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TOAD TALKS: Electric motorcycles | Are gearboxes the solution?

With the news that Kawasaki are working up an electric motorcycle with a gearbox, Visordown ponders if cogs are the solution e-bikes have been waiting for

THERE is a sweet satisfaction to be had from deftly slicing your way through the gearbox of a bike, getting the best out of an engine and combining both sides of your brain in the process. It’s something thought that’s sadly lacking when riding the latest batch of electric motorcycles.

Granted, there is also some satisfaction to be had from the endless whoosh of thrust you get from pinning a powerful and torquey electric motorcycle against the throttle stop and clinging on for dear life. But is it the best way to do it?

I can see why they do it, the seemingly endless amount of grunt provided by a flow of electrons makes the need to find a sweet-spot in the dead-flat torque pretty much null and void. But imagine how unstoppable that same thrust would feel with a few well-placed ratios of mechanical advantage doing a merry dance beneath you?!

While the gains that can be made in rider involvement seem plain for all – well me anyway – to see, the gains elsewhere are minimal. A perceived benefit in efficiency is negligible, the lower motor rpm doesn’t necessarily contribute to a better range as the torque (aka work) the motor must do is the same. The gearbox also brings some unwanted weight in the form of the extra ratios and the casings that carry them, not to mention the oil to lubricate the gears and shafts.

But still, in my mind, the advantage of riding a bike that feels and works in the same way as all the other petrol-powered ones I’ve ridden seems to make sense. Forget the extra KG’s and the fact it’s not quite as efficient as it could be with a single-speed machine. I want to ride a bike when I get on it, not merely be taken somewhere!

What are your thoughts on electric bikes with gearboxes? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments

U26A1's picture

This question is pretty answerable: go find and ride a Brammo Empulse R. I've owned one for the last 6 years or so. Unfortunately Polaris bought and killed Brammo, but the bikes are brilliant.

One thing I like about the gearbox is it effectively functions as an on-the-fly "torque selector". If you want to cruise around relaxedly, there's no reason you can't ride an electric in 6th gear from a standstill. (In fact there are some newbies who bought a Brammo as their first bike and just "rode it in 4th") Or, if you want savage acceleration off the line, imagine all the insane torque of an electric fed through the multiplier of a transmission.

Obviously, the downsides are mechanical complexity, maintenance (I have to change gearbox oil on my electric motorcycle!), weight, cost, etc. But it sure is fun!

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