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Basem Wasef

Diesel-Powered Military Motorcycle Makes Me Wonder...

By February 25, 2008

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Military KLR650

The military may have a reputation for $500 toilet seats and $1,000 hammers, but they also deserve credit for pioneering innovations like cellular and GPS technology. When the U.S. Marine Corps needed motorcycles that run on JP-8 fuel, they contracted Hayes Diversified Technologies to convert Kawasaki KLR650s into rugged, diesel-burning workhorses.

The HDT M103M1 pulls 96 miles per gallon when cruising at 55 mph, and according to a recent NY Times piece, was "...sluggish at first, [but] gathered speed with dogged insistence."

The article states that the M103M1 is the world's only production diesel motorcycle, and that HDT is barely able to keep pace with military demand, making public consumption-- at least for the moment-- out of the question.

I don't know about you, but this purpose-built military application makes me wonder when consumers will be able to buy their own seemingly indestructible, fuel efficient diesel bikes.

Photo © HDT USA

February 25, 2008 at 2:25 am
(1) TEvo says:

Hmmm… mixed thoughts about this.

Diesels still have something of a stigma here and their application seems to be limited to trucks and other utility or industrial vehicles. Plus the high price of diesel in or around big cities – ~ $3.79/gal, higher than even premium gasoline here in Chicago – seems to reduce the advantage in increased efficiency.

Perhaps as clean diesels start to get more mainstream, a diesel motorcycle with high efficiency might be more commercially viable?

February 25, 2008 at 2:57 am
(2) motorcycles says:


I’ve definitely also got some mixed thoughts about diesel bikes.

On the one hand, this technology is in its infancy, and something will have to be done about the throttle response issues… on the other, there’s so much promise in clean diesel technology that it’s hard not to imagine how far this stuff could come in the near future. Clean diesel car engines are torquey and efficient, so when those characteristics trickle down to bikes it will hopefully be possible to have the best of both worlds.

I’m guessing that military fuel isn’t low enough in sulphur content to qualify for clean diesel particulate filter technology, but imagine if somebody really applied themselves to introducing that hardware into a motorcycle application.

In the meantime, the idea of a super-rugged, fuel efficient workhorse like this military bike also has its own strange appeal.


February 25, 2008 at 4:23 am
(3) cyco says:

Enfield India have been producing diesel engined bikes for a while now based on the old Royal Enfield 500cc Bullet. Diesel here in the UK is around £5.50 per gallon, petrol only slightly cheaper but with diesel engines doing more mpg compared to gasoline(petrol) there are a lot of diesel engine cars and small trucks over here. I get 60mpg out of my Renault car. Once they get a turbo diesel bike we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

February 25, 2008 at 9:30 am
(4) Scottie says:

I guess with a diesel clattering away you wouldn’t have to worry about getting loud pipes. Yes, I know that some diesels are quieter than, say, a F-350, but you’d think the early bike would be pretty loud.

February 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm
(5) Pete says:

I should think the last thing the military is worried about is the whole ‘greení thing. Letís face it…combat is a lot of things …”environmentally friendly” is not on the list.
It also allows them to consolidate fuel sources & supplies…why worry about gasoline and diesel?
Will it fly on the street…personally I doubt it, but you never know!

February 25, 2008 at 11:47 pm
(6) Derick says:

I would love to buy this bike. I was quoted a price of $16,000.00 when they first offer it to the public, sometime in the future. Now let me get this straight, there is a demand for such a product, the US Military has already paid for the research and development and the factory could step up production. I estimated the US goverment to be buying these at about $8,000.00 per unit, a fair price, including profit.
But, greed is what is keeping it of the street for the public.

February 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm
(7) Joe Harley says:

Oh man, can’t believe the uncle sam didn’t use american made harleys. No wonder we ain’t won any wars in almost 100 years…

February 26, 2008 at 5:29 pm
(8) Pete says:

Uncle Sam ain’t stupid…taking a Harely into combat is kind of like flying in an H-D built plane.
By the way…name one war the U.S. lost…

February 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm
(9) Joe Harley says:

Ummm? Korea & Vietnam for starters. Lost the gulf war, if we woulda won the gulf, we wouldn’t be currently losing its sequel.

February 26, 2008 at 6:07 pm
(10) Pete says:

It was politics and idiot politicians that caused that. The military had nothing to be ashamed of. The VC and NVA had noting left.

February 27, 2008 at 12:35 am
(11) TEvo says:

Just a few more random thoughts on this:

Military isn’t too concerned about being green. They just need something that will run on the same fuel the other vehicles in their inventory run on. :)

The latest diesel engines are pretty quiet. Like say the one’s on Mercedes’ E-class. In Europe, diesel is considerably cheaper than petrol, not so in the US.

At least not yet.

February 27, 2008 at 5:47 pm
(12) Joe Harley says:

Easy petey, easy. I didn’t lay any blame, you asked for the ones we didn’t win, thats all. Now go take you medication…

February 27, 2008 at 6:18 pm
(13) rich says:

for me a diesel just doesnt equate to sportiness, and not what i would want powering my bikes. if it works for the military, fantastic.

February 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm
(14) rich says:

by the way.. can you imagine an H-D built stealth bomber…with loud pipes!! even an H-D built ultra-light would weigh a few tons

February 27, 2008 at 7:11 pm
(15) Mack says:

Nuts & bolts falling from the sky due to excessive vibration would cause casualties on both sides.

February 27, 2008 at 9:06 pm
(16) Gar says:

Police units should look into klr’s regardless which fuel is used. Then they could patrol much more efficiently as opposed to just performing motorcade duty or showing off how well they can do a u-turn @ 5 mph in a parking lot.

February 27, 2008 at 11:04 pm
(17) Ujjwal Dey says:


The articles claims are not entirely accurate.

Royal Enfield Taurus Diesel was the longest in production diesel motorcycle available at retail to anyone who wanted to buy it.

Royal Enfield India has discontinued this model now but can still be seen in villages in India as an Enfield is the most durable iron engine encountered by Riders here.

Thanks and Regards,
Ujjwal Dey

February 27, 2008 at 11:48 pm
(18) Frank says:

Some of you guys must be still living in the dark ages…
diesel engines are a hot item…
Won the 24 hours of Le Mans last year with Audi… Peugot will be running them this year… Several diesel Audi’s have won races here in the US in the Petit le Mans series and SEAT (a VW brand in europe) will be running diesel cars in the world Rally Championship…

February 28, 2008 at 2:20 am
(19) TEvo says:

You mean like this, Frank?


500bhp and 738lb-ft. torque sound pretty sporty to me. :) Along with ultra-clean emissions and pretty respectable mpg for the class of car its in.

February 28, 2008 at 8:09 am
(20) Baghdad John says:

Joe Harley needs to know his history and current history – we ARE NOT losing in Iraq. Most provinces have been in control of the Iraqi military for some time. – the bad guys aren’t shooting inside at us because we are finally (since 2007) bombing the heck out of them when they do. All progress is easy to see when you live here.

February 28, 2008 at 11:42 am
(21) Frank says:

I thought this was a motorcycle blog…

March 5, 2008 at 10:24 am
(22) Mike L. says:

Move over Sonny Pruett! From the 1974 TV show “Movin’ On.” Does this mean that the bike will have chrome stacks and a turbo-charger? Maybe a KW hood .. er front fender ornament and tandem rear wheels for stability! :) On the other hand, if this diesel can burn anything in the tank, as Rudolf Diesel intended, then maybe they’re on to something here.

March 19, 2008 at 11:07 pm
(23) Jubal Early says:

Diesel motorcycles are being suppressed, at least in the U.S. If knowledge of a 105 mpg diesel bike became widespread at a time of $110/barrel oil, everyone and their grandmother would be riding one EVERYWHERE.

July 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm
(24) One Angry Patriot says:

I am eagerly awaiting a civilian version of the M1030M1, which I plan to fuel with biodiesel. The engine originally invented by Rudolf Diesel was intended to be fueled with vegetable oil. Considering the sales volume of the fast food industry, there’s no reason why we can’t recycle all that french fry grease for fuel.

July 16, 2008 at 1:52 pm
(25) federico says:

I would like to know where I can buy a kawasaki M1030M1E diesel and how much? thanks

March 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm
(26) GS Fred says:

Sorry Baghdad John, There’s no such thing as “current history”!!

March 25, 2009 at 11:22 am
(27) Dr. Bug says:

Whoa! The article didn’t say #2 diesel at the local truck stop. It said JP-8; where’d you get that? What would happen if you put the less refined number 2 in the tank? I love the possible MPG, even if it meant less performance. But if you have to run over to the local airport to tank up, I’d be better off with an electric bike.

December 28, 2009 at 11:20 am
(28) Russ@1stclassmotorcycletours.com says:

I’m impressed! Diesels have tons of torque and a fairly smooth as they pull in the range. There are diesels out there today that run just like gas engines. I think this is awesome! We need to ride these on tours! The KLR is a good platform!

October 31, 2010 at 5:04 am
(29) Dale says:

I went from Mid Kent to Aberdeen on 50 litres of Diesel in my Peugot 405, that’s 650 miles. If a Diesel bike came onto the market with a similar economy, I would be first in the queue to buy one if the price was reasonable. However, expecting a reasonable price in the UK is like expecting to win the lottery. If it costs 5K dollars in the USA, it will be 20K pounds or more here.

March 10, 2011 at 4:39 am
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