Yamaha are no strangers to electric power. They’ve been building electric bicycles for 25 years, but this new TY-E electric trials bike is different. Their first proper electric motorcycle is billed as a prototype, but it looks and goes like a finished product.
The bike broke cover late last month when it was thrust into the spotlight to compete in the TrialE class of the World Trials championship in France. It won first time out in the hands of Kenichi Kuroyama, before finishing runner-up in Belgium a week later.
Focus on performance Electric bikes are selling in small numbers across Europe, but most are very heavy. But the Yamaha TY-E weighs in at a miniscule 70kg, meeting the world championship’s minimum weight limit.
An exercise in saving weight
Two things make this possible. First, a carbon-fibre monocoque frame. Second, battery size. Without having the range worries of a road bike the battery requires fewer cells for an acceptable operating range. The 116v Lithium-ion battery powers an AC synchronous electric motor, chosen for its control at low speeds as well as power.
But while the performance is exceptionally high, it comes at a cost with the battery needing to be swapped every 30 minutes during our test.
What’s it like to ride?
Although completely silent at a standstill, there is a high- pitched scream from the motor the moment you pull away. This enables the rider to gauge throttle input, just like a petrol bike. With high levels of torque from the moment you open the throttle it’s a highly capable bike and in pure power terms it is more than a match for a traditional combustion engine trials bike.
Although not required for pulling away or for gear changes (it only has one gear) the TY-E has a hydraulic clutch. This means it can be ridden like a conventional bike and enables the rider to dip in and out of the incredible wave of torque and linear power on offer; crucial for a trials rider.
This is clearly a significant project for Yamaha. There were 13 Japanese engineers and management on the test, including Yamaha’s Motorsport General Manager, Kouichi Tsuji (that’s more than attend a MotoGP race).
Electric trials bikes that have superb performance, but without the noise or emissions problems that jar with countryside persuits, are a compelling development. Tsuji, who is normally by Valentino Rossi’s side at GPs, acknowledged the importance of this technology.
"If Yamaha were to spent as much time and resources developing electric power as they do trying to achieve marginal gains with their petrol engines, development of electric tech would be rapid," he said.
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