Over at ScenicApp we rarely write about Electric Motorcycles. Why is that? It’s not because there is no news about them. Almost every day there is a news article on them. It’s not because there are no electric motorcycles. It seems almost every week a new model appears. It’s not that there are no brands. It seems almost every month a new electric motorcycle brand pops up. Just have a look at this list of 18 electric motorcycles. You’ll see some pretty ‘exotic’ brands and models there.
Then why? Well… because technology is just not there yet. To be more specific, the technology to create a compact and light enough battery with a decent range that can re-charge within 5 minutes. Because, let’s face it, as touring and adventure riders, that’s what we need!
Of course, if you commute or do some grocery shopping, the typical range of 100 to 150 miles (150 – 250 km) will do, but that’s not enough for a good day trip, let alone a multi day trip. Add to that the lack of charging station availability in many countries, and the fact that charging takes more like 30 minutes than the usual 3 minutes, and you’ve got yourself an unpractical (not to say unworkable) situation. Unless, of course, you have a gasoline powered van traveling with you and a diesel generator on call.
There is some good news on the horizon though. Just a few weeks ago Honda, KTM, Piagggo and Yamaha signed an agreement around swappable e-bike batteries. Now THAT could be a great solution. Imagine (at least that’s how I imagine it) rolling up to a ‘gas’-station, riding your bike above a ‘hole in the floor’, then, some arms come up, your old empty battery is dropped and a new full one is put in place. Et VOILA. Ready to roll in the same amount of time as a conventional ‘fill-up’.
Having said all this, I do believe that electric is the future of motorcycling. Electric motorcycles already out-perform traditional ones. It’s only a matter of time before we nail the range and recharging problem. Once that’s done… combustion engine based motorcycles will become a thing of the past.
Totally agree. Took a Zero SRF through the Austrian and Italian Alps last year. It was doable and at times fun. The bike is great, rides well, strong on tight mountain roads – in fact not many traditional bikes/riders can keep up with always on torque and no need for shifting or clutch, even in the tightest switchbacks…
But then there’s the range and the 3+ charging stops per day. Even with the upgraded charger from Zero it’s still 30+ minutes – but that’s not the bad part.
First you have to navigate to and find the chargers (easy in Austria, not so much in the Dolomites) but what really sucks is that every charging vendor uses their own stupid and incompatible accounts, apps and websites to operate their chargers. Forget swiping a credit card or touchiness payments. At times you will spend 20 min or more signing up with yet another charging provider, just to spend 3-5 bucks topping off your bike. Really fun when their website is mainly in a language you don’t speak.
The charging provider industry is beyond a mess and the main reason I traded the Zero in this year. Too stressful if you just want to enjoy day long rides in the most scenic places on the planet.
Very good addition! Didn’t remember the many apps and charging accounts. Used to have a Nissan Leaf a few years ago. Same thing. Seems like not much changed in those years. Let’s hope they get this standardized throughout the industry soon. That would be one less obstacle to full adoption.
Much as I love electric bikes like the Livewire and SR/F, I think it is still too difficult to use for my regular European trips like to the Alps. So it’s good to hear your comments.
Limitations of current technology is no-one’s fault and millions of £/$/€ are being invested in research to improve that, but the situation with charging as described is deplorable. There’s only one reason why there are so many incompatible apps – greed. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and grab for themselves as much as possible. In this case, competition benefits no-one and hinders everyone. There HAS to be some standardisation here. EVERY app/account should be usable at EVERY charging station.
This current shortsighted greed and stupidity will hold back the adoption of EVs.
Really interesting article and follow-up comments. I agree completely about the technology just not being suitable for a ‘big bike’ world. I did look at the possibility of going electric a little while ago but I tour into Europe and travel to relatives across the UK on my bike and there simply wasn’t a viable option. I also think that maybe manufacturers have jumped on to the electric scene without there being appropriate and compatible infrastructure in place first, which then leaves potential customers like myself questioning the sanity of going electric. I have no doubt too, that other technologies are being developed which would be sustainable and environmentally friendly, but would do away with the issues that electric currently has. These may relegate electric to the local commuter and grocery run so I think I will have to shelve any decision for a few years to see how electric, and other technologies develop.
The swappable battery is might be workable but the are some problems. For example: I buy a new bike, go on a trip and first day out, stop at a battery swap shop.
I get a clunky old POS battery that lasts for 50 miles, while my shiny new battery has disappeared. Only now I’m 50 miles away, with a dead battery.
Sounds great in theory but in the real world, batteries are not all the same and after a few cycles the differences become more pronounced.
I don’t see that as a problem. Well, being stranded is a problem, but it shouldn’t occur like that. Effectively, you wouldn’t be buying a new battery. You buy (or rent) the use of a battery and that hardware is frequently changed. The system running this battery operation would then have to monitor the batteries and once they have deteriorated to a certain level (80% is generally considered the lower limit) they would be removed from service – and hopefully recycled to full 100% operation. With such standardisation, rebuilding the batteries to new spec should be very possible rather than having to grind them up into small pieces and start the manufacturing process all over again.
In any case, newer battery tech (such as Lithium metal) promises to reduce the deterioration of batteries so the problem will diminish as the technology improves.
I had the pleasure of watching Long Way Up earlier this year, and it was interesting to see the challenges they had with the HD prototype bikes. I’m glad they did it for all of the reasons to do it, but I loved that they put all of this electric gear to a real world test. They beat the crap out of that gear, and it got them to where they wanted to go. Sure, there were challenges, but when you’re doing something pioneering you should expect that.
I got a new 2021 HD Road King and was almost tempted to look at their electric bikes. I obviously didn’t for a number of reasons (too new tech, availability of charging stations, etc.) but was surprised at how many electric charging stations are popping up on the East Coast of the US. The infrastructure is coming to support electric vehicles, and when that hits critical mass, bikes will logically follow. But I think it will be a few years before that happens.