Motorcycles

Ethec's awkward 2WD electric motorcycle packs a monster 250-mile range

Ethec's awkward 2WD electric m...
Ethec electric motorcycle: nice details, nice shapes ... awful combination
Ethec electric motorcycle: nice details, nice shapes ... awful combination
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Ethec electric motorcycle: 7-inch dash screen
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Ethec electric motorcycle: 7-inch dash screen
Ethec electric motorcycle: brake levers initially engage regenerative braking, then move on to disc brakes
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Ethec electric motorcycle: brake levers initially engage regenerative braking, then move on to disc brakes
Ethec electric motorcycle: treats on the side for the cable management types out there
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Ethec electric motorcycle: treats on the side for the cable management types out there
Ethec electric motorcycle: brake light behind battery cooling fins looks great
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Ethec electric motorcycle: brake light behind battery cooling fins looks great
Ethec electric motorcycle: front profile looks great
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Ethec electric motorcycle: front profile looks great
Ethec electric motorcycle: battery cooling fins look terrific from this specific angle
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Ethec electric motorcycle: battery cooling fins look terrific from this specific angle
Ethec electric motorcycle: slim rear profile looks nice too
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Ethec electric motorcycle: slim rear profile looks nice too
Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight and girder forks
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Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight and girder forks
Ethec electric motorcycle: nice details, nice shapes ... awful combination
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Ethec electric motorcycle: nice details, nice shapes ... awful combination
Ethec electric motorcycle: twin shocks and battery box detail
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Ethec electric motorcycle: twin shocks and battery box detail
Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight detail
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Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight detail
Ethec electric motorcycle: clean look over the rear wheel
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Ethec electric motorcycle: clean look over the rear wheel
Ethec electric motorcycle: double-sided rear swingarm and hub motor
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Ethec electric motorcycle: double-sided rear swingarm and hub motor
Ethec electric motorcycle: hub motor will cause handling hassles if this thing is ridden hard
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Ethec electric motorcycle: hub motor will cause handling hassles if this thing is ridden hard
Ethec electric motorcycle: disc brakes take over when the regen has reached its maximum power
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Ethec electric motorcycle: disc brakes take over when the regen has reached its maximum power
Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight hangs on a sexy extension from the main bodywork, between girder forks and a front monoshock
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Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight hangs on a sexy extension from the main bodywork, between girder forks and a front monoshock
Ethec electric motorcycle: 1,260 lithium-ion cells in this 15-kilowatt-hour monster of a battery pack
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Ethec electric motorcycle: 1,260 lithium-ion cells in this 15-kilowatt-hour monster of a battery pack
Active and passive oil cooling helps with battery longevity
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Active and passive oil cooling helps with battery longevity
View gallery - 18 images

The Ethec electric motorcycle – designed and built by Swiss university students – is a strange jumble of ideas that are individually very nice. With a massive 15-kWh battery box, it offers a range around 250 miles. And it's got a second hub motor in the front wheel to improve its regenerative braking.

It seems whenever we present an electric motorcycle, somebody pops up in the comments asking "how come there's no electric cruisers?" Well, dear commenters, here's why.

We jest, we jest! Kind of, anyway. The Ethec electric cruiser is a very ambitious collection of interesting design elements and technologies, many of which are individually quite beautiful and innovative. Put them together, though, and you get something far less than the sum of its parts – at least to look at.

Let's speak plainly. The overall bike design is an awkward catastrophe of unbalanced weights and angles that looks like it's the work of a very enthusiastic committee. Which it is; the Ethec team is a collection of 16 engineering and design students from ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts.

You can clearly see the point where the 13 mechanical and 1 electrical engineer handed the bike over to the industrial design team; the sensual, feminine curve of the bike's silver bodywork lies uncomfortably on top of the giant, finned 15-kWh battery box in its slightly wonky-looking cradle frame.

Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight hangs on a sexy extension from the main bodywork, between girder forks and a front monoshock
Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight hangs on a sexy extension from the main bodywork, between girder forks and a front monoshock

But let's enjoy some of the details for a minute. Like the girder-style front suspension, which gives the front end of the bike a touch of the Confederates. Or the way the tank extends out over the steering head to culminate in a very nice little headlight unit.

Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight and girder forks
Ethec electric motorcycle: headlight and girder forks

Or the twisted metal bracket that connects the 7-inch tablet-style dash to the handlebar. A headlight bracket? That's a weird place to find a signature design feature, but there it is!

Ethec electric motorcycle: treats on the side for the cable management types out there
Ethec electric motorcycle: treats on the side for the cable management types out there

We're not sure what the anonymous silver boxes on the side might be, but if you're into sexy cable management you might enjoy the way the insulated cables run in and out of them. I don't know, maybe you won't. You cable people confuse me.

Ethec electric motorcycle: battery cooling fins look terrific from this specific angle
Ethec electric motorcycle: battery cooling fins look terrific from this specific angle

Even the way the battery's cooling fins extend outwards to meet the rear fender looks super cool from the right angle. So while the overall effect looks like some kind of overweight mechanical walrus, it's clear the design guys have had a good crack at it.

So let's leave the looks alone and check out what this thing can do in terms of functionality. Viewing the bike from a practical angle makes it clear the engineering team has done a pretty bang-up job as well.

The key metric for any electric in this day and age is range. The Ethec knocks it out of the park. That hulking 15-kilowatt-hour battery is good for a claimed figure of 400 kilometers, or around 250-miles between charges, and thanks to built-in fast charge technology, the bike can charge in "approximately one hour."

Active and passive oil cooling, as well as the battery box's many fins, help the battery stay within optimal temperatures during charging and riding, which the team says should contribute to a long life for the 1260 lithium-ion cells within. The team promises a range that stays constant for years.

Ethec electric motorcycle: 1,260 lithium-ion cells in this 15-kilowatt-hour monster of a battery pack
Ethec electric motorcycle: 1,260 lithium-ion cells in this 15-kilowatt-hour monster of a battery pack

Performance-wise it's not going to rip many tires up. A continuous 22 kW (30 hp) is delivered through hub motors in both the front and rear wheels, and burst power of up to 50 kW (67 hp) is available as long as things are running cool. It's unclear whether these power figures are per wheel or total, but we'd expect the latter.

Two-wheel drive doesn't really have much utility on a streetbike – heck, it's hardly even making much of a showing in the dirtbike world. But the front hub motor really isn't there to drive the bike. It's there to give the Ethec the best possible regenerative braking properties.

Under hard braking, goes the team's logic, the bike's weight shifts forward and most of the braking force is supplied by the front wheel. So that's where you want your regen coming from, and the Ethec bike can thus out-perform its one wheel drive competition in energy recuperation. The regen system kicks in as soon as you apply the brakes. The way I understand it, regen is used exclusively up until the system reaches its maximum generation power, and if you continue to pull the lever after that, single discs at the front and rear take over.

Ethec electric motorcycle: slim rear profile looks nice too
Ethec electric motorcycle: slim rear profile looks nice too

Hub motors, though? While they make for convenient packaging, particularly when you're working around such a colossal battery pack, they add unsprung weight and rotating mass to a degree that could adversely affect handling if you were to try to ride this thing hard.

We're being pretty tough on a bunch of university students here, but the truth is they've put together a pretty damn impressive project. A 400 kilometer range is no joke, even if you need a battery the size of a small caravan to get there. We're sure it was a fun and rewarding challenge designing, building, promoting and marketing this thing, and we hope members of this Swiss team get a chance to push their ideas out into the commercial world moving forward. Well done guys!

Check out a video below of this machine on the move:

ethec Productfilm

Source: Ethec via EVNerds

View gallery - 18 images
11 comments
VincentWolf
I'll bash right in and say it again--where are the cruiser style bikes like the Yamaha Raider, Suzuki Boulevard, Honda Fury, HD low riders, etc, etc. The most popular bike style in the world is completely being avoided by EVERY gas and EV manufacturer the world over.
DanielValladolidFuentes
true that about the cruisers, but I really like this design, very hard to make pretty but the team achieved it, congratulations to everybody involved!
zr2s10
I'm not much for electric bikes, but I like it. I think electric makes more sense for road bikes than it does dirt bikes. Road bikes are much more suited to all the extra weight of batteries, etc. Dirt machines need to be light as possible. And more likely to end up in deep water and short something out.
SimonClarke
I would like to see what an experienced design team could come up with. Dual wound smaller lighter motors would add some interesting aspects to it's handling.
Excellent work for a university design team so far.
Nik
Maybe they should have had a couple of experienced long distance bikers on the team! From my experience, the frame members are too spindly and will break within a very short time with real road use. Add to that a week or two of real wet weather road crap, and this machine will swiftly become a wreck. Heavy motors within a wheel will make steering sluggish and the un-sprung weight will be a problem. As an exercise in putting together ideas, it probably provided some useful learning experience. Maybe the team should be made to ride this machine, for say 5000 miles on non-autoroute roads, ie 500 miles a day, five days a week, inside a two week time limit, they'd probably learn a lot more, about cruiser motorcycle design requirements, probably through their rear ends.
Mark Pettit
The EV cruiser is coming.... :) http://www.evokemotorcycles.com/project-kruzer
Lamar Havard
It seems to me that one of these 'electrical engineers' would think of putting a generator in the front hub to recharge the battery while the rear hub motor is driving the bike, instead of relying on inefficient regenerative braking. Or am I missing something?
Gannet
I hope they can get a decent front hub motor worked out. Very useful on a dirt bike. I'd assume it should be good for a road bike in crap weather too? A Magnax or similar should be light enough.
Ablazze
Cruisers the most popular bike style in the world? not even close my friend..
As for this monstrosity im guessing comfort wasn't on the list.
f8lee
@Lamar - I think you're missing the second law of thermodynamics, which would imply that the front "generator" will succeed only in reducing the efficiency of the rear "driving" motor for a net loss of power.