Kawasaki launches hybrid Ninja and Z motorcycles

Kawasaki has one of the most interesting powertrain lineups in the motorcycle world right now. At the top of the range are supercharged four-cylinder bikes with the H2 line. And slotting elsewhere in the lineup are the electric Ninja and Z E-1 models and the tiny screaming 400-cc four-cylinder Ninja ZX-4R. This year, Kawasaki is adding its first production hybrid motorcycles, the Ninja 7 and the Z7. And Kawasaki claims they offer between 650-cc and 1,000-cc bike performance from just a 451-cc parallel twin with an electric motor.

The engine is, as we just mentioned, a two-cylinder displacing 451 cc, but it also features both a traction motor and a combination starter-generator. The traction motor regularly outputs 7 kW, or just over 9 horsepower, but can also briefly put out a maximum of 9 kW, or 12 horsepower. That motor is supplied with electricity via a 28.6-pound lithium-ion battery under the seat. It stays charged from engine power and from regenerative braking. The starter-generator combo also frees up a bit of space and enables start-stop. The bike can actually run in full-electric mode briefly in gears one through four, and that’s available in EV mode. The standard Eco-Hybrid mode picks between electric and gas engine modes as needed, and the Sport-Hybrid mode keeps the engine on always for maximum power. An E-Boost button that’s active in Sport-Hybrid mode will get 5 seconds of that peak output from the electric mode for the most power. Both the electric motor and engine are liquid cooled, and there’s an oil cooler on top of the regular liquid cooling.

Kawasaki only provides torque, but that comes in at 44.2 pound-feet of torque. That’s just 4 shy of what the Z650 puts out while being down 200-cc of displacement.  Kawasaki also says that, from a standstill with E-Boost active, the hybrid models can even get the jump on 1,000-cc bikes, though it provides no specific numbers, and obviously that wouldn’t last long.

Beyond the powertrain, the Z7 and Ninja 7 get an interesting transmission, too. It’s a six-speed automated manual. It can run in full automatic, or can be manually shifted with buttons on the left handle. The electric motor also allows the hybrid bikes to have a 2 mph walk mode and even a reverse for easier maneuvering for parking or storage.

As for the rest of the bike, it has a steel trellis frame with conventional upright forks at the front and a single rear shock with adjustable spring pre-load. Curb weight is 498.3 pounds for the Z7 and 502.7 pounds for the Ninja 7. Both bikes have a seat height of 31.3 inches, though the Ninja has lower clip-on handles compared to the Z7’s more upright handlebar. The Ninja also gets an aerodynamic fairing. Brakes for both feature dual front discs and a single rear.

Both bikes are available now, and they aren’t particularly cheap. They both go for $12,499. A Z900 with a 900-cc four-cylinder, starts under $10,000, and would definitely be quicker with more than 70 pound-feet of torque and about 30 pounds less. Though on the Ninja side, a 1,000-cc Ninja starts at more than $13,000. It seems like the target market for this bike will be an unusual niche of someone looking for performance and fuel economy all in one place, or people looking for a unique piece of technology, both of which these bikes seem to deliver.

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