Okay, ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, right? Nevertheless, we think we know our readers well enough that we are about to hear a collective groan over the styling of future models recently unveiled by Hero and Honda.
We figured most MD readers would be interested in Hero MotoCorp’s Hastur concept, the 620cc middleweight naked designed by Erik Buell Racing, so that was the big news from Hero’s booth at the India Auto Expo last month. However, new details have bubbled up about two other important concepts on display as well.
First is the RnT (pictured at top). Yes, it looks like a supermoto got some Ikea bathroom fixtures drunk, creating an illicit and unnatural lovechild, but there’s method behind the madness. The 300-pound motorcycle (despite its step-through design, it has a chain drive and gearbox, so it’s not a scooter) uses diesel fuel, has enhanced cargo capacity thanks to the broad, flat fenders and flip-up side racks and big wheels to make it suitable for bumpy, off-road terrain. It should be useful as an inexpensive, cheap-to-operate utility vehicle in emerging economies. The headlights even unclip to act as a portable lantern! Best camping mount ever.
A 1.6-gallon gas tank should offer prodigious range from the diesel 150cc Single, which promises 13.5 horsepower and an incredible 25 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1600 rpm (and could be the first mass-produced diesel motorcycle sold, at least in this country). The alternator can pump out 1500 watts of electricity, making it useable as a (very) portable generator. There are even plans for an optional hub-mounted electric motor in the front wheel, giving a much-needed boost to the bike’s claimed 0-37 mph time of 5 seconds.
Will it come here? Hero MotoCorp CEO Pawan Munjal said it’s “also going to be targeted at the overseas markets,” and if Erik Buell had a hand in developing it, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it here. I can see such a ride being popular amongst urban Hipsters—remember how cool Japan was in the 1980s? Look to India being the Japan of the late 20-teens and 2020s.
Hero’s other vehicle of interest is the Leap. Cyclopean headlamp aside, it looks like most any scooter, until you realize what’s inside. The first publicized Hero/EBR collaboration, the Leap made its first debut in 2012 as a concept—this is a pre-production version and promises a hybrid gas/electric powertrain.
Instead of the two power sources working in unison, the Leap is a “range extended” plug-in electric scooter with an onboard gasoline generator. Claimed weight is 312 pounds, and there was no claim for battery-only range (or indication of the lithium-ion battery’s size), but total range with the 124cc gasoline engine draining the .75-gallon tank is a claimed 210 miles—not bad (we don’t know if that’s city or highway—probably city). Top speed is also left unsaid, but I’d guess about 55-60 mph, given the 10-hp electric motor and the weight of the bike.
Necessity is the mother of invention, no? And if the new world demands a high standard of living with a minimal use of resources, Indian manufacturers of motorcycles (and all products) might have an edge, given the high-tech, high-poverty, low-resource reality of modern India. Pass the popcorn and stay tuned.
Meanwhile, at both the Osaka and Tokyo Motorcycle Shows, Honda is displaying two future production models, including the NM4-01 and the NM4-02 (with integrated “utility boxes”). The unusual design, apparently influenced by anime, incorporates a version of the 745 cc parallel twin used by Honda in existing production models. Both bikes have the rider seated low, and incorporate an adjustable backrest. They will also feature Honda’s latest automatic transmission technology, all as part of an effort to attract a new generation of rider. Here is what Honda has to say about these new models on its Japanese web site:
TOKYO, Japan, March 21, 2014 – Honda held its press conference at the 30th Osaka Motorcycle Show 2014 today and unveiled the world premiere of two types of its new production model “NM4″ as an exhibition model (planned for production).
The NM4 was developed under the keywords of “the Neo-futuristic” and “COOL,” pursuing new, unique styling.
This NM4 was designed to realize two points; the design concept “the Front Massive Styling” and “the cockpit position” focusing on the sense of unity with the rider, that the rider can smoothly get into the vehicle. The low-setup cockpit position and adjustable backrest provide an enjoyable new riding feel. The instrument panel was designed to provide clear readability and the fun riding, as if the rider was experiencing part of a movie scene.
LED lamps are used on the headlight of the powerful-looking front fairing, the tail lamp and the turn signals. In addition, the utility boxes are set up on the right and left sides of the front fairing for small articles.
Two NM4 types were unveiled at the motorcycle show; the simply-configured “NM4-01″ which emphasizes its wide, dynamic rear tire and attractive low silhouette, and the “NM4-02” which emanates a unique presence and features a prominent rear design (containing utility boxes on each side of the rear body).
The NM4 will also be exhibited at the 41st Tokyo Motorcycle Show from Friday, March 28 to Sunday, March 30 at Tokyo Big Sight.