Yamaha announced e-mobility plans this morning that align with current market demand, but also opened our eyes to the work they’ve done in this area over the last 50 years.
Assisted pedal power is not a new area of business for Yamaha. Bikers of a certain age seem more than happy at the minute to part with vast sums of cash for an FS1-E. In 1977 this was the bike to have if you were a teenager. Fifty cc of two stroke freedom, sometimes at 30mph if you were going downhill and had a tailwind.
The E in FS1-E denoted that it was a model specific to the English market, one which demanded the FS1 was fitted with bicycle parts (pedals) in order to meet legal requirements for a moped at the time. Over 200,000 Fizzys were produced for the UK market and the majority of teenage owners went on to ride RD350LCs in the 80’s and then R1s in the late 90s. If you squint, it’s hard to deny that pedal powered bikes with assistance from a motor were the genesis of the sports bike boom in the 90s. We did say squint…
Carry on squinting and you’ll find that Yamaha stuck with this idea, there was a 35cc motor assisted mountain bike in the early 80s, followed by the PAS in 1993. The Power Assist System was credited as being a world first for mounting an electric motor in a bicycle. At the time the PAS was the answer to a problem specific to the Japanese market, which is why most of us (including me) won’t have heard of it until today.
Think about how long ago 1993 was, clearly Yamaha and assisted cycling have a long and healthy relationship. By 1995 there was a standalone electric motor that Yamaha produced for other manufacturers, followed by more developments in the motor sector and then another bike in 2008 called the Blaze.
The modern day
We’re clearly all aware of the changing state of e-mobility and have been waiting for one of the big four Japanese manufacturers to show their hand. Talk of Kawasaki and Hydrogen continues to reform, Suzuki has trialled Hydrogen powered scooters with the Police in the UK and Honda are making bold steps in the four wheeled world with EV too.
The video you’re about to watch gives an indication of Yamaha’s plans for the future. Sure we’d love to see an MT-E that’ll take the fight to the Triumph TE-1 project, but we’re not sure the market is ready for that kind of performance or price point. By that we mean an electric bicycle or scooter suits market demand on both levels. The market is those that live in big, congested cities. Commuters who typically undertake a journey measured in single figure miles. These people are happy to pay for a solution to their problem, unlike leisure riders who are still getting their answers from petrol power. The case in point for this area is the lack of sales success for the Harley Davidson Livewire. That’s a bike that we think is very good, but is clearly too expensive a solution to the problem it faces. Have a watch and then carry on reading.
So no, you’re not looking at an electric sports bike or even a naked commuter bike yet but think back to how excited you felt when you clapped eyes on the 1977 FS1-E and you’ll get a sense of what these new Yamahas are doing for a different generation of biker. One thing always leads to another and it won’t be long before we’re looking at bigger, faster and more exciting ways of justifying our new leccy bills.
If you squint like you did earlier, there’s a touch of BWS 50 to the B01 that you’re looking at here. It could just be the chunky tyres, we’re not sure. What we are sure of is that if you showed the B01 to a 16 year old today, they would smile like I did when I saw the B Wizz in 1996 and how some of you did when you saw an FS1-E in ’77.
‘Same bed, different dreams’ is the chapter of Yamaha’s history that denotes early 1970’s marine engine development. We think it describes what’s going on today perfectly, we look forward to seeing what Yamaha and everyone else has to offer.
Follow Yamaha social media channels for news on when new e-mobility product will be available. They’re forecasting showroom ready for some of them this year.
Words: John Hogan Images: Yamaha archive