CHASING THE ELECTRIC ALTERNATIVE
Will plug-in motorcycles ever make sense?
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.