Japan has had something with hybrid cars for over twenty years, with Toyota being the world’s most prominent technology advocate. So it’s pretty surprising it took the Japanese motorcycle industry so long to produce the world’s first hybrid motorcycle, the Kawasaki Ninja 7 Hybrid, which is to arrive in 2024.
Kawasaki calls it a ‘strong hybrid’ offering 650 cc to 700 cc class overall performance and 250 cc class economy as it combines an internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor for powerful riding. Because it has a larger 48 V lithium-ion battery, it can ride pure electrically for some 12 kilometers without plugging in as the combustion engine automatically charges the battery.
Fully electric motorcycles
In September, Kawasaki unveiled its first two fully electric motorcycles: the Ninja e-1 and the Z e-1. Both models are meant for city use with a 9 kW motor, which makes them equivalent to the 125 cc class and around 72 km of range. With its hybrid technology, the Ninja 7 offers some 375 km range on fuel.
Kawasaki claims the world’s first HEV motorcycle, but actually, that was Piaggio’s MP3 125 Hybrid, which came in 2009, and a beefier 300 cc version in 2010. But this was a three-wheeler scooter rather than a performance motorbike, without offering EV mode driving. It was a short-lived, expensive experience.
Targeted at commuters
The Ninja 7 Hybrid is targeted at commuters who want to use the EV mode in LEZ zones of the city. It weighs 227 kg and is a mid-size package combining a brand new 451 cc parallel twin, water-cooled four-stroke engine with a 9 kW electric motor. The latter pushes the 43,5 kW (58,3 hp) of the ICE to a hybrid net power of 51,1 kW (68,5 hp) thanks to the ‘e-boost’ in Sport mode.
The instant available torque of the electric motor, like in EVs, provides, according to Kawasaki, “instant acceleration to rival that of a 1 000 cc-class supersport model from a standing start, and fuel economy on par with the 250 cc-class with a WMTC Class 3-2 certified rating of 4,0 l/100 km.”
That’s not bad, motorcycle experts say, but a pure ICE motorbike like the Honda NC750X DCT or Suzuki V-Strom 650 do likewise at little more than half of the price of the Kawasaki Ninja Hybrid, which would cost around €13 800. The USP of this bike will rather inspire environmentalist motorbike riders than commuters favoring fuel-savings.
Six-speed automatic transmission
The bike offers three riding modes, Sport-Hybrid, Eco-Hybrid, and EV, and features an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission that can be used manually with the push of a button. Automatic Launch Position Finder (ALPF) selects first gear at a standstill plus a forward and reverse ‘walk mode’ to aid low-speed maneuvering and parking.
Like most cars today, the bike features ‘Start/Stop’ as the internal combustion engine stops at a halt to save fuel and reduce emissions. When the throttle is released, generative braking helps to recharge the battery for a more extended range.
Pure electric driving will last only 12 km at 60 km/hour max, draining the battery rapidly. But it is automatically recharged and topped off by the combustion engine, which feeds 12 V AC power to an ISG inverter, converting AC to DC power and vice versa.