Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hum Cycle

Predictions on this blog have talked about how style, speed and prestige will define the new electric vehicle.

The Hum Cycle is certainly charging into this future - on two wheels.

A small gang of entrepreneurs are kicking the shins of the venture capitalists and blazing the streets of Silicon Valley with their potent new Hum Cycle - an uncompromisingly sportissimo, all-electric motorcycle.

I met with Forrest Deuth, and Jit Bhattacharya - two young guys looking very pleased with themselves - and a small crowd of onlookers to see the new Hum prototype in the flesh.

Deuth - an alumni of Tesla motors - was careful to elaborate that this prototype would vary in many ways from their final product.

But still some of the most obvious features that the prototype has that we're likely to notice in the real thing are that which are missing: no clutch handle, and no gear shifter by the left footpeg. It makes the left-hand side of the bike look decidedly bare.

Apart from that at first approach from the front it looks very much like many other sport bikes - modern full-fairing, stiff trellis frame (which will later be replaced by a fully custom frame, according to Deuth).

Then you notice between the frame and down under the belly of the bike telltale patches of yellow. These are the Lithium-Ion battery packs that power the Hum. Them, and a whacking great electric motor, its cylindrical bulk nestling down where the gearbox would be in a
conventional machine.

The chain sprocket goes directly onto the motor, and drives via an oversize chain and back sprocket to the back wheel. Riders I talked to that day reported plenty of pull from the prototype motor. Plans are afoot for a different drive set-up to elide the oversize gearing, and a more powerful motor.

The bike has regenerative braking - this is configurable, and was dialled down today since conventional riders are not used to their mounts being so very responsive on relinquishing the throttle.

And of course you can't blip the throttle when you're at the lights - not that you'd get any noise if you did.

This machine is almost completely silent. The only thing announcing its approach is the chatter of the chain. The makers are talking about the possibility of a belt drive, if the relative gearing of the drive train allows it.

Deuth and Bhattacharya say they're pitching right at the sports market with their first production machine - it will be a high-performance bike, with a decent range, suitable for the ride to work or short touring/sport riding.

Its something both the green community and the motorcycling community will be eagerly awaiting.

Me too.