KAWASAKI HYBRID & ELECTRIC PROTOTYPES ESTATE COVER

Kawasaki’s Suzuka shock as electric and hybrid prototypes break out.

In a reveal that shocked even factory insiders, Kawasaki has used Japan’s famous Suzuka 8-Hour race to preview two prototypes of its upcoming electric/hybrid lineup.

A fully electric naked bike and a faired hybrid model gave a brief demonstration at dusk on the main straight ahead of the pit lane, which was packed with top racing teams from rival brands.

Japanese publication AutoBy snapped these images which foreshadow a carbon-neutral range that Kawasaki is set to start selling in 2023. After showing the results of a decade-long e-bike development program in 2019, Kawasaki is finally committed to the idea of ​​battery power last year. It promised to introduce at least 10 electric or hybrid models by 2025 and to fully electrify its range by 2035.

The first step in KawasakiThe plan is the introduction of three electric models for the 2023 range. These have already started, albeit on a small scale, with the Elektrode, but thisIt’s just a balance bike for kids. The next additions will be more interesting: a duo of 125cc equivalent electric bikes.

Leaked via US documents, they appear to be eligible for the 125cc class, performance-wise, and eligible for use as learner models in Europe.

The electric prototype

During KawasakiIn Suzuka’s surprise run, the e-bike featured was a naked roadster the size of a conventional 125cc. However, its body is directly borrowed from the Z400, and is notThis isn’t likely representative of the final production machine, but the mechanical parts underneath are likely the 2023 showroom parts.

Theyre something of a surprise, as the engineering is a noticeable change from the previous electric prototype shown in 2019. Although it was also a 125cc equivalent, it had unusual engineering including an expansive battery and a high-speed CHAdeMo takeover, plus a four-speed manual transmission and conventional clutch to appeal to existing riders.

The new prototype is very different and uses a single-speed gearbox like more conventional e-bikes. The rear brake is still foot operated, leaving a leverless left handlebar. Although we canTo be sure, it also looks like Kawasaki has ditched the big, heavy and expensive battery pack, along with the expensive CHAdeMo charger, in favor of a removable battery pack.

Kawasaki is part of the Japanese Interchangeable Motorcycle Battery Consortium, which also includes Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha. It has now established a standardized battery and connector specification to enable the development of interchangeable packs that can be transferred between companies.bicycles. This means that instead of needing fast charging and long-range heavy batteries, companies can work together to create a network of battery swapping stations to enable high speed. Refueling.

The hybrid

Kawasaki first showed off its prototype hybrid bike last year, using the parallel-twin engine from the Z250 or Z400. However the Suzuka hybridthe exhaust system more closely matched the Z400s, suggesting the greatest capacity. To this engine is added an electric motor, sitting above the gearbox and connected via a clutch which allows it to be engaged or disengaged.

When engaged, it can operate either as a motor, adding performance, or running with the petrol engine declutched in pure electric mode, or as a generator to recharge the relatively small 48V battery that powers it.

While the pure electric range will be limited to just a few kilometers, it will allow driving in the city center in zero emission mode. During motorway journeys, the petrol engine takes pressure, recharging the battery in the process, and when maximum performance is needed, the two powertrains can work in harmony, giving 600cc class speed.

To allow seamless switching between powertrains, the transmission is semi-automatic, with a push-button shifter on the left handlebar. Patents have suggested that the power boost mode would be accessed via a thumb trigger attached to the throttle on the right bar.

To last yearDuring the low-key presentation, the hybrid was referred to as a prototype and presented without its bodywork, but the Suzuka prototype featured a full fairing which, unlike the electric model, appears to be largely purpose-built. The frame, suspension and brakes all seemed to be borrowed in part from the Z400/Ninja 400, along with the parallel-twin engine.

WORDS // BEN PURVIS
PHOTOGRAPHY // AUTOBY
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