Updated August 11, 2020
Electric vehicles have long been a staple of science fiction, and have been hyped as being the next big thing for years.
You may be surprised to learn that the first patent for an electric motorcycle was issued in the 1890s, but it’s only recently that technology, and individuals, have begun catching up with the dream.
The good news is the government’s electric vehicle subsidy has since come into effect, with grants of 20% of a bike’s value, up to a maximum of £1,500, available for new buyers.
Exact sales figures are difficult to find, but at a time when sales of motorcycles are down almost entirely across the board, we shouldn’t be too surprised that electric ones are still a niche product. We do have statistics for France, which saw 194 electric motorcycles bought in 2016, and in 2017 KTM admitted that they only sold 3,000. However, Statistica predicts that around 55 million electric motorcycles and scooters will be sold globally by 2024.
Reports from early 2020 suggest that the European electric scooter and motorcycles market is in the third stage of development (dubbed ‘take-off’) with revenue concentrated among a relatively small number of manufacturers. There were record sales in 2019 with 61,629 registrations.
Why go electric?
There are plenty of advantages to electric motorcycles. Aside from the environmental benefits, electric motors are incredibly efficient. All acceleration is handled directly by the motor, meaning there’s no need for a gearbox or clutch. And while the lack of engine noise might be a turn-off to purists, electric vehicles are now taking over the professional racing world. The inaugural season of the MotoE World Cup took place in 2019 – the world’s first electric motorcycle racing series.
Electric motorcycles are now suitable for any style of riding – from racing to urban commutes. The stop-start nature of city travelling works to their advantage as battery power lasts longer. Power consumption when motionless is much less than an internal combustion engine idling, and if the bikes are fitted with regenerative braking, small amounts of power can be recharged.
There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about the rules and restrictions related to electric motorbikes, mopeds and bicycles – especially at the low-powered end. Ultimately, you will need a licence to ride anything that doesn’t have pedals and goes faster than 15mph. For more on this read our Electric Scooters And The Law article.
So, what is actually available?
Join Bikesure, the freewheeling insurance broker, as we review electric motorcycles and explore the future of transport, that you can go and buy today. But be warned – some still aren’t available in the UK, so be prepared to import if you fall in love with something. For any trailblazers with deep pockets, there are some very nice, and interesting, bikes out there.
Zero, the California-born brand that aims to incorporate advanced electric technology to traditional motorcycles, continues to improve and expand their range of bikes.
Coming in both road and off-road designs, they have one of the largest electric ranges of any manufacturer. Highlights include:
Zero have designed and built a capable, quick, and well-equipped bike to match the likes of the Honda Africa Twins and BMW GS Adventure series rides. With its powerful ZF14.4 battery, the Black Forest’s electric motor puts out 70 HP and 116 pound-feet of torque that gives riders 163 miles of stop-and-go riding, with top speeds of 102 mph. Prices c. $15,495 (£12,715).
The SR/F delivers 140 ft-lbs of torque and 110 HP with the simple twist of a throttle thanks to its new ZF75-10 motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery. The powerful Zero goes from 0 to 95% charge in just one hour. It also has a 200-mile range and top speed of 124mph. But all this silent fun will set you back around $21,495 (£17,639).
If the bikes above sound a little pricey, the FXS is the market’s hidden gem, and one of the best electric dirt bikes, with a price tag of $8,995 (£7,381). This nippy ride has a modest top speed of 85mph and a city range of 50 miles. With a lower outlay, the fuel economy also comes in at 533mpgE (city) and 213mpgE (motorway).
This Italian manufacturer of electric motorbikes have three models:
- Eva Ribelle – “the first 100% electric streetfighter”
- Ego – a high-performance race bike
- Eva EsseEsse9 – with its classic styling
Energica are players in the F1 and aerospace industries and have brought their expertise to bear on electric motorcycles. For example, the Ribelle has 215 Nm of torque and a 21.5 kW long-range lithium-ion battery, with an impressive 400 km city range. Energica also boasts a fast-charging electric bike: filling up with over 6 km urban range for every minute spent DC Charging. However, this level of tech costs and you might expect to pay around £20,000 for an Energica – depending on the model.
In 2018, Energica collaborated with Samsung for the Smart Ride project. By linking Samsung technology with the bike, they hope to achieve an innovative new riding experience, as well as guaranteeing greater levels of road-safety.
This company claims to be the UK’s number one seller of electric motorcycles – Super Soco. The TSx costs £3,748.75, but lacks a lot of the polish that its more expensive cousins have – the bodywork is mostly plastic and its maximum speed is a stately 28mph. It offers max torque of 150 Nm with it’s Bosch motor.
If you’re after something with a bit more grunt, the 125cc Super Soco TC Max received rave-reviews with a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 60mph (depending on restrictions). This model comes in at around £5,311.25.
The marque also launched the Super Soco CUx, a stylish little scooter for around £2,811.25.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Italian manufacturer Piaggio. The Vespa Elettrica offers a timeless, if not iconic, 1950s design. The 2020 Vespa Elettrica will go about 60 miles on a single charge and top out at 43mph. For those who want a little more poke, Piaggio announced the Vespa Elettrica 70 km/h
As well as its classic style, Vespa Elettrica riders can do so with just a standard car driver’s license.
To most, it might seem like anathema to have such a heritage brand as Harley-Davidson in this list. The Americana classic brand has made waves with the LiveWire – their electric bike.
The LiveWire model was revealed at CES at the start of 2019, using Augmented Reality to show off the $30,000 (£24,618) electric motorcycle. It’s ‘twist-and-go’ feature stands it apart from their other offerings, meaning there are no shifters or clutch to contribute to its easy ride – with swift acceleration capabilities and agile handling. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in an impressive 3.5 seconds and hit top speeds of 120 mph, but some are already saying the ‘new signature Harley-Davidson sound’ is simply too quiet.
Despite being an EV with attitude, this twist-and-go Harley-Davidson will still clock more than 100 miles of mixed urban and highway driving on a single charge.
Its cellular connectivity capability makes it the first mass-market motorcycle of it’s kind in North America. With cellular telematics connectivity, you can connect to the electric Harley-Davidson remotely through your smartphone. You will be able to check things like battery, see the bike’s location on a map, and get security alerts if it’s been bumped, tampered with or moved. The LiveWire is equipped with a full suite of electronic aids, with a variety of sensors and programmable touch controls.
What’s new on the block?
There has been a sudden influx of new manufacturers, largely driven by China, which is investing heavily in electric vehicles while discouraging combustion engines. However, the focus is largely on cars, as China doesn’t have the same motorcycle culture as other countries.
Evoke aims for the same kind of market as Zero and Energica, but is somewhat easier on the wallet. Their Urban S, with its cool modern design and range of 125 miles, is available in the region of $7,999 (£6,564).
The 2020 Evoke Urban Classic electric motorcycle features many upgrades from previous models including the user interface and throttle response. It can reach 81mph and a maximum range of 125 miles on a single charge. Its current batteries can be recharged in 90 minutes (depending on spec), and is valued at $8,499 (£6,974).
Evoke are currently taking pre-orders for their stunning new cruiser, the 6061 Signature Series. It offers a 290-mile range and top speed of a tasty 140mph. They also say: “Charging at any DC fast charging station will power you up in as little as 15 minutes”.
Diving headfirst into the world of vapourtech, Lightning’s first product is the LS-218. The Lightning SuperBike is thought to be the world’s fastest street-legal bike, partnering with Race Tech for track-ready suspension and a top speed of 218mph. The bikes are now in production, but starting at $38,888 (£31,911), they’re not cheap!
The Strike Carbon is also available to reserve via their website.The vehicle offers top speeds of 150 mph and peak torque of 186 ft/lb drive unit.
The Denzel Café Racer is now in production, re-named as the ECR V1, with a 7.5-kilowatt electric motor, and a top speed of 58mph. This model will set you back between £4,100-£4,500, but from reviews it doesn’t look like it will disappoint.
The company began shipping this stylish bike in November, but as importing from China is fraught with difficulties it might be an idea to talk to the UK dealer and ask whether they have any plans involving this new bike.
Johammer have taken an interesting approach to the design of their electric motorcycle. With the J1, Johammer have redesigned the frame around the demands of an electrical system, rather than attempting to force it into a standard motorcycle frame.
The result is something like a futuristic update of the Streamline style popular in the 1930s – or a robot prawn. Details, such as having dash displays built into the rear-view mirror, help to keep the vehicle looking sleek and eye-catching.
The bike’s top speed is 75mph, and prices start at €22,900 (24,950). However, this unique bike may also involve a trip to Austria to collect it.
What’s in the pipeline?
It’s encouraging to see progressively more motorbike brands start to invest in offering an electric option, although many are still in the prototype stages.
A motorcycle manufacturer who decided against this twist-and-go handling, is Kymco. They revealed their SuperNEX electric sportsbike at EICMA, which will be equipped with a six-speed gearbox, while still enabling clutchless shifts for a smooth drive. The speed stats also appear superior to the aforementioned LiveWire, with an acceleration from 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds.
Kymco Chairman – Allen Ko, spoke about their latest model, commenting that “Electric bikes are the future and this is a boundless opportunity to transform the supersports segment”.
There’s been no comment on the price, however, as tweaks are still being made, but the bikes are reported to be available in the UK by Easter, so watch this space!
Let’s take this off-road
The off-road segment of the electric motorcycle market is small but is, as is often the case, perfectly formed.
KTM are the de facto kings of this particular hill. Their new-and-improved model, the Freeride E-XC, offers 50% more battery power than its predecessor. The bike offers a peak power output of 18 kW, while only weighing 111 kg. The vehicle also offers three different ride modes and WP suspension to help keep things grounded.
Finally, the electric motorcycle from Kalashnikov will no doubt be a cult favourite in years to come. Initially aimed at the police and military, it made its first public appearance during the 2018 World Cup. A year after releasing this electric dual-sport, they revealed two new electric motorcycles at the 2018 International Military Technical Forum in Russia. While details on the UM-1 and SM-1 electric bikes remain vague, they appear to be militant-looking, with similar trail bike characteristics as the original release, and top speeds of up to 62mph.
Are you ready to embrace the electric version of your beloved motorbike? Or do you already own one? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how it works for you, or if you can’t bear the thought of leaving behind the engine and exhaust notes of your favourite bikes. Tell us in the comments below or check out our ultimate guide to electric mopeds.
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