Kawasaki took to the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan to unveil a trio of electric motorcycles, with Electrek front and center to see the action live. The Kawasaki Ninja EV and Kawasaki Z EV were revealed as traditional battery-electric motorcycles, while the company also unveiled a hydrogen-powered HEV concept motorcycle.
I’ll spare you the uninspired cliché about “Team Green going green,” and we’ll just get to the bikes.
The electric Kawasaki Ninja unveiled
While both the Ninja and Z electric models are still in prototype form, Kawasaki Motors President Hiroshi Ito announced to the public that both models will be available for purchase next year.
As Ito explained:
This is the Z battery electric vehicle briefly presented at Intermot and now the very first Ninja BEV. These BEV versions represent two of Kawasaki’s leading brands, Ninja and the Z. Soon these pre-production machines will become true production machines available to our customers in 2023.
As has been common with the unveilings of electric motorcycles at EICMA this year, hard and fast tech specs are almost non-existent on the models.
However, Ito provided two key insights, explaining:
Compliant with the European A1 license, they will bring exciting “good times” to daily journeys. They each have a large battery capacity of up to 3.0 kWh with two easily removable 12 kg batteries.
These two nuggets indicate extremely reduced performance of the bikes. Ito wasn’t kidding when he described them as fulfilling a daily commuter role. A1-compliant motorcycles in Europe have a maximum engine power of just 11 kW. It’s not particularly powerful and puts the bikes in a class equivalent to 125cc.
Perhaps more striking is the limited battery capacity. 3 kWh of battery is small compared to most electric motorcycles today. Zero Motorcycles batteries range from around 7-17 kWh, while Energica offers over 21 kWh of battery.
Even small, low-cost electric motorcycles like the SONDORS Metacycle and Ryvid Anthem, both designed for daily commuting, offer at least 4kWh of capacity.
Thus, the Ninja EV is unlikely to have much more than 47 miles (75 km) of range at city speeds, and likely about half that range at highway speeds.
The removable batteries are surely designed to compensate for the low capacity, giving riders an easy way to recharge their batteries at home or in an apartment. But with today’s flagship electric motorcycles offering 5-7 times more battery power than Kawasaki’s new entries, it’s hard to imagine the brand will be competitive in the space when the bikes launch next year. .
Of course, these numbers shouldn’t come as a total surprise. We know that Kawasaki had been planning a low-performance electric motorcycle for some time.
At the same show three years ago, Kawasaki rolled out a prototype electric Ninja that revved a 10kW motor (20kW peak power) and claimed a range of 100km (62 miles).
At the time, we thought the bike would undergo major development to improve its performance, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
The bikes are impressive, no doubt. But beneath those panels sits a small, underpowered motor coupled to a pair of batteries smaller than those on my electric scooter.
Why use such small batteries?
The only reason I can think of for Kawasaki to equip its electric sport bikes with scooter-sized batteries is because that might be exactly what they are: scooter batteries.
Kawasaki spent years in a battery development consortium in Japan, originally created among the Big Four of Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.
The initial goal of the consortium was to develop a standard for interchangeable electric motorcycle batteries. In reality, it appears the growing consortium is simply defaulting to Honda’s Mobile Power Pack design, which is essentially a Gogoro-style scooter battery.
Honda’s MPP batteries are the right size and capacity to fit Kawasaki’s spec sheet, so the company might consider incorporating these batteries into its motorcycles. Looking through the vents of the display prototypes shows a complete lack of batteries, so no one yet knows how Kawasaki ultimately plans to power its electric motorcycles.
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