Leading the charge for motorcycle electrification
Ben Evans joined Ricardo in March 2020 as Principal Electrical/Electronic Engineer and is supporting motorcycle manufacturers as they seek electrification solutions for their future product development. A biker and former racer, he discusses how his personal passion for motorcycles gives him a vested interest in developing the best possible product for customers.
Tell us about your career to date
"I studied electrical and electronic engineering at Loughborough University: a five year Master’s degree, with one year in industry which I spent at Triumph. During that year, I undertook a project to create a fully autonomous robot rider. This became my final year project back at university, and then when I graduated I returned to Triumph where I stayed for another three years.
"When Royal Enfield started its UK operation, I joined the company as an electrical engineer and became their employee number four! Although my primary role was as an electrical engineer, undertaking all the electrical engineering on the Royal Enfield 650 twins: the Interceptor and the Continental GT, in addition, I also project managed the build of their technical centre!” This helped me to gain my Chartered Engineer status in 2017. I left Royal Enfield in March 2020 and joined Ricardo."
What does your role at Ricardo entail?
“Currently, I am very focused on benchmarking electric vehicles: how our customers are using technology. The Ricardo Motorcycle team has a magnitude of experience in integrating technology and understanding the application of technology to motorcycle products. We can draw on the experience of our engineering colleagues across the Ricardo Automotive and Industrial Division for their cross-sector technology expertise whenever we need to support customers with the design and production of an electric motorcycle which really meets their needs.”
What challenges are motorcycle OEMs facing around electrification?
“The common challenge for most of the motorcycle manufacturers is a lack of clarity about what the market actually wants in terms of an electric motorcycle.
“Because in the developed world a motorcycle is regarded as a hobby or sport vehicle not a necessity, many of the mature, well known motorcycle brands do not have a clear vision about how to approach the market and what to design. What this means is that some of the manufacturers are taking more of a ‘wait and see’ approach, and won’t design an electric motorcycle until legislation makes them. By contrast, Harley Davidson has taken a predictably more adventurous position with their Livewire electric motorcycle.
“The technical challenge for all manufacturers is that electrification is new to them. However, this is where Ricardo can be their trusted technical expert adviser because we can take off-the-shelf powertrain solutions for their products or we can design from the ground up to deliver them a turnkey platform solution.”
Does green bounceback offer opportunities for manufacturers looking to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles?
“The global pandemic’s impact on mobility and now the beginnings of green bounceback mean that manufacturers are seeing opportunities in last mile delivery solutions and light urban mobility.”
“Ricardo is very well placed to support manufacturers who are looking to develop products to meet these new mobility opportunities, because of the speed at which we can develop products, our access to suppliers, and our knowledge gained from serving a very broad range of transport manufacturers globally. We can help a manufacturer bring their electrified product to market quicker. Our ability to deliver speed to market is one of the reasons why manufacturers come to Ricardo.”
As a motorcycle enthusiast yourself, does that colour how you develop products for customers?
“Absolutely! I started riding motorbikes when I was six years old, and throughout my teenage years I raced in motocross. I have always had a couple of motor bikes kicking around the house.“
“Motorcycle engineers at Ricardo are enthusiasts. That true passion for motor bikes influences your work for customers. You think about the business side of development but also from the customer perspective, because as an enthusiast and consumer you may well become an end user of a motorcycle you’ve helped to develop. That all round, holistic vision really helps you to put yourself in the shoes of a motorbike rider and influences how you design and develop a product. For me, that’s the Ricardo value for manufacturers.”