Electric motorcycles with style and Yocto images to boot

The Device Chronicle interviewed Kajsa Lampa, Lead Developer and Jonathan Åström, CEO and Founder, at RGNT Motorcycles. RGNT is creating a category of very cool IoT-enabled electric motorcycles using Yocto and Mender.

This post was originally published on www.devicechronicle.com.

Just as Tesla has revolutionised the market for electric cars, then new innovative players are emerging to do the same with electric motorcycles. RGNT Motorcycles, based out of Gothenburg in Sweden, is one of these innovative protagonists accelerating ahead of the traditional manufacturers. RGNT Motorcycles has gained a competitive advantage through its use of IoT technologies to help it scale the project quickly and manage and improve bikes for its customers remotely and securely. 

The market for electric motorcycles is growing quickly. Nevertheless, there is much to do to get a critical mass of green, cool bikes on the road. RGNT CEO Jonathan Åström explains 800,000 to a million bikes sold in Europe in a year but only 1 to 2% of this market is EV Motorcycles. In the last 5 years, the market has risen from nothing to an exponential doubling of growth year on year, he remarks. “In 2021, we will reach 22 to 24,000 electric motorcycle units sold in Europe. The market is expanding fast with players such as hipster small brands making electric bikes based on passion. Cake and Tarform are building bikes with a spaceship-style design but RGNT Motorcycles is changing the dynamic by bringing a more timeless design to the road. People are making lifestyle choices so their motorcycle needs to look good.”

Target market for electric motorcycles

The RGNT No.1 motorcycle targets city commuters. It is an inclusive brand with a focus on riders who are between 25-50 years old. The bike attracts both male and female owners, these are people who want to ride to work in style. Jonathan adds “It is a similar market to a Triumph Bonneville or Vespa market. Our brand and bike is about maintenance free, clean and quiet ride. It is a hub motor that just works, 80-85% of the entire bike is made in Gothenburg, Sweden. There are 20 people in the company working in R&D and manufacturing.”

Slow switch to electric motorcycles

Jonathan explains that in the market, leading brands still need to switch to electrification. He estimates that it could be another 2 to 4 years before the leading combustion brands enter the market. This is probably due to 2 key factors: the profitability of combustion bikes and secondly, the heavy investment required for a new powertrain, and the scale up it takes. Especially if the culture is to build combustion-based bikes. 

Idea for electric motorcycles

Jonathan explains where he got the idea for RGNT Motorcycles. He was in Beijing after they banned 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine mopeds or scooters in the city core. After the ban, the scooters there got electric hub motors. But Jonathan thought to himself “Man, these scooters aren’t really nice. Go to Bali and you will see the rat scrambler bikes, these are better. Let’s put the electric hubs into a nice looking chassis and that’s where the idea for the RGNT Motorcycle came from.”

Technology in electric motorcycles

The engineering team at RGNT Motorcycles designed and customised the electric motor engine. The engine is manufactured under contract by QS Motor. RGNT Motorcycles is assembling the battery system inhouse, welding and assembling all the packs and BUS boards. Kajsa describes the technology. A single board computer from Toradex is used in the bike. The bike control unit has a HMI built with Go, 4G communication, GPS, and a custom built software application that manages cloud connectivity, the user interface with user settings and navigation possibilities, and communication with the bike control unit, battery management system. There is also a custom built fleet management tool where important metrics from the bike can be gathered, 2 way communication and send configuration instantly to the vehicles. This also gives the engineering team an overview of the fleet. There is also a companion app in the works where the connectivity and insights from the vehicles will be shared with the owners. The metrics shared include:Inverter temperature, Voltage of the cells in the battery packs, Driver mode and speed and many more. These metrics allow the engineers to develop and make changes on a daily basis and see how their changes instantly affect the bikes. Jonathan adds that “Everything that is tracked on the bike is to assist with safe riding so you can see when the tyres were changed, you can monitor and track for slippery roads.”

Electric motorcycles and OTA software updates

The RGNT Motorcycle uses a Yocto project embedded Linux image. This, Kajsa says, goes hand in hand with treating the HMI as an IoT device on wheels and all the things that come with that including robustness, scalability and security. “Taking this direction really helped us build infrastructure quickly that would otherwise have taken a traditional automotive company years to get the infrastructure. In just a couple of months, we had real time data insights, remote debugging, real time logs and 2 way communication with the motorcycles in place. Mender helps us develop in a fast and iterative way. OTA software updates go hand in hand with this and the set up and implementation of Mender for this purpose went remarkably fast. Kaisa remarks “We read the Mender documentation, and decided to try it. It was very successful and now we perform the full system updates and application updates based on a custom update module. It has really helped us to streamline the process of updating and managing the HMI devices in the bikes. We can scale up quickly, and don’t have to waste on cumbersome fleet management and complex processes. The robustness and remote terminal access provided by Mender is also essential in the context of security. There is always risk to be managed with devices with connectivity.”

Heading in the right direction

RGNT Motorcycles is certainly on an upward trajectory with its “IoT device on wheels”. The retail price is €13,500 for a standard model. He concludes by paying tribute to the work and ingenuity of Kaisa and the RGNT engineering team. “From the prototype to the new product has represented a huge leap in engineering.” Kajsa is very happy to be working at RGNT Motorcycles: “There is passion and an endless stream of ideas which can be developed the next day and shipped to customers if they make sense. At RGNT Motorcycles, you are very close to the end customer.”

We wish Jonathan, Kajsa and the whole RGNT team well as we travel with them to a world of combustion free motorcycles. 

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