E-mobility, hybrid technology and the not-so-soon end of combustion engines
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer today laid out some of KTM’s future plans that will see a massive shift towards electrically-powered machines and machine sharing amongst consumers. He made the comments at the media launch for the 2018 KTM Freeride E-XC electric enduro machine in Salzburg, Austria, and his thoughts clearly show KTM is moving to a future that combines the classic internal combustion engine with hybrid and electric technology.
Pierer said he doesn’t believe the internal combustion engine is doomed, saying, “You have to take into consideration where the raw materials are coming from (to make the batteries for electric vehicles). Secondly, nobody has the knowledge how to handle it (batteries) after accidents. In my opinion, as a bridge technology for the next decade, it will be the hybrid. It’s a mild hybrid and combustion engine. I think the combustion engine will not disappear in the next 20, 30 years.
“The power (electric) two-wheeler is the solution for urban mobility in the future,” Pierer said. “So, in that, we have a clear focus and a clear strategy. Part of our very successful existing sport motorcycling program in off-road or on-road, we are developing two-wheelers on an electric base between 250, 400 watts up to 15 kilowatts. That’s the range. We think in 10 years’ time in Europe at least 50 percent of the total fleet is electric. That’s a clear strategy, a long-term strategy, but to afford it, you need a very successful, classic combustion (engine) program to earn the money you can invest in the future.”
Bicycles and motorcycles, together as one
That future appears to be a one where the bicycle and the motorcycle will once again meet at a crossroads, much like they did at the start of the 20th century, as KTM has recently collaborated with German e-mobility/electric bicycle manufacturer PEXCO.
“The motorcycle is stepping down and the bicycle is going up, and they (will) meet each other. Then it’s like setting up a family. It was our long-term strategy to step in the electric e-bikes segment, but we didn’t have the plan to do it that quickly,” said Pierer. “Our vision and future development program is a small motorcycle in the future, with a pedal. That’s the long-term vision. In the next couple of years for sure, we will do a lot in that segment.”
Hubert Trunkenpolz, KTM’s Chief Sales Officer, also outlined KTM’s plans to integrate a fractional ownership, where you essentially rent a machine for an indefinite period with other users, thus sharing the cost.
“Electric-driven cars are expensive, so are motorcycles,” Trunkenpolz said. “We tried to find a smart solution to make the motorcycle or the Freeride E-XC easily accessible. We defined the price of 7,500 Euro retail. That is pretty much on the same level as the 250 Freeride F.
“We are on the same level in terms of the price. What we then did, is the battery and the charger comes extra (for the customer). We developed a lease system where customers can lease the battery and the charger with less than 50 Euros a month. They basically run about four years.
“This is around what fuel costs in a standard combustion engine. So, there is no disadvantage for a buyer who is buying a Freeride E-XC. There is another advantage for the consumer certainly because battery technology is rapidly changing and improving, so that battery the we introduced today has 50 percent more capacity than the last one. Therefore, the consumers can be always on top of the latest technology in changing batteries.”
The death of the 50
One area of the market that will see substantial change and has launched the racing career of many an off-road champion is the 50cc motocross category, with KTM’s 50 SX machine right at the forefront of race wins. This will change however, with Pierer stating that the SX will make way for an all electric kids dirtbike.
“Within the next one or two years, we are already planning to bring the next product which will be a minibike for kids. We will replace the current 50cc range by so-called e-mini or ESX. So, two models in one that will replace that combustion two-stroke engine that we have in place at the moment.
“The very next one is then a crossover between bicycling and motorcycling. We call it the X-bike. Then on top of that, and this is already started and we will come to the market already next season, is electric bicycles under the brand name Husqvarna.”
It looks like there are interesting times indeed ahead for KTM and Husqvarna.