Return of the H1

Kawasaki set to bring back another icon amidst 12 more new models by 2018

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After bringing back the legendary H2 name in 2015, it begged an obvious question – when, if at all, will the H1 be re-joining the line-up? That question seems to have been answered to some degree by the unveiling of a concept sketch at the Milan show last week, when Kawasaki revealed their SC-02 Soul Charger. MCN believes this will become the H1, heading a line-up of 12 new models in 2017 and 2018.

While currently only a concept sketch, the intent and muttering from Kawasaki factory staff all point to a not-too-distant revival – in soul at least – of the H1 500 triple. Kawasaki insiders went further to hint at the connection, pointing to the design of the tank on the concept and suggesting that it offers a big clue as to the name of the impending production bike; the racing stripe on the side offering a blatant H1 link.

The tank isn’t the only thing the new supercharged model shares with the 500cc two-stroke of the past, as the sketch clearly indicates that the Soul Charger uses a three-cylinder engine – rather than the four-cylinder engine used in the Ninja H2 and the recently revealed SC-01 Spirit Charger concept.

Kenji Tomida President of Kawasaki’s Motorcycle and Engineering Company, who unveiled the sketch to the world’s press, also hinted that the concept would be a smaller capacity than the H2, rumoured to be around 600cc, although we believe the final capacity may be closer to 675cc.

The other crucial part of the bike’s codename is the ‘Charger’ part, also confirming that this isn’t just the return of a name, but a true smaller-capacity stablemate for the H2 – complete with supercharger. Kawasaki have even coloured it a helpful bright red, just in case there was any fear of missing it.

More forced induction

Kawasaki remained tight-lipped on the other 11 models they are expecting to unveil within the next two years, but the SC-02 joins a similar concept sketch unveiled by the firm at the Tokyo Show in October. The SC-01 Spirit Charger, which Kawasaki described as “just one of the fascinating directions Kawasaki’s design team are considering for the future of the forced induction motorcycle line”. The SC-01 appears to be powered by a supercharged inline-four, which means it won’t be sharing an engine with the SC-02.

As well as the two supercharged concepts, Kawasaki also showed off their new Balanced Supercharger Engine technology, which will allow a much greater range of flexibility in the power delivery as well as improving fuel consumption. An actuator opens and closes a set of petal-like flaps at the mouth of the supercharger’s impeller, allowing the ECU to govern the volume of air rammed into the plenum chamber, allowing high performance while also making the engine easy to use at low revs. It is not clear if the SC-01 and SC-02 concept models will use the Balanced Supercharged Engine technology, which was shown on an inline-four engine, but there’s no doubt that the technology would be equally effective in both applications.

Kawasaki are remaining tight-lipped on what else is to come in the not-too-distant future, although our sources say we can expect new models covering the entire spectrum of biking over the next two years. With the J series scooters and the firm’s excellent glut of sub-300cc models taking care of urban mobility, and a new ZX-10R joining the H2 at the peak-performance end of the spectrum, there’s no doubt that the next point of focus will be the middle of the firm’s range – exactly where a 675cc supercharged triple would reside. 

Liam Marsden

By Liam Marsden

Former MCN Web Producer