GOING virtually unnoticed among the outlandish machines at this year’s Tokyo show stood a machine that gives the clearest indication yet of the sort of bike we could all be riding in our increasingly environmentally-friendly future.
While most of the concept bikes at the show were little more than mock-ups designed to offer stylists a free hand, Yamaha’s HV-X – or Hybrid Vehicle (eXperimental) – is a real engineering prototype that’s virtually certain to spawn a production derivative in the near future. The most technically-advanced hybrid motorcycle yet seen, it’s already been undergoing thorough testing for more than two years and despite its innovation, it’s would be possible to produce immediately, with current technology, if it’s given the green light by Yamaha’s bosses. The result, in Yamaha’s own words, is “an eco-friendly two-wheeled hybrid with all the responsive acceleration and cornering fun of a conventional motorcycle.”
Strangely tucked away in a corner of Yamaha’s stand, and omitted from most of the firm’s Tokyo show publicity, the HV-X is a petrol-electric hybrid based on the same technology as the world’s most successful hybrid car, the Toyota Prius. Being partially owned by Toyota, and regularly used to develop Toyota’s car engines and drivetrains, Yamaha is in the perfect position to transpose the technology onto two wheels. Unfettered by the need to work around Toyota’s patents, the firm has miniaturised the entire concept of the Prius hybrid power source and the clever transmission that allows the drive from the petrol and electric motors to be combined in any ratio, from entirely battery-powered to completely petrol-fuelled, or, for maximum performance, to use the full power of both at the same time.
The specifications – a 15bhp 250cc single-cylinder engine and a 15bhp electric motor – might not make your blood run hot, but there’s little limit to the potential; Yamaha’s own Gen-Ryu hybrid concept bike of 2007 was designed around the same technology, and combined a 130bhp R6 engine with a 50bhp electric motor for 1000cc superbike power levels. The HV-X shows that concept was viable and has real production potential.