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Triumph’s Electric Powertrain Partnerships More Important Than Its TE-1 Prototype

With emissions’ regulations around the world forcing manufacturers in both the two-wheel and four-wheel worlds to focus on the development of electric powertrains, it is interesting to watch the approaches taken by the different motorcycle manufacturers to move on from ICE powertrains. Some of them have the resources to largely go it alone (see the Yamaha video at the bottom of this article – which we will talk more about in a bit), while other manufacturers are seeking partnerships to develop cutting edge designs. Triumph is one of the latter.

Triumph’s latest renderings of its TE-1 prototype display an attractive design patterned very much after modern sportbikes, but the planned powertrain is the real news. The development of this powertrain involves Triumph and at least four other partners with funding coming from agencies of the British government.

One of the most important partners is Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE). As we understand it, WAE is the sole supplier of batteries to the electric vehicles contesting the Formula E championship. WAE is part of the Williams Group, which has been contesting the Formula One world championship for decades.

Triumph’s collaboration with WAE, which is a British concern, reminds us somewhat of Kenny Roberts’ partnerships with British engineering and manufacturing concerns in the late 1990’s when he developed his own three-cylinder motorcycle to take on the established Japanese manufacturers in 500cc GP racing. The efforts by Roberts were largely unsuccessful, but even then Britain was known for its cutting-edge motorsports engineers and designers. WAE certainly continues on, and builds from, this tradition.

The TE-1 is a concept utilizing an extremely compact, lightweight (22 pounds) motor developed by another Triumph partner, Integral Powertrain, Ltd., which specializes in efficient, compact electric engines. Together with WAE’s proven capability to design and manufacture batteries with extremely high energy density, I think we can count on Triumph introducing very competitive electric motorcycles in the near future. The resulting water-cooled design borrows “tricks” from both Formula E and Formula One. Kevin Cameron over at CycleWorld goes into great depth discussing this.

Larger companies, such as Honda and Yamaha, may be inclined to develop most of their technology and design in-house. The video below discusses some of Yamaha’s efforts towards development of electric powertrains, useful for both motorcycles and automobiles. Indeed, Yamaha is developing a business to supply other manufacturers with electric powertrains, not just itself.

The motorcycle industry is moving very rapidly toward the dominance of electric machines over ICE designs, and it will certainly be interesting to watch how developments move forward. MD suspects that, while ICE designs are extremely mature, with most motorcycle manufacturers able to produce competitive power and efficiency, electric powertrain development will be, at least initially, a significant differentiator between manufacturers, i.e., some will do much better in combining engine power and range than others.

46 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Still waiting for next gen battery technology like solid state batteries which seem to promise an answer to all the shortcomings of current EV batteries.
    Has anyone heard of the Goodenough glass battery ?
    John Goodenough is credited with the invention of the lithium ion battery. Pretty smart dude.
    I think even Elon Musk is investing in this technology but I’m not clear on details.

  2. Cbr600 says:

    More woke rubbish lol

    • George Jameson says:

      Somewhat. I would be interested in riding one though. Motorcycles as electric vehicles is the logical first step since range is already compromised in the ICE versions we all ride, and no additional power is lost to air conditioning. The global warming thing is relative. Carbon as an element has largely been at a constant value on the planet since the solar system formed. It has existed in a number compounds since. For a long time a portion of it has been locked up relatively stable as fossil fuels until the last few centuries, and the level of CO2 has gone up as the fuels were combusted. SO we are going to an earlier atmosphere more like the one that sparked the explosion of life on the planet. Bad for beach condos and polar bears, but a distinct improvement for the planet if the idea is to produce life. Life on this earth requires liquid water, and the higher percentage of liquid type to solid water guarantees more life. Other than a few scattered species the ice caps are a waste land more barren than any desert. If you consider what the healthiest version of Earth to produce life think pre cambrian explosion think warm and wet.

  3. todd says:

    WAE hasn’t supplied batteries to Formula E for a long time now. Their batteries couldn’t last through an entire race, requiring a swap mid-way and the packs would fail during the seasons. Atieva (Lucid) has been providing lighter, more compact batteries for the last few years that last a full race on a single charge and have had zero failures over all seasons. Indeed, WAE re-bought the contract to supply batteries in 2023 in the hopes that they will have something that works by then. This future shift in suppliers is allowing Atieva to focus on their new contract for the development of new, undisclosed, hardware for Formula E. Exciting things to come.

    I, however, am not at all interested in an electric motorcycle!

  4. Hot Dog says:

    Hydrogen electric hybrid is the future.

  5. mickey says:

    Its comforting to know that mfgs are continuing to plan ugly for the future

  6. Harry says:

    As said before change is hard to accept. But climate change is real and must be addressed. Buring fossil fuels in an ICE vehicle is not the answer. I purchased my Tesla model S (long range version) and am impressed by the performance but not the lack of any environmental feedback. But, remember, we are basically at the infancy of this revolution. My house solar panels basically charge the Tesla. Driving costs are minor (tire wear) with the $3+ cost of petrol one is recouping some of the initial vehicle higher price. I expect this situation to play out with 2-wheeled vehicles, give it time.

    • fred says:

      You state opinions as though they are fact. It’s true that weather and climates change, as they have throughout recorded (and unrecorded) history. AGP is falsified science, and your opinions are incorrect.

      • Harry says:

        Fred, Anthropogenic Global Warming is supported by the majority of climate scientists (97-98% Google it) besides many political institutions, UN being one major body. We are all entitled to an opinion. I stand behind mine.

        • fred says:

          Harry, AGW (not AGP, sorry about the type) is supported by “scientists” who get paid to spread panic. Follow the money. As you stated, we are all entitled to our own opinions. I stand behind mine as well. Cheers.

          • Grover says:

            Fred is right…follow the money. Scientists need to justify themselves, especially “climate specialists” (and Gore) that like to stir the pot. “Political institutions and the UN?” Haahahah!
            Going all electric and producing millions of tons of lithium batteries is not going to improve the planet in any way.

          • Mick says:

            Cool story bro.

            Got any more twenty year dead right wing conspiracy theories you would like to share?

            Shower me with you fount of wizdom.

          • Motoman says:

            It’s right wing conspiracy thinking that creates the panic. Always has been. The irony is glaringly obvious. Unfortunately, thinking independently is not a part of the mindset.

          • TF says:

            Only in modern-day America can the questioning of leftist ideology (bordering on theology) be simply written off as a right wing conspiracy theory.

            As some wise person once said “the idea that the science is settled is the most unscientific thing I have ever heard”.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            Denying global warming is as ignorant as believing in Q’anon or a flat earth. Facts and science are irrelevant to some people. If their friends on Facebook repeat something they believe it, particularly if it panders to their existing bias. This is the world we live in, unfortunately.

          • TF says:

            The problem with the “universal mind” is that we are programmed to think issues are black or white and we can’t cope with grey. Personally, I think you can question climate change with regard to cause, effect, and proposed corrective action without denying its existence.

          • mickey says:

            I’m certainly no expert and certainly think we should take care of the environment as best we can within reason, but find it amazing that California banned wood burning fireplaces in new homes due to pollution a few years ago, but Europe is suddenly all hot on burning wood pellets (labeled bio mass) to run powerplants made by clear cutting US forests and then shipping the pellets over seas. Just read a great article on this titled ” Is this green energy ruining the planet”.

            Sure makes you wonder what the real story is and if anyone actually knows.

          • Mick says:

            Biomass was an idea being explored in Minnesota about thirty years ago when I was in the power industry there. It went something like this.

            Fast growing trees were developed that could be harvested every ten years with new trees growing up from the stumps of the old. The first ten years would be the problem. But after that the trees would be a decent cash crop for farmers. The farms in a ten square mile area could support a power plant indefinitely.

            The plant was never built. The idea of using perfectly good farm land to grow trees didn’t catch on. Fast forward to now when lots of farm land is used to grow corn to make ethanol to mix with gasoline. Hmmm.

      • motorhead says:

        Some things are easily proven by scientific method, with readily available date compelling to any curious middle-school student. Trying to refute these statements is a display of profound ignorance or dishonesty: The earth is NOT flat. Sun, stars, and planets do NOT revolve around the earth. Motorcycles do NOT have four wheels. Human-caused climate change is NOT a fake story; its real. The earth is NOT 6,000 years old and designed by an old white man with a white beard. Santa Clause does NOT have a red-nosed reindeer. Harley Davidson does NOT sell excellent light weight motocrossers. Science, and not greedy and paid radio or TV personalities, proves all of these beyond any doubt.

    • Nick says:

      Harry,

      Your comments sound valid to me, but might you have meant ’emotional’ feedback rather than environmental? If there’s no environmental feedback/impact then we’re all in a muddle!

      Nick

    • mickey says:

      In the last few years we have had the hottest summer, the coldest winter, the driest year and the wettest years on record since they have been keeping records for the last 100 years….

      But 100 years is just a speck in time and science tells us it’s been hotter, colder, wetter and drier in previous times throughout history. We cant be doing the environment any favors these days, but we are probably not doing as much damage as some people think.

      Did you know that Martha Washington complained about air pollution?

      • TF says:

        Exactly, climates are dynamic. We know that from the 100 years of accumulated data as well as proxy data that precedes it.

        I remember coming home from school in 1970’ish and telling my parents that we would likely die when the ice age started and we would not be able to grow enough food to feed the starving masses. The culprit? Same evil emissions as today.

        Fast forward a few years and I read about the sheep farm they discovered in Greenland when the glacier receded!

        Open minds should not deny humanity’s impact on our environment but they should also question “scientists” who have been so spectacularly wrong in their predictions.

  7. fred B says:

    put a fake exhaust on it

  8. Mike says:

    “Triumph’s latest renderings of its TE-1 prototype display an attractive design”

    What’s there may be attractive, but it’s missing something. Something towards the back. Something a passenger could sit on. Something that would keep wheel spray off the rider’s back when riding in the rain. Something that just isn’t there. What could it be?

  9. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Partnering the best technologies and liquid cooling is the way to go. Not really a new idea, but gets the adventure ahead onto a stable path.

  10. RyYYZ says:

    “The motorcycle industry is moving very rapidly toward the dominance of electric machines over ICE designs, and it will certainly be interesting to watch how developments move forward.”

    Is it? Because the last time I checked nobody was selling an electric bike with any more range than my 1 1/2 gallon tanked KLX250. Or that will recharge in any reasonable amount of time.

    If we are forced to go electric we might as well pretty much write entire classes of motorcycles. Touring? Forget about it. To increase range significantly will require a big increase in battery power densities, and I’m not seeing big increases at this point, just incremental ones.

    • joe b says:

      I agree. when the helicopter was first invented, there were those that asked questions like when will it go father, faster, carry more people than a plane. It may be an electric bike will never replace all versions of the ICE motorcycle. It may be more applicable for scooter like applications, where short trips, back and forth, is all they do, i dont know. As they develop, it might be there will be a niche market for them, as diesel engines have their place, big trucks, trains, etc. or in Public transportation in urban areas where concentrated, pollution reduction is a valuable asset. Now is the time to see, electric vehicles may not be a replacement for everything, instead focused application there may be certain situations where it would be just the thing. A good time for some enterprising individual to invent.

  11. endoman38 says:

    If WAE has any issues getting this working, Lucas Electrics is waiting in the wings.

  12. arbuz says:

    Every time there is an shift in priorities, that is caused by external forces/events — there will be a change in hierarchy/dominance of existing participants.

    The change will be visible within positions in MC industry, as well as MC industry as compared to other transportation options.

    Management teams in MC industry that lacked visionaries, lacked risk-takers and lacked internal support for organic innovation — will be shifted down.

    The ‘fake visionaries’ and ‘hype-creators’ will temporary go up the chain, but then will be shifted out.

    The ‘re-mainers’ will do well.
    Because I think there is an opportunity to measurably improve safety (via onboard controls as well as smart roads and inter-vehicle comms), utility and prevalence of our beloved motorcycles.

    Perhaps, also, as populations move out of highly-urbanized pandemic ‘supersites’, there will be the opportunity for better equilibrium between: long/exhausting/unsafe commutes to work and fast/economical/daily ‘trips’ for errands/groceries/local events.

    Perhaps, helmets integrated with various visual aids, modulating person’s microclimate/particle filtering — will be more of a common sight than we tend to see today.

    Perhaps, heaving a near-by personal vehicle with local efficiently stored electric power, a wireless communication station — will be an example of the ‘portable base-station’ that benefits areas of the world without consistent communication and power-supply.

    There will be better capacity batteries, inter-vehicle communication consortiums, etc.

    I certainly think companies like Triumph, Yamaha, KTM — demonstrated organic innovativeness and willingness to take risks. Honda probably will be there as well, but sofar I see them less flexible than their smaller rivals.

    Not sure about HD, Suzuki, Kawasaki.

    It is more likely than not, that Chinese-owned Benelli and other players will do well as well.

    With that said, I hope to see ICE to be continue to be developed as a companion technology, rather than a primary one. We need 30 years of transition + backup or so, especially for long-distance applications.

  13. Fastship says:

    Thanks but No Thanks.

  14. Delmartian says:

    It’s very futuristic looking, and likely the inevitable direction the entire motorcycle industry is headed. Sadly though, I can’t fathom how I could ever get used to the difference in sound and feel this bike would provide compared to my 1997 Triumph Daytona T595 Triple (955cc), with its 3-cylinder ICE powerplant and the intoxicating, paper-ripping scream it makes when accelerating hard up through the gears. Something important and tangible will be lost.

    • Goose Lavel says:

      I had that same triumph. What really sucked was that flat spot in the fuel mapping at 4500 to 5000 rpm that caused a herky/jerky ride right at highway cruising speed.

      Newer maps never did get rid if it. Triumph told me to ride above that rpm range as a final solution.

      • Delmartian says:

        I’ve never experienced any flat spots, but I did have South Bay Triumph make some engine mods when the bike was only a year old, plus I installed the factory carbon fiber exhaust, perhaps these changes makes a difference. Just had the 36,000-mile service performed and the bike runs perfectly. At 5,000 RPM the speedo is right at an indicated 80 MPH, and never any herky/jerkiness. Love this bike. Bought it brand-new 24 years ago and never going to sell it. 😉

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