The last ten years have seen several smaller companies working on electric motorcycles. But it is only now that mainstream two-wheeler manufacturers are getting serious about replacing the IC engine with electric motors. British motorcycle manufacturer, Triumph recently unveiled the first styling sketches for its TE-1 electric motorcycle prototype, which is now in phase two of the development process. 

This fully electric motorcycle, which Triumph is developing in collaboration with the UK-based Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) and a few other partners, is scheduled to undergo four phases of development. Triumph is not saying anything about when the bike will be production-ready. Still, given the rapid pace of development, we believe it might not be very far off that we will see one on the road. It will also set the performance standards for the electric motorcycle of the future.

The electric motorcycle developers have always struggled with a major problem: weight; they weigh too much, especially compared with conventional IC-engined bikes. Triumph and its partners have focused on significant design and technology innovation to create a compact and lighter bike than anything currently in the market. 

The TE-1’s electric motor produces 130kW (about 180bhp, similar to a litre-class superbike’s power output). In contrast, the motor itself weighs just 10 kilos. “This is a small fraction of the mass of traditional internal combustion engines,” says Andrew Cross, CTO, Integral Powertrain Ltd, one of Triumph’s partners in this electric bike project. “Ultimately, this is going to be an industry-leading powertrain that will help define the future of electric mobility.”

“By using a lightweight, compact solution, we have been able to give the rider all of the performance all of the time and class-leading range. We have focussed on pushing the boundaries to reduce mass and optimise frame position to benefit handling,” says Dyrr Ardash, senior commercial manager, WAE. “We have also pushed the limits of battery performance, balancing the design for acceleration and range, with simulations modelled on track-based riding. In other words, as aggressive as possible. The energy density of our new battery will be a significant step forward from existing technology, giving the rider more power for longer.”

Triumph has also developed and designed advanced vehicle control software to fine-tune things like throttle response, regen braking, traction control and a host of other functions. “The starting point for us in the TE-1 project was to gather important customer feedback about what riders want from their motorcycles and understand how an electric motorcycle can provide the experience that riders desire,” says Steve Sargent, Triumph’s Chief Product Officer. 

The bike will feature a new chassis explicitly optimised for use with electric powertrains. It was designed taking into account the bike’s riding range, power delivery and ergonomics. The company says that the aim has been to provide a riding experience that’s exciting and new. But not something that might be perceived as entirely alien by a generation of riders brought up on IC-powered motorcycles.

“Without doubt, the outcome of this project will play a significant part in our future efforts to meet our customer’s desire to reduce their environmental impact and for more sustainable transportation,” says Triumph  CEO Nick Bloor. “This project will provide one of the foundations for our future electric motorcycle strategy, which is focussed on delivering the perfect balance of performance, handling and real-world usability.” 

TE-1 will be the harbinger of change and might even prompt other major bike manufacturers to step up their efforts towards building the next generation of sports bikes.