While petrol heads have been absorbed in the considerable motorsport developments of the past decades, motorcycle manufacturers have been working hard to introduce reliable electric motorcycles to the market. And in recent years we’ve seen some exciting success, with companies like Zero and Energica Ego introducing practical electric bikes. With manufacturers like these pioneering the way, what does the future of electric motorbikes look like?
Firstly, it’s likely we will see an uptick in marketing over the next few years as manufacturers push electric motorbikes into the mainstream—as we’ve seen in the electric car market. Currently, unless you’re actively shopping for an electric stead, or you’re a two-wheel connoisseur who keeps up on industry news, you’re unlikely to know that they’re actually out there.
We anticipate that in the coming years there will be more readily available information about the benefits of electric motorbikes, including lower maintenance costs, fuel and cost efficiency, government grant schemes and more. The future of electric motorbikes should begin to look a lot more like the electric car market in the next few years, but what else can we expect to see?
While there have always been advantages to consider when purchasing an electric motorbike, “range anxiety” has so far plagued the industry—the current generation of batteries has severely limited the ranges that can be achieved. Manufacturers will, therefore, want to hush any criticisms that continue to surface regarding the range of their electric motorbikes, and strive to build confidence with improved battery technology. See these tilt trim motors for an example of this technology being used in the motorboat market.
The Austrian-made Johammer J1 was the first electric bike to cover 186 miles on one charge, but Zero has surpassed this with their S model (video above), reaching roughly 201 miles under city driving conditions. Compare these numbers to the 300+ miles some conventional long-haul bikes can manage and it’s clear that electric manufacturers still have some work to do. It’s possible that we’ll be seeing “range wars”—not dissimilar to the speed wars of the 90s, with manufacturers continually battling to hold the title of electric motorbike with the longest range. This would help fuel the continued development of higher capacity batteries and more efficient electric engines and can, therefore, only be a good thing for riders and the environment.
Similar to range anxiety, electric vehicles (whether two or four wheeled), have always met scrutiny for battery charging time. It’s been one of the major factors holding them back—the irregular availability of charging stations, once a journey has begun, has always caused uncertainty amongst potential buyers, with some electric car owners actually renting a petrol or diesel car for long distance driving.
Considering that the majority of motorbikes are used for day-to-day commuting, as more practical electric options are introduced, this should become less of a sticking point. Zero pride themselves on the fact that any standard outlet can be used as a charging station for their motorbikes, and they offer solutions for charging on the go and quick charges (usually at an additional price). Energica Ego offers a handy fast-charging station, which allows you to recharge to 85% in just half an hour.
Over the next few years, manufacturers will focus on cutting down battery charging time, as well as furthering options for spare battery packs and compact chargers for juicing up on the go.
When you’re looking at electric bikes in a similar range and weight class to their conventional counterparts, performance is actually pretty comparable. This is one factor that has been less criticised about electric motorcycles to date. The speed these motorbikes hit is perfectly respectable, though most of them top at around 100 mph intentionally, for the sake of battery performance. That isn’t to say they aren’t capable of higher speeds: the Lightning LS-218 broke records, reaching just over 215 mph. Jay Leno featured this bike on his TV show Jay Leno’s Garage (video below), where Lightning Motorcycles’s CEO Richard Hatfield revealed that at 218 mph, his bike was getting the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon (after factoring in battery regen).
However, with brands like Yamaha and Harley Davidson announcing electric concept bikes (the PES2/PED2 and LiveWire respectively—release dates still pending) we eagerly await what will come next. When you get long-loved and traditional brands like these entering the game, the stakes will automatically be raised, and they’ll bring their reputations for innovation to the table.
Now that electric motorbikes are considered comparable when it comes to performance, the next logical step is for electric manufacturers to work to outstrip conventional motorbikes altogether. And with big boys like Yamaha and Harley getting involved, who knows what we will see in the next few years?!
Article by Simon Colley in association with Motorcycle Spare Parts
Featured image of Zero S electric motorcycle. Photo: Screenshot from Zero S YouTube video