2017-05-09 17:28:56+0000 - Steiermark, Austria

Electric KTM Duke Spotted

Last week sneaky photographer Bernhard M. Höhne snapped a few spy shots of one of KTM’s secret projects, an electric baby Duke, aka Duke 390. A handful of photos captured by Höhne show a (presumably lithium ion) battery and electric motor housed in their popular Duke 390 (and Duke 125 in other markets) bodywork and modified frame (and subframe). KTM isn’t new to electric power plants on their machines with a line of fully electric offload bikes, the ‘Freeride E-XC’ and ‘Freeride E-SX’ available, though you may have never heard of them as they aren’t currently available in the North American market. These little EMXers are supposedly comparable to 250 four-stroke machines. KTM also showed off their electric scooter in 2016, the ‘E-Speed’, a modern and stylish two-wheeler with opposite facing single-sided-swingarms on the front and back and a nose section heavily inspired by the current Duke line-up.

Because KTM has already ventured into battery-powered territory having invested in the development of the Freeride EMXer’s lithium ion batteries, it seems like a practical move to at the least experiment with an electric road bike. The non-Austrian manufactured little Duke has sold well for the Austrian manufacturer in both its 390 and 125 engine models. The bike’s ubiquity means KTM has virtually unlimited off-the-shelf parts to experiment with and build what many are calling the “E-Duke”. The use of parts already being used on multiple production models means KTM can buy the required parts for even cheaper as they’ll be purchasing in an even larger bulk order. It would appear that the Ready-to-Race company has opted to use a similar (at least in power) electric power plant in the E-Duke to the one found in their Freeride EMXers. This is just one more reason using the baby Duke made the most sense for this electric “concept”.

Right from first glance the E-Duke looks remarkably production-ready for a secret prototype. The lack of the steel trellis frame found on KTM’s smallest naked isn’t visible in the spy shots of the E-Duke but that’s because the design team managed to use the batteries as the main stressed member of the frame, kind of like the Panigale. Because of this structural development it would seem that KTM has real plans to release an electric road bike capable of competing with companies like Zero in the form of a little electric Duke. The fit and finish on the E-Duke would suggest that it’s not far from seeing production should variables in the market allow for it. The updates and upgrades found on the 2017 Duke 390 make even more sense knowing they very well may carry over to another model, further justifying the little Duke’s latest facelift. It was reported that the high-cost of lithium ion batteries needed to power the E-Duke have previously been too costly to make it financially viable for KTM but with constantly evolving technology in the alternative fuels/electric vehicle sector, that hurdle may soon (or even already) be in the orange brand’s rearview mirror.

There’s a laundry-list of complaints riders have about electric bikes, many of which focus on parts of the typical riding experience E-bikes lack such as the roar of an engine, RPMs and a rev-range, the freedom of an unlimited range provided the bike gets fuel, and the presence of a clutch and transmission. However in the photos of the E-Duke it’s sporting both (all four) foot/hand levers/pedals, inviting the distinct possibility that the E-Duke may have a multispeed electric vehicle transmission, not unlike the Victory (Brammo) Empulse. If the E-Duke came with an electric tranny and became the top-selling e-bike on the market (or close to it), future e-models from manufacturers may very well consider including an electric transmission on their E-offerings too. Brining a little bit more of the riding experience back to (electric) riding.

One of the biggest downsides of e-bike ownership is their limited range and long charging time. It’s for this reason that electric road bikes have been marketed and utilized as commuter vehicles, ideal for urban transportation. Again the baby Duke is the perfect model to house an electric power plant as it’s already an established urban transpo-tool. Even the biggest electric brands like Energica and Zero are hugely limited by their bike’s short range so this will be a major obstacle for KTM to overcome before the E-Duke will ever see production. The Freeride line’s batteries have a capacity of 2.6kWh as where the Zero S has a battery cap of 9.8kWh (or 13kWh depending on type of riding) meaning KTM has some serious ground to make up before we’ll be seeing baby Dukes silently zipping by on our roads. With alternative fuel transportation technologies being a major focus for some of today’s brightest thinkers, love it or hate it; we can confidently expect to see major motorcycle manufacturers release electric models in the coming years (Harley LiveWire anyone?), the E-Duke is just one of the first that may actually see the light of day (a production line).

1 Comment
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  • marina
  • 2017-05-09T14:30:37-04:00

Tim, I had no idea KTM's first logo included tigers. And the KTM E-Speed looks like a scooter! One could have some fun zipping around on those wheels. 

Find out more about the 2015 KTM FreeRide E-SM.