Could 2019 be the year of the electric motorcycle? Soon we’ll be seeing the new MotoE championship debut alongside the MotoGP world championship, while Harley-Davidson’s first plugin bike, the LiveWire, will go on sale late in the year and American pioneers Zero have just announced an all-new bike with its SR/F. What’s more, Ducati recently confirmed that it will be making an electric motorbike in the not too distant future. With ULEZ zones appearing in London next month, and with more around the corner up and down the country soon, it’s hardly surprising that many riders are looking at electric motorcycles.
Inevitably many questions frequently crop up, so to help you decide if electric is for you or not, we’ve put them all together some of the most frequently asked questions about a riding a two-wheeled EV.
“How much do they cost”
The UK government currently give a grant of up to £1500 against most new mopeds and bikes. Small bikes like the Super Soco come in at less than £3,000, while Zero’s range start at around £9000 and go through to £20,000. Energica’s high performance range starts at £22,000.
So it’s fair to say that the purchase price of electric vehicles are more expensive than their petrol powered equivalents, however the costs of running an EV should be significantly lower over time. With no moving mechanical parts in the engine, there is no need for oil changes, for example, meaning that only consumables like tyres and brake pads need to be replaced.
Road tax is free, and there are no ULEZ or congestion charges for city commuters. Ten units of electricity typically costs around the same as one litre of petrol and will take you between 50-80 miles on a middle-of-the-road model like the Zero S. How many miles can you do on a litre of unleaded?
“How long does it take to charge?”
It depends! Most electric bikes can be charged through a standard domestic plug socket, which makes for a slow recharge overnight or while you’re at the office during the day. Higher end bikes have fast chargers that can be hooked up to the many public Level Two chargers that are emerging around the country and allow for a full recharge in an hour and half. Energica’s sportsbike range feature DC charging, which allows the bike to be charged up to around 85% in just 20 minutes when using a compatible charger. In general, the more expensive the bike, the more advanced the charging system will be.
“What’s the range?”
Again, it depends! There are so many factors at play here. The main one is the battery size (which is measured in kilowatt hours, or kWh). The bigger the size, the more energy it holds, although this will usually have an adverse effect on the bike’s weight and price. Other factors are aerodynamics, how much weight is being carried, gradients and temperature, because range is usually less in very cold conditions. The main factors are speed and throttle openings. Ride aggressively and at high speed and range will be low, ride smooth and limit the top speed and you’ll maximise your range. As an example, a Zero S, fitted with an 18kWh battery, will cover around 220 miles on a single charge around town, or 110 at a steady 70mph.
“Can I insure an electric motorcycle?”
A few years ago, getting insurance or finance on an electric motorcycle was a task in itself. These days, as they become more mainstream, insurance brokers such as Carole Nash are able to offer Comprehensive, Third Party Fire and Theft (TPFT) and Third Party Only insurance for many electric motorcycles.
“Do electric motorcycles have conventional controls?”
On the whole, yes. Most electric motorcycles forgo a manual gearbox, as the huge torque figures mean that they run a twist and go style CVT transmission. But other than the lack of a clutch and gear lever, an electric bike will feel familiar for most motorcyclists.
“Do I need a licence to ride one?”
Yes. Electric motorcycles are categorised in the same way as petrol bikes are. Moped riders are well catered for with a wide range of bikes from manufacturers such as Niu, Askoll, Torrot and VMoto, whose Super Soco model has proved popular with apartment based commuters thanks to a battery which can be removed from the bike and charged at home. The new Vespa Elettrica is also classed as a moped and can be ridden on an AM licence.
Riders on an A1 licence (or those happy to ride on L plates after completing the CBT) can ride 11kw versions of Zero’s S and DSR models. All other Zero models and the BMW C Evolution scooter can all be ridden on an A2 licence, while the Energica Ego and Eva superbikes require a full, unrestricted, motorcycle licence.
“How fast are they?”
Like all motorcycles, some have been designed to go very fast while others are built to pootle around town. Full sized bikes from Zero can comfortably cruise at motorway speeds, while the Energica Ego (the bike used in the new MotoE racing series) has a top speed of 150mph. Indeed, American electric bike company Lightning hold the honour of producing the world’s fastest production with the LS-218, which is capable of 218mph.
The main characteristic of an electric motor is the torque and instant power delivery. Even the small stuff provide strong acceleration and three second 0-60mph times are commonplace in the electric motorcycle world.
“Do they make any noise”
Not in the traditional sense of the word. Electric motors are near silent but give a futuristic ‘whoosh’ sound under acceleration, while there’s a race a distinctive sound of rubber on the road from the tyres. Many riders hate the idea of the a bike that doesn’t make noise, while some love the stealthiness of an electric motorcycle. Combined with the lack of heat and vibration from an internal combustion engine, it certainly makes for a different riding experience.