The hubless electric motorcycle with sci-fi style and a great name

Modern cars are littered with sensors looking in every direction, most of which are tasked with one simple duty: keeping you safe.

Motorcycles are a lot simpler. Riders are literally hung in the wind with little more than their reflexes, skills and situational awareness to keep them safe. Even essential safety technologies like anti-lock brakes and traction control are relatively new additions to the two-wheeler world.

But that’s changing, and it looks like Finland’s Verge Motorcycles (no relation) could lead the pack with the most advanced safety system for riders on two wheels when the Verge TS Ultra launches later this year.

The TS looks like nothing else on the road, because it looks like nothing else on the road. For starters, it’s electric, which still makes it a rarity in the motorcycle world, but its performance is even more radical. It has no less than 201 hp and 885 Nm of torque, almost twice as much as a Corvette E-Ray.

That couple comes from an unusual source. When Marko Lehtimäki, CTO of Verge Motorcycles, came up with the first motorcycle design in 2018, he said the team was unhappy with the few electric motorcycles on the market.

He said most electric motorcycle designs simply replace the basic layout of a gas motorcycle, replacing an engine with a motor and a gas tank with a battery. “We thought this couldn’t be optimal,” he said.

A special point of attention was placing the battery high in the frame. “These batteries are very heavy,” he said. “The center of gravity becomes high and these are top-heavy and not very enjoyable experiences compared to traditional motorcycling.”

It has no less than 201 hp and 885 Nm of torque, almost twice as much as a Corvette E-Ray

Verge Motorcycles engineers knew they needed to place the battery in the bottom of the frame to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. But by dropping the battery onto the base, they filled the space usually occupied by a motor.

“We came to the conclusion that we had to move the engine outside the main chassis, out of the body of the motorcycle,” he said. So they decided to try something different by placing the motor in the rear wheel.

Electric motors in the wheels are not exactly rare. They are even common in the e-bike scene and can be found on options like the VanMoof S4 or the Bird Bike. However, the TS Ultra’s engine is slightly different.

It’s a hubless ring design, meaning you can put your hand right through the center of the wheel. This makes for a radical look, and while it has some drawbacks – namely adding a lot of weight to the rear suspension – Lehtimäki said the practical benefits of the battery placement far outweigh these.

“We made a prototype, and let’s just say it wasn’t an easy path,” Lehtimäki said. “Even when we got the prototype working, people thought we were crazy, and many said it would never work in real life. But we just really believed that this is the future, and if we can make this work, it will change everything.”

The result is an unintentional eye-catcher. “We didn’t start with ‘let’s make something that looks like a Tron bike’, but with the question of how can we make a better motorcycle with a completely redesigned EV architecture,” he said. “The answer was this ring engine.”

Although the appearance of the bicycle is unique, the way the bicycle looks back at the world is just as new. At this year’s CES in Las Vegas, Verge Motorcycles will unveil a new sensor package that comes with the TS Ultra, the range-topping version of the company’s debut motorcycle. The company calls it Starmatter Vision.

Six cameras look in all directions, allowing full 360 degrees around the bike. These will be supplemented by two high-resolution radar units, one looking forward and the other looking back.

Lehtimäki declined to say who supplies the bicycle radar units, saying only that they are “the best quality you can get on the market.” They are used to identify obstacles in the road ahead or rapidly approaching vehicles from behind, while the cameras also scan for anything in the road to the left or right.

Six cameras look in all directions

All these warnings are communicated to the rider through different channels. The most important are the two displays. The instrument panel above the handlebars shows most of the data, but another display, on top of the tank, provides even more detail about what’s happening around the bike.

All this will be presented using Unreal Engine, which means high-quality 3D graphics on a built-in motorcycle display for the first time. It’s all part of a software package that Verge Motorcycles calls Starmatter, all of which can be fully updated via the bike’s integrated wireless connectivity.

However, looking down at the beautiful ray tracing isn’t exactly the best idea when you’re driving down the highway at 70 mph. The Verge Motorcycles TS will therefore also connect to audio systems in the helmet.

“It is the combination of these that we are very excited about. Overall, we think that audio, especially spatial audio, is a really important part of the experience,” said Lehtimäki.

Spatial audio would refer to some sort of next-generation helmet audio system that goes beyond what’s currently available on the market, but Lehtimäki declined to share more details about what exactly that might look like – or sound like.

While we don’t know exactly how the TS Ultra’s audio feedback will work, we do know that it will all be extremely expensive. The TS Ultra has a starting price of $44,900. For that you get the bike with sensors and a range of up to 373 kilometers.

If that’s not in your budget, Verge Motorcycles has the $29,900 TS Pro, with 137 horsepower and a range of 220 miles, or the base TS at $26,900, with 107 horsepower and a range of 155 miles.

Not only do you give up power and range, but you also say goodbye to the advanced detection package. For now, Lehtimäki says those sensors are too expensive to use on the cheaper bikes.

All this will be very expensive

But since all Verge Motorcycles TS models are OTA updatable and they all have the same internal sensors (including GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope), the stability and traction control systems that power each model will evolve along the same path and keep getting better. when dealing with issues like poor conditions and heavy-handed new riders.

Verge Motorcycles says they will begin shipping to U.S. consumers sometime this summer, starting exclusively through direct sales. That’s about six months behind what the company promised this time last year, but Verge Motorcycles has actually delivered a few production TS units to lucky customers in Europe. So despite the sci-fi look, this thing seems to be coming true.

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