Feb 072011

The Future of Electric Motorcycles?

Agility will never be accused of sticking to tradition for tradition’s sake. Freed from the constraints of complicated combustion engines and all the associated tackle, designer Lawrence Marazzi has unveiled a brand new, fully electric British motorcycle that turns the rules of motorcycle design on their head.

The Saietta features a hossack-inspired front end, an eye-popping fairing design and a crazy degree of mass centralization that could only be achieved with battery cells. Billed as a guerrilla commuter, it promises to be a very exhilarating ride. See the video after the jump to hear Marazzi talk about the design process, the future of electric motorcycles and the unique properties of the Saietta.

Electric motorcycles are as common as petrol-powered scooters in places like Shanghai, where motorcycles are seen purely as cheap transport. In the west, where motorcycles are more a pleasure purchase, we tend to demand a lot more from our machines in terms of performance and handling.

And it’s coming. As Agility’s Lawrence Marazzi points out, the automotive industry is small and stagnant when viewed against the massive consumer electronics industry, and all those consumer electronics companies are working to develop the cheaper, smaller, longer-lasting, higher-energy battery cells that will soon push electric vehicles into the mainstream.

Still, for now, most electric motorcycles are limited to around a 100-mile (161 km) range per charge – and that’s more than enough for the average daily commute. So companies like Agility are looking at how to pack as much giggle factor as possible into a daily ride.

The company’s first bike is the Saietta, unveiled on Thursday in the UK. Specs are scarce and Agility is a little cagey about revealing them at this point – but two models will be available, one with an approximately 50-mile (80.5 km) range, another with a 100-mile range. The only difference between these bikes will be the battery packs.

How much power do you want?

Horsepower is not yet stated, but as Marazzi points out, “it’s kind of like deciding what homepage you want on your computer … we’ve got a certain amount of flexibility there, and we’ve designed for an envelope that covers both ends of the spectrum.”

What he means is that, using downloadable power map options, you can more or less choose your own horsepower rating and power curve. It will be up to the owner how much power they wish to use, or if they’d prefer to conserve battery for additional range. But as a guideline, the Saietta will be released with the capability of hitting 60mph (96.5 km/h) in 4 seconds, roughly the equivalent of a midrange naked.

Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Like all electrics, there doesn’t have to be a power curve in the way that we’re used to with petrol bikes. So when a user decides to select a setting that enables full power from a standing start, it’s very easy to flip the Saietta and land on your backside, as one test-rider found out early on in the process.

Read more . . .

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