Forget the styling but an e-bike could be what we all ride one day
Try to forget the stupid
It’s the concept electric-powered bike that Mugen wheeled out at a recent bike show in Japan. And of course, I believe 99.9% of the readers of MotoHead will instantly hate it. Not just for the stupid styling and name, but for what it is. A quiet bike. One that doesn’t have the braaap of a finely-tuned two-stroke or throaty rasp of a race-tuned four-stroke. Things we’ve all loved over the years. It’s not a proper motorbike, it’ll probably cost a fortune, only run for a short time and be too heavy and slow. Pile of rubbish.
Except, just about everyone in Government and the transport industries want it, demand it and will probably get it eventually. After all, noise is a big no-no for many people, so a quiet bike makes sense. And of course the thing doesn’t burn petrochemicals which harm the pandas and melt the ice caps. Although everyone that says this somehow forgets that electricity to charge the thing does come from somewhere – such as burning fossil fuels. But despite the energy costs to build and run an electric vehicle, it’s still more environmentally friendly than a gas-guzzler.
In fact, the arguments against electric power for race bikes are the same that the world of high-performance cars had. Who’d want a Ferrari or Porsche with an electric motor? Well, the answer is… lots of people. The very latest supercars use electric motors as well as normal internal combustion engines to go faster than ever before. Energy recovery systems – using the dynamic energy of the car to charge a cell which can unleash its power when needed – has been on Formula One cars for a while. And if anyone has ever been in a Tesla road-going sports car, then they’ll know what 0-60mph in under three seconds in total silence feels like. Incredible.
But in bikes, the technology has largely been downplayed. There are some e-bikes and e-dirt bikes, but none really have been taken that seriously and most are like super-size mountain bikes compared to a race-ready 450. The American Alta is a bit different though, and even won a head-to-head race in the Red Bull Straight Rhythm last year. There’s even talk the Alta will be in Supercross in 2018 for which it could be very suitable. Short races and instant acceleration are its forte – ideal for short course racing.
In the world of road racing, Mugen has led the way with its Isle of Man TT winning bikes – in the e-bike class of course. Piloted by top TT racers like John McGuinness and Guy Martin, these bikes lap as fast as proper 250 race bikes of not too long ago. They are proper fast. And it’s Mugen that have led this E-Rex project which you may spot has a Honda sticker on the side.
Mugen was set up by the son of Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda, as a development arm. So they could work on future technology. And they started in motocross. While Honda’s early 1970s Elsinores were ground-breaking, they hardly changed them for years. Still short travel, air-cooled, twin shock beasts. But with Honda’s blessing and cash to develop ideas, Mugen wheeled out a long-travel water-cooled 125 that was totally space age by comparison. Very soon afterwards, all that tech appeared on Honda’s production CRs.
Honda has seen that KTM already has a production electric bike on sale, and must be worried that it doesn’t have one in the wings. That’s why it’s asked Mugen to make one – using the tech know-how from its road race bikes and Formula One cars. The bikes uses a very CRF250-like frame and suspension, which Honda definitely know how to build. In fact, the bike was on a Honda stand at the Japanese bike show, not a Mugen stand.
When a manufacturer like Honda starts to get serious about proper, full-size electric motocross bikes, then the writing might be on the wall for dirt bikes as we know them. Like two-strokes, which Honda stopped making a decade ago now. If this e-bike had been showed with conventional motocross styling in Honda red with CR-E logos on, the world of motocross would have gone into meltdown. But don’t be fooled. This is a Honda-authorised project, however Big Red wants to disguise it. And it could be coming sooner than you think.
Original content from MotoHead Issue 5 by Adam Duckworth