You know the type. The Birkenstock-wearing, beard-stroking college professor neighbor that self-righteously drives around town in his Prius adorned with the obnoxious "Carpool Lane OK" bumper sticker. He crows ad nauseum about his vehicle's 50-plus mpg fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. Personally, you wouldn't be caught dead in one of those nerd-mobiles. Well, imagine owning transportation with about a thousand times more character, that's infinitely more fun to drive (or ride, in this case), and gets more than double the gas mileage of that Japanese techno-marvel. And just to get the prof's politically-correct goat, it comes in two versions, one with an airbrushed American flag, the other in mil-spec olive-drab green paint.
This vehicle is not some pie-in-the-sky concept, but the real deal. It's the new diesel motorcycle offered by Hayes Diversified Technologies (HDT). But, this isn't just some slapped-together garage-built novelty for diesel nuts. This is a comprehensively engineered motorcycle, designed to withstand the rigors of combat, and will be offered to the general public in less than a year.
Fred Hayes, owner of HDT USA, gave us the background of the project and how the bike was born out of necessity. "In the early '80s, we were awarded the first military motorcycle contract since basically World War II. In 1984, NATO came out with a doctrine that all battlefield equipment had to run on one fuel. One of the only types of equipment that wasn't available as a diesel at the time was motorcycles. Following the NATO announcement, in 1997, the U.S. Navy announced that by 2005, it would not transport gasoline of any type, and would only support and supply heavy fuels, such as jet fuel, kerosene, and diesel," Hayes said.
Faced with these upcoming requirements, the Marine Corps approached multiple motorcycle manufacturers to fulfill the contract, but few showed any interest, saying that diesel motorcycles were "economically impractical" or their performance would be compromised by excess weight or lack of power. Finally, the Corps issued a final call offering financial assistance to contractors willing to produce a prototype. HDT was one of the few companies willing to take up the challenge and was awarded with the Phase II and, finally, Phase III contract to build the motorcycles.
For the time being, HDT is remanufacturing mil-spec Kawasaki KLR 650s and outfitting them with the new engine and revised suspension, since Kawasaki doesn't sell rolling chassis without engines. HDT continues to remanufacture and upgrade gasoline-powered military bikes as well, but with the new fuel requirements, is remanufacturing many of them with the diesel engine.
Several different prototype engines were built and tested using modified gasoline components, but it was ultimately determined that to meet the necessary durability and performance demands, a clean-sheet engine design was necessary.