From the drawing board to the dyno.

Back in July, 2019, a newly-published patent from Kawasaki revealed plans for a hybrid motorcycle design. Both piston-powered and electric powertrains could work either in tandem or serially to power the bike in question.  

Fast-forward to November, 2020, and it seems that Team Green has spent its time in quarantine going much further down the hybrid path. The majority of this short video shows an animated conceptualization of Kawasaki incorporating hybrid power into a motorcycle design. However, it’s the last 25 seconds where the magic happens. 

The video in its entirety is a minute and 40 seconds long, but at the 1:15 mark, we get a tight, low-angle shot of Kawasaki’s hybrid on a dyno. For the next ten seconds, we get to hear the bike switching from electric to piston power, watching the chain keep driving the rear wheel as we listen intently. There’s a slight and visible shift as the power switches from one form to another, as well.  

The text “To be continued …" flashes up in white against a black background after our brief glimpse into Kawasaki’s progress on this project. Interestingly, back when we first saw the patent in 2019, Kawasaki mentioned the possibility of all kinds of applications for this technology.  

If you’ll recall, earlier in November, 2020, was also when Kawi announced it was spinning off its motorcycle business so that it would be separate from the other arms of the company. Over on the marine side, Kawasaki already has hybrid propulsion technology in play. Clearly, there are numerous differences between marine and motorbike applications—but the timing is still a fascinating wrinkle.  

Of course, two big challenges exist with modern electric bike development: range and battery weight. As with any technology, refinements to processes will continue to generate improvement over time. Still, it’s difficult not to wonder what kind of weight a hybrid system like this will have if and when Kawasaki brings it to market. A smaller battery will be possible because it’s a hybrid, but at the same time, the finished bike will have the weight of two powertrains to balance, rather than just one. It’s early days yet, so we’ll just have to see how battery and other involved technologies change over time.