August 8, 2008 Fuel injection arrived on two wheels with the release of Honda’s CX500 Turbo a quarter of a century ago, and Honda has been developing smarter and more intricate computer controlled fuel injection systems for its two wheelers ever since. These days its advanced PGM-FI (Programmed Fuel Injection) technology is fitted across the range from 50cc scooters through its MotoGP race machinery, offering broader and smoother power, better throttle response and vastly reduced fuel consumption and emissions. A prototype being quietly shown around Asia suggests that it might also lead to some lightning fast scooters in the near future.
The Thai motorcycle market sells more motorcycles every year than the American market – despite a massive downturn in sales a few years back, the market will still top 1.65 million units this year and 1.15 million of them will be Hondas.
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Honda rules the roost in Thailand and is promoting its technological edge heavily, particularly the benefits of its ever developing PGM-FI: fuel economy, lower exhaust emissions and better engine performance.
A few weeks back, it introduced the new fuel injected CZ-i 110 alon with a three-year goal to become “the number one most admired company that is at the forefront of the environmental issue.”
Part and parcel of achieving this aim is to a policy that all motorcycles produced and sold in Thailand will be equipped with PGM-FI technology. PGM-FI is controlled by an electronic control unit called ‘the Engine Control Unit’ (ECU) that works together with other advanced engine technologies such as fuel injection, fuel pump, throttle body featuring Idle Air Control Valve (I.A.C.V.), Offset, Heaterless Oxygen Sensor and honeycomb shaped Catalyzer with over 300 cells.
As the flagship new product, 110 cc 4-stroke CZ-i certainly appears to have benefited from the new system, and when tested under strict ECE 40 conditions, delivers staggering the fuel economy figure of 57 km/liter (that’s 161 miles per imperial gallon), an 18% fuel saving over the previous 100 cc model. Does metering out the fuel in a miserly fashion lead to a gutless engine though? Not at all, with a significant increase in torque across the range and an improvement in peak torque of 25%. All that, and it can even run E20 fuel (a 20 percent ethanol blend). Emissions wise, it comes in at one fifth of Level 5 Standards and half Level 6. In order to overcome any fears of overly complex technology in this emerging market, the PGM-FI system and all its components (fuel injection, accelerating pump, ECU, throttle body, throttle position sensor, fuel vapor temperature sensor and O2 sensor) are being sold with a five year or 50,000 km warranty and Honda has set up nearly 1500 service centers and just short of 6000 repair & maintenance centers to ensure PGM-FI technology is fully supported.
But what happens when Honda’s patented PGM-FI technology is applied with a view to developing horsepower? Apparently Honda Japan has been doing just that and we came across the pictured prototype recently at a shopping centre in rural Thailand.
Based on the new 110 cc 4-stroke CZ-I, the unnamed machine apparently came straight out of Honda R&D and has a top speed approaching 100 mph and all the goodies – upside down forks, big disks, a monoshock rear end, carbon fibre bodywork and showstopping good looks.
No details whatsoever were available to this humble farang, no doubt partially due to my pidgeon Thai and overly inquisitive nature – but we managed to confirm that it did come out of Honda Japan, and it no doubt looks the Bees Knees to Thailand’s abundance of red-blooded males.
To me, it meant a whole lot more. I was one of the journalists who first sampled Honda’s CX500 Turbo in Japan in 1982, pushing the bike around Honda’s Tochigi testing track at ballistic speeds during the day and debating over much saki during the evening whether turbocharging and fuel injection would ever be applicable to everyday motorcycles.
We knew they’d taken us to a high speed, heavily banked test circuit because of the CX500 Turbo’s somewhat parlous throttle response, and there were some serious doubters amongst the international contingent of motorcycle testers.
We've come a long way since then.
Mike HanlonView gallery - 24 images