Is this thing for real ? Kawasaki making a supercharged sportsbike like Ninja H2 & H2R ? You’d better believe it !
Here is Satoaki Ichi, The H2 and H2R Project Leader says about this crazy road-machine duo :
“The core challenge was reaching 300 horsepower with a litre capacity using normal gasoline. It was a big challenge and quite stressful. We talked about a turbo, but the problem is always with the lag. 300bhp is a clear target, and we wanted to achieve amazing acceleration. We found the supercharger technology was special and unique for us, it is technology that only we can do in house. Other brands can buy a supercharger off the shelf, but only we can optimise it. We can exactly design the specification for the engine. The supercharger was the best solution for our brand and for the bike.”
“The problem with the supercharger is that if we fail to cool the engine then we fail to reach the target power. Cooling was vital. We use a cooling jacket to cool the combustion chamber, much wider than normal. There is more potential for power, but to do this for mass production needs stronger internals and this makes things heavier. Making the H2 rideable for the road was a different challenge. Making the settings right for the H2 was relatively easy. All engineering design was done by Kawasaki, and to achieve the project we had to work with so many people beyond the motorcycle department. We were working and collaborating with people I’ve never seen before in the company.”
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Engine
The motor starts sensibly enough, with the architecture following the familiar format of a 998cc inline four engine, but plenty of new technologies and materials were used in addition to the headline grabbing supercharger. The bike gets polished intake ports and straight exhaust ports to most efficiently deal with the gasses. Intake valves are stainless steel, but the exhaust valves are made from Inconel to deal with the extra heat. Cam profiles are different on both bikes, with the H2’s less aggressive for better midrange power, while the R just goes for the big numbers in aggressive fashion.
The top injectors spray fuel over stainless steel nets for improved atomisation. A flat piston crown helps to prevent knock (preignition), and they are cast rather than forged for more strength and to better suit the temperatures (while retaining the weight of a forged piston). Two balancers curb vibrations. Key to performance is keeping the bike cool (hence the tubular frame), so a water jacket sits between the exhaust ports of each cylinder offering some relief. Oil jets lubricate the supercharger chain at the gears, and due to the extra components the H2 bikes need five litres of oil. There are also transmission oil jets. Radiator size is similar to a standard bike but offering almost half again the performance. Only the camshafts, head gaskets and clutch represent any difference between the two bikes.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Supercharger
Supercharger Kawasaki quickly dismissed the easy option of buying a proprietary supercharger to bolt on to the bike, deciding to call in some favours from other divisions of Kawasaki Heavy Industries to develop an integrated unit specifically for the pursuit of over 300bhp. Kawasaki engineers are proud of the efficiency of the unit across a range of pressures and flow rates, important in future uses directed towards mpg not bhp. In this application, improved efficiency means heat gain is minimal, thus dropping the requirement for an intercooler. It is a centrifugal-type unit in a cast aluminium housing, located behind the cylinder bank in order to get a good flow of pressurised air.
The beautiful 69mm impeller is made from a single block of aluminium and is CNC’d using a five-axis machine to create the six blades at the tip that expand to 12 at the base. It is driven via a compact planetary gear train off the crank, multiplying that unit’s speed by 9.2 (eight times by the planetary gear and 1.15 times by a step gear), so flat chat on the R equates to impeller spinning at a giddy 130,000rpm. The pumping capacity of the impeller is over 200 litres a second – well over ten times that ingested by a ZX-10R – and air speeds reach 100m/s. The supercharger uses the engine’s oil for lubrication, unlike other bolt-on blowers that need an intercooler.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Exhaust
The H2 uses a steel system feeding into a giant can (that Kawasaki UK is replacing with a smart Akrapovic unit). The headers are hydroformed to create an elliptical shape to marry to the oval exhaust ports that then shape into a 45mm circular diameter. The R ditches the catalyser and switches steel for titanium – as well as boosting diameter size to a whopping 48mm. The use of the single sided swingarm allows improved ground clearance for the exhaust.
Brakes, Wheels, Aerodynamics, Dash, Paint & Suspension
Brakes : Probably the most important part of the bike, Brembo stick some of its finest monoblock calipers with four 30mm pistons on the H2, with dinner plate 330mm discs with a grove down their centre to better dissipate heat. KIBS is the ABS system.
Wheels : The cast aluminium wheels use a five spoke design using information gathered from World Superbike.
Aerodynamics : Air is crucial to the H2, whether it be feeding the motor with it, or the bike cutting through it. Using ram air to feed the blower, the duct to the unit itself has been made as straight as possible. In the upper cowl is a chin spoiler to create downforce, which work alongside the winglets (that cost €1,800 a pop) on the cowl (and replacing the mirrors on the R).
Dash : The new LCD dash is a work of art, with the tacho lighting up as you hit more revs. Access to all the power modes is via one button on the right and toggles on the left. There’s a lap timer, boost indicator, air intake temperature and an Eco riding indicator. On the R you can also access your top speed.
Paint : The silver-mirror paint on the H2R was developed by Kawasaki using a layer of pure silver generated by using a solution of silver ions and a reducing agent. Rather than painted by robots, this is a hand finished operation.
Suspension : Kayaba’s Air-Oil Separate fork makes its debut on both bikes, using technology learnt in motocross. 43mm in diameter, a 32mm piston pumps oil in a sealed area so the inner and outer tubes can slide against each other. The KYB shock is mounted to the swingarm plate and linkage, and is adjustable for both high and low speed damping.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Electronics
The chassis, suspension and tyres can only do so much to control the torque and power, so the bike relies heavily on electronic intervention to keep things on at least one of the two wheels. The KTRC traction control system has three modes, with three levels within each mode. As seen on the ZX models, an algorithm predicts slippage within a set of parameters and actions power cuts before more aggressive intervention is needed.
There’s a three mode traction control system, and engine brake control system (adjustable in on or off only), the KIBS ABS system (that can be turned off on the R), a quickshifter and the electronic steering damper. A rain mode exists should you find the need to cut power in half to get you safely home.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Chassis
A trellis-frame may seem an odd choice, but an aluminium twin spar was quickly rejected as it traps hot air around the engine. The high tensile steel tubes are many different diameters and are constructed to offer flex into the ride, whereas the twin spar option was feared to be too rigid. At the rear, a swingarm mounting plate is bolted to the back of the motor with the swingarm pivot shaft going through this plate. The swingarm itself is Kawasaki’s first single-sided job, allowing the exhaust to be mounted closer to the bike’s centre and to improve ground clearance.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 & H2R Gearbox & Clutch
Developed on the ill-fated Kawasaki MotoGP bike, the use of a dog-ring transmission system has found a home on the H2. Here, all the gears stay in place with the dog rings being the component that moves, rather than the gears engaging into position via shift forks. The moving part is now lighter, and this encourages an easier shift via the quickshift system. A Brembo hydraulic master cylinder is used while a slipper clutch is also employed. The unit is the same for both bikes, although the R gets an additional clutch plate to cope with the stresses of over 300bhp.