Triumph Motorcycles this week announced that it has completed work on a prototype electric motorcycle and is ready to move into the testing phase of what it calls Project TE-1.
Coming almost exactly three years after Triumph first began testing the waters of consumer reaction to an electric vehicle, the TE-1 prototype is a collaboration between a number of British entities, including Triumph Motorcycles, Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), Integral Powertrain Ltd, and WMG at the University of Warwick.
Triumph Developing Electric Motorcycle
Looking quite a bit like Triumph’s iconic Street Triple (but somehow better than an actual Street Triple in my opinion), the bike is dripping with high-end moto bits like Öhlins suspension and Brembo M50 monobloc calipers. In a move that will delight old men everywhere the bike is also equipped with belt drive. I am really hoping this aspect makes it to the production stage… if the bike ever goes into production.
Triumph’s media release uses roughly 1,900 words to explain the history of the TE-1 project and go through the details of the testing that the prototype will undergo over the next six months (Rolling Road Testing will include throttle calibration, powertrain performance mapping, power and torque output, range and battery consumption assessment, rider mode development, software functionality validation, and thermal optimization; while Track Testing will focus on handling, acceleration, braking and braking regeneration strategy, traction control, and front wheel lift control) but it does not even hint at answers for the questions that most motorcyclists will have, namely: When can I buy one and how much will it cost?
Well, I suppose there’s at least a hint of an answer. Triumph says that once testing is done it is hoping to produce a tweaked/improved demonstrator version of the prototype that can be used for “active track demonstration and media engagement.”
Focus on that second aim; generally there’s not much purpose in spending the time, money and energy to engage with the media if you don’t ultimately intend to sell something. And there’s precedent here: remember way back in Ye Olden Tymes of 2014, when Harley-Davidson first unveiled the LiveWire? It was known as Project LiveWire back then (Triumph’s calling this Project TE-1 could be yet another example of its emulating H-D in the most obvious of ways) and the MoCo went to the trouble to take it on tour around the world, allowing journalists of all stripes to have a go. By and large, the journalists loved it but no one loved the potential price. So, Harley decided to shelve the thing for roughly half a decade.
Eight years after the LiveWire was first revealed it’s kind of hard to believe we haven’t come further in terms of electric but I think it’s definitely the case that the market is more receptive to both the concept and inevitable high price of an electric bike from Triumph. So, hopefully it will take less than five years for the TE-1 to show up in dealerships.
Also, all this comes within the context of the UK government’s plans to “decarbonise” transport by 2040. That’s when the government hopes to have completely phased out the sale of all “non-zero-emission road vehicles,” starting with the requirement that all new cars and vans be zero-emission by 2035. So, Triumph (and everyone else who wants to sell motorcycles in Britain) will need to produce something soon.
“It has been truly exciting to see the progress made during phase 3 of Project Triumph TE‑1,” said Triumph CEO said Nick Bloor. “Everyone involved at Triumph is proud to have been part of this innovative British collaboration… We look forward to continuing the ambitious and innovative work on the TE-1 demonstrator prototype through the live testing phase and sharing the outcome with Triumph fans across the world.”
Understandably, Triumph says it won’t share any information about battery and range until the live testing phase is complete. But WAE’s Dyrr Ardash has offered reason to be optimistic, saying: “We have designed the battery from the ground-up, [so] design has not been compromised and we have been able to push the boundaries of current technology, offering both performance and, all important, range.”
You can read the full press release here – which includes a number of words and phrases I don’t understand, like “phase cables” and “busbars” – but I think the biggest take-away is that there’s reason to be cheerful if you’re a fan of electric motorcycles. Zero is still going strong, presumably there’s good thinking behind Harley’s LiveWire brand split (If you can explain to me what that good thinking is I’d appreciate it), Ducati has signaled it’s working on an electric and now Triumph has given us a first glimpse of what its platform will/could look like. We live in the future, y’all.