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