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Are Hybrids the Answer?

Could your next motorcycle be a petrol/electric hybrid? Vitesco Technologies, a German company which supplies electric powertrain technologies, certainly thinks so, unveiling a 400cc prototype at EICMA*.

The bike, based on Husqvarna’s Vitpilen single, adds a 48-volt electric drive system consisting of a 12Kw motor and small 1.5kwh battery. Vitesco claims that the petrol/electric system gives the best of both worlds, doubling the torque of the standard Husky 400cc engine while delivering up to 75% less CO2 (on the standard WMTC cycle) and makes the bike easier to ride, with an automated gearbox – it’s even got a reverse gear.

Petrol/electric hybrid cars have been around for many years, and White Motorcycle Concepts is building petrol/electric Yamaha Tricity scooters for Northamptonshire Police, but no one has yet applied the system successfully to a motorcycle. “For medium-sized and large motorcycles with combustion engines, we expect that future exhaust emission limits can only be met by using hybridization in combination with an automated manual transmission,” said Torsten Bellon, Head of Two-Wheeler & Powersports at Vitesco. Vitesco’s system, designed for any bike over 125cc, can use petrol power, electric, or (to produce that claimed torque boost) a combination of the two. A control unit decides when to switch between modes and also changes gear when in petrol mode, at a point to minimise fuel consumption.

In practice, says the company, the 1.5kwh battery will power the bike for up to 18 miles at up to 37mph – switch to petrol power and the bike can still top 100mph, with a range of over 150 miles. The real surprise is in the Vitesco hybrid’s affordability – the company reckons it would add less than £900 to the cost of a machine, and add just 20 kilos to the weight. You might not want one now, but if combustion bikes and cars face outright bans city centres, then hybrids could have their day.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, was intrigued: “Another fascinating development, I’m having trouble keeping up with the numerous technical developments, it seems that every month brings another. That battery, small as it is, gives just enough range for ULEZ trips, with the potential for longer distances, without being tied to the weaknesses of the current e-charging infrastructure. The price and weight add-ons are more than practical, unlike some 4 wheeled hybrids, where it’s easy to question their validity. ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

*EICMA – acronym for Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessoriè (International Cycle Motorcycle and Accessories Exhibition) held in Milan

Top image courtesy of Vitesco Technologies GMbH