Spirit Charger Concept SC 01 portends the future of Kawasaki's H2 and H2R motorcycle line
The clearest message from Kawasaki at the 44th annual Tokyo Motor Show was that it was committed to the long term development of the supercharger technology we first saw at this show two years ago. Since then of course, we've seen the utilization of the blown concept engine shown in Tokyo in 2013 in the form of the $25,000 200 hp Ninja H2 road bike and $50,000 300 hp H2R track bike.
At those prices, with the limited production and availability of the H2 line, it might have been possible that Kawasaki would rationalize its three-pronged hyperbike showroom offering. No other manufacturer offers such a diversity of power machinery because apart from the supercharged H2/H2R branch of the family, there's also the brutally fast 1441 cm3 Ninja ZX-14R and the 200 hp ZX-10R which finished first and third in the 2015 World Superbike Championship.
Yet the Tokyo Motor Show is an accurate predictor of the next few years for all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers and Kenji Tomida announced that both Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R models would remain in limited production for the 2016 season with a new color and paint finish, a slipper clutch for the Ninja H2 and ECU upgrades to both machines.
With Tomida sharing the sketch of the Spirit Charger Concept SC 01, the supercharged line is obviously far from finished, with the press statement stipulating that the SC 01 "represents just one of the fascinating directions Kawasaki’s design team is considering for the future of the forced induction motorcycle line."
Another hint was the use of Kawasaki's wording elsewhere in the press statement that the supercharged engine project was "wholly in-house designed and manufactured."
The appearance of the new "Balanced Supercharged Engine" with some of Kawasaki's proprietary technology on clear display is probably the strongest indication yet that the supercharged Kawasaki line-up is not going to be in limited production forever, and that more models are coming with what Kawasaki clearly feels is a significant competitive advantage.
The technology disclosed with the showing of the engine is Kawasaki's use of electronically-controlled flaps in the supercharger intake which allow both the volume and direction of intake air to be regulated for increased efficiency. The three images above show how Kawasaki is achieving this.
Those who have ridden the H2 and H2R report a surge of mid-range and top end power akin to being transported by the Hand of God, so as Kawasaki further develops it's own supercharging technology, it may well be granted every manufacturer's wish to have a competitive advantage which cannot be replicated by those it is selling against. There's also the potential to use the technology on lesser engine capacities too, and perhaps to go even bigger and replace the ZX14 family. As the world is becoming increasingly concerned with emission regulations and fuel efficiency, supercharging seems the logical way to go.
Kawasaki was also clear when it stated that the supercharging developments were conceived to "retain the thrill and unique sensation of forced induction while adding increased fuel economy."
The fact that the "Spirit Charger" concept represents a visual softening of the hard-edged performance-focused approach of the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R also suggests that Kawasaki intends to broaden the application of the supercharged engine beyond horsepower junkies, as it looks more suitable for eating autobahn miles than shredding rear tires.
Kawasaki's supercharged lineage may not have announced any impending births in Tokyo, but it seems very likely there will be a pregnancy or two press-released in the next year.
Kawasaki also put a name to it's design philosophy at the show, dubbing it "Rideology," a strategy based on three guiding principles: "Firstly the need for machines to possess power and grace, secondly Kawasaki motorcycles should continue to be fun and rewarding to ride and, thirdly, the ongoing reliance on the skills within the entire Kawasaki Group harnessing cutting edge technology to enrich the lives of people worldwide."