Achieving carbon neutrality is an issue pertinent to the entire world. In its goal to achieve carbon neutrality throughout all of its business activities—including across the life cycles of its products—by 2050, Yamaha Motor sees electrification as one important key to reducing its CO2 emissions, and to that end is engaged in a range of R&D pursuits for advanced technologies.
Examining the Potential of EVs to Surpass Conventional Engines
There is a system in place within Yamaha Motor's R&D departments that allows employees to use 5% of their working hours for voluntary, independent research and is dubbed “Evolving R&D” (also known as the “5% Rule”). The TY-E electric trials bike is an advanced development vehicle created in 2018 through this 5% Rule.
But why develop a trials bike? It all began with the biggest hurdle that electric vehicles face both in their development and propagation: range. Trials competition inherently does not require a machine capable of long distances and the powertrain traits desired in a bike for it are low-down and midrange torque and manageable power delivery that responds faithfully to a rider's subtle inputs. From that perspective, electric motors are actually better suited to trials than conventional internal combustion engines (ICEs).
Trials is a points-based competition in which motorcycle riders must traverse a pre-determined course made up of sections using the natural terrain, such as steep rockfaces, inclines, rocky outcroppings, and trees. If a rider can navigate a section without putting their foot on the ground, they are awarded full points and alternatively have points deducted if they do touch the ground. Finishing positions are decided by the total number of points across several sections.
On the other hand, a trials bike must have a highly rigid chassis, but still be extremely lightweight. On this point, building an electric trials bike presents a different hurdle to overcome and one that has been marring all kinds of EVs for some time: reducing the weight of the battery system.
The fact that all-electric cars grew more commonplace first in luxury and supercar segments points to the reality that the price tag is still a barrier when developing EV technologies to meet requirements suitable for the wider market. Yamaha Motor has long been involved in the R&D of electric motorcycles, but factoring costs into the product makes balancing the three-way trade-off between range, power/torque characteristics, and weight an even more difficult puzzle to solve. But deploying a minimal number of dedicated competition vehicles in a factory team offers different conditions to meet from a production vehicle, providing comparatively more freedom for R&D.
Based on this background, Yamaha Motor turned its eyes to the transition to electrification the motorcycle world has made greater calls for, i.e., advanced technologies that will lead to wider use. Instead of seeking to simply emulate gasoline engines, the goal was to surpass them with an EV boasting both higher output and efficiency. As part of R&D for exploring that possibility, the TY-E electric trials bike was unveiled in 2018.