Curtiss Motorcycles released a teaser for the Hades electric motorcycle that we reported on in early 2021. Yes, this is the same concept they teased in 2018, and yes, it still looks like a pair of steampunk spectacles on a metal phallus. And Curtiss still isn’t ready to produce it. First, they need to raise $8.33 million — and they want your help.
Curtiss (Confederate) Motorcycles
The Curtiss company is storied. Originally “Confederate Motorcycles,” it strategically re-branded and went fully electric in 2017.
Today it is inviting you to invest and “Restore Curtiss.” If you buy into Matt Chamber’s vision, the minimum investment amount is just $1,000.05. The company is planning to go public on the “OTCQB,” often described as “The Venture Market,” in May 2023.
With this funding, it aims to produce the Hades at a sub-$100,000 price tag, though the first bikes will go for $120,000-plus.
I am not an investment advisor, and GearJunkie does not provide investment advice. I am however a seasoned electric motorcycle engineer and I have a lot to say about Hades as a vehicle.
Electric Motorcycle Engineer Opinion
Full disclosure: This is partially an opinion piece. I am not fond of the Curtiss aesthetic. I also don’t think the engineering is particularly novel. Perhaps the Hades is rolling art that somebody other than me will enjoy. Fine. This is America, and I’m happy for the diversity of creators in the world.
But, if I’m going to spend serious dough ($90,000+) on a boutique motorcycle, I want — nay, I demand — that it’s got it where it counts. For me, the Hades lacks detail and sound engineering. So what do I mean by that? Let’s review the specs.
Empty Marketing and Missing Innovation
First, let’s look at power. The Curtiss Hades is rated for 120 horsepower peak, 87 continuous, and 217 “future-proof capable.” Exactly what “future-proof capable” means is ambiguous, but I’m betting that the battery can’t deliver that much power.
Curtiss specs an “advanced” Cascadia Motion PM100 inverter. I’ve been spec’ing that same unit for at least 10 years for various projects I’ve worked on. It is a great product that can deliver 217+ hp without a problem, but it’s not advanced or new.
Also, why they chose to route the three-phase connections the long way to the motor boggles the mind — that inverter should be flipped.
The motor manufacturer is not listed, but it sure looks like a YASA axial flux pancake that just happens to be rated for about 217 horsepower.
A Questionable Appendage: Some Obvious Battery Issues
The battery is likely the weak point. But before I break down the pack, it’s worth discussing UN 38.3. In short, UN 38.3 is a captivating read that details the battery regulations for shipping lithium products.
The testing process is lengthy and expensive, often taking several months and costing tens of thousands of dollars. In the process, several battery packs are destroyed as they are tested for short-circuiting, vibration, heat, cold, overcharging, etc.
As a result, it’s much easier to build a battery pack with already-tested modules. However, it’s clear from the video and renderings that Curtiss is going to build a custom pack. One wonders whether Curtiss actually intends to satisfy the costly 38.3 requirements or if their engineers are instead praying that customers never see a failure.
Let’s say Curtiss engineers the battery pack properly — it’s still too small. You can say that size doesn’t matter, but that’s just what we say to make ourselves feel better about our inadequacies. And Curtiss can’t squeeze enough juice into that package (pun intended).
After reviewing the renderings and basing my calculations on the 64-inch wheelbase, I’d estimate there are about 14.5-inches of pure cylindrical battery length with a 10-inch diameter in which you could stack five layers of 18650 battery cells (confirmed in the video background above). Looking at the battery pack cross-section above, each layer, at best, can hold perhaps 140 cells for 700 cells total.
In the best-case scenario, that’s just 8.8 kWh of capacity — a number now confirmed by Curtiss. By comparison, the Harley Livewire packs in 15.5kWh of capacity — almost twice the energy. By my estimate, the Hades will roll to a halt after just 70 miles of mixed riding.
Size also matters in delivering power. At 399V, you need about 100 cells in series, meaning that there are just seven cells in parallel. To hit the claimed 120 horsepower peak, the Hades will need about 250 amps of output from those seven cells, and 35A per cell is a big ask.
Plus, hammering cells at peak current is a good way to wear them out quickly, and it’s unclear if the Hades “immersion” cooling system actively circulates coolant.
With its updated product offering, Curtiss now includes one battery upgrade for customers to be delivered between 2027-2030. An optimist would be excited about free upgrades; I say that the promise of future fixes for an inadequate design is weak.
Will It Be Road Legal?
I question whether the Curtiss Hades electric motorcycle will be technically street-legal. In the U.S., we live under the scrutiny of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). The FMVSS doesn’t care if you’re making five or 5,000 vehicles. To be legal on public roadways, it must meet their standards. Manufacturers are required to test and verify signals, mirrors, tires, windscreens, and even brake hoses. I’ve seen it. It’s brutal.
Manufacturers are also required to self-audit for FMVSS. Smaller boutique manufacturers tend to short-cut wherever possible, but if something goes awry, the legal ramifications are real and can sink a small company.
If you own a Desmosedici and there’s a recall, what happens? Ducati North America comes in and makes it right. What happens if a Curtiss battery pack catches fire and there’s a recall? Curtiss goes out of business, and you’re left with the smoldering remains of what was once your garage. This isn’t just true for Hades — it’s true of many small-production bikes. But with batteries on board, it’s riskier.
Rolling Street Art
Let me give a little on one point: analog. I think that analog is underrated in modern vehicles. The new normal is to have a curved cinema on your dashboard, a heads-up display, and enough radar systems to make an F-15 envious.
Motorbikes and scooters are not spared from information oversaturation either. The Curtiss Hades electric motorcycle is refreshingly simple with an analog display. With electric power, you can actually hear the birds and feel the pavement in a novel way — to clutter your vision seems counterintuitive to the electric motorcycle’s best traits.
Love It or Hades?
For all my naysaying, I really hope this bike makes it to production. It’s a spectacular execution of vision with some quality components on board. If Curtiss can pack in more battery, it could be a phenomenal machine.
A 10% deposit ($12,000) today gets you in line for “The 1: 120-year edition” for deliveries starting in December 2023 delivery. The full price of the motorcycle is $120,000.
The “120-year” special launch edition pays homage to the original Curtiss namesake, which started production in 1902. If you have deeper pockets, you can “enter intense individualization mode” — read: more colorful lipstick for your pig — for $180,000. This gets you custom adornments like painted carbon wheels, custom colors, engraving, etc.
If this speaks to you and you’ve got seriously disposable income, go for it. Even sitting still, it’s remarkable.
If that’s too much coin, but you still want to back them financially, you can become an investor here today. Keep in mind that Confederate went through bankruptcy in 2001, and during the 2008-09 recession, Matt Chambers was quoted reflecting that “it was very fashionable to not be buying a high-end luxury product like ours.” Words to note in uncertain economic times.
Matt Chambers claims motorcycles are about love. I say f*** that — motorbikes aren’t about love. Motorbikes are about passion, lust, and envy. Show me cardinal sins and take my money. I have no love for the Hades.