Ducati are working on the 'perfect electric bike'
Ducati will make an electric motorcycle, in fact there’s one already in the pipeline, but it’s a bike "for tomorrow" according to Pierluigi Zampieri, Ducati’s Head of Innovation.
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As with most manufacturers, electric bikes are clearly part of Ducati’s future, but for a business so focused on racing, it’s difficult to know what direction they will take.
"We’re still developing our production bikes with the aim of being the best on the track," Zampieri told MCN. "But with electric the difficulty is a compromise between weight and performance or range.
"Today the whole package is not as good as we would like it to be, because the energy density that you can store is not high enough. The main challenge, technically, is reaching our performance and weight targets."
He continued: "Being a company that is usually state of the art, we could arrive (with a product) that’s state of the art or even better than all of our competitors. The problem is: is now the right moment? It’s a small market and we’re still trying to understand when it’ll be ready for such innovation."
It’s a problem not dissimilar to the one Ducati faced a few years ago when their V-twin superbike had reached the end of its lifespan and increasing performance was nigh-on impossible.
The solution was to move to a V4, but how would enthusiasts react after 50 years of V-twins? "The V4 choice was similar," says Zampieri. "We had a lot of discussions about whether our customers would appreciate it or not. Now we are having similar discussions.
"You try to push the customer but need to know if they like it or not. Would our customers appreciate an electric bike? Is it the right moment for them?
"Today they want a V4. The big question is: will they want it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or later still? One day Ducati customers will ask for an electric Ducati, the difficult part is knowing when. We know how long it takes to develop a good bike. We are already drawing what the perfect electric bike is. The problem is: when do we want to bring it out?"
Ducati’s other issue, of course, is maintaining the ‘Italian stallion’ dream; a bike that’s bad-tempered, clatters and boils your bits but is all worth it when you twist the throttle. Electric bikes have none of that.
"It is a challenge, but I’m confident we can make an electric bike that’s pure Ducati with pure Ducati character," he added. "And if we look outside, Harley-Davidson for example, they’re starting from a situation that’s probably worse. If they’re able to shape a product and give it character, I’m confident we can do the same or better."
"I grew up a petrolhead, kids are not like this" - Pierluigi Zampieri, Ducati Head of Innovation
A challenge facing every bike manufacturer is how to energise young people. If today’s 15-year-olds don’t have a motorcycle poster on their bedroom wall, it’s game over for Ducati by the time they’re 30. Zampieri’s face echoes the grimace of a many CEOs.
"This we discuss every day. It’s a big challenge. I grew up a petrolhead. Young people are not like this now. Trying to keep this interest alive in the next generations is so important.
"In the last five-ten years more has changed than in the previous 50. There’s electrification, digitisation and the sharing economy. The internet has changed everything about customer behaviour. Each day it becomes more and more difficult to find the right path for the future of a company.
"Today a Ducati is an object you like to own. The challenge is to make it so interesting you want to do the same tomorrow. We need to keep people’s passion alive; we cannot take it for granted."