Well, it was bound to happen. With all of the hybrid cars and trucks on the market today, someone was bound to think that a hybrid motorcycle was a good idea…and it may be. That someone appears to be Suzuki. The motorcycle manufacturer has filed a patent application with the Japan Patent Office for a motorcycle powered by an inline four-cylinder that incorporates an electric motor as well. Going a step further, Suzuki proposes to pair the engine components to a semi-automatic transmission.
What The Patent Tells Us
The patent filing gives us many details about Suzuki’s proposed hybrid sportbike. First, it describes an electric motor the size of a large can of vegetables sitting on the side of the engine. This small electric engine is capable of supplying full electric drive or it can assist the gasoline engine, most likely based on vehicle speed and acceleration needs, much like the hybrid setup in a car. The patent allows Suzuki some developmental space by accounting for the possibility of either a DC motor or an AC motor with an inverter and battery. When the gasoline engine is engaged, it will continue to spin the electric motor, turning it into a generator so that it can assist provide power assistance.
The patent also tells of a semi-automatic transmission that allows manual shifting, but skips the need to physically pull a clutch lever. Shifting is still done with the left foot, but is performed electronically. A sensor follows the angle of the shifter, sending signals to shift up or down to the TCU (Transmission Control Unit). The TCU then releases the clutch and changes gears appropriately. The TCU is integrated with the Engine Control Unit (ECU) so that the throttle is automatically modulated during up and down shifts. The bike will also have a control switch that allows the rider to choose between pure electric, electric assist, and being powered by the gasoline engine only; giving the bike and added amount excitability.
The design features used in the patent application seem to indicate that the engine and transmission will be sitting on a sportbike frame. While the patent illustration indicate a GSX-R1000 frame, that does not mean the final production model will actually be a sportbike. It could well utilize a “cross cage” design, such as the concept unveiled by Suzuki at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The most important thing the patent does not tell us is when or if the bike will enter production. So far, it is only a concept that has not been built for real world testing. Despite that, the Koichi Tanaka credited patent shows us an inspired look at the future of motorcycles.