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ADV NewsNew Tech Could Make Electric ADV Bikes Viable Sooner Than You Think

New Tech Could Make Electric ADV Bikes Viable Sooner Than You Think

 All-new battery technology could lead the way to an e-adventure bike future.

Published on 09.21.2020

As we logged onto our devices and Smart TVs this week to watch the first three episodes of Long Way Up that dropped on Apple TV+ over the weekend, we’ve been forced to white-knuckle Ewan and Charley’s desperate and continuous hunt for juice instead of their usual off-road riding shenanigans. 

While the two set out to shine a positive light on our not-too-distant, petrol-free future, the series, at least so far, has tendered more questions than answers regarding the viability of e-technology in motorcycles, and especially how it might ever make sense for adventure riding. 

And that’s because every single one of the current issues we have with EV power — short ranges, long charge times, weight and volatility — are non-starters for two-wheeled adventure travel. 


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Nevertheless, thanks to a megabucks rush to optimize electric automobiles, coupled with the furious pace of the global e-bicycle market, and its hunger for scaled-down energy cells, it looks like there might be some game changers down the road for e-motorcycles. Here’s what we know.

Pre-charged Swappable Battery

Electric adventure bike

In 2019 the big four: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha formed an alliance regarding their collective e-futures and are now working together to develop standardized specifications for their electric bike batteries. This will save a tremendous amount of time in both development and testing, which MCN reports is now getting underway at Osaka University where students and staff will have access to a fleet of electric scooters, with quick-swap batteries available on campus and at nearby convenience stores. 

Honda seems to be leading the way in a partnership with Panasonic, announcing at the Tokyo Motor Show last summer the release of two new rugged delivery scooters hiding compact, swappable battery pods beneath their seats. 

This concept makes a lot of sense, and is actually already in practice in Taiwan where a company called GoGoRo powers a vast army of e-scooters via 1600 battery swapping vending machines. The consumer buys the scooter, but not the battery, instead paying for a subscription to the swapping service.  Swapping the battery cells is so easy, taking only minutes, that Gogoro is currently managing over 200,000 battery swaps per day in Taiwan.

electric adventure bike

And while these little scooters seem worlds away from the adventure bikes we love, it does show us how this might look. When you’re running low on juice, you open the app, which shows you not only where the vending machines are, but also the condition and charge level of each available battery pod. 

Unless it’s a solar-powered station, you’re never going to find a battery vending machine at the trailhead of White Rim in Moab, but we may one day soon, find them in a town around the area. 

The Million Mile Battery

Tuesday, September 22nd, is Tesla’s Battery Day, when founder Elon Musk will make what’s expected to be a game-changing announcement about Tesla’s latest advancement in its EV battery. The new unit is speculated to offer double the range, something north of 500 miles per charge, and also interestingly, it is touted to last for over a million miles, negating the huge expense of replacement (expected around 150,000 miles). 

While the technology of Tesla’s system, as well as another breakthrough EV battery recently announced by Lucid, is under wraps, some believe it involves the use of graphene, an allotrope within carbon, that is often referred to as a Wonder Material of the 21st Century.

What does this have to do with motorcycles? A graphene solution could make batteries cheaper, lighter, longer lasting and faster charging — all pluses for motorcycle riding. In experimental conditions, graphene batteries have shown they are capable of storing more than five times the electricity as a lithium-ion battery of the same size, and can produce an 85-percent charge in as little as 5 minutes.

But whatever the technology behind these futuristic batteries being released by Tesla and Lucid, it bodes well for the future of EV applications in general. A 200-mile range, quick charging adventure bike would be a godsend, just ask Ewan and Charley.

Hybrids

What continues to make the most sense in the short term for long-distance and off-grid excursions might be hybrid technology. In July of 2019, we reported Kawasaki had filed a patent for a hybrid motorcycle that used a combustion + electric motor. It showed several variations of battery and e-motor placement in relation to a single cylinder gasoline engine. 

A hybrid would definitely be the best of both worlds. If they made the technology car-like, the fuel engine and regenerative braking system could produce energy for the electric motor and the e-motor could assist or take over at low rpm to save fuel.

Still, there are the same inherent space limitations and weight concerns to contend with. As well as the global race for zero emissions, which make it very unlikely manufacturers are going to want to invest in a hybrid side game. 

Not Too Long Way Away?

Hopefully, as we continue to watch Ewan and Charley’s tour of charging opportunities along the coast of the Americas we’ll see them have fewer issues with charging and more time exploring their adventurous route. 

They did say that once they had breached the U.S. in Arizona, where there are high standards for household current and fast-charging stations aplenty, their situation was miraculously improved. 

And have no doubt, the recent battery-swapping innovations from companies like GoGoRo, and unveilings of new, level-up technology like the million-mile battery will soon influence the full-size motorcycle market as well, making the reality of a truly legit e-powered adventure bike closer than you might think. 

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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9 thoughts on “New Tech Could Make Electric ADV Bikes Viable Sooner Than You Think

  1. I like the idea of swappable battery packs. Looks like GoGoRo has the right idea. To be able to pull into a filling or charging station and swap a battery pack out like you would a propane tank would be viable. Even make smaller lighter battery packs like a rotopax you could strap to the back for extended runs in the middle of nowhere. Just have to get the big 4 on board so that one common battery would work fpr all manufacturers just like gasoline is a standard in most vehicles.

    • The swappable battery concept is great if you live in a urban area, where the infrastructure is available. For people riding out in the countryside and those travelling we need a reliable long range and short charging times.

      • Kai, If the battery packs were located at fuel service stations what would be the difference? You wouldn’t have any charge time just swap for a fully charged pack. Urban or countryside you still need to get gas. Swapping packs would probably be quicker.

  2. Actually I am looking forward to buy an electric motorcycle the style of my KTM 790 Adv R. More or less silent? 400km reach? Recharging in two, three hours? Take my money! I really don’t need a noisy engine to enjoy exploring the Swedish woods. However it needs to have a reliable reach and resonable recharging time. I am optimistic that I will be able to buy that bike within my lifetime. And charge it in the garage next to the little house on the lakeshore out in the woods, where I will live when retired! 🙂

  3. The problem I see with batteries is the long term waste they will create, and the manufacture them from extracting the chemicals out of the earth to a production battery consumes huge amount of natural resources such as water. the long term success lies in Hydrogen combustion

  4. I’m sick and tired of hearing “Electric this and Electric that, it’s all so wonderful”. I will guarantee you that unless a motorcycle makes the right sounds (two stroke or four stroke) and produces the correct “Odiferous Emanations”, such as raw fuel, burnt fuel, motor oil, antifreeze and chain lube there will never be an electric motorcycle in my garage. Electric vehicles are the “Vacuum Cleaners” of the automotive and motorcycle worlds- BECAUSE THEY SUCK!

  5. Pingback: Swappable Batteries and Improved Battery Tech Could Mean Electric ADVs Aren’t Far Off | Motorcycle News

  6. Pingback: California To Ban Gas-Powered Dirt Bikes. What You Need To Know | | Canada Electric Bike

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