Motorcycles

Vanguard Motorcycles teams with Erik Buell for two electric commuters

CAD render of the VanguardSpark Commuter, which looks like a simple and cheerful city getabout, but if that's a hub drive, handling is going to suffer
CAD render of the VanguardSpark Commuter, which looks like a simple and cheerful city getabout, but if that's a hub drive, handling is going to suffer
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CAD render of the VanguardSpark Commuter, which looks like a simple and cheerful city getabout, but if that's a hub drive, handling is going to suffer
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CAD render of the VanguardSpark Commuter, which looks like a simple and cheerful city getabout, but if that's a hub drive, handling is going to suffer
VanguardSpark SpeedBike CAD render: a full-suspension e-bike with a claimed range over 90 miles
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VanguardSpark SpeedBike CAD render: a full-suspension e-bike with a claimed range over 90 miles

Back in December 2016, New York's Vanguard Motorcycles revealed its first creation: a monstrous 1,917cc v-twin roadster seemingly hewn out of solid aluminum by a pair of Confederate alumni. The Vanguard Roadster was brutal and blinged-out, tightly packaged and massively over-engineered. It had as much aggressively American presence as a monster truck with a stars 'n' stripes paint job.

But, as several of readers were quick to point out, there are a ton of Americans who no longer feel like giant gas-guzzling noise machines are how their country should be represented. There's a growing segment (and I'm goings to assume it's mainly on the coasts) that are much prouder of Tesla, Alta and Zero than they are of Shelby or Harley-Davidson. They see a gleaming future where America takes a commanding lead in high-performance electrics, and they'd like to put the dirty days of petroleum behind them as quickly as possible.

Well, it seems Vanguard can see which way the wind's blowing. Like Confederate, which has changed its name to Curtiss and decided to go electric, Vanguard is launching a sister company dedicated to battery-powered bikes.

VanguardSpark will be run by Vanguard's Francois-Xavier Terny, in conjunction with Frederic Vasseur of Spark Racing Technologies (who will supply the official chassis for FIA's Formula E from Season 5 onwards) and another guy you may have heard of: Erik Buell.

Buell has been reasonably quiet since his Erik Buell Racing (EBR) brand closed down in 2015, but motorcycle fans still see him as one of the industry's greatest innovators. That's not just from his terrific EBR bikes, but also from what he was able to achieve building on a Harley-Davidson platform with his original Buell bikes.

Obviously, he won't be trying to put fuel in the VanguardSpark bikes' frames or oil in their swingarms, but we could certainly see him using his signature rim-mounted disc brake on the front, and it'll be interesting to see what ideas this famously lateral thinker comes up with in an electric context.

Nothing's really been announced of yet apart from two concept CAD renders. The first, at the top of this piece, shows the VanguardSpark commuter, or at least, the direction it'll likely go in.

Sharing some of the Roadster's lines, including that floating flat tail section, the Commuter looks like a simple and unassuming getabout with a very sleek and plain design. It's unclear from the render, but it almost looks like it might have a hub drive in the rear wheel, which would completely restrict it to around-town duties and have some pretty drastic effects on handling and suspension. VanguardSpark sees it as a competitor to mopeds and small scooters, so it's not going to be a hair-raiser.

The other concept is the VanguardSpark SpeedBike, a funky framed electric bicycle.

VanguardSpark SpeedBike CAD render: a full-suspension e-bike with a claimed range over 90 miles
VanguardSpark SpeedBike CAD render: a full-suspension e-bike with a claimed range over 90 miles

It looks like a full-suspension ebike, with a rear swingarm almost as chunky as a small motorcycle's. Perhaps the frame and rims might be carbon (they're certainly black), and the battery seems to be nicely integrated into the lower frame brace instead of hanging out like an afterthought.

We're big fans of ebikes, and this looks like a pretty nice design if they get the specs right, which we likely won't hear anything about until July or so. The company does expect to be able to offer a range in excess of 150 km (93 mi) between charges, which would be huge for the segment.

Both these renders are just conceptual ideas at this point, but the team is solid, we'll take a close look at anything Buell puts his name on, and we're 100 percent on board with electric bicycles, electric motorcycles, and whatever kinds of devices pop up in between the two. Watch this space!

Source: VanguardSpark

5 comments
Darus Zehrbach
Loz Your opinion that a rear hub motor would seriously injure handling is unfounded, and not supported by testing and bikes in the field. Especially from companies like ZEV Electric with 115 mph sport bikes and 100 mph maxi scooters. In fact, at least for street bikes, the opposite is true. Hub motors have about 25% of the inertial weight of a in frame motor as the windings are not moving. So throttle response is better. Hub motors in general save about 30% in vehicle component weight vs a separate motor, chain, sprocket, wheel, bolts. Lighter vehicle accelerates better. Moving the motor into the wheel gets rid of the problem with normal bikes being nose heavy, allows the weight and battery to be shifted backwards for more even weight distribution. So you do not have to have tiny ineffective brakes on the back for fear of locking the brake when the weight all goes forward. That allows a much larger and effective rear brake for better braking performance. With the motor out of the chassis, the battery can be sat lower in the chassis at a given ah capacity. So now the CG is lower and the CG center does not try to climb over axles and cause wheelie or rear wheel lift. Radically better handling. Perhaps out on a race track at over 100 mph on a washboard surface (which there are none on a good racetrack) traction might be bothered by the higher static unsprung weight. However, testing shows that the effect of the chain or belt in combination with the high inertial weight of an in chassis motor to limit the movement of the rear wheel creates the same effect. You also have to ask what is the rear wheel weight of something like a BMW with a gear drive and shaft, or the weight of some of the large wheel and tire combinations. Only for a pure racer or a bike ridden at double legal speeds is there a question. So at least for commuters, cruisers and less than all out sport bikes, the hub motor is the by far winner. In track testing 2 weeks ago, the ZEV MS bikes were driven back to back vs Honda CBR, Suzuki, and a 5 year old MV Augusta where the test riders said the ZEV handled the best being able to be flicked about much more easily.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think those are really nice.
DavidRogerBrown
Thanks Daruz for sharing your knowledgeable opinions. Guess only a working model will answer the questions but if Eric Buell is involved it's going to be good. After all,with his "out of the box" thinking & engineering,Buell made lemonade out of lemons at H.D. for years. H.D. paid back his hard work by firing him & his dedicated employees,closing down the division while at the same time,keeps his "name" locked up.
VincentWolf
another ho hum street racer electric. Get a life and build a cruiser style bike!!
SammyC
"and I'm goings to assume it's mainly on the coasts..." Jesus take the wheel. You guys just cant help it, can you?
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