By Will Burgess
In 2007, tech innovation was the name of the game. This was the year that saw the world’s first iPhone, Netflix took to streaming online for the first time, and the very first production Tesla Roadsters rolled off the assembly line.
At the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, Yamaha Motor Corporation had a special EV up their sleeve too when they unveiled what was arguably the first concept for a viable hybrid motorcycle: the Yamaha Luxair.
Stylized in a bright gold and looking like it’s speeding past while standing still, the bike features footwells suggesting a more recumbent or “foot forward” design typical of long-haul bikes, and it seems that was intentional, as the bike was designed with regenerative charging functions to encourage further travel on the gas/electric engine.
You would be forgiven if you recall the Luxair moniker was previously assigned to a line of outboard luxury yachts produced by the Yamaha boat and watercraft division, but this concept looks more like something out of Katsushiro Otomo’s 1988 cyberpunk film, Akira, than anything meant for seafaring.
Recently images of the Luxair concept have reemerged as major powersports companies, including Yamaha, have submitted proof of concept patents for electric vehicles, like the popular Yamaha R7 or the MT-09.
In 2019 Yamaha submitted two patents for these bikes that seemed to hint at electrification. Though vague, there are subtle updates that suggest Yamaha is thinking about positioning for an electric charging socket, among other improvements.
The patent was submitted all the way back in 2013 as Yamaha has continued to improve the design of their motorcycle lineup, so even this tweak may be long out of date to Yamaha R&D standards.
However, more tangibly, last month Kawasaki revealed a hybrid prototype motorcycle, at a surprise appearance during the Suzuka 8 Hour race in Japan. The aptly named HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) uses a parallel twin engine like what is found on their Ninja 400 bikes, but packs a 48-volt battery that powers the electric motor, producing a clutchless sportbike.
While Kawasaki hasn’t hinted at a definitive production for this bike, the tide for EVs is changing as the demand has only grown, and the infrastructure to support the vehicles increases.
Just last month, California recently enacted a ban on internal combustion engines starting in 2024 until no new vehicles can be sold by 2035. As they say: as California goes, so goes the nation, so expect this trend toward electric to continue in earnest.
As Yamaha continues to tease us with a will they or won’t they approach to entering the EV motorcycle market, the all-electric R1 or MT-07 or Luxair may just be a hopeful rendering for the time being.
But for now, please enjoy the bike that might have been, if the wave of powersports electrification had come about fifteen years sooner, or, perhaps if the prophetic visions from Akira really did meet up with our timeline. One may dream.
Will Burgess is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag