Kawasaki presents the Hybrid prototype as a first step towards …
Kawasaki has unveiled a skeletal prototype of its proposed hybrid sports bike as it begins its ambitious journey to full electrification by 2035.
The automaker has become the first of the four big Japanese companies – including Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki – to present its plan for a future in which the conventional gasoline combustion engine will be phased out and replaced by alternative energy, notably electric. but also hydrogen.
As purists have turned their noses at the prospect of a motorcycle drinking from an intake rather than a pump, Kawasaki is hatching a plan to bridge the gap with the launch of a hybrid sports bike that will pair a conventional ICE with a small EV motor.
Although prevalent in cars for over a decade now, hybrid solutions have been avoided by motorcycle manufacturers in the past because the fuel economy gains on what is already a relatively economy are negated by inserting a relatively heavy self-recharging battery into the well-packed frame.
Nevertheless, Kawasaki achieved this by reducing the size of the existing parallel twin engine – either the 250cc or 400cc unit – in order to add a small electric motor in a frame that appears to be a Kawasaki Ninja 400 mule. It is not yet. clear whether Kawasaki plans to offer the technology as a stand-alone model or as an option on one of its existing motorcycles.
It’s not the only innovative technology here, either. The bike also includes the semi-automatic transmission that Kawasaki worked on with its all-electric prototype, named Endeavor. Although electric motors have linear torque, which means that a gear and ratio gearbox is superfluous for pure purposes, the up and down click of the gears is considered a major part of the bike. .
However, Kawasaki is developing a system that would re-engage the transmission once the gasoline engine starts at higher speeds, albeit using a sequential shift knob.
The crucial advantage that Kawasaki wants to exploit
As we say, hybrid technology – while logical in its intended benefits – has been avoided by manufacturers in the past because the downsides outweigh the benefits for riders less inclined to worry about fuel economy numbers. and fluctuating fuel prices.
However, Kawasaki expects an increase in the number of cities becoming emission-free zones. Although this hybrid is not classified as zero emissions in average fuel consumption, the fact that it can be driven in pure EV mode at lower speeds would therefore allow it to be used where the vast majority of other motorcycles cannot. .
Why are motorcycles forced to go electric?
While many countries are now aiming for a deadline between 2030 and 2035 to reduce their emissions, an overhaul of the transport industry is at the heart of the fight against climate change. Several major cities are already operating zero- or low-emission zones in anticipation of a plan to stop the sale of fossil-fueled vehicles in just over a decade.
The changes are primarily aimed at the automotive industry, but while emissions are not as much of a problem for bicycles, the regulations apply to the motorcycle industry as well.
This is where the challenge lies for manufacturers. Electric motorcycles remain unattractive to many buyers because they lack emotional enjoyment, while models on sale today are tarnished by being expensive and heavier, while there remain concerns about the lineup.
Additionally, EV motors aren’t as easy to hide in a small frame and have implications for the balance of a machine that buyers expect to be nimble and agile.
With that in mind, manufacturers have been noticeably timid when discussing electricity – in public at least – apparently preferring to assess a change in the market before unveiling their plans.
However, change is underway and Kawasaki is the first major manufacturer to come up with a roadmap to make its entire range electric or hydrogen by 2035.
While that doesn’t mean Kawasaki will necessarily achieve this before everyone else, at a time when the majority of bikers remain cynical about electric power, it’s a bold move to have expressed their ideas as early as 2021.
Prototype images credited to Autoby