Triumph TE-1; the electric bike we’ve been waiting for?

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You may or may not have heard of Project Triumph TE-1. It’s a project that was publicised a little bit a few years ago, but since then, it’s been all quiet on the western front. Until today. That’s because the project, led by Triumph Motorcycles, in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, Integral Powertrain Ltd and WMG at the University of Warwick, and funded by the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles, has just reached the completion of Phase 2. Well that’s all very nice, but what exactly is Project Triumph TE-1? I’ll tell you…

Put simply, it’s a two year project focused on ‘developing technical innovation and advanced electric motorcycle capability’. It’s basically a massive, inter-industry government funded R&D exercise. It’s definitely not an attempt by Triumph to develop a new, class-leading, state-of-the-art electric motorcycle, and have someone else pay for it. Not that in the slightest. According to the press release, the machine they’re working on is purely a prototype to develop chassis and powertrain technology in an effort to reduce UK emissions, nurture sustainable partnerships with UK industry and enhance the expertise and capability within the UK workforce. Nowhere does it say the prototype will be put into production any time soon. And who are we to read between the lines?

And that’s a real shame, because some of the innovations make pretty exciting reading. Williams Advanced Engineering have been concentrating on ‘energy density’, or cramming as much power into as small a battery as possible. And they reckon they’ve done it too. Apparently “the energy density of this new battery will be a significant step forward from existing technology giving the rider more power, for longer.” But then again they would say that, wouldn’t they? We’ve been told that the battery will be capable of a 120 mile range, and take 20 minutes to charge from 0% to 80%.

Integral Powertrain Ltd. have managed to integrate the motor and inverter into one single, compact package, which is pretty cool. It means the whole thing can be smaller and lighter with the need for fewer heavy duty, high voltage cables. There’s also some pretty trick sounding ‘silicone switch technology’ in the inverter which dramatically reduces frictional losses, so that can’t be bad.

One of the most impressive things though, is the fact that the motor produces nearly 180bhp; and it’s less than 10kg. That’s a power to weight ratio that’d surely be impossible with an internal combustion engine. But then again, an internal combustion engine doesn’t need a 50kg battery, does it? In it’s ‘ready to ride’ state, the prototype bike will be 220kg which isn’t bad; it’s only about 10kg more than the last generation Speed Triple, but with quite a bit more power.

As well as leading the project, Triumph are overseeing the chassis design of the prototype. We don’t have a lot of details about the chassis, although if you tilt your head and squint your eyes, it does bear an ever-so-slight resemblance to a Speed Triple chassis. They’re telling us they have designed a brand new prototype chassis which they’ll use as a ‘mule’ to test the platform in the next stages of the project.

The chassis performance, they say, will be as similar as they can make it to existing Triumphs. I’m guessing they’re talking about the Speed Triple. By matching the centre of gravity, they reckon they’ll be able to mimic the handling characteristics of existing models. They also said that, as far as the styling goes, they wanted to create ‘something that is fresh and exciting but a natural evolution of the Triumph brand’. Even though it’s just a prototype. Even though it’s just a testbed to develop a new electric drivetrain.

Nah, pull the other one, Triumph. I don’t buy it. I think before long there is going to be a big ‘Triumph TE-1’ new-model announcement. It might be in a years’ time. It might be two. But I think it’s going to happen. Remember the last ‘prototype’ Triumph showed us? Remember their last ‘mule’? I can. It was their Moto2 engine testing chassis, and it didn’t take them long to put that into production (even if it was a limited run).

If it doesn’t happen, I’d be surprised. I’ll also be fairly disappointed. Because it sounds like Triumph and the their TE-1 partners are onto something here. And I can’t wait to find out.

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