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Triumph’s First Electric Bike Reaches Prototype Stage

Triumph has been working on an electric motorcycle for a while now with some big name partners, including Williams Advanced Engineering, Integral Powertrain, and WMG, University of Warwick. Together, the goal is to prepare a state-of-the-art electric motorcycle for production by Triumph in the near future.

Pictured is the Triumph TE-1 electric prototype, which now enters a six-month testing phase before the bike will enter into production. Triumph will wrestle, of course, with the proper balance of performance, weight and range, as will all manufacturers of electric motorcycles.

It does appear Triumph is taking this project quite seriously and engaging sophisticated expertise through partnerships outside Triumph. It is fascinating to watch this era develop as the major manufacturers begin to roll out production, high performance, electric motorcycles to compete with the niche electric manufacturers that are already up and running. You can find more details on the TE-1 by following this link to Triumph’s web site. A short video from Triumph follows.

52 Comments

  1. Johnnie says:

    I’m really curious to see how much it weighs and how long you can use the motor, at high levels, before it generates too much heat or goes into a reduced power mode. For instance, as genuinely awesome as the Tesla cars are, when taken to the track and driven hard, they cannot go a full lap before they get too hot and begin to seriously cut power. I feel like this is a much bigger issue on a motorcycle than a car, as I suspect a lot less of us use motorcycles for commuting and more of us tend to use them as track toys. This issue probably rarely effects a Tesla owner, but would really ruin the bike for every motorcycle rider I know.

    Admittedly, neither my friends nor I street ride so I may be a minority, but I would hate to buy a motorcycle and find out that it goes into “limp mode” quickly at the track. If Triumph can keep the weight down (under 180kg or so) and it can run for 20-30 minutes at race pace without going into limp mode, I would be pretty impressed… it still sucks that I’d have to charge it with a gas generator between sessions or races, but c’est la vie. Also, if they get these things right, I’m sure we’ll start to see more electric motor race classes appear.

    I checked out the Stark Varg too, which sounds cool, but until they have classes in which to race it, I don’t really see the point.

    • Jeremy says:

      I suspect the number of motorcycle owners that use their bikes as track toys is a fraction of a percent of people who use bikes to commute, but your concern is warranted. However, they do race ebikes in Moto-E, so the cooling capacity isn’t unavailable. It will just be a matter of whether the OEMs feel that it is important that their street bikes are able to control the heat associated with sustained, racepace levels of abuse, or more to the point – if they want their product warranties subjected to sustained, racepace levels of abuse.

      • Dave says:

        Tesla knows that so they cool/manage their system appropriately. It was never meant to be a race or track car and they know that the tens of people who try it are experimenting, not actually hoping their 4-door, 4 seat Tesla will turn out to be a credible track car.

        All that said, we’ve been cooling explosion boxes (ICE) for decades. Cooling an electric motor isn’t any more difficult if the designer chooses to do so.

        • Jeremy says:

          The motors and power electronics are relatively easy to cool, but my understanding is that the batteries themselves get ridiculously hot as well during WFO riding. I would think that’s a much greater challenge because 1) the battery module is designed to pack cells as densely as possible, and the most effective liquid cooling arrangement would take up space that is already badly needed for range, and 2) heat, in my experience, eventually kills everything, and I doubt the battery packs would live past warranty expiration if people were using their bikes as track toys with even moderate frequency.

          That’s really just speculation on my part. I don’t have any real experience with modern electric power trains outside of the locomotive world. Maybe one of the guys with more experience in area can chime in with their option.

  2. Neal says:

    This is for people with Bitcoin winnings that live on the West Coast.

  3. FNFAL says:

    While electrics can offer some stunning performance (a la 1000hp Tesla Plaid), I don’t think battery technology is up to the task at this time to purchase. Further, the soon over-vilification of ICE tech is disingenuous if the true cost of electrics is not fully disclosed.

  4. RBS says:

    I find this Triumph prototype interesting for several reasons. I think that this bike is showing off Triumph’s direction for all electric motorcycles to come.

    First is that they’ve made the frame the center of attention. For ICE motorcycles the engine is the center of attention. But electric motors aren’t terribly interesting to look at, and they are usually tiny and tucked away. Triumph seems to have realized this, and it looks like they have compensated by providing the bike with a frame that is much more interesting to look at than most frames. Without a fairing, most electric bikes aren’t terribly attractive or interesting looking, but this bike should be.

    Another interesting thing is that this bike has belt final drive instead of a chain. An electric motor is pretty quiet. So on an electric motorcycle you can suddenly hear the final drive chain as you ride, and it’s sound is not at all melodious. I’m wondering if this Triumph has belt final drive because it is silent and eliminates the grating noise that a chain would make?

    Belt final drive is unusual on a sport or race bike because belts usually aren’t made to handle a lot of horsepower, and it’s hard to keep a belt on the rear sprocket unless you limit the rear suspension travel (which is what cruisers with belt final drive do) or install a complex and expensive belt tensioner. But I can see how belt final drive might be worth the trouble on an electric motorcycle.

    It looks like Triumph has already put a lot of thought into electric motorcycles, which is impressive as this is only a prototype of a racing motorcycle, not even a prototype of a future consumer product.

    • todd says:

      Belts are also difficult to install. You would need to remove the swing arm to get them on. That, and they’re expensive compared to chains that last just as long or longer.

    • Mick says:

      Having worked my career in the electric power industry, I got a good look at a lot of old electrical equipment. A lot of that stuff was made in the good old art deco days and is quite beautiful in its own way.

      This is Triumph, after all, the people who have made quite a few cool looking street fighters and art deco bikes. So pack up the design team and send them around to a bunch of old power plants, before the rest of them are torn down, and then have them watch The City of Lost Children for some ideas. Then set to designing a jaw dropping stream punk street fighter that really embraces electricity the way they did back in the day.

      Then send me one for being such a nice chap and giving them the idea. 🙂

      Whatever. I feel that a good way to get people to embrace electric bikes is to make one so cool that they want one in every room of their house with and electric fence around it to keep the kids away. A cool looking electric fence powered by the bike’s own battery would be extra credit.

      • Tom K. says:

        As a fan of “The Proper People” (Youtube urbex channel), I agree that there is a lot of beauty in the old art deco power plants and their equipment. Our facility still had a lot of 1950’s motors and controls, which had delivered a useful life far in excess of the new junk we were replacing them with after they finally wore out, so there’s that aspect as well. When you say “steam punk”, I’m thinking Gotham City, that universe is so interesting to view. Great post.

    • RyYYZ says:

      It also looks like it has a radiator, which suggest that it might have active cooling for the battery pack and/or motor. Active cooling is really necessary if you want to be able to do a 10% to 80% charge in 15 or 20 minutes like a Tesla. Even with fast charging, it still takes over an hour to charge the H-D Lightning.

  5. FNFAL says:

    No doubt, an electric can be tuned to be a monster with performance and the lack of fluid changes, internal mechanical adjustments/wear and cleaning can be nice. BUT, there is no way in hell I would want to deal with those battery cells. All that contained energy, and all the fickleness of Lithium batteries. Overcharging can cause fire, over discharging ruining them. Physical damage can cause them to explode. Over-cycling causes fatigue and expensive replacement. And that’s not even addressing lack of range, charge times, and the soon to follow do-it-yourself tuner who will electrocute themselves or instantly weld things together by not respecting the energy density of these things. Today’s ICEs are extremely clean and efficient. And it is disingenuous to not factor in the total cost of electrics regarding metals mining, power grid in-efficiencies, and power generation impacts. I will miss that lack of engine sound too!

    • Bart says:

      I helped put out a lithium battery fire on the first e-bike built by Michael Czysz, that was about 13 years ago. It was AT PIR track in PDX. All we had was water, yeah I know, I have extensive experience with chemistry. We dumped water on the tightly faired bike and saved the carbon fiber frame, worth deep 6 figure money. Very stressful afternoon. This was 3 weeks before race at Laguna Seca, he finished 2nd as I recall. Interesting times!

  6. Grover says:

    Let me know when EB’s offer similar range, “fueling” times and purchase price compared to ICE machines. I’m glad there are early adopters of EB’s that are willing to put up with their limitations, but I’ll keep my money and enjoy ICE machines until the day that EB’s offer the same value and performance as ICE machines.

  7. TP says:

    Looks like fun.

  8. Jeremy says:

    That is a sharp looking bike.

  9. Sean says:

    Woah. Finally a cool looking ebike (IMO anyway). All vehicles will be electric at some point (not in my limited lifetime), so people might as well warm up to embracing it. I’d be open to owning an electric vehicle, but I live in the west and getting anywhere with an evehicle is not practical…not on places where there are signs that say “Next services, 100 miles”. Can’t even get gas if you are in a pinch sometimes let alone a rapid charger.

    But, when my long ranging days turn into local ranging days, I’ll probably adopt. If not 2 wheels, definitely 4 wheels.

  10. Trent says:

    Best looking eMotorcycle so far.

    Don’t want to be political, but for those complaining about range, here’s a news blurb: https://highways.dot.gov/newsroom/president-biden-usdot-and-usdoe-announce-5-billion-over-five-years-national-ev-charging

    • Capt. Balzac says:

      Charge time is the real issue not range.

      • Richard says:

        Triumph claim new battery tech…charge in less than 20 mins…im in !

      • Jeremy says:

        Both are issues for me. I can’t imagine having to stop every 45 – 60 minutes to spend another 20 – 30 minutes to change up for my next 45 – 60 minutes of riding.

        • todd says:

          Jeremy, many e-motorcycles can’t do that. If the battery is hot from riding hard, the BMS will limit charging rates to avoid further heating of the battery. The “40 minutes to 80%” claim is assuming a “cold” battery, i.e. before the ride, not during.

    • fred says:

      You are being political if you believe that $5B will produce significant benefit for eBikers. For example, a normal person can build an outhouse for about $5k or less, but the Federal Government spends over $100K to build them on public lands. This will be a project full of corruption, bribes, kickbacks, and waste.
      Sorry.

  11. OldBiker says:

    I have a friend that owns a Zero. Says it’s a hoot to ride. Range is the limiting consideration. When we ride together a day ride is typically 200 or so miles and that rules out the Zero and he takes his ICE bike. I think electric bikes will get there but maybe not in my lifetime. Right now electric cars don’t even make much sense, though I could perhaps see myself considering a plug in hybrid.

  12. stan says:

    Well, you know, it’s cool and all, but what are you going to do with it? You can’t go very far anywhere on it. You can’t carry anyone, or anything with you. The required non-existent infrastructure has a larger carbon footprint than i.c.e.’s. Y’all, the emperor has no clothes – this whole deal is a lame concept.

  13. JRH says:

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is just a prototype and the day of electric bikes being sold on a large scale is still on the horizon. Technology marches on and the availability of fast charging will make this concept more palatable. Regardless, based on comments from many, most folks have multiple bikes so an electric would just be part of that picture. Personally I can see having an electric car or bike but will always want to have ICE vehicles for the sound/feel/experience and will want my cars to have a manual transmission (I do not have to drive in gridlock) and a naturally aspirated engine. The manual transmission car is more my worry as I might be relegated to buying used cars at some point due to their demise.

  14. rob says:

    I’m completely onboard with electric bikes. There are several hurdles to overcome, but the future is defiantly electric.

  15. Mick says:

    A Tesla Plad is a seriously fast car, at least in drag speak. But it is also a four passenger vehicle with convenient storage and is incapable of pulling a near ICE equivalent 16 hour day’s travel distance. So it’s a local vehicle for most buyers.

    Here we have a so called performance motorcycle with near zero practicality and limited range. Any cargo real cargo will need to be carried in a funny shaped tank bag or on the rider’s person. It has the oh so fashionable abbreviated tail section that won’t even keep road grime off of the rider in British sunshine (rain). Which also precludes luggage racks or panniers.

    I’ve had an electric motorcycle for a few years now. It is a toy and nothing more. This one will be far faster. But too poorly configured to serve as much more than a toy.

    Tesla’s roadster is sure taking a long time to reach the market isn’t it? Yet it would still be more practical.

    But I guess I am so out of tune with the street bike market that maybe this thing will sell like bangers and mash. If it does, consider my opinion of the street bike market ratcheted down yet another notch.

    • Harry says:

      Mick, totally agree with your Tesla assessment. I bought a 2020 Model S, (delivered in October 2020) long range plus version. It’s very quick, 0-60 in 3.7 with a top end of 155, which I believe. I’ve had it over 130 and it did not slow down at all. The reason for the Tesla were the charging stations, primary concern. I’ve made long trips on the Interstate and the software plots my route and provides info at the supercharger (100 miles in around 20 minutes) on the length of time needed to reach the next stop. It’s all automatic. I can’t say enough about the software. The smart phone app controls so many features, it’s amazing. But, do I trust the self driving feature in an urban setting? No way! On highways, it is flawless. Relaxed freeway driving.

      Would I buy this again? Yes, but a truck is very functional. I put $1000 down in October of 2019 on a Rivian R1T, 400+ mile range. Why 400 miles, because of the limited charging stations accessible in rural areas where the truck will be used. The standard battery is around 310 miles. And just like laptop batteries for longevity it is not recommended to charge a lithium ion battery to capacity unless you intend to use the energy right away. Rivian now states the truck will not be available until the Spring of 2023, if you want to believe them. So I got my money back.

    • VLJ says:

      Nearly everything you just described also applies to ICE motorcycles. Sportbikes are toys. Always have been; even more so in recent years.

      Your favorite lightweight two-stoke motocross bike, trials bike, woods bike, etc.?

      Toys. Any high-performance, narrow-focus bike is a toy, and you know what?

      We like toys.

      • todd says:

        Motorcycles are my primary transportation. I consider cars to be a lavish luxury. I paid $3,000 for my K75S nine years/80,000 miles ago. How much would the equivalent car have cost me, $25,000? Would it have been just as trouble free or gotten 45mpg and cost tens times as much to insure? I don’t consider people who call motorcycles “toys” to actually be motorcyclists. They are motorcycle owners, for sure, but the are primarily car drivers that happen to own a motorcycle.

        • fred says:

          Well said, Todd. I’ve been bike-only for over 3 years now. Even when I was still driving cars regularly, my bikes all had purpose, and were not just toys.
          I have no problem with people to whom their bikes are toys, but they should realize they just speak of their own experience, and have no idea what is going on with other riders.

        • Jeremy says:

          Well, motorcycles are toys to me, so I guess I’m not a motorcyclist. And I take no offense to the comment, actually, though I’m sure some do. But then autos are nothing more than appliances to me. My truck is something I use to transport dirt bikes and mountain bikes. So I guess I’m not a motorist either. What I used for something as mundane as transportation always depended on the weather and where I was going. I find the various forms of transportation, including bicycles, all have the best use case situations, and I have no qualms about choosing the best tool for the job. Guess I’m a smartercyclist.

          • fred says:

            I’m willing to consider anyone who rides a motorcyclist during the time they are riding. Scooters, trikes, and even DUI bikes work for me.
            On the other hand, my take on what Todd said is that perhaps indefinable something where “motorcyclist” describes who you are, as opposed to just something you do. Same word, but perhaps a different meaning. It’s nothing worth arguing over, but is something enjoyable to discuss between friends.

          • Jeremy says:

            I agree it is fun to discuss, and I was serious when I said I took no offense. There was a time in my life where I probably fit Todd’s definition of “motorcyclist,” but not so much these days. “Dirt biker,” perhaps, but not “motorcyclist.”

            When I lived elsewhere where the dirt biking wasn’t plentiful, it was easier to be a motorcyclist. Now that I’m in Colorado with access to thousands of miles of challenging singletrack, I find it difficuly to waste any time confined to roads, beautiful though they are here so much so that I sold all of my street bikes two years ago. Family, dirt bike, mountain bike – if my time isn’t being applied to one of those three things, I’m not using it wisely.

          • todd says:

            I just know a large number of people that own at least one motorcycle but I’ve never actually seen them ride one. Every time they go somewhere, they hop in the car.

        • Dave says:

          Like it or not, “motorcycle owners “ are the market. People who use large displacement bikes as primary transportation are too rare to support an industry. This is a toy business.

          • fred says:

            Perhaps you are correct. At least in the U.S.A.. In other countries, bikes are the primary source of transport for lots of people. Perhaps not “large displacement” bikes, though.
            Weather, family, work needs, etc means that most riders will have other transportation, ever if the bike is primary. There are lots of 1 car, 1 bike families. He (usually) rides the bike, while she (or they) take the car.
            There are lots more examples of riders whose bike is the primary, but not exclusive, form of transportation.
            I don’t have access to the actual statistics, but there are enough low-mileage riders out there to make me think that possibly you are not entirely incorrect.

      • Mick says:

        My eBike is considered, by me, a toy because my buds all have to ride a short loop with me or the battery will go flat a I’ll be pushing it. A I have had to push it considerable distances several times. One big sand hill and your range just got way shorter. Once the eBike goes flat I get on an ICE bike to continue riding.

        A street bike would have a more predictable range with paved roads and all. But your buds would still be limited to shorter rides between longer “fuel” stops. Most sport bikes will go at least 150 miles and are filled up in less time than a biffy stop. Someone on an eBike would be an albatross. Using an eBike as a personal commuter bike is fine. But most people prefer a commuter bike with some means of storage. When I cummuted on a motorcycle I needed room for a change of clothes for instance. If the above bike has some underseat storage that might have worked. If not, well, funny shaped tank bag. At least you wouldn’t have to move the tank bag to fill up.

        Even if I ride my 50 mile range supermoto with someone we can duck in for a fill somewhere very quickly.

        The thing about moto, woods and trials bikes is that everyone on the ride has about the same range and the events cater to that range. They may start having eBike classes that cater to eBike ranges. But they don’t as yet.

  16. My2cents says:

    I test rode a Harley-Davidson Live Wire last summer and I was completely impressed. The route was varied and about 45 minutes in length. The Live Wire handled well, excellent brakes, and acceleration was brisk. The rear suspension was overwhelmed by rebound and compression dampening on the harsher road imperfections. The motorcycle left little to complain about except for lack of touring range and of course the price. As a sporting motorcycle in search of sinuous smooth roads within your immediate area it’s perfect, excluding that ticket of admission.
    I believe range and the additional weight to chase that are the only factors impeding this segment, but those are difficult to solve. As to generalize the whole collection of electric motorcycles, the sound of a whirring motor will never replace the sound of a four stroke engine running through the gears.

  17. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Now I have something to look forward to. Major manufacturers using their serious capabilities to engage the next choice in motorcycling. What a hoot !

  18. motorhead says:

    A motorcycle typically pollutes more than a modern ICE car, so it’s days are numbered. I understand. If a vehicle has two wheels, a throttle, the brake lever and pedal in the correct location, and if it goes too fast, I’m happy!

  19. Michael says:

    Electric bikes are cool and actually pretty darn fun to ride but it’s going to be a LONG time before they are competitive with ice bikes, also, check out what it takes to get the materials out of the ground for the batteries, and who is doing it (children)…

    • Dave says:

      I think it’ll be a long time before electric motorcycles are competitive for endurance (touring, long format racing) but for stuff like mx, standard format road racing and sport riding, I don’t think it’ll be very long. They’re just barely arriving with minimal investment.

      The mining issues exist with or without ev’s. Cobalt is mined alongside copper. Lithium mining is changing to the South American method (salt brine separation/evaporation). There is a speculated salt bring/lithium deposit deep under the salton sea in California (land that otherwise has no value) that’s possibly larger than the current global output. They’ll have to figure out how to pump & extract on an industrial scale but it’ll be clean. There’s never been anything clean or efficient about oil and IC engines.

      • Jeremy says:

        I agree that MX is the first logical step. It’s the one format that can put together a reasonably light (say 260ish lbs) within the range needed for race distance. Each bike would require several battery packs to use during the day, but even with the upfront cost of the EV premium and extra batteries, I’d wager it would not cost any more, maybe even less, than racing a four-stroke MX bike for a season.

        • Dave says:

          Jeremy, go and check out the “Stark Varg” if you haven’t seen it. They’re picking up where Alta left off. Looks like a pretty solid effort.

          • Jeremy says:

            I’ve seen it, but I’m pretty skeptical about what they are promising to be honest. 242 lbs and up to 6 hours of “easy” trail riding (or one MX heat) from a 6 kWh battery pack, from a manufacturer that has no economies of scale for barely more than the current price of a 450 MX bike? It just seems hard to believe.

            I logged about 30 hours riding single track on an Alta last year. Got 20 – 22 miles pretty consistently (about and hour to an hour and 20 minutes of riding) in the lowest power mode and intentionally being light on the throttle. That just wasn’t worth it and was quite a bit less than Alta’s claim of 4 hours of riding. And Stark claims yet 50% more range than the Alta from a battery pack of similar capacity? I don’t know about that.

            Skepticism aside, I have a reserve on a Stark, so I guess I’ll be able to see firsthand if they can deliver on their promises – assuming they can even deliver the bike at all. I’ve had a reserve on a Damon Hypersport HS for something like 5 years now, and I don’t think they are much closer to having that bike ready for market than they were when I paid for the reservation.

  20. yellowhammer says:

    It’s almost KTM’ish in it’s insectoid mangacity.

  21. todd says:

    I guess you need to believe that electric is the answer to accept all the shortcomings that come along with that solution.