Whether you’re soaring around a curve on the Pacific Coast Highway with the wind in your hair or getting to work faster than the crowd in downtown Miami, you can now do it with ZERO tailpipe emissions. The electric motorcycle is here to make your weekends more exciting, your workdays easier to navigate, and motorcycle rallies more tech-savvy than ever.
Electric motorcycles operate in the same way as cars. Electric motorcycles and scooters are simply EVs with two or three wheels. Electricity is stored on the bike in a rechargeable battery, which drives one or more electric motors. Both motorcycles and cars are charged the same way, with the same chargers. While batteries are heavy, electric motors are not, and a tank full of gasoline is unnecessary, making the bikes lighter than riders may imagine.
From large companies to start-ups, many manufacturers are getting in on the action, from high-powered ultra-fast motorcycles to three-wheelers practical in a city traffic commute. 2020 was a great year for electric motorcycles; in fact, sales of off-road motorcycles in general doubled last year, and this year maybe even better.
As EVs become more popular and the price of gas keeps going up, according to Electrek.com, “One of the biggest beneficiaries of the sales boost has been low-cost electric motorcycle and scooter manufacturers.”
Electrek also reports a boom in full-size and higher-cost motorcycles, including Italy’s Energica, which is set to double their sales in the US this year. From the Harley Davidson LiveWire to the Fly Free’s Smart Desert to the CSC CitySlicker to industry leader Zero’s SR/F, many models are emerging fast and showing up in more places than ever.
After the dangers of Covid and the cabin fever of lockdown, many people are looking to get into the great outdoors and try new things. A growing segment of the population is interested in motorcycles, but not in the pollution, noise, and maintenance of gas-fueled models, wanting to be outdoors without leaving a stream of emissions from a tailpipe. Greener, quieter options appeal to more and more riders, both new riders who may never have seen themselves with a motorcycle and experienced ones looking to try out new technology. These motorbikes are appearing in more and more unexpected places, even traditional motorcycle venues.
Classic Rally, Cutting Edge Tech
Located in the Black Hills in western South Dakota, Sturgis (Aug. 6-15, 2021) is an annual motorcycle rally, which “attracts 500,000 to 750,000 bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts for a week of drag racing, death-defying stunts, and roaring concerts.” Sturgis was established in August of 1938 and hasn’t changed a great deal since then. However, technology has no better home than transportation, and motorcycles being ridden are changing with the times. Electric motorcycles are taking Sturgis by storm.
Last year, driver Jesse Dalba of Florida made waves at Sturgis by winning drag race after race on his LiveWire Harley Davidson. Explaining racing on an electric bike, Dalba said, “I really do believe it’s going to change the rules of drag racing. It’s really unfair- you don’t have to dump a clutch; you just pull the throttle and go. And what people realize is the power is instant. So, I can hit my breaks on the track and then still pass you because I can get full power.”
In fact, sponsor Harley Davidson is changing the focus of their iconic brand and concentrating on electric motorcycles for a younger crowd that seeks a different bike. While some e-motorcycle drivers may miss the Harley growl, most won’t. “For so long, we thought of motorcycles as being these raw, fire-breathing vehicles,” said Harlan Flagg, founder of Hollywood Electrics in Los Angeles. “Motorcyclists have done themselves a huge disservice by scaring people away with these ridiculously loud bikes that are obnoxious.”
Lack of interest in motorcycles took its toll on the industry. Some drivers stopped riding, and younger drivers aren’t as interested in motorcycles as other generations were. Ron Bartels, general manager of Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Marina del Rey stated, “We need a new kind of customer.” An environmentally conscious generation, millennials, and Gen Z are buying less gas-guzzling and ear-splitting bikes but are still interested in the fun and freedom associated with motorcycles.
By appealing to a younger crowd while maintaining cyclist roots, electric motorcycles are here to stay.