Electric vehicles are a common sight on our roads with major automakers and startups investing heavily in EV technology. Consumers are flocking to EVs at record rates, however, when it comes to two-wheeled transportation electric motorcycles lag behind. Will electric motorcycles ever reach a mainstream audience?
The Current State of Electric Motorcycles
Electric motorcycles are not a new innovation. They have been around for a while, but have struggled to garner mainstream adoption and have remained more of a novelty choice for consumers. However, manufacturers such as Zero, Sondors, and even Harley-Davidson have introduced fully fledged electric motorcycles that have contributed to a huge surge in interest amongst riders and first-timers. Battery technology and infrastructure have also progressed to make e-motorcycles feasible for more consumers. In spite of these advancements, electric motorcycles accounted for just 1% of total motorcycle sales in 2021. Clearly, American consumers remain hesitant to adopt these bikes.
Challenges Faced by Electric Motorcycles
What makes consumers hesitant to go electric for their motorcycle purchase? Electric motorcycles face unique obstacles that traditional bikes do not encounter. Range anxiety, limited charging infrastructure, high upfront costs, and limited product choices are some of the hurdles that must be overcome by the industry before more consumers are ready to buy.
Range anxiety is a term closely associated with electric vehicles. It refers to the anxiousness of running out of battery power before reaching the destination. Electric motorcycles, like other EVs, suffer from the same issue. Riders worry about being stranded without a charging station nearby. This anxiousness is amplified by an even more limited operating range- manufacturers can generally only fit small batteries due to the inherent compact size of motorcycles. This limited operating range turns off many potential buyers and sends them toward more traditional ICE bikes with mileage ranges closer to consumer expectations.
One of the critical factors of determining electric bike success is the availability of charging stations. While the number of stations is growing steadily, they remain far less accessible in comparison to the number of gas stations on the road. Additionally, charging a battery could potentially take hours which is considered a major inconvenience to most riders who are used to filling their tank in minutes. The issue is compounded by the bike’s limited range, making them more reliant on chargers overall. The lack of a comprehensive charging infrastructure and fast charging technology is another major roadblock to their adoption.
High Upfront Costs
Compared to conventional motorcycles, electric motorcycles typically have a higher upfront cost. Electric motorcycle manufacturers have to overcome more research and development costs associated with developing this newer technology. This is reflected in the final price of the bike. As demand for electric motorcycles increases, this industry is poised to benefit from economies of scale in the future, driving down the final cost.
Lack of Options
Consumers don’t have many choices in road going electric motorcycles. As an emerging technology, there are relatively few players in the market leaving consumers with less options. Potential buyers may struggle to find the style of bike they are after.
With a lower range, limited charging infrastructure, and high costs, electric motorcycles propose a very difficult value proposition to buyers.
Benefits of Electric Motorcycles
It’s not all bad for e-motorcycles. Electric motorcycles offer unique advantages that cannot be replicated by traditional combustion engine bikes.
One of the primary reasons electric motorcycles are gaining attention is their inherent eco-friendly nature. Producing zero emissions, buyers who are more environmentally conscious are going electric. Additionally, they are quieter and require less maintenance which make it an attractive option for many riders.
Ease of Use
Electric motorcycles are considered much easier to learn on. Electric bikes have no gearbox so riders no longer have to fuss with changing gears or modulating a clutch. They typically have a more robust traction control system making them a safe option to new and seasoned riders alike. It’s important to remember that motorcyclists, regardless of engine configuration, are some of the most vulnerable users of the road according to Miller & Hine. Choosing a bike that performs even marginally better in emergency situations should be taken into consideration.
Reduced Maintenance Costs
With fewer moving parts, electric bikes demand less maintenance. Instead of spending time changing oil and servicing the engine, riders will save money and benefit from a hassle-free ownership experience.
Unique Riding Experience
Electric motorcycles offer a unique riding experience that differentiates it from their gas powered counterparts. Without pistons buzzing around beneath the rider, the electric motor offers a uniquely smooth ride. Additionally, with the battery positioned low in the chassis, a low center of gravity contributes to smooth and agile handling. The result is a quieter, smoother, comfortable, and more connected ride which may attract buyers.
The Future of Electric Motorcycles
As technology continues to advance, electric motorcycles are becoming more viable. Manufacturers are working to improve battery technology and efficiency, which will result in longer ranges and faster charging times. These advancements will alleviate some of the concerns that currently plague electric motorcycle owners.
Environmental Concerns and Legislation
With increasing focus on climate change and air pollution, more people are seeking greener transportation options. Electric motorcycles offer a solution that aligns with these concerns. By embracing electric two-wheelers, riders can actively contribute to lower emissions and cleaner air.
The future looks bleak for internal combustion engines, future legislation could potentially ban gasoline powered bikes positioning electric bikes to take over the market. Additionally, a few states currently offer incentives for buying a new electric motorcycle. This can be expanded to more states to encourage new sales. Currently, here are the states offering incentives:
- Arizona: Reduced vehicle license tax
- Austin, Texas: $600 rebate
- California: Up to $3,000 rebate
- Colorado: $1,000 rebate
- Illinois: $1,500 rebate
- Maryland: $1,500 rebate
- Massachusetts: $750 rebate
- Minnesota: $2,500 rebate
- New Jersey: $500 rebate
- New York: Up to $2,500 rebate
- Oregon: $2,500 rebate
- Pennsylvania: $500 rebate
- Rhode Island: $1,500 rebate
- Vermont: $750 rebate
- Virginia: $2,500 rebate
- Washington: $2,500 rebate
Expanding Options for Consumers
The electric motorcycle market promises to expand the choices of models and brands available to consumers. As demand continues to grow, more players are expected to enter the market which will increase competition and promote further industry growth. Established motorcycle manufacturers and startups alike are recognizing the potential for electric motorcycles and continue to develop new bikes. This influx in choices will empower consumers to select a bike that aligns perfectly with their needs and riding styles.
A Promising Future
So, will electric motorcycles ever catch on? Despite the unique challenges that these bikes face, the future looks promising. Technology continues to advance at a rapidly increasing rate and the innovations show no signs of slowing. In the near future, the weaknesses of electric motorcycles will likely become its strengths due to new battery technology and increased government support for electric vehicles.