Team Britain has begun assembling its forces to join the battle for electric motorcycling supremacy. Now, in a government-supported push to develop electric motorcycle capabilities, Triumph and Williams Advanced Engineering have entered an alliance with Integral Powertrain and WMG.

"Project Triumph TE-1" will be a two-year effort, partially funded by the UK government in the hopes that this alliance can place the UK in a position to compete in an emerging electric motorcycle market. Here's how each group's contributions will break down:

  • Triumph will lead the effort, providing all the "cycle" parts of the motorcycle prototypes as well as specifying what is needed from the electric powertrain. It'll also get involved in the design and integration of regenerative braking and advanced safety systems.
  • Williams Advanced Engineering will design, develop, produce and integrate a lightweight battery pack, battery management unit and vehicle control unit.
  • Integral Powertrain's e-Drive division is in charge of the motor, a custom-built unit with high power density and a silicon carbide inverter integrated into the motor housing.
  • WMG, at the University of Warwick, will be concentrating on commercialization issues, modeling and simulating future market needs.
  • And Innovate UK, a government agency founded to promote science and technology, will provide government support and administer funding. If this partnership can get more electric motorcycles onto the road, it'll be a win for various government agencies tasked with reducing road congestion and vehicle emissions.

The overall goal here is to develop each partner's capabilities in a motorcycle-specific context, while putting Triumph in a position to get something electric onto the market within a few years.

"We see a Triumph electric powertrain as a significant requirement alongside our signature twin and triple cylinder engines," says Triumph Chief Product Officer Steve Sargent. "As part of our electric motorcycle initiative, Project Triumph TE-1 represents an exciting collaboration that will provide valuable input into our future line-up."

So, we won't be seeing anything we can sling our leg over for some time yet, but in the meantime it's interesting to speculate what an electric Triumph might look like. It'll be hard to give it the kind of retro heritage look that drives much of the company's catalog, given the motor-centric design that tends to entail. The easiest fit might be to hide a generally fairly boxy and unattractive electric powertrain underneath a fairing.

But the greatest win for the industry in general might come if this alliance can find a way to make an electric motor and battery pack actually look actively awesome. Motorcycle people in general love a beautiful motor, with some visible mechanics to it. There might not be much in the way of moving parts to enjoy with electric motors, but we suspect once they start looking cool, they'll start capturing the imagination of the enthusiast market.

We'll see where this alliance leads in time.