A glimpse into the future

A glimpse into the future

An eager public awaits the release of Yamaha's new electric scooter

At the recent Bangkok International Motor Show, Thai Yamaha Motor debuted their new electric vehicle, the Yamaha E01. It's a sign that finally, one of the major players in the industry is getting ready to make a significant move into the production and design of electric scooters.

For the first first time in the Asia-Pacific region, Yamaha organised a press riding test event in Khao Yai, Nakhon Ratchasima province. Life was given the opportunity to be among the first to test it in one of Thailand's most stunning locations.

According to Yamaha, the purpose of this E01 concept scooter in Thailand is to gather data through the vehicles' GPS systems which will be sent to the research team in order to advance to the next level of the development.

At a nice base camp at Kirimaya Resort Khao Yai, 40 bikes were lined up for us to test.

DESIGN

Nearly every piece of the exterior is brand new, and it gets its solid design base from Yamaha's Max series while still incorporating elements of the original E01 design. With its headlights, the E01 is easily identifiable as a member of Yamaha's family of motorcycles (R1, R6 and R7). The craftsmanship is excellent, and the materials used are top class. The bikes definitely stand out more thanks to the tail light design which features a basic and sleek design, and the absence of an unattractive mud guard.

The Yamaha E01 is not built for replacing batteries, and the battery management system sits comfortably under the rider's seat. The white colour and unique light blue stripes make it stand out from other motorcycles. Because of this, we can get a good centre of gravity, which should help the bike maintain its balance. The passenger seat is meant to be comfortable, and the seat itself has a lot of available space and is very nice to sit on.

The fact that there is a hand bar for the passenger on both the left and the right side of the vehicle is one of my favourite design features. It is superbly executed, which adds a touch of class.

RIDING THE E01

With a keyless design, turning the start button causes the E01 to remain stationary until the rider presses a button to obtain a green light. Begin with ECO Mode, and the E01 will lock to a very low speed of up to 60kph, while both standard and power modes approach 100kph. Please keep in mind that the top speed is the same in standard and power modes, but only power mode provides additional torque when riding with a passenger or climbing a steep road. These modes are changeable at any time.

Because the E01 is rather heavy, the reverse mode was one of my favourite features. It can be tough to get out of a parking spot on a steep road surface. The reverse mode is simple to use, with a maximum speed of 1kph set for safety.

The weight of the E01 is 158kg. Yes, it is hefty, but it is surprisingly easy to control. Everything runs so smooth because the ECU has been correctly programmed to match the bike. The acceleration is smooth and gentle, yet when I wanted to go fast, the E01 was very responsive.

From the Kirimaya Resort, we rode to the Khao Yai National Park entrance. I had no trouble whatsoever climbing up high hills. The E01's relative peace and quiet benefits every national park in the area. Using the belt drive does not result in complete silence but does produce a wonderful revving EV sound. This function is simply fantastic to have.

Suspension is a major issue with most electric scooters. So far, the E01 is the best in class. The E01 rides really well on damaged tarmac roads. The bike is quite secure to ride.

The 65km round-trip ascent in Khao Yai consumed only 60% of the power while my best speed on a flat surface was 104kph (outside the national park), with the ride being extremely smooth and stable.

The only thing I'd like to see improved is the brakes. The E01's braking system needs to be upgraded. With the weight and power, the present system is ineffective.

VERDICT

The Yamaha E01 is still a "super prototype", but it is already claiming to be the best in class for electric scooters, despite not yet being in final production. The Red Dot Design Award Horwin EK3, which was previously the greatest model I had tried, has recently been surpassed by the E01.

Unfortunately, Yamaha is not yet able to publicise the price and availability for delivery. Yamaha's goal with its super prototype is to create the best electric scooter in the world.

Yamaha does not rush, but for many of us, we want it now.

The man behind the E01 project Phongstorn Ermongkonchai, chief operating officer at Thai Yamaha Motor

What is the Yamaha Vision on the electric scooter?

Twenty years ago, Yamaha began working on various EV projects. In 1991, the Frog was our company's initial model, and was followed by Passol, EC-02, EC-05 and E-Vino. Those are manufactured with a detachable battery and were selling well in Europe and Japan.

The demand for electric scooters is quite high right now, but there are a lot of concerns to which we need the accurate approach if Yamaha wants to be successful in producing high-quality EV scooters for the market. Because of this, our 'Super Concept' electric scooter, the Yamaha E01, is under research and is not yet ready to be delivered to consumers.

How do you feel about Yamaha's petrol engines and electric power?

In the field of technology for gasoline engines, Yamaha has been performing an excellent job. However, in the many years to come, this technology involving gasoline will not be kind to the environment. For this reason, Yamaha began doing research on electric power 20 years ago and continues to develop it for the mainstream market.

What is the purpose of the Yamaha E01?

Very simple. We want to know what the ideal EV scooter will be for the world, particularly the Asian market. This may appear to be straightforward, but it is not. People ride for a variety of reasons. Some may ride through the city, while others may ride a shorter distance. We also have delivery riders that spend the majority of their time on the road for work. Some may only use it to connect to the sky train. We're currently looking for the proper ingredients for everyone.

The Yamaha E01 is still a Super Concept, but it has evolved from our most popular Max Series design, (N-Max, X-Max and T-Max) and constructed to match a standard 125cc gasoline-powered scooter.

Not only addressing riding, but also concerning battery power solutions that are compatible with the Thai lifestyle, no definitive resolution has yet been reached. Everyone wants to travel with the longest range, but the battery will be too large, heavy and time-consuming to charge. Or, we could make the battery as lightweight as possible, with as many changing stations as possible.

Even now, we do not have all of the relevant information.

How important was the press test ride event?

It is very important because the members of the Thai press are among the most experienced two-wheel specialists in the country. Their riding skills will be recorded into our GPS systems, and our technical team will be able to get more important information and feedback to the R&D team for the purpose of further improving the product.

When will the E01 be released, and what will it cost?

Because the E01 is still considered to be a Super Concept EV Scooter, the price information will not be made public at this time or in the near future. After we have completed and finalised everything, involving not only the bike itself but also the after-sales service, parts and certified dealership, then we will let you know as soon as we can.

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