Sunday, 18 December 2011

Best of 2011: Top 10 concept motorbikes

The world motorcycle production is currently at around 80 million with the large proportion serving the personal transportation needs in China and other emerging economies. About 27 million of these bikes serve the recreational market mainly in North America and Western Europe. This market has attracted several eye catching design ideas during 2011 some of which are reviewed below. Many of these concepts will also get applied to advancing the overall motorbike technology that would help both segments of the market.
Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) of Canada showcased this hybrid concept vehicle at the Chicago Motorcycles Show in February 2011. The petrol engine Can Am Spyder was launched in 2008 as BRP's first on road vehicle and has been well received both in North America and in Western European markets. This hybrid vehicle was developed at the BRP University of Sherbrooke research facility in Quebec, with assistance from the Canadian government. The Ca Am Spyder is unusual as it has two front wheels and one rear wheel. The power train uses BRP's advanced combustion efficiency Rotax engine that has been previously used in the company's snowmobiles. The Rotax is a lightweight 2 cylinder four stroke engine that delivers 60 hp with a fuel efficiency of 29 miles per gallon, which is 45 percent lower than comparable other engines. The engine is designed for low friction and is quieter than other engines of this size. This petrol engine is coupled with an electric motor operating off Lithium Ion batteries. The hybrid vehicle has a range of 375 miles. The motorbike also incorporates advanced vehicle stability controls and anti skid braking to enhance safety.
This concept bike, by designer Min Seong Kim, is said to be made of materials that are able to expand and contract like human muscles. This enables the bike to be steered without any mechanical assistance. When cornering, the body materials expand and allow the corner to be taken safely. When accelerating on a straight road, the body material contracts and becomes more rigid. The materials planned to be used have not been named but the idea is certainly intriguing. The bike lines and overall shape is very appealing.
The Russian industrial designer Mikhail Smolyanov has come up with several unusual concept bikes for the vehicle builder Alexander Bushuev. Some of these motorbike designs are said to have been inspired by the racing car designs of the 1920s, where an aircraft engine was fitted into the racing car body. It is expected that Bushuev will custom build one or more of these bikes for racing at the 2012 AMD Championship in August.
Designer Alex Kish has combined the raw and rugged look favored by bikers with an electric power train to make this a green bike. The body is aluminum die cast, left unfinished to emphasize the rugged appearance. The front wheel shock absorbing spring is mounted in the space conventionally used for the fuel tank. The front suspension uses a Telelever fork to make the steering easier and safer. The bike uses airless tires. The drive motor is 12 KW DC and draws power from a Lithium Ion battery pack.
The Nicholas Kawamoto concept bike has a vivid colored body, guaranteed to attract attention to the bike and the rider. The body is made of thermoformed styrene, blue foam and acrylic. The parts are painted bright orange. The rest of the bike is said to be made from salvaged auto components and the overall effect is stunning, to say the least.
The Biona concept bike underlines the truism that a truly great design is one that is extremely simple. The bike form looks especially elegant and this concept could be the basis for the low cost personal transportation electric bikes for China and the Asean region where over 50 million bikes are sold annually. The materials and shapes used give this bike a great appeal.
The Suzuki Nuda concept bike was shown at the 1986 Tokyo Auto Show. The design with body panels covering all of the motorbike leaving only parts of the two wheels visible, looks appealing even today, 25 years after the design was conceptualized. The Nuda was then designed with a four cylinder engine that delivered power to both wheels through a shaft drive. The bike was expected to reach a top speed of 280 kilometers per hour. This bike never made it to production, reportedly because of high cost and problems with driving both wheels. The form design, however, remains unique and well worth a second attempt by Suzuki, perhaps with an electric motor drive.
The BMW Husqvarna is a light electric bike weighing only 80 kg that looks good for personal commute use, especially suited for crowded city streets. The front wheel is supported only from one side which should make wheel replacement easier. The material usage appears economical, that should help in keeping down the manufacturing costs.
BMW has not released details of power or range nor indicated a likely launch date.
Just a few years ago, a Superbike necessarily had to have petrol engines for the power. However, the rule applies no longer. This Superbike from the Canadian company Lito Green Motion can achieve a top speed of 200 kmph using an electric motor powered by Lithium Ion batteries. Lito Green has incorporated an advanced cell voltage monitoring system that balances electrical load between each of the battery cells to prolong battery life. The battery is designed to last the life of the bike.The range claimed is 300 km from an eight hour charge.
The bike has the chunky macho appearance expected in a Superbike. What will be missing is the engine roar. Perhaps the music system needs to play taped engine noise to compensate!
The bike priced at around $45,000 also incorporates a built in GPS system, and other bells and whistles expected from a Superbike.
Unlike the Lito, this one is all conventional engine Superbike designed by Erik Dunshee. It features a 1300 cc engine with 23 inch front wheels. The twin exhausts will develop a satisfying roar.

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