First Look: Kawasaki Electric Concept
Is Kawasaki Teasing Us Yet Again With An EV Model?by TJ Hinton, on
Kawasaki hit 2019 EICMA with a number of interesting items, but I think the most notable entry may be the sleeper-hit of the year; the EV Project. That’s right sports fans, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is showing us that they are looking at displaced-carbon/electric motorcycles, and the “Electric Concept” gives us our first glimpse of what the concept is like moving forward.
Kawasaki Electric Concept Design
All the sportbike lines are present, not surprising since the chassis design is much like the Ninjas and Z models.
In this case, the Electric Concept looks a lot like a Ninja 650 even though the factory presented us with a stripped-down version at the Milan show and stated that it isn’t slated for production. All the sportbike lines are present, not surprising since the chassis design is much like the Ninjas and Z models.
Kawasaki Electric Concept Chassis
While the drive system marks a departure from the norm for Kawi, the suspension and brake systems are much the same way as a smoker bike.
Much like its gas-powered sibling, the Electric Concept is built around a tubular Trellis frame that uses the electric drivetrain as a stressed member to complete the structure. While the drive system marks a departure from the norm for Kawi, the engineers leaned on the lessons learned from conventional bikes and equipped the suspension and brake systems in much the same way as a smoker bike.
Kawasaki Electric Concept By The Numbers
The motor cranks out the electric equivalent of 26.8 horsepower for acceleration with a continuous power capacity of 13.4 horsepower.
As for the rough numbers, here’s what we know: the motor cranks out the electric equivalent of 26.8 horsepower (20 kW) for acceleration with a continuous power capacity of 13.4 horsepower (10 kW). The overall heft weighs in at 482.8 pounds (219 kg) to include the battery that stores enough energy for 62 miles (100 km), and while we know the EC can be recharged via household voltage from 100 Volts to 240 Volts, the factory has thus far kept recharge times close to the vest.
Kawasaki Electric Concept Drivetrain
Kawi added the weight and cost of a four-speed transmission purely for the experience of shifting.
Kawi took a step on the Electric Concept that few in the EV-bike sector entertain. It added the weight and cost of a four-speed transmission purely for the experience of shifting. At a time when most major players are rocking a direct-drive, twist-and-forget riding experience, Kawasaki seeks to deliver a mostly-traditional feel by giving the rider a clutch and shifter to deal with. Experienced riders will welcome the familiar ride and probably be a bit surprised to note the drive chain in a place where we typically see a belt, but it is what it is and I don’t see anything wrong with it.
The stripped-down version was presented as an appetizer, but the factory assures us it has tested the finished product out on the tracks and streets of Japan, so this bike has progressed far beyond the territory of the theoretical and well into the realm of the practical. Perhaps they’ll change their mind and slate it for production sooner rather than later and make the jump into the EV market official.
Kawasaki Electric Concept Pricing
Price is the key here, and it will make the difference between another somewhat-useful commuter and a gateway bike to usher in mainstream EV acceptance.
Since price is unknown given its concept status, it’s hard to compare it fairly against specific models, but the low mileage per charge will have to come with a price break to compete against the likes of Zero Motorcycle, H-D and Energica who bring a significant range extension to the table along with fast recharge times and moderately-high price points, particularly with the last two of the above. In fact, price is the key here, and it will make the difference between another somewhat-useful commuter and a gateway bike to usher in mainstream EV acceptance.
Kawasaki Electric Concept Competitors
Simply being electric isn't enough anymore. You have to prove your viability and worth against the established names.
Kawasaki is unveiling its Electric Concept to a growing market of EV bikes and with stiff competition to attract buyers. Simply being electric isn’t enough anymore. You have to prove your viability and worth against the established names.
Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire has a 15.5 kWh battery that delivers 146 miles in the city or 95 miles combined mileage per charge for a definite range advantage, and its electronics suite comes complete with cornering ABS, traction control, and drag-torque control. This gives Harley a significant edge over Kawi’s concept, as does the fast charge times, but at $30,000 for a MY20 LiveWire, I expect the price difference to be significantly in Kawasaki’s favor, should they move forward with this design.
Zero Motorcycles specializes in EV bikes, and the current flagship is the Zero SR/F naked sportbike. It gains a slight edge in range with a claimed 161 miles per charge in the city and 99 miles at highway speeds. Like Harley, it uses a direct-drive mechanism as opposed to a manual clutch and shifter, and experienced riders may find that a bit offputting. At $10,000 less expensive, the SR/F represents a lot of bike for the buck, and is the most likely to come into direct competition with Kawi’s Electric Concept.
Italian powerhouse Energica hits 2020 with a new naked sportbike model, the Eva Ribelle. Pricing is still sketchy, but best guess has it something just over $23,000 so it more or less splits the difference between the MoCo and Zero. One thing Energica has that the other two lack is a boatload of style that just can’t be faked. The Ribelle is at the top of the totem pole when it comes to the range with 250 miles per charge in the city, and this makes it a viable commuter or weekend warrior.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to bring EV bikes into mainstream acceptance, but it’s players like Kawasaki that we need to enter the game to bring in the buyer base to give the sector a violent shove upwards in popularity. Like I said though; a lot depends on price.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Enough talking about it. How about we start actually seeing something electric come out of the Green Machine stable? They’ve teased us in the past, but this concept does look promising. Its design is sleek and takes cues from popular models. The gearbox appeals to experienced riders who still want the feel of shifting and controlling the power of the machine all with the awesome torque afforded by the electric motor. The electric market is heating up and Kawasaki needs to jump onboard.”
Kawasaki Electric Concept Specifications
Read our review of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
Read our review of the Zero SR/F.
Energica Eva Ribelle
Read our review of theEnergica Eva Ribelle
See our review of the Kawasaki Z650.
Read more Kawasaki news.