October 31, 2007 Matra Manufacturing & Services (Matra MS) has turned its attention to the production of Light Electric Vehicles with the release of numerous high-performance electric bicycles and quadricyles beginning in 2006. The latest offering from the company renowned for its past achievements in the automotive design arena – including a stint in Formula One in which it won a world title (with Jackie Stewart driving in 1969) and winning the Le Mans 24 hour race with its own V12 engines - is the MS1, a “Human Electric Hybrid Motorcycle” shown recently in Paris that is expected to hit the market in the spring of 2008. Powered by a 1kW Motor Wheel, the MS1 has its maximum speed limited to 28mph (45 kmh) in electric mode and can travel up to 62 miles (100 km) - depending on type of battery - on purely electric power… and if you run out of juice there is always the ever-reliable (9-speed) pedal-option.
The aluminum frame hybrid weighs in at just 40 kg (with batteries) and features 100 mm suspension forks and 400 mm front disc brakes up front, plus regenerative braking to extend the battery life. Recharging time is estimated at 3 – 6 hours.
The MS1 starts via a magnetic card swiped through the LCD display on the handlebars (which also indicates remaining battery power and speed) and an electric alarm is included along with LED lights for night-time commuting.
Another notable feature often omitted from both motorcycle and bicycle design is the ability to adjust the height and depth of the saddle and handlebars.
Matra MS (known Matra Automobile before it began to wind down its automobile construction activities) cites some very good reasons for entering the light electric vehicle market: 40% of errands and trips do not exceed 2 km, and 80% do not exceed 5 km, cars move at an average of 18 km hour in city traffic (no matter what’s under the bonnet) and transportation is responsible for 70% of particle emissions and for 40% of nitrogen oxide emissions, half of which is due to cars. Conventional motorcycles aren’t really any better – polluting almost as much as cars and making twice as much noise.
Matra MS plans to expand its Light Electric Vehicle product line in coming years as it pursues its Neighborhood Electric Transport Solutions (STEP) program promoting economically competitive, noiseless and emissions free transport. This includes fostering "lean manufacturing", both under its own brand name as well as others (for which negotiations are in progress).
Few details are available on the exact release dates or price of the MS1 (though reports have it at around €3,500 ($4,951) but we will certainly be keeping an eye out for this one - stay tuned. More information on the Matra range (in French) can be found at www.matrasports.com and for an overview of the company's achievements in terms of concept cars see this link.