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What’s holding back electric motorcycles?

By 23.06.20203 Comments

As more and more motorcycle manufacturers are adding electric models to their line-up, or are at least planning to do so, we take a look at the pros and cons of riding and owning an e-bike.

Having talked to a couple of e-bike enthusiasts, and having ridden a couple of light e-bikes myself, I can conclude that I’m not ready quite yet to buy one, but I’m all the more interested in what this new market will bring us in the next few years.

The Verge TS


Cost of ownership

A minimum amount of moving parts means little maintenance. Electric motorcycles don’t need their oil changed every 5000 miles (8000km), and don’t need gasoline filters or air filters replaced every so often. And forget about valve adjustment too.

Depending on your annual mileage, riding style and environment, a regular motorcycle can cost you between $800 and $1500 per year in maintenance.

In terms of servicing, electric motorcycles do need brake pads, brake fluid, fork seals, bearings, chain/belt and sprockets, headlight/turn signal bulbs.

The low average cost of maintenance doesn’t mean that nothing can go wrong with electric motorcycles. Charging units and wire problems are the most frequently heard issues on today’s electric motorcycles.

Low charging costs 

Typically, electric motorcycles can be a lot cheaper in terms of fuel costs. Actual costs depend on electricity cost in your country. The difference will mostly be just a few dollars less or more.

In the U.S., the average electricity price is 12 cents/kWh. The largest Zero battery is 16kWh. That means a full charge would cost about $1.75 and it will take you 98-197 miles (hwy vs city). In Germany, electricity prices are about 3 times higher at $0.35 per KwH.

Instant torque

For many of us, performance is a big thing to consider when buying a new motorcycle, and electric motorcycles can be quite rewarding to ride in terms of acceleration, thrill factor and handling.

The famous Pikes Peak international hill-climb contest, in which torque and acceleration times play a crucial role, has been dominated by electric motorcycles.

Currently, the fastest electric motorcycle for road-use on the market is the LS-218 from Lightning Motorcycles. It does 0-100 kmh (0-60 mph) in 2.2 seconds and 0-160 kmh (0-100mph) in just 5.5 seconds. According to Electrek.co, you can’t even go full throttle until after 100 mph because there is so much torque available that it will just spin and smoke the tire on the dyno.

An electrifying wheelie on the Mission One electric superbike. Source

Long battery lifetime

Many potential buyers are questioning the battery life, but the truth is that most users won’t have to replace the first battery on their electric motorcycle. Current batteries are set to last around 10 years, with around 20% power reduction during its lifetime. 

New battery technology and the possible introduction of graphene-ion battery packs could significantly extend a battery’s lifespan in the future. 


Range anxiety

The relatively short range of electric motorcycles is possibly the number one reason holding back new buyers. Who wants to be stuck on the side of the road on a longer trip while your friends still have 200 kilometers to go on their tank.

Increasing battery capacity sounds easy, but adding more Kwh’s in storage capacity means increasing the weight of the motorcycle significantly. 

Currently, the Brutus V9 has a range of up to 270 miles/ 430 km, but this heavy cruiser weighs about 800 pounds/ 360 kgs.  The more frequently seen Zero SR only lasts for 140 miles/ 225 kms, which would leave me stranded about halfway down from Mexico City to Acapulco.


Closely related to range anxiety is refuelling. The fact that refuelling, even with fast chargers, takes a lot longer than the few minutes it would take to fill up a gas tank, adds to the range anxiety.

Additionally, in a lot of countries around the world, the charging network still has long ways to go. Mexico is one of those countries. Sure, in big cities charging stations are available, but, on my way from Mexico City to Acapulco, charging stations are few and far between.

However, new charging technology and improved batteries are expected to hit the market within the next five years, and electric motorcycles aren’t expected to fully go mainstream before that happens.

Cost of acquisition 

Together with the relatively short range, and charging time, this could be the biggest con of electric motorcycles.

Smaller models usually start around $4000-$5000 and are often just good for city-use and or short distance riding. The mid-ranged bikes such as the 2019 Zero FXS starts at almost $9000. Full-sized motorcycles, however, are much more expensive. Most full-scale electric motorcycles start at well over $20,000, with the Energica EVA Ribelle costing around $25500, the Zero SR/S setting you back at least $22,000 and the Harley Davidson Livewire costing almost $30,000.  

Shifting gears

Playing with the gears on a difficult slope or shifting down a couple of gears to sprint away is no longer possible on (most) electric motorcycles, and for many aficionados, this is bad news.

Most of us will feel like riding an electric motorcycle is like riding a scooter… albeit a much faster one.

No roaring engines

No more revving in tunnels, playing with the accelerator or noise-making on the boulevard. For some it’s  a convenient feature of e-bikes, but for many petrolheads, roaring engines is an absolute must, and lets be honest, artificial engine sounds are cool in science-fiction movies, but, in real life, a sputtering Harley Davidson or a snarky Japanese sports-bike just sounds better.

Fast depreciation

Electric cars and motorcycles are being developed at breakneck speed, and advancements such as better torque, handling and better batteries are to be expected within the next couple of years.

This is great for the market as a whole, but current e-bike owners will see the resale value of their motorcycles drop faster because of these innovations as they’ll render current bikes obsolete, while lowering prices of new motorcycles. 




  • Stephen Winnall says:

    I’ve just embarked on my first tour on my Zero SR, which – wimp that I am – I drive in eco mode. I wasn’t sure if I would make the whole distance (220km according to Scenic) on one charge because I had to cross the Swiss Alps, so I planned a stop for lunch and recharge. The bike still had 50% charge, so when I had finished my lunch an hour later it was fully recharged. I crossed the Grimsel Pass (2,150 metres) and arrived at my destination with 45% left. And recharging – during lunch and at my destination – was free.

    Finding charging stations while planning a trip is fiddly, but I’m reasonably confident now.

  • Michael HARDTMANN says:

    I’ve been riding a Zero DSR for two years now and I can relate to both the pros and cons – although with a few caveats…
    Pros: the silence and ease of riding (no shifting, no noise, no unnecessary buttons or switches…) is pure joy
    Cons: range anxiety goes away; you learn to ride and plan rides differently, and charging is getting easier and easier. I don’t find I’ve missed the playing with gears or whatever at all – the always-on torque is a big plus (to be enjoyed in moderation) and the engine braking is more powerful than a petrol bike.
    I do still sometimes miss the sound, but silence has a way of getting noticed, too!
    I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a petrol/ICE motorcycle …

  • Tomas says:

    Electric scooters with the constantly increasing range introduce a slight threat to growth of electric vehicle market as offer same commuting convienience but adds more to the game:

    – you can charge down your office desk while at work or in your appartment on the 4th floor of condo building.

    – can take an uber or lyft to take you home when discharged (for motorcycle you should use full tow service).

    – can use pedestrial lanes akd bicycle routes in touristic areas

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