With Harley-Davidson announcing its intention to put an electric motorcycle into production within 18 months and MotoGP announcing that its new MotoE series will take to the grid next year, 2019 looks like being the biggest year ever for electric motorcycles.
But what about today? There’s not a massive choice of fully charged battery bikes on the market, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some pretty exciting stuff out there for the early adopters. Here are our favourite five…
Alta Redshift SM
American company Alta is at the forefront of developing electric dirt bikes, which SoCal motocrossers are showing can take on and beat the mighty 450 ‘crossers around pukka dirt tracks.
There are three variants of the 2018 Redshift model, with motocross, enduro and supermoto derivatives.
Anyone claiming that electric bikes are boring are kindly pointed in the direction of these hooligan offroaders. With 42bhp (and a new higher-spec 50bhp version that’s a real thorn in the side of the old-school internal combustion engine bikes) they’re sprightly enough, but it’s the torque that really gives electric bikes their bite, with 165Nm at the rider’s disposal the 128kg Alta’s front wheel will be pawing the air with the merest provocation (that’s more torque than a Suzuki Hayabusa, by the way).
At $13,495 (around £9800) the range topping supermoto version isn’t even too expensive by electric bike standards, although the bad news is that they’re not yet available in the UK.
Next year sees the new MotoE series for electric bikes take place alongside five European MotoGP races, with all 18 riders mounted on lightly modified versions of this, the Energica Ego.
The Italian made Ego has been on sale for a few years now and is a true electric powered superbike that is dripping with high end componentry though, at almost £50,000, you’d certainly expect it to be. The chances of seeing another one down at your local bike meet are pretty slim, even if the bike itself isn’t. It weighs a massive 258kg (and feels it too) but, unlike most battery bikes, it’s good for over 150mph.
Like most electric bikes, the massive torque eliminates the need for a gearbox, meaning it has a fully automatic ‘twist and go’ set-up but it’s certainly not perfect. As well as the bulk and the hefty price tag, the range is still limiting at present. It should do around 100 miles between recharges when ridden gently, but use all that power to the max on the track and that’s likely to drop down to more like 40 miles.
Evoke Urban S
While many of the pioneering electric bikes have been low volume, high price machines, the real potential for electric vehicles would appear to be as mass market commuters that are cheap to buy and run.
One of the first to make it to market is the Evoke S, which is due to go on sale in the UK later this year. The Chinese built bike is learner legal, has a top speed of 80mph and can do a claimed 120 miles of city riding.
The Evoke has its motor in the rear wheel hub and features some neat touches, such as a TFT dashboard and stitched seat. No prices have been set yet, but at around £7000 it should be the cheapest ’proper’ electric bike on the market.
And the fastest production motorcycle in the world is… the Lightning LS-218!
Yet another American electric, the Lightning’s liquid-cooled motor pumps out the equivalent of 200bhp and can top 218mph, hence the name.
And while the specs knock spots of the Energica, the price is actually a fraction of the Italian exotica. Each is built to order with prices starting at $38,888 (£28,000) to $46,888 (£34,000), dependant on the size of battery specified for the Lightning.
The manufacturers claim a range of at least 100 miles on the open roads with the smaller 12kwh battery pack, and 60% more with the more expensive 20kwh unit.
All in all, the Lightning is the closest thing out there to the fabled ‘two-wheeled Tesla’ – although you can currently only buy them direct from the manufacturer.
California’s Zero is the biggest electric motorbike manufacturer in the world.
While the others knock out exclusive niche models, Zero are quietly (sorry) chipping away at building middle market models designed for the everyday rider who wants to go electric. The six bike range retails from between £9,000 and £14,500, with the S a versatile all rounder that’s light and agile enough in the city while having enough go to have some fun on the twisty stuff. Think of an electric Yamaha MT-07 and you won’t be far wrong.
While it doesn’t have the trick stuff of the other American brands, the Zero features decent spec suspension and brakes. It’s the most mainstream of the electric bikes out there and like every other bike featured here has direct drive rather than a gearbox, as well as an abundance of torque. They’re also on sale in the UK through a dealer network, unlike most of the other electric motorcycles here.
The S also comes in a learner legal 11kw version, for which you don’t need to full licence. It can be charged through a domestic plug socket and has a range of over 200 city miles, or 100 miles on the open roads.