Canadian startup Damon Motorcycles made a lot of waves when it debuted its first electric motorcycle: the Hypersport. The striking electric sportbike launched at CES in January 2020 armed with the innovative CoPilot and Shift systems. In the weeks following the event, Damon opened its reservation books and invited potential customers to personalize and reserve their Hypersport online for only $100. The bike’s first run sold out within four days, a tremendous achievement for the company.
Fast-forward four months and, amid a pandemic, the company is quietly pushing forward with its projects. So, how are things going for Damon, and what’s in store for the company? I got to catch up with CEO Jay Giraud and discuss what the team has been up to.
I initially chatted with Giraud back in January, a few days only after Damon dropped the Hypersport. At the time, we did a deep dive into what the company stands for and what inspired the Hypersport innovation.
This time, we discussed challenges, development, and future models.
Four Months After The Hypersport Debut, How Are Things Going For Damon?
Of course, we can’t turn to the future before first assessing how far the company has come since its CES debut. Though we haven’t heard much of Damon since the event due to the pandemic, the Vancouver hive has been abuzz with activity.
Giraud said that the public’s response to the Hypersport has been extremely positive. People are curious about the CoPilot 360-degree safety system, and even more so about the bike’s Shift system that physically modifies its riding ergonomics.
Damon Motorcycles’ CoPilot safety system.
Despite the pandemic, the company still receives an average of two to three new orders a day. Giraud expects the order book to exceed 1,000 bookings before the end of the year. The number of orders has more than doubled and continues to grow daily.
He admitted that he thought the company would have to break a few walls and to work a lot harder for exposure but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. That leads him to believe that people are optimistic about the future and about what Damon has to offer.
To help further its development, Damon recently added Mission Motors’ intellectual property to its portfolio. Mission is a California-based company first founded as an electric motorcycle manufacturer that eventually morphed into an electronic component supplier. The company itself is also reaping the benefits of this newfound popularity and Giraud reported that the engineering department has grown from 13 to 28 people, located all over the world.
We can say that things are off to a good start for Damon and Giraud is confident in what his company has the potential to become.
Update On The Hypersport
The hype surrounding Damon is mainly caused by the Hypersport. The ingredients for success are all there: the bike looks really good, it’s packed with a bunch of cool tech features, at 200 horsepower and a top speed of 200 mph, the power figures are compelling, and the bike is expected to be good for 200 miles (city and highway combined). That almost sounds too good to be true and, to a certain extent, it kind of is.
By that, I mean that the bike has yet to enter production. The team is running a small fleet of prototypes and putting the Hypersport through its paces but there is still work to be done for the model to hit the production line and land in the customers’ hands.
When I asked him about the bike’s developmental stage, Giraud said that they’re pretty much at the mid-point now. What’s taking so much time? The battery, he answered.
The Hypersport is rated at 200 horsepower, 200 miles of range, and a top speed of 200 mph.
“An electric motorcycle company is a battery company,” Giraud stated when we touched on the subject. He explained that designing a battery that meets their extremely high (ambitious?) expectation but that’s also safe is their biggest challenge—one they are still working through.
He explained that Damon needs to develop and produce its own battery pack because the product it has to offer doesn’t compare to any other product currently on the market. Talking about the competitors, he said that, in his opinion, the Zeroes or Harley-Davidson (LiveWire) are good bikes, but they are not great bikes. Don’t throw rocks at him yet, he explained his statement: “they aren’t better than gas bikes,” referring to their range. Simply put, most people are still turning to gas motorcycles because the electric offering isn’t appealing enough just yet.
With the Hypersport, he hopes that Damon will create an electric revolution and set a new standard for the industry. He wants the introduction of their proprietary electric powertrain, dubbed Hyperdrive, to signal the beginning of the end for internal combustion engines and introduce a product so competitive that it will supersede gas bikes.
Cocky? Visionary? A little bit of both? Maybe, but hearing Giraud talk about the project, it doesn’t sound like a case of inflated ego—he actually believes in making the world a little better and a little safer. It’s hard not to root for the team at this point.
Will this bike be the end of gas bikes?
To achieve that optimistic mission, Damon plans to use the battery pack as a structural component—think of an engine used as a stressed member but with a battery instead. All the bike’s components are attached to the battery which means that the structure must be flexible and able to withstand a certain degree of torsion. The battery must also be unconditionally safe—whether the vehicle is plugged in and charging or in a crash, it cannot catch fire. It must also be able to sustainably discharge high levels of energy without heating up or losing firepower as the charge decreases—the bike is after all advertised with a top speed of 200 mph.
That’s the reason why purchasing a battery pack from a third-party supplier doesn’t cut it for Damon. The bar is set high and there’s no compromise possible so they might as well develop the product that will meet and hopefully surpass the expectations. As for the other components, I asked Giraud how the bikes will be produced once they hit production and he said that most of the process will be automated in-house, that certain components will be assembled by hand, and that some of the bigger parts, like the electric motor, are outsourced. But definitely not the battery.
Seducing The Elusive Millenials
In March 2020, Damon released a duo of special-edition Hypersports dubbed Arctic Sun and Midnight Sun. Along with the new models, the company was proud to announce that half of its potential buyers were Millenials—the same group of people several manufacturers are attempting to seduce without much success.
Damon Hypersport Arctic Sun and Midnight Sun.
Of course, I was curious to know what he thinks makes the Hypersport so appealing to the Snowflake generation with a bad rep. He didn’t mince his words: “Nobody understands the Millennials because the people making decisions are Boomers.” Ouch. He added: “Millennials don’t go to work for Harley-Davidson or Honda to help change that perception; they choose to work for companies like Google and Facebook.”
He says he personally never bought into that preconceived idea that Millennials don’t buy cars and bikes and live in overpriced condos, above their means. On the contrary, he says that there are a lot of successful Millennials. Not only that but Millennials only represent the present; Generation Z is the future, and that also needs to be taken into consideration.
What he thinks makes Damon so popular with that age group is its high-end safety technologies. He explains that the notion of safety has evolved through the decades and that the current and future generations of buyers are now used to safer vehicles equipped with more high-tech features. They don’t care so much about owning a motorcycle that’s mean-looking and sounding—they want a motorcycle that makes them feel safe. Thanks to CoPilot, Damon checks these boxes.
Because the company is still young, he also touched on how he would like Damon to be perceived as a friendly and approachable brand, one that makes everyone feel welcome. Beyond the products, he sees Damon as a movement people will hopefully be able relate to.
He used Harley as an example, explaining how the brand has that badass image, almost a little scary which has been its biggest selling point for decades. However, it’s not perceived as a friendly brand. If you’re not part of the H-D crew, you’re an outsider. He said he faced a similar situation with Ducatisti who aren’t always very inclusive and tend to be very protective of the brand.
Now, What’s Next For The Company?
Now that we know what Damon is currently working on, I was curious to find out where Giraud and Damon wanted to go next. Do they want to develop the portfolio of models or maybe develop new technologies?
Giraud answered that he could see Damon Motorcycles producing semi-autonomous bikes. He says that within the next decade, bikes will become increasingly autonomous. Current bikes already are to a certain extent. He used the example of the BMW S1000RR’s traction control and how the system is working on its own to make sure that the wheels stay grounded.
He said there’s an inevitable trend towards the technology becoming more autonomous and that it’s just something we must adapt to. If future motorcycles can avoid crashes on their own, they eventually will. Just like CoPilot can be dialed down, he says the riders will also be able to turn off any eventual autonomous or semi-autonomous systems should they want a more minimalist experience.
As for the topic of new models, Giraud didn’t expand. All he had to say on the matter was that the Hyperdrive platform that underlines the Hypersport is modular and can be tuned differently by tweaking the software.
I could almost hear the twinkle that lit up in his eye when he said it. I suppose we can say he answered the question without answering. Considering the sheer amount of time and funds invested in developing the powertrain and the technology, it would be a shame if it didn’t find other applications further down the road…
How about a stripped-down Hypersport à la streetfighter? Or why not an adventure or enduro model? After all, both Zero and Alta Motors got their start with off-road bikes and Alta co-founder Derek Dorresteyn is now part of the Damon crew. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Hypersport spin-off unveiled sooner rather than later.