Triumph TE-1 electric bike promises genuine super-naked performance without hours spent at a socket

Triumph have revealed key details of their TE-1 electric bike project, which not only looks amazing but also boasts tech and performance figures that could tempt even the most die-hard petrolhead.

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Working with an array of British companies, including Williams Advanced Engineering, Integral Powertrain and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, and funded by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, Triumph have created a prototype that has the power to challenge what we think about electric bikes. Before we get to the details though, let’s look at the headline figures.

In finished trim Triumph say the TE-1 will weigh a hair over 220kg, will produce 174bhp and will travel around 120 miles before you need to plug it in.

In short, it’s a portly Speed Triple but we’ve not even told you the really positive news yet: The TE-1 will be capable of a 0-80% charge in just 20 minutes. If you’d limped into a charging station when you started reading this, the bike would already have added five miles to its range.

Triumph TE-1 electric motorbike front

In the battle to convince more people to take up electric, a key part of keeping aggressive green legislation away from two wheels, it’s a huge stride forward and something Triumph are well aware of. 

"What we wanted to do was investigate how you could create an electric bike that would convince somebody to consider an electric bike, or even move them away from something with an internal combustion engine (ICE)," says Steve Sargent, Triumph’s Chief Product Officer.

"To do that we have to understand the customer, how they use their bikes and what they’d want from their bikes. For electric bikes to grow, it has to be a natural choice for someone because the bike is desirable in its own right."

Interestingly Triumph appear to have skipped the whole ‘you can ride it to work for less than a bag of chips’ angle, instead focusing on how the TE-1 could be a weekend plaything. Despite that, they’re keenly aware of the cost of similar competitors.

Triumph TE-1 electric motorbike rear

"The challenge is that people want something that gives them the performance of an internal combustion engine bike but they don’t want to pay a huge premium," adds Sargent.

"For us, it has to be at a price point where there’s enough people willing to pay for it. Whilst battery costs are coming down, they’re still expensive, so the bike will come to market when we can get it down to a price that we think people are willing to pay."

So what’s next? This reveal is phase two of the project (phase one – the initial announcement – was in May 2019) with Triumph saying that phase three, likely to be a preview of the prototype they’re now testing, is expected in October.

After TE-1 the sky’s the limit, with Sargent hinting at the scalable potential for torquey applications like the Rocket, while Triumph’s CEO, Nick Bloor, has said the TE-1 is "one of the foundations for our future electric motorcycle strategy". This bold first reveal shows Triumph intend to be an electric super-power.

Triumph TE-1 electric bike technical detail

From left - Andrew Cross (Integral Powertrain), Dyrr Ardash (Williams Advanced Engineering), Steve Sargent of Triumph and Phil Whiffin of WMG

The TE-1 project has been a huge team effort, bringing together British companies that have long histories in engineering excellence along with funding from the government.

With each concentrating on a specific area where they already have experience – Triumph the chassis, Williams the battery, Integral the motor and WMG the computer modelling – Triumph have been able to work towards something far greater than they likely could have achieved on their own. Here the other key partners reveal the parts of the project they’ve developed.

Tech from Formula E

Williams have experience designing and building batteries for everything from Brompton bicycles to Airbus planes. For the TE-1, Williams have created the battery, which employs new architecture, as well as the vehicle controller and associated software.

"We’ve taken a lot of our existing tech from motorsport, such as Formula E, and utilised the next generation cell technology to meet the attributes required by a Triumph rider," says Dyrr Ardash, Senior Commercial Manager, Williams Advanced Engineering.

"The capacity is approximately 15kWh but that’s not the whole story, as we’ve managed to optimise it to give a 120-mile range and a charge time of under 20 minutes to 80% from zero. The battery also delivers the same performance 100-0% thanks to good thermal management and our control system, which has been found through simulations.

"The biggest challenge for us," reveals Ardash, "was that we were pushed quite hard by Triumph to maintain the correct centre of gravity, which we needed for the right handling attributes."

Triumph TE-1 electric motorbike frame, motor and battery

Lightweight electric motor

Integral are no strangers to performance electric motors, having built the motors and inverters for VW’s I.D R race car which set outright records at Pikes Peak and Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Although two wheelers are new to Integral, their motor and inverter package for the TE-1 claims new standards for electric bikes producing nearly 175bhp but weighing just 10kg.

"We started quite freely but it quickly became clear the motor needed to be very small to maximise the room for the battery inside the bike," says Andrew Cross, Chief Technical Officer at Integral Powertrain.

"A key part of that for us was packaging up the motor with the inverter [the bit that changes DC to AC].

"The other key bit was maximising the efficiency with our motor achieving 97% and the inverter nearer 99%. These motors use switches that open and close very quickly. Each time you open and close a switch, you create a loss.

"The switches in this motor use silicon carbide, which is a compound semi-conductor, and more efficient than typical switches, meaning every time the switches open and close, this motor loses less energy than a typical motor. This means you either get a greater range for a given amount of energy, or can potentially reduce the battery size."

Triumph TE-1 motor

Development through simulation

WMG (University of Warwick) will be a familiar name to many bikers due to their recent Aurora electric superbike project, but they have been around since 1980. As well as bringing together suppliers, thanks to their expertise, WMG have built simulations of the TE-1, allowing countless hours of testing before anyone has even turned a wheel.

"In the old days when you developed a new product you’d build it, then test it but if you want to make any changes, you have to start all over again," says Phil Whiffin, Head of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG.

"We are able to simulate the rider, the motorbike, the environment and the drive cycle. Triumph were able to set out their targets and through simulation, we could work out what the specifications would have to be to meet that.

"Straight away you can see if what you want to build is feasible. We built a ‘hardware in the loop’ set up, and the simulator can feed info to the sensors, ECU etc so they all believe they are on a motorbike that’s out on the road. The result is that you can make hundreds of changes quickly and without the expense."

Triumph shock! Brit firm announce TE-1 electric motorbike collaboration project

First published on 15 May, 2019 by Richard Newland

Triumph factory and visitor experience

Triumph have announced a ground-breaking plan to accelerate the addition of electric motorcycles to the range in collaboration with other key UK innovators, including Williams Advanced Engineering.

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The project, dubbed TE-1, will target the rapid evolution of powertrain solutions over the next two years, with a view to developing a light, compact battery-powered drive unit that will power a new generation of Triumph motorcycles.

While TE-1 might sound like a bike model, Triumph have confirmed to MCN that this project is focused on battery technology, motors and the packaging constraints that currently hinder electric motorcycles – not building a specific single model.

The tie-in with F1 legends, Williams, is key to the project’s success, with the firm able to provide industry-leading lightweight battery design and integration capabilities. Other partners include motor and inverter experts, Integral Powertrain, the electric specialist team at the University of Warwick – WMG – and government funding via the Innovate UK science and technology agency. 

Triumph's Nick Bloor speaks exclusively to MCN

"This new collaboration represents an exciting opportunity for Triumph and its partners to be leaders in the technology that will enable the electrification of motorcycles," said Triumph CEO, Nick Bloor, "which is driven by customers striving to reduce their environmental impact, combined with the desire for more economical transportation, and changing legislation. Project Triumph TE-1 is one part of our electric motorcycle strategy, focused on delivering what riders want and expect from their Triumph, which is the perfect balance of handling, performance and usability."

And therein lies the crux of the project’s importance to Triumph. This isn’t a project aimed at rushing a wildly expensive, or under-performing electric bike into the marketplace in order to tick a box. Triumph are determined that customers will be able to make like-for-like decisions about which bike to buy regardless of the powertrain. In the future this could mean having the choice of a petrol or electric Street Triple – with no overt compromise to either choice.

Steve Sargent, Triumph’s Chief Product Officer added "Our future product strategy is focused on delivering the most suitable engine platforms for the changing landscape of customer needs, and we see a Triumph electric powertrain as a significant requirement alongside our signature twin and triple cylinder engines. Project Triumph TE-1 represents an exciting collaboration that will provide valuable input into our future line-up.

Imagine an electric Triumph Speed Triple...

Imagine an electric Speed Triple...

"We are incredibly pleased to have the support of OLEV and Innovate UK, and to be working together with the UK’s electrification experts and academic leaders, in an endeavour that ultimately is focused on the future prosperity of British industry, and the future of motorcycling."

While the project will aim to lead to model development, this is still several years in the future, with this first phase aiming to deliver powertrain solutions in two years’ time, ahead of any specific model development starting in earnest.

One key aim is increased systems integration, developing individual components of automotive-based electric drivetrains and optimising them for motorcycle systems which reduce mass, complexity and packaging requirements.

Triumph have become the masters of packaging in recent years, and will work alongside the partners to accelerate the safety of batteries, optimum electric motor sizing and packaging, the integration of braking systems including regenerative braking, and advanced safety systems. The innovation and capabilities developed in these areas will input into Triumph’s future electric motorcycle strategy.

"The team at Williams Advanced Engineering is looking forward to applying our expertise in the electrification of transport with our partners," said Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering.  "Williams has powered a number of world-renowned electric vehicles already and this will be a significant further step in our work by taking that knowledge onto two wheels."

"We are extremely pleased to be supporting Triumph Motorcycles with their future electrification strategy and in a project where we can apply our experience to engineer an extremely power dense, efficient and highly integrated motorcycle electric drive," added Andrew Cross, Chief Technical Officer at Integral Powertrain Ltd.

"Electric motorcycles will have a vital role to play in future transport across the globe - delivering reduced congestion and improved urban air quality as well as easing parking," added Professor David Greenwood, Professor, Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, University of Warwick. "They will also be great to ride, with copious, easily controlled torque delivered smoothly at all road speeds."

The Triumph TE-1 electric motorcycle project: who does what?

  • Triumph will lead the project with their chassis design and packaging expertise and manufacturing infrastructure
  • Williams Advanced Engineering will look after the lightweight battery design and its integration with the project, including a control unit that links to the bike's main wiring system
  • Integral Powertrain Ltd's e-Drive Division will take care of the electric motor and invertor, which will be housed in a single casing
  • WMG, at the University of Warwick, are going to lead the innovation required to get the project from R&D through to a finished product by simulating future market requirements
  • Innovate UK will support partners and administer funds on behalf of the Government with the aim of making the UK a market leader in electric vehicle technology

The museum at Triumph's headquarters may soon need some fast-charging facilities...

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Jordan Gibbons

By Jordan Gibbons

News Editor, owns some old bikes. Should know better.