Is this the future of electric bikes?

Jon Lawson

NAWA Technologies is debuting the NAWA Racer, a zero emission motorbike concept which features a world-first in electric powertrains: a ‘hybrid’ battery.

Appearing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on 7th January, it combines NAWA Technologies’ ultracapacitors which offer ten times more power and five times more energy than existing tech with conventional lithium-ion cells.

Marking the first time an electric motorbike has used ultracapacitors, the hybrid system offers the best of both worlds: ultra-fast charging, incredible energy recovery and high power output thanks to the ultracapacitors, and a long continuous range thanks to better lithium-ion management.

Inspired by the original café racers of London in the 1960s, which were lightweight, powerful bikes used for short, quick rides between cafés, NAWA Racer builds on these themes, boasting a raft of efficiency benefits that make it perfect for the city, with features other e-motorbikes cannot offer.

What are next-gen ultracapacitors?

The basis of NAWA Racer’s advantage is the company’s carbon-based ultracapacitors, which charge and discharge in seconds, capable of picking up energy from regenerative braking and supplying it back to an electric motor very quickly. They can do this millions of times over without degradation, offering very fast energy transfer, unlike lithium-ion. But although they have five times more energy storage than existing technology, lithium-ion does still offer greater overall capacity.

By integrating these ultracapacitors into a lithium-ion system, the result is a battery that has much more efficient overall performance, greatly reducing the charge and discharge cycles the lithium-ion battery performs, extending the life of the entire system.

Regardless of electric vehicle, from motorbike to car, the efficiency improvements made by a hybrid ultracapacitor battery system can reduce the size of the lithium-ion battery by up to half, or extend the range by up to double – or a combination in between depending on use. This is especially the case where there is a lot of braking and accelerating, such as in an urban area.

Located in the bike’s top tank area is an arrangement of NAWA Technologies’ own ultracapacitors, known as NAWACap and offering 0.1 kWh, which boost a lithium-ion battery mounted low in the chassis where the internal combustion engine would otherwise be.

Re-using more than 80 per cent of the energy captured from regenerative braking – lithium-ion can only re-use 30 per cent – NAWACap brings major leaps in efficiency, allowing NAWA Racer to use a much smaller lithium-ion battery than would otherwise be possible: just 9 kWh, around half the size of a conventional electric sports bike’s battery.

The NAWACap pack itself is lightweight too, weighing as little as 10 kg, and combined with the bike’s carbon fibre frame and composite body panels, NAWA Racer tips the scales at just 150kg, a weight saving of 25 per cent over conventional electric sports bikes.

This lightweight, compact hybrid battery system results in exceptional range. It can cover 150km on a mixed cycle, including highways. But the city is where it really shines. By capturing so much energy from stop-start riding, releasing it again as acceleration, NAWA Racer can double its range in an urban area, covering 300km between charges. The NAWACap pack recharges in just two minutes and the entire battery can be charged to 80 per cent in one hour from a home supply.

How fast does it go?

As standard, the hub-less rim motor produces 100PS, rocketing NAWA Racer from rest to 100km/h in comfortably under three seconds, onto a top speed in excess of 160km/h. And no matter the charge level of the lithium-ion battery, this acceleration will always be available because of the ultracapacitor’s high power characteristics, which continually maintain response and performance.

Unlike with a regular fixed battery, NAWA Racer’s NAWACap pack can also be removed and swapped for different levels of performance, allowing riders to tune their bike’s characteristics. NAWA Racer also features a ‘Race’ mode, which gives a boost of ultracapacitor power. This is inspired by the original days of the café racer, when riders would go ‘record racing’ – short, fast rides to an agreed point and back, before a record had finished on the café’s jukebox – and ‘Race’ mode is designed to give the rider the edge on the return journey (or to overtake slower traffic in every day riding). It also features an ‘Eco’ mode, where energy recovery is further maximised.