I love me some good predictions… it always makes good reading, especially if they’re from a Long Time Ago and they’re astoundingly accurate. Here’s a story that runs down a list of 10 Sci-Fi predictions that happened, on TechNewsDaily. Well, I think I’m going to take a shot at putting together some predictions of my own for 2013. A modest goal, perhaps, but at least something I can look back on in a year and have a good laugh at myself. Here goes.
1. By late 2013, electric cars will be relatively common.
Remember how the hybrid car “revolution” happened? We went from them being sort of a pipe dream, to being a yuppie tree hugger status symbol to seeing them virtually everywhere, all in the space of about a year. Charging stations are now popping up everywhere, even in the Northeast. Almost every major manufacturer has something in the wings that is 100% electric. I think that you’re going to see electric cars being adopted even more quickly than hybrids were, and with that, you’re going to see a lot of the mis-information, rumors and argument just melt away as people actually see, use and ride in these vehicles. Already, the most common question asked about electric cars is “how fast do they charge”, not “what is the range”… and the Tesla Supercharger, on one hand, and Terry Herschner’s cross country ride, on the other, pretty much starts kicking the crap out of that concern.
2. Zero Motorcycles with continue to build and sell bikes. Maybe even a superbike.
With the hiring of Richard Walker as CEO, a nice, solid, expanding line of bikes that they can deliver within a reasonable time frame, a huge chunk of market share in a very small market, and a bike that is arguably the best performing electric motorcycle available, as well as the best value, I firmly believe that you’re going to see a good year for Zero. I think you’re going to see them offer maybe 2 or 3 completely new styles of bikes by this time next year, and one of them will be more of an all-out sport bike, aimed squarely at the superbike market. Think, oh, maybe something along the lines of the Vectrix, Lightning, Motoczysz, Mission… Don’t expect it to be cheap, or that they’ll sell a lot of them, but they’ll add a precious gem to the top of their line, if for no other reason than to show that they can.
3. Brammo will wallow, continue to practice ADD management, lose market share, and, though they have no plan to produce them, keep 9+ models on their website with “Pre-Order” buttons. In the face of weak sales, Polaris, investor and part-owner of Brammo, will be inclined to make some decisions regarding Brammo. Those will be either termination of it’s partnership with the company, which I personally feel is most likely, or the complete acquisition of the company, lock, stock and barrel, to do it right. At that point they’ll be able to distill a lot of the Brammo technology, which isn’t really rocket science, take some of their more talented engineers, and put them to work building other recreational EVs. All the Brammo management team will be able to cash in, get filthy rich, and go tamper with some other market they don’t really understand either. Which, in my cynical little world-view, is what they’ve always really wanted.
4. A few small builders will emerge as limited, custom shops for beautiful, one-off custom bikes. Think OCC for Electric Motorcycles. Amarok, Brutus, Lightning, to name a few, will start delivering bikes built to the buyer’s specifications… and if you have to ask how much? Well… you know the answer to that one. Electric motorcycles are very quickly breaking away from the misconceptions and side-show status of even a few years ago. I’ve seen this for myself, when I show the R5e. The news that the electric drivetrain delivers a remarkably unique ride experience is getting out. It’s not an appliance, it’s a really, really cool toy, and you know how we love our toys. People with the resources to do it are going to want one for themselves, and the fastest and best available.
5. There’s going to be a battery revolution this year. I don’t think you’re going to see lithium drop much more in price, but I might be wrong about that. What I do think you’re going to see is the availability of a mass-produced battery module solution, either a car-based product that we can hack down to motorcycle scale, or a motorcycle/bicycle scale product that is within reach of the common builder. BMS integration… standardized containers and connectors, possibly integration from the robotics and RC markets. My bet is it will be built around Li(NiCoMn)O2, (or NCM) chemistry.
6. The TTXGP. Here’s a tough one. I honestly can’t imagine that the race can keep on putting together fields of a small group of bikes, with no spectators, for another year. The 2012 World Series Final at Daytona? If you look at the shots and the clips, there is nobody in the stands. The field is a handful of bikes. This theme is repeated throughout the US races, and the only times that it seems like they get to race in front of a crowd is where, like Infineon, they’re on the docket with gas races. Here’s the somewhat inflated “Teams” page, listing any team that rode throughout the season, not that appeared at every race.
For an independent team it’s nigh on impossible to fund the effort. The bar is very high now, in terms of cost to be in the running, and the organization has been fairly notorious for changing schedules and venues at the last minute. For the “factory” teams, well, I don’t think a lot of the teams you’ve seen in the past are interested in continuing. They’ve proven what they came to prove, like Lightning, and there’s no percentage in wasting more time and money. That said, if any of them are in, Brammo is sure to be there. Possibly racing by themselves.
OK, so what’s my prediction? I’m thinking you’re going to see the races… but they’re going to be tapering down, with lots of cancelled dates, a few races with silly-small fields, and, by next year at this time, some serious doubt as to whether they can continue under the current model.
7. The IOM SES TTZero, as long as we’re talking about racing? I think you’re going to see this as the go-to event of 2013. Everybody who’s anybody will be there, including some mainstream manufacturers. Honda at least. Maybe more.
8. To speak to a very small group of guys, mostly my friends, you’re going to see some amazingly polished, beautifully finished garage-built bikes with very sophisticated technology. I’m talking about the bunch of builders on ElMoto.net. The technology is available. The principles are understood. The skills are, well, amazing. Have a look at two builds, in particular. Tony Castley, (SpinterOz, to many), and Noah Podolefsky. These guys, and others, are raising the bar… add to that the current explosion in the “Maker” market, Instructables, Maker Spaces, available waterjetting services and other fabrication sources, and the days of a garage-built electric motorcycle resembling an angle-iron farm trailer are fast fading into the past. This feeds into my previous prediction. Some of these guys are going to start building to order.
9. The R5e3 is going to make history. Sometime this summer, hopefully in the company of Mike Corbin and Charles MacArthur, I’m going to run that bitch up the Mount Washington Auto Road faster than any electric motorcycle has run it. Maybe faster than any motorcycle, for that matter. You just wait.
10. Transmissions? Don’t make me laugh. (On motorcycles, anyway…) As riders who are open to what the electric drivetrain is really all about – a truly unique power curve, what that feels like and how to ride it – start to experience some over-the-top bikes, you’re going to see transmissions for what they are… a compromise to try to wean gas riders away from gas bikes, while adding a crap-ton of weight. Yeah. You can now accurately say I’m “poo-pooing” transmissions, and the Empulse transmission specifically. 6 speeds? Oh spare me. Now there’s a company who doesn’t even believe their own hype… I happen to remember some posts on ElMoto (v1) where a certain engineer argued vehemently against transmissions, even if I can’t find them.
11. On a personal note. I, me. Ted Dillard. Am going to learn how to use a CAD program. I know. Like I said before, I like to look back and laugh at my foolish predictions…