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Why Ducati’s electric motorcycle is hitting the racetrack first, showroom second

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read

As the pandemic fundamentally changed the way many of us lived, and spent our free time, it’s no surprise companies like motorcycle manufacturers had some of their best years ever.

Look no further than Italian motorcycle marque Ducati (VWAGY). Last year was Ducati’s best global sales year in its 95-year history, with 59,447 motorcycles delivered to customers, representing 24% growth over 2020. Sales stateside were particularly brisk, with the U.S. regaining its position as Ducati’s #1 global market, after a 32% increase in sales.

But the real big news for Ducati came out in October last year, when the company revealed news of its electrification plans. Starting with the 2023 season, Ducati will be the sole supplier of motorcycles for the 2022 MotoE World Cup, the all-electric version version of the MotoGP World Championship.

For many industry watchers and motorcycle fans, that Ducati would be the sole supplier of electric motorcycles for a racing series when it had not even shown an electric motorcycle, was more than a little odd. But in December, two months after the announcement, Ducati debuted its electric race-bike on the track: the Ducati MotoE prototype — code-named “V21L.”

Ducati MotoE prototype
Ducati MotoE prototype

Jason Chinnock, Ducati’s North America CEO, believes going racing first was the right option for Ducati. “What better way to prove this technology than on the race track, which is actually where we proved the technology that finds its way to all of our street motorcycles as well,” Chinnock said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

“The (MotoE) championship is going to give us that opportunity, because the challenges that we typically face in the world of motorcycling, when it comes to the electric platform, are weight and range,” he said.

When it comes to racing, weight is everything. Couple weight-saving with the range limitations of an electric battery, and an electric motorcycle is basically a Catch-22 riding on wheels.

“The difference is we have a much smaller platform [compared to cars], and we have only one direction to go for the batteries, and that's up,” Chinnock says. “We had to make sure that we can find a solution for it, and this motorcycle — not only do we believe that we're going to draw a lot of attention and people to this series, but it's going to give us a platform for us to be able to bring product out to the market in the future as well.”

And there’s the hook when it comes to racing and selling vehicles: You win on the track on Sunday, so you can sell at the showrooms on Monday.

Chinnock was careful not to reveal much about what may trickle down from the V21L prototype to a future streetbike, other than to say expertise and technology that the race team develops will be utilized for future street motorcycles. One thing though is for sure, any new electric motorcycle will have to deliver for its rabid fans around the globe.

“We're going to deliver an experience on a [electric] motorcycle that's worthy of wearing the Ducati badge," he says. “It has to deliver on that. People have come to expect that from us as a brand.”

——

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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