November 20, 2013 - San Diego, CA
Electric Motorcycles: Brand Overview
The electric motorcycle market is maturing quickly, and just like with combustion-engine bikes, there are several manufacturers operating now that cater to distinctly different types of riders. From sub-$10,000 commuters, to $70,000 GP-level track bikes, the electric market has some offerings that will tempt you...and others that will shock you!
The heavy-hitter in the electric bike market right now, Zero is geared up for big production, and has a product line that will appeal to most consumers in the electric market. The Zero S, DS, and SR are the same platform set up with different characteristics; the S is an all-around commuter, the DS is a dual-sport, and the SR is a performance model with over 100 ft/lbs of torque - more than most liter-engine sport bikes! My favorite in the Zero line-up is the FX which, built on the light, rugged off-road MX platform with a massively torquey engine, makes for the perfect hooligan bike.
The 2013 Zero FX, gettin' some. This perfect hooligan bike is already pre-sold for half of 2014!
Feature: the 2013 Zero S
I had the chance to ride this bike (read the full review of the 2013 Zero S
.) The Zero S is Zero’s “streetfighter”, a great all around bike that is comfortable and easy to ride while still being sporty enough to take on some twisty back roads. The 2013 model is the longest range electric bike currently in production, with a claimed max range of 137 miles (city.) With a more-than-adequate 95mph top speed, and a wave of torque on tap at any RPM, the Zero S’ manageability should not be confused for blandness – this everyman’s electric can be a real blast to ride, as I found out.
The down-side? Besides the drawbacks all electrics face, such as limited range and relatively high cost, the Zero was a little lacking in its components. The bouncy suspension is the weakest link, and the brakes leave a lot to be desired. But these are the apparent tradeoffs of an outstanding powertrain and charging system, and an innovative user interface that allows Bluetooth connectivity to mobile devices, turning your phone or tablet into a handheld diagnostic and tuning module.
2013 Base Price: $13,995 with ZF8.5 battery (add $2,000 for ZF11.4 extended range battery, $599 for a quick-charge kit, and $1,799 for a CHAdeMO socket kit for fast charging at public charging stations.)
The other major player in the electric bike market, Brammo has two models in their line-up. The Enertia Plus is the ideal urban commuter, and is nicely spec’d with Marzocchi forks, Brembo brakes, and a Works rear shock. Their higher-end model, the Empulse, is the only e-bike on the market with a gearbox (a 6-speed) and with a water-cooled engine. It is a big boy at 470 pounds, but is very nicely equipped with Marzocchi, Brembo, Sachs, and Marchesini components, and among the most distinctive styling in the electric street-bike market.
The Empulse R: the only electric with a transmission, and among the most distinct styling in the market.
Electric bikes are as easy to charge as a laptop (just don't put it on your desk.)
BRD manufactures electric Supermoto and MX bikes designed to be light, rugged, fast, and ridden hard. BRD places performance first and being “green” second; they didn’t go electric for any political or environmental reason, but rather, because electric motors are so powerful. They have less power and range than other brands, but are very light (250-265 pounds) and come equipped with legitimate racing components. BRD isn’t in full swing yet, but with Tesla co-founder Martin Everhard joining their board in late 2013, look for them to become a bigger presence in 2014.
The BRD Redshift looks like a toy (a toy you can wheelie through alleys and ride down flights of stairs.)
Making only top-of-the-line superbikes that spare absolutely no expense, Mission Motorcycles' ultra-high-performance sport bikes put even the highest spec Ducatis on notice. Boasting a radical 160hp/120tq electric motor and a 0-60mph time of under 3 seconds, Mission’s superbikes live up to the promises of their aggressively gorgeous styling. These bikes are supercomputers on wheels, with a 7”, high-res, data-enabled touchscreen interface integrating GPS, Bluetooth, action cameras, and a soon-to-come helmet with a head-up display.
Mission's bikes are no-expense spared, legitimately race-ready machines.
The components are as impressive as the technology; full Brembo brakes, full Ohlins suspension, and BST carbon-fiber wheels are standard, and the top-spec model includes the same Brembo, Ohlins and Marchesini components used on GP race bikes. I know what you’re thinking – well, what’s it cost? As you probably guessed, Mission bikes are one of those “if you have to ask, you cant afford it” kind of things; the entry level model starts at $30,000, and you’ll rack up well over $70,000 for the top-spec GP model.
I call it "The Electric Panigale." The top-spec GP model is more like the Panigale Superleggera!
Something For Everyone...
This brief overview of what's out (or about to come out) on the electric motorcycle market shows that there is a little something to appeal to every performance rider. Commuters, supermoto guys, and even hardcore track riders will find that there are already exciting offerings that will meet or exceed the performance of their gas-powered machines; and as fast as this technology is developing, they will only get better.
Indications made by major manufacturers like Yamaha, Suzuki, and KTM show that this isn't some fringe fad either; the heavy hitters are taking this technology seriously, and the competition between them to bring out the best and most accessible electric bikes is sure to leave only one winner - the consumer! Look for 2014 to be a big year for the rise of the electric motorcycle.
Do any of these brands catch your eye? What would you like to see in an electric version? Let us know in the comments below.