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Car and Motorcycle Companies Now Making Electric Bikes

By General Posts

Lee Iacocca with his electric bike in 1998. It had a lead-acid battery with a 15-mile range and a top speed of 15 miles an hour.

by Roy Furchgott from https://www.nytimes.com

They see branding opportunities as the pandemic and a desire by cities to curb traffic propel e-bike sales to new heights.

The transportation industry has seen the future, and the future is 1895.

That was the year Ogden Bolton Jr. of Canton, Ohio, was awarded U.S. Patent 552,271 for an “electrical bicycle.” A century and change later, electric bikes have gained new currency as car and motorcycle companies like Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Yamaha have horned into the market with their own designs.

While the pandemic has accelerated bike sales, the overriding attraction is that cities worldwide are beginning to restrict motor traffic. These companies are betting that e-bikes are the urban vehicles of tomorrow — or at least vehicles for good publicity today.

“In the past 12 to 18 months, you have seen a lot of new brands come into the market,” said Andrew Engelmann, an e-bike sales and marketing manager at Yamaha, which has been in the electric bike business since 1993 and claims sales of two million worldwide. “We in the U.S. have not seen this new energy toward cycling since Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France.”

Credit the coronavirus pandemic, which has ignited bike sales of all stripes, but none so much as e-bikes. While retail unit sales of bicycles from January to October last year were up 46 percent from a year earlier, electric bikes were up 140 percent. Measured in dollars, regular bikes were up 67 percent and e-bikes 158 percent — so don’t expect a discount. Those numbers, from the market researchers at NPD, do not include online-only retailers such as Rad Power Bikes, so sales may actually be higher still.

Ogden Bolton aside, there is a historical connection between bicycles and motorcycles. Many early motorcycles came from bicycle makers that simply clapped a motor on a bike, often retaining the pedals in the style of a moped.

The automotive industry’s bicycle connection is more recent, with the likes of Malcolm Bricklin and Lee Iacocca introducing electric bikes in the ’90s. Both flopped. Mr. Iacocca’s design, typical for the time, was hampered by a lead-acid battery with a 15-mile range and a top speed of 15 miles an hour. Many car companies, including Ford, Audi, Maserati and BMW, have gotten into and out of e-bikes since.

“No car company has had any success selling an electric bicycle,” said Don DiCostanzo, chief executive of Pedego Electric Bikes, who in 2014 licensed a bike design to Ford. “It’s fool’s gold. It can never replace the profit on a car.”

Yet car and motorcycle makers are being drawn in. “I think they are seeing a lot of the same opportunity we see,” said Ian Kenny, who leads the e-bike effort at the bicycle company Specialized. “But I think there is a very big difference between demonstrating you can do something and doing something very well at scale.”

However, changes in the way people get about, especially in Europe and Asia, are enticing motor vehicle companies that operate internationally. Overseas, in cities that manage pollution and overcrowded streets by restricting motor traffic, e-bikes often fill a gap.

“In Europe, the e-bike is more of a fundamental transportation tool,” said Dirk Sorenson, an analyst for NPD. London, Madrid, Oslo and Paris are among the growing number of cities restricting downtown traffic.

The pandemic has American cities testing similar restrictions. Boston, Minneapolis and a number of California cities have instituted Slow Streets programs, restricting motor traffic on side streets in favor of cycling and walking. It even has UPS, Amazon and DHL trying out e-cargo bikes in New York.

“There is a huge opportunity for e-bikes in the U.S., which is a huge untapped market,” said Rasheq Zarif, a mobility technology expert for the consulting firm Deloitte.

Some companies are preparing now for the possibility that “micromobility,” as the buzzword has it, will catch on here.

“Let’s imagine Harley-Davison is not a motorcycle company but a mobility company,” said Aaron Frank, brand director for Serial 1, which builds an e-bike in partnership with Harley. “There is a strong argument we can do for urban commuters what Harley-Davison did for motorcycles.”

Other companies see e-bikes as a gateway to sell their primary products. Though best known for its motorcycles, Ducati North America wants e-bikes to “potentially turn people on to Ducati,” its chief executive, Jason Chinnock, said. “And we’ve seen that with people at some events and with the media reaching out.”

E-bikes may be more expensive than bicycles, but are cheaper than cars or motorcycles. And improved motor and battery technology is bringing prices down. Low-priced e-bikes with a motor in the wheel hub — similar to that 1895 design — can be had for about $1,000. Prices for versions with more complex, geared motors at the pedals can reach more than $10,000.

“Spending $1,000 on a bike seems out there,” Mr. Kenny said, “but when you don’t look at it as a toy — when it becomes transportation — it becomes a very different conversation.”

Price isn’t the only hurdle. E-bikes confront a crippling hodgepodge of laws. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed “low speed” e-bikes (with a motor equivalent to 1 horsepower or less) a bicycle, states still decide where that bike can be ridden.

“It’s up to 50 states to define the use, and that’s been a big problem in the past,” said Claudia Wasko, general manager of Bosch eBike, a prominent manufacturer of drive systems.

The PeopleForBikes coalition drafted model state legislation to allow most e-bikes in bike lanes and parks. It suggests three classes of e-bike, with a top speed between 20 and 28 m.p.h. Twenty-eight states have adopted some version of the legislation.

Some companies may be less concerned with the future of mobility and more interested in getting some attention now.

“I think it’s a halo thing,” said Mr. DiCostanzo, whose company has produced e-bikes for Tommy Bahama, Ford and others. Halo vehicles represent a brand’s aspirations, like concept cars.

“I think that’s what it is for Ford,” he added. “They wanted it for window dressing, and that’s what they got. I think they sold 500 in the five years it ran.”

Mercedes, which is taking orders for its top-of-the-line Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team V11 e-bike at $12,000, said it was a chance to showcase its ability with high-tech materials from carbon fiber to paint.

“High-performance road bikes and e-bikes provide a great way to showcase such technologies into a range of consumer products,” said Damian Cook, a spokesman.

For some in the bicycle industry this all smacks of déjà vu. In the 1970s, a bike boom was thought to presage a new future for transportation in which cycling was central. But it failed. Though there were many contributing factors, roads weren’t made more bicycle-friendly and people didn’t want to arrive at work sweaty.

With the combination of Slow Streets programs, which address the first problem, electric bikes, which address the second, and a pandemic that has given people a chance to adjust to both, experts like Mr. Zarif find hope.

“When you give people a chance to try something, it reduces resistance to change,” he said. “As a society, the reality is we go forward — we don’t go backward.”

Piaggio, KTM, Honda and Yamaha to set up swappable batteries consortium

By General Posts

from https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com

The consortium will define the standardised technical specifications of the swappable battery system for vehicles belonging to the L-category, mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles.

Piaggio Group on Monday said it has signed a letter of intent with KTM AG, Honda Motor and Yamaha Motor to set up a Swappable Batteries Consortium for motorcycles and light electric vehicles.

The consortium will define the standardised technical specifications of the swappable battery system for vehicles belonging to the L-category: mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles.

The companies will be working closely with interested stakeholders and national, European and international standardisation bodies. The founding members of the consortium will be involved in the creation of international technical standards. The Consortium will start its activities in May 2021.

In the context of the Paris Climate Agreement and the transition to electromobility, the founding members of the consortium believe that the availability of a standardised swappable battery system would both promote the widespread use of light electric vehicles and contribute to a more sustainable life-cycle management of batteries used in the transport sector, the companies said in a joint statement.

Also, by extending the range, shortening the charging time and lowering vehicle and infrastructure costs, the manufacturers will try to answer customers’ main concerns regarding the future of electromobility.

Michele Colaninno, Piaggio Group chief of strategy and product, commented, “With the signing of this letter of intent, the signatories show their proactiveness vis-à-vis the major concerns of their customers and the political priorities as regards the electrification of vehicles.”

An international standard for the swappable batteries system will make this technology efficient and at the disposal of the consumers, added Michele Colaninno.

Ducati partners with Lenovo for designing superbikes

By General Posts

The bike manufacturer will use a Lenovo high-performance computing cluster that will help the company to drive rapid innovation.

Ducati Motor Holding has joined hands with Lenovo for the design of its superbikes.

The bike manufacturer will use a Lenovo high-performance computing cluster that will help the company to drive rapid innovation.

As the brand says, it is continually looking for innovative ways to make its vehicles faster, safer and even more attractive.

Konstantin Kostenarov, Chief Technology Officer at Ducati, said, “Our HPC environment is the engine that drives the development and design of our road and racing bikes.”

He also added, “We use advanced aerodynamic and fluid dynamic modelling tools to calculate how a particular design or bike feature will react in different riding conditions. We don’t just do this for the superbikes that we sponsor on the racecourse, but for our road models too, so all bikers that choose Ducati enjoy an exceptional riding experience.”

Previously, Ducati used its own HPC infrastructure for the design process, but recently, it found that is no longer delivering the performance, reliability or flexibility which is needed in order to test new designs within tight deadlines. Hence, Ducati decided to use Lenovo’s HPC infrastructure.

Stefano Rendina, IT Manager at Ducati, said, “Previously, we had to transfer the results of our models and stress tests from the HPC environment and then use an entirely different workstation to transform this data into easy-to-understand visualizations. The process of transferring data in this way was both time-intensive and expensive—slowing down research and development.”

News Source https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Yamaha Expects India to Become its Largest Production Base in 5 yrs

By General Posts

Markets in Indonesia, Vietnam saturating; India priority No. 1, says top executive.

Japanese auto major Yamaha Motor Company (YMC) expects India to overtake Indonesia to emerge as its largest base in terms of production output in the next five years.

“India sells more than 20 million two-wheelers annually and the numbers are growing. Our company’s market share is in single digits. We want to improve this. There is a lot of opportunity,” says Yamaha India Chairman Shitara.

Two-wheeler sales in India increased 6.95% to 19,740,727 units till February this fiscal. In the same period, India Yamaha Motor’s sales remained largely flat at around 732,006 units. The company additionally exported 226,010 units.

Yamaha Motor India’s group chairman Motofumi Shitara was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of MT-15 priced at ₹1.36 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

“India is priority number one for us worldwide. We aim to have production volume of 2.5 million units in India in the next five years,” he said.

Going ahead, Shitara said the company would steer clear of the mass segment and focus on launching premium motorcycles in the domestic market. The company has also commenced a study on introducing electric two-wheelers in India.

Shitara is currently defining the mid-term roadmap for the company till 2025 to lay the foundation on how the brand Yamaha takes shape the country. Apart from growing volumes, Shitara said a focus area for him is to project a strong image for the Yamaha brand in the local market.

Yamaha MT-15 was launched on Friday – a 155cc bike with liquid-cooled four-stroke engine mated to a six-speed transmission. MT-15 is priced at Rs 1.36 lakh ex-showroom. It has ABS and fuel injected variable valve actuation (VBA).

On the idea of electric motorcycles, the Yamaha Chairman says – “Three points are important, one is performance. Second, is price control. And third, infrastructure for battery charging. These three issues we should answer (for electric vehicles to take off)”, Shitara said.

2019 federal spending package increases infrastructure funding

By General Posts

It took a while, but a 2019 spending package was finally approved by Congress, signed by President Trump, and enacted February 15. In addition to the $1.375 billion for southwest border barriers, the package also includes full-year 2019 funding levels for important federal infrastructure programs, including the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Engineering News-Record reports.

The 2019 package is the second year of a two-year, bipartisan House-Senate budget deal that included a pledge to raise overall federal infrastructure spending by $20 billion over 2017 levels. It sets the federal-aid highway obligation ceiling at $45.3 billion, up $1 billion, or 2 percent, from 2018 and equal to the amount authorized in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which comes from the Highway Trust Fund.

The legislation also contains $3.25 billion more from the general fund for highways, up from $2.525 billion in 2018. A 2019 “bonus” amount includes $2.73 billion for states, up from $1.98 billion in 2018, and $475 million for bridge replacement and rehabilitation, more than double the 2018 amount.

Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants received $900 million for 2019, down 40 percent from 2018, but it was not discontinued as President Trump suggested. The program was originally called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER.

The Federal Transit Administration will receive $13.4 billion for 2019, down $67 million from 2018, with transit formula grants getting $9.9 billion and capital investment grants receiving $2.5 billion, down from $2.6 billion in 2018. An additional $700 million, down from $834 million in 2018, goes for transit infrastructure grants, which include bus facilities and “state of good repair” projects.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program was frozen at 2018’s $3.35 billion, an amount that comes from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Lawmakers also tapped the general fund for an additional $500 million in FAA discretionary airport grants, down 50 percent from 2018.

The EPA’s water infrastructure account will receive $3.6 billion, a 1 percent increase over 2018 levels. Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) will receive $1.7 billion and Drinking Water SRFs will get $1.2 billion.