Is there enough room for advancement in the motorcycle industry that an X Prize like competition would make sense? Envision the ultimate motorcycle, what would it be? Almost anything you can think of is a continuation of something already being done and progress would only be a matter of degree, higher speed, better mileage, lower cost, greater range, but nothing radically different and nothing currently conceivable that would be a major leap forward in technology, instead, it would be a refinement of current thinking.
Google just offered $20 million dollars to the first private company to land a robot on the moon. Now that’s quite a leap, an extension of current thinking, perhaps, but still, a huge advance in capability for any private company. Previously, a competition for sub orbital space flight, was won by Burt Rutan and there is a current competition for a 100 mpg car.
I remember the earlier Kremer prizes awarded for human powered flight won by Paul MacCready and his Gossamer Condor which flew a figure 8 course and then the Gossamer Albatross which crossed the English Channel. Those were very neat machines but of limited practical utility other than to win a prize. Where does human powered flight go from there? Others are still building these airplanes but attention has shifted elsewhere.
Motorcycles could advance primarily in the power plant, either refining the internal combustion engine or switching to electricity, both directions are currently being explored by many smart minds and no small amount of money. But how do we REALLY up the ante?
No fuel needed … ever.
How about a motorcycle that never needs to be refueled? You buy the motorcycle and it runs as long as you maintain it. Think about the idea of nuclear power plants being built with enough fuel delivered and installed during the initial build to run the plant for its entire intended life. That can actually be done, but how would you do that with a motorcycle? Well, although Ford actually drew up a nuclear powered concept car back in the 1950s, we can probably safely ignore that idea.
Do you have a solar powered calculator? No batteries ever needed, you just buy it and use it. So how about high efficiency solar cells powering an electric motorcycle? Buy the bike, flip the switch and ride off. OK, pretty far fetched, but we’re talking X Prize level advancement here.
No wheels …
Want another idea? How about those scooters you see in all of the science fiction movies, hovering just off the ground as you zip around then you turn it off and park it on the ground. Turn it on, up it floats to ride height, climb aboard and you’re off. I have no idea how that would work but, hey, we’re talking big leaps. Maybe it could be designed like those magnetic levitating trains. You would need a road built with the appropriate technology to work with it, maybe you would have wheels that retracted when you got on to that roadway. Neat idea, eh?
Think WAY outside the box and you can come up with ideas of your own but it may very well be that motorcycles do not have enough room to advance for a big money competition to work. Or could it? What do you think?