Is hybrid power next for motorcycles?

BRD electric military motorcycle hybrid power


There has been a lot of hype about the coming wave of electric motorcycles, but could the future hold a hybrid solution like in cars such as Toyota’s Prius?

BRD electric military motorcycle hybrid power
BRD electric donor bike for DARPA hybrid project

The American Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a stealth off-road motorcycle powered by a petrol engine plus a an electric motor to silently slip special forces soldiers through enemy lines.  DARPA issued a $100,000 contract in February with Logos Technologies who have proposed using  an electric bike as the basis and adding a supplementary petrol engine to extend range.

They chose the San Francisco-made BRD racing bike, the RedShift MX, a lightweight 113kg (250-pound) that costs $US15,000, has a top speed of about 130km/h (80mph) and has about two hours’ range. A small conventional petrol engine will be added at some stage and it is not certain yet whether it will drive the bike or simply power the electric bike’s battery like in the Chevrolet/Holden Volt small car. Either way, it is an interesting development that could eventually flow into civilian production bikes.

BRD in action hybrid
BRD in action

DARPA is an agency of the US Department of Defense responsible for developing new technologies for use by the military. The agency has funded the development of many technologies which have filtered through to the civilian world. Some even claim that DARPA was instrumental in developing the internet. it also helped develop the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.

That instils some confidence that this hybrid bike could flow through to normal production. The advantages would be cleaner, greener, cheaper and quieter running. The extra weight of the secondary petrol engine could be a major issue in small bikes, but could much more easily be incorporated in a bigger touring bike. And that is where electric bikes fail. They have limited range and are restricted to the city boundaries. A hybrid drivetrain could open up electric bikes to touring.


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