Triumph Developing Electric Motorcycle

Triumph Motorcycles confirms something TMO told you about months ago

I told you so! Three months after The Motorcycle Obsession spotted that Triumph was planning to throw its hat into the electric motorcycling ring the British manufacturer has announced plans to do just that.

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According to MCN, Triumph Motorcycles has launched “Project TE-1” to work with Williams Advanced Engineering – a company with extensive experience in Formula 1 and, more relevantly, Formula E – in developing a powertrain for a future Triumph electric motorcycle.

Interestingly, Triumph says it expects to be working on this powertrain for roundabout two years. Usually manufacturers don’t talk about projects at such a formative stage, unless they’re trying to convince investors that things are going to get better. It’s an act that effectively places the onus of expectation on Triumph; if the company fails to produce an electric bike in, say three to for years, it will invite harsh criticism.

Failure here could earn the company a bad reputation. Remember a few years ago when Triumph was sinking a lot of time and effort into developing a 300cc bike? Then suddenly it dropped the idea and BMW got to look like the clever one when it introduced the G 310 R.

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One wonders if this announcement isn’t designed to provide some sort of balance to the fact the company has recently unveiled an updated version of its behemoth Rocket III. Currently only offered in blinged out “Triumph Factory Custom” form, the standard version of the bike was spotted last month being ridden for promotional materials. Expect to see it finally break cover in autumn.

Meanwhile, electric motorcycles seem to be very much a part of future planning for major motorcycle manufacturers. BMW and Vespa already have electric scooters out; Harley-Davidson has its insanely expensive LiveWire coming out in the next few weeks/months; Ducati has said it’s working on an electric bike, and Japan’s big four have all at least put a toe into the water. With a number of cities and countries around the world planning to ban internal combustion engines in the next decade or so, I suppose it makes sense.

“This new collaboration represents an exciting opportunity for Triumph and its partners to be leaders in the technology that will enable the electrification of motorcycles,” Triumph CEO Nick Bloor told MCN. “Project Triumph TE-1 is one part of our electric motorcycle strategy, focused on delivering what riders want and expect from their Triumph, which is the perfect balance of handling, performance and usability.”

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As something of a Triumph guy (I’ve owned two Triumphs, including my current everyday bike, a Bonneville T120) I’ll admit to being kind of excited by this. Bikes like the Zero SR have proven to me that electric motorcycles can be a hell of a lot of fun, to the extent that I often wish I had one for my daily commute (I travel roughly 32 miles each day roundtrip).

I am willing to bet that Triumph can do a good job of getting all the other aspects right – eg, handling, comfort, styling – so all that really remains to be seen is how the company tackles the challenges of price and range. I don’t think doing the Harley thing of just looking the other way in the face of those issues will work for anyone but Harley. Heck, it remains to be seen whether it will work for Harley.