Can you believe it’s been a year since the last edition of our comprehensive guide to electric motorcycles? But what’s happened in the 12 months since? Which, if any, of the ultra-cool concepts dragged themselves out of development hell and into a shop? Join Bikesure, the freewheeling insurance broker, as we give the future of transport another look.
The good news is the government’s electric vehicle subsidy has 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 KTM have admitted that they’ve sold 3000 in total so far.
Of course, while the infrastructure and technology for more widespread adoption of electric vehicles is in its infancy, this means that most companies are essentially leaving their towels on the sunlounger, staking a claim on a market still being constructed.
New looks for old faces
Zero, who are arguably the joint market leaders right now, launched the Zero S in mid-2017. This has a smaller battery and half the range of their standard DS which not only helps make it more manoeuvrable but also allows it to be driven by people without their full license. Of course a £10k beginners bike appeals to shall we say, a limited market, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Especially if you don’t need to travel very far.
The rest of Zero’s range is also being gradually improved, with shorter charging times and more powerful batteries giving 10% more range. This is all good, although if you rushed out and got one last year you might be slightly annoyed.
Energica have also had a pretty good year, with the Ego becoming the first electric production bike to compete on the Isle of Man TT Zero race. The latest addition to their stable of high quality machines is the Esse Esse 9, named after the Italian road originally built by the Romans which goes through what is now known as the Motor Valley. Taking its cues from a retro style of bike, helps it stand out from other electric bikes. Just to illustrate the size of the market for electric vehicles, Energica are planning on making 400 bikes in 2018.
As well as catching up with old pals, we get to say hello to some new friends. This is being driven to a large degree 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 are one of these manufacturers. They’re aiming at the same kind of market as Zero and Energica, although they are somewhat easier on the wallet. Their Urban S is available in the region of £7k, with a cool modern design that means you can get an EV on a non-millionaire’s budget.
Even cheaper is the offering from another new company, the Super Soco TS1200R. Costing around £3k without the government discount (£2.3k with), it lacks a lot of the polish that its more expensive cousins have – the bodywork is mostly plastic, plus its maximum speed is a stately 30mph – but if you’re considering a moped or scooter to get you around town then this is another option.
With the revival of interest in classic designs in recent years, it’s nice to report that electric bikes are beginning to respond to this trend instead of just recapitulating modern sportsbikes.
While there’s no guarantee it’ll get made, the Denzel Café Racer is up for pre-order now and is due to ship around May 2018. Obviously importing from China is fraught with difficulties but it might be an idea to talk to the UK dealer and ask whether they have any plans involving this new bike.
The offroad segment of the electric motorcycle market is small but, as so often, perfectly formed. KTM, they of the 3000 sold to date, are the de facto kings of this particular hill. Their 2018 model the E-XC will obviously take advantage of the same incremental improvements in tech that everything else does, but will also be offering a new purchasing model. Basically, you buy the bike, at a price comparable to standard motorcycles – before leasing the charger and battery from KTM for a monthly price. This will enable the battery to be upgraded when possible, and they say the price of the lease will cost about the same as the price of filling it up with petrol. Of course not having to pay for petrol is part of the appeal of getting an electric bike, and you’ll be paying to charge it anyway but perhaps it’ll tempt a few more buyers.
Finally, and no doubt destined to be cult favourites in years to come, is the electric motorcycle from Kalashnikov. Initially aimed at the police and military, it will make its first public appearance during the 2018 World Cup. There’s no indication that it’ll get made into a commercial product but if it did it’d probably do pretty darn well.
Enter the scooter
While motorcycles get the attention, it’s the humble scooter that’s been doing the majority of the heavy lifting in the electric vehicle market. Back in July 2016 we took a deep dive into what was available, and nothing world shattering has happened since. From the previous article, e-Rider have two new models – the Moda at £2295 and the Model 30 City for just under £2k.
eGen have also expanded their range, importing the Torrot Muvi and the Scutum Silence from Spain. The Muvi is in the £2.5-3k price range while the Scutum starts at £3k and goes all the way up to £4k, dependent on battery. The Scutum is carving a niche in delivery companies over in Spain.
Govecs are another brand mostly focused on the commercial market. While they’re still not particularly focused on personal transport or the UK market, they’re working with the German scooter share app Elly, which is a model that’s crying out to be launched in the UK, especially with the success bicycle hiring app Ofo is having as it gradually rolls out.
Another German-only product we can only hope someone imports here is the Schwalbe, due to be launched this summer. That square headlight fitting is officially nice.
Here come the hot swappers
While we’ve seen some incremental improvements in battery capacity, we’re still waiting for that technological breakthrough that’ll allow for long distance journeys without the hours long recharge times.
Taiwan’s Gogoro scooter sharing service shows one possible approach, most specifically the swappable batteries.
Honda have also announced a scooter with standardised swappable batteries, which could work with a similar system where owners swap out discharged batteries for new ones at a network of stations. This helps to bypass the waiting times for recharging but would rely on setting up a fair degree of infrastructure to make it worthwhile, which will be a fairly massive barrier especially outside of major cities.
The expensive models
Rondine are an Italian company integrating cutting edge technology and stylish design. Available in off-road, naked and café racer variants, each bike is made on demand whenever a sale is made. This is in order to reduce waste and minimise their environmental impact.
Current king of the expensive bikes has to be the Light Rider from Airbus (yes, the plane people). It’s a prototype which uses cutting edge materials and 3D printing to produce a super strong and super-light motorcycle with a power to weight ratio comparable to supercars. A small run of street legal versions of the Light Rider are planned, but with this level of tech you just know that it’s going to cost a lot of money.
While money is the biggest limiting factor, sometimes distance is too. For example Ubco make a satisfying on/off-road bike with plenty of customisability. But as they’re based in New Zealand, it would be expensive to import here.
Finally, you can’t buy the Munro 2.0, one of the bikes we mentioned last year whose design we were rather taken with. That is, you can’t buy it unless you pre-ordered it in China last year. Which is a shame, as it still looks great and we’re pretty convinced that it’d do well if it ever reaches these shores.
So, how has the passage of time affected your opinions on electric motorcycles? Would you consider buying one? Sound off in the comments!Motorbikes, Motorcycle Insurance