Triumph's TE-1 prototype may be the hottest electric motorcycle yet
Nearly two years ago, Triumph announced it was working with Williams Advanced Engineering to develop a cutting-edge British electric motorcycle platform. Today, we get our first look at the new powertrain, as well as sketches of the upcoming prototype.
When you get a company like WAE on board, you can be assured of performance that'll make all your wrinkliest skin even wrinklier. And indeed, the TE-1 prototype is designed for an absolutely wild ride. The 10-kg (22-lb) motor, from Integral Powertrain, will put out a peak of 130 kW (174 hp) and continuous power of 80 kW (107 hp), and the 360-volt WAE battery pack is capable of up to 170 kW (228 hp), putting sub-20 minute 0-80 percent charge times on the table.
Battery capacity is 15 kWh – a little bit more than Zero's SR/F offers, so while Triumph has made no range claims as yet, we'd expect somewhere around 124 miles (200 km) between charges. Then again, WAE and Integral seem very excited about their contributions to the project, the former claiming a "quantum leap" in energy density and weight reduction, and the latter claiming to "set new standards in terms of electric motorcycle efficiency," so the final range figures, if they're given to us in a format we can actually compare against Zero's real-world figures, will be very instructive.
"We spent a lot of time on the battery system," said Dyrr Ardash, Senior Commercial Manager at WAE. "Getting this right [on a motorcycle] is arguably more important than with any other type of electric vehicle. We've really pushed the boundaries in order to reduce mass and optimize position within the frame to benefit handling. What's more, we've also pushed the limits of battery performance, balancing cell design for acceleration and range, with simulations based on track-based riding. In other words, as aggressive as possible."
The new pack features a fully integrated electronic control system, which WAE says combines the bike controls with the battery management for the first time, and it's also designed to deliver its full performance punch right down to zero on the battery meter, where others curtail performance as the charge runs down.
Ardash is right that weight is a real passion-killer when it comes to electric motorcycles that offer proper sports-riding range, so we'll be very interested to see the weight of the prototype, and indeed how the battery itself fares on the scale next to a Zero unit. Zero Motorcycles has, after all, been propped up in its pioneering position on a pile of Weight Watchers cash from its chief investor Invus, so maybe a bit of friendly competition might help it get a beach body happening in the next iteration.
In terms of design, I'm personally delighted to see that the TE-1 prototype takes after one of my favorite bikes, the mighty Speed Triple naked streetbike. Speed and Street Triple owners will immediately recognize the frame lines, single-sided swingarm and overall performance naked ergos here. The design treatment is aggressive, sharp and modern without screaming "look at me, I'm electric" – and if it makes it through to the physical prototype without too many changes, it could be one of the best-looking electric bikes we've seen.
A large part of that comes down to the time WAE has clearly spent making sure to avoid the dirty big battery box that has plagued most electric motorcycle designers up until now (notable exceptions like the BST HyperTek aside). Williams has done a great job keeping its design tight and shapely, the motor's not terrible to look at itself, and I'd argue Triumph's design team has framed it all up with metal structures, carbon covers and bodywork that make no secret of its electric heart, but that keep the whole thing looking light, compact and attractive.
Better still, it doesn't look too far off what we might see in production, once you put some mirrors, indicators and a butt-ugly rear fender on there. A range of electric production bikes is definitely on the cards, says Steve Sargent, Triumph's Chief Product Officer: "This project is all about developing a platform for Triumph's future electric motorcycles."
The whole thing is largely funded by the UK government, through Innovate UK and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, in an effort to develop and incubate British technology and expertise in the EV sector. Fair enough; major motorcycle manufacturers have apparently seen little point in pushing forth in the performance electric space, leaving the early heavy lifting to companies like Zero, Lightning, Energica and a bevy of smaller boutique builders to get the market started.
So this does seem like the kind of area where government funding can get things done at a level private funding might struggle with; if this powertrain delivers on its promise, the UK has a chance to stamp some serious authority on the electric motorcycle market at a relatively early stage. And Triumph has a chance to get something pretty amazing on the road with a public sector head start that many companies would kill for.
While COVID has delayed the timetable on the TE-1 somewhat, Sargent says we'll see the full prototype soon: "We're all looking forward to having a complete, rideable bike, which we're expecting later in 2021."
Check out a video below.