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08/01/2019
The trade show of transition

Eicma 2018

 

How vast is Eicma? Well, your correspondent’s pedometer scored on average 18,000 steps inside the fair grounds, about 17 km per day. 

Nicodemo Angì

How vast is Eicma? Well, your correspondent’s pedometer scored on average 18,000 steps inside the fair grounds, about 17 km per day. Far from being a peaceful solitary walk, dotted as it were, with hundreds of stands and thousands of visitors, journalists, operators and staff.

Motorcycles are for "passionate" enthusiasts, though a certain amount of common sense, and a vision towards the future of mobility could be perceived. In fact, most of the innovations on display were "sustainable", or small to medium engine size if you prefer, while electrification as well as connectivity affected all sectors opening scenarios that were unthinkable only a few years ago.

 

Electrons rather than octane

The word revolution has often been used and even abused, however it perfectly describes what is being promised (or threatened) by the spread of battery-powered motorcycles and bicycles.

Electric two-wheelers, spreading like wildfire in every exhibition hall, are generally not very powerful and rather gentle on tires. But there are some noticeable exceptions: the dazzling Energica Ego (made in Italy) boasts 145 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque, harnessed by Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 tires size 120/70 ZR17 and 180/55-ZR17. The Corsa version, soon to compete in a single-make trophy, tops the street version with 163 hp making it more demanding on its Michelin tires, even if it weighs less than the 258 kg of the Ego.

Extra work also for the standard tires found on the new and aggressive Kymco Super NEX, seen as a world premiere during a special evening held at the Vetra theatre on November 6. This incredible motorcycle was created to satisfy performance fanatics and for this reason it makes a sound that simulates a traditional engine and pairs beautifully with a rather unusual, for an electric vehicle, 6-speed gearbox that allows breathtaking performance. We are looking at a motorbike that goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds which becomes 7.5 seconds to reach 200 km/h; the progression then "slows down" a little and to reach 250 km/h starting from standstill takes 10.9 seconds!

Even traditional manufacturer like Harley Davidson were not spared the effects of electrification: even if not very powerful, HD’s LiveWire still puts a strain on its tires. During the presentation it was announced that its Michelin Scorcher 120/70 and 180/55, mounted on 17" wheels, have been specially developed and in fact the tires seen in Milan displayed both the classic Bibendum and the name and logo of the U.S. manufacturer.

Fantic Motor also unveiled an electric prototype, but the 11 kW of the Caballero E-Cab should not create too many problems for its 110/80-19 and 140/80-17 tires.

 

What about fleets?

Connectivity, on the other hand, will facilitate the management of fleets of motorcycles and mopeds, preferably electric, and promote easy ride-sharing schemes. Kymco seems to be far ahead of the competition in this instance and even came up with removable battery pack technology and "collective" charging stations where one can leave a flat battery pick up a pre-charged one and continue the journey. The system, called Ionex, will prove very effective as a B2B solution, providing fleets of motorcycles and mopeds to be used in cities for zero-emission deliveries and services. The reduced power of the Kymco Ionex Commercial should not pose any significant problem to its tires, which will be more likely put to the test by the heavy loads crammed into its large rear cargo trunk.

Furthermore, this scenario will witness the creation of a different relationship with tire dealers, who will be called upon to interact more with fleet managers rather than private individuals.

ETERGO’s Appscooter, on the other hand, is a compact Dutch scooter that has enough storage space to accommodate a beer crate (!) as well as 3 "banana-shaped" batteries for a declared total mileage of 240 km. The rider can stare into a 7-inch display and manage, through dedicated handlebar controls, functions such as phone, navigator and music. All this is completed by a telescopic single shock headstock front suspension and a rear motor with a single stage belt.

 

For all tastes

Moving on to the new products, Eicma 2018 saw several new products on display, starting with Continental’s ContiTrailAttack 3, a tire that promises versatile performance on and off-road, perfectly at ease even on wet roads, and is built to maintain its performance throughout its lifespan. As Alessandro Broia, from Continental, explained, the ContiTrailAttack 3, thanks to sophisticated moulds that vulcanize the rubber at different temperatures, manages to have a harder central section and softer sides despite being a single compound. Special cross-plies prevent the casing from stiffening when opening the throttle, maintaining the same handling qualities at different speeds.

Furthermore, the new ContiScoot, transfers much of the sophisticated technology found on ContiRoadAttack 3 tires on scooters, and proves perfectly at home in wet conditions thanks to its compound and a tread designed to effectively expel water.

Anlas, a Turkish brand known for its winter tires, brought to the Milan show new 140/80-18 Soft and 90/100-21 versions of its CAPRA Extreme, as well as new 120/70 R 14 radials for maxi-scooters such as Yamaha’s T-Max not to mention the new WinterGrip Plus, defined as the first, and so far only, winter motorcycle tire in the world.

Not to be outdone, CST, an off-road tire specialist unveiled its new, and FIM approved, CM723 and 724 tires dedicated to Enduro bikes, followed by the new motocross CM733/CM734 and CM736/737. The CM547 Urban Travel is a scooter tire able to guarantee adequate performance in both dry and wet conditions, thanks to its wide grooves. Very stylish, but equally safe, and therefore suitable to be used on modern scooters is the new CM595.

The new Michelin Anakee Adventure, approved as Oem on the new BMW R1250GS maxi-enduro, joins the Road 5 Trail (100% road tire) and Anakee Wild (50% road/50% off-road). This new product, designed to be used primarily on normal roads, promises superior performance on wet roads thanks to a new silica-enriched compound which, along with Michelin’s Dual Compound 2CT and 2CT+ technologies, combines high performance on dry roads, great handling and resistance to wear.

Also Apollo Vredestein entered the fray with its Alpha-H1, first introduced in India in sizes 110/70 R17 and 150/60 R17 and dedicated to small sports bikes such as the BMW 310 and KTM’s 125 and 390 Duke. Alberto Viganò, Apollo Two Wheel Tires General Manager, announced that a product for the European market will soon be available and that the company is engaged in creating a new R&D division for motorcycle tires in the Netherlands and a proving ground in Italy.

Mitas too, joined the group and introduced its new touring sports tires Touring Force (on sale from next March) born following the company’s experience with Sport Force + and Terra Force-R. The Multi Compound Tread Technology combines a more tenacious compound for the mid-section of the tread with a softer one for the shoulders so as to guarantee stability at high speed and grip through corners.

Great news also for PMT, a small but tough little company based in Aprilia (LT). The company produces almost exclusively racing tires, ranging from tires for mini-bikes with 6.5" to 12" wheels, for scooters and Pitbikes, not to mention little tires for remote-controlled models. At Eicma 2018 PMT presented its new 17" Rain and Slick tires, the latter available in 3 different compounds from soft to hard. Still in Italy, Tuscany-based Riga gomme combines a well-established retreading  activity with tires for motocross and enduro developed in Italy and sold under the name Zeltex. In addition to new sizes for the enduro Traction Plus, the company introduced its new and particularly resistant mousse.

 

ELECTRIC VESPA  

One of the stars of the trade show was undoubtedly the electric Vespa and for several reasons, starting with the name, a global icon, to the fact that Vespa belongs to a group with production plants and research centres around the world. But perhaps the most important news is that Vespa Elettrica is already on sale as a finished product in every detail. During Eicma 2018 it was possible to test the new e-Vespa, and I certainly could not miss the opportunity. On the short and windy test track, located in the Moto Live area, the Vespa Elettrica moved smoothly and impressed me more for its comfy riding style than exhilarating performance, after all it was designed to compete with ordinary 50 cc models. Great handling indeed, but you need to use the throttle in the tightest corners and, even if it the sprint is far from “burning”, its 200 Nm torque at the wheel will prove useful when climbing, perhaps with a passenger on board.

The technical data sheet speaks of a brushless DC motor with 3.5 kW/4 kW peak, powered by a 48 volt/86 Ah battery (current is halved in the Hybrid X with range extender) built with LG cells. The X version, available from next year, is equipped with a motor-generator driven by a 100 cc engine and stretches mileage from 100 to 200 km.

From rumours, we gathered that the X's ICE generator guarantees extremely low fuel consumption, and therefore complies with Euro 4 standard; has a start-&-stop system that employs the generator as a starter, which minimizes noise and vibration. Recharging will be quite advanced with different options available but always with enough "reserve" to maintain the nominal performance (the generator delivers 2 kW but the engine absorbs up to 4 kW).

We were also told that both mechanical and electronic parts as well as the battery are all waterproof according to strict IP standards and all, apart from the cells, are designed and built by Piaggio.

The decision to use a 48 volt battery was motivated by safety requirements (the Electrica will end up in the hands of many youngsters) and the need to simplify production and service. Although 48 volts require additional precautions compared to a classic 12 volts, they are much easier to handle when compared to 60, 100 volts found on other bikes. The weight of the Electrica exceeds that of a regular Vespa 125 by a few kg while, when compared to a regular 50cc moped, then the scale shows an extra 15 kg.

The monocoque of the Elettrica is the same found on the "compact" range with internal combustion engine, while the Hydraulic monoshock absorber at the rear is obviously different since it has to house the electric motor. The latter, is placed in a more advanced position compared to the wheel, a position that was chosen to reduce the vibrations associated with the shaking of the suspension, and increases the life of the engine. The layout of the hub is the same as other regular Vespas - reduction of gears on 2 axles - but the toothed wheels are finished differently to provide the electric powertrain with a quieter yet pleasant “voice”.

The small battery is placed under the seat, while the BMS (Battery Management System) and the inverter are placed very low, in a black casing near the rear wheel. In fact, during the test the centre of gravity seemed rather low.

The charger has a maximum power of 1500 watts and charging can be done either from low power columns or from a wall socket, and completely in 4 hours; the cable is reachable under the seat and a specially designed groove makes it possible to use it even with the seat locked into position and therefore safer against a risk of theft. Two driving modes are available, Eco and Power, as well as two options for the regenerative-braking mechanism.

The suspensions’ calibration resembles the “ordinary” Vespa 50cc while, as far as tires, a "hybrid" solution was chosen: 11-inch wheels at the rear and 12” at the front, a combination found also on Vespa Sprint. The tires, size 110/70-12 and 120/70-11, are the same as those found on other Vespas since the power involved is not too high.

Let's close with connectivity: Piaggio has always been very sensitive on this issue and, in fact, the Vespa Elettrica’s display can show, besides speed, battery charge and energy consumption/recovery, also incoming calls and messages. The smartphone app allows the rider to use voice commands to answer calls, send messages and manage their music directly from their  smartphone; an optional helmet with built-in Bluetooth intercom makes it even more practical. The app also displays travel data, battery level, charge cycles and more.

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