Curtiss Motorcycle recently posted their latest video teaser for the Hades Electric Motorcycle, and they desperately want you to care. Yes, it’s the same Hades they teased two years ago, and yes, it still looks like a pair of steampunk goggles strapped to the underside of a donkey. The “news” is that there is now an actual working prototype which is – in a way – even more inconvenient than the initial renderings.
Curtiss Hades electric motorcycle: still lacking
I hate Curtiss here, and part of it is an opinion piece. I can’t stand the design. I don’t think engineering is new. Maybe Hades is a rolling art that someone other than me will really appreciate. Fine. This is America, and I’m happy for the diversity of designers around the world.
BUT if I’m going to spend some serious money ($ 90,000 +) on a boutique motorcycle, I want – no, I demand – it got it where it counts. For me, Hades lacks detail and sound engineering. So what do I mean by that? Let’s go over the specs.
Empty marketing and missing innovation
First, let’s look at the power. The Curtiss Hades is designed for 120 peak hp, 87 continuous hp and 217 âfuture-proofâ hp. What exactly “capable of the test of time” means is ambiguous, but I bet the battery can’t deliver that much power.
Curtiss specifies a Cascadia Motion PM100 âadvancedâ inverter. I have been spec’ing this same unit for at least 10 years; this is a great product that can deliver over 217hp without a problem, but it is neither advanced nor new. Why they chose to run the three phase connections along the path to the motor is mind boggling – this inverter has to be reversed.
The engine manufacturer isn’t listed, but it certainly looks like a YASA axial flow pancake that happens to be rated at around 217 hp.
A questionable appendix: some obvious battery issues
The battery is probably the weak point. But before you break the package, it’s worth discussing UN 38.3. In short, UN 38.3 is an engaging read that details battery regulations for shipping lithium products.
The testing process is long and expensive, often taking several months and costing tens of thousands of dollars. During the process, several battery packs are destroyed as they are tested for short circuits, vibrations, heat, cold, overload, etc.
As a result, it is much easier to build a battery with already tested modules. However, it is clear from the video and renderings that Curtiss is going to create a custom pack. One wonders if Curtiss really intends to meet the costly requirements of 38.3 or if their engineers instead pray that customers never see a failure.
Suppose Curtiss designs the battery correctly – it is still too small. You can tell that size doesn’t matter, but it’s just what we say to make us feel better about our shortcomings. And Curtiss can’t squeeze enough juice out of this package (pun intended).
After looking at the renderings and based my calculations on the 64 inch wheelbase, I would estimate that there is about 14.5 inches of pure cylindrical battery length with a 10 inch diameter that you can stack five layers of. 18650 battery cells (confirmed in the background video above). Looking at the battery cross section above, each layer the best can contain perhaps 140 cells, for a total of 700 cells.
In the best case scenario (12 Wh per cell), this represents only 8.4 kWh of capacity. In comparison, the Harley Livewire has a capacity of 15.5 kWh, which is almost twice as much energy. By my estimate, the Hades will stop after just 70 miles of mixed driving.
Size is also important in delivering power. At 399V, you need about 100 cells in series, which means there are only seven cells in parallel. To reach the claimed 120hp peak, the Hades will need around 250 amps of output from those seven cells, and 35A per cell is a big demand.
Additionally, hammering the cells at peak current is a good way to wear them out quickly, and the Hades doesn’t appear to have an active cooling system to protect these cells.
Will this be the legal route?
I wonder if the Curtiss Hades electric motorcycle will be technically street legal. In the United States, we live under the control of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). FMVSS doesn’t care if you make five vehicles or 5,000 vehicles; to be legal on public roads, it must meet their standards. Manufacturers are required to test and check signals, mirrors, tires, windshields, and even brake hoses. I saw it. It’s brutal.
Manufacturers are also required to self-audit for FMVSS. Smaller boutique manufacturers tend to shorten whenever possible, but the legal ramifications if something goes wrong are real and can sink a small business.
If you own a Desmosedici and there is a recall, what happens? Ducati North America is coming and doing it right. What happens if a Curtiss battery catches fire and there is a recall? Curtiss goes bankrupt and you find yourself with the smoldering remains of what was once your garage. This is not only true for Hades, it is true for many small production bikes. But with batteries on board, it’s riskier.
Rolling street art
Let me give a little on one point: analog. I think analog is underestimated in modern vehicles. The new standard is to have a curved cinema on your dash, a head-up display, and enough radar systems to make an F-15 envious.
Motorcycles and scooters are not immune to information over-saturation, either. The Curtiss Hades electric motorcycle is refreshingly simple with an analog display. With electric power, you can actually hear the birds and smell the pavement in a new way – cluttering your vision seems counterintuitive to the best features of the electric motorcycle.
Do you like him or Hades?
Despite all my hesitation, I really hope this bike hits production. It is a spectacular execution of the vision with quality components on board. If Curtiss could store more energy, it could be a truly phenomenal machine.
If this sounds like you and you have some serious disposable income, go for it. Even sitting still, it’s remarkable. Although I’m still skeptical about buying boutique electric motorcycles that are priced close to six digits.
Matt Chambers says it’s all about love. I say damn, motorcycles are not about love. Motorcycles are synonymous with passion, lust and envy. Show me the cardinal sins and take my money. I have no love for Hades.