Which Motorcycle Engine Technology Will Win?

Enertia electric motorcycle by Brammo MotorsportsWhich alternative, if any, to the gasoline 4 stroke engine do you think is most likely to become dominant in future motorcycles? Will we continue as we are now or adopt one or more of the alternatives? Over the last several years, we've highlighted many motorcycles built with all sorts of power plants, some of those bikes worked and looked great, some were a bit more problematic. Some, like ethanol, are fairly easy to implement, others, like hydrogen fuel cells, a lot more difficult or expensive, with diesel, hybrid or electric power somewhere in the middle, and now T. Boone Pickens is promoting natural gas, like we see in some of those autorickshaws. Do any of these seem likely to become a clear winner? Which is most appealing? Which seems most practical?

Thunder Star 1200 TDI diesel motorcycleMotorcycles, obviously, get pretty decent mileage compared to the average car or truck, small displacement engines go over 100 mpg, though your mileage may vary, but even a large displacement gas hog of a motorcycle still gets 30 or 40 mpg, so we have a running start at high mileage as soon as we get on 2 wheels. Do we even need to be concerned?

For shorter ranges, electrics have a lot going for them, they're quiet and clean with a lot of performance potential. Whether the electricity comes from a battery charged with a plug or produced from a fuel cell on board, the electric motor itself looks like a winner.

Honda 50 ad claims 225 miles per gallonFor longer ranges, we still have a lot of engineering ahead of us to come up with something as convenient and energy dense as liquid fuel running an internal combustion engine. Though the specific liquid may change, whether a biofuel or petroleum based, whether spark or diesel, liquid fuel probably has a long run yet.

CNG, compressed natural gas, is already used in a lot of trucks and buses, especially in locations where pollution is a concern, and because it works well in the old internal combustion engine a switch to this fuel could happen in relatively short order. Finding a place for compressed gas cylinders on our motorcycles shouldn't be a problem, performance addicts have been strapping nitrous cylinders to their bikes for years. CNG could be a very interesting option.

I think enthusiasts will come around to anything that works as long as the performance we've come to expect isn't lost along the way. So what are your thoughts and preferences? Gasoline, diesel, hybrid, fuel cell, battery, CNG or something else entirely?

Link: T. Boone Pickens Plan
Related: High Mileage Honda 50


  1. chris says

    Picken’s Plan could be a first step in the right direction. The US needs to take their foot off the gas (not literally) before we hit the brakes on our dependence on oil. If we keep on accelerating (like we have been) we are going to hit a dilapidating wall, and that translates to a foreseeable future with an eventual $10.00 a gallon.

  2. Randy says

    I pick CNG as the future power source with the greatest potential. I am somewhat biased though because I work in the natural gas business. CNG has natural high octane so engine compression ratios could go up and so would performance.

  3. lostinoz says

    CNG or LP would be an easy logical choice, they use it in forklifts and every other industrial setting already so why not a little more?
    We’re going to be wondering however why we didnt invest in alt energy again though when the LP raises from its amazingly low rate to astronomical levels in the future with the same cries of we’re running out.
    Im all for electric IF we can get our ranges up with a shorter recharge. 4 hr (on avg) charge every 200 miles or so? no thanks. Nuclear fission powered motorcycles!!! that concept just scares me… not enough coffee.
    I’ve thought of a super clean steam powered world before, but theres no efficent way to do it without the burning of something.
    Id definately be a rich man if I could solve the worlds gas shortage, but someone WILL get rich, and it WILL be solved someday.
    In the end my vote (long term) is electric, and short term LP to get us through till the technology is up to snuff on electric vehicles.

  4. Tinker says

    I had a girlfriend who drove a truck that was converted to Propane. I hope you expect it to be less of a problem, than hers was. When she switched over to propane (and propane accessories) that truck would shudder, and twitch, like a drunk falling into a pool.

    Of course, this was about 1970, so it was not even a cost effective conversion, gas was still under a dime in many areas.

  5. steve says

    It depends on the mission profile, and the cost to own (upfront) and the cost to operate (ongoing).

    For 20 miles or less between charging I would go electric. I think plug in acess to recharge at the workplace would be a plus. Or a solar recharging panel maybe?

    And enough speed to keep you safe in traffic.

    I dont know if CNG would have enough range, becuase it isnt in liquified state and there isnt much room for a big tank on a bike. LPG could work quite well, they use a lot of it in autos down under, why not bikes?

  6. says

    We are the “interim generation” in regards to energy use.

    CNG seems like it would be a good short-term option that would provide competition to petroleum while providing time for other alternatives to be further developed.

    With CNG, there does not appear to be a relatively large amount of money required for motorcycle development and/or infrastructure at the fueling stations. It does buy us some time to move past the “interim phase” and into the next fuel source while keeping gas prices in check.

    Looking at the longer term (which may be beyond our lifetimes), it is very exciting to see Honda manufacture a Hydrogen Accord automobile. Honda is considered to be somewhat conservative with product launches, yet they invested a great deal into a product that doesn’t have the infrastructure for it in place. Granted, this post is about motorcycles, but if any company can downsize the hydrogen tech to be applicable to 2 wheels, Honda would be a good bet.

  7. GAMBLER says

    I will miss the Japan I4 1K’s, but a plug in makes sense at this stage of Fossil Fuled World.

  8. Brian says

    A note of caution about LP. Every place it’s use in transportation, the highly compressed gas container is surrounded by quite a bit of protection in the form of crushable sheet metal. There is none on a cycle. It could be a moving bomb. LP burns much hotter, and so valve stem, valve guide, & valve seat wear are a problem. Solvable, but still an issue.

  9. taxman says

    Some people may disagree with me but I feel that Electric motorcycles are the best and easiest next step.

    Raser Technologies has an electric motor that weighs 147lbs and puts out 86 hp and 300 ft. lbs of torque. That’s better horsepower than my Harley Sportster and 40lbs less weight. For the more efficiency conscious people out there they have a smaller electric motor that has peak power of 64hp, weighs 92lbs, and is only 6 inches by 12 inches. A123Systems makes fast charging batteries that I believe are used in the Killacycle Bike. This is just what we have now. Think about what we could have if companies were competing for unit sales of motorcycles. The tech is there, it’s just not cost effective. The best way to make it cost effective is to mass produce.

    The biggest difficulty is to get people to try a new idea. The problem with electric is that it’s one of the farthest ideas from gas. Most other ideas are just merely cousins of the normal gas combustion engine, so they are easier to stomach.

  10. OMMAG says

    Basing the assumptions about what a motorcycle will look like on the current HIGH gas prices is nonsense.

    First – There is NO shortage of oil or gas … just higher prices.

    Second – the economic arguments for alternative fuels are largely aimed at the industrial sector the commercial transport sector and the public utility sector.

    Automobiles may be demonized as fuel wasters but the greatest effect of consumption in cars can be dealt with by reducing the size of them. In motorcycles there is NO valid argument because of the limited numbers and limited impact any efforts to reduce consumption in this area.

    The end result will likely be MORE CHOICES in vehicle types and certainly electric recharge systems will be there.

    As for combustion ….. there is more coal in the continental US than anywhere else in the world.
    It can be converted to gaseous fuel very economically or even to liquid. In any case most of the future hydrocarbon fuel will used for the utility/industry sectors.

    Costs will ultimately dictate what works and what does not in all cases but for personal and public transport …. you’ll be burning petroleum for many years to come.

  11. OMMAG says

    PS .. that US coal also represents more liquid fuel than all the current known reserves of petroleum can produce!

  12. says

    Electric on a large scale* is not a solution if we don’t move away from coal as being the leading source for electricity and address the longevity of batteries.

    And to your point, it is the furthest away from the other technologies, so it doesn’t make sense as an “interim” solution if it means departing too far from the existing technologies that may be adapted to suit a long term solution.

    A123 Systems is developing great batteries.

    *if there are hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on the road

    What would a fraction of the half trillion dollars spent on an invasion do if it was put towards algae research instead?

    Pick a fraction such as: .002

    $500,000,000,000.00 x .2 % = $1 billion.

    Scientists can probably do a lot with a billion….and we’d still be ahead by Hundreds of Billions .

  13. taxman says

    “It’s no secret anymore that for every nine barrels of oil we consume, we are only discovering one.”
    -The BP Statistical Review of World Energy

    The world is addicted to oil. In just 8 years, it’s projected the world will be consuming nearly 50,000 gallons of oil every second.

    By that time, the world won’t be able to meet the projected demand… for one simple reason: We’re using up oil at breakneck speed.

    And it’s also no secret that official oil reserve numbers furnished by OPEC member governments have been fudged for years. The International Energy Agency (IEA) even admitted to knowing about some of OPEC’s wizards cooking their books.

    Still, OPEC claims they can increase their production to 20 million barrels of crude oil per day. But how can they increase their output when it’s been found that OPEC Middle East oil nations, even Saudi Arabia, are pumping oil from known “post-production” fields? There’s one answer…

    It’s called the “Peak Oil” crisis, and it’s happening on a global scale. And while most of the world stand by with blinders on, savvy, strategic investors are beginning to catch on.

  14. says

    I agree that small electric bikes will be great for commuting and playriding, and I expect them to really take off in the next couple of years.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any viable alternative to replace large cc gas-engined bikes right now, however.

  15. says

    This may sound incredibly naive and pessimistic, but what the heck.

    I think that in order to SOLVE a problem, there has to in fact BE a real problem. One could argue, that the only real problem today is fear. Who caused all that fear?

    What if those at the helm, the ones guiding this so called democracy in the U.S., do in fact have a master plan on what energy source the masses will consume. Then it really wouldn’t matter which fuel is scientifically proven to be the most efficient power source or cleanest or cheapest to produce. It only matters which fuel the people are led to believe is the right one. Not by brainwashing, but by causing fear in everything else.

    Why is it illegal for the U.S. to drill for oil off the coast of our own country? Because we might harm some birds?? Come on, really???

    Why is nuclear energy considered un-safe? The significant number of major global meltdowns (two) must be it, right??

    I support small nuclear-powered motorcycles. Has anyone tried it? Or is there too much fear? Of course, the problem with that motorcycle is it would be 100% self sufficient and not need any fuel, ever. Nothing, nada, zilch. Just load in a few stable atoms and it spits out some water vapor.

  16. says

    There are real problems.
    Hopefully, the “powers at be” don’t pull another “who killed the electric car?” event and the power of the people and free markets pick the most logical choice.

    Drilling for oil is dangerous and increasingly risky the harder it gets to find. Horizontal drilling under cities and neighborhoods? Offshore drilling with increasingly more powerful storms? Yes, its harmful

    Just because there have been 2 nuke melt downs doesn’t practically consider the whole picture. When one does melt, what happens? Surely, there are other ways without that level of risk.

  17. christopher says

    anyone wanna design a new kind of ENGINE??? one that is maybe twice as efficient as the current piston engine? (don’t give me the Wankel story, i know it. it’s a good one but the piston engine wins for many reasons) that’d buy us some serious time. imagine if the world began using gasoline HALF as fast. better yet, what if the world started using and ALTERNATIVE FUEL half as fast as gasoline? the writing is on the wall – gasoline as we know it is dead. so why hold on to the piston engine so desperately? electric motors will probably rule the streets someday, but we need something in the meantime. perhaps some attention ought to be paid to what the fuel is used in.

  18. WRXr says

    Electric…easily. In China and much of Asia electric bikes and scooters are as common as water. I read that last year over 20 MILLION e-bikes were sold in China. Recharging at night also utilizes otherwise wasted power plant capacity. They don’t turn off at when you got to bed ya’know.

  19. says

    Ok, Doug, so maybe putting new oil rigs in the hurricane belt is not such a good idea. I’ll give you that. But maybe they could be made stronger. Only one rig built using the new standards in the Gulf, out of 2900 rigs, leaked oil from a hurricane.

    Nuclear meltdowns? As far as I know, no one has ever had a meltdown on a nuclear motorcycle.

  20. shubber says

    Electricity by far. And nuclear power as a mass-producing powerplant is both extremely safe and efficient.

  21. Clive Makinson-Sanders says

    Nuclear powerplants would be awesome. I have to assume however that you are joking. Unless you’re referring to cold fusion which doesn’t exist yet. Otherwise the heat, size, and radiation poisoning issues might hinder production of nuclear powered motorcycles.

    Also disposal of nuclear materials might get sticky when mass produced nuclear powerplants are realized.

    But don’t get me wrong, i think it would be freakin awesome!

  22. MadScience says

    Maybe I’m bragging a little, but I’ve been researching just these issues for years. I know my schnitt.

    The only thing holding back electric vehicles has always been the batteries, always. Recently, lithium-ion batteries have been coming down in price due to mass production. Lithium-ion used in the A123 Killacycle and the Tesla Roadster.

    Lithium-polymer batteries have just this year come into production, already the first 3 production runs are sold, all for electric vehicles in Europe and Japan. Lithium-polymer batteries are cheaper, charge faster, have much longer service lives and in testing had 3X the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

    EEStor has partnered with Lockheed Martin to begin production of their revolutionary ultra-capacitor. Capable of holding roughly 2.5X the power of lithium-ion batteries, recharge time measures in minutes, and (hypothetically) a very long service life because it has no chemical deterioration or moving parts. First production run pre-sold to Zenn Motor Company for their cityZENN electric car.

    Very telling is the fact that this year at the Detroit Auto Show both GMC and Toyota publicly abandoned their fuel cell programs because the newest crop of battery technology made fuel cells obsolete before the fuel cell was even ready for production. Other companies are continuing with their fuel cell research.

    On the subject of hydrogen, fuel cells are the expensive and high tech way of keeping hydrogen power out of our hands. Fuel cells are needlessly complicated and nearly impossible for the layman work with. Hydrogen COMBUSTION however is as easy as LPG and LNG. BMC currently sells dual fuel gas/hydrogen 7-series in Europe that burn either fuel w/i the same engine. There used to be at least 2 companies in CA doing hydrogen gas conversions but I can’t find current information. My favorite source is a very detailed account of converting a 427 Shelby Cobra to hydrogen combustion for a shot at the hydrogen land speed record (which has been broken several time since). That article is here:http://www.clean-air.org/Hydrogen%20Cobra%20Story/Hydrogen%20Cobra.htm

    And for combustion engine of all sorts, the most efficient combustion engine is the turbine, but it doesn’t lend itself to scaling down too small, not that very many have tried. Probably a lot of advancement left to be made on that front.

    Hope I provided enough information to get you guys researching on your own.

  23. Clive Makinson-Sanders says

    Damnit you guys got me thinking. Nuclear power is acutally steam power, using the heat from the fission of enriched uranium particles being split by electrons emitted from other uranium particles being split which in turn splits other uranium particles. When water is applied to absorb the heat of these fissions, the water turns to steam which runs a turbine. The turbine rotation can be used to power things like submarines because there is a constant supply of water surrounding a submarine, but in a land vehicle, it would be difficult to maintain the amount of water needed to spin a turbine. HOWEVER, heat causes expansion of atmospheric gasses which could be harnessed into an internal combustion situation where pistons are forced into motion. I think..

    the heat, disposal and radiation issues are still pretty relevant but before now i never even considered nuclear fission as a viable propulsion option.

    thanks guys.

  24. todd says

    Gasoline is currently the most efficient and still relatively safe source of power. I do think electricity is the strongest alternative since we’re finally starting to put some effort in how to store it and convert it efficiently.

    The thought of using compressed air like Steve mentions is not that crazy. I recently bought an Air Hogs compressed air powered air plane. Ironically enough it was a polyester and styrofoam assembly in a brown, recycled paper box for $7. Unlike battery powered toy air planes this AIR plane did not contain any type of toxic battery and no lead soldered doodads on fiberglass and silicon. I gave the plane about 15 pumps, less than half the recommended amount and sent it off. It flew much faster, higher and longer than any of the rechargeable planes my brother in-law plays with; I was duly impressed. He went and bought one for himself.

    A motorcycle could potentially have a fairly small cylinder of a liquified inert gas such as Nitrogen. This could contain enough stored energy to power a simple, plastic piston motor or impeller and propel the bike quite satisfactorily. On the other hand having so much stored energy between your legs would be very scary. The liquid to gas volumetric expansion rate is around 1:700.

    Maybe we could use dry ice (solid carbon dioxide). You could pour water on it and let it boil off (sublimation) and the expanding gas would drive a piston. Dry ice expansion rate is around the same as liquid nitrogen. Though dry ice only puts out about 70psi that force could be used to charge some other medium (like batteries or capacitors) that has a faster discharge rate for greater acceleration.

    Regardless, the potential sources of (storing) power are endless.


  25. GenWaylaid says

    Wow, this website as an unusually creative bunch of readers.

    Electric motorcycles don’t have to be small. In fact, the heavier models would be easier to match in performance. To travel 100 miles at highway speeds would require somewhere in the ballpark of 10+/-2 kWh of batteries, weighing 100+/-20 kg. In a 200 kg bike, that’s feasible. The newest batteries can get power in and out very quickly, it’s just difficult to find an outlet that can handle a quick charge when you’re away from home. Ultracapacitors may not have the energy density of lithium batteries, but they can be used as an energy buffer to get even more power out for short bursts.

    Properly shielding a nuclear motorcycle so that it wouldn’t render you sterile would be quite a challenge. Perhaps you’d be better off storing the energy in batteries and keeping the nuclear reactor at home. Or, you could mooch off the big nuclear reactor overhead with some photovoltaic cells. None of this is very cheap or light, but it’s still better than a fission reactor.

    There are programs on the fringes of fusion research looking at pulsed plasma fusion. That might scale down well, and some of the aneutronic types like H1-B11 might only need minor shielding.

    I’m surprised no one has made a natural gas or compressed air bike already. Either one would be relatively easy to fit within an existing frame. There’s a French company that’s trying to get a compressed air “AirCar” to market. The motor from that thing probably is size-appropriate for a motorcycle. If the tank for either kind of compressed gas is going in the regular place, better invest in riding suits with an insulated crotch.

    Finally, steam definitely has some appeal. What a great way to make use of our huge coal reserves! Of course, range would be severely limited (try adding a sidecar water tender) and the time required to go from cold to a full head of steam compares favorably only to battery charging. Still, what an awesome ride that would be!

  26. Nicolas says

    I vote for gas. I want to keep “vroom vroom” and “plop plop” on my ride.

    Electric power, or fuel cells, or your grandmother curtains dry sublimation, or nuclear bomb can be used for cars/trucks, which have more room and capacity to hold complex power systems, and leaving the gas for the motorcycles which have today a good mileage, and could easily have a tomorrow great mileage.

    By the way, my grandfather used to run a car on water, back in the days (1950s), doing some electrolyse of a tank of water to collect some hydrogen. Unfortunately at this time the alloys used in the cylinder + head were not accepting very well the hot and dry combustion of the hydrogen, so they would melt the engine pretty quickly. It probably can be solved easily now …

  27. Wes Hill says

    I believe that a small motorcycle running on gas and getting 100+ mpg likely has the smallest environmental foot print.

    Generating electricity eats up a lot of natural gas or coal, batteries require a lot of mining operations, California has brown outs now, imagine with the load of electic transportation, deisel is (relatively) dirty and the associated engines are heavy and complex, LNG or CNG is a pain (in Canada anyway) and would provide limited range in a motorcycle application, ethanol has a bigger carbon footprint that gas.

    I agree, we should run cars on water. That’d be great. I’d also like to know the color of the sky in your world….

    Wesley J

  28. Ctrot says

    Compressed air to power a vehicle? But what do you use to compress the air in the first place? THAT is your actual “fuel”.

  29. says

    I highly doubt Toyota “abandoned” their fuel cell program. Just because it’s not ready for production this year, does not mean it won’t be in 10-15 years. Toyota plans WAY ahead, and they’re working on stuff that has not been released to the media. I can guarantee you that.

    There are some great ideas out there circulating, no doubt, but NO revolutionary new technology is going to replace gasoline and all petroleum-based lubricants overnight.

    So maybe having a micro nuclear reactor on a bike or automobile is not feasible right now, and it’s scary to most. But so was crossing the oceans 300 years ago. History should tell us anything is feasible when optimistic minds get together. At the very least, the U.S. should build a few modern nuclear plants so that battery recharging would be less dependent on burning natural resources.

    So, think 5-10 years out. What are the possibilities then??

  30. todd says

    Silly me, I thought we got a significant portion of our electricity through renewable sources like the sun, wind, and the ocean.

    There are also potentially (after creating the infrastructure) free ways of creating compressed air. I like the idea of placing little pumps in the ground for cars to run over or using the up-down motion of the ocean to pump air AND charge batteries. Even now there are major advances in photocell tech that means we can paint everything and cover every roof-top and pave every road with a “solar panel”. It’s just silly to think that we get electricity piped to us from miles and miles away.


  31. says

    Motorcycle enthusiasts are a fickle, vain bunch. We like to see & hear an attractive power source. How does an electric motor (or the nuke) stack up with this secondary (but very important) piece to the puzzle?

    The visual and audible sensations of motorcycle ownership impact buying decisions. Therefore these somewhat “vain” factors will weigh-in on the success of the winning engine technology.

    A scaled down motorcycle-sized version of what BMW is doing with their combustible hydrogen 7-series seems to be on the right track to maintain the visual & audible parts of motorcycle ownership.

    Is it possible in a motorcycle package to have an i-c engine that has 2 injectors per cylinder: one for gasoline (for heat generation) and one for water….a modern steam powered engine. The gasoline would be a secondary fuel supply, thereby raising mpg.

  32. Clive Makinson-Sanders says

    Im sorry, but if i had a nuclear powered motorcycle id feel pretty neat.

  33. lostinoz says

    Electric, in my mind is the smartest possibly non polluting, lowest impact way of the future.
    Stop thinking coal, hell even nuclear to power the plants of the future, thinking those things is the equivillent of thinking of the I.C.E. as the “best” thing for movement.
    SOLAR POWER, GEO-THERMAL, WIND, WAVE, FREE FALL WATER TURBINES thats what we need to think for the future, renewable sources of non impacting energy. If batteries are coming up on their charge time, its getting closer.
    What about a “replaceable” battery pack at a charging station? go in with your pack, trade for a different “fully charged” pack reinstall and go!
    this would mean that there would have to be a standard for battery packs, say one on bikes and multiple on cars trucks and SUVs? get it so that becuase youre dropping off a discharged one, you just pay for the electric youd have to charge it. or a flat fee (pulling numbers out of my @$$ here say 10 bucks a pack)
    solar panels on houses, business parking structures with a system to plug in your cars while youre inside tied to an existing grid for those rainy days (which i dont see often in the SW) out here theres a company thats trying to get people to install solar panels on parking lots with shade canopies, they put em up for free, and you buy the power from them. you get a shady area to park for free, and solar power is produced as a byproduct that you can purchase at a probably lower rate than market power.
    there IS options, we just have to think outside the cylinder wall.
    Im personally designing my next house to include solar, geo thermal cooling and heating, wind turbine, and possibly if i can find the right land free fall turbine power. Granted its a “few” years off yet, but im looking to have the structure done within 10 yrs, and at least one solar system in place within 15. It will be a retirement home so since im only in my early 30’s i have time, i can retire at 51.
    we have to stop thinking “now” and start thinking far future to solve power issues,

  34. says

    I like a lot of your ideas about infrastructure, diverse energy sources, and green residential structures but the “replaceable battery pack” doesn’t address the look and sound of the electric motorcycle.

    If I can get a hydrogen-powered engine that looks better than an electric motor and has a better sound, then that’s the one I’d go for, assuming power curves are similar. Electric always seem to have impressive torque.

    I’m also wary of electrics until a strict standard of battery longevity is proven to avoid batteries filling land fills.

  35. says

    Precisely. Which is why the I.C.E. will still be desirable for the rest of my generation and possible the next.

    I’ve driven electric vehicles. They just don’t give you the same visceral sensation as twisting the throttle wide open, into the upper RPMs on an I.C.E.

    But, desires change from one generation to the next. Maybe the younger generations who grew up with Power Wheels have different desires than mine and will be perfectly accepting of an I.C.E. replacement.

  36. JC says

    “I had a girlfriend who drove a truck that was converted to Propane. I hope you expect it to be less of a problem, than hers was. When she switched over to propane (and propane accessories) that truck would shudder, and twitch, like a drunk falling into a pool.”

    This is in part because you were running a gasoline engine on propane. If you build a motor with the intent of running propane, it can produce more power per liter than an equivalent gasoline engine. Propane allows for much higher compression ratios due to the octane.

    A CNG or propane tank on a bike seems a bit unwieldy, unless maybe somebody makes the tank part of the frame? Would that be possible?

    Electric bikes seem like a good idea, as many riders only use them for short trips. LiIon is crazy expensive, and you would need far less in a motorcycle than in a car, so helps keep overall vehicle costs down versus an electric car.

  37. christopher says

    hoyt made an excellent point about batteries filling landfills. we need to be thinking about “cradle to grave” needs for the type of engine and fuel sources we’re trying to implement. even if we can produce electricity cleanly and (effectively) for free, what is holding that electricity? how is that storage device made, and what is it made FROM? how much do those materials and processes cost? what are their environmental impacts? i’ve heard it produces more toxins and CO2 to PRODUCE AND OPERATE a hybrid vehicle than it does to simply create a clean high MPG I.C.E. i don’t know how true that is but it’s something to think about.

  38. ROHORN says

    If the “Everything must be powered by moonbeams and bunny farts” crowd wins, there won’t be any more motorcycles.

  39. B*A*M*F says

    I think that electric propulosion is the future of personal transportation because it is the current standard of personal everything else. It limits pollution to a few places.

    Electric will also be much lower maintenance. The only chores will be to wash the bike, add lubricants to a handful of spots, and blow the dust and grime out.

  40. C.P.T.L. says

    I don’t see how, in the next decade or more, any of the new systems will surpass the worldwide gasoline infrastructure unless the other ubiquitous system is tapped, electricity.

    If a battery breakthrough occurs, or capacitor breakthrough, or combination battery-capacitor, it could lead to something major.

    I read that Honda had set itself a goal of halving the size of their hybrid systems in three years, which suggests to me that they have struck the limits of battery – motor combinations and believe weight reduction and miniaturization is the forefront of furthering the technology.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find they’ve directed a team to work out a motorcycle hybrid system. Just assumptions upon assumptions, I know, but it fits what we know of how Japanese industry often approaches design challenges: set an ambitious goal with the intention of hitting the mark by overshooting it; from that comes both the desired outcome, and tech advances for the future. If one means to develop a much smaller hybrid auto system, shoot for a motorcycle system. And certainly Honda is interested in bettering their motorcycles…

    If I had to bet, to put my money down on where the most probable, most significant, meaningful change to motorcycles will come from, the one that retains traditional power and range expectations, I’d put it on a Honda hybrid system.

  41. ROHORN says

    Yeah. That’s why the 2009 year model bikes will run on the same fuel as the 2008 bikes. And the 2010 year model…ad nauseum.

    Anyone familiar with the X-6 nuclear powered jet program and the direct heated turbine technology?

    If not, do some reading – it is 50+ year old technology.

    So how about a small nuclear heat source with a sterling cycle engine?

  42. says

    A small gasoline fired bike can easily get 75 mpg as it is, and one built especially for mileage could probably squeeze out 100+ mpg with present technology. So you’d need a lot of work to make a new technology compete with that.

    But, with that said, how about a compact Sterling engine? They’ve got good potential for efficiency, and can run off anything that’ll burn and several things that won’t.

  43. says

    I think a stirling is better suited to generator type applications. Because of its somewhat constant rpm, it could be a good low-fuel perpetual system that kicks in just long enough to re-charge batteries. Of course, the stirling heat source doesn’t need to be a combustible fuel. You could use heat stored from braking, or perhaps solar. I’m with Bob, though, nuclear is the answer!

    I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, we all know what we’d like to see happen in the future. And that is the discovery of pocket-sized self-contained power sources that have limitless power, require no fuel and have zero waste. Who knows, maybe in the near future there will be another paradigm leap like there was from horses to automobiles. Remember, it took more than a half century to have complete infrastructures built for the new mode of transport. I think long term, it will have something to do with advanced magnetics or some new understanding of Earth’s gravity.

    Yeah, so anyway…the winning technology for the near term, will most likely be controlled by big business and no more than a slight evolution of more of the same.