The triumph of the Tesla electric cars by Elon Musk has awoken the faded several decades ago interest in vehicles with an electric motor. Driven by today’s trendy ideas of sustainability and innovation, motorcycle manufacturers began producing electric bikes in small batches to test the market’s readiness for change and empirically evaluate their pros and cons compared to traditional gasoline motorcycles.
It’s not the first fight between gasoline and electricity for the right to be a major energy source for vehicle motors. In the early 1900s, industrialists weren’t sure which way the production of cars and motorcycles would move. The wealthiest man of the time, Henry Ford, was considering mass building charging stations in the United States. But then gasoline won the battle. And all because, at that time, there were no relatively light and capacious batteries that would make it possible to drive hundreds of kilometers without recharging.
These days, the battle’s outcome wouldn’t be so definite in favor of gasoline. We can say there is a delicate balance – there are strong pros and cons for both gasoline and electricity.
Pros and cons of electric motorbikes
Let’s start with the pros:
- Eco-friendliness. Yes, at first glance, this is a big advantage of electric motorbikes because they do not pollute the air with harmful gasoline exhausts. But we still need to remember that around two-thirds of the world’s electricity production, including what is used to to recharge electric motorbikes, currently involves burning gas, coal, or other non-renewable resources. Thus, their only pro is that the air in the city will be cleaner, and that’s it.
- Quietness. You can’t argue that electric bikes are so quiet that riders can hear their heartbeat.
- Design. When there is no need to equip the bike with a fuel tank and internal combustion engine (ICE), it certainly opens a lot of room for creativity. Respectively, we can expect an array of exciting and attractive solutions making the bikes look very modern and technically advanced.
- Fast acceleration. Most gasoline bikes cannot accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 2-3 seconds. So, an electric motorbike can easily overtake a traditional motorbike starting from a traffic light.
- Ease of maintenance. Buying an electric motorbike means forgetting about oil, pistons and spark plugs changes, or transmission problems.
- Low price of electricity compared to gasoline prices.
Now let’s talk about the cons:
- Cooling system. Surprise, surprise! You may think that only an ICE can become red-hot, but you’re mistaken. Electric batteries are even more prone to overheating. Even air cooling sufficient for an internal combustion engine isn’t helping much. Motorcycle manufacturers have been testing liquid cooling for batteries, but clearly, installing it on bikes will raise their price tag even higher.
- A full fuel tank can take you further than a fully charged battery. Modern electric motorbikes are not suitable for long-distance trips. So, their owners are tied to the city limits. Attempts to increase the range lead to the need for more batteries, heavier weight, and bulkiness of the motorcycle.
- Altered center of gravity, which in electric motorcycles tends to be higher than in gasoline motorcycles, makes them less stable on the road.
- Electric bikes are several times more expensive than gasoline ones. A gasoline Chinese bike costing around $2,500-$3,500 can have the same performance characteristics as an electric motorbike costing $17,000-$25,500.
- And, of course, the sound. Sometimes it’s just so nice to play around at idle speed and enjoy the engine’s growl. An electric bike, alas, cannot boast of such.
Models of electric motorcycles
One of the cheapest options is the Chinese motorbike Xinling XL2000DQT-E. The only bells and whistles of the bike are the cushioning of the seat. Besides, the bike is unpretentious, will withstand even a bad dirt road, and is easy to manage, despite the significant weight. As for the cons: the battery charges for 6 hours and lasts only 80-100 kilometers. But all of this is compensated with a bargain price of around $1,000-$1,365.
If you are looking for the best “price-quality” ratio, there is an excellent option – Super Soco TS1200R. It has a perfect weight distribution: the batteries are in the middle part, and the motor integrated into the wheel is located at the back. It also has a nice design and can be upgraded, i.е. the owner can add another battery and increase the range from 100 to 200 km. Its charge time is as long as that of Xinling – at least 6 hours. But you can, if necessary, carry out express charging in 20 minutes. This charge will last for 30 km. Currently, the bike costs $4,260.
When the main criterion for choosing an electric motorcycle is its range, then you should consider buying a Verge TS. Its range with a fully charged battery is 300 km and 100 km after an express 15-minute charge. This bike produces such powerful torque that it can reach 180 km/h, so even the fastest fold-lipped bat from Brazil (with a maximum speed of 160 km/h) could not overtake it. Another perk is that the rear wheel resembles Batman’s motorcycle when viewed from the side. Now the bike costs $25,555.
The leader of the market, Harley-Davidson, keeps up with the competitors and at the start of 2019 launched an electric motorbike LiveWire in the naked class. The bike retains the advantages of a sportbike but removes its disadvantages, such as an uncomfortable seat, low handlebars, and steps that are too retracted back. The bike’s designers focused on safety and riding modes, three of which are customizable by the biker. The Harley accelerates to 175 km/h. It can ride up to 230 km on a flat road and up to 100 km on a serpentine. The cost of the bike ranges from $52,173 to $60,800.