If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, you are probably interested in electric motorcycles. After all, these machines offer a compelling ride and a futuristic feel. Still, every time electric bikes seem to be gaining traction, there is another setback. Keeping up with electric motorcycle news can be challenging. Fortunately, you don’t have to search far and wide for information about these machines. We have done the work for you.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the current climate in the world of electric motorcycles. Continue reading for the latest developments.
What Are Electric Motorcycles?
Before we look at what’s happening with electric motorcycles, we want to be sure you understand what these machines are. While most motorcycles have an internal combustion engine that uses a combination of fossil fuel and oxygen to generate power, electric motorcycles run on a battery. Instead of gassing up these beasts, you simply plug them in. Electric motorcycles come in a variety of styles, including sports bikes and cruisers.
Who Makes Electric Motorcycles?
For years, major motorcycle manufacturers have toyed with the idea of mass producing electric motorcycles. While the plans of many have stalled in the boardroom, two companies have dominated the industry. Lightning Motorcycles and Zero Motorcycles have churned out some innovative bikes. These companies feature durable dirt bikes and fast racers. With the success of these companies, other manufacturers have green-lighted bike-building projects.
This year, the iconic brand, Harley Davidson, announced that it would move forward with plans to sell an electric version of its in-demand cruiser. That makes sense since its market share has dropped in recent years. As the company’s target demographic ages, brand leaders realize they must appeal to a different group.
No longer can Harley survive by advertising to middle-aged men.
On the contrary, for the firm to stay viable, it must make motorcycles that pique the interests of younger and female riders.
Harley Davidson plans to roll out its first electric bike by the summer of 2019.
To meet this aggressive goal, the company is partnering with Alta Motors, an electric motorcycle manufacturer from the Bay Area of Northern California.
Alta has a history of turning aspirational designs into in-demand bikes. While no one can comment on the success of an electric Harley until there is one to review, the partnership seems promising. We look forward to hopping on one of these bikes and feeling the future of America’s motorcycle brand.
Harley isn’t the only iconic motorcycle brand to want a piece of the electric-motorcycle action.
Polaris, long a leader in making ATVs, snowmobiles and other machines, has recently embarked on a mission to put an electric engine on its products. This is exciting news. Anyone who cares about motorcycles has likely wondered whether the electric engine was just a fad. After all, for more than a decade, small manufacturers have been the only ones willing to produce electric bikes. With Polaris and Harley entering the game, we now know the electric bike is on the verge of becoming mainstream.
Who Rules the Electric-Motorcycle Market?
If you have been interested in electric motorcycles for years, you likely know exactly which company the go-to resource is for buying a high-quality electric bike. On the other hand, if you are just developing a passion for electric machines, you may not know which firm is firing on all cylinders. In our opinion, the answer is clear. Zero Motorcycles has what it takes to produce dynamic electric bikes.
Since its launch in 2006, Zero has developed a well-earned reputation for making some of the most compelling electric bikes on the road, track or trail. Still, the company is firmly stuck in the niche market. Producing around 2000 electric two-wheelers every year, Zero is far from a dominant brand. That could change in the future, though, as environmental standards and rider interests are driving new owners to consider purchasing electric bikes.
How Do Electric Motorcycles Compare To Traditional Machines?
Riding an electric motorcycle is demonstrably different than cruising around town on one with a combustion engine. Most riders report a smoother, futuristic ride. With no gears and no clutch, electric bikes deliver a turn-and-go ride. They are also considerably quieter than conventional motorcycles.
Gone are the days when electric bikes only had enough juice to take you around the block. Nowadays, companies like Zero are investing in battery technologies to increase range. In fact, on some of Zero’s bikes, there is no difference between the distance an electric bike can cover and the range of a conventional motorcycle.
Today’s Zero bikes have 10 percent more range, which is impressive.
Even better, Zero recently introduced three innovative batteries. The biggest of these is the company’s ZF14.4 unit. If you are looking for ultimate range, you can add an optional expansion pack to the stock Zero battery. This pack increases the electric bike’s range to more than 220 miles in the city. If you want to fly down the highway at 70 miles per hour, you can go more than 110 miles before needing to charge the battery. For most riders, this range is sufficient.
Since the range and power output of electric motorcycles improves seemingly every year, we don’t think it will be long before they surpass traditional motorcycles. Moreover, as the production of electric vehicles increases, charging stations are sure to pop up in greater numbers. Before long, we anticipate range will decrease in importance in the minds of avid riders.
What Is the Performance Difference Between Electric Motorcycles and Traditional Bikes?
While there is some difference in trip range between traditional and electric bikes, it is becoming so small as not to matter much. When looking at performance, though, there is a critical difference that promises to delight riders everywhere. With an internal-combustion bike, you must clutch and shift. Even if you’ve been riding for years and have mastered shifting, you notice a jerking sensation every time you upshift or downshift. That doesn’t happen with electric motorcycles.
With an electric motor, you get a smooth, even ride.
When you need some serious power, you simply turn the accelerator. Yes, we have to call it an “accelerator,” as there really is no throttle on electric motorcycles. The response is immediate and silky. You won’t hear the trademark vroom with an electric bike either. While that bothers us from a nostalgia standpoint, we think it improves overall ride quality.
Slowing down and turning is different on an electric bike too. Unlike bikes with internal combustion engines, you don’t have to clutch and break to take a corner. Instead, you simply let off of the accelerator. The electric motor uses the decrease in speed to generate additional battery power. Meanwhile, while you simply ease up and lean, you take corners like a pro. We find the process to be significantly more intuitive than riding a conventional motorcycle.
What’s Next for Electric Motorcycles?
It can be somewhat difficult to try to predict the future of electric motorcycles. After all, the industry has seen dozens of bikes fail to reach mainstream success. We think, though, the electric-transportation sector has reached an important tipping point. As more riders open their minds to the benefits of riding an electric bike, electric-powered motorcycles are sure to take off.
In the future, look for a range to continue to increase. Manufacturers spend a tremendous amount of time and money working on electric batteries. With innovation usually comes better products. We expect to see electric motorcycles capable of covering hundreds of miles in a single trip. Eventually, batteries are probably going to charge themselves. Likely within the next 20 years, you won’t have to plug in your motorcycle at all.
To appeal to the masses, electric motorcycles are going to have to beat conventional bikes in both performance and appearance.
As we mentioned, these machines are already delivering a compelling ride. While electric bikes come in several different styles, they don’t have the model options that conventional bikes have. That is mostly due to their comparatively late start in the industry. Plan to see ATVs, UTVs, cruisers, dirt bikes, sports bikes and other machines with electric engines in the next five to eight years.
Additionally, we think the demand for electric motorcycles is likely to increase due to social and environmental changes. As supplies of fossil fuels dwindle, riders will have no choice but to seek an alternative to the internal combustion engine. Electric motorcycles are ready to fill the void.
Finally, population increases are likely to have a major effect on the availability of bikes with electric motors. As communities grow, riders are apt to face a variety of noise and pollution ordinances. Rather than risking citations, motorcycle enthusiasts may swap their traditional bikes for ones that comply. At some point, riding a traditional bike is likely to become a hobby. No longer will electric motorcycles occupy a pure niche market. Instead, they are sure to become mainstream. We don’t think that time is too far away.