The first mass-produced hybrid-electric car, Toyota’s Prius, entered the U.S. market in 1999. Over 20 years later, hybrid-electrics account for 5.4 million automobiles on the road. Plug-in electrics, on the other hand, are far behind at 1.4 million units sold since their debut in 2010.
The motorcycle market hasn’t followed this model, however. Brands such as Zero Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson jumped directly to all-electric drivetrains, but no manufacturers offer a hybrid-electric counterpart—yet. New patents filed by Kawasaki reveal that Team Green is still working on a hybrid platform, and it could function as a stop-gap between internal combustion ramp downs and all-electric adoption.
We got our first sneak peek at Kawi’s hybrid project in November, 2020, but the latest patents detail the design, size, and potential positioning of the new hybrid-electric battery. Of course, the battery would function like any hybrid-electric unit, supporting the internal combustion engine from a stop or fully taking over in urban environments. The petrol-powered engine would primarily power the vehicle during open-road riding, though. The hybrid system would also yield greater fuel economy thanks to the electric battery while also retaining the convenience of gas engines.
Kawasaki’s hybrid technology could also bypass the weight and range issues currently challenging the all-electric market. Producing an electric motorcycle with reasonable power and range requires several large battery cells. With a hybrid model, the small electric battery can rely on the internal combustion engine for recharging while still achieving an extended range.
Though the new patents represent encouraging progress, the brand hasn’t stated its intentions for the hybrid-electric prototype. We’ll have to wait for Kawasaki to announce whether the project is a concept or production model, but it's exciting to hear that Team Green is thinking about going green in the near future.