Stefan Pierer, KTM CEO and majority shareholder, is more than just a successful Austrian industrialist; from his position as president of the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers he knows well that electric mobility is set to boom in the next decade.
His company hopped on the battery-powered train several years ago, with the first Freeride model hitting the market in 2012. Despite it being as well designed and enjoyable as any typical KTM off-roader, its limited range made it look more like a rich boy's toy than an actual alternative to the company's similarly-priced petrol bikes.
The Freeride family started off with a non-road-legal motocross model, before expanding to include enduro and supermoto versions. The motocrosser only needed to provide race track fun for a limited time, but the later arrivals could take to the streets, meaning that only offering up to an hour of riding weighed down heavily on their practicality.
For 2018 KTM has announced a new 260 V lithium-ion Power Pack with 50 percent more capacity, jumping from 2.6 to 3.9 kWh. This translates to equally more range, so the new Freeride E-XC can be ridden for roughly up to an hour and a half – obviously depending on a number of factors, such as terrain, rider weight and riding style.
In comparison to the previous generation of Freeride batteries, charging time hasn't changed, requiring 80 minutes for a full charge and 50 minutes to reach 80 percent.
The liquid-cooled, permanent magnet, synchronous motor is still as first introduced. Its rated power is 9 kW (12 hp), under the limit of Europe's A1 novice driving license, but it can peak at 18 kW (24.5 hp), and its torque output reads a constant 42 Nm (31 lb-ft).
KTM says that it worked on the motor's thermal stability, with new insulating pads between the stators and the waterproof aluminum casing. As before, there are three selectable power modes, Economy, Enduro and Cross, and a Freeride novelty in the shape of regenerative braking.
One other change that will probably make the Freeride E-XC more desirable is its new suspension. KTM opted for the WP Xplor series, with a set of 43 mm inverted split-action forks – compression adjustment on one leg, rebound on the other – and a PDS rear shock. An upgrade over the previous model, this set-up shares similar parts to those used in the rest of KTM's range, though still not the beefier and heavier 48 mm Xplor forks of the EXC enduros.
Weighing just a little more than its predecessor, the 111-kg (244.7-lb) Freeride E-XC is slated to enter production in January 2018, with retail pricing yet to be revealed.
This turn to more practicality may not exactly constitute a paradigm-shifting change for the Austrian company, but it certainly is a move in the right direction against growing competition in the electric motorcycle field. Sooner or later, the changes applied to the electric enduro will probably filter down to the other two Freeride models, SX and SM.
More generally, KTM's Freeride press release also reveals plans to put an emphasis on e-mobility in the future, with a range of machines from 250 W to 11 kW coming until 2025. These will include electric minibikes, an electric scooter, and a new partnership with Pexco for a series of electric bicycles.
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