Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) flexed its corporate muscle with a couple of very interesting displays in its booth at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show this week, including an electric three-wheeler and a supercharged motorcycle engine that could power a new replacement for both its heavyweight ZX14R sportbike and Concours 14 sport-tourer.
The three-wheeler, simply dubbed the “J,” is familiar to anybody who grew up watching reruns of the Disney movie Tron. Not only does the J (in theory, as it’s just a concept that will likely never reach production) lean to turn like a single-track vehicle, similar to both the Paiggio MP3 series and Yamaha’s concept three- and four-wheelers, the vehicle’s track can widen or narrow depending on the rider’s needs—lower and narrower for canyon-carving, high and wide for freeway cruising.
Power is via “battery cell,” as a way to draw attention to KHI’s Gigacell nickel-metal-hydride industrial batteries. These batteries boast low operating temperatures, fast recharge times and better capacities than similar batteries, but the current (heh, heh) 5.1 kilowatt-hour model is over 4 feet long and weighs 553 pounds, which means that an electric vehicle with Kawasaki Gigacells would have to pack over 1200 pounds of batteries to equal the range of the Zero S. Still, it looks like a fun ride, especially since it steers with a pair of joysticks a la a Mean Green Machine. Kawasaki, better lawyer up—there’s a call from the Huffy people coming.
A more tangible product of KHI’s labors is this Supercharged Engine.
“Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. also has a long history of developing technologies for turbine engines.” writes KHI in the exhibit description. “The lifeblood of these turbines is their blades, which need to be able to cope with extreme heat and vibration while spinning at high speeds. Know-how from years of designing turbine engine blades was instilled in the first supercharger developed by a motorcycle manufacturer. And of course, designing a motorcycle-use supercharged engine in-house means that maximum efficiency could be pursued.”
Back in November 2011, Patent drawings filed by KHI appeared on the Internet showing a motorcycle-specific supercharger mounted in a very ZX-14-ish looking motorcycle. And did you know Kawasaki’s 300X personal watercraft uses a four-cylinder, 1500cc four-stroke that makes 300 horsepower thanks to an “Eaton Twin Vortices Series roots-type supercharger with air-to-water intercooler?” Me neither, and now I’m mad at Kawasaki for assuming recreational boaters in bikinis and lifejackets can handle 300 hp better than we can (granted, it’s limited to 62 mph and there are less things to run into on the water). In any case, there have been rumors flying since 2009 that KHI is building a supercharged ZX-14R replacement.
Yamaha previewed both its VMAX replacement and FZ-09 by first showing the engines, so it makes sense to assume this is the first teaser of an upcoming ZX-15R (and maybe a Concours 15 as well). That last thing either Dirck or I think the ZX-14R and Concours 14 need is more power, but supercharging is also a means to deliver lag-free power with much greater efficiency, so this could be a way to give us a mere 200 hp and still deliver excellent fuel economy and longer service intervals. Hopefully we’ll have an answer before the next Tokyo Motor Show.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com.