Last year, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Yamaha showed off a bevy of concepts, including a few e-motorcycles. There was a scooter and an electric motocrosser, but what was really eye-catching was the svelte, futuristic PES1 concept.
Aside from being the best-looking street-oriented electric motorcycle I’ve seen from a major manufacturer, it’s a runner — Yamaha released video of the bike undergoing racetrack testing. And now it’s going to be available in Yamaha dealerships: “We are working to create new value with EV sports motorcycles, which we aim to launch in two years,” writes Yamaha in its annual report, “with the development of the small, on-road sports PES1, as well as the PED1…” (the PED1 is the off-road model).
Sure, Yamaha, but how fast is the PES1? What kind of range? How much? And will we get it here? Yamaha ain’t talking, but we can make some guesses.
Both models (the motocrosser and the PES1 street) share a common engine and use a removable battery pack called a Yamaha Smart Power Module. Since the PES1 (that stands for “Passion Electric Street” if you’re wondering, as opposed to “Passion Electric Dirt” for the PED1) weighs under 223 pounds (at least, in its concept phase), with current (catch the pun?) battery technology we’d expect very limited range. The chassis and drive unit must weigh at least half the claimed 100 kilogram curb weight—and you’d need about 150 pounds of battery to see 50-70 miles of 65 mph travel by my very rough and not fully informed estimates.
So does Yamaha have something up its corporate sleeve it’s not telling us? I’d say it must. Given such a light basic design, with existing technology Yamaha could build a 400-pound e-moto that would go 150 miles or more on a single charge at freeway speeds. If the revolution in battery prices happens, it might even be priced like a 600cc sportbike, as Yamaha is a volume manufacturer.
But could that happen in two years? I don’t know the legality of making such promises to shareholders and then not fulfilling them, but I’ll bet someone, somewhere has been sued for doing exactly that. So I expect something like the PES1 and PED1 to appear in Yamaha dealers somewhere in the world by the end of 2016.
The question will be if it’s an unaffordable compliance-car kind of thing that’s not really intended as a mainstream product or a real, affordable, fun and practical street motorcycle. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com.