When Yamaha Motor published its annual report for the year 2013 last month, motorcycle blogs the world over picked up on a single line which read: "In sports motorcycles, we are working to create new value with EV sports motorcycles, which we aim to launch in two years, with the development of the small, on-road sports PES1, as well as the PED1, which are being developed to expand the scope of electric vehicles to the off-road world." A few days later, the on-line report was changed, replacing the words "in two years" with "in the near future."
Sportingly, the company alerted shareholders to these changes with the note, "there has been a change in the time frame with regard to the launch of EV sports motorcycles" and in so doing, gave notice that electric motorcycling is about to go mainstream.
The bikes shown by Yamaha at the Tokyo Motor Show last November are very different, but they're built to a nifty modular design – the electric motor, battery and central frame segment are common to both bikes. Everything else just bolts on, from the subframe and different shock layouts, to the seat unit and rear controls, all the way up to the swingarm, the "tank" unit, the bellypan and the entire front end, which bolts on behind the headstem to give each bike different steering geometries.
The PES1 is belt driven, while the PED1 has a chain, and it's unclear from the prototypes whether they're geared. Either way, they're chalk and cheese, the PES1 being a future-funky naked roadster and the PED1 being a small motocrosser. Both are feather-light, with the sports bike clocking in at just 100 kg (220 lb) and the dirt squirter being just 85 kg (187 lb).
Neither looks like it's going to set the world on fire in their first iterations – the PES1 would only just appear to be capable of 100 km/h (62 mph), if the promo video below is anything to go by. So we're looking at electric bikes that are likely to be somewhere around the performance characteristics of what Zero was doing three or four years ago.
Still, looking at the meteoric development curve the Zero bikes have undergone in a few short years, and factoring in the gigantic resources of one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, you'd have to assume Yamaha will be on the ball very quickly. Exciting times!