Since 1997, the Toyota Prius hybrid has been filling the gap between internal combustion engine and full electric drivetrain automobiles. With all-electric technology still in its relative infancy, coupled with the lack of charging infrastructure, hybrids like the Prius provide exceptional fuel economy and reduced emissions, while still allowing for useful range and convenient refueling options. More recently, ultra-high-performance supercars have utilized hybrid technology to achieve staggering performance numbers, using the instant torque of the electric motors to supplement their conventional engines. With a reduced need for large banks of batteries, a hybrid setup could be a similar stop-gap technology for motorcycles on the way to full electrification.
While motorcycle manufacturers have dabbled in hybrid technology, it appears that Kawasaki may be ready to jump in with both feet, judging by the numerous patents they have filed. The latest sheds new light on their proposed hybrid system, most specifically the battery to be used, and details about how the two powerplants will interact.
While a fully electric motorcycle currently requires a large number of battery cells to provide enough energy for decent power and range, a hybrid setup can use a much smaller battery, and instead rely on the internal combustion engine to provide extended range and recharging.
For open-road cruising, where gas engines are relatively efficient, the electric motor can stay off, with the conventional engine providing thrust while also recharging the battery. At lower speeds, such as in the city (where, in some cases, only low-emissions vehicles are allowed), the motorcycle can run on the electric motor only. When instant power is needed, like in sport riding situations, both powerplants can be used together to provide the desired torque in any situation. A YouTube video from November, 2020, describes a hybrid system that can use the gas engine for highway use, all-electric for inner city use, then combine them both for twisty road riding.
The hybrid battery is designed to fit under the seat, with a second, conventional battery that powers the internal combustion engine’s ignition, ECU, and the bike’s lights.
Ever-tightening emissions and fuel economy regulations have put the squeeze on the motorcycle industry, and fully electric motorcycles have not yet taken the world by storm. An in-between solution like a hybrid appears to be a decent solution until battery packs shrink in size and cost, and infrastructure catches up. Kawasaki may be on the right track.
Source: CycleWorld.com, CycleVolta.com