Kawasaki hasn’t been shy about its gas-electric hybrid motorcycle project. While we’ve uncovered patents as far back as 2019, Team Green teased the new powertrain in 2020, and officially unveiled the prototype in 2021. The project may date back a few years, but with Kawasaki’s goal of introducing 10 new hybrid motorcycles by 2025, the development team continues to press forward.
To help expedite that development process, Kawi has leveraged its Ninja 400/Z400 platform for the prototype. However, new patents reveal that the company’s designers and engineers had to adjust several components to accommodate the new gas-electric powerplant. Of course, that comes with its own set of challenges, and Kawasaki’s latest patents reveal the team’s solutions.
Team Green’s hybrid unit operates in a similar manner to automotive applications, relying on the electric powertrain in urban environments while utilizing the internal combustion engine for open road riding. In order to power the 48V electric motor, Kawasaki hides the 48V lithium-ion battery under the seat. That tucked-away location doesn’t optimize airflow for the air-cooled unit though, so a series of air channels deliver extra ventilation while exhaust ducts pull hot air away from the battery.
On the other hand, the 48V electric motor also poses its own set of configuration issues. The team mounts the electric motor just behind the engine cylinder bank and above the six-gear transmission. In turn, the engineers have to squeeze the linkage-assisted rear monoshock into a tighter space. To resolve the fitment conundrum, Kawasaki tacks a cast alloy plate to the rear of the electric motor and mounts the monoshock directly to the unit.
For now, we’ve only seen the brand implement these designs on the Ninja 400/Z400 prototype, but with 10 models to introduce by 2025, the designers will have to find similar solutions for smaller and larger platforms. Only time will tell if we see the same techniques applied to Kawasaki’s inline-four hybrids, but for now, it’s encouraging to see the firm’s progress.