Riding with Electricity

Is the market ready for electric motorcycles?

Tesla has made a reasonable case for electrifying the automobile. Their vehicles didn’t rely on buyers who just wanted to make a green statement. Instead, Elon has provided a sedan with blistering acceleration, a crossover with falcon wing doors, a stylish compact sedan that is reasonably affordable for mass market buyers and just for fun, launched a sports car prototype into space. And the green lobby has rallied governments worldwide to replace petroleum powered vehicles with electrics.

But where do motorcycles fit in this scheme? On one hand, our two wheeled transportation devices are relatively light, so we don’t need 100 kW of electrical storage for decent range. And today’s electric sports bikes are fashionably styled and blistering fast, unlike those utilitarian two-wheeled scooters and powered bicycles that populate some densely populated cities.

The challenge of electric motorcycles is incentive. Filling up your average bike is a lot less painful than gassing the SUV and gasoline is far more available wherever you travel. The lure of an HOV lane pass that incentivizes our four wheeled friends isn’t needed. We’ve got that. Even the promise of low maintenance doesn’t seem to be a big deal. After all, this isn’t the sixties when an oil pan was required beneath a bike to keep the garage floor clean. But although battery powered bikes aren’t yet poised for grabbing a big chunk of market share, unless of course governments outlaw all petrol power, there are a few compelling electric rides that are worth a close look. 

Zero SR/F  Price: $16,495 to $19,390 Range:112-hwy, 223-city

The Scotts Valley company and their motorcycles have matured dramatically over the last decade. The SR model with an optional 3.6 kWh power storage tank to provide 18 kWh of battery capacity is what I would choose for reasonable commutes and weekend rides. The SAE charging plug allows relatively quick 220/240 V recharging from a developing network of public stations. And it’s a fun ride, bit heavy, but still exhibits good handling characteristics.

Lightning LS-218 Superbike Price: $38,000  Range:100-miles (140 with optional battery)

Richard Hatfield set out to build a true electric superbike and the wicked, 200-horsepower LS-218 clearly has filled that objective. 218 designates the speed record set with special gearing and the LS has raced successfully on road courses and dragstrips. Hatfield is working on sports touring models that will retail in the $18,000 to $19,000 range and to be sold through dealerships the company plans to develop in the future.

Energica EGO45 Price: $20,930 to $24,539 Range:100-miles

This Italian firm has turned up the performance wick with a sports bike that’s fast and quick in the turns. An equivalent of 145-horsepower from 4,900 to 10,500 RPM is launched from rest with 144 ft. pounds of torque. The styling is serious sports racing, complimented with a colorful digital display. And dealers like CalMoto in Mountain View and Livermore offer sales and service.

Harley Davidson Livewire  Price $29,799  Range:140-miles city, 88 miles combined

Motorcycle’s legendary brand has teased its electric offering for the last few years, with short rides on prototype models at media and consumer events. Finally, the Harley Davidson Livewire is available to order for a late 2019 delivery for those who will spend $30-grand for this stylish and quick, yet silent electric motorcycle. The published range is modest, about in the middle of the segment, but the Harley name and newness may help jumpstart sales.

Brian Douglas