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Honda Goes Electric Racing

Still don’t believe electric motorcycles are here to stay? Tell that to Honda-linked Mugen racing, which announced it would compete in the upcoming electric TTXGP event at the Isle of Man this year. “We are keen to use this excellent event to educate and prepare the engineers of the next generation for the use of future technology,” said Mugen’s Satoshi Katsumata in a press release. “We are very excited about adding to the long history of Japanese manufacturers on the Isle of Man.”

Mugen is better known for tuning racecars, but it does have a history of producing racing parts and building racebikes. The company was founded in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda, son of big man Soichiro Honda, and though the company has been closely associated with Honda, it has never been owned or controlled by the automotive behemoth. Still, the involvement of Mugen signals some kind of big-factory interest in electric roadracing, the first sign of such a commitment. Will it be in the form of the RC-E prototype Honda showed off at last year’s Tokyo Auto Show? Or something totally different?

We wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other big OEMs—or their performance divisions, like Yamaha’s GYTR or BMW’s M—jumped into the mix this year or the next. Building a competitive e-racer is expensive for a privateer, but a rounding error for a huge automotive concern, and the payoffs in publicity and green image gi-normous. And don’t be too surprised if some of these companies have Chinese names, either.

70 Comments

  1. Reagan says:

    Ok gentelman, it appears these production e-bikes are producing approx. 30 HP. There fore one must conclude that they are inferior to gasoline powered motorcles until proven otherwise.

  2. donniedarko says:

    Thought you guys might dig this… Look how this pulls against a near works spec BMW SR1000
    http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/racing/lightning-electric-superbike-bmw-s1000rr-video/

  3. bill says:

    I had a test drive on a 2011 Zero, I was impressed with the speed and agility of the bike.Gas is around 5 dollars a gallon here in ontario Canada, and said it will be going even higher. The distributors of Zero told me a brushless motor for 2012s will be coming out with 100 mile range and a top speed of about 80 miles an hour. This is just the start of electric motorcycles just remember where gas engines were a hundred years ago. I say bring it on the hell with oil companys.

  4. Reagan says:

    Just read Motorcycle.Coms reveiw of Zero DS electric bike. Here are some highlites. HP 29.2. Run time estimated by editor 50 miles. Recharge time 3 to 6 hours. Avaiabity of recharging station none announced. Cost to purchase $11,500-$14,000. This is the newest, latest and greatest of Zero Motors. Is this a viable and competative motorcycle? Also think about two new studies explaining how producting electricy to propel an e-bike is more filth producing than burning gasoline in a combustion engine of equal size.

  5. donniedarko says:

    Theres moto x tracks very close to cities where noise was an issue that now electro bikes run at no worries.

    For my commuting and type of riding I do Id rock one. I just heard they are tempermental and expense. I had a buddy who had a Zero bike and he used to ride all around the hills near Santa Monica said it was super fun, but there was mechanical issues frequently

    I look forward to see how the evolve… and to those who say they dont go like real bikes look at the nascent efforts at the IoM event. Pretty solid speeds :fact

    • Reagan says:

      Hello Mr Darko, What is the HP and tourque that these wonderful e-bikes produce, please be specific.

      • donniedarko says:

        An aquaintance I know who runs a electric modified R1 runs 60hp BUT with 70 nm of torque at all rpm. The TTXGP bike I know of runs 101rwhp but 210 ft lbs of torque with a 10kW battery. Google Ripperton and you can see yourslf.

        The bikes I were mentioning at tracks are MX bikes. The lack of noise is allowing them to be ridden near neighbohoods in Italy.

        Electric bikes arent to be scoffed at power wise. Chip Yates runs his electric bike that would be near middle of the pack AMA race times on his electro bike.

        Its the distance that is the weakness of these things. My buddies Zero MX bike had 30hp and 60ft lbs tq. Weighed I think 215lbs. Just had mechanical issues frequently. I dont know if I would buy an electric bike but when the tech gets more solid I’d consider it

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Its the distance that is the weakness of these things.”

          there’s another weakness and it’s the greatest of all… SOUND.

          not to say it can’t be overcome, whether it’s harley’s 45 degree potato, a 90 degree ducati RVT, screaming GSXR I4, buzzing triumph parallel twins/triples, zing of a 2-stroke aprilia, or the grandprix “staccato” of yamaha’s first ever crossplane, the sound (and equally important, engine character) is what seperates us from the homogenized world of car-side. there have been many opportunities over the past few years to ride laguna, but with having to fit stock exhaust due to noise restrictions, for me it’s like an “antidote for viagra”…? again, that’s just me.

  6. Reagan says:

    In how many years will electric bikes have 200 mile run times, 5 minute recharges, with charging stations equal to current gas stations, produce the equal of a very flexibled packaged 120bhp, able to carry hard luggage, a full fairing with windshield and oh – my – god even a passenger!!! Maybe Al Gore knows, he still has 10 years for the coastlines to rise 20ft. Come on e-lovers lets keep it real.

    • Dave says:

      Possibly never. Why would they need any of those things to be viable? The key feature is that they will run on electricity at pennies per charge, not gasoline (I paid $50 for 14gal. of regular yesterday). All they need is ~50 mile range and for Gasoline to cost $5+ per gallon, which makes them viable almost everywhere in the world except for the US today.

  7. Zach says:

    Nice article. Electric bikes are getting there. Just a matter of time till the range gets to a good number. Electric motors are superior to ICM in every way. It’s the future folks.

  8. Reagan says:

    Unlike some I don’t think many e-bikes suck. However, they are inferior with very poor run time, redicullesly long recharge times, no public recharging areas and I feel I must point out second rate performance. And in reality they can be highly filth produceing according to independent studies. I don’t take out my kdx 220 when I’m in the mood to smell the roses or see bambi thank you very much.

  9. Lawrence says:

    Interesting thread. A lot of “electric bikes suck because they’re not CBRGSXRR1-type performance machines.” Well, yeah. But for off-roading, enjoying the smell of flowers & trees in Spring, seeing wildlife… man, e-bikes make enduros seem like filth-producing monstrosities. And zero-rpm max torque’s pretty useful for roosting in the woods too.
    As to the political comments… Oil is subsidized. Period. Also, because oil is subsidized it squeezes out alternative methods. I agree if you can, then NO SUBSIDIES TO ANYONE is absolutely the way to go, but that ain’t reality. So while I don’t know where I fit on the political spectrum, I do think we need alternatives to our oil-fixated economy. And we won’t get those alternatives with the economic imperatives in place today.

    • ROXX says:

      “How does the Government “subsidize oil companies” actual facts not tax cuts?”

      It doesn’t.

      All of the so-called subsidies are in the form of tax and/or royalty relief related to activities that the government wanted to encourage.

      Oil companies are allowed to write off certain capital expenditures (primarily related to dry hole and other exploration costs) and to accelerate depreciation of certain assets and equipment. These tax breaks were put into place to encourage domestic exploration drilling. Capital expenditures normally cannot be written off as expenses; most of the costs related to exploration are capital expenditures. If oil companies could not write off a significant portion of dry hole costs against income, they’d spend a lot less money on exploratory drilling.

      The Federal gov’t normally gets a 1/6 royalty on oil and gas production from federally owned leases. In the 1990’s, the US gov’t offered royalty relief for deepwater production. The royalty was dropped to 1/8 and/or waived on deepwater leases. Royalty relief was also offered for production from reservoirs at depths grater than 15,000 ft. These incentives were offered to encourage exploration for deeper (more expensive and lower success rate) reservoirs and deepwater exploration.

      These aren’t subsidies because the gov’t is not spending taxpayer money in the form of grants or loans to the industry. These tax incentives cause oil companies to invest more of their own money into exploration efforts than they would otherwise.

  10. Andrew Mai says:

    I agree. This is the first electric bike I’ve seen that looks like (and probably rides like) a real motorcycle. I’d love to ride this to work every day. (Note the lack of a smiley — I’m serious.)

  11. Reagan says:

    Lets face facts, guys. The electric motorcyle as it stands today is vastly inferior to a gasoline powered motorcle in everyway. And again what and where are current run times, charge times, availability to charge areas, peak hp and torque on these electric motorcycles we subsidise.

    • Reinhart says:

      It’s always fun to ask the manufacturer what the range is on their electric bike. They will give you a variety of answers, mostly padded to keep you interested. If I ride to work with a heavy hand on the throttle (rheostat? I will probably have to push the bike home the last 5 miles. So every ride must be on a new bike with a full charge with batteries that are in almost new condition to get the promised range. Otherwise, your mileage may vary.

      • Dave says:

        The biggest factor in varying range is rider weight, followed by rider tendencies and terrain. Manufacturers don’t want to conditionally answer the question with an insinuation that the rider is fat.

        • Reagan says:

          Are you saying there are alot of chubby liberals out there, Dave?

          • Dave says:

            I’m saying that the biggest factor in varying range is rider weight, followed by rider tendencies and terrain. Manufacturers don’t want to conditionally answer the question with an insinuation that the rider is fat.

            I don’t know why political affiliation would have anything to do with the discussion. I don’t think people like being called fat, whatever their party leanings.

  12. Hot Dog says:

    My girlfriend is ok with another electrically powered appliance, but she’s not so sure about wheels. The power and torque is there, but the range needs to be improved. As long as my smile can be peeled back to my ears, whilst I grab a handful of throttle, I think we’re looking at the future.

  13. MGNorge says:

    Interesting how an electric motorcycle brings out all that is (supposed) to be wrong in the world.

  14. kman says:

    a very recent study from University of Tennessee, on five different kinds of vehicles in China found that electric cars there contributed a higher rate of particulates than others. More demonstration of the “myth” of clean emissions.

    http://www.utk.edu/tntoday/2012/02/13/researchers-find-ecar-emissions-harmful/

  15. Jine says:

    Good point, mudnducs. There’s probably some sense of moral superiority and self-righteousness to go along with that warm fuzzy. I pity any future generations who might know the fossil-fueled only as museum pieces, with the full blessing of the pc crowd and an overbearing, busybody nanny state.

  16. thepimpdaddy says:

    Interesting discussion. I never understand anyone having actual hostility to electric vehicles, motorcycles to me are all about a fun mode of transportation, whether electric or traditional ICE. I imagine the wise minds of today whose attention is on the energy future are thinking about our energy in terms of developing the most sustainable balance of all the sources we use today – many components, including crude oil, nuclear, electric, hydrogen, wind, geothermal, etc. I think there will always be room for ICE powered motorcycles, but I’m really glad the engineer types are hard at work trying to develop alternatively powered motorcycles that are essentially motorcycles.

    • Steve Ducharme says:

      I’m not hostile to the technology such as it is. But I’m EXTREMELY hostile to fetishists who keep insisting that we MUST spend huge public resources on technology that, without a quantum breakthrough in the laws of physics, will never work a fractin as well as what we have with the ICE. If you truly want maximum efficiency you make vehicles as flexible as possible and let all the fuel makers compete. Methanol, ethanol, oil, diesel, nat gas propanet etc etc.. WITHOUT SUBSIDIES!

      • Dave says:

        Big oil is one of the most profitable enterprises on earth.

        And it’s subsidized.

        An electric bike or vehicle does not need to match a gas bike in every way in order to be successful. The rest of the world does not use their vehicles the way you do.

        • ROXX says:

          Big oil is NOT subsidized.
          Because they get certain tax ‘breaks’, the political spin is “they are subsidized”.
          That is way different than taking tax money out of the coffers and ‘giving’ it to them to use for pipe dream developement.
          Not only have we subsidized green companies to the tune of billions of dollars, many of them have not only shown a profit like the oil companies do, but have actually gone bankrupt and the taxpayer loses their money.
          Doesn’t sound like a wise investment to me.
          I wonder how many people throughout the country are employed by oil companies and all of the affiliate industries they are aligned with?
          Bet it’s in the millions when you count the automotive, trucking, and motorcycling industries.
          Don’t be so quick to shoot the golden goose because you believe the sky is falling.
          The dirty little secret is that the U.S. government makes more money per gallon of gas than the oil companies do, and that’s a fact.
          Not even taking into account state and local taxes per gallon.

  17. With the exception of short distance closed course racing electric motorcycles are just as doomed as their automotive brethren.
    Even “if” you could alter the laws of physics and get better real world range and wave your magic wand to fill the world overnight with rapid recharge stations that used no precious public subsidies, they are still an environmental abomination where manufacturing and resource management is concerned. Precious metals are called that for a reason, the already too frail power grid is that way for a reason, the total lie that is renewable energy (solar, wind, tidal etc)will never provide more than a tiny fraction of our total (and growing) energy needs. We are being stupid beyond the depths I though was possible. the only people to “thrive” from this tech will be the people resting in the bottom of the black hole mouths agape feasting on our precious public revenues.

    And all the hopes and wishes and fantasies of a delusional and spoiled populace will gladly feed it to them. We are truly a confederacy of dunces..

    • ROXX says:

      Could not agree more Steve.
      Fifteen years ago, Al Gore claimed “the oceans will rise twenty feet a quarter century from now…”
      Four years ago he spends 9 million dollars on an oceanfront mansion.

      • Dave says:

        Gas bikes will be around for the forseable future. Why do you guys get so salty when a company makes a product that isn’t for you?

        • ROXX says:

          Because eventually these things get “forced” upon us. Look at the automotive market rules that California air resources board just passed for 2018.
          15 percent of all new cars sold MUST be full electric powered.

          • Dave says:

            That’s California for you. I don’t know how Cali will enforce a percentage on people’s freewill. People will buy them if they want them or Cali will have to subsidize the sales to make them price competitive. Either way, it’ll be easy enough to be a part of the 85% so don’t worry until the thing forcing it on you is terribly expensive oil, which is the bigger problem looming over us.

          • ROXX says:

            The cool thing is Dave, you can go buy an electric vehicle right now.
            Go for it man!
            Just don’t ask me for tax dollars to flush down that hole!
            Keep your liberal hands off of my wallet.

      • Steve Ducharme says:

        Screw it… I’m riding my 2 strike RZ350 to work tomorrow and mixing the oil rich.

    • mudnducs says:

      Clarity of thought is a beautiful thing. Well said Steve.

      • Dave says:

        Funny how the naysayers never have an alternative solution to propose. The world is running out of oil. Should we should continue to exercise “business as usual”?

        • Steve Ducharme says:

          Repeated here… If you truly want maximum efficiency you make vehicles as flexible as possible and let all the fuel makers compete. Methanol, ethanol, oil, diesel, nat gas propanet etc etc.. WITHOUT SUBSIDIES!

          • Dave says:

            Without subsidies people will not attempt to develop new technologies because there is not enough profit to be made up front. Combine that with the oil lobby (let’s face it, with oil’s integration into our government policy) other technologies, including alternative fuels don’t have a chance. These things need to be developed and when they are, they’re successful (look at Brazil, an ethanol economy).

            As mentioned above, oil, despite it’s wild profitability, is subsidized.

            If we’re to remove subsidies then we must also remove the right of corporations to lobby congress. Congress is to represent people, not corporations.

          • Steve Ducharme says:

            We already subsidize TONS of basic research at the university level that turns into real improvements in real industry once it becomes viable. Market development is something that is best left up to markets and the e-bikes and cars is essentially proof of that point. Huge amounts of resources wasted on a wildly immature technology. Thanks for nothing.

    • MGNorge says:

      I have to keep reminding myself that this is 2012!

  18. Reagan says:

    E-motorcycles are still just a pipe dream. Why some want to force it to the public before it is ready to compete is baffleing. All one can say is ” Some Day, Maybe “.

  19. ROXX says:

    Just imagine how many of those Honda would sell if it was ‘gasoline’ powered!

  20. JJ says:

    Dear Honda,

    If you care at all – Please make this bike street legal in the USA.

    15k OTD, and I’ll pre-order deposit today.

    • Andrew Mai says:

      I agree. This is the first electric bike I’ve seen that looks like (and probably rides like) a real motorcycle. I’d love to ride this to work every day. (Note the lack of a smiley — I’m serious.)

  21. Steve says:

    Too cool. Quiet fast and clean. Motorcycling is an industry that is in desperate need of innovation. Bigger, faster and louder is about all they have been able to come up with for the last 3 decades. And that is exacty why I still ride a 77 Goldwing that I bought new in 1977.

  22. steveinsandiego says:

    gimmee a 200-mile range, a quick recharge time, and uh, oh, let’s say a top speed of 90, since i rarely do over 80. i’m good to go!!.

  23. Jine says:

    I like the color scheme, but seriously dislike the concept. Sorry, but for this Luddite if the frame doesn’t mount an internal combustion engine that produces carbon emissions, it’s not a motorcycle.

    • MGNorge says:

      Maybe by today’s definition but in fact it is a motor (electric) cycle, perhaps what we know as motorcycles should have been called enginecycles?

      • Jine says:

        Yeah, I’ve thought that for decades, but enginecycle does sound a little too awkward. I guess you could say these new contraptions are in a sense the first true motorcycles, but I’d never say that, except in present company.

    • mudnducs says:

      Oh…it produces a LOT of carbon emissions…it simply gives the owners a warm fuzzy to not be producing them so near to where they’re standing.

  24. ROXX says:

    It’s an entirely different story to charge a race bike and go out and run a dictated number of laps.
    To use it on the street for “practical” purposes is another thing altogether.
    Electric bikes may be “here to stay”, but for any type of journeys, adventures, or just aimless rides, they are not ready for prime time.

  25. MGNorge says:

    Looks good to me and Having Honda’s name behind it certainly doesn’t hurt any.

  26. Gary says:

    Check out the Brammo Empulse, pretty close to this but street legal. 100 mph and 100 mile range on top model– yea baby!

    • Gham says:

      If I lived in a decent motorcycle State I would!….but,Michigan,straight roads and cold weather = booooooring

    • mpolans says:

      Yeah, the Brammo would be cool, but I’ll believe it when I actually see it on the street. So far, it’s been vaporware; lots of hype over the last couple years with nothing to show for it.

  27. Reinhart says:

    Cool looking bike, when can I buy one?

  28. Wayne says:

    And don’t forget that electricity generated by coal is evil too.

  29. Wayne says:

    I meant to say “linked news story about a new study”. Sorry.

  30. Wayne says:

    I have heard that electric cars are not very “green” for more reasons than are addressed in the linked study. I assume the same is true for motorcycles.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/electric-cars-may-not-be-so-green-after-all-says-british-study/story-e6frg8y6-1226073103576

    • Tim says:

      And that is just CO2, the great “greenness” yardstick, the scarecrow for the eco-conscious. What about the total environmental footprint? I.e. mining of extra materials needed to make batteries, disposal of those batteries, etc., etc.?