Hero MotoCorp may fly a bit below the radar of most American motorcycle enthusiasts, but the Indian manufacturer has emerged as a leader in alternative fuel technologies for two-wheeled vehicle. First came the Hero Leap hybrid scooter (which is now ready to enter serial production), then came the RNT 150 diesel hybrid concept revealed last week.
Today, Hero revealed another new concept, this one an electric motorcycle with a hydrogen fuel cell extender at the 2014 India Auto Expo. Dubbed the Hero iON (oddly pronounced “ee-on” instead of “eye-on” as one would first expect), the futuristic-looking concept uses a lithium-air battery along with a hydrogen fuel cell.
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The lithium-air a technology theoretically offers an energy density several times higher than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries used by most electric vehicles. The Li-Air battery uses oxygen from the surrounding environment as the cathode oxidant instead of having an internal oxidizer. The technology is still developing, but the energy stored per kilo said to be comparable to that of gasoline. The Ion’s design highlights the lithium-air philosophy with the open cavity between the fuel cell and frame as well as the hubless wheels.
The wheels are mounted with electric motors using zero-friction magnetic levitation (think high-speed monorails) to both drive the motorcycle and act as a brake. Instead of a traditional twist control, the ride-by-wire throttle is controlled by triggers on the grips.
Another innovation is Hero’s M-link suspension which uses magnetorheological damping to adapts to suit different riding conditions. Instead of springs, the dampers are filled with a fluid which changes its viscosity based on the strength of a magnetic field. On-board sensors vary the strength of the M-link’s electric field, automatically adjusting the level of damping.
Both the front and rear wheel pivot to steer the motorcycle while multi-axis gyroscopes and accelerometers maintain stability.
Other features include a vehicle situational awareness system to monitor surrounding traffic, and in-helmet heads-up display connectivity.
Hero also revealed a lightweight lithium-ion battery-powered motorized bicycle concept called the SimplIEcity, but compared to the other projects coming out of its R&D department, it sounds relatively mundane.