The Emula electric motorcycle is a two-wheeled time machine
This has to be one of the weirdest electric motorcycle projects we've ever seen. The Emula aims to bring the noise, vibration, lumpy power curves and gear shifting of gasoline-powered motorcycles through into the electric age.
Electric motorcycles, the argument goes, are boring. They're silent, so you don't get the hair-raising soundtrack of a screaming engine on full song. You don't have to shift gears, so that's one less fun thing to do, and their power curves are just about linear, with torque available everywhere, so they lack the "character" of an ICE bike.
2Electron, a company from Torino in western Italy, has decided to put all that character back in, and has built a prototype electric motorcycle designed to act as a kind of time machine, letting you experience the bikes of the past on a platform of the future. Thus, the Emula has a big ol' touch screen on the dash, which allows you to choose between several different kinds of old-school gas motorcycle, from 600cc inline fours to 80s-era 250cc two-strokes to 800cc twins.
Once you've picked one, it does its best job to act like that kind of bike in every way. We're talking custom power curves to match the dyno charts of the petrol bikes. We're talking a fake hydraulic clutch lever and foot shift lever with "realistic feedback," that moves you up and down a series of simulated gears.
We're talking speaker systems on the tank and under the seat, playing a pre-recorded engine sound matched to your chosen motorcycle type, simulated gear and simulated RPM – something like the SoundRacer device we had huge silly fun with, oh so many years ago. And to take things even further into the absurd, it's got vibration shakers all over the bike to shake certain bits at certain revs.
Eventually, the company plans to offer a wide range of other motorcycle types, so the Emula begins acting like a little history lesson as you flip through the years and the bikes that defined them.
The sheer time, love, diligence and thought it would take to build and program this system – which the company calls the "McFly Core," after Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies – boggles the mind. The more we think about this project, the more complex and difficult and crazy it gets. Especially when every single one of its features, viewed objectively, makes an electric motorcycle worse.
Don't get me wrong, I love my petrol bikes and always will. But having ridden a few top-shelf electrics, I see their silence as a stealth asset, as well as a reminder of their ruthless energy efficiency. I see gears and clutches as ungainly but wonderfully familiar ways to work around the fact that gasoline engines don't deliver torque at all engine speeds. Electrics don't have this problem; there's huge torque available at all times, so gearshifting is irrelevant and you don't need to hear the engine to know what gear you should be in. Their total lack of engine vibrations gives you an uncanny level of road surface feedback through your hands, feet and tush.
There's something profoundly silly to me about making a perfectly good electric motorcycle, then taking chunks out of its power delivery to pretend it's an ICE bike, and saddling it with all the other trappings of the last century, just to appease a kind of rider that would never buy an electric in the first place. I mean, vibrating footpegs, for goodness' sake.
According to Motorrad magazine, the Emula will have a "Boring Mode" in which it just acts like a high performance, 250 km/h (155 mph) electric sportsbike, and my suspicion is that the vast majority of riders who try this thing out will immediately realize why electrics will be such superior machines as soon as the energy density issue is solved.
The Emula, at this stage, is just a prototype. Check out a video below.