While many electric motorcycles have come and gone, and some resort to obscene lawsuits to keep their company alive, some elmoto manufacturers have remained in business and even grown. We’ll look at the state of two-wheeled electrification, big and small, slow and fast in 2018.
Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday
This adage may not hold as true lately as it has in the past, but it’s still worthwhile if you’re in the business of building high-performance machines. So for 2018, racing veterans Energica will be showing off their MotoE race bike at five MotoGP rounds in 2018. Then in 2019, they’ll be raced by MotoGP racers! Check out the videos and stay on top of the latest news at MotoGP.com and insight on Asphalt & Rubber. I took one for a spin in Malibu and was very impressed. Story and videos here. The Enel title sponsorship is also great, as they’re an energy company in the true sense of the word- Enel will be providing clean energy for the MotoGP paddock as well as quick charging for the MotoE bikes.
We toured the Energica factory back in 2010 and enjoyed watching them compete in the TTXGP series. It’s great to see how far they’ve come since then. Here’s hoping that will translate to increased sales, as they’ve already got a dealer network in place. Which is a lot more than any other high-performance electric motorcycle manufacturer can claim today. It’s a hard sell- a motorcycle with the performance and handling of a Ducati superbike, but pricier, and with virtually no service department income.
KTM- Sell the bike, lease the batteries
The 2018 Freeride e-xc claims 50% more range than 2017, and the swappable batteries fit their older models as well. They lease the batteries, which works great when the technology is still improving. They’re only sold through a handful of US dealers, and more EU dealers carry them. More about the Freeride e-xc from an expert here.
Harley-Davidson buys Alta- and a shot at Millennial customers?
We have high hopes for Alta, now that they’re owned by Harley, who’ve made a commitment to sell an EV by 2020. Video interview with Peter Fonda here about his ride on the Harley Livewire. We just hope Alta doesn’t go the way of Brammo or Buell. Alta also has a dealer network, and is conducting demo days in partnership with their dealers. Their lineup currently includes four models- three for off-road and one supermoto which can compete head to head with Zero’s FXS.
Harley’s Livewire was a fun ride despite leaving most of the batteries back at the shop. It clearly had room for more, and of course could use more range. But these were demo bikes designed for short group rides. By teaming up with Alta, perhaps they could finally make the dirt tracker every hipster kid dreams of riding.
Yamaha Unveils Yet Another Concept
While I’ve stopped holding my breath waiting for Yamaha to actually manufacture any of the concept bikes they’ve shown, it seems they might actually have something ready for production. Let’s hope. They’re starting small, with what they already know- electric bicycles. Yamaha offers four power-assist bicycle models detailed here. None of which are motorcycles. But last month they introduced the TY-E trials bike.
Still, the TY-E is not a bike most of us will ever ride, since most of us aren’t trials racers, but it’d sure be fun to see it in action. Yamaha plans to enter it in the FIM Trial E-cup this July in France. Which is a lot more actual riding than any of their previous electric concepts have done. More here. We speculate that the major OEM’s are waiting for batteries to become cheaper, which they are, but it also seems they’re watching one company to learn from their mistakes. Only one company has been selling electric motorcycles continuously since 2006.
Zero Continues Outselling All The Rest
While the major OEM’s focus on scooters for markets where scooters dominate, Zero continues to sell more electric motorcycles than anyone else. They are also sourcing better components while dropping prices, as their batteries get cheaper and better. My 2013 Zero FX(S) had a two year powertrain warranty, while my 2018 FXS has a five year powertrain warranty. Zero is still on the hunt for rockstar engineers, so if you want to live and work in paradise, and can write flawless code, please have a look at their job board here.
Zero has expanded from one model in 2006 to one platform with two models, to now eight models built on two platforms. The S is their classic everyday street bike, the SR is the sportier version of the S, and the DS & DSR are on the same platform but engineered for offroad excursions as well. But for real fun in the dirt, it’s the FX, or it’s supermoto sister, the FXS. The nimble, lightweight FXS is like riding a laser cutter through LA traffic. A knife wouldn’t be able to handle the curves as well. Even though the S line can offer as much as three times the range, I’d still rather have the FXS because it’s that much more fun to ride. Everyday. Police departments are snatching them up as well, Zero offers models prepped specifically for law enforcement and military, details here. I saw one waiting to catch speeders just the other day.
Soon I’ll tell you all about how much fun I’m having on the 2018 FXS. If I could only stop riding it long enough to write about it… To sum up- every time I ride it, it’s the most fun I’ve had on two wheels since that first ride on the back of Rob’s Suzuki when I was 14.
Other Independent Manufacturers
Mugen, Honda’s skunkworks, is still owning the TT Zero podium. They plan to field three racers this year, as reported here. With their bike getting better every year, and a lineup of some of the top racers, it will be hard for any other marque to make it onto the podium. We can only dream that one day Honda will put this amazing superbike into production.
Lightning is still selling the world’s fastest production electric motorcycle, but doesn’t seem to have any dealers yet. Still, they’ll be happy to take your money and build you a bike to order.
APworks Lightrider is a gorgeous concept bike made by Airbus’ skunkworks. But not a realistic buy at $50,000 with a top speed of 50mph and maxing out at a measly 37 miles of range. Still, that frame is a work of art.
I’m sure there’s more, but I tend to ignore vaporware, so feel free to enlighten us in the comments if there’s an interesting elmoto maker you’d like hear more about. I’m scheduled to join Alta’s press demo next month, so look forward to a story about me trying to remember how to ride in the dirt…
Electric mopeds & scooters
While most motorcyclists would rather ride bikes capable of 100mph and more, there’s a much larger global market for mopeds and scooters. But that’s a story for a different article. We’ve got plenty of e-scoot news here. All I know about these lightweights is that you’ll want to stick with a trusted brand. It’s very easy to make small, cheap electric powertrains that break down then can’t be serviced. Electric scooters, mopeds, and bicycles could save us all by dramatically improving traffic and air quality in cities. People just need to get past the fear-mongering the auto industry has fed them and give life outside the cage a try. The feeling of freedom is magnificent.