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Hydro, Hybrid, Electric bikes unveiled

Japanese manufacturers appear to be hedging their bets on what will power the motorcycle of the future. We know that they are working on battery-electric bikes (witness Kawasaki’s new pair of 125-equivalent electric Ninjas) but both the big K and Suzuki are also working on alternative types of propulsion.

Kawasaki has announced a hybrid petrol/electric, Ninja 7 Hybrid/HEV with a 451cc parallel twin, plus a small 1.4kWh battery and 12bhp electric motor, giving a total output of 69bhp. The result, says Kawasaki, is a mid-size bike with 650-700cc equivalent performance but with the fuel consumption of a smaller bike – they are claiming 70.5mpg on the standard WMTC test, enough with the 14-litre tank to give a range of 217 miles. The rider can choose between Sport-Hybrid, Eco-Hybrid or EV-only modes, tweaking the way the petrol and electric drivetrains work together. It goes on sale in the UK in April 2024.

Meanwhile, Suzuki has revealed two prototype Burgman scooters – one hydrogen powered, the other with a swappable battery. Suzuki has form with hydrogen Burgman, having developed a fuel cell powered bike back in 2017. This latest concept machine is different using hydrogen stored at high pressure to supply a piston engine. A hydrogen-fuelled ICE holds the promise of a traditional motorcycle experience, but a number of practical problems remain. The fuel tank needs to store the fuel at very high pressure (70MPa on the Suzuki), fuel consumption is high and manufacturing hydrogen requires huge amounts of energy.

Suzuki’s other prototype, a battery-electric e-Burgman looks like a more practical proposition, certainly for urban transport. It uses the Gachaco battery swapping system Suzuki has developed with Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, eliminating the wait for charging.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, was intrigued as to which of these technologies would come out top in the future. “All to play for. Personally, I’m liking the swappable battery concept and the hybrid. I do wonder just how lardy the hybrid’s going to be, and the swappable battery, like so much EV infrastructure, will make or break on its support and implementation. Hydrogen is fascinating but has a slight whiff of ‘nuclear fusion’ in practical terms. By which I mean it sounds terrific in theory, but always seems just out of reach practically. I mean, where are we going to refuel our Burgman’s? ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Kawasaki