When motorcycle riders talk shop, It’s not uncommon to hear someone belt out the traditional “Braaaaap” or talk about how much they love the sweet smell of 2-stroke smoke. As EPA restrictions become tighter and tighter, manufactures are doing their best to stay ahead of the game by making motor packages as powerful as possible with fuel and sound restrictions that seem to get more and more aggressive. Some brands are testing the waters with a different approach by going green with electric powerplants and we wanted to show you that some of these aren’t as bad as you might think.
Yeah…. I know. Just saying the term “electric motorcycle” used to make me cringe, but for some street riders and motorcycle commuters an E-motorcycle might be efficient and more cost effective than a traditional motorcycle. You have to admit that there are benefits of an electric motorcycle, such as a cut down on maintenance costs since the days of cleaning and replacing air filters are gone as are the hassles of regular oil changes and having to dispose of hazardous fluids. Additionally you could potentially qualify for incentives depending on what state you live in and what models you purchase.
Now depending on the last time you’ve seen electric motorcycles, you might think that the cool factor is out the door. Sure you won’t be getting the sound or the smell that you would from a conventional bike, but is it that much of a loss? Imagine instant throttle response with the most linear powerband you’ve ever felt on a motorcycle that can truly provide an E-ticket ride feeling on both street or dirt. The reality is that these machines have been increasing in demand and the technology is coming along with them regardless of the terrain you ride.
As a company that’s been around for a little over a decade, Zero Motorcycles has established itself as one of the best E-motorcycle companies in the business. If you’re a street rider, you may find yourself impressed with their Zero S (naked street) model coming in at just under $14,000. This unit doesn’t just look sporty, because it delivers on performance with a top speed of 98mph and a peak torque rating of 81 ft-lb. ultimately giving the S the ability to out pull some of the most impressive fossil fuel motorcycles on the market and still have a potential range of 206 miles on a single charge that averages $1.86 each time. As long as you’ve got 11 hours to kill for a recharge, it should keep a smile on your face.
If you prefer the naked street bike look, the Zero S (top) is right up your alley. If you prefer more of an off-road styled E-motorcycle, the Zero FX (bottom)might be more your style.
If playing in the dirt is more of your style, the Zero FX might suit you a little better. While not bred for strict off-road performance, it is a decent substitute for someone that wants a dual-sport motorcycle more for commuting use since its combined hwy/city range is limited to 54 miles. As for power, the 46hp electric motor creates 78 ft-lb of torque that translates into terrafirma shredding power. If you upgrade to one of their Max Accessory Chargers, your charge time gets cut from 9.7 hours to 1.8 at a cost of only $600 on top of the $10,500 price tag. With that said, you can take it on dirt but really it it’s designed more for a commuter who runs on the occasional dirt road on the way home and want’s the look feel of a dual-sport motorcycle.
A cool feature that can be found on all Zero Motorcycles is that you can use your smart phone to customize the performance of your motorcycle.
When you want to talk high-performance E-powered off-road motorcycles, this is the company that really came out swinging. You won’t find any Redshift models made for the street here because they were built with one thing in mind, and that is off-road performance. The Redshift MX has garnered the most attention since it was proven how competitive it can be against modern 250cc 4-stroke mx bikes at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm when piloted by Josh Hill. The 42hp motor generates 120 fb-lb of torque and has an excellent power range that goes from 4+ hours of expert level single track riding to 20-minute expert level motocross heats depending on how you have the power delivery set up with the option of 4 different maps. When the power runs out, you’re looking anywhere from 2 to 4 hours of recharge time depending on your power source.
With this bike, it’s not all about the motor and 350v waterproof Li-Ion battery that makes it great. The suspension is similar to what you’d find on a motorcycle getting ready to line up at the main event of a Supercross race. The WP front fork is fully adjustable as is the WP rear shock so you can dial in the suspension for the ever changing track conditions because that is where this bike thrives. The surprising part is the price since the Redshift comes in at $10,495 which is comparable to most 250cc 4-stroke mx bikes. If you want to take the Redshift’s performance to the next level, then step up to the MXR version with a 50hp motor that pumps out 147 ft-lb of torque and was designed to compete with the modern 350cc machines at a price jump of only $1,500. With the different features and impressive performance numbers, you definitely get the silenced bang for your buck.
If you think this is your neighbors old electric scooter you're going to hop on, think again. The Alta Redshift MX was bred for performance and will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek.
Yeah, you read that right. The motorcycle powerhouse out of Austria has jumped on board the E train with their Freeride E-XC. While the numbers aren’t quiet as impressive as the Alta, the E-XC sports a brushless permanent magnet synchronous motor that pumps out 21.5 peak HP and 31 ft-lb of torque. What sets this motor aside from the others is that it also isn’t completely maintenance free. It does require that you change out 155ml of oil in the drive train, but likely that helps the longevity of some parts in high stress areas. It is also the only E-bike that is liquid cooled to keep the powerful electric motor cool in high stress conditions.
The KTM Freeride E-XC has actually been in development since 2010. Since then many changes have taken place with technology and KTM has incorporated that into the Freeride E-XC for a solid platform.
When it comes to ride times, you’re looking at getting roughly an hour of run time at peak performance before you’re required to plug it in for a recharge, which should take roughly an hour for full capacity. If you don’t want to be bothered with charging downtime, you also have the option of spare battery packs so you can flip up the seat, undo 4 bolts and swap out power supplies. Similar to the Alta, the KTM Freeride E-XC was designed for someone that wants maximum performance, which is why it’s outfitted with WP front forks and rear shock, composite (chromoly steel/aluminum) frame and Formula braking components. What it boils down to is that this E-bike was built to suit the demands of off-road enthusiasts and the quality of parts and construction is exactly what you’d expect from a brand like KTM for they are estimating to be a very affordable price that has yet to be determined in the US.
Known for their quality and performance, the Freeride E-XC from KTM will likely be a proven performer off-road for those that want a quiet ride.
For all of you Harley-Davidson faithful, we’re not forgetting about you. Just 3 years ago HD unveiled Project LiveWire, which was their first venture into the electric motorcycle realm. While the LiveWire had plenty of hype with claims that it could go from 0-60 MPH in under 4-seconds, that hype was quickly deflated with its limited range of just 55 miles in “economy” mode. Well just last month (January 2018) when H-D released its 2018 annual financial report, execs announced that within the next 18 months an electric motorcycle would be released. Will this new motorcycle be based on the LiveWire platform or completely new from the ground up has yet to be announced, but we’d hope that the numbers for power and mileage would be an improvement from 3 years ago considering how technology has progressed since then. Until then, all you cruiser riders need to be happy with the rumble that the infamous motorcycles are known for.
The Harley Davidson LiveWire prototype (pictured) was announced and put to sleep over 3 years ago. HD has now announced that within the next year and a half we'll be seeing another E-powered platform that will hopefully have more impressive numbers than its predecessor.
Is this the complete lineup of electric motorcycles available on the market? Absolutely not, but considering their target audiences they are probably the front runners in their class. It’s impressive to see how far this technology has come along and to see which manufactures are embracing E-technology for the powersports market and how it doesn’t follow the same conservative trend as the automotive market. Now that you’ve seen some of these options, we’d like to know. Does this technology sway you towards buying electric in the future? Please leave your comments below.