CHAS­ING THE ELECTRIC AL­TER­NA­TIVE

Will plug-in mo­tor­cy­cles ever make sense?

Motorcyclist - - Shift - —Ben Purvis

ELECTRIC MO­TOR­CY­CLES al­ways seem just around the cor­ner but never ac­tu­ally reach mass-mar­ket vi­a­bil­ity. A few years ago, Har­ley-david­son was tout­ing Livewire and Vic­tory pur­chased Brammo. Yamaha showed two e-con­cepts and claimed a pro­duc­tion ver­sion was com­ing. Honda un­veiled the RC-E and said it would be on sale by now.

But tan­gi­ble re­sults are hard to see. Livewire is years away. Honda and Yamaha models haven’t emerged. Post-vic­tory, Po­laris plans to re-enter the electric scene but not for a while. And Mo­togp is plan­ning an all-electric support se­ries but not un­til 2019. Has the bat­tery­pow­ered dream fiz­zled out?

Not quite. Yamaha con­firmed it has e-bikes in de­vel­op­ment but is wait­ing for the right time: “With th­ese kinds of ve­hi­cles, the ques­tion is whether it’s bet­ter to lead or wait for the mar­ket.” Honda was like­wise non-com­mit­tal: “The EV-CUB Con­cept demon­strates one so­lu­tion Honda might take to­ward elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of its mo­tor­cy­cles.”

Electrics dom­i­nate China, where 20 mil­lion are sold each year. Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee’s Chris Cherry has stud­ied the Chi­nese e-bike econ­omy. “It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that their electric two-wheel­ers are mu­tated forms of electric bi­cy­cles,” he says. “E-mo­tor­cy­cles will have a hard time go­ing main­stream here be­cause our per­for­mance re­quire­ments are higher.”

E-transport may one day be com­mon­place, but for bikes there’s sure to be a lin­ger­ing at­tach­ment to tra­di­tional power. “It’s like watches,” a Chi­nese mo­to­jour­nal­ist noted. “They all used to be me­chan­i­cal, but now me­chan­i­cal watches are lux­ury goods. I think mo­tor­cy­cles will go the same way.”

While e-bikes like this En­er­gica Eva are still niche prod­ucts, their prac­ti­cal­ity will in­crease as electric cars be­come main­stream, bring­ing more fastcharg­ing points and lower bat­tery prices.

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