Mako 027 is an electric motorcycle concept that explores an analogue aesthetic for electric vehicles. The choice to ride a motorcycle is not a rational one, it is an emotional one. Motorcycles are inherently evocative in their design because the act of riding is one of passion. The aesthetics of a motorcycle are heavily defined by the lines of the tank, the elegant flow of the exhausts and the intricate casting of the cooling fins on the cylinders. Electric motorcycles have none of these visual cues that define what we think of when we imagine a motorcycle. Instead they have a battery - a big rectangular box, a motor controller - a small rectangular box, and a motor - a big cylindrical blob. The aesthetic of the electric motorcycle has often revolved around covering these uninspiring forms with amorphous plastic fairings. This lack of character is compounded by the fact that they sound like kitchen appliances, they don’t have the low growl of a Harley or the manic wail of a Japanese superbike. This lack of emotional affect in a vehicle defined by passion has made the uptake and acceptance of electric motorcycles a far slower process than electric cars.
The objective of Mako 027 is to develop an analogue aesthetic and feeling and to apply that to cutting edge electric technology to make a truly desirable electric motorcycle. Mako 027 draws inspiration from the exposed mechanical functionalism of traditional motorcycles. The frame is sand cast from Aluminum, using the same technique as a traditional engine block. The girder forks and rear swingarm are brutalist industrial monoliths, at odds with the streamlined plastic forms electric bikes are typically derided for. The brake discs are orbitally mounted in the style of Buell, but the ‘knuckleduster’ calipers are integrated into the forks and swingarm as stressed members to ensure clean lines. A rider typically grips the tank with their knees, as electric motorcycles don’t have a tank, cast, floating knee huggers have been developed.
The avoidance of digital aesthetics meant that plastics were only used where absolutely necessary and screens were ruled out entirely. This had the unexpected benefit of making the bike more holistically sustainable. The saddle, grips and knee huggers, any part of Mako 027 that directly touches the rider, are made of cork. This material was chosen as a warm, organic, grippy alternative to rubber. Sustainability should be designed into any new vehicle, so Aluminum makes up 90% of the frame because although it represents a large intrinsic energy it is among the most efficient materials to recycle. The energy is merely being stored in this format until the end of the object’s use life.
The electrical components were the most important to design with an analogue aesthetic in mind, electricity is not inherently digital. The controller is low slung and finned to evoke the effect of an engine’s sump while still being totally honest and functional. The motor generates 105 hp and 265 ft-lbs of torque, allowing Mako 027 to accelerate to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. Unlike a traditional motorcycle it is mounted outboard of the frame and bolted directly to the swingarm. The rear brake caliper is a stressed member of the gearbox, serving as an anchor point for the planet gear carrier. Uniquely, the annular gear of the planetary reduction gearbox is machined directly into the rear wheel. The batteries are air cooled, housed in extruded Aluminum Nitride casings that serve as excellent heat conductors while also serving as an electrical insulator, a rare combination of properties. The end caps for the batteries are made of a cast technical ceramic, a traditional insulator from before the advent of plastics. These are coated in an electrochromic Teal enamel, this enamel changes colour as the batteries discharge, fading from bright Teal to Gray as they lose energy. This allows the rider to intuitively tell how much range they have before they need to recharge, all without a screen.
The motor and controller are both liquid cooled, the radiators are housed within the front bulkhead and the hot air is exhausted via carbon fiber ducting. The overflow reservoirs for the radiators are hand blown from borosilicate glass, as are the brake reservoirs. These are integrated into the bulkhead for easy checking of fluid levels. The speed is displayed on incandescent Nixie tubes, the analogue version of digital displays from before digital displays existed. Finally the ‘core’ acts as the beating heart of Mako 027. The core resides where the tank would typically be and restores some of the emotional connection lost in the move from gasoline to electricity. The core is modelled on an old vacuum tube, another relic from before the digitalization of electricity. The incandescent end of the core glows brighter and pulses as revs rise, giving Mako 027 a more relatable character. The Teal end of the core houses a standard EV charging port, the charger cable threads through a circular opening in the frame. When charging, the core pulses softly until the batteries are full.
Mako 027 was awarded the Red Dot Award for Mobility 2019.