Kawasaki have announced plans for a future range of hybrid and battery-powered bikes with a timescale that will see the first examples hitting showrooms in the very near future.
In doing so, the company took the wraps off the hybrid prototype that they have been dropping hints about for the last year or so, giving a clue as to how the technology will be applied to evolutions of existing petrol-powered machines.
In the shorter term, the company vowed to have more than 10 battery-electric and hybrid-electric motorcycle models in showrooms by 2025, little more than three years from now. That’s a notable turnaround from a couple of years ago, when, on showing an electric prototype, Kawasaki said there was no plan for a production bike.
Kawasaki say that come 2025 they will be launching an average of 16 new models a year (including the battery-electric and hybrids), and by then the firm will have launched 15 new off-road models, including some electric and/or hybrid machines.
Kawasaki also revealed that they’re developing hydrogen fuel technology for internal combustion engines – showing a version of the H2’s supercharged four-cylinder fitted with direct fuel injection, which is a steppingstone towards a hydrogen fuelled version.
Burning hydrogen instead of petrol means the exhaust would simply be water vapour, while retaining the performance and visceral appeal of an internal combustion engine.
The hybrid technology is what separates Kawasaki from their rivals at the moment. Although hybrid bikes have been made before, including Honda’s PCX Hybrid scooter and a handful of Piaggios, Kawasaki’s dedication to the idea is a step ahead.
Although Kawasaki haven’t officially revealed any details of the hybrid prototype, it appears to use the parallel twin engine from either the Ninja 250 or Ninja 400 (they’re visually identical, but the prototype has the slightly longer exhaust end can of the Ninja 400).
A large electric motor is fitted above the gearbox, connected to the transmission via a clutch. It can either provide drive or act as a generator to recharge the battery.
Speaking of the battery, that’s a 48V unit mounted under the seat. Its quite small, as the intention isn’t to allow a long electric-only range, but enough to allow the bike to run in pure electric mode at city speeds for short commutes or to boost the petrol engine’s performance when more power is needed out of town.
Kawasaki have also added a semi-automatic, pushbutton-operated transmission to the bike – probably to help smooth the transition between battery power, petrol power and combined hybrid power.
Unusually, the firm’s all-electric prototype, first seen in 2019 but shown again alongside the new hybrid, has a manually operated gearshift, even though most electrics are single speed.