The Schooter Solution
BMW Anticipates a Crowded Future
BMW tells us more than 50 percent of the world’s population already lives in cities, and that figure is anticipated to rise as high as 70 percent over the next 25 years. Urban crowding, increasing traffic density, rising energy costs and more stringent emissions regulations will all drive demand for scooters, making the so-called “Urban Mobility” category the most important segment of the motorcycle industry in coming years.
BMW’s newly-released C-series scooters can handle both urban riding and a typical high-speed, longer-distance suburban commute. With automatic transmissions and lower, more inviting architecture, however, there is also less of the perceived danger that’s often attached to motorcycles. BMW hopes this unique combination of attributes will encourage more drivers to park their automobiles and set out on two wheels.
BMW has also revealed a zero-emissions electric scooter prototype called the Concept E. With outright bans on petrol-powered scooters and motorcycles in parts of Beijing and other polluted Asian cities, BMW sees clean vehicle technology as a priority for the future.
The Four-Wheeled Superbike
Yamaha’s Tilting Tesseract Concept
Yamaha’s radical Tesseract—a leaning, four-wheeled superbike revealed in 2007—is still undergoing development, and recent patent documents suggest the Japanese firm is serious about bring this envelope-pushing concept into production. The latest design shares the Tesseract’s basic concept, combining a bike-like riding experience with the security of four wheels, but uses completely different technology to achieve that goal. Unlike the original Tesseract, which added stability by placing the paired wheels at both ends some distance apart, the new Yamaha has been designed to keep the wheels as close together as possible, retaining the narrow overall width of a conventional bike.
All four wheels move independently, so even at extreme lean angles all the tyres are firmly planted on the ground. Although the appearance might be unusual, the design is intended to keep the riding experience as familiar as possible. If it’s aimed at motorcyclists, rather than the undefined and entirely new audience that the Tesseract seemed designed to appeal to, that additional familiarity is likely a boon rather than a hindrance.
What About Hybrids?
The Best of Both Worlds?
Hybrid automobiles combine the cleanliness of an electric vehicle with the convenience of gas power, but the added complexity and expense has prevented hybrid technology being applied to production motorcycles. Even so, Honda and Yamaha have been experimenting with hybrids.
Honda has filed multiple patents showing a parallel twin similar to the NC700 engine—already its most fuel-efficient engine—with a regen-enabled electric motor added to boost range or provide additional torque to increase the bike’s performance. Another newly filed document also shows a hybrid Goldwing, using an ingenious, hub-mounted electric motor to assist its ICE counterpart.
Yamaha appears to be developing an all-new hybrid machine based on the envelope-pushing Gen-Ryu concept from 2005 (shown) using a small, single-cylinder gas engine to turn a generator that powers an electric motor and recharges the batteries. The resulting efficiency is that of a small-displacement single but with performance of a much more powerful bike.