A product developer’s view on electric motorcycles

In general it does not take a lot of effort to get product developers engaged in diving into e-mobility, even more when it is about electric motorcycles! It seems that the buzz around electric motorcycles is still relatively humble compared to electric cars. It SEEMS… since developments are progressing for many years already, even resulting in an official world cup race class being the MotoE. As a fanatic motorcyclist Tom Delfos got into contact with Marchel Bulthuis of Electricmotorcycles.nl and one week later five Energica electric motorcycles were driven into the MMID office in Delft. A perfect opportunity to see how these products are developing, what´s in for the user and what chances are there for the future.

Quick design loops

Energica comes from a company specialized in prototyping. It is not a surprise that this enabled them to apply quick design loops with improvements to get to the level they are at today. Some parts of the bikes are still 3D printed until series production takes off. When the bikes came in you do not directly recognize them as electric motorcycles, of course apart from the lack of engine sound. They look quite similar to regular fuel-powered bikes. This can be taken as a positive in the sense that they feel familiar and not daunting. They are inviting to users who are used to riding regular bikes. On the other hand, this can be taken as a great opportunity for future development. Cooling is different, no clutch or exhaust is present, there are no engine covers that are poking out, no fuel reservoir is needed, etc. Starting from scratch in order to aim for a revolutionary integral design would probably lead to a very interesting new definition of a motorcycle. What Energica clearly did very well is the modular build-up. Major components like the frame, swingarm, battery-pack, electric motor are all similar in the 5 motorcycle variants, minimizing development costs and supply chain while still offering 5 models. Due to the acceptable range and charging time we believe that practically there are no limitations for electric motorcycles anymore, even longer day trips of 1.000 km should be realistic. What we did not find yet in the electric motorcycle market is an ‘Adventure’ type. We could not avoid one of our senior designers Marcel Plug gave it a go to see how this could look like.

Charging a motorcycle

Energica bikes can be charged via the CCS fast charge system (charging power is double the battery power) that enables the user to charge the motorcycle to 85% in about 20 minutes. As far as we know this is the only electric motorcycle with such charging specifications. Charging points are still designed for car drivers and do not yet take into account the interests and needs of motorcyclists. A typical situation for a motorcyclist is that you step off the bike in full gear, including gloves, and it would then be very handy when you get automatically recognized by the charging point and you can start charging right away. This riding gear is a larger topic in general; a locker space in or near the charging point would be more than welcome. Getting rid of at least your helmet and gloves makes life much more convenient during a break. The possibilities for storing a charging cable in the bike is very limited, therefore it would be very desirable when this is a default part of the charging point. And like with electric cars, new services related to charging will appear, such as the reservation of a charging point in advance via a mobile app. We had some discussion about swappable battery packs, enabling the user to provide the motorcycle with one or more full batteries within minutes. The weight of the batteries is the key bottleneck here and it is expected that wireless charging via induction will probably become the next level in charging technology, making swappable batteries less relevant.

MMID and e-mobility

Reviewing these electric motorcycles and trying them on the Dutch roads opened our eyes even more for this field of e-mobility. Great to see that the state of the art is already at this level and good to know that there is still a complete market including ecosystem to build-up and improve.