2024 Kawasaki Ninja 7 Hybrid Review – First Ride
The world’s first production hybrid motorcycle has a lot to offer – but does it make any sense in America?
Like it or not, regulatory agencies around the world are cracking down on vehicle emissions and imposing some of the strictest rules we, the motoring public, have ever seen. One of these rules includes restricting, or even banning, petrol-powered vehicles through portions of some European cities. Naturally, rules like this hit the auto industry the hardest and present a fundamental change in how the industry as a whole operates. As a result, it seems as though all of the world’s major auto manufacturers have decided to abandon the internal combustion engine and are phasing it out over time in favor of purely electric vehicles.
2024 Kawasaki Ninja 7 Hybrid
A first of its kind, the Ninja 7 Hybrid is a clever solution for European riders in certain areas. Time will tell if it translates well to an American audience.
Editor's score: 85.0%
- E-Boost is not a gimmick – it's incredibly fun (and practical)
- EV mode is perfect in the right situations
- The Ninja 7 makes perfect sense – for some people
- Rubber brake lines
- Would like to see hybrid tech in a Versys
- Potentially a hard sell in America
There is a glimmering sliver of hope, however. The introduction of e-fuels, and other alternatives to refining fossil fuels, presents other avenues besides pure electric vehicles that can help sustain human transportation. So much so that the EU has at least paused its initial recommendations to ban new ICE sales within the next two decades.
The First Hybrid Motorcycle
The motorcycle industry is responding to these changes, too, and Kawasaki’s approach to finding a solution is to leave all avenues open and present a multi-pronged lineup. First there was the Ninja E-1 and Z E-1 all-electric models Kawi introduced, and now comes the all-new Ninja 7 Hybrid – the first production “strong” hybrid motorcycle – meaning it can run on gas, electricity, or both. Beyond the Ninja 7 hybrid and E models, which Kawasaki will continue to develop, Team Green is also keeping its options open for future power sources of propulsion to reach a carbon neutral future, which includes fuel sources like hydrogen.
Rest assured, petrol heads, one thing Kawasaki reps were sure to tell us was that the company is not abandoning the internal combustion engine. In fact, Kawasaki sees these technologies coexisting, as EVs (at least in current form) offer sufficient short-range solutions while a hybrid can cover most everything else. In not placing its future in any one technology, Kawasaki’s positioning itself to be ready for the future – whatever it may look like.
So, who’s the Ninja 7 for? If you’re reading this from the US, the answer is not you. At least not yet. Simply put, this is a solution primarily for Europeans looking for a fun, fuel-efficient daily rider that, in full EV mode, can also bring them into restricted areas a gas-powered vehicle can’t. Having spent two days in and around Barcelona to try the bike out for myself, I can say it really does present a strong use case and some benefits I originally didn’t consider, even for those of us on this side of the pond. More on that later. First, let’s talk tech.
How It Works
To get an understanding of the overall layout of the Ninja 7 Hybrid, head on over to Dennis Chung’s First Look piece. He gives a great overview of the bike there. However, there’s still a lot to cover, so buckle up.
From a performance standpoint, Kawasaki was roughly aiming at its own 650 family (think Ninja 650, Z650, etc) as a benchmark. To start, Kawasaki lifted its own 451cc parallel-Twin straight from the Eliminator, but gave it a few tweaks like a different exhaust system, revised intake system, shorter velocity stacks, and different ECU tuning, including a higher rev limit than the Eliminator which, according to the tachometer, is now at 11,000 rpm. On just gas power alone, we’re now looking at roughly 58 horses, which is more than the Eliminator offers. Structurally, the bottom end, including the crankshaft and transmission, are different to accommodate the electronic shifting (whether automatic or manual) – there is no traditional clutch or shift levers.
To reach – and actually surpass – 650 levels of performance, there’s the electric motor providing an extra 9kW (max, 7kW nominal) power surge. The motor itself is situated above the engine, fed via a 1.3kWh, 48V lithium battery placed, effectively, below the rider’s seat. A smaller, secondary radiator sits just in front of the primary one and provides liquid cooling to the motor, while dedicated air channels scoop air towards the battery.
So far, this is all fairly straightforward. The impressive bit of engineering is how Kawasaki managed to make the two work together in the tight confines of a motorcycle. First off is the mechanical interconnectivity between the engine and the motor (a friendly reminder that the two terms are very different, despite them often being used interchangeably).
Here’s the part not explained in the First Look teaser. The ICE is connected to the six-speed transmission, but since there aren't clutch or shift levers, the engine’s drive force is passed through a primary reduction gear and then to an electro-hydraulic clutch that engages and disengages via the ECU. This also allows the transition from pure EV to hybrid power. Unlike Honda’s Dual-Clutch transmission, Kawasaki uses a traditional single clutch which also helps keep weight down.
The real clever bit is that the electric motor is also connected to the transmission via a chain to the input shaft. No matter which mode you’re in, if you’re in automatic mode, proprietary Kawasaki software in the ECU tells the transmission when to shift. If you’re in EV mode, only automatic shifting is available and you’re limited to the first four gears.
If this sounds pretty complicated, that’s because it is. And we haven’t even covered everything yet. Kawasaki’s Japanese staff are a friendly group who generally remain very humble, but during one particular conversation between them and the assembled journalists (Yours Truly included), there was a comment about losing track of the number of patents held by Kawasaki in the four-year process of bringing the Ninja 7 to life. Talk about a humble brag.
From a packaging standpoint, the Ninja 7 is all-new, even if it looks a little like a bloated Ninja 400. The trellis frame itself is “inspired” by the Ninja 400, says Kawasaki engineers, but it is in fact different. Primarily because of the unique challenges of housing a traditional engine along with an electric motor and battery – each of which, we’re told, weigh 29 lbs (13kg) a piece. Despite the addition of a motor and battery, there was still a priority on keeping the bike as slim as possible, hence the small battery containing LiFPO 21700 type cylindrical battery cells.
Aside from the engine and motor, the ISG (Integrated Starter Generator) combines the starter and generator into one unit and is placed to the engine’s left, the ISG inverter (to convert the 48v to 12v to power the bike’s systems) above the ISG, and the ECU in the tail.
A standard non-adjustable 41mm fork and Uni Trak preload-adjustable shock are borrowed from the Ninja 400, but spring rates and valving are different to account for the extra weight. The shock is also attached via a new linkage.
Due to the battery placement under the seat, however, the swingarm is longer than the Ninja 400’s. This is primarily for clearance reasons, but Kawasaki reps also pointed to the extra stability the longer swingarm provides. Considering the extra power and torque the Hybrid 7 makes compared to the Ninja 400, I can’t totally discredit that thought.
The rest of the supporting cast is pretty standard fare. Two 300mm discs and two-piston calipers in front, and a 220mm rear disc and single-piston caliper in the back help slow you down. You get rubber lines and an axial master cylinder here.
As far as styling goes, you get familiar Ninja styling with a nose section that has clear influences from the Ninja ZX-10R. Looking at it head-on, you can see scoops under the headlights leading to the radiators. From the side profile, this gives an appearance of slightly broad shoulders, but in reality it’s narrower than it seems. An air funnel starting from the top of the green belly pan makes its way all the way to the battery, which itself adds a little width to the tail section of the bike. It’s not a big bike, but you’ll notice it’s a little wider than, say, a Ninja 400. From where the rider sits, the fuel tank is nearly identical to the Ninja 400’s, which means it’s slim and narrows even further when it meets the seat.
And being a new, innovative motorcycle from Team Green, Kawasaki’s River Mark is placed front and center on the nose.
What It Offers
With the nuts and bolts of the Ninja 7 out of the way, we turn our attention to what the bike can do. Being a hybrid, the Ninja 7 takes advantage of its multiple power sources by offering three drive modes: Sport-Hybrid, Eco-Hybrid, and EV.
In Sport-Hybrid mode, the gas engine is always on and the electric motor provides roughly 2% assistance on initial throttle openings and 2% again when the throttle is wide open, as these are the areas where a gas engine are the most inefficient. In between, the internal combustion engine is doing all the work. When the engine is spinning at or above roughly 5,000 rpm, it’s also sending a little bit of charge back to the battery, if it needs it. You can choose between automatic or manual shifting, with the latter using + or - paddles on the left bar to control shifts up or down.
A special feature of Sport-Hybrid mode is the ability to get a quick burst of power with something called E-Boost. Like a cheat code straight from Mario Kart, pushing a dedicated button on the right bar can trigger an extra 12 horsepower and 12 lb-ft of torque for up to five seconds. E-Boost can be triggered on the fly or at a stop, and when used from a standing start it delivers enough punch to beat several bigger bikes off the line (partially because the Ninja 7 rider doesn’t have to worry about feathering a clutch).
For a slightly tamer, more economical pace, there’s Eco-Hybrid mode. This might be a more familiar mode for those of you who also own hybrid cars. In Eco-Hybrid mode the gas engine shuts off at a stop to help conserve fuel and the electric motor is solely responsible for getting you moving. After about 2000 rpm (or roughly 11 mph in my experience), the gas engine will come back to life and take over. Here, however, E-Boost is not available.
You can choose to shift gears yourself in Eco-Hybrid or you can switch it to automatic mode and let the bike do it for you. Should you choose auto shifting, the ECU will prioritize economy and try to reach sixth gear as early as possible. While efficient, it can be a little annoying should you need some passing power. You can manually downshift to get around this (which then switches the bike to manual mode unless you switch it back), but it’s not quite the same. Auto shifting also takes advantage of ALPF, or Automatic Launch Position Finder, which automatically finds first gear at a stop so you don’t have to.
EV mode is exactly that – all electric power, for situations where gas engines aren’t allowed or you simply want to ride without noise, vibrations, or engine heat. You can’t go particularly far in EV-only mode (the actual distance depends on your riding habits), but it’s entirely possible to ride around through a congested city since EV mode still utilizes the first four gears of the transmission, which tops you out at about 44 mph.
All three drive modes are chosen through a HEV/EV toggle switch on the left bar, but switching from hybrid to EV mode requires you be no higher than fourth gear and traveling less than 15 mph, to not overwhelm the electric motor. And yes, the Ninja 7 has regenerative braking that sends a little bit of charge back into the battery when you let off the throttle. It will eventually taper off once the battery gets closer to a full charge.
Lastly, Walk Mode is a convenient feature more commonly found on big touring bikes that makes it easier to move the bike back and forth in tight confines. With the bike stopped, pressing and holding the Walk Mode button activates it and the dash turns orange and displays Walk Mode across its face. With Walk Mode engaged, twisting the throttle like normal moves the bike forward slowly, while twisting the throttle the opposite direction, away from you, reverses the bike at walking speed. If you’ve ever had to move a motorcycle in a tight parking space or on an incline then you’ll appreciate this feature.
When dealing with a first of its kind you need to start at the basics, and that’s as simple as turning the thing on. Since there’s no clutch, powering on requires the bike to be in neutral, which is reached by pressing the “-” (downshift) paddle until neutral is selected on the screen. Then, if you’re in Sport-Hybrid mode a long press of the starter button will bring the bike to life with a roar of the engine. If you switch to Eco-Hybrid or EV mode with the ignition on, the bike won’t make any noise when it’s on. Instead, a green “READY” indicator light in the lower left of the display illuminates. Click the “+” paddle once to select first gear and you’re on your way.
Being in the heart of Barcelona, Kawasaki switched all the bikes to EV-only mode at the start of our ride. There were so many different modes and settings to cover that we were going to ride about one kilometer away to an empty lot, entirely on electricity, to play with the different settings and get used to them before leaving for a full ride.
Just in that short kilometer ride through the big city, riding purely on battery power was eye-opening. Barcelona is vibrant and active, with people young and old moving about and fellow motorists trying to get where they need to go. It’s orchestrated chaos that’ll look familiar to anyone living in the city, but without the roar of an engine getting in the way, you can be more alert and aware of your surroundings – partially because you can hear them now.
What I could also hear was the Ninja 7 audibly clicking into the next gear as we rolled along. It certainly isn’t seamless, and you can feel a click every time the gears move from one to the next, but I found it to be oddly fascinating, thinking about exactly how the electric motor and gearbox all worked underneath me. Even though you can only use the first four gears and speed tops out at around 44 mph in EV mode, in the city I never found myself to be a moving roadblock against traffic. And as we rolled into the practice lot adjacent to the beach, there was a different vibe as beach-goers strolling on a walk and school children marching to class largely didn’t even notice us, a stream of about 15 motorcycles.
The time in the practice lot was well served, as there’s a lot to learn. Thankfully, none of it is very difficult. Switching between the different Drive modes is as simple as pressing and holding dedicated buttons on the left grip, as is moving back and forth between EV and HEV modes. The buttons are clearly marked and their operation becomes second nature fairly quickly.
This was also the first attempt at trying E-Boost, which requires the battery to have enough juice, as indicated by a round dial in the upper left of the screen (not to be confused with the battery level indicator, which is separate). When the bike is ready, the tachometer bars will turn purple and the word “E-Boost” will also display in purple on the screen. Pressing the button and twisting the throttle back was an eye-opening experience! All that electric torque hits right from the start and moved me back in my seat so much that the front tire came off the ground a little bit! For as practical and economical as Kawasaki designed the Ninja 7 to be, E-Boost is proof Team Green hasn’t forgotten that motorcycling is also about having fun.
After getting familiar with all the different settings and modes in the practice lot, I used the remaining time in EV mode to drain the battery to see how long it would take to recharge. The rest of our ride would take us on the highway, into the surrounding hillside, and back through the city before reaching our hotel, giving us a real-world sample of all facets Kawasaki designed the Ninja 7 for.
With the battery nearly empty, I switched the bike off to grab a drink and jot down some notes. When I returned and keyed the bike on again, it wouldn’t even let me switch into EV mode. Sport-Hybrid mode is the go-to when recovering charge, and since the next phase of our route immediately entered the highway, it would be the perfect chance to observe recharge times and get a feel for all the power on tap.
Granted, I haven’t ridden the Eliminator yet, but the power from the ICE/EV combo feels noticeably more stout than any 400 I’ve ridden and stays true to form about wanting to keep a level pace with 650cc Twins. There’s a noticeable bump in torque off the line and right when you first crack the throttle open after you’ve been cruising a while. Again, having not ridden the Eliminator, I don’t know if this is the extra displacement talking, the EV assist, not having to worry about a clutch, or a combination of all three. Whatever it is, it certainly delivers more punch than I was expecting.
It’s up to you to shift gears yourself in Sport-Hybrid mode, and the beauty of paddle shifters is never having to worry about a missed shift, false neutral, or botched downshift ever again. Simply tapping the button gets you there, and when you’re trying to accelerate quickly, the positive engagement each time a button press is matched with a gear change feels just as rewarding as if you did it with your toe. Conversely, when you’re shedding a lot of speed and need rapid downshifts, all you need to do is press the button a few times. It’s not as fast as clicking off several downshifts with your foot in rapid succession – but it’s close. And more accurate.
Earlier I mentioned that E-Boost can be activated when the two bars at the bottom half of the circular gauge in the upper left of the screen are shown. This happens when the battery level is at least 20% – which is also why there’s a separate gauge for total battery charge. Recharging to the 20% threshold needed for E-Boost is really fast and only takes a few miles of riding, and by the time we hit the hillside for the twisty bits, E-Boost was readily available despite the total battery charge being far from full.
When it’s time to play on the fun roads, the Ninja lives up to its namesake despite what the numbers will tell you. Compared to the Ninja 400 or even the Ninja 650, the Ninja 7 is longer and heavier, with less aggressive geometry as seen below:
Still, the hybrid power makes carving up the canyons just as exciting. There’s no denying the numbers above, but you really have to be paying attention to notice the Ninja 7 takes a little more muscle to bend it to your will compared to the 400 or 650. These are characteristics people like us, whose job it is to notice these differences, pay attention to. In reality, the Ninja 7 can set a blistering pace through any curvy road, as evidenced by the speed of our lead rider, who rode like a man who very clearly had led four previous groups down this same path the four consecutive days prior to our arrival. Surprisingly, the basic suspension never felt overwhelmed or overworked – but of course your mileage may vary depending on your weight and riding style.
An interesting note: it wasn’t until the end of our jaunt through the canyons, roughly 50-60 minutes after depleting the battery, that the battery level indicated full again.
Back in the city, switching into Eco-Hybrid mode doesn’t really feel much different other than E-Boost not being available, I could switch into automatic shifting if I wanted, and the gas engine would shut off at a stop. Once going again, the Ninja will get moving on electricity before the gas engine comes on again at about 11 mph. Because it’s in Eco mode, the automatic shifting would default to upshifts much earlier than I would, but since we were riding around in the city, constantly rowing up and down through the gears wasn’t appealing, either. It seemed like the other riders in my group independently noticed the same thing – which is when we all switched to full EV mode for the rest of the ride.
Having been so used to traditional ICE motorcycles, it just seemed obvious to ride through the city with the combustion engine powering the way. But I’ll admit, seeing a swarm of 10-15 motorcycles quietly traverse downtown Barcelona in electric silence was a sight to behold. As I rode around and viewed the sights, I could actually talk to the other riders beside me about what we’d just seen and experienced.
In short, I get it. Sure, EV mode might ostensibly be a loophole to skirt around rules and get yourself places you otherwise couldn’t get to. But as far as riding through metropolitan European cities is concerned, riding on electricity is another way to enjoy the town and its surroundings.
And since you’re wondering, throughout the ride I noticed a real time fuel mileage average of anywhere between 50-56 mpg according to the trip computer. I know that’s not as accurate as measuring distance by how much fuel was added, but that will have to wait until Ninja 7s come stateside.
A Final Word On E-Boost
In some ways, you might look at E-Boost as a gimmick. But I beg to differ. It's more like a cheat code. In practical terms, E-Boost provides immediate passing power to get around someone or something, which you may not otherwise have with only about 70-odd horses at your disposal from just the combustion engine.
When it comes to putting a smile on your face, I found myself using E-Boost in the twisty portions of our ride when coming out of corners that led onto a straight. I could be a gear too high, exit a corner, crack the throttle open and press the E-Boost button at the same time. The following wallop of torque would launch me down the road like a slingshot, and the resulting speed would match the gear that was initially too high at the start. It really is addicting.
No, Kawasaki didn’t get everything right on their first try with the Ninja 7. Starting with the little things, the brakes are probably one of the weaker aspects of the bike. Specifically the rubber lines. You could feel the sponginess in the lines when using the brakes. Undoubtedly, Kawasaki will say that putting steel-braided lines would have added to the cost of the bike, but there are far cheaper bikes out there running steel lines, so that excuse doesn’t add up.
Also, switching from one mode to another in real time isn’t as simple as it seems. At least it wasn’t for me. One particular time while riding in EV mode through the city the route took us onto the highway and I was not ready. Despite my attempts to switch over the HEV while rolling, it wasn’t working and I had to pull over to the side of the road and switch over. Clearly the mistake was on me, since nobody else in our group had any issues with the switch.
While this isn’t necessarily a negative, I do think this hybrid platform would be better served in a Versys chassis. Kawasaki pointed out that Ninja is its best-selling model line and all of its tech advances come through the Ninja first, so from a PR standpoint it makes sense. I know I’m not the first person to have a similar comment, and the Kawasaki team from Japan who were on hand paid particular attention when I mentioned the tech would be well suited to the Versys. I’d be shocked if that doesn’t happen at some point.
Maybe the biggest negative I see for the Ninja 7 in the US market is where it fits in. Restrictions on where we can and can’t use a gas engine aren’t such an issue here (at least not yet), and there are plenty of motorcycles that get fantastic mileage, if a commuter bike is what you’re looking for. And though US pricing hasn’t been announced yet at the time of this writing, you can expect that new tech won’t come cheap. If I were to guess, probably somewhere between $10,000 - $14,000. Sure E-Boost is a fun feature, but I’m not sure it’s $14K fun.
It takes guts to produce a first-of-its-kind motorcycle, especially one with all the challenges that a hybrid power system entails. From packaging to integrating all the systems seamlessly. Not to mention the amount of software needed to make it all work. Then there’s the task of making it work like a motorcycle should. For the most part, Kawasaki nailed all of it. The Ninja 7 is an interesting piece of technology that packs a punch and yet works like a motorcycle. It’s fun, practical, and seemingly a viable solution for getting around riding restrictions in some parts of the world. If I lived in Europe, I would completely understand the Ninja 7 Hybrid.
But I don’t live in Europe. I live in the US. Here, the use case isn’t so cut and dry. If you like being an early adopter of tech, are willing to pay a premium for it, and/or you fit the profile of someone looking for a daily economical commuter that you can also have (a lot) fun with on the weekends, I think you’ll get a kick out of the Ninja 7. It’ll be especially interesting to see what the aftermarket comes up with for this bike, too.
Luckily you’ll have a lot of time to decide if the Ninja 7 is right for you. Since Europe is the primary market, we won’t be getting them on this side of the pond until well after 2024 starts.
2024 Kawasaki Ninja 7 Hybrid Specifications
Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, parallel twin
DOHC, 8 valves
Bore x stroke
70.0 x 58.6 mm
Fuel injection: 36 mm x 2
Forced lubrication, wet sump
Integrated starter generator
Lithium-ion battery pack
Total nominal capacity
Total battery weight
Primary reduction ratio
Gear ratios 1st
Gear ratios 2nd
Gear ratios 3rd
Gear ratios 4th
Gear ratios 5th
Gear ratios 6th
Final reduction ratio
Trellis, high-tensile steel
4.1 in (104 mm)
Wheel travel front
4.7 in (120 mm)
Wheel travel rear
4.5 in (114 mm)
120/70 ZR17 M/C (58W)
160/60 ZR17 M/C (69W)
L x W x H
84.4 x 29.5 x 44.7 in
Steering angle L R
30° / 30°
60.4 in. (1,535 mm)
5.1 in (130 mm)
3.7 gal (14.0 liters)
31.3 in (795 mm)
500.4 lbs (227 kg)
Front brake type
Front brake diameter
Ø 300 mm
Front brake caliper type
Rear brake type
Rear brake diameter
Ø 250 mm
Rear brake caliper type
Front suspension type
Front suspension diameter
Ø 41 mm
Rear suspension type
Uni-Trak, gas-charged shock, and spring preload adjustability
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