Triumph motorcycles have been around in one form or another since 1902. That’s one year earlier than William Harley and the Davidson brothers started building motorcycles in a garage in Milwaukee. In 1982, the original Triumph company went bankrupt and its assets were purchased by industrialist John Bloor.
Triumph will always be known for the iconic Bonneville, the badass muscle machine that dominated the competition before the word “superbike” was invented. Now Triumph is embarking on a new course, one that could put it in the forefront of the motorcycle industry once again. It is developing an electric motorcycle, which is calls the “Project Triumph TE-1” and it is involving some high powered partners in its quest.
Williams Advanced Engineering — an offshoot of the Williams Formula One team — will provide a lightweight battery design and integration capabilities as well as its testing facilities. Williams knows a thing or two about batteries. It has supplied the batteries to Formula E since the beginning of that series. It also is deeply invested in hybrid powertrains in the modern era of Formula One. The other partners are Integral Powertrain’s e-Drive Division and WMG of the University of Warwick.
“This new collaboration represents an exciting opportunity for Triumph and its partners to be leaders in the technology that will enable the electrification of motorcycles, which is driven by customers striving to reduce their environmental impact, combined with the desire for more economical transportation, and changing legislation,” said Nick Bloor, Triumph’s current CEO. “Project Triumph TE-1 is one part of our electric motorcycle strategy, focused on delivering what riders want and expect from their Triumph, which is the perfect balance of handling, performance and usability.”
Increased systems integration is a key focus of the project, according to Electric Hybrid Technology. By developing individual components of automotive-based electric drivetrains and optimizing them into innovative units, the TE-1 project aims to deliver electric motorcycle systems which reduce mass, complexity, and packaging requirements.
In cooperation with its partners, Triumph seeks to improve the packaging and safety of batteries, optimize electric motor sizing and packaging, and integrate regenerative braking with advanced safety systems.
“Electric motorcycles will have a vital role to play in future transport across the globe — delivering reduced congestion and improved urban air quality as well as easing parking,” says professor David Greenwood at WMG, University of Warwick.
“They will also be great to ride, with copious, easily controlled torque delivered smoothly at all road speeds. WMG has experience of battery technology and vehicle electrification for road, rail, sea, and air which it will bring to this exciting sector. Our expert team will lead the modelling and simulation work within the project, to ensure the vehicles are safe and efficient without compromise to dynamic performance.”
The TE-1 project is expected to run for two years before commercial products are offered to the public. Harley Davidson is also pursuing an electric motorcycle development program but both companies will be challenged by companies like Alta, Zero, Lightning, and Energica, which already have competitive electric motorcycles on sale.
3 years ago, electric motorcycles seemed like the fringiest of fringe ideas. Not any more. The challenges of cramming enough power and range into a motorcycle chassis to make it competitive with conventional bikes are enormous, but more electrics are coming to market all the time. When and if Triumph offers one for sale, it will be a high quality product packed with the latest engineering and technology. It could even be the spiritual successor to the mighty Bonneville and put Triumph back on top in the marketplace.