Triumph say biofuels prove electric bikes aren’t the only way forward

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Triumph’s Chief Product Officer, Steve Sargent, has spoken exclusively to MCN about how developing ethanol rich E40 fuel for Moto2 by 2024 could influence the sustainability of road bikes.

“I think there’s a consensus amongst the European manufacturers that electric can’t be the only answer,” Sargent said.

“Therefore, I think we are all seeing sustainable fuels as something we would like to be able to demonstrate… to the European Commission and the UK Government – just to say hey, look here is an alternative, and potentially it’s a quicker win.”

Triumph Moto2 bike on circuit

Triumph are the sole engine supplier to the Moto2 world championship and announced on December 20, 2022 that they were working on E40 fuel for the three-cylinder motors to be used in the 2024 season.

The plan is to then move to an E100 fuel by 2027, with the developments made here then hoped to feed into production motorcycles.

A higher quantity of ethanol reduces the need to drill for as much crude to make petrol, thus lowering net carbon emissions.

Triumph's Steve Sargent

“I guess we’ve been talking about it [with Dorna] for three or four years now. I think they are quite aware that everybody’s got a responsibility these days to consider their carbon footprint,” Sargent added.

Alongside higher ethanol contents, MotoGP series bosses Dorna have also pursued the electric route with the MotoE championship – first with Energica and now with Ducati stepping in from 2023.

Sargent continued: “I think what they’re finding from MotoE – as a lot of us are finding through our electric motorcycle projects – is you’re just so massively restricted by range.

“With the new Ducatis, I’m assuming they’ve managed to get a little bit more range out of them… but I’d be surprised if they get a significant number of extra laps out of the electric bikes.”

Triumph have made no secret of their own electric development, finishing the 175bhp, 220kg TE-1 naked back in mid-2022 as a test exercise to explore what’s possible before developing production-ready machines.

This is ahead of current Government transport plans to outlaw the sale of all new fossil-fuel powered two-wheelers by 2035.

E10 fuel pump

Following the research into the TE-1 though Sargent remains unconvinced and believes the trickle-down from racing could allow more sustainable fuels to sit alongside electric in the future.

“If you’re looking at the technology that currently exists for batteries in electric vehicles, and if you look at the projections for how the efficiency of those batteries might improve in the next 10-15 years, I think it’s quite clear that the technology is not going to replace what you can get out of your current petrol engine motorcycle,” Sargent added.

“You’re not going to be able to deliver the same level of range, until there’s a step change in battery technology.

Filling up with E5 petrol

“If we’re talking about replacing the kind of motorcycles that Triumph has made its name in over the last sort of 25-30 years, the [battery] technology at the moment doesn’t really support that.”

He added: “You could improve the carbon footprint of the existing motorcycle fleet that’s out on the roads today. Whereas if we just push for electric, I guess a lot of people are probably going to come to the decision that they’ll just stick with the bike that they’ve already got.”

Whether the two energy sources will sit alongside each other is largely out of manufacturers’ hands though, with Government policy determining what will power the bikes of tomorrow.

Triumph TE-1 electric motorbike rear

“We’re not going to go out and develop a production motorcycle that runs on 60% ethanol or 40% ethanol or whatever it is if that’s not a fuel that is easily available in a particular market.

“We can’t push water uphill; we can’t force all of the petrol stations to stock a fuel just for the sake of something that we want to do. If it’s if it’s there and there’s a local demand for it, then we’ll develop a product that suits it.”

Sargent continued: “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be able to get this benefit from going to higher ethanol fuels.

Triumph moto2 engine in factory

“It’s something that the manufacturers could do a lot more quickly than trying to develop a range of electric bikes, particularly where the technology doesn’t really support what the customer wants.”

“We are beholden to whatever regulations get thrown our way and whatever incentives governments decide to put in place,” Sargent went on.

“We just hope that they will listen to the manufacturers in terms of what our opinions are in terms of what can be done quickly and what can be done effectively.”

Triumph ready for green fuels: Ethanol content in Moto2 will deliver benefits for road bikes

First published 2020 December 2022 by Dan Sutherland

Triumph Moto2 engines from the crate

Triumph have announced they are working on more sustainable fuels for their grand prix race engines, as MotoGP series bosses Dorna aim to move the Moto2 class to ethanol-rich E40 by 2024.

The Hinckley operation have been supplying engines to the intermediate class since 2019 and have now set up a dedicated testing programme for environment-friendly petrol at their Leicestershire base.

On top of reducing the environmental impact of racing, it looks as if the technology will have a trickle-down effect into road bikes, with Triumph Chief Product Officer, Steve Sargent saying: “Ultimately, our aim is always to take all the learnings we gain from racing to make our road bikes even better, which of course encompasses not just performance but also their impact on the environment.

Moto2 racers on the track

“I can tell you that everybody here at Triumph is very excited to be involved in such significant developments at such a pivotal moment in motorcycle history.”

The plan is to deliver E40 fuel by 2024 to reduce the CO2 produced in Moto2, with further aims to reach an E100 blend by 2027. This will power their Street Triple-derived 765cc three-cylinder racing motors, with work also going into ensuring the new fuel sees no drop in performance or speed.

This is not the first time Triumph have looked into environmental sustainability of course, having previously developed the TE-1 electric prototype to influence future production models, as well as purchasing the OSET brand to produce battery-powered low capacity off-roaders.

Triumph TE-1 electric prototype

“A lot the guys who have been working on [the TE-1] are moving on to our production electric vehicles,” Sargent told MCN. “We have bikes on the drawing board now that the guys are starting to develop.”