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Frog's Ultra-Cool Vision For What Electric Motorcycles Can Be

Frog’s last motorcycle concept changed the world for three decades. Now they’ve released their next.

If you know about Frog, and you think about their work in the '80s, it was synonymous with Apple—they were the ones who designed the cases for the Apple IIc and the first Macintoshes, not to mention Apple’s first tablet concept. But they were also busy dreaming up the future elsewhere. In 1985, Frog founder Hartmut Esslinger imagined a motorcycle that, while never put into production, would rock the motorcycle world and serve as a key bridge in the rise of crotch rocket aesthetic.

The Frog FZ750 Rana

It was called the Frog FZ750 Rana (and sometimes the "frog FZ" and sometimes just "the Rana"). It’s a known influence for the Honda Hurricane, but it may go much deeper. Dig through Honda’s line from 1984 to 1986 to watch Honda redefine sportbikes from motors with panels into composite air razors. The fact that there’s nothing odd about Frog’s concept almost 30 years later speaks to how dead-on it was. I could see the Rana in a store window today.

The original Rana was just admitted in the SFMOMA. And in response, Frog has presented the Rana’s spiritual successor: the humbly named but "provocative new concept motorcycle" called the eBike 2012. It was conceptualized by senior designer Jin Seok Hwang, who wrote to Co.Design about his vision of the inevitable electric era of vehicles.

"So much of [current] design is dictated by the mechanical components; it is almost as if fossil fuel powered vehicles belong to the 'steam punk’ era, whereas EV have more affinity with consumer electronics and smart devices. So the question becomes, how do we imbue something electric with the emotion of a classic motorcycle?"

To Hwang, that emotion was a statement of power. So despite the eBike 2012 using an electric motor that hides its copper coils inside a hubless rear wheel—meaning you can’t see the "engine" at all—he retained the traditional motorcycle’s silhouette, right down to the huge core that would traditionally house combustion components. Well, except for one thing: He put a big hole where the engine should be, almost mocking the technologies of yesteryear.

"Mocking is the wrong word…but yes, it is the dominant design statement, ‘look Mom, no gas engine!’ Hwang tells us. "That area of a motorcycle is important to the iconic statement of a motorcycle silhouette. It has to be filled with something our emotions can latch on to, so I filled it with negative space. The negative space alludes to the disappearance of both fuel consumption and mechanical systems."

But that hollow core is not all just a green statement, or a statement of power. Whereas the eBike 2012 could use this area to store batteries, it instead dedicates the entire lower chassis to this task, keeping the center of gravity low. Other invisible, electronic technologies round out the EV’s design—like fly-by-wire steering, a helmet with a HUD, and an omnipresent cloud connection.

"It is all based on existing technology," Hwang assures us. "The technologies may not yet be mature or practical for these applications, but in theory it all makes sense. That is what design concepts are for: to push the boundaries, to inspire continual advancement of research, technology, and expression."

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  • Bruce Miller

    Mostly Electric motorcycles must be very cheap, easy to repair, utilitarian and not too fast. Good distance between recharges counts, quick recharge cycles count, light weight counts. Durability, longevity, quality content, lack of the standard American planned obsolescence very important. Practicality very important - even with cargo baskets, spaces? Style means little to the pauper student with huge loans and a job flipping burgers, or some poor bastard fighting foreclosure, or even the night shifter washing floors to get through college?

  • Sujiew dlias

    One great concept with the epic design failiure.
    100% Sure this frog deisgner is not a rider.

  • James Larkins

    Oh... Still not getting it. How do you steer? Handle is designed to drive stright only?

  • Bruce Miller

     Looking for a Honda 50 fairing to keep the rain off, or even an extendible rain shield? Seeking a dry ride, a warmer ride in case of cold or rain? looking for even a Honda 50 diesel model with heated seat and hand-grips? how about power regeneration so long hills can give back some energy, extend batteries? Even very narrow efficient hard tires with bicycle style spring suspensions and absolutely no unnecessary weight? Can we get flat-poof tires? practical, bare ass cheap light transportation?

  • Mark Bowyer

    What a fantastic concept. very pretty but unridable from
    both the steer by wire and the overall shape. Keep it up and look more at the
    style of the Philippe Starck's Moto 6.5. This bike would lend itself more to
    the electric upgrade but retain the front end and overall feel of a bike. Bike
    riders, like myself. want and need to feel an integral part of the riding experience,
    synergistically working together to create the required feelings and pleasure.
    Handlebars not connected to the forks no no no...

  • Alex Benyon

    Seems unfortunate that the original rana pushed motorcycle design. This will not. 

    The original provided a new take on something existing, pushing the envelope within the boundaries of possibility. This does not.

    We are so far away from batteries with an energy density high enough to create a huge negative space and removal of the volume of the fuel tank. Frog might as well have submitted a light cycle from Tron.

  • Robert A. Bernardini

    Sorry - it's a fail. Hwang so very obviously is not a rider. Good looking design comes from designers, but good bikes come from riders.

    Case in point: Liking a void because is stirs him emotionally about power pretty much says it all. Negative space is, well, just not there.

    The other commentators also noted technical difficulties (steer-by-wire? yeah try that crossing a desert in a thunderstorm) that only future developments can reveal. Did we get flying cars? No, but there were so many reasons not related to flying or cars that prevented that.

    Designers are supposed to dream, and sometimes dreams come true - the others, fail.  Back to the sketch pad.

  • Vblvbl

     Everything you said, plus:

    I'd like to see more experimentation with seating position and comfort, specifically working with the sit-on vs. step-through approaches.

    What about cargo? Weight? Maintenance? Features for weather protection? Rider protection? Perhaps a nod to people who are commuting vs. recreating?

    These are all essential considerations if you want to be taken seriously when designing the future of two-wheeled conveyance. We're on the fast track to crises in congestion, resources and pollution. We need a hell of a lot more innovation if we expect to deliver something that the world will adopt.

  • Armcsh

    Reminds me of some of my college profs who doted over pretty-looking products, but couldn't understand their ultimate demise when those products didn't function well

  • Andrew Rose

    The FZR looking Yamaha is "fugly". No design at all in that puppy. But then it was never a pretty looking bike for me anyways. Agree with the "by wire statements". Ask Colin Edwards and the Aprilia from a few years back what some consequences can be of "fly by wire stuff". Would also make opposite steering in front-end corners very, very tricky.
    I'd also like to put it out there, that the seat wouldn't work for those of us who like to put it on the back wheel every now and then, but maybe the bike would come with some "anti-slip" type accessory .. ;-)
    The overall design is interesting and definitely eye-catching. The concept of incorporating drive and suspension in a single unit, for me is clever and looks good.
    Do have a problem with this though .. "motor cycle silhouette ... filled with negative space that my emotions can latch on to."
    Nah, look, that's not going to work for me. Bikes have always been about grunt, the technology and power of a motor. "Latching on to an empty space" just ain't going to work. Would dread the day that we're all perving over our lithium-ion batteries. And while I'm relating what works for me and bikes, is there any space on this new bike for a speaker to imitate the sound of a throbbing V-twin 1000 sound?

  • Jesse

    I'm hesitant about the steer-by-wire front end, mostly due to years of enjoying the direct feel of the front end. And that hollow tank is cute, but as an anoymous rider mentioned, you need someplace to grip the centerline of the bike with your knees in turns.

    Still. Very pretty.

  • Blokbergen

    Quite a drastic re-design, although the omission of a simple stand is pretty foolish..

  • Bill Clem

    Pretty obvious they never rode an actual motorcycle at speed. It's always fun to design motorcycles as an art form, much different to actually ride one.

    Still, it is beautiful looking.

  • Anonymous

    The hole is a bad idea as you couldn't grip the bike with your knees during cornering, which causes you to rely on the handle bars for both support and steering input - a bad mix. Nice try, but I'll take function over form any day. Maybe ride a bike first before designing the next one :)

  • Marc Riesenberg

    Traditional forks (even if they are drive-by-wire) are not forward-looking.  Many other solutions have been developed that allow for better front suspension modulation under heavy cornering (they've just been too expensive to use on current production bikes).

  • JamesFaction

    I have to agree, fly-by-wire steering is a very silly idea. Not only is it unnecessary, it is a waste of energy on a vehicle that is supposed to be ultra-low energy. Muscle power is more than sufficient for steering on a bike, for heaven's sake!

    Apart from that, the bike is very pretty and clever.

  • Fajar Suharyanto

     It might be lack of correct direction of development on that specified method.  Till that keep going and develop with up to date electric tech on transportation.. Good my mindset already to tantric position