So, Yamaha wants a hybrid motorcycle before the end of the decade. Can someone explain why? When Yamaha president Takashi Kajikawa said that was one of his goals for the company, it had me scratching my head. A couple months ago I said there was no need for hybrid motorcycles (right before the Gen-Ryu appeared) and I’ll say it again. Motorcycles already get great mileage and the technical complexity added to a motorcycle by a hybrid drivetrain yields nothing beyond the “feel good” marketing it would create.
Although the green crowd loves hybrids like the Prius, the real benefit of hybrid technology is with the big vehicles getting really lousy mileage, like big trucks, especially delivery trucks doing a lot of stop and go driving in the city. Hybrid technology has that weird result where city mileage is better than highway because the engine can shut off instead of idling and you use a lot of battery power. Buses are another sweet spot for hybrid technology as some are beginning to appreciate. Any vehicle that travels a lot of miles and gets maybe 5 miles per gallon, with an increase of only 1 or 2 miles per gallon saves more gas or diesel fuel in a week than a Prius can save in a year. Do the math. The environmental crowd criticizes carmakers for building hybrid pickups, and SUVs when those are the exact vehicles that can save the most gas for any given number of miles driven.
Trucks of all sorts are a constant in our lives and have to travel many miles regardless of fuel cost to keep our economy running. Freight has to be shipped, deliveries have to be made, passengers have to be carried and hybrid technology can help a lot in those environments. Hybrid motorcycles? For what? If your motorcycle gets 40 or 50 miles per gallon, and some get far more, the cost of the extra mileage with hybrid technology can be huge. The amount of gas or money saved is small. Focus efforts where they do the most good, a little reasoning quickly shows hybrid motorcycles are a waste of time, money and effort.
Any company is free to build whatever they want and the market will decide whether it was a good move, trendy types will always buy the new or cool thing, but hybrids are slowly finding a niche and it’s not where most people think it is. Big hybrid trucks are a great idea, little hybrid cars will sell because they’re trendy. It’s exactly the opposite of what many think is the right thing to do and it underscores why Yamaha is off base on this one.