Brave New World
Necessity: The Mother of Invention
In the early years of the 20th century, Popular Science Magazine was filled with artists’ renditions promising a future of electric vehicles. They appeared with the same frequency as sketches of airborne men wearing jetpacks and commuters whizzing around modern metropolises in flying cars. We’re still waiting for mass production of flying vehicles, but electric ones have taken position front and center. This looming seismic shift harkens Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World.
In the early years of electric vehicles, the impetus seemed to revolve around innovation for innovation's sake. Today, their advancements are driven by much more immediate concerns—primarily the environment with regard to C02 emissions. With increasingly prevalent, visible proof of climate change, the world has finally figured out we need to find alternatives to burning fossil fuels—fast. This imposing necessity is proving to be a very good mother in terms of invention.
Over the past decade, electric motorcycles have made astounding leaps forward. With impressive runs at the Isle of Man and now an official class on the vaunted MotoGP World Championship, electric motorcycles will certainly enjoy robust evolution in terms of technology. Anyone who has seen them run knows these machines aren’t the docile playthings that appeared in the pages of Popular Science. These next-generation electric bikes possess truly great performance.
Goodbye to the Veteran
It’s been a wonderful honeymoon, but sadly the exalted internal combustion engine is on its way out the door. Alternative power sources will ultimately not only replace, but surpass contemporary fossil fuel-burning engines in virtually all aspects of performance. Who knows what those other sources will be and what will emerge in the coming years. For now, the solution is skewing in favor of electric motors.
Before calling foul on this thinking, consider that there was a time during the two-stroke reign in MotoGP that the notion of running a four-stroke powerplant would have been considered ludicrous. However, the polluting nature of a two-stroke engine (on average expelling as much as 30% of its fuel/oil mixture un-burnt into the atmosphere) destined it to eventually being outlawed. Hence the switch to four-strokes. In turn, the transfer port/expansion chamber wizards of the paddock and clean rooms sunk their imaginative minds into the mechanizations of valves and cams and the results, needless to say, have been astounding. Expect the same thing from the electrics.