Motorcycles

Design concept raises the idea of a water-driven Yamaha motorcycle

Design concept raises the idea...
A water-drive Yamaha concept from designer Maxime Lefebvre
A water-drive Yamaha concept from designer Maxime Lefebvre
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Reversed handlebars are a cheeky touch
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Reversed handlebars are a cheeky touch
A fun 2016 concept by Maxime Lefebvre
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A fun 2016 concept by Maxime Lefebvre
A water-drive Yamaha concept from designer Maxime Lefebvre
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A water-drive Yamaha concept from designer Maxime Lefebvre
Those clear blue rims look incredible ... but won't work using today's technology
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Those clear blue rims look incredible ... but won't work using today's technology
That does look like a clutch in the middle there but it's not; it's a water pump
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That does look like a clutch in the middle there but it's not; it's a water pump
The twin water tanks give the appearance of a 2-cylinder engine
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The twin water tanks give the appearance of a 2-cylinder engine
Interesting; a water tank with an air filter
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Interesting; a water tank with an air filter
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We came across a piece today over at Motorbike Writer about Yamaha preparing a water-powered motorcycle, and while a quick Google revealed this to be nothing more than a Yamaha-sponsored thesis project from 2016, the idea itself is fascinating enough to follow down the rabbit hole.

Water-powered or water-engined are the wrong terms for this. What's being proposed is a system that replaces the chain, belt or shaft drive to the rear wheel with a hydraulic system that uses water pressure to spin the back wheel. So a fluid drive is probably the better way to put it. Designer Maxime Lefebvre admits as much in the "engine breakdown" slide, saying "to be effective, it needs a water pump."

That water pump would be the engine. But how realistic is it to think about a water drive system? And what would be the pros and cos of such a thing? Perhaps we can look to two previous New Atlas stories for answers.

Interesting; a water tank with an air filter
Interesting; a water tank with an air filter

The first would be our feature on the Ferox Azaris from 2018. This jaw-dropping Western-Australian six-wheel-drive off-road buggy was designed as a tech demonstrator to showcase Ferox's remarkable in-wheel fluid drive system. Ferox claims it operates at a volumetric efficiency of 98%, meaning that the wheel drives can deliver torque with immediate response when pressure is put into the system by any kind of motor.

Such a drive system offers extraordinary flexibility in where you put your driven wheels, as the Azaris demonstrates. And since the fluid hub drives weigh somewhere around a third of what a comparable electric hub motor does, they might not make themselves too unwelcome on the end of a swingarm.

Indeed, as Ian Drysdale's extraordinary 2x2x2 motorcycle demonstrates, fluid drives can just as easily spin your front wheel as your rear, opening up the potential for 2WD motorcycles. Yamaha, obviously, has tried this before with the groundbreaking 2-Trac dirtbike, as well as some pretty wacky shape-shifting concepts back in the early 2000s.

Those clear blue rims look incredible ... but won't work using today's technology
Those clear blue rims look incredible ... but won't work using today's technology

So the ability to drive both wheels could be one advantage. The ability to delete the greasy, consumable complexity of a chain drive could be another, and the ability to operate with a centrally-mounted electric motor or a more complex combustion one is another.

Disadvantages? Well, traditional hydraulic drives are known for being a bit jerky and leaky, and while there are other water-powered drives, we're unaware of them ever being used in a high-speed application like the back wheel of a motorcycle, where friction could build up with rpm to sap power and create heat.

Indeed, since the launch of the Azaris concept, Ferox itself seems to have gone pretty quiet. This design concept, fun though it is, looks certain to remain a piece of fun and thought-provoking fiction.

Sources: Maxime Lefebvre's Behance via Motorbike Writer

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4 comments
paul314
Would this be akin to hydraulics, or more to something like a turbine at the driven end? Water is very stiff in compression, so you could do some serious component damage if something went wrong (and there's always the possibility of a small leak creating a mobile waterjet cutter).
bwana4swahili
Water freezes!
jerryd
I've done such type design and just doesn't do well using a lot of power in fluid friction. But it certainly can work so I'd stick with a cog belt or shaft drive long before hydraulic.
ljaques
Does it pace the garage on freezing nights to keep warm? Cute idea, but not even steampunk? Where's the fun in that?