Electric Motorcycles Breaking Into the Big Leagues?


Photo Courtesy of Honda Worldwide

At the 2011 Tokyo Motorcycle Show, Honda showed an electric concept motorcycle. The RC-E (subscription site) is styled to win, echoing the look of a vintage café racer. It’s certainly the best looking Honda I’ve ever seen. Also at the Tokyo show is a concept from Yamaha that could make me not only cheat on my R1 but divorce her altogether. The 125cc Moegi evokes a delicate Anime fairy with gossamer wings but if it’s anywhere near as fun as the 125 4-strokes I’ve ridden in the past, it’s ready to slaughter every squid on a 1,000cc rocketship on your local canyon roads. I’m sure it’d be even more awesome with an electric motor.

2010 TTZero winner Mark Miller once told me:

“Right before the start of the TTZero race a tall Japanese man in a smart business suit walked up shook my hand and was introduced to me as Mr. Honda. ‘Mr. Honda? Holy shit,’ I thought to myself. He had a huge grin on his face as he looked over our beautiful MotoCzysz “Digital Superbike”, he was smiling like a child who was seeing the coolest toy in the world for his first time. I leaned over and shouted over the PA system, “Do you fancy entering one of these next year?” He stood up and smirked at me, seemingly trying to contain his enthusiasm, he responded, “I’d like to!” That was a cool moment. Then I went on and won the race.” 

Two years later, Honda is showing us an electric concept. Over the past 2 1/2 years since that historic race, we’ve seen plenty of startups proving their own technology on the racetrack and the street. But none of the major OEM’s have brought an electric motorcycle to market. Yet.

Photo Courtesy of Gizmag.com

 The Perfect Vehicle- Especially For New Riders

At EICMA last year, I saw an electric scooter concept from Yamaha, but nothing else from the major OEM’s. This year Honda and KTM have both announced electric concepts, and Yamaha showed more electric scooters, as mentioned on CleanTechnica (with more on the Moegi!). It’s very exciting to see the technology finally being seriously pursued by companies deeply entrenched in ICE development. Although range anxiety is still prevalent, electric motorcycle owners (and even test riders like me) have found it’s unnecessary. It took me a whopping 20 minutes to bring a 2011 Zero S from 0 to 50%. Another 20 minutes and I’d be just finishing lunch, or still at work, or still… and the bike would be ready to go with a full charge.

In Los Angeles, I see plenty of newer riders on smaller bikes. Really cool bikes with gorgeous styling that are relatively light and easy to ride. None of these bikes were made after the mid 1980’s. As the baby boomers matured as riders, they wanted increasingly powerful bikes, and the industry was more than happy to supply them. However, there is a new generation of young people learning to ride. They choose vintage because it looks cool, but also because it’s almost impossible to find a new motorcycle as small as a vintage one. But what about the potential riders who don’t want to stop and replace spark plugs on a simple jaunt around town? (true story) Wouldn’t it be great if we could see concepts like Honda’s RC-E and Yamaha’s Moegi for riders who want to grow into the experience? Although I’d rather have an electric Moegi, a 125cc 4-stroke destined for the EU market is extremely fuel efficient.

I will be covering the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA this Friday. What sets this show apart from the rest is its location in the heart of Motorcycle Heaven, so I’m looking forward to bringing you some juicy tidbits in next Monday’s report.

Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.