Suzuki’s 300bhp turbo charged hybrid

Formula One technology to boost superbike of the future

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We’ve seen motorcycle firms developing turbocharged machines and hybrids, but Suzuki’s plans mark the first time both technologies have come together – along with a four-cylinder petrol engine – creating something that could blow away any bike before it.

If you have half an eye on the pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport, Formula One, you probably know the series has turned its back on normally-aspirated engines in favour of turbocharged motors with a two-part electric hybrid system. Suzuki’s latest patent reveals a bike that uses exactly the same ideas.

Just like a Formula One car, the bike’s hybrid system uses two motor-generator units (MGUs). One is attached to the back of the engine and drives the gearbox. It boosts performance when more torque and power is needed, and reverts to its generator role during deceleration, refilling the batteries.

The second MGU is bolted directly to the turbocharger, and uses electricity to spin the turbo up to operating speeds – around 200,000rpm – much faster than it could if powered by exhaust gas alone, like a normal turbo.

Turbos are usually a balancing act. Large ones provide lots of boost but take an age to get to speed, so there’s a big delay in engine response. Small ones cut the lag but offer relatively little boost. This hybrid system offers the best of both worlds – instant response, with all the boost of a big turbo. Suzuki’s idea is to combine the throttle sensitivity of a naturally aspirated engine with the sort of power previously only seen on Kawasaki’s track-only Ninja H2R.

Both electric motors are fed by a battery and computer control system mounted under the seat, and the rest of the bike’s layout is fairly normal – a large four-cylinder engine, probably around 1000cc, fitted in a beam frame. The turbo sits just in front of the engine, attached to a short exhaust manifold, and blows intake air upwards into a pressurised airbox mounted at the front of the fuel tank.

The bike is fitted with a semi-auto transmission, operated either via pushbuttons or a conventional clutch and gear lever, depending on the rider’s preference. The MGU attached to the gearbox is programmed to help smooth out the shifts, matching the revs to make them virtually seamless.

If the engine is around 1000cc, a turbo should push power to 300bhp with ease. And then there’s the additional assistance of the hybrid element, which might add another 20 or 30bhp.

Will it ever be built?

The bike is likely to appear as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next month, where the firm has a history of demonstrating its technical prowess.

While concepts don’t necessarily reach production, the ideas here are intended to maximise performance while minimising fuel consumption and emissions. The really serious application of this technology is likely to be on smaller-capacity bikes – perhaps a 500cc machine that can match the performance of today’s litre superbikes while sipping fuel like a scooter.

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Ben Purvis

By Ben Purvis