In a world where electric vehicles dominate the automotive and motorcycle industries, Yamaha Corporation is taking a different approach by exploring the potential of hydrogen as an alternative to gasoline engines.

  • Yamaha remains open-minded about the future of mobility despite acknowledging the growing popularity of electric motorbikes and scooters in European and Asian markets.
  • Yamaha aims at finding different alternatives than electric mobility. 

Yamaha’s efforts in the electric space are evident, with significant investments in the development of electric powertrains and battery technology. However, the Japanese company is simultaneously focusing on its e-fuel program, aiming to find multiple alternatives to traditional internal combustion engines.

In an interview with the Japan Times, Yamaha President and CEO, Yoshihirro Hidaka, emphasized the importance of keeping a wide range of possibilities open to achieve carbon neutrality. Hidaka stated, “We would like to keep many possibilities – opportunities – to achieve carbon neutrality.”

Yamaha’s Hydrogen Engine Generator prototype.

Among the potential alternatives being explored by Yamaha is hydrogen. While electric vehicles have gained widespread appeal, the potential of hydrogen can often be overlooked. Yamaha’s vision for hydrogen power involves preserving the internal combustion engine. Hidaka mentioned, “Among Japan’s two-wheeler manufacturers, there were hardly any testing hydrogen in addition to electric technology, so we took the lead and built the facility to test battery technology and hydrogen, as well as carbon-neutral fuel.”

Yamaha has prior experience with hydrogen-powered combustion engines, having collaborated with Toyota to develop the engine for the world’s first liquid-cooled hydrogen race car. In May 2023, the Toyota Corolla H2 Concept successfully completed a 24-hour endurance event at the Fuji International Speedway, a groundbreaking achievement in both the automotive sector and the world of motorsports.

However, despite its potential, hydrogen fuel does come with some drawbacks. Currently, it is not as fuel-efficient as traditional gasoline. Additionally, the infrastructure for compressing hydrogen and refueling vehicles is not as widespread as electric vehicle chargers, making it a niche technology for now. 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that electric vehicles were once considered niche as well, and they have rapidly gained acceptance worldwide within a few years.

  • Motorcycles are improving almost by the day.

  • The march of technology impacts motorcycles directly.

  • Future motorcycles will be better, faster and safer.

It goes without saying that motorcycles and anything motorcycle-related will keep improving. The relentless march of technology is brought on by the relentless need to outdo the competition and sell more bikes, driven by the relentless appetite of riders.

Many years ago, no one could even fathom the thought of ABS or traction control. Now we have lean-angle sensitive ABS and traction control.

Let’s take a look at what we can expect in the near future and leave the concepts out.

1. More power, better control

Bikes will become more and more powerful. It’s demanded by customers everywhere, no matter how you cut it. But gone are the days when power outstripped the bike’s ability to control it. Bikes will have better chassis, brakes, tyres. Carbon brakes on the road? Bring it on!

MotoGP Brembo carbon brakes – Photo credit
2. Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and/or Variable Valve Lift (VVL)

While only Honda equipped certain models in the past, almost all manufacturers are equipping their bikes with this tech. The application of VVT/VVL applies to sportbikes, sport tourers, dual-sport bikes, tourer and even scooters these days. The tech hasn’t found industry-wide application for more bikes yet but ever-toughening emissions regulations will push VVT/VVL to the fore.

BMW Shift Cam engine
3. Supercharger/turbo

Only Kawasaki is utilising the supercharger at the moment but it might just become widespread. Again, to overcome emission requirements, forced induction is one sure way to overcome loss of power. Forcing in more air results in cleaner emissions. Cars and trucks are already doing this. The biggest factor is cost, of course. Supercharging and turbocharging requires complex support systems and materials.

H2R’s supercharger
4. All-wheel drive

Driving both wheels for optimum traction isn’t a new concept. What has kept manufacturers away is cost and the weight penalty. But as materials can be made lighter and stronger (enter 3D printing), it could be applied sooner than one would think.

Homemade all-wheel drive system – Photo credit
5. Self-riding motorcycles

As traffic picks up the world over and increases traffic jams and the chances of accidents, future motorcycles will form a part of a network of vehicles. This idea is being pursued seriously by many manufacturers and technology firms as we speak. The vehicles will communicate with each other and a network. The network will determine the best course of action and regulates traffic flow. Look out for the introduction when 5G networks are up and fully operational.

6. Smart helmets

Some of these are already here. They integrate data such as speed, RPM, heading, among others. It’s hoped that they avoid needing the rider to look down at the instrument panel and keep their eyes on the road at all times.

7. Electric/hybrid motorcycles

This is inevitable. Even Ducati’s CEO said that the future is electric. There are already a (small) number of electric bikes but they are expensive at the moment. There’s also the concern about charging infrastructure, charging times and battery longevity and safety, not the least. But battery technology as well as the electronics governing them are progressing quickly.

Anyway, some current electric bikes are already as fast if not faster than petro-powered bikes.

8. Better electronics

It would seem that current electronics have reach their zenith. Think about it: The aforementioned ABS and traction control, in addition to ride modes, wheelie control, engine braking control, quickshifter, rear wheel lift mitigation, slide control, electronically-controlled suspension, etc. etc. But don’t be surprised that there will be more. At the moment, the systems will react faster given the increasing computing power.

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