Hybrid cars are all the rage these days, aren’t they? And I can see why. You can achieve over 100mpg without worrying about running out of juice every five minutes. I’ve been lucky enough to have a go in a few, and they’re actually quite good; the best of both worlds. And hybrid cars have been around for a little while now, so why hasn’t the technology trickled down to motorcycles? And will it ever?
One of the main reasons most car manufacturers have invested in hybrid technology is to get their average emission levels down. In most countries, government legislation says a vehicle manufacturer must have a sensible (it keeps changing) emissions average across the board of all its models. That means they can offset their gas-guzzling supercars with some baby-engined hybrid motors.
In car terms, bikes have already got baby engines anyway. And bike manufacturers aren’t subject to quite the same emissions legislation. And certainly not in the same way. So there isn’t the same need for hybrid motorcycles, as far as the manufacturers are concerned.
Even bikes with small engines don’t have a lot of room left for a battery, an electric motor and all the charging gubbins that goes with it. There’s bags of space in cars; there simply isn’t on a bike. So if you wanted to develop a hybrid bike, you’d have to rethink the whole thing. To shoehorn everything you need into a normal bike chassis would be almost impossible, so you’d end up with something that doesn’t look or feel much like a motorcycle.
New and interesting looking bikes are all good and well, but when you’re trying to sell a new type of technology to existing motorcyclists, it doesn’t help if it looks nothing like the bikes they’re used to.
Have you ever picked up a car battery? Of course you have. Bloody heavy, aren’t they? And they’re just there to power a few spark plugs, a radio and some windscreen wipers. Imagine the size and weight of the battery you’d need to power a big electric motor; an electric motor capable of powering you, your bike and that big battery along the road.
To kit a bike out with a battery and motor that’d be worth anything, would probably end up weighing the thick end of 50kg. It would literally be like running two engines. Or carrying your (slim) girlfriend on the back.
In theory, the ‘technology’ is already there to manufacture hybrid motorcycles. So it’s not as if it would cost squillions in R&D to develop the motors, batteries, charging systems etc. But because of the sheer size of the stuff, bike designers would have to have their work cut out to make it work. So who knows how much it would actually cost for them to get something off the ground.
And as far as the price to us, the consumer, goes, well that’s a difficult one to quantify. Who knows what they’d charge for hybrid motorcycles? If you look at prices in the car world, they tend to charge roughly 40% more for cars with hybrid capability. Perhaps we could expect a similar price hike in bikes, should serious hybrid motorcycles eventually materialise. That’d mean a £10,000 bike, would be closer to £14,000 if you went for the hybrid version.
Is it feasible?
Not yet, no. Until they can make batteries and motors much smaller and much lighter, we’re not going to see a ton of hybrid motorcycles in dealerships. If any. I know there are one or two obscure hybrid motorcycles out there that you could purchase if you really wanted, but they are far from mainstream. And I think that’s the way it’s going to stay for a while. Sorry to disappoint you.