gravitate to. Not show bikes per se, but still really good looking rides, right? They represent the kinda bikes that just stays burned into your memory forever."

The Indian Chief Bobber Dark; all black everything. [Indian]
Q: When will the new bikes arrive in dealer showrooms?

"We’re aiming for the end of April/beginning of May."

Q: What’s your advice to aspiring motorcycle designers?

"Sketch, sketch and sketch. And ride motorcycles! Then sketch some more. And let no one take your dream away!"

Talk about old school: Ola Stenegärd captured on a wet plate photograph by the MotoTintype team at Sturgis in 2014. [MotoTintype.com]
Gary Boulanger is a long-time Vintagent Contributor and writer whose work can now be found on MotorCyclesAreDrugs

The Current: Saroléa Melds Google AI Into MANX7

Belgian pride is hard to find in the motorcycle world. Xavier Siméon was the first Belgian to race the premier MotoGP class in 17 years when he piloted his Reale Avintia Ducati during 2017, and only the third Belgian rider to win a motorcycle Grand Prix, after Didier de Radiguès and Julien Vanzeebroeck at the 2015 German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring.

From its humble beginnings in 1901—when the first Saroléa motorcycle was created by bolting a 1.5 hp 247cc engine and a tank onto a Saroléa bicycle—through 1973, when the company ceased all production, Belgian pride was fairly constant for Saroléa. In 2010, the Saroléa name returned when twin brothers Torsten and Bjorn Robbens acquired the brand and refocused production on all electric machines [their grand uncle was André Van Heuverzwijn, a successful Saroléa factory motocross racer in the 1950s]. A new production facility was established near Ghent, Belgium.

The Saroléa MANX7 electric motorcycle, made in Ghent, Belgium. [Saroléa]
In just nine years, the Robbens have crafted a notable Belgian motorcycle company, taking a storied brand and racing the Isle of Man while aiming for advanced technology beyond the staid norm. The company was only one of five to vie for the coveted single-manufacturer spot of Dorna’s MotoE World Cup, debuting in 2019.

Recently, the Ghent-based Belgium duo have partnered with ML6 to add artificial intelligence to its MANX7 model, which we wrote about on July 21, 2018.

AI inside

"To this day, artificial intelligence is made possible by first sending all of a system’s data via the internet to the cloud,” said Nicolas Deruytter, managing director of ML6, which works closely together with Google Cloud. “Then, based on that, models are initialized (by letting them learn) and the trained models are then sent back to the machine. Thanks to the Edge TPU, the AI (with its 'trained models') can intervene fast and more efficiently. In addition, each individual system can learn more."

For 2019, the Saroléa MANX7 will come equipped with ML6’s Waizu software, which  was initially developed for a far-reaching optimization in industry processes. This Belgian partnership means Waizu is now being integrated into a motorized vehicle for the first time and aims to squeeze every last drop of autonomy and power to the benefit of the MANX7. Saroléa also intends to make the technology available to other manufacturers through a future platform.

Saroléa co-founder Torsten Robbens (l) shakes hands with Nicolas Deruytter, managing director of ML6, as his twin brother Bjorn looks on near company headquarters in Ghent, Belgium. [Saroléa]
"Over the past four years, we have already collected millions of data lines and developed a basic configuration based on this," Saroléa CEO Bjorn Robbens added. "This will quickly add up to billions and such an ongoing data feed will keep optimizing the model even more. Moreover, all motorcycles are now connected with each other via the IoT chip which means they learn from each other, so to speak. The more motorcycles and the more data we have, the better the optimization will be. Because of reinforcement learning, each engine will know exactly which settings are optimal in which situation, leading to a better performance and more autonomy."

The Tech: Google's Edge TPU

ML6’s platform combines its expertise in machine learning for predictive maintenance with pioneering research in the field of reinforcement learning and Google's latest technological developments in hardware and cloud. This new software was developed for industry processes and allows companies to optimize numerous processes. They use Google's Edge TPU, a processor that was specifically developed for artificial intelligence, and installed it on the MANX7 engine itself.

According to Saroléa, countless parameters in a vehicle can be mapped and optimized but that would be impossible to do manually. And, data can vary according to every single situation and location. How is power controlled? What temperatures are reached inside the vehicle? How is the battery managed? The chip captures and interprets. Subsequently, the software determines the best settings. This is how Saroléa and ML6 plan to focus on more autonomy, predictive maintenance and an improved battery performance.

"On the one hand, this allows to increase the vehicle’s efficiency, leading to more autonomy as a direct result,” Bjorn Robbens explained. “On the other hand, we also extend the battery’s life cycle. The way in which a battery is used and charged helps determine its lifespan. If we can evolve towards a model in which the battery is charged and used in ideal circumstances, its autonomy could improve by 20 to 40 percent and the battery will last for years."

The future of AI

The Robbens boys understand that the potential of this technological application is enormous and reaches far beyond the motorcycle world. That is why Saroléa intends to market their technology in the near future and make it available to the entire automotive sector via a platform.

"Buses, trucks, bicycles, automated guided vehicles; we are looking at the bigger picture here,” Bjorn Robbens added. “We want to package the technology and know-how we have built up with our partner, ML6, and offer an off-the-shelf solution to other OEM players.”

 


A Year of Living Dangerously

The former punk rock girl who smoked and danced and got straight A’s until I came into her life in 1986 was perfectly happy sharing rides on the back of our 2003 BMW R1150RT. The Bavarian machine has crossed the country, attended a couple Quail Motorcycle Gatherings, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and led countless Sunday Moto Club rides with her as my co-pilot.

On December 19, 2018, Jean Boulanger received this custom 2007 Triumph Thruxton scrambler from its original owner, Arroyo Grande, California-based custom builder Bryan Thompson. [Gary Boulanger]
But that changed in early May 2018 when young Gregory at our local CVS offered her the keys to his 250cc Honda. All Jean intended to do that day was buy me a birthday card, but seven months later she was in Arroyo Grande, California at the home workshop of custom builder Bryan Thompson, signing the title to take ownership of his 2007 Triumph Thruxton scrambler, a bike he bought new from Wilson’s in Fresno with two miles on the odometer.

The road from CVS to the central California coast was serendipitous at best. Jean had just met Alp Sungurtekin and his wife Jalika at The Quail, when talk of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats was fresh on their minds. I first met Alp and Jalika at the Petersen Museum for the Custom Revolution exhibit a few weeks prior, and planned on interviewing him for Cycle World. Land speed racing was new for me, and as I learned after visiting Alp and Jalika at their home workshop in Shadow Hills near Burbank, California, Bonneville is its own world full of characters and mad scientists.

During dinner at a Los Angeles restaurant with Jenna Stellar in mid June, the Hollywood costumer asked Jean if she had considered getting her motorcycle endorsement. “Well,” Jean said with a smirk and a sideways glance at me, “our son Henri has offered to give me some coaching on his SYM Wolf Classic, a single-cylinder 150cc bike he bought in 2016.”

Jean learns from Henri, just as he did in 2012. [Gary Boulanger]
And coach her he did. Henri took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course twice (once as a 17-year-old, and a second time as a refresher course with me). He has an encyclopedic memory for details, and is an excellent teacher. After a couple hours in the church parking lot near our house, Jean was rolling along in third gear, the biggest smile on her face.

In early August Henri and I rode Harley-Davidsons from the H-D headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back home to California. Along the way we visited family, then hung out for half a day at Sturgis, kibitzing with Roland Sands, Indian Motorcycle designer Ola Stenegärd and Stellar before watching American Flat Track racing at the Buffalo Chip fairgrounds. The following weekend Henri and I rolled into Wendover, Utah for Bonneville Speed Week where Alp was preparing his machine with the aim of 200 mph in 100-plus degree heat. Stacie B. London, Shinya Kimura and several tuners-racers attempted to tame the salt that weekend, with varying degrees of success and challenge.

As we watched Alp prepare his pit, Bryan and Christine Thompson drove up in a rented RV, wearing white boiler suits and Vans. I recognized Bryan from Instagram, and they kindly invited us inside the RV to duck out out the scorching sun. We quickly bonded, and two weeks later met again at the Roland Sands Design Moto Bay Classic in San Francisco, where Bryan was displaying his ‘Red Arrow’ Triumph custom.

Thompson (wearing Mooneyes hat) lends a hand to Sungurtekin (burgundy bandana) while other details are attended to by Christine Thompson (far left) and Jalika Gaskin (center). [Henri Boulanger]
When Henri and I were drinking water with the Thompsons on the salt and talking about vintage motorcycles and speed, Jean was taking her safety course at Mission College under the shadow of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. She passed with flying colors, and several weeks later, received her M-1 class endorsement. She continued to take short rides on the SYM to keep her skills sharp, then has minor surgery in early October.

She’s also a co-founder of the Sunday Moto Club—where all bikes are welcome and kindness is encouraged—and has asked several members which bike they’d recommend. She researched and read about several lightweight adventure and touring bikes, in no rush to decide. She’s attended the One Moto Show, the Handbuilt Show and toured both the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee and Robb Talbott’s museum in Carmel Village, California, so she’s laid eyes on some of the finest bikes in the world. The riding season in northern California never ends, so there’s certainly less pressure.

Then on December 12 Thompson posts his Thruxton scrambler for sale on Instagram. He bought it from the famous Wilson’s dealership in Fresno with two miles on the odometer on a day when he was merely tagging along with a friend on the hunt for a Bonneville. The stock pipes, seat, handlebars, tires and several other parts were replaced by the former speedway racer, including the tank, which he painted and had pinstriped by a signmaking friend.

I sent him an email, and 45 minutes later the phone rings.

“Jean keeps coming back to Triumphs, Bryan, and I think yours is the one,” I told him. I showed Jean the video and photos posted by Bryan, and told her I’d drive her down to the town of 17,716 near Pismo Beach if she wanted to check out the bike and ride it.

A week later, the Thruxton scrambler is sitting in our garage, making friends with its Italian and German stablemates. We’re adding offset bar risers and replacing the tires, and while Christmas came a week early for the former punk rocker from Milwaukee, Jean knows how things tend to work out if one is willing to live dangerously and make friends.

 


The Current: Fly Free Introduces Classic and Desert E-Bikes

Long Beach, California is home to a new e-Bike company:  Fly Free Smart Motorcycles.

The Fly Free with classic lines of a mini-cafe racer, one of the bodywork options over the basic architecture of the bike. [Fly Free]
Details are scant, and the website gives little information, but there’s mention of a crowdfunding campaign to get the company going, although I couldn’t find links to that either. But based on the company’s social media outreach, it appears it’s going after the same market as Gloria Factory in France, with a focus on customizability, for a hip, young, urban audience.

Some Deets

Two Fly Free models have been introduced, the Classic and Desert. Eighty different color and accessories options will be available, according to the company. The bikes will use one or two battery packs as ordered, and offer two settings: one with 50-mile range reaching a top speed of 40 miles per hour (one battery) and the other one with 100-mile range that can reach the maximum speed of 50 miles per hour (two batteries).

Ready to explore the trails at Joshua Tree: the street scrambler body kit is reminiscent of contemporary alt.custom versions of the Yamaha DT80.  The small scale and very high ground clearance should make for a fun trail bike. [Fly Free]
The powerplant is based on a 3kW electric motor with three choices of speed modes: Eco, City and Speed.  As usual with the new crop of commuter/iPhone friendly e-Bikes, there's a USB port to keep your devices charged, so you'll never be out of juice when an Instagram moment beckons.  Fly Free says it will offer an app that adjusts their motorcycle's functions, that works on both Android and IOS.

A full battery charge will take about eight hours and, according to Fly Free, after 700 cycles the removable battery still maintains 70 percent of its initial capacity.  That should equal many years of regular use, unless you're a weed/pizza delivery person in Venice Beach, in which case, the batteries might need more love.

The Fly Free Smart Desert e-bike has the best potential for sell-through, based on its adventurous stance and comfortable riding position. [Fly Free]

Verdict?

The challenge for every emerging e-bike company lies with delivery, cost, range and service after the sale. While we applaud all efforts made to get more e-bikes on the streets and in the dirt, we need to feel confident a new company will have our back after purchase, and might be around longer than next year.  We'd love more information on how Fly Free will provide service after sales.

Someone has a keen eye for shape and flow. [Fly Free]
Plan on eight hours to recharge the battery: no mention yet on rapid-charge ability for a get-you-home boost. [Fly Free]
The heart of the Fly Free Smart e-bikes, a 3kW motor. [Fly Free]
 


The Current: The Copenhagen Wheel - An Instant E-Bike

Assaf Biderman teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s also the Associate Director of the SENSEable City Laboratory, a research group that explores how new technologies are changing the way we understand, design and ultimately live in cities. Biderman focuses on partnerships with city government and industry members worldwide to explore how distributed and embedded technologies can be used to improve livability in cities and create a more sustainable urban future.

Copenhagen Wheel co-inventor and Superpedestrian founder Assaf Biderman. [Superpedestrian]
His pedigree and focus led to co-inventing the Copenhagen Wheel, a self-contained rear wheel electric bicycle system which transforms a traditional bicycle into a hybrid e-bike. The app-connected Wheel is equipped with an electric motor, battery, and suite of sensors that work together to amplify a rider’s pedal power by up to 10 times. Biderman et al developed the Copenhagen Wheel at MIT’s Senseable City Lab in 2009 in partnership with the city of Copenhagen, and unveiled it at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Among other plaudits, the Wheel was named Time Magazine's 25 Best Inventions of 2014.

Easy-peasy: add the wheel to an existed singlespeed or hybrid bike and voilà! You have yourself an e-bike. [Superpedestrian]
In December 2012, Biderman founded Superpedestrian Inc. with an exclusive license to commercialize the Wheel. After several years of engineering, testing, and validation, the $1,749 Copenhagen Wheel officially launched in the U.S. in April 2017, and in Europe and Canada in October 2017. 

Why a Wheel?

Copenhagen Wheels are custom built to fit each customer’s bicycle, and are compatible with steel or aluminum bicycle frames with rear rim caliper or cantilever (non-disc) brakes. The Copenhagen Wheel is available in both single and multi-speed versions (supporting a 7-, 8-, 9- or 10-speed Shimano/SRAM-compatible (external) multi-speed cassette). Copenhagen Wheels come in two wheel sizes—700c or 26-inch—with either road, hybrid, or mountain bike tires. Rim colors are silver or black.

How does it work?

The Copenhagen Wheel contains a custom brushless motor, advanced sensors, control systems, and a lithium-ion battery, all enclosed within the red rear wheel hub. The control system interfaces with a range of sensors measuring actual torque, power, cadence, pedal position, and acceleration to monitor a rider’s effort when pedaling. The Wheel responds to a rider’s inputs by providing the appropriate level of assistance at each moment, creating a seamless ride experience.

There’s $1,749 worth of brainiac componentry inside that red hub. [Superpedestrian]
The wheel’s battery is charged by an external cord that fits a standard wall outlet. Electronic braking assistance while riding will partially recharge the wheel when coasting or backpedaling. With a full charge, the wheel’s reported range is up to 31 miles, with variations depending on assist mode and terrain. Extensions in range are possible when using low-power modes.

Copenhagen Wheel - Product Development Update from Kobie Flashman on Vimeo.

Of course there’s an app!

In order to gain assist, the Wheel must be connected to Superpedestrian’s Wheel iOS or Android app. The Wheel App tracks rides and calorie information, and allows riders to toggle between ride modes such as Turbo, Eco, and Exercise. A smartphone also acts as a digital key, activating the Wheel automatically when ready to ride, and communicating with the cloud in real time. A self-diagnostic safety system monitors components within the Wheel and proactively responds to events within milliseconds, protecting both rider and Wheel. Superpedestrian sez it releases frequent updates to the Wheel App.

Wheel + Bike option

Superpedestrian offers complete bikes through partnerships with Marin, Public, Montague, Fyxation, Tern, Cinelli, and Fortified. Not sold on the concept? Superpedestrian also works with over 260 independent bicycle retailers across the U.S. and Europe to provide demos, maintenance, and installation services.

The Original Copenhagen Wheel was introduced in 2009, and became commercially available in October 2017. [Superpedestrian]

The Current: Eva Håkansson's Quest to Break 400 mph With Green Envy

Breaking a land speed record by reaching 255.122 mph in an electric motorcycle of her own design and construction isn’t enough for Swedish mechanical engineer and lecturer Eva Håkansson. After becoming the world's fastest woman on an electric motorcycle in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the 37-year-old resident of New Zealand aims to break 400 mph by 2021.

Eva Hakansson. We recommend you visit her personal website here, and her new website Science Envy here. Great stuff! Teach your girls math! [Eva Håkansson]
Standing at 5-foot-2, Håkansson first broke the land speed record at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials in 2014 on board the custom-built electric motorcycle dubbed KillaJoule, co-designed with her husband Bill Dubé.

“About 80 percent of the hours, blood, sweat, and tears that went into the KillaJoule are mine,” Håkansson told Guinness World Records in 2016. “The rest was built by family and friends. The motorcycle was built from scratch in my two-car garage behind my house."

The future of 400 mph? Eva Håkansson hopes to find out with Green Envy in 2020. [Eva Håkansson]
“We went to Bonneville and slowly ramped up the speed with every run,” she said of their first year on the salt. “We set a new record at 240.726 mph, the fastest official two-way speed record ever for a female motorcycle rider. We went back to Bonneville two weeks later. After a nice shakedown at about 200 mph, which felt like a walk in the park after going 240 mph just a couple of weeks earlier, I sat down with my spreadsheet. Carefully analyzing the data logged in the bike, the math said that it should theoretically be able to do 265 mph. Typically, a vehicle never goes as fast as you think it will. However, we thought there would be a chance to take the unofficial record for a female rider at 264 mph. This was a single run made by Becci Ellis on a regular sit-on motorcycle at an airport in the UK, quite a brave feat in itself.”

“With a theoretical chance at 265 mph, I turned out on the track deciding to give it everything it had. The speedometer in the bike `only’ showed 259 mph, but I knew that it was a bit pessimistic (the front tire grows at speed and offsets the speedometer reading a little bit), but I wasn’t sure how much. When the timing folks reported on the radio that we had run 270.224 mph I knew this wouldn’t be my last year of racing. I was the world’s fastest female motorcycle rider, and 300 mph was simply too close to quit now.”

In 2016 Håkansson again broke the land speed record at Bonneville with 248 mph, and reached 255.122 mph in 2017. Speed and motorcycles are part of her DNA, literally; her father, Sven Håkansson, used to build motorcycles and her mother was the family mechanic. In 2007 she and her father converted a Cagiva Freccia C12R-90—an 125cc Italian two-stroke motorcycle—into an electric version with equivalent performance to the original combustion engine motorcycle. Their ElectroCat passed the registration inspection and became the first street legal vehicle in Sweden in January 2008.

KillaJoule set three land speed records, and will now be retired. [Eva Håkansson]
The Need For Speed

“How does it feel running for a speed record? That’s the second most common question I receive,” she added. “The most common is `How fast is it?’ The speed question is easy to answer, the other question is much more difficult.

“I’m not an adrenaline junky, actually quite the opposite. While it is definitely an experience of a lifetime, and a very privileged position, I find the record attempt runs very stressful and at times outright scary. It is quite claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I am strapped in and can’t move. The pressure to set a record is enormous, and the world is watching. When we get to the starting line, I sometimes just want to run away and go home. Or take a nap because I am exhausted from actually getting everything done on time.

“The drive itself is really short, just a few minutes, but can be quite an experience. Driving the KillaJoule is really easy, pretty much anyone could do it (provided that you are maximum 5-foot-2). You look toward the end of the track, twist the throttle and try to stay approximately in the middle. When you pass the finishing line, you roll off the throttle and push the brake chute button. You slow down over about a mile or two, and when you reach one of prepared access roads you turn off the track. That’s it. It’s the easiest part of my `job.’ But that said, it certainly isn’t free from emotions.

"Both my parents are mechanical engineers, and both my brothers are electrical engineers. I was the last one in the family to earn my engineering degree. Just like me, my dad built and raced motorcycles in evenings and weekends [and was the Swedish 50cc Champion in 1962 - ed]. My mom was his mechanic. I went to my first race track in the baby carrier, and I have been interested in technology as long as I can remember. I call my passion for engineering and racing “a genetic disorder”. According to my parents, I built a “nuclear power plant” from cans and cardboard in the garage when I was 4. My dad worked as an engineering consultant out of our home, and he had a full machine shop in the basement. It wasn’t until many years later I realized how unusual, and beneficial, it was to know how to machine, weld, and to have other machine shop skills." [Eva Håkansson]
“What about the actual record run? Those two minutes when the track is all yours? I wish I could say that it is an awesome big rush that you will live on for years, but it isn’t really. The closest I can describe it as a two-minute long mix of horror, boredom, and magic. Setting a new record means that I am going faster than I ever have gone before, and that the bike is going faster than it ever has. Accelerating up to a speed where I have been before is typically so uneventful that it is almost boring, but as soon as you surpass that speed you are entering uncharted territory.

Eva's mother Lena was the mechanic for her father Sven's Swedish Championship run!

“It is known that stability problems can occur very suddenly, so it is quite nerve-wrecking. The vehicle is also extremely tight and claustrophobic. To be honest, that alone took a while to get used to. The relentless desert sun beating down doesn’t make it any more pleasant. But, at the same time, the feeling when everything works flawlessly is like magic. Years of work finally pays off, and it is like time stops. When I have finished a run, all my nervousness and discomfort quickly vanishes and is replaced by a huge grin. I say, `Well, that was easy, let’s do it again.’

Green Envy Replaces KillaJoule

According to Håkansson, Green Envy will be a battery-powered and streamlined  sidecar motorcycle and it will look very much like the KillaJoule. However, there will be some major differences. First off, Green Envy will also have more than twice the power of KillaJoule, targeting over 1,000 horsepower; 1 megawatt equals 1,360 hp.

It will be built with the goal to become the world’s fastest motorcycle, electric or otherwise. The overall motorcycle record is 376 mph, set by Rocky Robinson in 2010. In order to fit the larger drivetrain, Green Envy will be about three feet longer than KillaJoule, which means about 23 feet. The cross-sectional area will stay the same, and the aerodynamics will be improved.

“There will also be a lot of subtle changes improving performance, handling, and reliability,” she explained. “Or simply speaking, we will learn from all the mistakes we made building the KillaJoule.

Eva with her road-going ElectroCat e-Bike from 2008 [Eva Håkansson]
“The Green Envy will be constructed in New Zealand, and will be raced at the salt flats in Australia in 2020. The reason it won’t be built in the US like KillaJoule, is that I will be teaching engineering design at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2019. Because the Green Envy will be built by me and Bill, it will be built where we are, which will be New Zealand.”

Green Envy Timeline

2019: Construction, in Auckland, New Zealand.

March 2020: First start at Lake Gairdner salt flats in South Australia, under the sanctioning of the Dry Lake Racers of Australia. “The goal is to make a safe, successful run and keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up,” Håkansson said. “A speed of 200+ mph would be considered a success. Anything higher than that would just be bonus!”

August 2020: “If time and budget allows, it would be possible to race the Green Envy at Bonneville as well, but that would require very generous sponsors.”

March 2021: “Back at Lake Gairdner salt flats. Target: 300+ mph, perhaps even 400+ mph if the planets line up and the angels are singing. (Yes, everything has to work perfectly for this to happen, that’s why it takes so long to prepare).”

Suited up for a run on the Salt Flats in a 16-year old flame suit: budget land speed racing at its finest! Speed is expensive, but a few corners can be cut to ease the burden. [Eva Håkansson]

The Current: BigRep 3D Prints NERA E-Moto

Additive Manufacturing became part of our lexicon on October 15, 2018 when we spoke with Tarform Motorcycles co-founder and designer Taras Kravtchouk. The Swede and his American partners introduced a bike to mixed reviews, but something beyond aesthetics was at play: will the dawn of additive manufacturing jumpstart 3D-printed electric motorcycle production? Germany’s BigRep—with offices in Massachusetts and Singapore—believes so.

The world’s first fully 3D-printed and functional electric motorcycle, the NERA, was designed by Marco Mattia Cristofori and Maximilian Sedlak at BigRep’s innovation consultancy NOWLAB. [BIGREP]
The world’s first fully 3D-printed and functional electric motorcycle, the NERA, was designed by Marco Mattia Cristofori and Maximilian Sedlak at BigRep’s innovation consultancy NOWLAB and printed on BigRep’s Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) large-scale 3D printers.

"These exciting prototypes not only demonstrate the unprecedented capacity of FFF large-scale 3D printing technology in AM,” said BigRep GmbH CEO Stephan Beyer, PhD. “They also emphasize our unique ability as the market’s innovation and thought leader to bring cutting-edge technologies from design to reality, providing a market value added lead for our industrial customers.”

All NERA parts, excluding electrical components, were 3D printed, including tires, rims, frame, fork and seat. Breaking from traditional design, mechanical engineering and manufacturing, the engineers focused on creating a bike for large-format FFF technology. NERA features airless tires with customized tread, a lightweight rhomboid wheel rim, flexible bumpers (instead of suspension) and the electric engine, which is fitted in a customizable case.

German 3D printing manufacturer BIGREP created an electric motorcycle with customized tread airless tires with, a lightweight rhomboid wheel rim, and flexible bumpers replacing tradition suspension. [BIGREP]
"The NERA combines several innovations developed by NOWLAB, such as the airless tire, functional integration and embedded sensor technology,” NOWLAB’s co-founder and managing director Daniel Büning said. “This bike and our other prototypes push the limits of engineering creativity and will reshape AM technology as we know it.”

Breaking from traditional design, mechanical engineering and manufacturing, the engineers at NOWLAB focused on creating a bike for large-format FFF technology. [BIGREP]
Manufacturing disruption is happening across several industries, and 3D printing and AM are certainly pushing the envelope. Will electric motorcycles benefit from this emerging technology, and if so, will we see new 21st century OEMs move to the front?

Future manufacturing is clean manufacturing. [BIGREP]

 


The Current: Cake Making Waves

As we reported on January 25, 2018, Swedish gadget heads at Cake 0 Emission not only introduced its electric off-road motorcycle production concept and a new category, Light Electric Off-Road Motorbikes, it fully delivered 50 limited-edition bikes to international customers in nine months. And man, did it sweep up design awards across multiple categories and industries, including the highly prestigious (and historically anti-motorcycle) Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards.

Twenty horsepower equivalent, with a top speed of 46 mph, good for up to 50 miles of saddle time. [Cake 0 Emission]
Now that Cake has pierced the previously impenetrable (and highly lucrative) broad-based outdoor market, what does this mean for the current wave of electric motorcycles, many of which are momentarily Insta-famous artist renderings? One hundred years ago there were several hundred motorcycle companies pushing the envelope, but only a handful remained after the dust settled and reality set in for several entrepreneurs.

The Kalk is light, weighing in around 154 pounds, and uses a single pivot direct drive, reducing the number of heavy and moving parts. [Cake 0 Emission]
Our publisher Paul d'Orléans was happy to feature a Cake Kalk at the wildly successful book launch party for the print version of 'The Current' (Gestalten), at Aether Apparel LA on October 30.  On being informed that Cake had been nominated for an Innovations Award at the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Winter Market, the Vintagent team detoured to Denver, Colorado, to watch a frickin’ motorcycle being honored alongside outdoor giants like Big Agnes and Black Diamond.  This is serious news for the outdoors scene: the OR represents a multi-Billion dollar industry that has kept motorcycles at arm's length (including politically), and The Vintagent team were the first motorcycle industry representatives to cover the show, ever.  I asked Paul to explain his thoughts:

"When Liz Ferrin told us at our book launch that she was organizing the Innovation Awards, and our cover girl Cake was nominated at the world's biggest outdoor industry event, it seemed like kismet, and I knew we needed to be there.  Clearly, things are changing in the outdoor world as much as in motorcycling, because the outdoor industry is notoriously hostile to off-road motorcycles.  But with the flood of electric mountain bikes and now e-trail bikes, attitudes are softening...although I did hear of one judge on the Industry Awards panel who cursed the Cake; 'What's that F**KING motorcycle doing here?!'   Which pretty much sums up why no motorcycle industry folks have ever attended!  But, we're happy to be trailblazers, and met serious players in the industry, who were curious why we had come.  I explained it seemed a no-brainer: the ADV sector of motorcycling is enormous, and they use exactly the same outdoor gear as bicyclists or backpackers. The e-ADV/outdoor industry hookup is inevitable, and the door is wide open, though nobody saw it."

Motorcycling is now a silent sport. [Cake 0 Emission]
"The Vintagent/Motorcycle Arts Foundation's next exhibition at the Petersen Museum this April will  be called Electric Revolution. We're witnessing history right now, it's a big turn of the wheel to where the motorcycle industry was in 1900, with different technologies competing for dominance.  Then it was steam, electric, and petrol, now its petrol, electric, and hydrogen.  We've never seen this kind of activity in the motorcycle industry in our lifetime - basically it's been a downhill slide from the 1960s in sales. Today there are hundreds of small e-Bike makers trying to be the next Apple...which means there will the a Kodak and a Polaroid too, giants that seemed to big to fail, but did.  We're watching history being made."

Easy in, easy out. [Cake 0 Emission]

Are Waymo Smarts Needed to Protect Motorcyclists?

At 7:19 a.m. on October 19, 2018, the rider of a 2007 Honda Rebel made the mistake of passing a vehicle on the right on El Camino Real in Mountain View, California during heavy commuter traffic. Call it a rookie mistake or hurried negligence, but there was more at stake on that Friday morning in Silicon Valley that sent the rider to the hospital.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik and the company's flagship vehicle. [Waymo]
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles traffic collision report filed by the driver of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, a passenger vehicle in Lane 1 to the left of the Pacifica began to change lanes into Lane 2 to avoid a box truck blocking two lanes of traffic. Traveling at 21 mph, the Pacifica’s driver began changing lanes into Lane 3. But the Honda Rebel -- traveling at approximately 28 mph behind the Pacifica -- had just entered Lane 3 to overtake the Chrysler on its right. The Pacifica and Rebel collided at the Chrysler's right rear corner. The motorcyclist reported injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The Chrysler sustained minor damage to the rear bumper.

The difference between this collision and others was that the Chrysler Pacifica was a Waymo Autonomous Vehicle. Before the passenger vehicle cut in front to avoid the box truck, the Waymo vehicle was in self-driving mode. Acting on instinct, Waymo's test driver took manual control of the AV, disengaging from self-driving mode and colliding with the motorcycle.

Waymo reports a decade of testing over 10 million miles on city streets and private facilities. In a recent corporate blog written by CEO John Krafcik, he admitted that the AV driver took the wrong course of action.

A Waymo AV in Mountain View, California [Waymo]
“Our review of this incident confirmed that our technology would have avoided the collision by taking a safer course of action,” Krafcik wrote. “While our test driver’s focus was on the car ahead, our self-driving system was simultaneously tracking the position, direction and speed of every object around it. Crucially, our technology correctly anticipated and predicted the future behavior of both the merging vehicle and the motorcyclist. Our simulation shows the self-driving system would have responded to the passenger car by reducing our vehicle’s speed, and nudging slightly in our own lane, avoiding a collision.

“Testing on public roads is vital to the safe development of self-driving technology, and we’re sorry that a member of the community was injured in a collision with one of our cars,” he added. “We recognize the impact this can have on community trust. We hold ourselves to the highest standard, and we are always working to improve and refine our testing program.

“As professional vehicle operators, our test drivers undergo rigorous training that includes defensive driving courses, including guidance on responding to fast-moving scenarios on the road. However, some dynamic situations still challenge human drivers. People are often called upon to make split second decisions with insufficient context. In this case, our test driver reacted quickly to avoid what he thought would be a collision, but his response contributed to another.”

The familiar white Waymo Chrysler Pacifica. [Waymo]
On October 30, Waymo received a permit from California's DMV to test autonomous vehicles without human backup drivers on public roads, making the Google spin-off the first company to receive permission to test unmanned self-driving cars in California.

According to the DMV permit, Waymo will be able to test around 36 self-driving vehicles without a driver in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Sunnyvale. Waymo employees will be the first to take rides in the unmanned vehicles. The self-driving company has been allowed to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2014, one of 60 companies that are authorized to do so, the DMW said.

But a report from The Information (“Waymo’s Big Ambitions Slowed by Tech Trouble,” August 28, 2018) suggested Waymo's self-driving technology struggles with more driving tasks than the Mountain View company has indicated. The publication said Waymo vehicles have difficulty making unprotected left turns, distinguishing between individuals in a large group, and merging into turn lanes and highway traffic, among other trouble areas.

“Incidents like this are what motivate all of us at Waymo to work diligently and safely to bring our technology to roads, because this is the type of situation self-driving vehicles can prevent,” Waymo CEO Krafcik wrote. “We designed our technology to see 360 degrees in every direction, at all times. This constant, vigilant monitoring of the car’s surroundings informs our technology’s driving decisions and can lead to safer outcomes.”

How Waymo tech works

As motorcyclists, should we take comfort in the idea of true driverless vehicles deciding what’s best for us, even when one of our own used poor judgement on a cold Friday morning in October? Would the Waymo van’s AI made the right decision to avoid colliding with the Honda Rebel?


The Current: Zero Ramps Up, Alta Shuts Down

In a span of seven days, two San Francisco Bay Area electric motorcycle manufacturers made the news for completely different reasons.

How it hurts: just last week we crowed that Alta had taken the first-ever AMA podium finish for an e-bike [Alta]
On October 16, motocross-focused Alta Motors closed its doors in Brisbane, doling out severance checks to its nearly 100 employees without any notice. After an early 2018 investment bump from Harley-Davidson seemed to be a knight in shiny Milwaukee armor, the marriage came to an abrupt halt just six months later due to Alta’s increasing monthly cash burn and H-D’s interest in opening its own Silicon Valley tech center (Yamaha has something e-brewing in Palo Alto, too). An anonymous insider told me Alta’s Chief Revenue Officer flew to Morocco two days prior to Black Tuesday, leaving the dirty work of firing the whole company to other top management personnel.  News sources suggested the shut-down was a strategy to finalize a buyout of Alta, but no further details were provided: let's hope this excellent technology gets a new life.

[Zero]
On October 23, 63.5 miles to the south in Scotts Valley, Zero Motorcycles announced its 2019 lineup of revamped models, introducing new technology and extended range topped off with new styling.

No official comment has come from Alta management. In fact, nothing on the corporate website reflects the recent shuttering of the business.

Zero, on the other hand, has been hard at work refining its latest offering of six models.

[Zero]
“We’ve defined the electric motorcycle industry over the past 13 years by developing a diverse lineup that features the world’s most power and energy dense EV tech,” Zero CEO Sam Paschel said. “Having sold more electric motorcycles annually than all our competitors combined, we continue to be the driving force behind two-wheeled electrification. This is going to be a very exciting year for Zero Motorcycles.”

Earlier this year the producers of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick 3 vetted three electric motorcycle makers for a critical scene in the movie, due out in May 2019. Wick (Reeves) on horseback will be battling the bad guys on Zeroes through a city street at night, beating out Alta and Energica for movie stuntman bragging rights.

Dual sport is Zero’s focus for 2019, with the entry-level $10,995 Zero DS ZF7.2 now boasting 35 percent more horsepower and an 8 percent higher top speed. At 96 pounds lighter than its longer-range counterpart, this model could be an ideal commuter during the week and a nice whip for weekend adventure.

The new $13,995 Zero DS ZF14.4 extends its range by 10 percent over the 2018 model by using the same battery as the premium Zero DSR. This allows the 2019 Zero DS to be configured by adding the $2,895 Power Pack to stretch the range to 204 miles in the city and 97 miles on the highway.

The $16,495 Zero DSR has received several technological and cosmetic changes for 2019, including 116 ft-lb of torque, a dual-sport windscreen, tank grips, hand guards and a 12V accessory socket.

Former Buell designer and longtime Zero CTO Abe Askenazi has been leading development for nearly nine years, and it’s been a steady increase in power, range and line extension since he took over design in 2011. And he’s jazzed to be expanding Zero’s dual sport offering.

[Zero]
“Zero was founded with an emphasis on off-road and how electric powertrain technology can transform that riding experience,” Askenazi said. “Whether bombing down a fire road or quietly weaving through a forest, Zero’s dual sport line strips away noise and complication to redefine what a motorcycle can be. Just you, two wheels, and a fist-full of always-there torque for wherever the road takes you.”

Not wanting to ignore the rest of the lineup, Zero’s $10,995 entry-level and lower weight S ZF7.2 now offers the same 35 percent performance jump as the base model Zero DS. The new $13,995 longer-range Zero S ZF14.4 travels 10 percent farther than last year and can be configured with a $2,895 Power Tank to deliver the lineup’s longest range with up to 223 miles in the city and 112 miles on the highway.

[Zero]
Zero also introduced a backwards-compatible accessory version of its 6kW Charge Tank that can now be installed at authorized local dealerships to expand the charging capabilities of its dual sport and street line. The Charge Tank “refuels” up to six times faster than a standard wall outlet, adding up to 85 miles of city range in an hour using standard Level 2 charge stations, and is designed with long-term owners in mind by being compatible with Zero S, Zero SR, Zero DS and Zero DSR models dating back to 2015.

Pioneering tech

Zero’s  industry-first “Long Term Storage Mode” automatically puts the bike into a low-power mode to optimize battery state-of-charge and further improve long-term battery health. According to Zero, its 2019 models are available in select dealerships around the world and will begin shipping to customers immediately.

[Zero]

The Current: Tarform Electric Motorcycle Blends Swedish And American Design

Opening a motorcycle brand in Brooklyn, the global hub of cool, has been a dream of several e-bike manufacturers: there's talent to spare in the NYC region, and a strong motorcycle culture too.   Tarform is the latest e-bike brand to open up shop in BK, but their team isn't strictly local, with a Swedish designer working with the Brooklyn manufacturing hub.  They're currently hand-building a limited run of collector bikes in New York, with prices starting at $28,000, and concurrently accepting pre-orders for a production run with an estimated manufacturing date of late 2019. Retail pricing for the mass version will start at $18,000: complete information will be released shortly.

So who is behind Tarform? Check out the video below, then read our exclusive interview with chief designer Taras Kravtchouk.

Taras, you mentioned your intent is to ‘revive the classic form, and unite it with modern day technology to create a new riding experience.’ What design and engineering ingredients are you including to reach that goal?

Taras Kravtchouk: Growing up in Scandinavia, my design philosophy is rooted in minimalism and trying to find the most simple shape in objects. The biggest influence is from the mid-century and Bauhaus era where our products went from ornamental and decorative to pure function and more emphasis was put on creating a simple form, whether it is a piece of furniture or a motorcycle. In my opinion, that was the most appealing era of design and I wanted to find back to that time in the Tarform bike. Instead of adding more elements, removing everything that is non-essential to find the simplest lines and how they all relate to each other.

When it comes to engineering, the electrical drivetrain is already an elegant solution compared to ICE. It was just a matter of finding the correct placement, and since the actual components are not visual as an engine, they had to take the least amount of visual space. The battery box is just a black box and the motor is a round cylinder, so more emphasis was placed on the body, panels, swingarm and handlebars.

Lastly, the bike had to be connected so the digital user experience had to reflect the design style. We used a round 3.4-inch retina display which gave us complete design freedom over the interaction design. Therefore we could design a custom dashboard from scratch. Every element such as the speed, charge, sound and boot up screen was designed to match the general brand aesthetic. I used ITC Avant Garde gothic for the display as the primary font which was designed by the legendary Herb Lubalin. The icons are simplistic and the color scheme is duo-tone.

Major automotive players and tech companies are grasping for the Holy Grail of integrating AI into the consumer experience. How is Tarform approaching this?

TK: This technology has existed for a couple of years in cars but have not found its way into motorcycles yet. Our first step will be to integrate the production version of the bike with proximity sensors and a Lidar to measure distance to various targets on the road whether it is a pedestrian or a car. Our onboard VCU (vehicle control unit) will process all the data and use a computer vision API  to output relevant information on the dashboard. This would be an alert that the vehicle in front of the rider would change lanes without indicating (based on their travel speed) or if the car in front of you will turn right based on their wheel direction.

Simply put, the bike would assist the rider in making those critical decisions much faster than our brain normally would. Another aspect of ML is to track the riders information and at the end of the ride provide statistics and recommendations. A scenario would be to track the rider’s speed going into a corner and then giving them feedback to slow down, based on their history. [This sounds like every pillion passenger ever! - pd'o]

Explain how Tarform plans to offer customization.

TK: During the prototyping stage we realized that the electrical drivetrain offers more flexibility for the exterior design such as the body and side-panels. So we expanded on that idea and designed mounts around all the body work that could easily be swapped out individually without compromising the overall form of the bike. The rider could swap the tank, seat, side-panels, front and rear grill, headlight, fairing, upright bars or clip-ons. Essentially creating a combination of parts to their liking.

What is ‘additive manufacturing,’ and which new biomaterials are you including?

TK: Most exterior parts on the bike were 3D printed using various printers such as FDM, SLS, SLA technology. We worked with EOS (a global leader in additive manufacturing) and created parts such as 3D printed levers out of aluminum, logos and dashboard trims in 3D printed brass. The tank and body panels on the cafe design were printed using SLS in ABS plastic. A lot of internal mounts and headlight lens and lens bucket where 3D printed out of sustainable PLA, which is 100 percent biodegradable. The tank and the side panels where reinforced using ECO flax fiber instead of carbon fiber.

When will American and European customers be taking delivery, and where will the bikes be manufactured?

TK: Pre-orders are open on our website www.tarform.com. Since we are a Swedish company but also based in Brooklyn, the manufacturing and assembly is still under decision and will be announced early 2019.


The Current: Alta Grabs First Electric AMA Pro National Podium

The team at San Francisco-based Alta Motors is most likely nursing a post-celebratory hangover this week after its star rider Ty Tremaine piloted the company’s Redshift EXR to a third-place finish at round three of the Endurocross Championship Series in Reno, Nevada over the weekend, making it the first electric motorcycle to podium in an AMA Pro National race.

Alta Factory racer Ty Tremaine flexed his muscles and used his skills to grab a historic podium for his team and electric motorcycles in Reno on September 22. [Tanner Yeager]
"I’m really happy with this step,” Alta’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Derek Dorresteyn said. “We are homing in on a good setting and Ty is really starting to shine on the Alta EXR. With this result we are demonstrating the trajectory of Alta and electric motorcycles."

Nevada native Tremaine began the day by claiming the second-fastest lap in practice before finishing a close second behind Factory KTM rider and defending series champion Cody Webb in his heat race.

You can bet this trophy will be displayed proudly at the Alta HQ. [Tanner Yeager]
Tremaine and Webb went head-to-head in the bracket race final. Tremaine grabbed the holeshot, and outsmarted series points leader Webb into a uncharacteristic error, creating an opening for Tremaine to scoot past the checkered flag for the race win and additional championship point.

Meet The EXR from Alta Motors on Vimeo.

“The night was almost perfect,” Tremaine said. “After winning the bracket race, the energy of the crowd was amazing. I couldn’t be happier with the way the motorcycle performed.”

After getting a less than favorable start in the main event, Tremaine came around the first turn in sixth position. From there he took the mandated No Joke Lane immediately. The strategy paid off, as Tremaine fell back into the rhythm he had throughout the day, hunting down nearly every rider in the field before finishing third.

Nevada native Ty Tremaine win his bracket race final, after setting the second-fastest lap in practice earlier in the day. [Tanner Yeager]
“I didn’t get the best start so I took the No Joke Lane right away,” Tremaine added. “From there, I just started picking guys off one by one. I got into third and then rode my own race. We made history tonight, which is crazy. I couldn’t be happier to put Alta Motors on the box!”

Tremaine’s efforts moved him into third place in the series championship points. Will he bump up a step or two on the podium at round four in Denver on October 20? Dorresteyn and his crew believe he can.

The $12,495 2019 Alta Redshift EXR weighs 273 pounds. [Alta Motors]

The Current: Audi Enters the Electric Age With E-Tron SUV

Audi sold about 1.878 million vehicles globally in 2017, with nearly 227,000 vehicles in the US. The status-symbol manufacturer debuted its first all-electric fast-charging e-tron SUV in San Francisco this week, partnering with Amazon’s Home Services division for home charging stations. The e-tron will come in three models, ranging in price from $74,800 - $86,700, made in Audi’s new Brussels factory in Belgium. Delivery is expected in the middle of 2019.

Audi is aiming at the e-space currently held by Tesla with its Model X, which ranges in price from $79,500 for the 75D version to $140,000 for the P100D. Other luxury brands entering the premium e-SUV market next year are Mercedes-Benz with its $80,000 EQC and Jaguar’s $70,495 I-Pace. My how the times have changed: my first house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was $76,500 in 1992!

As we reported recently about Audi’s motorcycle brand Ducati, e-bikes are making strides in performance, style and accessibility. So when an automotive juggernaut like Audi goes big with its e-tron, will the two-wheel engineers in Bologna follow suit?

High voltage!

The e-tron’s battery system is located beneath the cabin, measuring 90” L x 63.6” W x  13.4” H. Thirty-six cell modules are housed in shoe-box-sized square aluminum boxes. They are arranged on two levels, known as “floors” – a longer lower floor and a shorter upper one. At market launch, each module is equipped with 12 pouch cells having a flexible outer skin of aluminum-coated polymer. The battery operates with a nominal voltage of 396 volts and stores 95 kWh of energy.

A cooling system of flat aluminum extruded sections – divided uniformly into small chambers – has the task of maintaining the battery’s high-performance operation over the long term. Heat is exchanged between the cells and the cooling system beneath them via a thermally conductive gel pressed beneath each cell module. In what is a particularly resourceful solution, the gel evenly transfers the waste heat to the coolant via the battery housing.

A strong surround frame and lattice-type aluminum structure that holds the cell modules is designed to protect the battery block. A substantial aluminum plate provides protection against damage from flying stones or curbs, for instance. These measures demonstrate how the Audi engineers have developed the batter and cooling systems with safety in mind. [Audi]
The weight of the battery system including the housing pan with intricate crash structures is roughly 1,543.2 pounds, bolted to the underbody at 35 points. This increases the torsional rigidity of the body, which in turn integrates numerous aluminum parts such as the floor plate in the rear structure, the doors, as well as the hood and tailgate. The cabin features components made from heat-formed, ultra-high-strength steel.

Charge!

The e-tron is engineered for both AC and DC charging via the widespread SAE J1772 and Combined Charging System (CCS) standards. In an industry first to date, the e-tron debuts a DC fast-charging capability of up to 150 kW available at select high-speed public charging stations, this capability can deliver up to an 80 percent charge in only approximately 30 minutes.

For customers’ residential charging needs, a standard 9.6 kW AC capsule charger (Level 2, 240-volt/40 amps) is provided and designed to deliver a fresh charge overnight. This charger will include plugs that can use both a standard 120-volt household outlet (1.2 kW) as well as a fast-speed 240-volt NEMA 14-50 outlet (9.6 kW).

In addition to standard automotive aerodynamics, the e-tron’s standard-equipped heat pump uses the waste heat from the electrical components. Up to 3 kW of the actual power loss is used for cabin heating and air conditioning as well as cooling the electric motor. Depending on ambient temperature, the heat pump’s design can contribute to the Audi e-tron range by up to 10 percent. Highly flexible thermal management also allows fast direct-current charging to help maintain a long battery operating life and repeatable road performance.

Yeah, but what about performance?

Two electric motors accelerate the e-tron from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, reaching a top speed of 124 mph. Maximum drive torque is reached in 250 milliseconds! God bless electronic drivetrains. Two asynchronous motors are designed to keep the temperature level low. Single-stage transmissions transfer the torque to the axles via the differentials, and each motor is supplied by power electronics that act in close consort with the powertrain control unit.

According to Audi, when the e-tron is traveling at moderate speeds, it’s powered mainly by the rear motor. When coasting, the motors operate free from magnetic drag torque – another strength of ASM technology. The e-tron uses an innovative recuperation system using both electric motors to boost efficiency. On average, Audi engineers estimate that this system is responsible for as much as 30 percent of the e-tron’s range depending on the conditions, terrain and driving style.

The electric SUV can recover energy in two ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator, or by means of braking recuperation by depressing the brake pedal. When pressing the brake pedal, the electronic control unit computes within milliseconds how much pressure the system needs to build up for the specific braking process required. A high-performance electric motor supplies the necessary energy. The integrated brake control system is approximately 30 percent lighter than a conventional system thanks to its more compact design. As a result, the conventional vacuum pump is no longer needed in this configuration.

Additionally, the brake control system decides whether to use the electric motors as alternators or to use the friction brakes – all without the driver noticing. Up to 0.3 g, the Audi e-tron is decelerated solely by the electric motors – that covers over 90 percent of braking scenarios. So energy is returned to the battery in practically all normal braking instances. Above this deceleration value, for example in a full brake application, the friction brakes come into play. Thanks to a newly-designed,  electro-hydraulic activation principle, they are particularly quick to respond. The driver can select the degree of energy recovery in three stages by means of paddles on the steering wheel. In the lowest setting, the Audi e-tron glides with no additional braking torque. At the highest stage the electric SUV is slowed more noticeably – the driver can slow down and accelerate solely via the acceleration pedal, if desired. This creates what is referred to as a `one-pedal’ feeling.

The efficiency assist additionally promotes an economical driving style by prompting the driver when he should move his foot off of the accelerator pedal. It does this by using the navigation system’s route data, radar information and camera images, Depending on the traffic situation the predictive system makes the Audi e-tron slow down proactively and in turn, recuperate.

Amazon partnership

Audi e-tron buyers can ready their homes with available Amazon Home Services in the first-ever home charging collaboration between Amazon and an automaker. “Audi Home Charging powered by Amazon Home Services” offers e-tron buyers a fully-digital experience for in-home electric vehicle charging installations, designed to make the process of home charging setup as easy as ordering other items from Amazon. [Audi]

Of course there’s an app

The myAudi app can be used to plan, control, and monitor the charging and pre-heating/-cooling of the e-tron. Customers can set a departure time, for example, so that the vehicle is charged and/or heated/cooled at the desired time. Customers can even choose to heat or cool certain zones in the car. On cold winter days, for example, customers can turn on the optional seat heating. The app also displays charging and driving data.

For charging on the go, the e-tron will be supported by a nationwide charging network, “Powered by Electrify America.” By July 2019, this network will include nearly 500 fast-charging sites complete or under development throughout 40 states and 17 metro areas. Offering advanced charging, Electrify America’s chargers are capable of delivering up to 350 kW. [Audi]
With the purchase of the Audi e-tron customers will receive 1,000 kWh of charging at Electrify America sites over four years of ownership.

Amazon’s voice-activated ‘Alexa’ software has been fully integrated into the e-tron’s MMI system and is on board for customers to access many of the same features and services in the vehicle as they can in their home or through other Alexa-enabled devices. You can check news, weather and sports scores, order groceries and add things to your to-do list, stream music and audiobooks via Audible, Amazon Music and TuneIn. With smart home controls, you can lock the doors, turn off the lights, and close the garage door directly from the vehicle – all you have to do is ask.

Audi e-tron customers are now able to configure and reserve their vehicle with a fully refundable $1,000 reservation fee ahead of delivery in mid 2019. Audi’s 303 US dealers provide a much wider ecosystem compared to Tesla, and coupled with Mercedes and Jaguar entering the premium all-electric SUV arena, it will be interesting to see how Elon Musk handles the newly-crowded space.


The Current: Would Ducati Build This Electric Motorcycle?

Spanish designer Miguel Angel Bahri imagined a Porsche-inspired electric motorcycle concept last year, basing his vision on the iconic German automaker’s masterful 911 series and its evolved lineage. He called his concept the ‘Porsche 618’ - it was highly detailed, and looked like a realistic option for production.

“Inspired by the Flat-Six engine, the inspiration came to my mind in the way of thinking in a low center of gravity. Center-hub steering was a key element to get the right balance between design surfaces and mechanical features, allowing me to put heavy visual parts such as the direction components, front and rear arms and even springs configurations below the middle of the motorcycle.”

“After this, the idea was how to relate a sporty silhouette feeling, typical from Porsche, without losing lightness of the body, this because as a real power cruiser motorcycle, it should have a good range/performance ratio and the +20 KwH battery has a prominent volume to take into consideration.”

Bahri's concept seeks to extend Lamborghini/Audi/Volkswagen's ownership of Ducati into a new direction: they're owned by an automotive juggernaut, is his design the mental springboard Ducati's engineers need to hop on the electric motorcycle train? Ducati is hedging its bets regarding plans for e-bike development, while Harley-Davidson has aggressively moved forward, announcing the opening of a Silicon Valley-based engineering outpost to focus exclusively on electric vehicle development in Ducati North America’s own backyard.

Bahri is no conceptual design slouch. He was part of a five-person team to collaborate on a Tesla T1 LeMans 2030 concept for his IED Barcelona transportation design class, a reflection of the e-chops he introduced to the world with his Porsche 618 in early 2017.

“Color combinations were a key feature to reduce visual weight from the main body,” Bahri said. “With this I could make body partitions but also I put some elements into perspective to gain more importance on top of others.”

“In the final design, the two main liquid metal silver surfaces make the impression of ‘floating’, as the battery CFRP case serves as a background for this element, taking advantage of its darker-matte color to reduce visual weight,” he added. “The futuristic details such as the headlights, taillights and the trunk aperture system complete the (overall) design of the 618.”

Maybe Bahri could arrange to have an espresso in Milan with Ducati designers to discuss motorcycles?


The Current: From Russia, With E-Love

The name Kalashnikov immediately conjures up the Russian-made AK-47 assault rifle, still in production since its inception in 1949. Seventy-five million have been produced, making it the most popular armament in history, and the company bearing designer Mikhail Kalashnikov’s name has been diversifying into electric vehicles lately.  Arms manufacturers care about the climate too, you know!

Over the past year, the Kalashnikov Concern has introduced a handful of electric military and consumer motorcycles, a “flying car” which looks more like a rudimentary motorcycle drone that the Green Goblin would love to pester Spider-Man with, and a small car to gobble up Moscow miles. As with most e-concepts and limited production runs popping up on the interwebs, specs are minimal and pricing is non-existent, just like a good cup of coffee at the Kremlin.

SM-1

Top speed is 56 mph with a range of 93 miles, relying on a water-cooled brushless motor and lithium-ion battery and 15 kW/h of energy. Telescopic inverted front fork and hydraulic central spring shock absorber handle suspension. Length is 86.6 inches, height is 51.2 inches and wheelbase is 59.1 inches.  If Kalashnikov design practice is expected, the SM-1 and its variants will be simply constructed, relatively light, and fairly indestructible. The trellis tube frame protects the batteries from side/fall impact, and gives a neat, angular geometry to the bike.

UM-1

This Urban Moto is designed for the adventurous люди and женщины, relying on 15 kW/h of electricity. Top speed is 62 mph with a range of 93 miles like the SM-1, relying on a water-cooled brushless motor and lithium iron phosphate batteries. It weighs 364 pounds. With a relatively short range, SM-1 adventure riding will strictly be limited to Moscow traffic, but urban riders will win big style points.

Pulsar

The Department of Transport and Development of Road Infrastructure of Moscow used 30 of these during the recent Football World Cup. Like the SM-1 and UM-1, it also relies on 15 kW/h of energy and a brushless DC motor. Top speed is 62 mph with a range of 93 miles, and in accordance with the UN Economic Commission for Europe Regulation No. 41, the noise level is below the maximum requirements and is less than 75 decibels.

Motodrone

All this mislabeling of `flying cars’ needs to stop! Let’s call this one a motodrone, because the pilot is seated in a motorcyclist’s position, relying on eights pairs of rotors that provide lift. Where it deviates from a land-locked motorcycle is in its skeletal metal frame and joystick controls.

Two banks of what appear to be batteries are located under the rider and likely provide electricity to the rotors. A chassis or shell is shown superimposed over the motodrone at the end.

Drones and electric vehicles are popular, and the marriage of the two for personal transportation aircraft is admirable. With the right vision and execution, a flying motorcycle could be filling our friendly skies before we know it. But who will win this new technology race, Russia or its nemesis the United States?  More importantly, when will we see motordrone racing?

CV-1

Referred to as a “supercar” concept, the CV1 will strike a chord with any former Soviet citizen, as it riffs on the FIAT sedan built under license in the Soviet Bloc as the Lada - the best car an average person could buy, after  a multi-year waiting period.  The CV-1 has rallycar/bad guy appeal, with a short wheelbase, big wheels, and blacked out windows: the perfect getaway vehicle.  It has a claimed power of 220kW, with a range of 218 miles, or much less when drifting sideways after a bank heist (or an assassination in a London park).

Ovum

The 1,102-pound Ovum electric car concept has a top speed of a mere 50 mph and a range of 93 miles; maybe KC needs to reconsider what to put under the hood, because all it did was reportedly drop in a similar 15 kW/h brushless DC motor as the e-bikes mentioned above.

But take heart! The Ovum ”has a high smooth running and low fire and explosion hazard in the event of an accident,” according to Kalashnikov...who know all about fires and explosions.

 


The Current: Here Comes Vespa's Elettrica e-Scooter!

The 2018 Vespa Sei Giorni 300 scooter retails for $7,699, and if the fuzzy logic of parent company Piaggio is any indication, its long-awaited Elettrica electric scooter will arrive in the US sometime in 2019 for roughly the same price. Is anybody gonna bite on an electric Vespa with the same amount of range and gusto as a 50cc for a 300cc price?  While the love the concept of an electric Vespa, our money’s on the next-gen Elettrica X hybrid, coming out soon.

Would Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck swoon over this new Vespa? [Piaggio]
European Vespa lovers will get first dibs on the Elettrica in October via an online portal as yet to be named. EU roles prohibit removable batteries on e-scooters, so riders will have to plug their Vespa into an outlet, which isn't always easy - very few urban Europeans have garages! With a 62-mile range and an Eco mode top speed of 19 mph (other details are forthcoming), the Elettrica needs four hours for a full recharge. Vespa says its battery should last up to 10 years (or a thousand charge cycles); will be good to find out how much it will cost to replace that battery, because most Vespas seen on the streets of San Francisco are decades old.

The Elettrica—to be produced at the Pontedera plant in the province of Pisa, the same one where Vespa first rolled off the line in the spring of 1946—is silent, and has some artificial intelligence features, including nearby pedestrian and vehicle detection, along with suggesting alternative routes when traffic is bad.  With something like 200+ Million e-scooters already on the road in China, proof of concept is already here, and electric App-scooters are very popular in San Francisco (Scoot), so demand is already there in the West as well.  The Vespa name and style is iconic and carries a seemingly eternal brand weight, so an electric scooter seems a likely success.

It looks like a classic in the making, but will it be too expensive? Will the plug-in battery make European sales difficult? [Piaggio]
Piaggio also plans to release a hybrid Elettrica X, with a maximum range of 124 miles and a smaller battery pack than in the standard Elettrica, with a 31-mile range. A gas-powered generator will make up the difference (like the Peugeot e-Tilt), and will take over when the battery charge dips below a particular level, or if the rider manually switches over. For versatility’s sake in urban settings, the Elettrica X can still be used as an electric vehicle for shorter rides.

A 62-mile range and a top speed of 19 mph in Eco mode. [Piaggio]
Read more Vespa history, about their record-setting streamliners designed by Corradino d'Ascanio here.

A prototype Vespa from 1946: right in its original form, still right today, proving that good design is timeless. Corradino d'Ascanio was the designer: he'd only designed aircraft previously, so brought much the same mindset to his scooter for the masses. [Paul d'Orléans]

The Current: Mike Corbin, E-Bike Pioneer

In 1967, Union Carbide employee Karl Kordesch made a fuel cell using nickel–cadmium —later replaced with a hydrazine fuel cell— and created a hybrid electric motorcycle with a range of 200 miles and a top speed of 25 mph. Serial innovator Floyd Clymer built the Papoose prototype electric Indian bike the same year. Six years later Mike Corbin took it one step further.

Popular motorcycle custom seat maker Corbin is based in Hollister, California, about 100 miles south of San Francisco. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, and few newer riders are likely to know about company founder Mike Corbin’s significant role in electric motorcycle development in the 1970s.  His experiments with electric motorcycles range from an electric minibike, to an electric street bike with production intentions, to an electric land speed bike, which set a record of 161.387 mph round trip, with trap speeds over 201 mph at the Bonneville Speedway in Wendover, Utah in 1974. The record stood for 38 years until the Lightning LS-218 surpassed it in 2012.  Later, he attempted to mass-produce an electric personal mobility vehicle, the Sparrow, and received $40Million in orders! 

The minibike made an entry into motorcycles after WW2, and tens of thousands of kids learned the joy of 2 wheels on one. Corbin brought a battery-powered minibike to the game at the height of the craze. [Mike Corbin]
Corbin started by electrifying a popular minibike, then quickly jumped to building bigger machines.  His first two attempts at land speed racing with his Quicksilver semi-streamliner were hugely successful, making Corbin the first to exceed 100mph on an e-Moto at Bonneville, and later, with the same machine but batteries supplied by Yardney, he sped into legend.

“Yeah, well, we started in the early `70s with the idea that we wanted to make electric powered motorcycles. So we made a street bike, called City Bike, and it had three lead acid cell batteries, and it was 36 volts. It'd go 30/40: 30 mph for 40 miles. But people said "electric vehicles are too slow" so we thought, why don't we go to Bonneville, and build an electric bike for that, and show people that electric vehicles can go fast.” [Mike Corbin]
“So we built the bike, and it ran on lead acid cell batteries, and we went to Bonneville in 1973,” he explained. “We were the first electric motorcycle ever to run at Bonneville. We went 101 mph  round trip average, that made us the fastest guys in the world on electricity.

Mike Corbin's XLP-1 City Bike was his first road-legal motorcycle. It was, as he admitted, rather slow, but it proved a point: electric motorcycles work.  This was especially important to Corbin after the Oil Crisis of 1974, when it became clear that options to gas-powered vehicles were needed, and were a way out of oil dependence.  [Mike Corbin]
The following year, we got sponsored by Yardney Electric out in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. They made batteries for nuclear powered submarines and their chemistry was silver/zinc, and that was the highest energy battery you could get in those days, about five times better than the lead acid ones.”

“So we made a new bike called Quicksilver and used starter motors from [1950s Douglas Skyhawk] A4B fighter planes, because they had lightweight cases—120 volts DC. We went to Bonneville and we got a land speed record of 165.387 mph round trip average. We had a trap speed one day of 191 mph, and we had another trap speed of 201 mph, but the wire was broken that day. In those days, the timing lights had a wire between them.” [Mike Corbin]
“They call ours a robust record,” Corbin added. “It was one of the longest standing records ever. And a lot of attempts were made on that record, there must have been 15 motorcycles over the years that would come out and try to take our record. I came out to watch two or three of them. I can look at a bike and tell you how fast it'll go, and they all did everything wrong.

“When Lightning came along, they had the battery chemistry down. Plus, what you have now are the AC controllers, those and the AC motors are just unbelievable. You have such amazing equipment now that it's almost unlimited what we're going to be able to do with electric vehicles.

“But in those days, it had to be DC if it wasn't gonna have a wire on it. DC electricity itself limits you a great deal. Everything's heavier and high amperage. So the A4B DC starter motors; we bought a full pallet of them from the Navy surplus, because they used to burn up. You'd get going like hell, and they'd overheat and solder would come out of the commutators. And these copper bars would fly out into the motor, and you'd have to throw the whole thing away. So I had a bunch of those, I think I've still got some out in my warehouse.

Volt power! Two starter motor from Korean War era Douglas Skyhawk fighters, with lightweight cases, and enough torque to run at 200mph, with the right batteries. [Mike Corbin]
“And I had the battery, the battery was good, the only problem was we had to find a way to charge it. The controller was the hard part. We didn't have any way to rheostat that much amperage. So what we did was make a stepped voltage controller with magnetic contactors.

“So it'd start at 12 volts, then you'd switch to 24 volts, then you'd go to 120. If you put the 120 volts on immediately, the wheel would just spin and dig a hole right in the salt. So we had a flying start, we'd tow the bike up to anywhere between 40 and 60 mph with a car, then I had an ejection rope, you'd spring load this thing and it'd fall in the salt, and I'd go around the car and start accelerating."

“The hard part was, with these magnetic contactors, they'd go in pretty quick, but they open slowly, they open on springs. The problem with the bike was that at 120 volts and 1,200 amps DC, there's no way you can open the contactors. They'd just flash, and you'd have continuity, there'd be plasma, the thing would weld itself together and there'd be no way to shut the bike off. You'd be going to Taiwan. You're going right over the freeway, you're going to hell in a handbasket, that's where you're going.” [Mike Corbin]
“So I invented this kill switch, which was a big copper knife bar, 2.5 inches wide, 5/16ths of an inch thick, it was just like a knife switch. I had a spring on it and a bungee cord, and a little compression release lever on my right finger that'd open it. Then I put a big fuse in parallel with it so as soon as it broke contact, the fuse blew. It couldn't arc, the current went through the fuse first. And by the time the fuse heated up and blew, it'd be too far away to arc flash. That was my big invention." 

“There was this guy, his name was Dr. Petrocelli, he was a naval engineer. He'd been a big shot in the Navy and he was the CEO out at Yardney Electric, who made those batteries for the nuclear subs. I got along great with him, because I'd been an electrician in the Navy. So he says "well, it's $100,000 for the battery." And I said "well I don't have no hundred thousand dollars for a battery." He says "well, it's really worth it, because there's a hundred thousand dollars worth of silver in it." And I go "well yeah, I understand that, but I don't have a hundred thousand dollars for a battery. You're the sponsor, that's your problem."

“So the Navy had a big vault in their building that was full of silver. The silver actually belonged to the US Navy. We took the silver out of the vault, and built the batteries for Quicksilver. We took it to Bonneville, Yardney sent an engineer and a marketing guy with me. We got the land speed record, we came home, we recycled the batteries, we put about 99 percent of the silver right back in the vault, and the Navy never knew it! Hopefully enough time has gone by that they probably won't prosecute me and send me to Leavenworth! That's where all the military criminals go, you know…” [Mike Corbin]
“But that's how it was in the `70s, that's what electric vehicles were all about. I was the first guy ever to ride a motorcycle with a battery other than a lead acid cell. I was the first guy ever to have an electric motorcycle that was registered with a license plate on it, that was in '72." [Actually there had been many road-legal electric motorcycles since the early 1900s, but Mike still gets huge kudos for his pioneering speed work - ed]

“We didn't have the technology that you have today, but I used to be a flat tracker and a Jack Pine Rider, so I did a lot of riding. [Mike Corbin]

So we need 220 volts AC for the battery charger. I get my wife on the phone with this little hotel in Wendover, Utah—that's near where Bonneville is. I says "Okay, Jane, don't let the cat out of the bag. Call them up, make sure they have a washer and a dryer." And I'm visualizing that I'm gonna have 220 with 30 amps, at least.”“She calls them up and they say 'don't worry, we've got a full laundry.' So I'm telling the Yardney guys "yeah, we're gonna charge the battery off their 220 volt dryer socket." But we get there and what have they got? A 110 volt dryer. Seriously, you couldn't dry two handkerchiefs in that thing. So now we've got no 220 plug.

“Well, we needed 220 volts, and there's only one place we could get it! I'm looking up at the power pole… I used to work as an electrician, wiring houses out in Connecticut. So I knew exactly what I was looking at. But we didn't have any wire! I mean you can't go up there with a lamp wire, it's not big enough. But jumper cables…

“So my mechanic has to drive to Salt Lake City, 100 miles, to buy five or six pairs of jumper cables. We link 'em all together. And the hotel had this little funky office, with a little old lady in there, and the telephone pole was right in front of her office. So I told my guys—they had this little crummy fiberglass pool—I told my guys to go out there and start splashing around and throwing beer cans around and stuff so she's watching you while I'm climbing the pole.”[Mike Corbin]
“So they do, and she's running out there, hands on hips, saying 'we have other guests, you know!' And I climb the telephone pole, and I clamp the battery cables onto the 220 cable. And they're all laid all over the ground and we put 'em on the battery charger. I think it might only have been 205 volts, because the charger was groaning away…

But it did the job!

“Yeah, we had a lot of fun,” Corbin said. “And that's how we did the first motorcycle land speed record!”

A very forward looking rear view of the Corbin Quicksilver from 1974. [Mike Corbin]

 


The Current: Motochimp Is The Ultimate e-Pit Bike

Singapore-based Go Go Machines has slotted itself into the cool-kids corner with its Motochimp electric pit bike. Who among us wouldn’t want a forward-looking pit bike to jet around El Mirage, Bonneville, Wheels & Waves, Circuit of the Americas or Laguna Seca?  The Motochimp clearly plays on the 'monkey bike' theme, the pit bikes made by Honda in the 1960s, little bikes that fetch big money today, as well at the Motocompo folding bike built for the Honda City, that's become an icon of 1980s design [see our article on top '80s design here].

The Motochimp is made of stainless steel and aluminum alloy, and is compact like a proper pit bike needs to be: 43.4” (L) x 25.8” (W) x 45.4” (H), with a 29.6-inch wheelbase.  

“Over the last several years we have invested heavily in the development of new battery technology and the development of electric transportation solutions to address two key consumer concerns: firstly the issue of battery and vehicle range and secondly the speed of re-charging,” CEO Larissa Tan said. “With our fast charging, energy dense lithium-titanate batteries, we’re already solving those issues.”

Top speed is 19 mph, powered by a torquey rear hub motor. Price is $2,000. [Motochimp]
Powered by a gearless 48V 350W motor and a lithium-ion battery with a range of 37 miles, it charges in one hour with a standard three-pin plug, with a socket located under the seat.

Parent company Vanda Electrics also builds an electric light commercial vehicle called the Ant Truck and the Dendrobium D-1 concept electric concept supercar.

Will this e-Pit bike become iconic like the monkey bikes of the `60s? [Motochimp]
“The Ant Truck is a compact, fast-charging all-electric light commercial vehicle that has been designed for busy city streets,” Tan added. “It’s capable of transporting a one-ton payload and can complete the vast majority of city driving tasks, with its 62-mile range. It’s another key part of our future all-electric strategy, alongside the Motochimp electric scooter.”

Brakes are provided by two drilled discs and the bike comes with a rear-wheel stand for parking. A small FOB transponder works with a built-in RFID starter. [MotoChimp]

The Current: Harley-Davidson Going E-Big in 2019 and Beyond

On a recent tour of the 10-year-old Harley-Davidson Museum in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was reminded of the Motor Company’s legacy with displays of bicycles, lightweight motorcycles, and advanced projects dating back nearly 115 years. This was just a few hours after H-D announced several concept models to address the burgeoning need of electrified transportation, including its LiveWire for 2019, a whippy-fun street tracker, two bicycles, and an electrified and modern update on the old H-D Topper scooter.  The release of new models is planned through 2022, and it's clear the company is banking their future existence on this new lineup.

Harley-Davidson’s future definitively includes electric power. [Harley-Davidson]
“We're going big in EV with a family of products that will range in size, power, as well as price,” Harley-Davidson’s SVP and COO Michelle Kumbier said in an interview with Cycle World. “Our focus is around urbanization and really unlocking those urban marketplaces. And, as we know, EV is easy to ride—it’s twist and go and it’s just kind of a visceral riding experience. We’re really excited about leaning into this space pretty heavily. We think there’s a tremendous amount of potential here.”

The long-awaited Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Details are scant, but it looks inviting. [Harley-Davidson]
Yes, the heavy touring hogs that made Milwaukee famous will take a back seat to the emerging world of lightweight urban, vehicles, because that’s where the opportunities abound.  With hundreds of small e-bike manufacturers popping up around the world, and something like 200 Million electric scooters already on the road in China, the path to an electric future is brightly lit with LEDs.

Pedal-assist mountain bikes have changed the entire bicycle industry, so now it’s H-D’s turn at the trough. [Harley-Davidson]
Electric-assist bicycles have exploded in lineups at American bicycle juggernauts like Trek and  Specialized, and Yamaha has already sold over 4 Million of their Power Assist bicycles, all of which paves the way for The Motor Company to follow suit. During our museum tour I asked my sister-in-law Jackie if she thought H-D’s financial fortunes would have soared if it continued making bicycles, scooters and other lightweights instead of focusing on big-dollar touring bikes in the 1980s and '90s. She agreed that, with the benefit of hindsight, we’d be looking at a whole different type of company now if it had.

It may not be all that innovative, but it’s what the cool kids are riding. [Harley-Davidson]
Harley-Davidson's investment in San Francisco-based Alta Motors earlier this year could pay real dividends once the concepts revealed this week are in production soon.  When how much Alta tech is in the new Livewire, Alta's founder Derek Dorrestyn says 'no comment, yet'.  No matter: it seems someone at H-D is awake to what's happening in the world, and has overcome the company's legendary conservatism in a bid to stay relevant in an increasingly electrified future. 

The LiveWire will most likely be H-D’s most divisive bike ever produced. [Harley-Davidson]

 

 


The Current: Are Tilting Electric Vehicles The Future?

Jean-Pierre Peugeot and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot established their eponymous French company in 1810. By 1842, they produced coffee, pepper, and salt grinders. The company's entry into the vehicle market was via crinoline dresses (a stiffened or structured petticoat designed to hold out a woman's skirt, popular at various times since the mid-19th century), which used steel rods, leading to umbrella frames, saw blades, chisels, wire wheels, and bicycles. Armand Peugeot introduced his "Le Grand Bi" penny-farthing in 1882; seven years later he built his first automobile.

Based on architecture similar to a tricycle, Peugeot’s electrified light vehicle is adapted for urban and short trips with a zero-emission mode for city driving. [Groupe PSA]
Armand Peugeot became interested in the automobile early on and, after meeting with Gottlieb Daimler and others, was convinced of its commercial viability. The first Peugeot automobile, a three-wheeled, steam-powered car designed by Léon Serpollet, was produced in 1889; only four examples were made. Steam power was heavy and bulky and required lengthy warm up times. In 1890, after meeting Daimler and Émile Levassor, steam was abandoned in favor of a four-wheeled car with a gas-fuelled internal combustion engine built by Panhard (established as a car manufacturing concern by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887) under Daimler license. The car was more sophisticated than many of its contemporaries, with a three-point suspension and a sliding-gear transmission.

The-Vintagent-Peugeot-E-Tilt-scooter-4.jpg
With a primary focus on city use, the vehicle’s small footprint (nearly eight foot long by a little more than two-and-a-half feet wide) and rotating doors free up road space and make for quick and easy parallel parking. [Groupe PSA]
Now under the umbrella of Groupe PSA, Peugeot produced 2,119,845 vehicles in 2017. Peugeot is known as a very reliable brand, with its 1950s and 1960s models are still running in Africa and Cuba in the 2010s, where Peugeot is called "the Lion.” In 2013 and 2014, Peugeot ranked the second lowest for average CO2 emissions among generalist brands in Europe; the Renault car maker group was ranked first.

With all this momentum, Peugeot has invested its resources into future mobility solutions, based on a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with tilting wheels and a tandem passenger design; let’s call it the e-Tilt. Based on architecture similar to a tricycle, Peugeot’s electrified light vehicle is adapted for urban and short trips with a zero-emission mode for city driving.


Funded with 6.7 million euros from the European Commission under the “Horizon 2020 GV5” Research and Innovation program, the e-Tilt is part of the “Efficient Urban LIght Vehicle” (EU-LIVE) European consortium, bringing together 12 partners from six countries, with Groupe PSA the only carmaker. One of the EU-LIVE consortium’s main objectives is to develop common powertrains that can be used for a variety of L-category vehicles to achieve economies of scale.

The e-Tilt runs in zero-emission mode at speeds up to 44 mph using two rear electric in-wheel motors, developed by Elaphe and Brembo.The 48-volt electric battery—designed by Samsung SDI—can be recharged using regenerative braking technology. When driving between 44 and 80 mph, the e-Tilt’s 31-KW single-cylinder gas engine takes over. The light vehicle has a total range of 186 miles and a top speed of 80 mph.

The Peugeot e-Tilt runs in zero-emission mode at speeds up to 44 mph using two rear electric in-wheel motors, developed by Elaphe and Brembo. [Groupe PSA]
With a primary focus on city use, the vehicle’s small footprint (nearly eight foot long by a little more than two-and-a-half feet wide) and rotating doors free up road space and make for quick and easy parallel parking. The e-Tilt is enclosed, includes seatbelts and an airbag, and generates heat in the colder weather.

“Groupe PSA has committed to protecting individual freedom of movement,” Peugeot’s Senior VP of  Research and Advanced Engineering Carla Gohin said. “EU-LIVE is an illustrative example of it. This new electrified light vehicle allows an individual safe and sustainable mobility thanks to its zero-emission mode. We are proud to take part in this European project with all our partners.”

The Peugeot e-Tilt is part of the “Efficient Urban LIght Vehicle” (EU-LIVE) European consortium, bringing together 12 partners from six countries, with Groupe PSA the only carmaker. [Groupe PSA]
Are tilting vehicles in our future? Yamaha just debuted its Niken, which Cycle World featured on the cover of its latest issue (which was celebrated at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles among our Custom Revolution exhibit, with The Vintagent's own Paul d'Orléans co-hosting). Do you think Peugeot is onto something tangible with its e-Tilt? Kudos for trying, we say.


The Current: Saroléa Introduces Limited Edition MANX7

One year ago, Torsten Robbens was excited. His company, Saroléa Motorcycles, was one of only four vying for Dorna’s attention to become the spec motorcycle for its Moto-e World Cup in 2019. That honor went to Energica, but the Belgian company soldiered on, focusing its attention on a limited-edition street-legal bike, the MANX7, based on its Isle of Man TT creation, the SP7.

Top speed is 150 mph, and this Belgian beauty rips from 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds! [Rob Mitchell]
Designed by Serge Rusak and his team at RUSAK Creative Designworks in Paris, France, the core of Saroléa’s MANX7 is a handmade carbon fiber monocoque chassis. For low total weight and optimum safety, the swingarm is also handcrafted from lightweight carbon fiber, manufactured by Solvay in Brussels.

Due to this configuration and the nature of the fully stressed structure, the MANX7 was designed with a 50 percent front and 50 percent rear weight distribution, which Saroléa says gives it great handling and makes it easy to ride. The weight is 478 lbs (217 kg), including a 22 kWh battery pack.

Only 350 MANX7 bikes will be made. Excluding tax, clients can choose from 14 kWh for €42,975, 18 kWh for €46,280, or 22 kWh for €48,760. A €5,000 deposit is required, which is fully refundable if you cancel your reservation.

Starting at €42,975, the 478-pound street-legal Saroléa MANX7 is a stunner. [Rob Mitchell]
From Isle of Man TT to the street

In 2017, Saroléa achieved its fourth Isle of Man TT in a row with its SP7 race machine and onboard their development rider and emerging champion, Dean Harrison. Another prize (Lady bronze) to add to the previous trophies obtained over four years of development and competition on the Isle of Man. The extreme conditions and very specific set-up required to complete in the IOM TT race offers Saroléa a unique development platform in terms of performance and safety.

This challenging event enables Saroléa R&D to gather huge amounts of data which it turns into enhanced solutions for its street-legal motorcycles. I spoke with Robbens on a busy July evening recently to learn more about the MANX7.

Torsten, how long has this MANX7 been in development?

The MANX7 is derived from our TT Zero racing bike, the Saroléa Project 7 (SP7), which began in 2009. Racing the SP7 itself started when we joined the Isle of Man TT Zero in 2014, and we envisioned the TT Zero to go international, or at least another international racing championship to kick off around then. That’s why we always focused on our racing bikes.

Our idea was, and still is, to sell and lease out the SP7 bikes for these championships to other teams. As we saw no real evolution toward a global championship we decided to start the development of road-legal motorcycles in 2016. This would become the Saroléa MANX7.

Designed by Serge Rusak and his design team at RUSAK Creative Designworks in Paris, France, the core of Saroléa’s MANX7 street-legal e-bike is a handmade carbon fiber monocoque chassis. [Serge Rusack]
How many hours and hands have been involved?

It’s a difficult question to answer; as we are driven by passion we don’t exactly keep track of every hour we spend in the workshop (laughs)! Our team is now 20 people, which doubled over the last two years. In total we’ve now spent nine years in research and development, racing, trying, failing, learning and evolving.

How did you choose your parts and component partners?

Most of the MANX7 special parts come from our racing activities and development, and it’s quite logical to use the same manufacturers and parts. Or at least variants of these parts in a road legal version. We’re always looking for the best quality and lightweight for our machines.

The partners we work with have the same spirit and drive. They’re looking for perfection in performance and aesthetics. Plus they are also very agile in the way they communicate and operate. This is absolutely necessary for a small company like ours.

As a side note, all of the carbon parts, including chassis, swingarm and bodywork, but also the production of the motors and battery packs are done in house.

Charging time (DC) from 0 - 85 percent is just 25 minutes with its 14 kWh lithium-ion battery, with a combined range of 143 miles. With a 18 kWh battery it’s 174 miles, and with a 22 kWh battery it stretches to 205 miles. [Rob Mitchell]
I see that only 350 bikes will be made. When will delivery begin?

This year we’re building the first 20 bikes, the founders edition. The following years we’ll  increase the production: for 2019 we have a production run of 80 bikes, and in 2020 we will produce 250 MANX7 motorcycles.

That is the absolute maximum number of bikes to be produced per year; delivery of the first bikes is scheduled for Q3 and Q4 2018.

The fairing is carbon fiber, and the windscreen is Plexiglas Poly (methyl methacrylate), made by Fabbri Accessori. Photo: Rob Mitchell

Have you established a North American distributor?

We have received quite some interest from different North American distributors. We are actively talking to an exclusive vehicles (cars and bikes) distributor in New York City and a couple of potential resellers in California.

 

 


The Current: Exclusive Interview With Zero CEO Sam Paschel

With an engineering degree from Swarthmore College and a competition background as a decathlete, Sam Paschel was an ideal candidate to take the reins at Zero Motorcycles in Scotts Valley, California in February 2017. The 43-year-old learned how to develop product lines and lead teams during tenures at Bell Sports, Burton Snowboards and Skullcandy. But with motorcycling running through his veins, it was inevitable that he would be involved with motorized two wheelers eventually. We shared a ride and lunch with the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native recently, touching on several facets of his career and future plans for Zero Motorcycles.

Zero Sam Paschel brings business leadership expertise from Skullcandy, Burton and Bell Sports. [Gary Boulanger]
Sam, it’s been 18 months since you became CEO of Zero. Tell me what interested you in the job in the first place.

I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 8 years old. I had a Suzuki RM80 for a couple of years that was a surprise gift at Easter. I laid it down in some gravel at my uncle’s farm and it somehow disappeared out of the garage. Maybe it was revenge for my parents taking away that bike?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in different fields during my career, from bicycle and snowboard to the audio side, talking to a very similar consumer. I’m passionate about motorcycles, and a lot of it with Zero was opportunity based. Running businesses successfully is choosing the right space at the right time, so beyond being a rider I looked at the tipping point for two- and four-wheeled electric vehicles, where the technology has evolved to, and there’s this feeling of inevitability with electrification.

I quickly understood four things were needed to successfully lead Zero: one, I had to believe in electric vehicles growing as a percentage of transportation; two, that motorcycles will become a part of that transition, not as quickly as cars, but as part of the infrastructure as technology improves; three, that as battery technology improves eight to 10 percent each year, we get this tailwind of range, power and performance just from improvements in lithium ion technology, not from any major breakthroughs.

At the same time, because the standard internal combustion engine motorcycle is a pretty dirty vehicle that pollutes, emission controls are being rolled out around the world that increases costs and decreases power. I understood all these things intellectually, but after a couple months talking to recruiters and Zero’s investors, I took a 50-mile ride on my Triumph Bonneville and took my first ride on a Zero. I went from being curious to desperately wanting to be a part of what was being built at Zero. Twenty minutes on that Zero was all it took for me to want the job.  

At 289 lbs, the Zero FX is Sam Paschel’s main mode of transportation from his home in Santa Cruz to the office in Scotts Valley. [Zero Motorcycles]
How did it feel to testify about the post-tax reform evaluation of recently expired tax provisions in front of the Subcommittee on Tax Policy in the US House of Representatives this past March? Was it successful, and how important is it for the electric motorcycle sector?

The ultimate success would come if they would make a change in the federal tax credit to be a forward versus retroactive one. What they put into place was a tax break for a past purchase, not an incentive for someone to make a new purchase. With everything going on in Washington, with the tariffs and corporate tax breaks, it was a good opportunity for Zero to take a leadership position on behalf of several two- and three-wheeled electric manufacturers to testify on their behalf. But the proof is in the pudding; the government has kicked the can down the road a bit and nothing has changed yet. The good news is that we’re still on the docket as a special case, with discussion of something happening in October or November. We gave our written testimony and I had the chance to sit in front of the Subcommittee on Ways and Means and let a voice be heard for our industry, which was really cool. It was a fantastic experience for me personally, and it continues to represent Zero’s position at the highest level.

We’ve been engaged with legislative bodies for a very long time, lobbying on behalf of electrification. The capital is like the world’s biggest home court advantage; they sit on an elevated dais; you get three to four minutes to give your testimony, with 15 minutes per cross examination. There’s C-Span, a countdown timer staring you in the face, Congressmen and women wearing makeup; it’s crazy! I walked in understanding that all those people work for me. One can’t be extemporaneous in three minutes, so you drill down the facts and hope for the best. But I could think on my feet during the cross examination because I knew more about my business than anyone else in that room. I was there to share and educate. You’re expecting it to be adversarial, but it’s not. It was a chance to make a case for two- and three-wheeled electrification.

Zero has a history of competition, including Pikes Peak and Bonneville Speed Week. In your opinion, does racing help the breed and sell more bikes? Flat track seems to be a viable option for Zero...

Organized racing programs require a large investment. The beating heart of the subculture at Zero is competition, actually. The passion points include track days for many of our engineers and employees, and MotoGP is playing on multiple screens several weeks out of the year. Helmets are on 80 percent of our desks in the office.

But an organized racing endeavor would be a massive investment. That same investment is better spent educating our dealers and consumers to grow the business. At the same time, competition is a very natural passion point for the employees, so we do everything we can to provide bikes, leathers and time off to pursue that.

The FX ZF7.2 model has 78 ft-lb of torque, a 7.2 kWh battery, with a combined range of 54 miles and a top speed of 85 mph. Typical cost to recharge is $0.81. [Zero Motorcycles]
Of the major European and Japanese OEMs, KTM has taken the motocross route, and it’s unlikely Ducati or BMW will do anything street-worthy anytime soon. We’ve seen mainly proof of concepts trotted out at the Tokyo Motor Show and EICMA. In your opinion, will next year’s MotoGP eCup series help raise the profile of electric motorcycles?

It has the chance to. The Formula 1 electric category has been around for awhile, but that’s not what expanded broad acceptance. Anytime electric motorcycles are out there as part of the conscious experience for people, every single one of those touch points helps gain awareness that the electric category exists. You want an exciting race that goes a reasonable number of laps at speed, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish with an electric production motorcycle. Those steps and moves continue to put electric motorcycles in the collective consciousness, and on balance that’s a good thing.

Which Zero model do you ride and enjoy the most?

I own a Zero FX, our enduro model. With two young kids I don’t go on long rides; it’s a 7.2 kilowatt-capacity bike with an in-town range of 85 miles, on the highway about 50. Most often I’ll get up early on a Saturday and rip down Highway 1 to Davenport ad get a coffee, ride across town to work. It has a relatively tall riding position with a narrow profile, ideal for lane splitting. Ton of visibility. In a town like Santa Cruz where I’m using it every day, I can cut across the railroad tracks to connect to a dirt road. My ultimate west side/east side Santa Cruz vehicle.  If need be I’ll hop on Highway 17 to get to the office quicker.

Fleet sales have always seemed like a smart business move for motorcycle makers. What percentage of Zero’s sales comes from military and police?

Less than 10 percent for us today. We have 100 authorized dealers in North America and 100 in Europe, but very few fleets will transfer completely to electric. It’s more likely they’ll have one or two bikes for local patrolling, but not for pursuit. Electric’s range and high speed capabilities aren’t there yet. The cross section where we’re casting our net into comes in orders of fives and tens, not hundreds or thousands. The process to get funding, as the administration shifted in the US, is now totally economic: cost of ownership, maintenance, etc. Total cost of ownership of an electric motorcycles is much less than internal combustion: no oil, no air filters, mufflers, etc. So when you pencil out purchasing price versus long term ownership, the controller for a city or town can justify the purchase. Plus there are eco reasons depending on the political leanings. Grant proposals need to be worked through.

Military purchases, on the other hand, take years of cultivating relationships but tend to lead to much larger orders. I can’t talk much about it yet, but we’ve been engaged in these conversations for a very long time in the US and abroad for the military application of our bikes. Incredibly quiet, very low thermal signature. In the case of an emergency crisis situation, the first thing that gets turned back on is the power grid. Even if you can’t get fuel from place to place the power lines are up, giving electric bikes the advantage.

Your competitive landscape is about to get more crowded. We heard the news about Harley jumping into the electric motorcycle space sometime in 2019, and it’s only a matter of time before Polaris unveils something. How is Zero scaling up to meet the demand, and which rider segments have the most potential?

When Harley first announced its LiveWire in 2014, traffic to our website spiked to record levels, just like it does every time a company announces e-bike intentions. Other brands coming into the party is something that we welcome. A rising tide lifts all ships, and we’ve had 12 years and millions of miles to perfect how our powertrain functions; these are non-trivial problems to solve. As you see other entries this will be the starting pistol to a different kind of competition. The number number of manufacturers will go up and the number of bikes produced will increase. But all of the work it takes to create a dealer base that’s knowledgeable at selling and good at explaining this technology, plus servicing the bikes is huge. The big manufacturers will have a dealer base to start with, but any incumbent internal combustion engine company is going to be competing with itself if it just poured electric bikes into its existing distribution points they’re going to end up with a lot of unhappy customers. They’re not going to understand how to articulate the benefits of electric right away.

The learning curve on preparing dealers is high. Zero is a market leader, testifying in front of Congress. The more human beings riding electric motorcycles place to place, the better the world will be. Zero will earn its fair share of business regardless. Technology places well in certain categories; we have a broad model offering and a solid, collaborative dealer base.

We have 150 worldwide employees and a new distribution model. We scaled back our underperforming dealers, and now stand at 100 North American and 100 European dealers, sold in 30 countries worldwide through distributors.

Where do you hope to steer Zero over the next five years?

There are some near-term things 18 months into my tenure, one of which is continuing to cultivate strong relationships with our dealers, and look at other ways this consumer journey is happening to go from an awareness that electric motorcycles even exist to purchase. The next two to three years will be spent increasing our leadership position and investing in battery technology and powertrains are critical. The biggest shifts will include how we articulate our story with consumers and invite new riders using electric as a lever.

Back to your first question about why I considered running Zero: I looked at a product that was so fundamentally different than 95 percent of the market, and this idea that ‘may the best motorcycle or car win’ is not how this works. We’re not competing to win, we’re competing to differentiate, through marketing, product, what have you. What I saw was a refined function on an advanced technology down to the very base DNA, and none of what we did with our marketing or storytelling lived up to the function of what we had created as a product.

Look at Nike; billions of athlete endorsements and marketing to basically tell you its cotton t-shirt is fundamentally different than its competitors.

This business had already figured out solutions to challenging technological questions, but we hadn’t figured out how to tell the story.

Our job is to articulate the story of Zero, which unlike a cotton t-shirt, is completely different at the very base of what it is. We need to let the brand breathe.

In five years our attraction to potential customers will shift from tinkerers to late adopters to our technology. Different products and stories will resonate with them, but you can count on Zero to maintain its leadership position among all motorcyclists. We’ll continue to tell our story and get our technology into the hands of the consumer so they can have a great experience.


The Current: Ethec’s 250-Mile Range E-Cruiser

A 16-member team of Swiss university students—led by Dr. Josef Mayr, Marco Job and Dominic Schmid—may have designed the future of electric motorcycles, even if its project never gets off the ground. With a reported 250-mile range, we say Yes, please, to the Ethec.

The unibody motorcycle design is modeled on the shape of a human body. The headlight, attached to the collar, is a key visual element and characterizes the head of the design. The prominent expansion of the shoulders gives the motorcycles’ front view a powerful look. The slim seat represents the waist in front of the broadening rear, which finalizes the shape of the unibody. The chassis is flat and forward-leaning, underlining the dynamic appearance of the Ehec even at standstill. [Ethec Project]
The Ethec e-cruiser project was developed by 13 mechanical engineering students and one electrical engineering student from ETH Zurich, plus two industrial design students from the Zurich University of the Arts. ETH Zurich—a science, technology, engineering and mathematics STEM university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland—focuses on providing students an opportunity to completely development a product, from the first draft to the technical engineering, design, production and marketing.

Battery structure includes two modules from 1,260 lithium-ion cells. In view are the regularly arrayed circuit boards and temperature sensors, which control the cooling system precisely. [Ethec Project]
Students manage the whole process alone. They gain the knowledge and confidence through dialogue with experts from the industry, student advisors and professors, self-study and traditional lectures.  

Early concept sketches. [Ethec Project]
Battery cooling system with fan, pumps, a peltier element and an expansion tank. For a durable and powerful battery an efficient cooling is required. An air circuit discharges the heat from the oil circuit with the help of peltier elements. The oil circuit directly flows around the battery cells. [Ethec Project]
Did the future of motorcycles just pass by? [Ethec Project]
Hub motors provide 22 kW continuous power. [Ethec Project]
A girder fork allows geometry optimization. [Ethec Project]
The integrated inductive sensor allows a precise determination of the angle of the braking lever. Gradually increasing regeneration on both wheels activates immediately. [Ethec Project]
Using lithium-ion technology with a goal of a 250-mile range, the 15 kWh capacity battery was designed for optimized lifespan achieved through integration of active and passive oil cooling. Students also added continuous monitoring of the cell temperature and the cell voltage. [Ethec Project]


The Current: E-Volkswagen Crushes Pikes Peak Record

French driver Romain Dumas obliterated the overall Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record on June 24th 2018, piloting his electric Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak car to the finish line with a time of 7 minutes, 57.148 seconds, topping compatriot Sébastien Loeb’s all-time record from 2013 – by an outrageous margin of 16 seconds.

French driver Romain Dumas in parc fermé atop Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motors]
And his VW was packing 500 kW in the Race to the Clouds. It was his fourth victory on America’s Mountain in Colorado Springs, and the 96th running of the race. In a sign of the e-times, Rhys Millen held the previous electric vehicle record (8:57.118) with a 1,600-hp electric prototype since 2016.

“I made no mistakes," Dumas said. "This race is so tough. I am so happy. We have worked six years for this race.”

“Since this week’s tests, we have known that it was possible to break the all-time record. For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver,” Dumas added. “And the weather had to play ball, too. That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake. I still cannot believe that Volkswagen and my name are behind this incredible time.”

Dumas was competing against conventional internally-combusted cars, one of them being motorcycle action hero Travis Pastrana, who won the Clubsport class in a 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 in 10:33.9.

Including its battery cells, the I.D. R Pikes Peak weighs less than 1,100 kilograms. When evaluating performance, Volkswagen employed simulation software to calculate exactly how to achieve the optimum in energy demand and performance for the record attempt on Pikes Peak. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motorsport]
Volkswagen’s goal was to charge the car as quickly as possible with minimum environmental impact. Per regulations, in case of the race being suspended, it must be possible to completely charge the car in under 20 minutes. The electricity required was provided by generators at the foot of Pikes Peak. Glycerol (chemically speaking: a sugar alcohol) was selected as the fuel. A by-product of the manufacture of biodiesel, glycerol combusts with virtually no harmful exhaust fumes or residues. Glycerol itself is non-toxic and is even permitted as an additive in the food and cosmetics industries.

“Every employee involved in the Pikes Peak project has constantly had to push their boundaries and show extreme commitment and dedication,” Volkswagen’s Motorsports Director Sven Smeets said. “Without this, it would not have been possible to repeatedly overcome new challenges and come up with new solutions. It should actually be impossible to achieve all that and especially the all-time record in such a short time, but our team pulled it off thanks to their passion and commitment.

A jubilant and relaxed Romain Dumas (center) shares a moment with crew members after blitzing to a record 7 minutes, 57.148 seconds. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motorsport]
250 Days

VW’s Pikes Peak car was announced on October 18, 2017 and Dumas crossed the finish line on June 24, 2018, just 250 days later. From prototype to fully-electric drive technology and battery management, Smeets and his team had its hands full in Wolfsburg, at the motorsport headquarters in Hannover, Germany. Most teams spend the month of June in Colorado Springs in intense preparation.

All it took was a team of VW engineers, a huge objective, and 250 days to break the record. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motorsport]
Volkswagen partners included Volkswagen R, ANSYS, Michelin, Integral e-drive and OMP. With Volkswagen R, the I.D. R Pikes Peak received a sporting seal of approval from the outset. ANSYS provided software simulations support. According to Smeets, Michelin’s years of experience on Pikes Peak allowed them to provide tire technology perfectly tailored to the demands of the hill climb. The I.D. R Pikes Peak’s E-engines, which together generated 500 kW (680 PS), were achieved in collaboration with partner Integral e-drive. OMP provided the featherweight racing framework.

Jeremiah Johnson was the first electric motorcycle, at 40th place overall. He was racing on a 2018 University of Nottingham UoN-PP-02 bike, which took third place at the 2018 Isle of Man Zero TT with rider Daley Mathison two weeks prior.

Dumas climbs above the clouds. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motorsport]
In the matter of aerodynamics, the key was to compensate for the loss of downforce caused by the thin air on Pikes Peak. The result of this effort could be seen from afar: the flat, streamlined chassis and huge rear wing. [Rupert Berrington/Volkswagen Motorsport]
 


The Current: Experiencing Kando with Yamaha’s MOTOROiD

Torakusu Yamaha established his company as a piano and reed organ manufacturer in Hamamatsu, the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan, in 1887. Today, the company's logo is a trio of interlocking tuning forks. After World War II, company president Genichi Kawakami repurposed the remains of the company's war-time production machinery and the company's expertise in metallurgical technologies to manufacturing motorcycles [See our article: Japanese Motorcycling: the Early Days].

Yamaha’s MOTOROiD experimental electric motorcycle, chock full of artificial intelligence, autonomous-ness, and futuristic styling that doesn’t seem so far fetched in 2018. [Yamaha Motor Company]
Composer and concert pianist Kevin Asbjörnson chooses Yamaha pianos for their bright, articulate, full-tone sounds throughout the entire range of piano octaves. “I also respect and support the Yamaha corporate philosophy of ‘creating Kando’ together," he said. Kando is a Japanese word that doesn’t have a precise equivalent in English. "Kando is something that inspires the heart and spirit, an emotional impression or sensational feeling that touches the soul.”  

The haptic human-machine interface (HMI) works to provide a greater sense of unity between rider and machine as it contacts the rider's waist and chest area, as if the owner is being embraced by the vehicle. [Yamaha Motor Company]
It’s with this spirit of kando that Yamaha created the Yamaha Motor Innovation Center in December 2016 as the company’s new base for design. This was of course after the death of their long time design director, Kenji Ekuan [Read our story on Kenji Ekuan here], whose GK Design Group was solely responsible for Yamaha's motorcycle design from around 1959 through 2014! In that year, Yamaha opened its first design studio headed by Akihiro ‘Dezi’ Nagaya.  Less than a year after the Yamaha Motor Innovation Center opened, it unveiled the MOTOROiD electric motorcycle concept at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, in a fitting legacy to Kenji Ekuan's brilliant grasp of the human relationship to the motorcycle, and his love for dramatic, erotic shapes.

According to Yamaha, its aim was to “create a new-generation motorcycle in the unique style of Yamaha, so that when the rider settles into the racer-like riding position and grabs the handlebars, it provides a sporty and exciting riding experience regardless of the person’s individual skills or athleticism.” The world seems ready for this bike!

What lies beneath?

The 479-pound MOTOROiD is equipped with high-precision balance control via artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, and it can sense its own state and adjust its center of gravity accordingly to stand up off its kickstand and remain upright unassisted. It can also recognize its owner and move forward to meet him/her, as well as react based on its rider's actions thanks to its human-machine interface (HMI).

Yamaha’s original concept idea and final proof-of-concept experimental electric motorcycle look nearly identical. [Yamaha Motor Company]
Using an active mass center-control system (AMCES), Yamaha created exclusive technology to stabilize two-wheeled vehicles by using electronics to actively control the chassis itself and constantly optimize the vehicle's attitude. By actively controlling the chassis itself, the optimum attitude for the vehicle can be constantly maintained, allowing the machine to keep itself upright when standing still or when moving forward.

The shock and battery system. [Yamaha Motor Company]
The machine's attitude control is handled by rotating parts of the machine like the battery, swingarm and rear wheel around the AMCES axis that runs through the center of the vehicle in order to control its center of gravity.

During rotation, the battery moves either right or left, acting as a counterweight that enables the machine to maintain balance and remain upright at a standstill. The inner frame unit area rotates around the AMCES axis via electronic control.

What does all this tech mean?

Control Unit: This integrates and controls all of MOTOROiD's functions and operations, from the image recognition artificial intelligence (AI) and inertial measurement unit (IMU) data to other various vehicle data. Thanks to high-speed processing, the unit can relay instructions to the entire machine for not only AMCES, but also the steer-by-wire system (electronic front-wheel steering inputs), kickstand, powertrain, HMI and more.

“Our aim was to create a new-generation motorcycle in the unique style of Yamaha, so that when the rider settles into the racer-like riding position and grabs the handlebars, it provides a sporty and exciting riding experience regardless of the person’s individual skills or athleticism.” [Yamaha Motor Company]
Inertial Measurement Unit: The IMU senses the machine's lean angle, and consists of a gyro sensor that detects axis rotation and a G-sensor (accelerometer) that detects velocity in each direction. The IMU sends data to the control unit at a rate faster than once every 0.0005 seconds.

Main Actuator: The main actuator, which receives instructions from the control unit, rotates parts around the AMCES axis with high precision, thus controlling the machine's center of gravity. Besides the main actuator, MOTOROiD has several other large and small actuators.

Thanks to high-speed processing, the unit can relay instructions to the entire machine for not only AMCES, but also the steer-by-wire system (electronic front-wheel steering inputs), kickstand, powertrain, HMI and more. [Yamaha Motor Company]
Image Recognition AI: A facial recognition system gives MOTOROiD the ability to respond only to its owner. It is also able to recognize gestures, making it possible for MOTOROiD to also respond to hand movements, such as using a beckoning wave or a raised palm to instruct it to start or stop moving. The system's data is continuously sent to the control unit, where it is collected and used as feedback for controlling the machine.

Haptic HMI: MOTOROiD also features haptic (more commonly known as “force feedback”) devices. The haptic human-machine interface (HMI) works to provide a greater sense of unity between rider and machine as it contacts the rider's waist and chest area, as if the owner is being embraced by the vehicle. These contact points are aimed at a more intuitive form of feedback and interaction between the rider and machine.

Employing artificial intelligence, the MOTOROiD is able to recognize the owner’s face and actions, stand up from its kickstand and come to its rider. [Yamaha Motor Company]

The Current: Exclusive! Gloria Factory of Paris

Recently, I reported on the French custom garage Jambon-Beurre Motorcycle, run by partners Benjamin Cochard and Antonin Guidicci. They were bitten by the e-Bike bug two years ago, and created a sublime one-off e-Tracker. As Cochard told me, they’ve been working on a proper production-friendly model, and here it is with a new name: Gloria.  The team has expanded with industrial designer Vincent Graviére as a third partner, and the concept has evolved from the raw punch of the Jambon-Buerre into an appealing urban commuter, with the concept of being a fully customizable machine via an online visualizing system, with delivery to your door.

Homologated like a 125cc motorcycle, you can drive it with a regular car license. Acceleration is closer to a 300cc than a 125cc. A 100 km range and 120 km/h max speed [Antonin Guidicci]
How did you evolve from Jambon-Beurre, a custom garage to Gloria, future mass production manufacturer?

After a 10-minute run on our friend’s BMW electric scooter, we came back to the workshop with only one idea in mind: put this crazy technology into a cool body! We immediately fell in love with a magic mix of high power, high torque, constant push and silence. It makes you feel a new kind of freedom that a gas-powered bike cannot brings you. You feel like driving a Star Wars race ship in the city. It’s pure magic.

Problem is that electric high power technology and old school mechanicals are two different worlds! That is how we met the guys from Pymco, a French startup specializing in electric power management.

Together, we started to think about how could we mix ideas to put in the same bike, combining the savage spirit of `70s and `80s motorcycles, with the great modern electric power technology and the colorful street style inspired by the `90s kids that we love so much ?

The Gloria e-Bike is designed for new riders who want to customize the look and get around town in style [Antonin Guidicci]
We also realized that our style and communication was reaching people that are not the usual motorcycle target market. Sixty percent were women (only 13 percent in the current market), mostly urban dwellers, and most of them had never owned a motorcycle before. The idea of creating a real motorcycle brand came as a result. A brand designed to dust off the current motorcycle market that still work like it did 30 years ago.

So here is Gloria. Inspired by digitally native vertical brands, Gloria is the first fully customizable electric motorcycle.

The Jambon-Beurre e-Tracker that set the stage for Gloria [Antonin Guidicci]
What can you tell me about the bike you’ve cooked up?

Homologated like a 125cc motorcycle, you can drive it with a regular car license. But the acceleration is closer to a 300cc than a 125cc. With a 100 km range and 120 km/h max speed, Gloria is perfect for urban/suburban condition and riding it is as simple as riding a scooter.

No more dealership with 30 bikes aligned in the shop window, all the same, and a fat guy with a tie telling you to buy the one with the best margin.

Gloria is the first digital pure player of the motorcycle history. Go online, customize your dream motorcycle and we deliver it to your home. Wanna change the look of your bike? Just go back online anytime and make the modification on the app. It automatically plans an appointment with our services and we update it right to your tastes.

With Gloria, you don’t look for a perfect bike for you anymore; you just create the bike that fits you. And as the customization is done by the manufacturer itself, it’s fully legal on the road, which is very new in the custom motorcycle world.

We are still raising funds to finish the development and launch the production. First sales are planned for 2020.

 


The Current: Jambon-Beurre - Avec L'amour Des Français

Ah, the French*. Indelibly stained by fine wine, fresh baguettes in the morning, the faire la bise (the double kiss on both cheeks), and a genetic grasp of  joie de vivre. While their 24 Hours of LeMans is one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport (with the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix), their contemporary competitive motorcycle output is minimal today, a situation that rankles many natives.  After all, the French invented the automobile (1770), were first to patent the motorcycle (1870), built the first motorcycle industry, and pioneered every engine configuration used on motorcycles today - check out the 1914 Peugeot racer with four-valve heads and double overhead camshafts

The Jambon-Buerre e-Tracker is a mashup of chassis parts, but the powerplant is purpose-built, and kicks ass [Laurent Nivalle]
While Peugeot could claim to be the oldest motorcycle producer in the world (since 1898), they haven't built anything larger than a scooter for decades. The Voxan was a valiant attempt to revive French sport bikes, and in the V-twin vein, the new Brough Superior was designed and is being built in France - just don't tell George! Hope for the future of French motorcycle manufacture might arrive in the form of electric bikes: we reported earlier this year on the Essence Motorcycles E-Raw, and now we can add Jambon-Beurre to the list.  

“The fuel tank is too important for motorcycle identity. We couldn’t imagine removing it, electric bike or not! Same for the transmission chain.” ~ Benjamin Cochard. [Laurent Nivalle]
Paris-based Jambon-Beurre Motorcycle is run by Antonin Guidicci, a part-time fashion photographer, and his partner Benjamin Cochard, a former automotive financial executive. In 2016, a year after collaborating on other motorcycle projects, they began discussing electric bikes. Time spent riding a BMW e-scooter convinced them to explore e-Bikes as a possible business opportunity, and from that brainstorming session came this road-legal 100 hp flat tracker powered by a Pymco Technologies motor.

The Jambon-Beurre e-Tracker took six months to build, using a rolling chassis from a 1993 Suzuki DR800, a Honda XL and a classic BMW. [Laurent Nivalle]
What began life as a rolling Franken-chassis, with parts from a 1993 Suzuki DR800, a Honda XL and a classic BMW, has become a 350-pound dirt track ripper capable of zero to 60mph in three and a half seconds. The duo used various forms of manufacturing to piece it all together, relying heavily on laser cutting, 3D printing, machining and waterjet cutting. Charge time is two-and-a-half hours on a standard electrical system, but only 20 minutes on a special car charger, with a range of 62 miles. Top speed is limited at 100 mph, based on current gearing. 

Jambon-Beurre co-founder Benjamin Cochard gets his ya-ya’s out on the e-Tracker outside Paris. [Antonin Guidicci]
The motor is a big 80 kW brushless beast designed for military drones, with 133 pound-feet of torque. The battery pack was co-developed with Pymco Technologies to deliver about 800-amps of current under 110 volts, and is assembled from 580 lithium-Ion cells with a proprietary battery management system, with forced-air cooling.  Those engine specs sit squarely between a Harley-Davidson XR750 (with ~95 reliable HP, and more if you dare), and pretty close to the new Indian FTR750 (109hp), which begs the question...and we don't have the answer yet!

Who wouldn’t be inspired under the sexy gaze of the patron saint of France, Brigitte Bardot? [Laurent Nivalle]
According to Cochard, it took six months to build this e-Tracker, which was the first step of their plan. They’re working on a proper production-friendly model, with a prototype slated for testing sometime in 2018. If response is positive and funding is found, Guidicci and Cochard hope to begin production in 2019.  Because it's electric, the Jambon-Buerre is already street legal, but the concept of an e-flat track series is appealing, as is the thought of mixing it up with the noise boys.  Will that happen?  Let's hope, even if it's 'only' in a Hooligans-style series.

[*with Boulanger as author, and d'Orléans as editor, there is obviously no DNA conflict of interest in this article]


The Current: KTM Goes Silent With Freeride E-XC

Austria’s motorcycle juggernaut KTM saw the e-train a-comin’ 10 years ago, when its Mattighofen R&D unit began developing electric models. Last autumn KTM introduced its second-generation Freeride E-XC, which recently arrived at select US dealers, boasting 18 kW (24.5 hp) of peak power with 42 Nm (almost 31 pound-feet) of torque for 90 minutes of silent dirt-pounding.

Rotating mass is one of the main weight-stealing culprits. The Freeride E-XC benefits from lightweight wheels made with high-end anodized aluminum Giant rims, fitted to CNC-machined hubs with lightweight aluminum spoke nipples. A 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel roll on Maxxis Trialmaxx tires. [KTM AG]
Even if motocross isn’t your cup of tea, it’s KTM’s present-future tech we’re talking about here, and how it could change the landscape of ICE and motorcycling. KTM sells a tad more than 200,000 bikes annually, just 40,000 or so less than the mighty Harley-Davidson.

KTM’s suspension subsidiary is WP, and the new XPlor 43 fork (43mm upside-down fork legs with 250 mm of travel) handles bump munching up front, with a WP PDS shock absorber in back. [KTM AG]
“We are proud to present the new KTM Freeride E-XC, which marks the next step in development of e-mobility within KTM and is a continuation of our commitment to this segment,” CEO Stefan Pierer said. “We know that e-mobility will change the landscape of travel in the future, and our vision is very clear. Looking ahead to 2025 we expect to have a wider range of models available with a focus in the commuting arena.”

In addition to the 245-pound Freeride E-XC, Pierer plans an e-mini and an e-scooter, with an emphasis on machines from 250 watts to 11kWh as technology evolves and consumer demand increases.

Flip up the seat to use the external charger, which can be connected to any regular 230V socket fused at 10A or 13A and can be easily connected to the KTM PowerPack. Charging time is just under two hours for a full charge, or about 75 minutes for an 80 percent charge. [KTM AG]
A WP monoshock rear suspension in a bolt-on aluminum rear subframe [KTM AG]
An enhanced brushless electric motor is controlled by KTM’s proprietary control unit specifically adapted to guarantee a responsive, highly tractable power delivery. Full torque is available from a standstill because there’s no clutch to grab. The updated motor provides 18 instead of 16 kW of peak power in Cross mode 3, matching many motorcycles with combustion engines. Additionally, in Economy mode, the new Freeride E-XC is now able to recuperate deceleration energy during coasting and braking for an additional range boost. Even fully submerged in water, there is no electrical hazard from the sophisticated, fully sealed system of the drivetrain and KTM PowerPack. [KTM AG]
The chassis of the Freeride E-XC includes a steel-aluminum composite frame and a subframe made of high-strength polyamide. What does this mean? Lighter means less power wasted and a bike that’s fun to whip around. [KTM AG]
Since an electric bike needs no clutch, KTM’s logical choice was to mount both brake master cylinders on the handlebar instead of choosing the standard arrangement on motorcycles. This also means the rider doesn’t need to use his or her foot to initiate a drift. The latest Formula brake system features a radial 4-piston front caliper on a 260mm Wave brake disc as well as a 2-piston rear caliper on a matching 230mm rear. New rear brake pads and piston diameters have been reduced by 2 mm in the rear and, combined with a 1mm increase in front disc thickness, for even better control. The new braided front brake hose has an extra tube with an integrated channel to protect the speedometer cable. [KTM AG]
Inserted from above, the removable PowerPack sits on top of the motor, secured by four screws and well protected by the frame tubes. It’s easily swapped for a fully charged one by simply flipping up the seat and opening four screws. This can be accomplished in a matter of seconds, even quicker than refueling a bike with a combustion engine. Additionally, the PowerPack can be fully charged while still mounted in the bike by using the connector beneath the seat. In terms of battery aging, even after 700 charge cycles, the new PowerPack will still provide 70 percent of its initial capacity. [KTM AG]


The Current: Curtiss Unveils The Mighty Zeus

In one of the most eagerly-anticipated e-Bike launches, Curtiss Motorcycles lifted the wraps off its Zeus e-Bike at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, on May 5th. Company founder Matt Chambers had claimed, “We’re going to create a new environment for the second and third year onwards—going forward based upon what our projections are, and I think we’ll have a pretty good idea from when we strike the match on May 5.”  True to that promise, the Zeus is slated to commence production in 2020, after further development, and taking the temperature of their customers' reactions to the radical new machine unveiled at the Quail.

Matt Chambers, CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles, and Jordan Cornille, designer of the Zeus, at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering press conference to reveal the Zeus [Paul d'Orléans]
The immediate response to the Zeus was curiosity if not outright clamor (and the expected snark from web trolls). The design is unlike any motorcycle you've ever seen, yet retains clear DNA from Curtiss' former identity as Confederate Motorcycles; the chunkiness and girder fork recall former Confederate designer Ed Jacobs' work, as does the seat and steering head area, but the powerplant and 'T-block' battery are entirely new, and radically different.  It's clear Curtiss Motorcycles’ Director of Design Jordan Cornille has grappled with the Big Question: how long will e-Bikes remain design slaves to the IC silhouette?  In this case, Cornille has truly broken free of traditional motorcycle design, and produced a unique vehicle, with real presence.  Whether strength of character is enough to break through the resistance of V-twin lovers - the traditional Confederate customer - towards electric motorcycles remains to be seen, but Cornille and Chambers deserve big credit for taking a step into the unknown.

A 3/4 view of the Zeus showing the bulk of the
'T' shaped battery compartments [Paul d'Orléans]
I spoke with Curtiss Motorcycles’ Director of Design Jordan Cornille moments after the cloth was lifted on the Curtiss Zeus in the large white tent on the green at Quail Motorcycle Gathering.

Jordan, walk me through the design process timeline from last August when Matt Chambers announced that his company was going to change its name and design focus.

"By the time the announcement was made last year by Matt, this project was already deep into development. Curtiss as a brand has been in development for almost eight years now, and Zeus specifically started on the drawing board about two years ago.

For the last three years, I’ve been carefully developing a new design DNA for the brand, and Zeus is the first product from us to showcase that DNA publicly. Many other products have been in development alongside Zeus, so those products will be making their debuts soon."

“For the last three years, I’ve been carefully developing a new design DNA for the brand, and Zeus is the first product from us to showcase that DNA publicly.” Jordan Cornille [Gary Boulanger]
How much thought and discussion did you have before embarking on the Curtiss Zeus?

"Zeus specifically came onto the drawing board approximately two years ago. Before that, the discussion had existed for several years. Internally, Curtiss knew that it was time to create an honest electric motorcycle, so the company spent years exploring what that meant. Zeus showcases Curtiss's first battery configuration, internally labeled ‘T-Block’.

Alongside Zeus, several other "Block" battery configurations came to exist. Curtiss design DNA is organic, pure, and simple minimalism. In order to be sure that Curtiss products maintain that DNA is critical, so the process takes time; sometimes, it’s necessary to even get out of the way and allow the products themselves to organically become what they want. It’s a process that cannot be rushed."

“Today’s electric motorcycles appear to have been designed around traditional ICE motorcycle packages, proportions, and styles. This has led nearly all of them to have faux gas tanks and other aesthetics that we believe to be dishonest to the technology that they carry.” Jordan Cornille. [Gary Boulanger]
It appears that e-Bike design doesn’t have the same boundaries as ICE. Do you agree or have other opinions?

"I agree 100 percent! The number one driving factor behind the design/style of a motorcycle is its package. ICE motorcycles all have, more or less, the same components, so they have all grown to accommodate similar looks and proportions. Electric motorcycles have completely different components, so there’s no need for them to look, or be packaged like, traditional ICE motorcycles. This is where we believe our industry is missing the mark.

Today’s electric motorcycles appear to have been designed around traditional ICE motorcycle packages, proportions, and styles. This has led nearly all of them to have faux gas tanks and other aesthetics that we believe to be dishonest to the technology that they carry. With Zeus, and its siblings to follow, Curtiss has redefined the package and layout of the motorcycle. We have arranged the new electric components in ways that we believe are advantageous over ICE components in terms of weight distribution and rider ergonomics."

Under all that CNC aluminum beats the heart of a Zero-driven power plant [Gary Boulanger]
Confederate left quite a legacy, and spawned several companies when designers left to start their own brands. Are you able to spread your design wings freely, or does Matt have his own guidelines to follow?

"From the moment I was hired on at Curtiss, Matt has given me zero limitations. He’s created a culture within our brand that allows my creative department the freedom it needs to generate new, exciting ideas and execute on them. Although I have the capability to design and think so freely, that does not mean that I don't tap Matt's extraordinary wealth of knowledge in motorcycle design, specifically proportion.

With nearly 30 years of executive experience in our industry (more than most), Matt has a near infinite understanding of motorcycle design, which has been an invaluable asset in creating this new brand family."

The Curtiss Zeus is slated for a 2020 model year production release, with production likely beginning in early Fall 2019 [Gary Boulanger]
There were a few truly radical bikes on display at The Quail this year, including the Arch Method 143. How far will you diversify the Curtiss e-Bike line in the next two years, and when will the Zeus be available to consumers?

"The Zeus concept prototype that we showed at The Quail this year is slated for a 2020 model year production release, with production likely beginning in early Fall 2019. Our long-term product strategy includes having models positioned at a variety of price points, meaning there will be something available for nearly every pocketbook. These models will include a great selection of genres, forms, power, and range that will satisfy the needs of every rider out there. Every single one of these models are already in design and development."

A view from above. [Curtiss Motorcycles]
Cornille has carte-blanche to reimagine suspension for the e-Bike line. [Curtiss Motorcycles]
There’s nothing understated or subtle about the Curtiss Zeus. [Curtiss Motorcycles]
“Curtiss as a brand has been in development for almost eight years now, and Zeus specifically started on the drawing board about two years ago.” Jordan Cornille. [Curtiss Motorcycles]
“Curtiss design DNA is organic, pure, and simple minimalism. In order to be sure that Curtiss products maintain that DNA is critical, so the process takes time; sometimes, it’s necessary to even get out of the way and allow the products themselves to organically become what they want. It’s a process that cannot be rushed.” Jordan Cornille. [Curtiss Motorcycles]


The Current: Silicon Valley On An Energica Esse Esse 9

The peninsula south of San Francisco has legendary motorcycle roads in the hills above 'Silicon Valley', which is ground zero for global technology, and the home base to Energica's US operations.   Energica distributor Stefano Bennati is a former Maserati employee who, like the electric sportbikes he promotes and distributes from Redwood City, comes from Modena, Italy.  That small commune in northern Italy is a hub for fast, exotic fun, were machines from Energica, Ferrari, Pagani, De Tomaso, and Maserati are made, making it one of the most famous places in the world for motorsports fans.

A full recharge on the Energica Esse Esse 9 costs about $2. [Gary Boulanger]
So with all this in mind, I spent a recent sunny and warm afternoon riding the new 2018 Energica Esse Esse 9 sportbike with Bennati himself through Silicon Valley’s redwoods, to have lunch at the equally legendary Alice’s Restaurant, the motorcycle hub of Skyline Boulevard.  With a day in the saddle of Esse Esse 9, I'm able to give my first-hand assessment of this Ferrari of e-Bikes, from the company building all the electric racers for the FIM's new electric Grand Prix series, the Enel MotoE World Cup.

The 2018 Energica Esse Esse 9 is made in Modena, Italy. [Gary Boulanger]
How does it look?

This an Italian product, so it must look good! A steel trellis frame, aluminum swingarm  and hand-machined components, more metal than plastic parts, and solid contemporary design add up to a beautiful bike. Spokes instead of mags with a front gold rim, and rear gold hub are just part of the subtlety. Brand-name parts from Brembo, Marzocchi and Pirelli legitimize the chassis components. Onlookers are hard-pressed to believe it’s electric - until you turn the key and twist the throttle.

Nearly every component and part on the Esse Esse 9 is machined by hand in Modena, Italy. A full LED headlight with DRL creates an oval light embedded in an aluminum-machined crown, the first on any motorcycle.[Gary Boulanger]
How does it feel?

The 31-inch high seat is narrow and long enough for comfort, and someone certainly spent time choosing handlebar rise and width. The Esse Esse 9 feels like a proper street fighter before takeoff. The machined pegs are right where they need to be, even for a 6-foot-1 rider like me.

No scrimping on component spec: Brembo, Marzocchi, and Pirelli grace the front end. [Gary Boulanger]
How does it sound?

On take-off, the synchronous oil-cooled motor hums to life in a faint shrill, gaining decibels as the chain drives the 17-inch rear wheel into motion. On our ‘spirited’ ride into the quaint Northern California village of Woodside, the Esse Esse 9 was roaring like a banshee before I spotted a motorcycle cop pulling over a motorist.

How does it ride?

All proper streetfighters need to be versatile, providing performance while staying comfortable. The Esse Esse 9’s throttle control is designed with a rotary potentiometer and a safety microswitch, detects the rotation of the throttle and is activated every time the accelerator is engaged or released.

The VCU manages both the potentiometer and the switch signal to fine-tune the torque demand to the engine based on the mapping selected, while the microswitch is used as a safety feature in case of malfunction of the throttle control. Our ride was almost too smooth, forcing me to throttle lighter than normal. And at 34.5 inches wide it’s primed for California lane splitting.

How fast can it go?

Energica claims 133 ft lb of torque and 109 hp, so getting the bike up to 125 mph in Sport mode tout de suite is no problem, but that's where the top speed limit is programmed. And of course, the higher the speed the quicker the battery charge drops, so speed demons better know where their next charge station can be found on longer rides. Several smartphone apps exist to lessen the worry.

The Energica app allows you to interact with the vehicle: you can reset the trip, honk the horn and see on the dashboard the five nearest charging stations. The app also allows you to automatically record the parking location and locate other charging stations around the country. [Energica]
How much does it weigh?

Compared to the 463-pound Ducati SuperSport S or the 443-pound Yamaha YZF-R1M performance-wise, the Esse Esse 9 weighs 570 pounds. The extra 100 or so pounds comes from the patented Energica lithium polymer battery, capable of 11.7kWh.  Thankfully the bike has a reverse mode to assist if you get into a parking pickle.

“Green means go” on the Esses Esse 9’s tank, letting you know it’s ready to roll. [Gary Boulanger]
How far on a single charge?

Energica claims 125 miles in Eco mode, or 93 miles including highway and street use. But the Esse Esse 9 offers four riding modes to use only the energy necessary under certain circumstances: Urban, Eco, Rain, and Sport, with four regenerative maps (Low, Medium, High, Off) to make wise use of the speed you’re scrubbing. The Long Period Rest function allows the maintenance and automatic balancing of the batteries during a long period of non-use.

With $2, a fast charger found at most Whole Foods, you’ll be fully charged in 30 minutes or less. [Gary Boulanger]
Energica is the only electric motorcycle manufacturer to include the DC Fast Charging technology based on CCS Combo, just like what Tesla, Chevrolet and Nissan use, which means shorter charge times found at outdoor charging stations at Whole Foods and other businesses. Thirty minutes and you’re back on the street.

How much?

Compared to its high-performance cousins the Ducati SuperSport S ($14,995) and Yamaha YZF-R1M ($22,999) the Energica Esse Esse 9 is $24,940.Warranty is three years on the bike and 31,000 miles on the battery.

The future of racing is electric

For 2019, the governing body of international motorcycle racing has partnered with Dorna and Italian power company Enel to develop the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup. Energica was chosen to provide the spec bike for the 18 riders scheduled to compete in five European races, quite a coup for the company, which has competition from e-Bike manufacturers around the world...but none from Modena!

Former MotoGP and World Superbike racer Colin Edwards took Energica’s Ego Corsa out on the Circuit of the America in Austin for a parade lap before the MotoGP engines fired up and scattered cattle all over Texas two weeks ago. [Gary Boulanger]
The FIM Enel MotoE World Cup spec bike, Energica’s Ego Corsa in full sponsor livery. MotoGP debuts its e-bike class in 2019. [Gary Boulanger]
 


The Current: Talking Conversion With Night Shift’s Matt Candler

Would you immediately dismiss someone with ideas about re-imagining motorcycles, if they were an educator with no formal motorcycle design or engineering credentials, and if they started riffing on ideas including golf cart parts and Nissan Leaf batteries? I think most of us would be suspicious, but then again, sometimes it takes an outsider to re-imagine an industry.   And maybe the motorcycle industry could learn something from a New Orleans grease monkey named Matt Candler.

The Night Shift Leafy Savage, with a ‘battery module’ from a Nissan Leaf [Harlin Miller]
He’s worked Operations at the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games and at Chicago Public Schools. He’s been a teacher, coach, and principal at all school levels, and helped people build schools in New Orleans. He’s the founder and CEO of 4.0, and conducted this interview while on sabbatical with his wife and three kids in South America. And he builds electric motorcycles in his garage under the moniker Night Shift Bikes.

Matt, why and when did you start tinkering with motorcycles and batteries?

I moved to New Orleans in 2006 after a few years of garage-less living in big cities. Our new place had a too-small-for-working-on-cars garage, and as soon as I cleared it out, I started looking for projects that would help me justify buying new tools to my wife. I'd been commuting on two wheels for a while—a heavily modified 4-stroke scooter in San Francisco and an electric GoPed in New York City—so it wasn’t long until I dropped $40 on a copy of John Bidwell's guide to converting a Honda Rebel to electric, called 'El Chopper ET.'

Candler’s first build, a Honda Rebel stretched and crammed full of golf cart parts. [Matt Candler]
The guide itself was pretty janky, and so was my interpretation of it. But I was amazed by John´s passion and hospitality. He was relentless about sharing the promise of EVs and committed to helping other people make stuff on their own. I respected how much he was willing to share, and ever since, bikes have been as much about the process of learning and creating community as they are about design and making things go fast.

For someone who's not an engineer you've certainly garnered a lot of press. What is your day job, and how do you approach a build?

I finished college with math and Spanish language majors, but I spent more time in the darkroom trying to become a photographer and in the metal studio dreaming of being a sculptor. I think that’s one reason I’ve found this whole process about way more than horsepower and specs. It’s really about learning for me, despite not having a credential or formal training. How can I figure something out without a degree? Where are the informal networks that can replace the formal classroom stuff I missed out on?

I build with two things in mind:

  • Looking for new lines: What frame could be really interesting without they constraints of an ICE drivetrain? What’s something we haven’t thought of?
  • Learning from other people: What do I suck at that might get better if I try X, and who can I find who knows how to do it better than me? Where can I go to explore what learning for learning’s sake really looks like?

Looking for new lines

My first build took more than a year, and I wanted to see results faster, so my second build was much simpler, a mod more than a ground-up build. The factory Zero I bought kept begging for some mods, so I put a café spin on it. I thought that Zero looked much better when I tore all the plastic off.  

Stripping off the bodywork and looking for new design lines is really interesting to me. And it is what I obsessed about in my last build, based on a Suzuki Savage 650 frame and 14 battery modules from a Nissan Leaf car.

The Night Shift Leafy Savage, with a rear hub motor from Enertrak [Harlin Miller]
Without all the constraints of an ICE build, how can we rethink where stuff goes? What lines are in the frame that we can really use now that all the stuff we don’t need is gone, now that we don’t need a gas tank, for example?

Learning from other people

One of the reasons I’m so interested in people like John sharing what they’ve learned is because I work in education during the day. I work at an organization called 4.0, where we help people run small experiments that might make learning more effective, engaging and fun, especially for kids who don’t have great school options today.

That’s why I get so fired up when I find a community that’s together solely for the love of creating and sharing and learning. From elmoto.net, an online community of electric builders, to Makers of NO and the New Orleans Mini Maker Fair, I’ve found places I can go when I’m clueless or when I’ve figured something out that I want to share.

Night Shift sketch of 1973 BMW R/75 project underway [Matt Candler]
I think that’s what sets the Handbuilt Show apart from so many other shows. Alan Stulberg, founder of Revival Cycles and the show, leans into the mindset behind the #motonerd hashtag. Why would they let a hack like me bring a bike to their show? Because they’re curious and interested to learn about electric. That’s huge to me. And I’m grateful for their willingness to think out of the box. We need more of that.

You're talking my language with a 1973 BMW R75/5 build. How's that coming along, and what are your plans?

Thanks. The airheads are gorgeous bikes. When I took the Leafy Savage to the Handbuilt Show two years ago, I got to spend time with some builders I really respect, including Bryan Heidt, who builds bikes at Fuller Moto in my hometown of Atlanta, GA. He pushed me on my build, and dared me to try and make an electric on a really classic frame. I took him up on it and got a prototype built last winter with the help of two amazing interns who were as curious as I was about learning new stuff, Liam Grace Flood and Nadav Hendel. We documented that journey here.

Night Shift’s 2012 Zero XU Cafe Racer [Matt Candler]
I´ve stripped that version down to parts again and am asking what the frame’s got to offer us now that it’s free of the ICE constraints. I’ll be building a custom battery pack with 18,650 cells (what Tesla’s using). Here’s a recent sketch of where it could go.

I’d love to get feedback on where to take this!

Any plans to partner with an OEM to develop a production-friendly model?

Nope. I’m lucky to have a day job I love. I love seeing OEMs experiment with custom builders, and I’d be thrilled to riff with anyone thinking about electric bike design, but I’m happy as a dude in a garage right now. I care more about encouraging people to get off their couch and try something new than getting lots of bikes to market. I respect the people who take on that challenge, but that’s not my goal right now.

 


The Current: Wannabe AlSi9Mg E-Chopper

Enrico “Ricky” de Haas doesn’t subscribe to the notion that future-forward electric motorcycles need to resemble futuristic science experiments. In fact, his Wannabe-Choppers AlSi9Mg—handbuilt in his Hüttenberg, Germany shop—is more a throwback than advancement in aesthetics, but that’s what he likes about it. His attitude reflects the laid-back nature of his community in the Taunus foothills.

German builder Ricky de Haas has already moved on from his first electric project and has several more builds on the brain. [Peter Su Markus]
We discussed the inspiration for the AlSi9Mg, and why he chose casting.

What's the inspiration behind building an electric chopper that looks so 'old school'?

The idea to build a 'hidden' electric chopper came about 12 years ago. Back then the idea was not to build it in an old-school way. Battery technology was way more expensive than today, so after failing to find a customer or sponsor for two years we shelved it and I started working on my first Harley project. Then I started casting.

The battery is in the ‘oil tank’ and all the controllers and electronics are in the transmission. [Peter Su Markus]
The image of AlSi9Mg was in my head for the last two years, but with a regular combustion engine of my own making. When we decided to build this bike in early 2017 it was clear how it had to look,  regardless of the power source!

How long have you been casting your own bike parts? The e-chopper looks like a master class in metal casting!

I’ve been obsessed with building a complete motorcycle from scratch since I was 15. This includes everything: frame, motor, transmission with all their internals (even the valve springs) to the tires. This meant I had not just to learn everything about motorcycles, but also everything about the production techniques, as I wanted to make everything with my own hands.

“It’s so short and the weight point is so low it handles almost like a bicycle. Steering is light. It’s a good rider. It does between 50 and 60 mph.” [Peter Su Markus]
So casting was just one of these things to learn, but also one of the most difficult things as you can't just read a book about it, like you can for machine work. I started my first casts about 11 years ago and today, making cast parts is one of the biggest parts of our daily work. We cast aluminum, brass, bronze, steel and stainless steel.

I understand you're planning another e-chopper that's more refined and faster?

We started planning the next two bikes on the day the AlSi9Mg was finished. Both will go in the same style direction: one will hopefully be powered with our own ICE and the other will have two very powerful electric hub motors, each several hundred Nm. One in the rear wheel and one in the front. But it’s very tough to find the time and the money to make this happen. A few days ago we ordered a new frame jig to start with the electric bike! Hopefully the next months will be productive.

Looks can be deceiving - the Wannabe AISi9Mg weighs only 176 pounds! [Peter Su Markus]
The idea behind Wannabe-Choppers is to build a complete bike from scratch, which means an unbelievable amount of hours go into each project. About four years ago we stopped building standard bikes for customers. Our main business evolved into making restoration and custom parts, so we spent a lot of time refining our skills on production processes and improving.

From the top down, the Wannabe AISi9Mg is no ordinary chopper. The electric, brushless 48-volt rear-hub motor was taken from a popular European electric scooter. [Peter Su Markus]
The AlSi9Mg is a realization of where we were last year on our journey to building a complete bike. This one has about 1,400 hours work in it; if anyone’s interested, the price is 120,000 euros. The next two bikes will be more labor intensive.

You recently toured the American custom bike shows; did you get any orders? If so, what would a hard-working woman or man pay for their own Wannabe e-chopper?

The trip to the US did bring us a lot of orders for production and one of parts, but as of today no customer for a bike. But you never know. A bike probably would start at roughly 80,000 euro and will go easily up to 250,000 euro, especially if we build a one-off motor in house.

Why cast plain parts when you can send a message?  Wannabe-Choppers has a similar message to Grayson Perry's 'Kenilworth AM1' [Peter Su Markus]
Cast wheels save weight and continue the aesthetic. [Peter Su Markus]


The Current: Hard Wired With Lawrence Au

Lawrence Au was born in New York City in March 1986.  Unless you're in the NYC vintage bike scene, a Pratt Institute Student, or a connoisseur of electric motorcycle companies, you've probably never heard of Larry.  He's been deeply involved in 3 electric motorcycle startups, and now teaches in the Industrial Design department at Pratt, while consulting with companies on motorcycle and product design, with manufacturing and production his specialty. He also runs a co-operative motorcycle parking garage and shop space in Brooklyn.

Lawrence Au in his Brooklyn garage [Ryan Handt]
Who exactly is Larry Au, and why should you care? The future of motorcycling may very well reside in his 32-year-old brain.

Larry, how and when did you take an interest in motorcycles, and when did electric take over your brain?

I've always had an interest in anything and everything mechanical even as a child. I wasn't exposed much to motorcycles, but probably around the age of 9, the transportation bug started with automobiles. Both my uncles were into automobiles, one was a BMW guy the other was a Mercedes guy. At that time, they were both looking for new vehicles and I remember grabbing every issue of Auto Trader at the supermarkets when I would go with my mother. Constantly flipping through each page in search for the golden treasure to show my uncles that weekend. After that, the bug of grabbing motorcycle magazines and flipping through them to study every aspect took place.

With the Brooklyn Motorized prototype [Lawrence Au]
I grew up in a very traditional first generation Chinese American family and was the first in my family to be born in the US, so I was expected to be good in school and to follow the path of the normal stereotypes. If I wasn't in school, I was at taekwondo practice, piano lessons or after hours school prep. Let’s just say I was not the best student, because all I wanted to do was draw, paint or tinker with mechanical items to take apart, modify and make better. It wasn't until I got into college I had the free time to really play with motorcycles. Hell, even doing two to three all-nighters every week to try and be the best when it came time for studio critiques every week. By then I didn’t have vigilant Asian parents dictating my every minute, so I could then ride and play with motorcycles.

Laying out the chassis design with the Brooklyn Motorized team [Lawrence Au]
At the time, I was really into modifying vintage mopeds such as Puchs, Peugeots, and Minarellis because they were easy to find, cheap and relatively easy to modify and make faster with just a Bridgeport mill, lathe and hand files. I remember when I was in college at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn studying Industrial Design, I had a few small motorcycles (Honda CB350s, small frame Vespas, Lambrettas, Jawas, Bridgeports, Benellis, Yamaha G7s and mopeds; I was a two-stroke guy back then) and I would take them up into my dorm room to tear down the motors and rebuild. There was one day I went to try and take it into the dorms and the security guards stopped me, as they had taken several screenshots of their video footage with a memo stating, "Do NOT let this individual take any motorcycles or car parts into any building." Up until then, the line of ‘I'm a transportation design student and this is my project’ worked quite well.

The Brooklyn Motorized prototype under construction [Lawrence Au]
Apparently they did not view my idea of paying for a space to live in for the year as I did. I was also doing oil changes in front of the sidewalks to the studio spaces and testing the bikes at night by riding up and down the closed main street on campus. Which later on now, as a professor there, I can see why they would frown upon that. I did that throughout college, flipping bikes as I went to help pay for expenses. During the end of my college days, I started working for Team Obsolete in Brooklyn with their high-end vintage racers. I had originally met up with and been friends with a lot of NYC VinMoto and the other USCRA race guys, but it wasn't until later I worked up enough funds to build a race bike and start getting some track time. But, my "senior" year of collegewith my extended college timeI started working for Jim Carden and Andy Templar at Brooklyn Motorized Corp. It was a real boot-strap electric motorcycle company and I came in within the first month of inception, which ultimately wrapped into being my senior thesis undergraduate project.

Sketches for the Brooklyn Motorized e-bike [Lawrence Au]
There was a posting looking for industrial design interns for a electric motorcycle company, and the stars aligned. In 2008, I started as a intern, worked my way to be a staff designer, then lead designer and ultimately upon the company being dormant and playing such a obsessive role, was named as a co-founder. The friends I met at that timeWes Cox, also a Pratt graduate and director of design and  development and Michael Shmuckler, lead electrical engineerhave become friends for life. Even now, as we still talk regularly, we’re always striving to recapture the feeling of our team we had created during our time there and are constantly yearning for that in the jobs we've held since.

The home/garage charging system mockup for Brooklyn Motorized. Hey - no oil on the floor! [Lawrence Au]
Ever since that first ride of our working prototype and not realizing that WE had to check the programing of the throttle curve on the drive-by-wire Magura throttle and motor controllerand wheelie-ing down the block on my duct-taped couch pillow of a seatI was hooked. Alsoas this was not too far after 9/11riding our beloved first prototype just to log seat time, data logging and test components, let’s just say that what our first test bed looked a lot like a two-wheeled bomb with wires everywhere. And it's very easy to get trapped in lanes of traffic with no other option than to ride into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The transit police were not impressed with a untitled homemade frame, no lights or indicators chassis and wires wrapped and poking out from the main opening of our Norton Featherbed inspired design. I should also mention that at the time, I had a obnoxious red white and blue vintage Bell helmet, with a giant vinyl sticker of a middle finger on the side. As I used to just point to the sticker instead of getting angry at rogue cab drivers.

Tell me as much as you can about the three electric motorcycle companies you were involved with, and what you learned from each experience.

Brooklyn Motorized was the first, and most of it is explained in the previous question. But that company really was the most amazing team of people who were all genuinely enthused to be there. We got up every day to work 12-14 hour days, hit the bar a little bit after and went home to do it all over again the next day. There was not a single day that it felt like we were at work. If anything, I should have been slightly more selective about interns at the time. There was one summer that we regard fondly as the summer of "Intern Army". We had at that point maybe somewhere in the area of 30 interns, that we had to rent a separate space next to our offices in that building just to house everybody.

More concept sketches from Brooklyn Motorized [Lawrence Au]
It was just an exciting time because there was nobody else doing what we were doing. Brammo had just become a reality and Zero had not released anything yet. Nothing to date had taken the space of a small, light, urban commuter with a classic standard styling that was truly designed for the day-to-day beating of a NYC motorcycle. We were young, fearless, unrelenting, but with that came underfunded and we were making mistakes and learning as we went along. At Brooklyn Motorized, I would say that we had the right team, right leadership, correct drive to cultivate the American ‘can-do’ attitude, but it was the crash and recession and we did not have the $10 million funding with VCs nor the connections. We were just a few guys that really believed in what we were doing and at the time, too early and unable to continue after four years of struggling every day to make it happen.

Sketches for Evolve Motorcycles [Lawrence Au]
The next company was Evolve Electric Motorcycles out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This was an interesting time for me. After Brooklyn Motorized, the feeling that my whole team had was if their child had died, wife left, dog got hit by a car and getting evicted at the same time. Shortly after, one of my friends sent me a link to a posting looking for a motorcycle designer/industrial designer for a electric motorcycle company. I was hesitant but at that point it was so much a part of my life, everything I did revolved around bikes, friends and my motorcycle shop. I thought I'd go in to meet with them anyway.

Sketch for an Evolve Motorcycle [Lawrence Au]
Instantly, I was charmed to see that they had a small showroom on Grand Street, and scooters that resembled Vespas/Piaggios that were either fully electric or gas/electric hybrid that you could switch riding modes with a flip of a hand control switch. They brought me on board to be their Director of Design & Development. This company, in my mind, had certain aspects correct. From the two that started it, one was from finance and acquisitions and the other was from the fashion world. They got enough products to market on their own to get sales up in order for me to come in and try to start really developing and designing motorcycles for them.

Sketch for an Evolve Motorcycle [Lawrence Au]
But unfortunately, as we all know in our motorcycle world, acceptance is a large part of what a company and brand needs to be successful. We had made some interesting headway into starting to develop their own first gen motorcycle, but ultimately after a year or two the same fate had followed. There was a really interesting component of a Peer2Peer type app connectivity we had developed when we were there for urban riders and friends. There was a working prototype and touch screen that we grafted onto a scooter which would ping back to the dealer giving vital stats of the bikes and if you had friends riding near by, it'd have different metrics that you could share at the same time. I even gave a TED talks type of presentation at the Apple store on 5th Avenue near Central Park on the bikes and new wave of technology integration and exciting things to come, if I remember correctly. But once again, recession time and funding led to the same fate of Brooklyn Motorized.

Sketches for Evolve Motorcycles [Lawrence Au]
After the first two, the dreams of doing EV tech and motorcycles were pretty low unless I ended up moving across the country to work for Brammo and Zero. And even then, it wasn't necessarily my taste. My background at that time was vintage and also factory race bikes. My selfish desire to develop electric motorcycles was to A) have a awesome, fun, light, and fast daily commuter and B) to save the gasoline and race fuel for me to go racing on the weekends. At that time, I had a 1996 Yamaha TZ125 factory GP bike. It's not a question about whether or not fossil fuels are going to run out, but when. So wouldn't it be nice to save that stuff so we can play on the weekends? Especially if our daily commute is only a few miles?

Studies for an electric trike [Lawrence Au]
I then consulted for another company that never really left the ground. I believe they realized to call it quits when I told them that in order to even get to a small first run of manufactured bikes going, they would need around $4-5 million. Many people don't realize what is involved with taking on such a task, to become a true OEM manufacturer and set up production with even several employees take mountains of effort, logistics and capital.

Currently, I am helping out another New York-based electric motorcycle company which shows promise. Not everything is finalized yet so I will not mention them.

But in the 10 years of working as a motorcycle designer, I have also worked manufacturing and production of large scale and volume industrial products, web dev app mobile technology, and general product design. I believe every different job I took made me a better designer, because I did not fall into the usual ‘industrial designer’ aspect of doing transportation design. I was for a long time the mechanic at the receiving end of these products, I was the racer/tuner, I was the guy designing and checking the frame jigs and injection molds, so I'm going to have a very different view on them as we go through the development process.

Sketches for an electric trike [Lawrence Au]
I currently help many custom motorcycle builders and shops on projects when they need me, I do design work and CAD via SolidWorks, make the files for CNC and run FEA and stress analysis on frames, different components. I work with race teams in the MotoAmerica race series as well. Currently I teach three nights after work at the Pratt Institute: Motorcycle Design & Engineering, CAD Solidworks and 3D Form & Aesthetics. Being back teaching in the same studios that made me who I amafter working the whole day and seeing my students get betterinspires me when it's time for me to work the next morning.

Do you think all three were ahead of their time, and maybe consumers weren't quite ready for e-bikes?

They weren't necessarily too early in certain aspects, but yes; as a majority we still aren't there yet all the way for EV. Look at Brammo and their 10 years of development with the Enertia platform that lead to what is Victory's e-bike. I haven't had the chance to ride one yet, but that six-speed transmission is something I'm not 100 percent certain yet is fully worked out. I tried doing it; damn it’s hard to resolve! As a general whole, the battery technology from 10 years ago hasn't changed all too much as far as the cell formulas or chemistry, the prices have just dropped. But with Brammo and Zero being in the market eye for a while and companies such as Energica that have been pushing towards racing, I think the general public have started taking e-bikes more seriously. I just truly believe that electric motorcycle companies need to position and prove themselves to be first and foremost bike people. That it is all driven by our passion and love for motorcycles and our community. Bikes are great, but our friends in the industry and community make it better.

Which motorcycle/moped/scooter companies do you follow and why?

I follow Indian and Harley-Davidson, of course. I was born and raised in the US, so I would love to see them make a strong comeback to try and match the numbers of the European and Japanese companies. I'm a bit of a secret American redneck at heart even though I live in NYC. Last year, Keino and I took a road trip to Milwaukee since he was showing one of his bikes at the Mama Tried Moto Show and we went through the Harley Museum. That was really eye-opening for me since I've never been that large of a Harley person since the only experiences I've had previously with them were working on the factory XRTT and KRTT race bikes at Team Obsolete. But walking through the museum really made parallels with my early experiences and grassroots bootstrap scenarios I've experienced and keep experiencing to this day.

Lawrence Au with the Brooklyn Motorized prototype [Lawrence Au]
I also follow BMW closely. I currently own a 1956 BMW R26 that I'm in the process of restoring. The engineering that goes into their bikes are what my nerd dreams are made of. They really follow the evolutionary process when it comes to refinement of components.

Do you have more modern e-bike designs and concepts bouncing around in your head?

Hell yes! I've been trying to scrape up some extra cash to make a new design (frame, motor assembly, battery enclosures, etc.) I've been working on for an e-bike concept. There's also been a interesting modern girder type fork I've been toying around with that I would like to CNC and play around with the geometry.


The Current: Curtiss E-Bike Concepts

According to Confederate-now-Curtiss Motorcycle founder Matt Chambers, if Glenn Curtiss were to launch a motorcycle company in 2018, he would use electric power, just like he pioneered the American V-twin back in 1903.  Chambers will reveal to the world his Curtiss Hercules e-bike at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel Valley, California on May 5. Curtiss has partnered with Zero Motorcycles for their drivetrain, and the target retail price of the Hercules is $30,000, a far cry from the $100,000-plus the retail price of Confederate motorcycles over the past 25 years.

From the mind of Matt Chambers, the pen of Jordan Cornille, and the legacy of Glenn Curtiss: the Curtiss T Block Hercules Cafe [Curtiss Motorcycles]
“Seven years ago, in our twentieth year, we began research and development of our fifth-generation architecture,” Chambers said in a recent interview with Alan Cathcart. “We knew we were at a turning point; we had maxed out Glenn Curtiss’s invention of the V-twin American motorcycle. It was time to apply our years of design experience and earned wisdom with the best innovation and technology, just as Mr. Curtiss would do if he were leading us today.”

According to Chambers, the first 300 bikes will be built at his facility in Birmingham.

“But we’re going to create a new environment for the second and third year onwards—going forward based upon what our projections are, and I think we’ll have a pretty good idea from when we strike the match on May 5. Probably by the end of May we’ll have a good sense of what the interest in this program is going to be, and whether or not there really are people out there in their thousands who want to purchase a Curtiss E-cruiser—is it thousands, or is it hundreds, or is it tens of thousands?”

The Curtiss Slant Block Warhawk chopper concept [Curtiss Motorcycles]
“The Curtiss models will deploy a modular architectural system, the design of which we’ve filed numerous patents on, as the foundation for an all-new Twin-Engine powertrain from the world leader in motorcycle torque production, Zero,” he added. “Their all-new powertrain package embodies a classical proportion, that’s lower, narrower, and with superior weight management to any other two-wheeled EV. The geometry and ergonomics are classic, too, empowering the rider with effortless control, as well as massive acceleration, top speed, handling, and comfort.”

Perception will become reality soon. But will it look like this? [Curtiss Motorcycles]
According to Chambers, Zero will supply Curtiss with its latest technology in a twin motor package, estimated (by Chambers) to have 175 hp and 290 foot-pounds of torque. Features like dual controllers, air cooling, and battery packs designed specifically for Curtiss. “Curtiss suspension will also be all-new and state-of-the-art, plus we’ll have a breakthrough in transparency, accuracy, and quality of information between the tarmac and the Curtiss rider. Whole new levels of safety have been designed into the Curtiss, which has the goal of being the world leader in this key aspect of riding on the highway. We’re turning many pages here.”

The Curtiss I-Block Warhawk cafe concept [Curtiss Motorcycles]
“We’ve owned the Curtiss trademark for about seven years, and we acquired it because of my admiration for the achievements of Mr. Curtiss, who I believe was a truly visionary person, and a great motorcyclist,” Chambers explained. “Glenn H. Curtiss was three years ahead of Indian in creating the American V-twin—which they then copied, just as Harley-Davidson did five years later. He was running 136 mph on a motorcycle when those guys were running 50 or 60 mph, and bragging about it. And then he got bored with the whole two-wheel thing, and went off and essentially created flight with the Wright brothers. But he was the one flying the planes, and he designed the engines powering his aircraft, and it’s his rudder design, and all his technology that flies planes today, not theirs.”

The Curtiss Porcupine Block bobber concept [Curtiss Motors]
“He was a very brave man, because he not only rode his own motorcycles on Ormond Beach, but he also flew his own aircraft, including the seaplanes he invented. He was a man’s man—he was a guy who took inordinate risks, he was obviously an incredible technologist, but he’s unknown to the world today! I have great respect for the Harley story, the Indian story and the Triumph story and the BMW story, these are great stories—Honda’s story is a great story. But Glenn Curtiss dwarfs them all, and that’s not a put down to them, just that he was a true innovator whom they essentially copied. I think if Mr. Honda were still with us he’d say, ‘Oh, I’m no Glenn Curtiss!’ I really think he would say that.”

The Curtiss Y Block concept [Curtiss Motors]

The Current: Meijs M-M-Motorman E-Moped!

Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that's a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That's not simple." - Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief

Practical transportation doesn’t have to look drab or be boring. The Meijs Motorman electric moped has been selling all over Europe for three years, with plans to come to the US once legistlation is sorted. [Meijs]
Dutch designer Ronald Meijs studied mechanical engineering and jewelry design before embarking on a career designing children’s furniture and strollers. For nearly nine years his focus has been on fashionable and simple green transportation for city dwellers. The Meijs Motorman electric moped is the fruit of his love labor, and its simplicity is what draws the curious. It’s a 21st century hobby horse, one that begs to be ridden.

“While designing my one and only electric bicycle five years ago, I imagined how more simple and even more basic a electric moped would look like. I decided to go for that.” [Meijs]
With a max speed of 28 mph and a range of 32 - 40 miles running on a 1.5kWh lithium-ion battery, the nearly 100-pound chromoly steel moped relies on a brushless direct-drive hub motor putting out 2 kW/60 Nm of oomph. There are some benefits to the heft, with regenerative braking storing valuable energy when scrubbing speed on the hydraulic disc brakes and 203mm rotors. Charging takes only 4 - 6 hours, which gives you plenty of time to top off during your work day. I recently spoke with Meijs about the genesis of his Motorman.

“The idea started with the shape of a bicycle, not a motorcycle in mind. With every step in the design process, I left out some more parts of the bike, to end with the absolute minimum.” [Meijs]
Q: Ronald, your design portfolio looks rather varied and interesting. When and how did the concept of an electric moped come to you?

While designing my one and only electric bicycle five years ago, I imagined how more simple and even more basic a electric moped would look like. I decided to go for that. No pedals, no gears, no chain. Bended steel tubes for the frame, a brushless hub-motor inside the rear wheel. No petrol in the tank; instead I placed a battery inside.

Somewhat reminiscent of the Pashley Guv’nor push bike. [Meijs]
Q: How many design concepts did you draft before deciding on the current model?

A lot. The idea started with the shape of a bicycle, not a motorcycle in mind. With every step in the design process, I left out some more parts of the bike, to end with the absolute minimum.

The Motorman will sell for 5,950 euro, including the wretched 21 percent VAT. [Meijs]
Q: When and where exactly did you deliver your first Motoman?

About three years ago we started to sell the Motorman in Europe. We now sell most products in The Netherlands, Germany, France, Swiss, Belgium, Norway.

In addition to the Henry Ford-influenced Jet Black, Meijs works with corporations to embellish colors and logos to reflect their identification. [Meijs]
Q: Are there plans to bring the Motorman to the United States?

Yes, we have serious plans to come to the United States. We are working on legislation now.

 


The Current: Alta Motors Crapshoot Dragster

John McInnis is a designer working under Alta co-founder Jeff Sand, the Chief Design Officer and original architect of the Alta Redshift motor. McInnis came to Alta from Lightning Motorcycles, where he was responsible for Class A surface modeling on its LS-218 electric superbike that broke records at Bonneville (the '218' was its top speed on the salt) and kicked the ass of every dinosaur-powered factory racer on Pike's Peak in 2013.

At Alta, McInnis’ role bounces between surface/solid modeling, concept sketching, and a little bit of graphic design. All of which are his favorite aspects of the design process. “I definitely feel fortunate to have found myself here; it's an absolute dream job,” he told me from his office in Alta’s Brisbane, California headquarters - eight miles south of downtown San Francisco. “Alta is definitely doing some of the raddest things in motorcycling and it's great being a part of it.”

And it doesn’t get any radder than a silent dragster called the Crapshoot.

Q: John, how and when did the Crapshoot project begin?

We knew we wanted to bring another bike to The One Moto show in Portland, the question was obviously "what?" Jon Bekefy, our marketing director at the time, had challenged me to come up with something unexpected; something you wouldn't see any other electric OEMs do. We agreed it wasn't going to be a café or a scrambler, because that felt just a little too obvious. Some other ideas we threw around were an `80s GP-inspired muscle bike or a speedway bike before we landed on one of the most niche segments: vintage drag bike!

After looking through the history books, some of the builds that stood out to me were by Boris Murray with his twin-engine, fully-faired Triumph and Leo Payne, creator of the awesome "Turnip Eater" Ironhead Sportster. These guys built these fantastic machines out of garages in the `60s, and I wanted this build to reflect that "handmade-ness". My mission was to prove that a regular guy with regular tools and basic fabrication skills can take a Redshift and turn it into something pretty wild, without needing to be an electrical engineer. So in that spirit, all of the electronics and the core of a bone-stock Redshift remained unchanged.

Q: How many different versions were explored before this one was built?

I had only done a handful of pen sketches and one digital sketch before people were pretty excited about it and the rough silhouette was solidified. I had planned on it being a hardtail from the beginning, and getting it as low as possible was a priority. Once I created the hardtail section in CAD, that part stayed the same. The bodywork changed based off of what I could get in the limited time and what would fit best on a 250cc equivalent dirtbike (not much..) but the people at AirTech have quite the selection of fairings, and ended up with their AJSM5 three-piece fairing.

Q: Who laid hands on this project, and what were their contributions?

Once I had a sketch to work from, I took it to our assembly line supervisor, Vinnie Falzon, who's a proficient welder and fabricator. He was instantly excited to be part of the project and ordered material to build the hardtail that day. We bent the tubing using Jeff Sand's old Hossfeld that was in a container behind the shop. He's responsible for all the major fab work on the hardtail section, plus the sleek, hand-formed aluminum seat section that he didn't even start until about two weeks before the bike was to be displayed in Portland. [And, it should be noted, Sand's design/fabrication chops are massive; he basically invented the step-in snowboard binding at Switch - ed.]

Once I figured out the mounting brackets and trim lines for the body work, I sent the fairing to Dennis Hodges of DK Design in San Francisco, who didn't bat an eye when I told him exactly how much metal flake I wanted on this thing. He's responsible for all the clean up work and paint on the fairing, and converting it to a single piece, eliminating the unsightly part line. His accomplice, Jon Bradford, was able to turn our "crapshoot" logo into a sweet decal for the side of the bike.

The seat was a total custom job by Frances Midori, also from SF, who does a lot of work out of Hodges' shop. We basically dropped off our seat pan and said "make it look like grandpa's smoking chair" and she totally nailed it. It was the cherry on top for this little retro futuristic period piece, from the future.

Q: How many hours total were invested?

We started bending the tube for the hardtail around the middle of January, and from then until we were doing final assembly in the van on our way up to Portland was nonstop. Vinnie has 40 hours into the seat section alone and I'm pretty sure Dennis didn't sleep a few days while doing paint and bodywork. There's at least 100 total man hours into the build.


'Custom Revolution' in Cycle World

[From Cycle World, Mar 3 2018]

“Custom Revolution” Exhibit Opens At LA’s Petersen Automotive Museum April 14

See 25 examples from the Bike Exif generation of builders

"The “Custom Revolution” motorcycle exhibit gathers avant-garde motorcycles from independent builders around the world at the Petersen Museum in downtown Los Angeles, curated by Paul d’Orléans from April 14, 2018, to March 19, 2019.

The Petersen Museum on the 'Miracle Mile' of Los Angeles, after its 2015 makeover by Kohn Pedersen Fox. [David Zaitz]
Twenty-five examples from the Bike Exif generation of builders will be on display in the Richard Varner Family Gallery, where the successful “Harley vs. Indian” exhibit sponsored by Cycle World parent company Bonnier wraps up its one-year run on March 7. “Custom Revolution” is supported by TheVintagent.com and the Motorcycle Arts Foundation.

The Krautmotors E-Lisabad electric dragster [Krautmotors]
“Custom Revolution” presents, for the first time in one location, the work of the most influential alternative custom motorcycle builders of the past 10 years. These international stars include Ian Barry (Falcon), Shinya Kimura (Chabott Engineering), Revival Cycles, Roland Sands, El Solitario, Michael Woolaway (Deus Ex Machina Customs), etc., with bikes from the US, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan.

The Ronin Pike's Peak Racer [Ronin]
According to d’Orléans, the attention lavished on these builders is astonishing.

“They have millions of fans around the world watching their every move, including the design teams at the big factories,” he said. “Each has been approached to collaborate on prototypes or show bikes by the likes of BMW, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson, or Ducati.

The Revival Cycles 'J63' [Revival Cycles]
“Some have created iconic machines using factory support, and the influence of all these designers on the motorcycle industry over the past 10 years is clear,” d’Orléans explained. “Factory design teams readily admit following the lead of these alternative custom beacons, whose work is now being acknowledged as seminal to a new vision of motorcycling itself"."

 

 


The Current: Harley Bets On Alta

While Harley-Davidson recently announced their intention to bring an electric bike to market by 2020, they put their money where their press release is today, and announced they'd made an equity investment in Alta Motors.  We've featured Alta's back story here before, and the San Francisco e-bike maker has previously specialized in motocross and supermoto machines, although it's clear their proprietary technology could easily be applied to street bikes. The Alta investment is The Motor Company’s response to Polaris Industries’ acquisition of Brammo exactly three years ago, after making a substantial investment in the Oregon company back in 2011.

Could this be the marriage made in hog heaven? [Alta Motors]
"Riders are just beginning to understand the combined benefits of EV today, and our technology continues to progress," Alta Motors Chief Product Officer and co-founder Marc Fenigstein said. "We believe electric motorcycles are the future, and that American companies have an opportunity to lead that future. It's incredibly exciting that Harley-Davidson, synonymous with motorcycle leadership, shares that vision and we're thrilled to collaborate with them." In addition to a financial stake, the two companies will collaborate on electric motorcycle technology and new product development. "Earlier this year, as part of our 10-year strategy, we reiterated our commitment to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders, in part, by aggressively investing in electric vehicle (EV) technology," Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich said. "Alta has demonstrated innovation and expertise in EV and their objectives align closely with ours. We each have strengths and capabilities that will be mutually beneficial as we work together to develop cutting-edge electric motorcycles."

A 1970 Harley-Davidson Aermacchi 250 Ala Verde. [Harley-Davidson Archives]
Harley-Davidson has invested in several smaller bike companies in the past, with mixed results. Aermacchi, Buell and MV Agusta were all temporary bedfellows with H-D, but in the end the Harley-Davidson shut them down or sold them for a dollar (or $3 in the case of MV Agusta).  These purchases  brought new technology to H-D, or riders interested in small/off-road/sports bikes, but in each case the relationship was dramatically severed. EV tech is different, and with the patient trajectory that Alta has chosen, their relationship with H-D might just work for the 115-year-old brand that made Milwaukee famous.

The Alta Pack crams 5.8 kWh into 30.8 kilos with a maximum of 350V, and is waterproof - rated up to IP67. Durable enough to handle impacts and vibrations up to 20G, and digitally self-monitoring. The stacked, honeycomb architecture allows for extreme energy density at 185 watt hours per kilogram.[Alta Motors]
"We believe that EV is where global mobility is headed and holds great appeal for existing riders as well as opportunity to bring new riders into the sport," Levatich added. "We intend to be the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles and, at the same time, remain true to our gas and oil roots by continuing to produce a broad portfolio of motorcycles that appeal to all types of riders around the world." We can't wait to see Alta's cutting-edge, proprietary technology on a Harley-Davidson 'Revelation' roadster (as they've dubbed their proposed e-bike).  If the quality, performance, and fitness for purpose is as good as Alta's dirt bikes, it could bring a totally new crop of riders into the H-D camp...something they desperately need.

 

 


The Ride: Retro-Future Sci-Fi - the Bandit9 L-Concept

In Fritz Lang's 1927 sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis, the year is 2026, and the world's population is divided between coverall-suited industrial laborers working underground, and the champagne-swilling idle rich who live in towers.  Freder, the son of the city's master, abandons his privileged life to join the oppressed workers, after falling in love with the worker Maria, who is soon replicated as a Maschinenmensch (a gynoid/female robot) in an attempt to derail a people's revolution.  Taking artistic license 91 years after the release of Metropolis, Bandit9 has finally designed an escape vehicle for the gynoid Maria, who was captured and burned at the stake in the film...Maria was bad, but ever so beautiful.

The 297-pound L•Concept has a top speed of 68 mph, and is powered by a 125cc, four-speed, air-cooled, four-stroke engine [Bandit9]
The 2018 Bandit9 L•Concept is quite real, and according to Bandit9 founder and chief of design Daryl Villanueva, is his tribute to science fiction history. “The trend nowadays is to go retro, and the L•Concept goes in the opposite direction - and then some,” says Villanueva. “But it wasn't just about creating a futuristic motorcycle or creating the next thing. It was about bringing the impossible to life and injecting a little excitement back into automotive design. It was about bringing to life something you’d see on film or comic books."

The engine cowl belongs on the USS Enterprise  [Bandit9]
Such high-concept talk for a limited production bike usually means Very Expensive, but Bandit9 has been producing shiny futuristic dream bikes since 2013, and knows the ropes. His typical foundation is a license-produced Honda C110 engine, a 60-year old design that's sold in the Millions throughout Asia. That might seem the antithesis of slick, but Villanueva sees it another way; elevating the utilitarian to the sublime. 

Flat dual shocks harken back to Moto Guzzi singles, and are one of the one-off features of the build. [Bandit9]
The Bandit9 team spends most of its development time on design - everything is sorted on paper before the metalwork begins. “There are a lot of forms that are difficult to produce with a single sheetnot dissimilar to origami. So we had to work all that out. There was a lot of testing. There was a lot of failing. We needed to figure out how to place all the foot pegs, kickstand and carburetor elegantly. And of course, the engine has to function and breathe."  At the end of the process, a Bandit9 motorcycle is a functional work of art, with finish work better than robot-built factory machines, and as good as any in the custom scene.

“The L•Concept has been in development for more than two years now,” he added. “We couldn't get into production until we figured out how to create the turbine engine cover, which is quite challenging with all the different shapes and curves.[Bandit9]
Looking like a jet-pistol in profile, the 297-pound L•Concept has a top speed of 68 mph, and is powered by a 125cc, four-speed, air-cooled, four-stroke engine. Ninety inches long with 20-inch wheels, the L•Concept costs $10,950, which includes shipping to your door.  Nine will be made, and four are unsold.  One is coming to TheVintagent's upcoming exhibition at the Petersen Museum in LA, opening on April 14th 2018, and has been acquired by the Petersen for its collection.  And if that isn't a vote of confidence in the future, I'm not sure what is.

Five pure white 6,000K space-ready LEDs [Bandit9]
“The only thing that stands between fact and fiction is time.”[Bandit9]
From the unibody tank to the suspended turbine and maneuver controls, the L•Concept brings all your science fiction fantasies to life  in a fully functional, mechanical sculpture. [Bandit9]


The Current: SURU - the New Cub?

Michael Uhlarik is a professional motorcycle designer with just over 20 years experience designing conventional motorcycles and scooters for Yamaha, Aprilia, Piaggio, Derbi, Bombardier and many others, and simply fell in love with the design potential of electric drive in 2007. The Amarok P1 was his first attempt to do electric motorcycle design properly, starting with a clean sheet approach to minimize weight and maximize efficiency. His team just introduced the SURU One Fifty at the Toronto Motorcycle Show.

Progress was made with the Amarok e-racer, but eventually practicality won out and the focus shifted to SURU. [Arash Moallemi]
Tell me about the journey to launch the Amarok R1, and how it benefits the SURU One Fifty.

The Amarok experiment was all about using less to achieve more: less materials, less expensive and exotic processes, and ultimately less power so that the overall mass (weight) of the bike would be drastically lower. At the time (2010-13), electric bikes were pigs, weighing between 220 - 260 kgs, because everyone was creating conventional frames and bolting in vast amounts of batteries.  

Essentially, the whole industry was just building conventional motorcycles and converting them for electric power, rather than designing them from scratch to be electric motorcycles. The Amarok approach was to build the two-stroke 250cc equivalent in electric bikes: a 125 kg lightweight that was narrow, aerodynamic and therefore could get the same punch from fewer batteries than bikes with double the energy on board. We took nothing for granted, and re-examined every aspect of the motorcycle.  

Like Swedish e-scooter company Vessla, SURU is putting its resources into two-wheeled electric transport. [SURU]
In the end, the Amarok had absolutely no common parts with any motorcycle in production. Fully custom built suspension using Formula 1 concepts, composite construction subframes and some pretty radical motor-to-final-drive layouts. Everything was questioned and redesigned to reduce weight as much as possible and make each part do the work of two or three.

Amarok succeeded in achieving those goals, where the final P1A/B and P2 spec machines tipping the scales at 137 kgs, while putting out 82 hp, a very tight and narrow package. We raced it at Pikes Peak (unsuccessfully) and conducted many track tests to hone the aerodynamics. Ultimately, those bikes taught how to get the similar performance of 12 kW machines using only 6 kW. It was, if you pardon the pun, enlightening.

Suru-One-Fifty-Gulf-Livery.png Photo: SURU [Michael Uhlarik]
Electric bikes come in all shapes and sizes. How did you decide where the One Fifty would slot into the current market?

The Amarok series achieved their design goals by using a proprietary monocoque construction process. Several years after the last P2 was constructed, I was looking for an application of this technology when I read about the explosive growth in electric bicycles. Intrigued, I test rode a bunch and came away excited and at the same time unimpressed. Just as with the early electric motorcycles, it seemed that the e-bike business was about conversion. Conventional frame and suspension designs, conventional components, just with added batteries and electric drive parts.

The first SURU design was laid out and detailed in one weekend, using the Amarok approach and same proprietary construction process. The frame would be the housing for all the electronics and battery, and be so strong that it would require no additional structure for support. It was light, and using motorcycle parts instead of bicycle ones for wheels, tires, brakes, etc., meant that SURU would be easily three to four times stiffer and stronger while only slightly heavier than similar spec e-bikes using bicycle componentry.

Designer Michael Uhlarik knew what he wanted, and wanted to make SURU the new Honda Cub for urban dwellers. Photo: SURU

The SURU concept is not a replacement for a pedal-assist bicycle, but a replacement for a bus pass, Uber, or taking your car. I saw the need for a simple-to-use, utilitarian electric bike that could be used by anyonenot cyclists, and not motorcyclistsbut genuinely anyone who ever wanted reliable personal mobility. It is a perfect A to B to C to A commuter and errand machine. Light, inexpensive, and extremely robust. With integrated dual suspension and DOT-certified lights, wheels and tires, it’s also amazingly robust and offers terrific value.  

Canadian manufacturing at your price point is impressive. How many are you scaled up to make and deliver in 2018?

There are millions of e-bike choices out there now, and most fall into two categories: the first are cheap bicycles conversions, using off the shelf bicycle frames and parts with the electronic parts bolted on and hanging off. Cheap but unreliable, and always made by the lowest bidders in the Far East. People love them until they break down, which they do with monotonous regularity

Simplicity forms the foundation of affordable manufacturing. Photo: SURU

The rest are very fancy bespoke designs by boutique builders and European brands that often cost as much as a small car or name-brand motorcycle.  

SURU is the happy middle ground, a quality, made-in-Canada product that is solid, reliable and yet has street-legal performance that equals machines costing much more. Nothing in the market has our motorcycle engineering in the frame and chassis, certainly not at this price point. We can do that because, like Amarok, we can use much less material to get that performance.

SURU us the modern day equivalent of the Honda Super Cub. Corrected for inflation, the SURU costs about the same as the C90 did in 1958, and has about the same capability albeit with a much lower top speed. The operative point is that the Super Cub opened up powered two-wheelers to millions of people who would otherwise never have considered riding a motorcycle for daily transport.  SURU, by being comfortable, strong and easy to use, opens up the electric bike to people who just don’t want a bicycle, but similarly will not get a license and buy a Vespa or motorcycle. SURU is the transportation missing link for people who want effortless, stylish motorized mobility.

Motorcycle parts instead of bicycle ones for wheels, tires, brakes, etc., meant that SURU would be easily three to four times stiffer and stronger while only slightly heavier than similar spec e-bikes using bicycle componentry. [SURU]
When will we see a SURU land in the US?

The company will be launching a US-spec product in March, with 750-watt power and some unique colors and details. The SURU Two Fifty will retail for $2,900.  

The idea of off-road or special performance SURU products is already gaining steam, as our flat track concept at the Toronto Motorcycle Show garnered lots of praise and attention. Final specs are far from clear, but we see a bike in the 6,000 - 8,000 watt range, with serious dirt only performance potential.

 


The Current: Vessla e-Scooter Bans Uselessness

Swede Rickard Bröms spent 14 years building brands and marketing them for clients. Fed up with relying on public transport, he partnered with scooter experts Peter Klangsell and Mikael Klingberg, who founded KopEnScooter.Nu in 2004. Ten years later the company expanded into electric bicycles under the brand elcykelvaruhuset.se, with triple-digit annual growth. The result is Vessla (Swedish for Weasel - hence the pawprint logo...although it's also a convenient mashup of Tesla and Vespa!), a 2,200euro no-frills electric scooter that’s selling out in small batches in Europe as it inches toward American shores in 2019.

Vessla isn’t some exclusive dandy brand. Vessla is for all of us who cares about the world. And the children. And want a smooth ride. We want everyone to afford a Vessla.” [Vessla]
I spoke with Bröms this week, just one month after he visited San Francisco.

Rickard, when and how did the idea for Vessla happen?

Basically it was me solving my own problem. I think it’s so freakin’ painful to travel to an office by public transport. It’s crowded, stinky and extremely time inefficient. I'd had it, and decided to get an electric scooter, only to realize that there weren’t any good ones out there. A few pretty soulless products, but no brand with a distinct position and some personality. So I thought ‘What the heck? I can’t be the only one googling for e-scooters without finding any…’ There and then I decided to give it a go. This was about October 2016.

Owners can ride on about 40-60 km on a single charge; the distance depends on your weight, tire pressure, wind, temperature, etc. Have range anxiety? Get another battery and double the range; both fit under the seat. [Vessla]
I decided to quit my day job, hooked up with some scooter knowledge and launched by August 2017 without having any Vesslas. They were on a boat to Sweden. But we opened for pre-orders anyway and sold out the first batch in three weeks. In January 2018 Batch 2 was sold out and now where on Batch 3 and have opened up for Norway, Germany and Spain. A few more EU countries will open during the year.  

I'm based in the heart of Silicon Valley, which is tied for second-most congested with Boston (after Los Angeles).  How can the Vessla curtail this nonsense?

I think there’s a lot of fuzz about moving from combustion engine cars to zero emission cars. That’s obviously a good idea. But they’re still cars and they’ll be filling up the roads as before. I think there should be more buzz about moving people from cars to light electric vehicles. From wide four-wheelers to slim two-wheelers. Not pods, four wheeled e-bikes or such. Slim LEVs. Like Vesslas. I think bicycles are great but they are obviously not for everyone since so few use them.

Powered by Bosch, which has hundreds of service centers all around Europe. [Vessla]
Here in Sweden, which is a pretty decent bicycle-friendly country, only six percent bike to work. About 80 percent still use cars or public transport. A significant chunk of those suffer each day and waste loads of time. I visited San Francisco a month ago and those hills aren’t very bike friendly. I heard that 30 percent of the car usage in SF are people looking for parking. That’s nuts. So yes, the Vessla mission is all about fighting traffic congestion and give the poor planet some slack at the same time. Would probably suit SF and Silicon Valley perfectly.

Speaking of the US, when will Vesslas be available here?

Our goal is to launch in the US during 2019. Focus is SF, LA, NYC and Boston. By then we’ll hopefully have our subscription service The Vessla Club live. I think some kind of servicification will give us a better shot across the pond. Like scooter as a service. Buying a Vessla will be like signing up for a mobile phone subscription. But that’s a secret so don’t tell anyone.

The Vessla is happiest running at 45 kph. [Vessla]
Who are the people behind the design, and where are they made?

We had a very simple design thought. The Vessla must look like a scooter. Not a spaceship. Accessible and non-snobby. We left out fluffy features customers don’t use. No app where you can honk the scooter. It’s just a scooter. But it’s totally silent, emission free and very soft to drive. We are new and small so we made a collaboration with some consultants and used the manufacturer for construction.

We make them in China. They are ten years ahead of Europe. But you really need to know where to go. It’s a jungle. So sorry, but no fancy industrial designer. But hey, this is our virginity model. Our Tesla Roadster. We are already under way with Vessla 2 and Vessla 3.

What's next for Vessla; any additional models planned?

Yes, but we won’t say when. Our future focus will be design, safety and theft control. We’ve banned uselessness.

Available in Lebowski Black or Lennox Blue, the 2,200 euro Vessla is coming to America in 2019. [Vessla]

The Current: A New Era for MotoGP

Technology lovers cheered while internal combustion engine Luddites jeered, as MotoGP introduced its fledgling e-bike series with representatives from Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), Dorna Sports, Enel and Energica Motor Company in Rome on February 6.

Former GP 250cc world champion Loris Capirossi vetted several e-bike manufacturers before choosing Italy’s Energica last December [Energica Motor Company]
The FIM Enel MotoE World Cup debuts in early 2019, with five European 10-lap races involving seven independent (non-factory) MotoGP teams. The bigger news is the machine on which 18 racers will pilot: the Energica EgoGP, selected by former GP 250cc world champion Loris Capirossi.

 According to Dorna, the Energica EgoGP race bikes could have up to 50 kWh of battery on board; Enel will also employ a battery-equipped mobile charger at the five races, capable of recharging the machines in less than 30 minutes. Michelin—sole tire supplier to MotoGP—was tapped to provide tires to the MotoE World Cup.

MotoE braintrust: Energica CEO Livia Cevolini, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and Enel CEO Francesco Starace at the launch in Rome February 6th. [Energica Motor Company]
The star of the show in Rome was the Energica EgoGP, made in Modena, Italy’s famous region for motorsports manufactucturing (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati). With a top speed of 155 mph and acceleration of 0-60 in three seconds, Energica claims 147.5 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm, and maximum continuous power of 110 kW (147hp/cv). The motor is synchronous oil-cooled with permanent magnets. In short, plenty of va-va-voom! to go with that sexy exterior.

There’s been some discussion that nine-times MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi might make it 10 on an e-bike. He’s racing for the mighty Movistar Yamaha factory team, which is not participating in the MotoE World Cup—yet.

Italian energy company Enel is title sponsor of the fledgling MotoE World Cup, also providing charging stations at each event in Europe next year. [Energica Motor Company]

The Current: Bellissima Italian Volt!

Between June 10 - July 23, 2013, Nicola Colombo and Valerio Fumagalli rode electric motorcycles from Shanghai to Milan, covering 7,691.94 miles through 12 countries in 44 days. This set a Guinness World record, which still stands for the Italian friends / co-founders of Italian Volt, an e-bike maker in Milan that relies on 3D-printing technology.

 

Along with co-founder Adriano Stellino, the young company has developed (and will soon be producing) the Lacama, a 245kg e-bike with a nearly 200km range and a top speed of 180kph (100mph) with 153 pound-feet of torque. I recently spoke with Colombo and Stellino about the genesis of the company, and what to expect in the next year.

The first Lacama prototype took 6,000 hours to make [Italian Volt]
Nicola, you're coming up on five years since your record-breaking e-bike ride from China to Italy. What has transpired since that adventure, and how is the company doing?

I’m happy that our Guinness World record is yet to be beaten! I’ve learned so much from that adventure; not only technicalities of EV that became so useful in our project, but also the resilience to overcome infinite number of challenges, failures, and problems.

Italian Volt is currently in the advanced prototype phase with its first motorcycle - Lacama - but over the last few months we’ve been also focused on extending our engineering operations which are essential to implement all the technologies we have in our roadmap. We’re currently working on projects that span from an AI-based battery management system to innovative thermal management solutions for lithium-ion battery packs, just to name a few.

The future of Italian Volt—beside becoming an iconic made-in-Italy design shop which has its essence in the Lacama motorbike—is to be a solution provider in the fast growing EV marketplace.

Lacama is derived from the Italian word la camaleonte, for chameleon [Italian Volt]
Adriano, the lines and the aesthetic of the Lacama is very industrial and modern. What lies beneath that exterior that sets it apart from other e-bikes?

When I first imagined Lacama I knew the proportions of the bike should be dynamic but not too advanced, as e-bikes can be scary to new customers. The result is a bike that appears quite “regular,” but once you get closer you’re attracted and start to catch details.

A big challenge compared to using a traditional petrol engine bike was placing the battery pack and give it a good looking shape while hiding the controller and charger beneath the body.

Hidden in the fine print are the words “Don’t drink and ride; it is illegal and dangerous. Make love instead and ride later.”

Nicola, how long did the first concept take to bring to reality?

It’s been two years now, but somehow it’ll go over for many years more, because we’re creating something unique to every customer, making the journey our mission, not the destination.

Adriano, is it a challenge to procure parts and components from companies like Brembo and Ohlins, or are they more than willing to be a part of the e-bike movement?

A new noiseless driving experience—where the handling and performance are still as important as a combustion engine bike—prompts us to choose aftermarket components (brakes, suspension, tires) from the best companies. A challenge for us is to always combine design and components in a unique way.

You get an 80 percent charge in 40 minutes with the Lacama [Italian Volt]
The unibody 'tank' and tail looks intriguing. Was this one of the first design features developed, or...?

I found the inspiring idea of Lacama’s design in sculptures, with no gap or cutting line that divides the body in different parts, only one sculptured shape that follow any single client’s wish. This is definitely something no one else offers in the market.

In automotive design, any car born as a body shape without any lines looks amazing before being “sectioned” by dividing doors, fenders, bumpers, etc. I’ve always wanted to see a vehicle that somehow can skip that part and be really different.

Nicola, when might production models become available, and what is the approximate retail price in US dollars?

We started accepting pre-orders for a small series of 15 units last October; so far our manufacturing capacity has been fulfilled and we’re very happy about it. The first 15 bikes to be produced are designed together with our customers throughout specific projects where we don’t pose any limit. The price is variable as the bikes are quite different one to each other, and started at $38,000.

Our target for 2019 is to scale up the production by maintaining the customization philosophy but offering a bespoke process where the customer can choose among an extensive catalogue of options. This second series will have a list price targeted around $45,000.

 

 


The Current: Swedish Cake Serves Up Kalk

Swedish design manager Stefan Ytterborn has worked for globally recognized brands including IKEA, Ericsson, Saab and Absolut Vodka. In 2005 he launched POC, a cycling and snow protective gear company that was purchased by Dainese in 2015. Ytterborn and his new team at Cake just introduced the Kalk electric off-road motorcycle, with a range of 50 miles and a top speed to match.

The frame and swingarm are made made with extruded 6061 aluminum, both CNC jointed and welded with a carbon fiber body. [Cake]
Influenced by downhill and enduro mountain bikes, the Kalk motorcycle weighs just under 150 pounds, compared to 250 pounds for a typical off-road ICE bike. Every part of the Kalk—including rolling chassis (frame, cockpit, wheels and tires), components, suspension and drivetrain—was engineered, designed and manufactured for optimal performance.

“Light, silent and clean electric off-road motorbikes will make the era of noise, disturbance, pollution and complexity a thing of the past,” Ytterborn said. “The category will evolve into an independent pursuit, offering action and magic in combination with responsibility and respect toward people and planet.”

A $1,000 deposit gets you in line for just one of 50 limited-edition Kalks, with delivery slated for mid summer 2018. Retail price is $14,000.

The Kalk is a high-concept, limited-production design item, with visual cues reminiscent of Philippe Starck's iconic Aprilia Moto 6.5 - it's those seamless surface transitions and ultra-clean, pale color tones.  While it has excellent suspension, brakes, and theoretical performance, it's real-world off-road capabilities remain to be seen - is this a serious dirt bike, or a beautiful trail bike?   Or something else - a beautiful object?

Only 50 Cake Kalks will be made, with the $14,000 eBikes starting delivery in mid June 2018. [Cake]
The handlebar is made from aerospace-grade 7050 aluminum, is 800mm wide with a 20mm rise and 31.8mm clamp diameter. [Cake]
The 15kW mid motor is powered by a 51.8V, 50Ah battery to produce 16 hp. [Cake]
The upside down Öhlins fork is air/oil sprung and features 38mm stanchion tubes for extra rigidity and strength, with 204mm travel. Adjustable for high-speed compression, low-speed compression and low-speed rebound. [Cake]
The front hub is CNC machined from 7075 aircraft aluminum, using a 25mm axle and stainless steel SKF cartridge bearings. [Cake]


The Current: German (e-)Drive, Italian Flair

Six years ago, most electric bicycles looked uninspired and frumpy. Battery packs were bolted to the downtube or mounted on a rear rack. While working on his Master’s thesis in 2012, Hannes Biechele and a group of friends discussed what a more natural and integratable eBike drive system could look like.

The Pinarello Nytro eBike weighs just 28 pounds, powered by the German-made Fazua Evation drive system. Photo: Pinarello

“We didn’t like the feel and look of the common drive systems,” the Biechele said. “They were too heavy and bulky for our taste. So we founded Fazua. We then worked very hard to create the Evation drive system—which provides this unique natural driving experience—while being lightweight and integratable at the same time. We started deliveries of the final Fazua Evation drive system in summer 2017.”

The Fazua Evation is a three-part compact drive system: bottom bracket, battery and drivepack. The 2.88-pound bottom bracket provides up to 44.28 foot pounds of torque, while the 250W, 36V replaceable 3.04-pound battery has a range of 31 miles, with a 100 percent charge time of three to four hours. The 4.41-pound drivepack provides pedelec support at 15 mph, and up to 400W of power. Combined, the Evation drive system weighs just 10.33 pounds.

Fazua co-founder and CEO Hannes Biechele in the company’s Munich manufacturing facility. Photo: Fazua

The most high profile bicycle brand to partner with Fazua is Pinarello, the Italian manufacturer which has won more Tours de France than any other maker. The Pinarello Nytro eBike was introduced in late November of 2017, and most onlookers are hard-pressed to understand that it’s not an electric bike, based on its normalcy compared to a stock carbon fiber Pinarello racing bike used by Team Sky.

According to Pinarello’s marketing director Florian Martin, its design lab developed the Nytro in just six months. Martin said Pinarello chose the Fazua Evation drive systems for several reasons.

“A Pinarello must be aerodynamic, beautiful and must provide an exceptional ride feeling,” he explained. “Aerodynamics and design integration are important; the Fazua system is well integrated, when you look at the bike from a few meters, you almost wouldn’t tell it’s an eBike. Also, ride quality; the pedal assistance is smooth and seamless, thanks to a specific software and Fazua algorithm.”

The 3.04-pound Fazua replaceable lithium-ion battery offers the best ratio between energy and weight. Removing the drive pack and battery drops the overall weight close to 20 pounds! Photo: Pinarello

The Nytro weighs just 28 pounds, and is designed to work without the battery and drivepack, taking the weight down to a rather competitive 20 pounds. The €6,250 bike is currently just available in Europe, the UK and Switzerland. I asked Biechele when Fazua-equipped bikes will be available in the US.

“We’re working on selling in the United States,” he said. “But unfortunately, there are some bureaucratic obstacles we have to face first. By 2020 Fazua-equipped bicycles will be available in the US. For anyone interested in trying Fazua out, we will be at Interbike in Reno this year.”

The Fazua Evation bottom bracket with a double-side torque measurement and integrated cadence sensors, to allow the system to adapt in real time the amount of power provided to the chain. The result is a pedal assistance that’s effective but not invasive. Photo: Pinarello

Biechele and his team now total 30, with plans to hire another 20 people by the end of 2018.

“As we are producing everything here in Munich, we’re mostly looking for support in the production area,” he added. “The other departments will grow this year, too. Our current partners are Cube, Focus, Fantic, Bianchi and Pinarello. In 2018 we will be represented in gravel, urban, road and cross-country bikes. Additional bikes and manufacturing partners will be launched in summer 2018. Some of them are big names and others are complete newcomers.”

A simple and easy remote control on the handlebar. Through three buttons and a display LED bar, it allows the rider to read the battery state of charge and control the five riding modes functions. Photo: Pinarello

The Current: Martin Hulin of Essence Motocycles

Twenty-nine-year-old French designer Martin Hulin grew up riding motocross and racing motorcycles. He started his career in the bicycle industry for Cycles Devinci in Canada, designing the Wilson Carbon downhill bicycle, then transitioned to motorsports with the Formula E Season 3 facelift and other electric automotive projects. Launching Essence Motocycles with Pierre-Yves Gilton brought him full circle to his throttle-twisting roots. (Note: the term 'motocycle' is among the oldest for a powered 2-wheeler; Indian used it until 1934! - Ed.)

We spoke recently with Hulin from his office Lyon, France about his $60,000 custom electric motorcycle, and future plans for the company.

The Essence E-Raw on the road - different! [Thomas Cortesi]
How did the first e-raw bike evolve?

I initiated the design of the e-raw concept a few years ago. Pierre-Yves joined the project two years ago and managed the powertrain development. Since then, with skills and passion of each member of our team and partners, the e-raw is a riding prototype. We officially launched Essence in early 2017 by introducing a very limited series of 10 fully customizable electric motorcycles.

Essence co-founders Martin Hulin (l) and Pierre-Yves Gilton. [Thomas Cortesi]
How many orders have you taken, and where in the world are those customers?

People ride motorcycles all over the world, so purchase requests come from the four corners of the earth. We already registered four reservations; it goes fast and we’re happy to meet our first customers’ needs. In order to reward the pioneer spirit of our first 10 customers, they will also receive a company share of Essence Motocycle.

Rather impressive that Pierre-Yves developed the battery pack, which some consider the true intellectual property of an electric bike. How long did that take to develop, and are you happy with its performance so far?

For me, motorcycling is about passion and performance. Powertrain is always a big deal and especially for electric bikes. Pushing boundaries of power storage, we developed our powertrain for both performance and range. Pierre-Yves has great expertise in AC/DC stuff and is doing an awesome job. It’s not the first time he has engineered a powertrain as he developed many electrified automotive projects before.

The wooden seat is reportedly more comfortable than it looks, and fills the design void left by not having a standard gas tank. Does its profile remind you of a skate or surf board?  [Thomas Cortesi]

It took only several months to run the first riding tests of e-raw but since then, we haven’t stopped improving the performances. We matched our goals: 200 km/h speed and 200 km range. But the more power you get, the more speed you need, so we keep pushing.

A 368-pound motorcycle hits the sweet spot. How did you determine your wheelbase and steering geometry?

Weight has always been the enemy of speed (and range for electric bikes). So we worked hard to keep it simple, because what is simple is light. Just like what is simple is robust and what is robust is lasting.

The brushless motor is made by Emrax, and the battery management system is from Elektromotus. Gilton’s battery pack uses a CCS quick charging system, ready to go in 30 minutes. [Thomas Cortesi]

Leonardo da Vinci once said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” At Essence this rules our decision-making processes. The frame geometry was designed for a natural ride whatever the riding mode. The feeling is clean and sharp.

What are your plans once 10 people have received their e-raw machines?

We’re already preparing the next step, mixing industrial organization and handcrafted work. Stay tuned, because 2018 will be electrifying!

A steel trellis frame takes a page out of the KTM and Ducati notebooks. [Thomas Cortesi]

The Current: E-MTB With Hall of Famer Joe Murray

As a teenager growing up in Marin County, California, Joe Murray built wheels and assembled bicycles for mountain bike pioneer Gary Fisher, before becoming a national champion cross-country racer. This led to stints designing bikes for Bob Buckley’s Marin Bicycles, Kona and VooDoo. A quarter century ago Murray became a skunkworks tester for the mighty component maker Shimano, providing critical feedback before, during and after the prototype and production process.

1985 racing in the Suntour Pacific States Series in Bend, Oregon. [Found on Old-School MTB]
Murray was inducted in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988, and hasn’t rested on his laurels since. The 54-year-old has a shop in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he tests the latest Shimano STEPS electric mountain bike power plant. We spoke recently about the genesis of the Japanese giant’s foray into e-bikes in this exclusive interview.

When did the discussion in Japan begin about Shimano STEPS, and when was the first working prototype installed on a bike in your Flagstaff workshop?

There’s a division at Shimano where we come up with ideas and produce prototypes for testing and proof of concept. Many of these projects never get produced. In this respect, we’ve been testing off-road electric bikes for over a decade in one form or another. I like to think we used this early E-MTB Shimano testing experience when we started with Shimano’s first bottom bracket drive unit (E6000) for commuter bikes.

The carbon Pivot Shuttle relies on the Shimano STEPS E8000 drive, and at 44 pounds is one of the lightest full suspension E-MTBs available, but only in Europe for now. Photo: Pivot Cycles

Even though this drive system was intended for commuting, we began testing it off road before it was introduced to the public. During this time the project for a dedicated off-road drive system (E8000) began. We had already been testing Bosch-drive bikes and others for a long time. The development cycle can go a long time until we get it right. So it’s been quite a few years since I got the first E8000 bike sent to my shop for long-term testing. We then went through a number of pre-production drive units until it was released.

You’ve had a Pivot Shuttle eMTB for how long now? Tell me what it’s like riding a 44-pound full suspension pedal-assist bike around the San Francisco Peaks.

I first rode the Shuttle over a year ago and had my own not long after that. We’ve tested many full-suspension MTBs. There were a few Shimano STEPS-specific test bikes I had for long-term testing, but it wasn’t until I got the Pivot prototype that I felt I had a bike as dialed in as this. The guys at Pivot have been committed to the Shimano system from the beginning and the owner Chris (Cocalis) was really cool to show me how the development of the bike was going from early on. The prototype bike is made from aluminum, which is what many companies build to test before they begin tooling for carbon. The production Shuttle is carbon, and I’m still on the aluminum prototype because it’s a great riding bike.

A 500Wh lithium ion battery provides the extra oomph. Photo: Pivot Cycles

We have hundreds of miles of trails right out of town and specifically really good motorized trails here in Flagstaff. There are quite a few moto riders here, including Rob “Fig” Naughton, a local off-road legend who also raced downhill mountain bikes. Fig made the effort to keep local trails open to motorized use. This is important to E-MTB riders.

How challenging was it to lighten the E8000 powerplant and create an almost seamless aesthetic with the drivetrain and downtube battery placement? And how much co-development did you share with Chris at Pivot? Getting the suspension and handling dialed must’ve been a challenge with an extra 20 pounds compared to a non e-bike.

Weight is not really the hard part since it’s not critical to managing overall control. Most of the work was getting the drive unit output to more seamlessly match rider input. There were countless days of testing different firmware that focused on the profile of how the power matches the rider input so it does not surge or remains on just long enough for a smooth feel with each pedal stroke. The torque sensor has to be nearly perfect to read the rider output and respond how we want it to on the trail in as many conditions as possible.

The Shimano STEPS E8000 is a 250W drive unit offering up to 70Nm of torque. Photo: Pivot Cycles

We knew early on the power matching issue of course, but also we found that having to switch power modes too much was not ideal. The best thing would be to never have to change the power mode at all. And I think we’re closer to that than anyone else. It’s too much of a hassle to switch it higher to power easily up a steep section and then having to switch it lower so the bike does not surge into corners or rocks at lower speed. There’s the dropper seatpost to constantly adjust so we don’t want another lever to push constantly.

We worked with Chris to some degree because he was testing prototypes with the Shimano drive system. And as far as the extra weight and all that, they knew what needed to be done to the suspension and geometry get the bike to handle properly. The Shuttle is based on a Switchblade, yet it only started from that and became quite a different machine obviously.

The Pivot Shuttle retails for nearly $12,000 in Europe. Photo: Pivot Cycles

All things considered, it hasn’t taken very long for the bicycle industry to ramp up high-tech battery-powered machines. What will we see in the near future from Shimano?

I can’t really say what we’re planning next, but there are many ideas and projects happening. These bikes are a blast to ride and a killer workout, too. I use it on recovery days since I can dial in the level of effort really easy which makes it a great training tool. Yet it’s quite a different beast to ride and the bottom line is it’s really fun. The more that riders discover E-MTBs the more they’ll want to ride them. I’m stoked that Shimano is fully committed to it and that I’m a part of it, too.

Joe Murray has been developing mountain bike technology for several manufacturers for more than three decades. Photo: Maurice Tierney

 


The Current: Moto-E World Cup To Race Energica Egos

MotoGP gets a new category in 2019, the Moto-e World Cup, with bikes provided by Energica.

As we reported recently in our interview with Belgian e-bike maker Saroléa, MotoGP owners Dorna were quietly testing several electric bikes to decide which single manufacturer would supply racing machines for the five-race Moto-e World Cup in 2019.  Mugen, Lightning, Saroléa, and Energica racers were vetted by former 250cc World Champion Loris Capirossi, with Italiy's Energica chosen to supply its race-tuned and modified Ego machine.

The 570-lb, 145 hp Energica Ego will go on a strict diet before its debut in 2019.

“The FIM Moto-e World Cup is a new and exciting project for Dorna, and it makes us very proud to announce Energica will be the supplier in this new venture,” said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. “We believe in excellence, quality and performance and we cannot think of a better collaborator with whom to launch the FIM Moto-e World Cup. Energica are an industry-leading and innovative company and we look forward to the incredible spectacle of electric-powered racing together.”

Eighteen riders will contest five races in Europe only, with a minimum of 10 laps per race.

The street Ego accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds, reaching a top speed of 150 mph, faster than a 600 supersport. The Ego’s battery, inverter, charger and ABS are constantly monitored and managed by the Vehicle Control Unit (VCU), completely designed and developed by Energica. The VCU implements multimap adaptive energy, and a power management algorithm manages the bike.

Additionally, the Ego does not have a gearbox or a clutch; everything is regulated by the ride-by-wire system, allowing the rider to control the acceleration torque of the motor and deceleration based on the regenerative torque or engine braking. Enerica manufactures its bikes in the same region as Ferrari.

“We are proud to have been chosen by Dorna and we are already committed to this project,” said Energica CEO Livia Cevolini. “The passion for engines is what brought us here, to build new dream vehicles right in the beating heart of the Italian Motor Valley, Modena, Italy. Moto-e is an excellent project. After all, it is what we hoped since our racing years, now it can be managed professionally thanks to Dorna and its unique and long-lasting experience.”

When the green light flashes for that first FIM Moto-e World Cup race start in 2019, the roar of the crowd will certainly be heard over the silent running of 18 Italian e-stallions, and we can’t wait.

[Photo: Energica Motor Company]


The Current: Livio Suppo - From MotoGP to eMTB

Photos: Thok E-Bikes

Exclusive to The Vintagent

The piercing steel-blue eyes of Livio Suppo will no longer grace the MotoGP paddock, as the 53-year-old Italian recently announced his departure as team principal of the mighty Repsol Honda Racing following Marc Marquez’s fourth premier class world title in late November. In a surprise move, Suppo will join long-time mountain bike riding friend Stefano Migliorini at Thok E-Bikes, the Italian electric mountain bike company already making ground in the burgeoning market. Suppo’s decision to jump from MotoGP to e-bikes will certainly have large ramifications.

We spoke with Suppo to discuss his new career path after he took time off from his celebrations with HRC.

Toni Bou with the Thok prototype E-Bike

Q: Congratulations on your new career shift! I bet it felt good to leave the MotoGP world with another championship under your belt. How long ago did you make the private decision to step away from motorcycles and into electric mountain bikes?

Ciao! Well, it’s been a long process. I knew I didn't want to stay in the paddock all my life. I started planning to do something else few years ago, and at the end of the 2017 season I thought it was the right time to leave at the top. This gives me energy for my new project.

Q: How long have you known Stefano Migliorini, and how did you begin working with him and Thok? Tell me about TCN Group, and what your involvement will be.

I’ve known Stefano for many years, and we’ve always wanted to build up something together. This became a reality when we spoke with Giuseppe Bernocco and Sebastiano Astegiano, main shareholders of the TCN Group. We’re proud to have been able to build up Thok E-Bikes, a company that has the perfect mix of passion and entrepreneurial skills.

Details of the Thock E-Bike battery and crank-centered motor

Q: The pageantry and spectacle of MotoGP was be rather addictively intense. Did you enjoy your 22 years at that level, and what will you bring to Thok from that experience?

I enjoyed great times in my MotoGP career. I had the honor to work for big brands, from Benetton at the debut, to Ducati Corse and Honda Racing. As a motorsport addict I couldn't ask for more! I hope that I’ll be able to bring good ideas and the same dedication to Thok as I did to my former MotoGP teams.

Q: What did you learn the most from your time in the MotoGP paddock?

Many things! I spent 22 years of my life with them, so clearly I learned a plenty. The most important thing is "never give up." In racing as well in life, this is a must.

The Thok partners with their prototype E-Bike

Q: You’ve worked for two titans of the motorsport world, Ducati and Honda. As we see with the bicycle world, Shimano reigns supreme, with Bosch, Continental and others joining the electric bike revolution. Even Yamaha has entered the arena. Where do you and Stefano plan to take Thok? Will you rely on the contacts you made at the highest level of MotoGP?

The Thok E-bike project is super exciting! Stefano and I are building this "start up" in a fast growing market. Everything is new for me, while Stefano has experience in the mountain bike world, where he was a professional racer in the `90s. Our goal is to build something special, with high performance ebikes with an Italian design in cooperation with famous MotoGP designer Aldo Drudi. Toni Bou, 22 times world trials champion, is our brand ambassador and also helped us develop the MIG model. And we have several clients related to MotoGP, including 250cc world champion Loris Capirossi.

Livio Suppo and Stefano Migliorini, partners in Thok E-Bikes

Q: What’s the potential of electric motorcycles, now that Dorna has committed to a new support class?  Mugen certainly seems to be the favorite for Dorna’s one-make plans debuting in 2019.

It’s difficult to say in the short term. The future will certainly include electric in MotoGP, but nobody knows when and if a complete switch to electric will happen in our lifetime. Dorna, as always, has done a good job anticipating the future and I think they will be ready thanks to the new support class.

Livio Suppo with Aldo Drudi on the design of the Thok E-Bike

 


Billy Al Bengston: Art in Motion

Photos: Billy Al Bengston

Artist Billy Al Bengston packs quite a wallop in his slight 83-year-old frame. One of his best friends is architect Frank Gehry, who, like Bengston, came west to ply his avant-garde craft at a time when design, art and culture was rigid and uptight. Bengston was a motorcycle racer, and his abstract approach to art attracted other like-minded characters in `60s southern California, where Bengston has called home ever since, specifically Venice. Actor and director Dennis Hopper, portrait artist Don Bachardy and his partner—the novelist Christopher Ishwerwood—blended cultures and influences that still resonate decades later.

Billy Al Bengston on his BSA Victor in the Ballona Wetlands, Marina del Rey, California, 1966. [Billy Al Bengston]
In the late 1940s, Bengston’s family shed its Kansas skin for a new life in southern California, where Billy Al would shape pop art while racing motorcycles, surfing, and riding his bicycle around Venice. He eventually took residence in an old newspaper building near the beach, where work space and gallery space combined, and his friendships with Andy Warhol, Hopper, Gehry, Bachardy and others influenced a legion of artists. Bengston's 'Artist's Studio' at 110 Mildred Street—a nondescript brick building blocks from the ocean and muscle beach—has been his home for nearly 70 years. His nickname, Moondoggie, was borrowed for a character in the surfer movie Gidget, sparking a watery revolution in the late Fifties.

In the early ’60s, Bengston began racing motorcycles professionally; he found inspiration in the bikes, incorporating them as a subject. At the same time, Bengston made his name in the art scene by using lacquered auto paint to create high-gloss geometric and abstract forms on metals and canvases, using the chevron and iris as his calling cards. "Both racing and art take tenacity, talent, hard work, knowledge and skill," he said in a 2004 interview.

Bengston's legendary painting 'Skinny's 21'; a BSA Catalina Gold Star

In October 2016, Bengston had a showing at VENUS Over Manhattan gallery on Madison Avenue in New York, where he presented his B.S.A. Motorcycle Series, (1961), 12 paintings originally shown at Ferus gallery on North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1961, in addition to new blue monochromes dedicated to Aub LeBard, an off-road motorcycle racer, and co-owner of the LeBard & Underwood motorcycle shop, Bengston’s first sponsor. “I went to Europe in 1958, and rode all around on a Lambretta,” Bengston said in an interview with Jennifer Samet. “I returned to New York, waiting for my scooter to come. It finally came, but they managed to drop it off the van, and bend the front forks. I sent it back to California but I couldn’t get anyone to fix it. “I called around and finally talked to the LeBard shop. Even though they were a B.S.A. motorcycle shop, they agreed to fix it. I so admired the motorcycle racers and the people. I said, ‘I have got to get into this.’ It was a thrill and a half. Aub LeBard was an inspiration and later became my sponsor.

Billy Al Bengston pondering his BSA racer in his studio in LA, ca.1966

“Racing motorcycles was supposed to be the most dangerous thing you could do,” Bengston said. “So I did it to make a living. I did stunts in movies, too. I had done gymnastics training. I always tried to take a job that would pay the most for the least amount of time, so that I could go back to work quickly. I could jump off a building and make enough to live for a month, without even thinking about it. Sometimes it would be enough to live for three or four months—rent and food.” Bengston’s grit came from his pursuit of a handmade world, one where he determined his vocation and destiny. Thank God it included motorcycles. “I do what I do,” Bengston added. “I have no fucking idea why. When I painted these motorcycle paintings, I pissed people off beyond belief. I don’t know why. They’re just paintings. You don’t have to look at them. Whenever I get in trouble, I quote Ken. He said, `The only thing you have to do to outrage people is anything.’ Throughout his career he’s ebbed and flowed with monochromatic paintings, which he says is somewhat of an inside joke. His 2016 show included a motorcycle he raced, which he got from Aub’s shop.

One of Bengston's thematic images, the chevron, both a graphic shape and - just possibly - a reminder of the Vietnam war being raged at the time

“At the time, I told him, ‘I’m going to paint this motorcycle.’” Aub said, `You can paint it any color you want to, as long as it’s blue.’ Everything he owned was blue. It’s a challenge to do everything in monochrome. You have to do a lot with textural variation—thin and thick paint. You remove highlights so you have to build highlights. You remove the center of interest, so you have to build center of interest. They’re all built differently.” Bengston also thinks inspiration comes and goes, but is never eternal, and rarely replicated.

Bengston's 'Ideal Exhaust' (1961)

“The painting Ideal Exhaust (1961) is so naïve that I could never do it again,” he said. “I couldn’t do it that good. I don’t think there’s anything here I could do again. If you get it real realistic, you can do it again. But if you’re clumsily making it abstract, it’s very hard to repaint. You don’t have the instruments; you don’t think the same way. Your hand works differently.”

'Barrel and Exhaust Pipe' (1961)

“There are mistakes in that painting that I can’t believe that I made—three or four things I could point out, but I won’t. If you look at Barrel & Exhaust Pipe (1961), the exhaust pipe is incorrectly placed. It don’t look like that. I don’t know why I did it that way. Maybe because I couldn’t do it right, and I thought no one else would know the difference. I’m not really anal compulsive. I sorta like zits sometimes. If you like perfection, it ain’t gonna look perfect later. You’ve gotta learn to love it (or not).”

'Red' (1961)

 

 


The Current: Saroléa is Alive and Electric

Joseph Saroléa established his arms factory in Liège in 1850, and like many manufacturers of the era evolved his company into a bicycle maker in the early 1890s. His sons bolted a 1.5-hp 247cc engine to a Royale Saroléa bicycle, and were soon exporting their race-winning motorcycles to Italy. By 1910 they sold 10,000 bikes, mainly V-twins. Times were good for the Belgian maker throughout the early part of the 20th century, but like many of its European contemporaries, the `60s proved difficult, and by 1973 it ceased to exist.

At the Isle of Man TT, rider Dean Harrison took the Saroléa SP7 to 4th place with a race average of 108.064mph

Twin brothers Torsten and Bjorn Robbens bought the brand and established a manufacturing facility in their hometown of Ghent. To tighten the historical corporate thread, their great uncle was a successful Saroléa motocross racer named André Van Heuverzwijn.  I spoke with Torsten recently, just as he was preparing to have MotoGP’s safety advisor and former 250cc world champion Loris Capirossi test his SP7 for potential inclusion in the new electric class being introduced to the MotoGP series in 2019.

The Sarolea SP7 being wheeled on the Isle of Man TT circuit

Q: Torsten, tell me about your work background prior to acquiring Saroléa.

I’ve been riding bikes with my twin brother since we were four years old. Spent 10 years working in F1 and Le Mans endurance racing. Still the youngest team manager to win Le Mans with Audi Japan Team Goh. Have worked on several space projects providing lightweight carbon fiber optical parts

Q: I first learned about Saroléa when I watched a video highlighting the MANX7. Not only was the scenery luscious, the bike was heavenly, unlike any modern bike I’ve seen before. Tell me about the decision you and Bjorn made to relaunch the Saroléa brand.

Following the first electric motorcycle race at the Isle of Man TT, we saw a unique opportunity to combine our skills, to design and build our own electric motorcycle. We have a long motorcycle history in the family, and a very special relation with the Saroléa brand. Our grand uncle was a factory rider for Saroléa in the 1950s, so it seemed logical to acquire the brand rights to the one of the oldest motorcycle brands in the world, and give it a new boost.

Q: What prompted you to enter the electric motorcycle space after acquiring the Saroléa brand in 2008?

It was rather early days for non ICE bikes even then… Our goal has always been to make sure the Saroléa brand is still around in 50 years’ time. It was still early days, but the potential of an electric drivetrain is so huge that it can compete with the best combustion engines. It is far more reliable and less complex, meaning you can enjoy riding the bikes more because maintenance is almost nonexistent.

Q: Participating in the Isle of Man TT cannot be inexpensive. Do you believe strongly in the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday?” In other words, are you hoping that the experience and publicity associated with racing will bolster sales of the MANX7?

This is exactly the case. The major part of our sales comes directly from the fact that we are racing the Isle of Man TT. It gives us a global coverage, and sets us in direct completion with some of the biggest brands out there. The Isle of Man TT is probably the hardest proving ground on the planet. It makes us push our technology and our bikes to the limit, resulting in road bikes for our consumers that are at the forefront of EV technology.

The 2017 Sarolea SP7

Q: Speaking of the MANX7; how many have you sold, and what is the retail price range? What target demographic are you pursuing?

The 2018 MANX7 will get its world premiere later this year but we have already sold the first 10 bikes. Prices start at €50,000. Our customers are people who enjoy handcrafted, high-performance vehicles.

Q: How did you manage to get a 90 percent charge time of just 25 minutes? That’s more than impressive, especially with a 300km combined range.

The range is a direct effect from our TT bikes performance where extremely high speeds over a long distance mean for road use the bikes can travel more than 300 km. We have always focused on fast DC charging, because no customer wants to wait 8 hours to charge up a bike. Our partnership with ABB (No.1 in the world for fast DC charging) has led to technological results that allow extremely fast charging with minimal impact on the battery life.

Q: Getting back to the Isle of Man TT effort, you have some impressive technical partners, namely Bridgestone, Cap It and Beringer. Where does your financial backing come from?

Biggest part of our racing program is self-funded. Bridgestone and DQ Advocates are our main financial partners. Of course, to make successful racing bikes, the technical input and support of all our suppliers is crucial. We co-develop technology with them, which we implement in the road going bikes we sell.

Q: Two fourths and a fifth on the Isle is rather impressive, especially reaching 108.064 mph. How does a small manufacturer like Saroléa find the extra oomph to improve for next time?

Performance at the TT is driven by handling, weight, aero and of course battery technology. Our electric drive train is so powerful that it is capable of remaining the same even when batteries become better in the years to come.  Our biggest advantage is our agility to implement new technology very quickly. Being a relatively small company is certainly an advantage compared to our bigger competitors.

Q: Norton’s Stuart Garner is also keen to do well on the Isle. Have you chatted with him and shared hopes and dreams?

We have a good relationship. There are of course many similarities between both companies. For both companies racing at the TT is important.

Q: Dorna recently announced plans for an all-electric MotoGP support class to begin racing as early as 2019. Is it feasible for Saroléa to be a part of that someday?

Dorna is testing our bikes in the next couple of weeks, and of course we are looking forward to having an electric class in the MotoGP.

Q: With your engineering background, how did you first conceptualize the Saroléa you wanted to offer to the world?

The starting point was from what I have learnt in F1 and Le Mans prototype racing, a carbon monocoque chassis with front suspension bolted directly to the monocoque. The motor is fully stressed and the rear swing arm pivots around the motor axle. Fewer components, each having multiple functions, limits the weight and complexity of the bikes. From a design point of view it is a mix of bikes and cars that have inspired during my childhood. Of course our teams of engineers have taken the bike to a higher level in the past years since I started. Their software development has made the bikes more intelligent and user friendly. We are building high-performance machines for the track, which any rider can use on a daily basis.

Q: What are the long-range goals of Saroléa?

We want to continue developing our technology in racing. This is, and has always been a crucial part in the DNA of Saroléa. The goal is to have more people enjoying the excitement of riding our bikes.

Q: What are your plans—if any—for North American distribution?

The US is part of the plan. We are working hard to make it happen as soon as possible. We will start with Europe and then move on to the rest of the world. Even from the US, you can pre-order your Saroléa today.

Q: Tell me a bit more, if you can, about the bike you provided to Dorna for testing.

It was one of the bikes that has raced at the TT and is also road-registered for the public roads. We removed the number plate for the MotoGP test! In case we would be the selected constructor for the 2019 series, the machines will be very close to the road bikes. Again this is within the Saroléa spirit to develop on the track and integrate the know how in the street bikes. The suspension and geometry will be modified for the GP rider and track conditions.

Q: Will Saroléa always be electric?

We want to build exciting motorcycles. The world is evolving rapidly and we keep an open mind towards any kind of clean propulsion that the future may bring.

Q: The worldwide stable of electric bike manufacturers is small compared to ICE, just like the automotive industry. Do you think your efforts with Saroléa will put Belgium on the map? Any possibility of working with an American partner?

Although our team is international, it would make us all very proud to put Belgium back on the map. We get great reactions from fans and manufacturers from all over the world. I believe we are making a positive impact. We have very good relations with several American manufacturers, so it is not unlikely that we will work together at some point.