Debbie and I put in over 125,000 miles on a succession of Harley-Davidson Road Kings and Heritage Classics. From 1992 through 2017, we spent 25 years crisscrossing the small towns and cities of North America. And twice we made the long pilgrimage to Sturgis, South Dakota for “Bike Week.” We mingled with hundreds of riders from every state in America. Today, the innovation happening in motorcycles is the popularization of electric bikes. Many have tried, and many have failed. Now Damon Motors, led by CEO Jay Giraud, hopes to bring a safe electric motorcycle to the masses. WIRED’s Tim Stevens reports:
And so, while most people focused on the performance figures of the glaring yellow Damon HyperSport in 2020, its safety features are truly the core of the brand, despite the price point being completely beyond many of those bikers in Indonesia. Sadly, vehicle safety innovation is—at least initially—rarely cheap.
The final-production Damon HyperSport will feature a system called CoPilot, which purports to be the most advanced rider-assistance system on the planet. It starts with three distance-measuring radar sensors and a pair of high-definition cameras.
Input from those sensors will be processed by software running on a custom Linux-based system, while more fundamental aspects of the bike’s software run on a more lightweight real-time OS. “That allows us to fire up our processors pretty fast,” Derek Dorresteyn, Damon Motors’ CTO, says. “The expectation of the consumer is they want their bike to start quickly.”
Dorresteyn is a little older and far more soft-spoken than Giraud as he offers perspective into the finer details of the HyperSport. Dorresteyn himself is a former motorcycle racer who also taught CAD design at the California College of the Arts for 8 years before founding the now-defunct Alta Motors in 2008.
One of the earliest electric motorcycle startups, Alta produced the Redshift, which was revolutionary for having similar power and weight to gasoline-powered race bikes. Focused mainly for off-road racing, the Redshift MX competed against, and even beat, traditional motocross machines. I rode an early prototype of this in 2012, and even then it was remarkably good.
Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 Redshifts were sold, and while customers loved them, the company abruptly folded in 2018, adding another notable tombstone to that graveyard of EV motorcycles.
The Redshift was so far ahead of its time that the remaining bikes are still prized among motocross aficionados, a level of respect that Dorresteyn carries on to Damon, now helping to supposedly make the HyperSport the safest bike on the road.
Damon’s CoPilot system communicates to the rider through a color TFT dashboard. The edges light up to alert the rider of other cars approaching from blind spots. Should the bike detect an obstruction ahead, the system will vibrate the handlebars.
“When the Damon ECU has calculated you’re close to not having enough time to stop before you’re gonna hit that car, and you’re showing no indication of stopping, it’s going to give you this haptic signal,” Dorresteyn says. “And that’s your cue: Put on the brakes. Whether you’re looking forward or not, just put on the brakes.” Dorresteyn’s finer contributions, though, lay a little bit deeper in the heart of the bike.Hype Machine
Somebody at Damon loves branding. Where other motorcycle companies use simple terms like “battery,” “motor,” and “drivetrain” to describe what makes their machines go, the HyperSport uses something called a HyperDrive.
Trademark assault aside, HyperDrive is genuinely different from what other companies are doing. Most electric motorcycle startups begin with a traditional frame designed to wrap around a typical internal-combustion engine. Those makers then yank the motor out, slap a battery in, and call it a day.
Similar to cell-to-chassis tech in cars, the HyperDrive system integrates the battery into the frame. Some 1,080 lithium-ion 21700 cells (the same type used by the Lucid Air and other EVs) are arranged to provide 20 kilowatt-hours of power. That’s about a quarter of what you’ll find in a Tesla Model 3 in a bike that weighs 85 percent less than that particular sedan.
Read more here.
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