Kawasaki has managed to squeeze both a combustion engine and a full electric powertrain into its new Ninja 7 Hybrid streetbike – and it doesn’t look as ungainly as you’d think. The benefits? Fuel economy, electric boost, and some other neat tricks.
This middleweight, sparsely faired roadster – which we first saw as a prototype in 2020 – runs a newly designed 451cc parallel twin combustion engine capable of outputting a fairly reasonable 43.5 kW (58.3 hp) on its own. Right behind the cylinder heads sits a 9-kW (12-hp) electric motor, running off a 48-V lithium-ion battery mounted under the seat, and when both are combined, the hybrid system will make up to 51.1 kW (68.5 hp).
For a little while, anyway. Like Kawasaki’s piddly E-1 and Z E-1 electric bikes, peak power is only available in a temporary “e-boost” that shuts down to prevent the motor from overheating. On the E-1s, there’s a 15-second time limit. On the Ninja 7 hybrid, it’s not specified – but it may well be less, given that the motor’s sitting in such a hot spot behind the engine.
Either way, Kawasaki says the new hybrid will rocket off the line like a literbike thanks to a helping of electric torque, and that in regular use it’ll give you the “overall performance” of a 650-700cc class bike, with the fuel consumption of a 250. That certainly sounds nice.
There’ll be sport-hybrid, eco-hybrid and full-electric modes to choose from, and a “walk mode” that’ll assist riders in pushing the thing around, in forward or reverse. The combustion engine will run an auto stop/start system to avoid wasting fuel.
The gearbox is interesting too – it doesn’t come with a clutch lever, but Kawasaki says it’ll have “manual or automatically selected gears,” and that it’ll also run an “Automatic Launch Position Finder” system that instantly makes sure you’re in first gear every time you stop.
Questions remain. Kawasaki is yet to specify the weight of the Ninja 7 Hybrid, for starters, or the price, or the size of the battery, or how far it’ll go in full-electric mode, or how far it’ll go on a tank of gas. In particular, it’ll be fascinating to know what kind of weight penalty and sticker shock a hybrid system might represent for a streetbike.
Last year, for example, German company Vitesco – an OEM supplier – showed off a hybrid bolt-on kit for a 401cc Husqvarna Svartpilen, which weighed around 20 kg (44 lb). The company said it could be refined into a system that would add less than US$1,000 to the cost of a bike.
So I guess we’ll wait and see how the Ninja 7 Hybrid stacks up when further info drops. The bike will hit showrooms, says the company, at the start of 2024. Check out a video below.
24MY Ninja 7 Hybrid Studio video