A new electric bike has set out to reimagine the Soviet era motorcycle Dnepr. Created by the US-Ukrainian electric bike marque Delfast and set for production in 2023, the post-Soviet Dnepr will be a futuristic electric roadster of pop colors and sustainable powertrain.
The original Dnepr was favored by the former KGB. Produced in Ukraine, in the 1960s these big manly bikes were primarily designed for heavy roads and military service. They were hugely powerful motorcycles too with up to 1.0 liter and 60-horsepower. The Dneprs even enjoyed a period of popularity among celebrities.
Fast forward the present day and the Delfast team of engineers and designers were inspired by the work of the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov Design Bureau. Lightweight, with the only ABS on a front wheel, Dnepr allows drifting easily on the corners and slippery roads. The clear connection of the throttle and the wheel makes traction and launch control unnecessary.
Alex Astapov, who looks after the product range at Delfast, explains: “We referred to the work of Antonov by using aluminum die forging, chemical etching — traditional approaches in aviation engineering. Moreover, the unique approach of Antonov designers is reverted-adhesive joints used in the battery area of the bike.”
When it came to color, the team decided on taking a very different approach to the military hues favored by the Soviet Dnepr. “Every rider is going to be a street-art performer, breaking the routine of the city traffic,” muses Astapov on the bold colors revealed on the prototype. More conservative shades will also be available to customers who will have the opportunity to personalize their bikes.
On revealing the Dnepr Electric, Delfast also announced official ownership of the Soviet marque and the intention to resurrect the historical motorcycle brand. Meanwhile in August, the prototype raced in the Bonneville Speed Week to set a speed record (105.6 mph) in the category A Omega at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to reinvent the historic model applying the latest approaches of electric transport design,” says Delfast’s CEO and founder Daniel Tonkopiy. “Dnepr was a dream bike of my childhood,” he tells me. “My grandad would even give me a chance to ride the motorcycle as a kid. I carried the idea of creating an electric version of it for quite a time.”
I ask Tonkopiy about the origins of Delfast, which he formed in 2014. “I was a supporter of sustainability when it wasn’t mainstream,” he says, having been made aware of ecological concerns through his father, an academic in this area. “Later on, I became interested in the way green transport can positively affect our lives, which transformed into a mission to make the air cleaner in cities. “
Delfast’s core e-bike, the Top 3.0, went on to become a Guinness world record holder for the longest-range (228 miles) travelled on a single charge. Coincidentally, when setting up the company, Tonkopiy was offered the office where the producer of Dnepr motorcycles, Kyiv motorcycle manufacture (KMZ), used to operate to rent.
“I considered it as a sign and started the discussion of acquiring the trademark rights. I had an idea, resources, and a powerful team of Delfast engineers and designers, who supported my initiative. This is how Dnepr electric was born: a fusion of Delfast’s approaches to sustainable transport, aviation tech and motorcycle engineering.”
Originally published in Forbes