Last year, I wrote about how Kawasaki had some innovative electric motorcycles in its pipeline. One of them was even a parallel hybrid. Team Green has fulfilled its promises and has announced two electric motorcycles. The 2024 Kawasaki Ninja e-1 and 2024 Kawasaki Z e-1 are electric city motorcycles that you can buy right now. These bikes have removable 25.3-pound batteries, 41 miles of range, and can be charged in three different ways, so long as you keep them dry. Let’s dig in!
Back in 2021, Kawasaki announced that by 2035, all new Kawasaki motorcycles sold in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States will be electric. On the road to that target, Kawasaki has promised 10 electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. That was an ambitious goal considering that, until now, Team Green didn’t have a single electrified motorcycle. However, Kawasaki didn’t decide to go electric overnight. While the brand has been somewhat quiet about its electric developments, motorcycle media has found Kawasaki patent filings going back to 2015 that suggest Team Green has been brewing up these bikes for a while. Prototypes of these electrified machines were seen rolling around as far back as 2019.
Of Kawasaki’s electric plans, the Ninja HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) is probably the most interesting. The motorcycle’s gas engine can work with an electric motor for propulsion, just like a Toyota Prius. Also like a hybrid car, the motorcycle will have some electric-only range.
It’s a best-of-the-worlds approach for an emissions-free city ride and range for when you want to stretch its legs as many motorcyclists like to do. Hybrids haven’t hit motorcycles like they did cars. Yamaha and Honda have produced parallel hybrid scooters for markets outside of the United States, but we haven’t seen a production hybrid motorcycle yet, so that’s really exciting.
The other exciting development is the Kawasaki HySE hydrogen motorcycle. While this one isn’t electrified, it’s based on the Ninja H2 SX. The H2’s 998cc inline-four is present as well. Normally, it would be pumping out 197 HP with help from a supercharger, but Kawasaki reconfigured it to run on hydrogen. As I’ve said before, if hybrid motorcycles are ridiculously rare, hydrogen motorcycles are unicorns.
Kawasaki says to not expect the hydrogen wizardry until about 2030, but the hybrid may come out in 2024. Until then, we’re left with the two electric city commuters.
The 2024 Kawasaki Ninja e-1 and 2024 Kawasaki Z e-1
The two electro-bikes that you can order from Team Green right now are two flavors of similar motorcycles. Both motorcycles are based on Kawasaki’s 400cc architecture, borrowing their trellis frames, 41mm forks, UniTrak linkage, and disc brakes from the gas bikes. From a technical perspective, both the Ninja e-1 and the Z e-1 are similar, but have different styling and ergonomics to fit the product lines Kawasaki slotted them into. The Ninja is the sportbike of the pair, offering that sporty riding style, clip-on bars, and full fairings. On the other hand, the Z slots into that product line with minimal bodywork and a streetfighter stance.
No matter which one you choose, you get roughly the same performance and the same range, so just pick your favorite flavor. Speaking of flavors, you can have any color you want, so long as it’s matte silver with green accents.
At the heart of both motorcycles is a brushless electric motor rated for 6.8 HP (5.0 kW) continuous output with a boost of 12 HP (9.0 kW). At peak power, the motorcycles will punch out 29.7 lb-ft of torque. Power routes through a primary reduction gear to the chain final drive and Kawasaki says these motors are tuned for low-end grunt and a snappy response.
Kawasaki also says you also get a boost function that unlocks the aforementioned 12 ponies. The e-Boost function gives you stronger acceleration and a higher top speed. However, it should be noted that the e-Boost function works for only 15 seconds at a time. I mean, you have just 41 miles of range, so boosting your bike everywhere will kill those poor batteries.
Like many electric motorcycles, you do get different riding modes and these are activated with a switch on the left side of the handlebar. Eco mode tries to save as much battery as it can while limiting you to a top speed of 40 mph. Road mode allows you to travel at a top speed of 55 mph. Finally, e-Boost gets you up to 65 mph, but of course, for only 15 seconds. Like a video game power-up, you then have to wait until the bike says conditions are met before you can e-Boost again. Below 35 percent state of charge, the motorcycle will go into what Kawasaki says is “limited-power operation.” Kawasaki doesn’t say what this means aside from you getting a turtle icon on your screen and you’re locked out of e-Boost.
(Correction: The Z e-1 is ever so slightly slower, topping out at 53 mph or 63 mph in boost. We regret the error.)
Fueling the motor is a pair of tiny GO 1.6 kWh lithium-ion batteries from French company Forsee Power. These packs are stored next to each other in a storage box placed where an ICE motorcycle’s fuel tank would normally be. They’re rated at 50.4 volts and 30 Ah. Thankfully, the quoted range of 41 miles is in Road mode without using any boost. Though, Kawasaki doesn’t say at what speeds. Presumably, using Eco mode might squeeze more range out. The motorcycle also has regenerative braking to get back some spent power. Weirdly, Kawasaki’s regen system is different than you’d expect as it kicks on at 60 percent charge and above. Kawasaki also says regen is weaker the closer the battery is to a full charge.
You can charge these batteries in three ways.
You could easily remove them from the motorcycle–they weigh 25.3 pounds each–and charge them inside on a charging dock. Or you could charge the batteries directly without a dock. The third way of charging the batteries would be to charge them on the motorcycle itself by plugging them into an adapter found under the seat. I’ve said it a number of times before, but I love removable batteries. For those of us who live in apartments and street park, removable batteries are currently the only way to juice up an EV at home.
Unfortunately, charging is Level 1. Kawasaki says it takes 3.7 hours to charge a battery from dead to full. Oh yeah, you can charge only one battery at a time (taking 7.4 hours for both batteries) unless you buy a second charger. Kawasaki does say you can charge one battery from 20 percent to 85 percent in 1.6 hours. That sounds better until you remember that you have just 41 miles of range to play with and that requires both batteries.
This also means you’ll need to carry the external charger with you if you plan on charging in public. If you haven’t realized this already, these motorcycles are strictly city machines of limited practicality.
Charging also cannot take place outdoors if the weather is bad. Kawasaki warns that the batteries have to be charged in a dry place and you should not get the batteries, the battery terminals, the battery compartment, or the charger wet, from Kawasaki:
“Charging of the batteries should always be done in a dry environment to avoid getting the batteries, battery terminals, or battery charger wet. The battery compartment is water-resistant; however, pressure washers should be avoided, especially near this area of the motorcycle.”
Kawasaki doesn’t say what happens if water gets in, but I can’t imagine it would be cheap. Here’s the charger, for reference:
This is a little different than usual. For example, Zero Motorcycles warns against using a pressure washer, but doesn’t say you cannot get components wet. The charge port on my Zero DSR/X tester is exposed to weather, too. Zero says:
“Improper cleaning can damage electrical components, cowlings, panels, and other plastic parts. Do not use steam or high-pressure water cleaner systems; they can cause water intrusion of bearing, seals, and electrical components. Avoid spraying water of great force around the dash unit, charge port, power pack, and controller.”
In terms of tech, you get a 4.3-inch TFT display, Bluetooth, ABS, and a Walk mode that allows the motorcycles to move just 3.1 mph forward and 1.8 mph in reverse. My Zero DSR/X long-term loaner has reverse and it’s easily one of my favorite features of an electric motorcycle. No more slow and goofy walking yourself out of a parking space on an incline.
As I said before, these motorcycles borrow their architecture from Kawasaki’s 400cc gas bikes, but with trellis frames modified for rigidity as well as to accommodate the motor down low and those batteries up top. The motorcycles are sized like a Ninja 400 and a Z400 with a 53.9-inch wheelbase, 24.4-degree rake, and a 3.7-inch trail. Thankfully, going electric didn’t increase weight over the gas bikes and the Kawasaki Ninja e-1 weighs 309 pounds while the Kawasaki Z e-1 weighs 298 pounds. Their gas counterparts weigh 362 pounds and 364 pounds, respectively. Kawasaki also works in a 5-liter storage box for whatever you want. That’s not a lot, but it’s something.
Really, these are motorcycles with more or less the sustained performance of a 125cc gasser with a glorious 15 seconds providing about 150cc power. But, unlike many 125s, these are big enough for an adult to feel pretty comfortable.
In terms of suspension, you get a 41mm fork and preload-adjustable shock in the rear. Kawasaki says the suspension is tuned for city riding. Braking is handled by a 290mm disc up front clamped on by a two-piston caliper. Another two-piston caliper brings up the rear but clenches a 220mm disc.
Available Now, But For A Disappointing Price
Kawasaki says these motorcycles can be purchased right now and availability is noted to be October of this year. The 2024 Kawasaki Ninja e-1 ABS is priced at $7,599 while the 2024 Kawasaki Z e-1 ABS is slightly cheaper at $7,299.
I like a lot of what I see here. Sometimes you don’t need more than a 125cc motorcycle’s worth of power, but you don’t want to be crunched up on a city scooter or mini-motorcycle. Likewise, removable batteries are still a great solution for people who don’t have garages for their electric vehicles. I also like how Kawasaki used existing parts and kept things simple. These motorcycles aren’t trying to reinvent riding, claiming to be robots or anything like that. They’re just motorcycles, but electric, which is great!
What I don’t like are all of the limitations. The paltry 41-mile range would be more acceptable if there was a way to charge those batteries quickly. Since that charging is just Level 1, you can forget charging while on the run. I suppose you could still charge this bike at work, but you’ll still have to bring the charger with you and charge just one battery at a time. That’s clunky and inconvenient. I’m also disappointed that the systems don’t appear to have much water resistance. I can charge my Zero loaner in the rain without an issue.
These limitations would probably be livable if these bikes were priced aggressively enough, but those above prices make these scoots as expensive as other more capable machines. The BMW CE 02 is roughly the same price, goes 56 miles, and has 15 horsepower. Spend just a little more on Erik Buell’s Fuell Fllow and you get 150 miles of range and 47 HP. You get my point.
Still, Kawasaki’s electric motorcycles have some good ideas, just some other ideas that may need some work. They’re just electric motorcycles and aren’t trying to be anything else. I’d love to swing a leg over one to see how they perform in real life.
(All Images: Kawasaki)
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