It’s now the end of September 2023, and for over a year now, Kawasaki has been giving the world tantalizing glimpses into its electric and hybrid motorcycle development. Its electric bike plans have been discussed since at least 2019, while the hybrid motorcycle plans first started making waves a little later, beginning in 2020.
It’s reasonable to think that OEMs have plenty of conversations going on behind closed doors, so there’s no good way to know for sure when its internal discussions truly began. What we do know is that Kawasaki brought both its electric and its hybrid motorcycle prototypes to the 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan. There, attendees got a look at both bikes out on the circuit, and those of us elsewhere in the world got to see photos and video.
A couple of months later, EICMA 2022 took place in Milan, Italy in November. Kawasaki pulled the covers off both a Ninja EV prototype, a Z EV prototype, and its hybrid EV prototype—or HEV, for short. While both the Ninja and the Z EV prototypes were conceived and have been talked about by Kawasaki as short-range commuter bikes with removable, swappable batteries, the HEV was intended as more of a long-range, fun bike.
Now that it’s late September 2023, we’ve seen Kawasaki UK announce the imminent arrival of the Ninja e-1 and Z e-1 electric motorbikes. Although it hasn’t confirmed exact dates yet, the company says they’re coming soon, and has shown a handful of official promotional images of these bikes in what appears to be their production form and livery.
Thanks to the Turin Chronicle (or Torino Cronaca) out shooting video for another story in the Turin city center, we appear to have our first glimpse at what could be production livery for the Kawasaki HEV. The paper posted the video as a reel on Instagram, where it’s already racked up nearly three thousand likes at the time of writing.
In the video, we can see a photo minivan partly blocking a motorcycle at first as they come around a corner. You can clearly see someone seated inside, shooting video and/or photos. Doors are open on the minivan, and the rider of the bike has long blonde hair. A man in a black sweatshirt and jeans is holding up white papers and is telling the Torino Cronaca people that they can’t film or photograph the bike—which of course makes them proceed to zoom in, as you see in this video.
Kawasaki itself has shown off the HEV in public before, so the shape of the bike isn’t anything new. Instead, what we appear to be getting our first glimpse at could be the finished graphics and appearance of the upcoming HEV. Obviously, nothing is official until Kawasaki says that it is, but the white and Kawasaki-green livery that we see on this bike closely resembles the look of the finished Ninja e-1 and Z e-1 graphics that have just recently been revealed.
We can also see that the graphic on the side of the bike calls this vehicle a Ninja HEV. Again, it’s not exactly a surprise, given the extensive fairing and design of the HEV that we’ve seen thus far. However, it's still nice to see further confirmation.
It’s not clear when we can expect to see an official announcement about the Kawasaki HEV’s release in any market, but EICMA 2023 is coming in early November. We’re currently in the midst of all the new model announcements that manufacturers are making for 2024, so stay tuned.