One of the prime complaints many motorcyclists have about electric motorcycles is that they don’t deliver the visceral experience that comes from an internal combustion engine (ICE). 2electron, a spinoff of Zener, an automotive technology company based near Turin, Italy, is out to change that with the Emula Concept motorcycle with highly innovative McFly technology.
The using software and hardware, McFly technology intends to emulate the experience of riding an ICE-powered motorcycle, while still on an electric-powered machine. 2electron’s McFly system incorporates a virtual gearbox, faux gearshifter and clutch levers, adjustments to the power delivery, and speakers strategically placed on the chassis. It sounds outlandish, and it is.
To start, the McFly technology allows you to select between various powerplants for your ride. Initially, there are three choices–a 1989 two-stroke single, a 1999 600cc inline-4, and a 2004 800cc four-stroke twin. By the time the Emula is a production motorcycle, they will have many more virtual engines to choose from, such as a 1980 125cc two-stroke or a modern superbike.
The McFly software adjusts the response of the electric motor to emulate the distinctive power deliveries of the different ICE configurations. That means power is different parts of the rev range, as well as the speed that the motor accelerates. That all seems reasonable to accomplish.
However, adding in the operation of a clutch and gearbox is a bit more complicated. With the faux clutch lever and gearshift lever, the McFly software is aware of which gear you are in, and the power delivery is adjusted accordingly. If you want to pop the clutch, McFly is capable of giving you that experience, too. Further, the clutch and shift lever product tactile feedback that also replicates a gearbox and clutch as you shift. A slipper clutch emulator prevents the rear wheel from locking up, should you downshift too aggressively.
Engine behavior is also highly configurable. There are two basic modes on the Emula–Boring mode and McFly mode. The Boring mode turns off the McFly simulation, and the Emula works as a standard electric motorcycle–twist-and-go, with a top speed of 155 mph. The McFly mode is where the action is, and there are four different sub-modes, which start to take on the attributes of a video game:
- Real Emulation. In this mode, the Emula acts like an ICE motorcycle. It’s so real, that if you don’t give it enough throttle as you let out the clutch from a stop, it will “stall.” If you are in too high of a gear and the revs are too low, the motor will bog when you twist the throttle. Further, sloppy gear shifting can result in a missed shift.
- Easy Emulation. You can’t stall the Emula, and it is more forgiving of poor gear ratio selection.
- Arcade Emulation. In this mode, you don’t have to use the clutch lever. You can ride as if the Emula has an up/down quickshifter.
- Beginner Emulation. McFly technology takes over gear selection, and you don’t have to use the clutch—akin to a Honda DCT system in auto mode.
2electron doesn’t stop there, as sound and vibration are part of the ICE experience. To replicate that, the Emula has speakers strategically placed on the motorcycle. Speakers on the front of the chassis replicate the sound of the motor and gearbox, while rear speakers reproduce the exhaust. Bass speakers create the appropriate vibration lever, based on which motor has been selected, as well as the engine speed.
For those who don’t like the idea of the motorcycle making all sorts of sounds that others will hear, or you’re riding in an area where you want to be stealthier, the sounds can be piped to your helmet via Bluetooth in Silent-Fun mode. The bassier speaker will continue to give you that vibrating feel, though not to the extent of the chassis speakers. Silent-Fun mode works with any of the emulations.
There are also various modifications you can make to the performance. The McFly software gives you the chance to enhance power delivery via a virtual high-flow air filter, different exhaust, or a variety of other options.
The McFly technology also takes into account the weight of Emula, along with its drag coefficient. That keeps the performance of the motor similar to what it would be in its original chassis. This way, the 250ccc two-stroke feels like an ICE motorcycle with that motor—not a heavy electric motorcycle with a relatively small powerplant.
All of the functions on the 2electron Emula Concept are controlled via a joystick on the right handlebar, or via the eight-inch TFT touchscreen dash. That means you can switch between motors and modes whenever you like. If the technology works as described, it will be like having multiple motorcycles, even on the same ride.
If you’re concerned that all this technology will eat up range–always a concern on an electric vehicle—2electron claims the McFly technology reduces range by a maximum of one percent.
We haven’t seen the 2electron Emula Concept in person, let alone ridden it. So, we don’t know if this is entirely legit, or just vaporware—always a concern when it comes to cutting-edge technology. Regardless, the Emula Concept gives us quite a bit to think about as it applies to the future of motorcycle riding, and what it is we really want.