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Ducati Waiting for Battery Technology to Evolve Before Introducing Electric Motorcycles

Ducati’s current Streetfighter V4 uses a high-performance ICE.

An interview with Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, indicates Ducati is waiting for battery technology to further evolve before producing electric motorcycles alongside its high-performance ICE models. According to Domenicali, current battery technology does not allow sufficient range combined with the expected performance of a Ducati to make a “usable” motorcycle.

The company is looking forward to solid state battery technology, and beyond, to keep the weight down and the performance up. You can see the full interview of Domenicali on Moto.it, but here is one of the key quotes from Ducati’s CEO:

“… let’s say that at this moment the main complexity in making electric motorcycles with high performance and autonomy lies in the battery. So we are following the evolution of this component with great attention, and right now we are evaluating when and at what moment the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery will somehow make a product like a full scale electric motorcycle usable. “

“There is an evidently important evolution, because compared to, for example, fifteen years ago there was a very important change, another ten years ago again; today lithium batteries are very performing but are not yet able to store a sufficient amount of energy to keep the weight of the bike at its current level. Today, therefore, compromises are needed between autonomy and weight. “

“Already for the middle of this decade an important step such as solid state batteries is expected, and even more important developments for the end of the twenties. I am optimistic about the characteristic: if we put aside the weight for a moment, the electric engine is a very sporty engine, so you can certainly make products in line with the characteristics of our brand, which has always been linked to performance and sport. The most relevant dynamic is the timing of introduction … “

35 Comments

  1. Mac says:

    Glad to hear not every manufacturer is drinking the electric kool-aid.

  2. RobbieAG says:

    It’s refreshing to see an honest assessment from a manufacturer regarding the limitations of battery technology. It’s a long way from being able to store the same amount of energy per pound that gasoline can. So many of the OEMs (especially automotive) seem to keep the blinders on and don’t say that the emperor has no clothes.

    • Dave says:

      Truth is, it doesn’t need to store the same amount of energy that liquid fuels do. ICE engines have about 25-30% thermal efficiency.

      As I often point out in discussions like this, a Chevy Bolt’s battery holds about the same amount of energy as 1.8 gallons of gasoline does and it propels the car over 200 miles on that amount of energy. What iff the battery were to improve to the point where it held say 5 gallons of gas worth of power? Battery size is cut in half still resulting in more range and half (probably lower) the battery cost. That’s coming.

  3. John Fisher says:

    I really want an electric bike, but I am waiting on the same thing Ducati is. I am 72 and I am running out of time so the the manufacturers need to get their butts in gear and get it done.

  4. Santanu Maitra says:

    Please check out Energica (Italy) or Zero (California) electric motorcycles. Fast charging is not as fast as some of the electric cars yet, but it’s around the corner. An electric car can fast charge 80% in ~15 minutes. Often many ICE drivers spend that time anyway at the gas pumps. Energica will soon have 15 minutes fast charging to charge 80% of their full range (city – >200 miles, combined – ~150 miles). Please also check out upcoming Damon and Verge. I strongly recommend test driving an electric car and researching the pros and cons before dismissing them. Of course, they can’t provide the noise that a muscle ICE car can which I believe many are great fans of. Whether many of us like it or not, electric vehicles will happen and ICE will become extinct like the horse-pulled carts did. It is just a matter of time. Check out Aptera – the 3 wheeler that could go 100 miles on one charge (if successful).

    • Ian Oldridge says:

      I gas up in 5 minutes, it lasts a week. Fast charging destroys the battery a lot quicker. If e vehicles ever get popular there will never be enough charging stations, or electricity to charge a mass market. Electric is an urban vehicle for milder climes.

  5. Dino says:

    Weight is the enemy of cycles. Currently (no pun intended) batteries are too heavy to allow good power at a good range.
    Heat is the enemy of batteries. If you discharge them at high power, they heat up internally. To recharge them quickly, same. To Fast-charge an already hot battery pack will certainly shorten the life of the battery. Waiting for the battery to cool before you recharge is not convenient unless you are home (or parked for the night). Universal battery modules that can be changed out for a fee would make the most sense, but a lot of issues to be worked out for sure!

    Ducati doesn’t need to jump into the e-bike now, kudos to them. Let others start out with commuter style bikes (limited range scooter or bike for urban short range). There will be another leap in technology.. lighter and stronger batteries, more efficient motors, ways to reduce the heat, etc.. Cars are paving the way, and when its’s right, cycles should benefit. Not in ten years, or maybe not even in twenty years..

  6. Max says:

    Brilliant!
    In the meantime, don’t kill the twins.

  7. Sam Toothaker says:

    Thumbs-Up for Ducati. While I am a strong proponent of Electric Vehicles of all types, batteries are not the way to go. Hydrogen Fuel Cells are a much better solution and one that I am looking forward to. It looks like elements within some western governments have decided that batteries will light the way. If so, it will be dimly….

  8. xLaYN says:

    in the meanwhile, while we enjoy ICE bikes… did we get an R7?
    https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/supersport/models/yzf-r7

  9. Axle says:

    I’ve got the electric bug already. My wife has a Kia E Niro and I have a Ram truck to cancel it all out, but I absolutely love driving the EV, such a blast with awesome kick in the pants power and plenty of range at over 250 miles. Personally I can’t wait for the electric motorcycle wars to begin from the Japanese brands. That is when it will evolve quickly into some interesting forms. The writing is on the wall, with much of Europe and the US (California at least) banning all ICE sooner than you think. In ten years gas stations will be closing due to lack of business and fuel will be very costly at the pump. I think all motorcycle brands need to be currently investing heavily in the future of electric power.

  10. RyYYZ says:

    Well, kudos to Claudio for coming out and saying what is blindingly obvious: with current battery technology, electric motorcycles just aren’t viable for most use cases. The best have sufficient range to make a good city/local runabout, but are too expensive for most for that purpose.

    People blithely talk about “fast charging” that takes an hour to add another 160 km (or less) in range. Which I guess is fine if you don’t mind planning your rides around stopping somewhere for an hour to charge. Even the ones that support DC fast charging still seem to take on the order of an hour for an 80% charge, presumably due to the lack of active cooling (which would just add more weight and bulk). Get it down to 15-20 minutes and maybe we can talk (though that’s still 3-5 times as long as it takes me to stop and fill my tank).

    Just can’t get around physics – at highway speeds motorcycles use power at a comparable rate to automobiles, but the cars can afford to carry around much bigger batteries (though they’re expensive) than the motorcycles can.

    • todd says:

      It’s not just fast charging that’s the problem but also duty cycle. You can’t just run around quickly depleting a battery and then quickly charging it back up. Heat continues to soak and at some point, your charger and battery pack are going to throttle the transfer of electrons way down. Kinda reminds me of the old “unlimited data” plans.

  11. Gary in NJ says:

    The energy density that will provide workable batteries for motorcycles (and aviation, the area in which I work) is 1 kWh per 1 kg of weight. Current (no pun) density is in the 250w/kg to 300w/kg range. To get 3x to 4x capacity will take 10 to 20 years and new technology. Lithium wont get us there. Solid state may not get us there (certainly not initially since they are aiming to be in the 400 to 500w/kg range) until that technology is significantly matured.

    I look forward to powerful electric transportation across all sectors, but the limiting element are the batteries, and we are a long way off from the next great commercially viable breakthrough.

  12. mechanicus says:

    “…we are evaluating when and at what moment the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery will somehow make a product like a full scale electric motorcycle usable.” Bravo Signore Domenicali, for unflinchingly summarizing: electric motorcycles at this point are just not yet usable.

  13. Advrider says:

    I’d never buy one but I assume these electric bikes other than constant charging would need frequent brush replacements no? Maybe harley will come out with hydraulic brushes on the live wires, lol..

  14. Mike Simmons says:

    I think Ducati is very wise to hold off on jumping on the electric bandwagon. I think when the day arrives that electrics are starting to be stuffed down our throats the manufacturers who are still make ICE models will be in tall cotton!.

  15. Grover says:

    I’m just glad I was born in an era that let me burn thousands of gallons of high-octane gasoline without guilt for 45 years and counting. I like the sound, the smell and the feel of an internal combustion engine beneath me. I like the odor of gasoline in my garage from the various ICE machines parked in there when I open the door. I’m going to hopefully burn thousands of more gallons of gasoline before they shove electric vehicles down our throats. Viva la ICE!

    • Dirck Edge says:

      I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

    • Dino says:

      I’m not a fan of Gasoline smell, but when you park a car or motorcycle back in the garage after an excited romp through the country… The heat ticking out of the motor, a hint of hot oil or exhaust residue…
      That’s what Fun smells like!
      Not sure the e-bikes will have the same reaction..?

  16. Tank says:

    Solid state batteries are still a few years away. First they have to figure out how to make them, then they have to figure out how to make them for a reasonable price. Quantumscape says they are on the verge of making one, but even they say it will be very difficult to mass produce.

  17. todd says:

    It would be successful if they could make it a bevel-gear driven, overhead desmo, 90 degree L-twin. Otherwise, what’s to make it a Ducati?

    • mickey says:

      Maybe hide the battery pack inside a red trellis frame, then make it unreliable like my sons 696 Monster.

    • Rapier says:

      When motorcycles all have the same motor, essentially, there is going to be far less to differentiate the manufacturers.

      I have a half baked theory that motorcycles are going to be the last bastion of ICE. It’s a pretty easy decision on Ducati’s part to slow roll electrics. In fact they might be better off for the next 15 years to simply not go there.

      • Jeremy says:

        Well, motorcycles have been the last bastion for air-cooling, carburetors, inner tubes, and manual transmissions. Being also the last bastion for the ICE certainly isn’t a far-fetched assumption.

        • SausageCreature says:

          My riding mower still has a carbureted, air-cooled engine. It’s not nearly as fun to ride as a motorcycle, though. (However, if I put it in reverse and then slam it into forward, I can sometimes make it wheelie.)

          • Jeremy says:

            I remember back in 1990 or so in my early teens, my dad brought home a new riding mower. It had 4-wheel steering, 4-wheel drive, and a fuel-injected V-Twin (but still air-cooled.) It would also do a wheelie. 😀

        • Dave says:

          All of those things (except manual transmissions) are still alive, well, and being sold on new products in sport aviation.