The Electric Garage: The Robrady rMoto (Vectrix Electric Superbike)

vesu02c

You will not see me covering any other “concept” bikes here in The Electric Garage.  Why?  It’s just that there are so many “concept” bikes out there, and honestly, seeing someone’s fantasy rendered out with little or no bearing on reality, or intent to actually go into production, or feel for the legacy that is Motorcycling, well, that’s an interesting diversion, but that’s about all.  Some of them I even like.

Why the exception for the rMoto?  Because it was, arguably, the first ground-up rethinking of what a drivetrain other than gasoline and internal combustion may look like.  They built a bike, albeit without the “make-it-go” bits, but it appeared that they had every intention of actually building one that lives up to the specs.  They may yet.  They are reasonable specs, especially what with the technology that Zero broke with the 2014 product line.  We are at a place where, hell, even I could take that rolling chassis and make it go.  Really, really fast.

Let’s remember.  Two full years before we saw the Mission and MotoCzysz, we saw the rMoto.  I hasten to add.  Both those bikes look a little dated now.  The rMoto?  Still hotness.

Settle in, this is going to be a long post.

Let’s start with some lovely photos.

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These are a combination of a few shots for a book, American Dream Bikes, in which the bike got a spread, (see that here).  The photo above, of Rob Brady with the bike is from that shoot.  There are a few from the unveiling at the 2007 EICMA Milan show.

Here are some of the drawings and renderings.

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Just to keep everyone honest, here are a bunch of shots of the actual fabrication of the prototype.  Yep, this is how it’s done.

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Finally, a drawing from the Very Early Days, and the only image I’ve seen that actually shows some of the (proposed) guts, and presumably the actual frame:

robrady-rmoto2

OK.  Now for some specs:

  • Acceleration: 0-1/4 mile in 12 seconds (110 MPH)
  • Top Speed: ~124 MPH
  • Peak Torque: 75 lb-ft
  • Peak Power: 80 hp
  • Range @ 25 mph: ~124 Miles
  • Range @ 50 mph: ~62 Miles
  • Range @ 75 mph: ~41 Miles

Those specs, in 2005, were, well, optimistic at best.  By 2007, when the bike was announced and unveiled as a Vectix, with enough money and talent you probably could have done it.  Today, it’s well within the range of possibility, and actually, for probably under a number like, oh, say, $50,000.  Yes.  Eight short years, from pie-in-the-sky dream concept, to real, and affordable.  So, what hardware were they planning on to deliver these specs?  Well, we don’t have that information.  What I do have is a few specifics on the re-tooled, downscaled version proposed in 2012 at the Swiss-Moto show in Zürich, the MX-1:

  • Top Speed: 100mph
  • Peak Power: 40kW
  • Peak Torque: 80 Nm
  • Battery Pack: 125V, 52Ah building block. Battery chemistry Li-NMC
  • Motor: BLDC water cooled

The original 2007 design would have, for a limited production of 500, cost in the neighborhood of $20M to tool up for.  The 2012 bike they were looking for “as little as 200 pre-orders” to go into production.  Apparently that didn’t happen.

Here’s what’s kind of cool.  When the concept first saw daylight, here’s what Rob Brady proposed, via GizMag:

“I could easily see a fuel cell being used in the RMOTO – it depends on how exotic we want to be – the Vectrix scooter that comes out in the spring of next year is an all electric vehicle but hot on its heels is the fuel cell version. And those things are being worked on today – right now

“In a 12 month period we’ve seen the power go up and price cut in half, the size cut in half. There are so many people in the fuel cell business right now. I think we’ll see fuel cell price performance improvement similar to computer chips (editor: Moore’s Law) for the next few years.

Before you join the ranks of Elon Musk in scoffing fuel cells, you might want to have a look at this:

4105_40605111155

And this:

4105_40605111131

That, my darlings, is a fuel cell, developed by/with Parker Hannifin by RobBrady along with Vectrix.  The idea was a hybrid electric motorcycle, on the same lines as the fuel cell scooter Vectrix had been working on already.  Since before 2001.  Want some proof?  Here’s one of the patents.

Here’s what I have from Peter Hughes, CTO at Vectrix at the time:

As regards a fuel cell you should know that Vectrix has a patent related to hybrid energy / power on 2 & 3 wheeled vehicles.Basically the patent covers an on board charging system ( fuel cell, etc ) which charges the battery which drives the motor.

The fuel cell was contemplated at approximately 800W to trickle charge the battery. It would run on methanol or other suitable fuel source. A pair of twist-on fuel cartridges were envisioned. Vectrix worked with Parker and produced a prototype which operated successfully. Fuel cells however are still relatively expensive. The hybrid concept was targeted to those without the ability to plug in or someone looking for a form of range extension.

Here are some links.  Here’s the first story I could find on the rMoto, from 2005, via www.lerepairedesmotards.com.

Sit down and read the whole post on Gizmag, here, also from 2005: Electric Superbike is on the Way.

Here’s the Robrady site on the rMoto (Vectrix), and on the Parker Hannifin fuel cell.

Now, just to close things out.  Two bits of The Electric Motorcycle History of Bad Taste.  The most awesomely cheesy shot I could find of the Vectrix, here, from Raptors and Rockets.

Vectrix_Superbike_001

I know, right?  And, finally, an unveiling that even back in 2007 made me think, “huh”?  “The Sounds of Silence” wouldn’t have been my choice to announce an electric superbike capable of launching you so hard your teeth get driven through the back of your head, but that’s just me.  I especially like the photographer being shooed out of the way for the awesome video coverage.

In Conclusion.

As a wise man once told me, good design survives bad management.  The bike, unveiled in 2007, was scaled down and re-unveiled in 2012, equally unsuccessfully.  Vectrix has had a remarkably long history of corporate intrigue and struggle, currently downsizing and re-organizing yet again.  Last the spies and grapevine yielded was a snippet about them working with Mercedes and Smart on a scooter that doesn’t seem to look anything like the concept we’ve been hearing about.   Lord only knows what’s in the future for Vectrix.

But.

I’ll say it again.  Even I, at this point in time, with about $50,000, could pump some hardware into that beast that would meet, and probably exceed the specs they were shooting for – even back in 2007. How about this for a start?  EVD Motor/Controller Packages:

  • Power: 107HP/80kW cont., 134-140HP/100-105kW peak @ 4,500-5000 RPM, voltage dependent – 300Arms cont.
  • Torque: 118 ft-lbs cont., 187 ft-lbs. peak @ 344-360V pack voltage
  • Torque is multiplied w/ gear reduction e.g. 2:1 doubles above torque numbers
  • Maximum RPM: 10,000
  • Motor weight: 101 lbs.
  • Motor gross dimensions: ~11″/279mm diameter (sump extends down ~1.8″47mm), 10″/254mm body length (12 inch overall length)
  • Brushless IPM motor
  • Controller weight: 18 lbs.
  • Controller gross dimensions: 12.4 x 7.9 W x  3.4 H
  • Upgrade-able with either 150kW, 250kW or 350kW Inverter/controllers

Lightning, Mission, eCRP bikes have all shown that it can be done, and that even hard-core gassers will love them.  Maybe it’s time.

What do you say, guys?  Maybe time to bring it back and make it real?

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