Electric motorcycles are on the rise. Every month a new one springs up, either from an existing manufacturer, or from a brand new one. With exorbitant fuel prices and with rising CO2 levels, more and more people feel strongly that electric motorcycles will eventually overtake the gas-powered ones. It’s almost written in concrete. It’s just a matter of time and technology advances.
Currently, most electric motorcycles are very limited in their range. It’s changing, but it’s not sufficient. Add to the equation the fact that when you run “dry” you can not refuel at a gas station; you’ll need to recharge the batteries, and that takes a lot of time. Talks are underway in many countries around the globe to make batteries standardized, and therefore easier to swap when you arrive at a refueling station, most probably a gas station. You’d ride in, and in a few minutes the attendants will swap your battery for a fresh one, and off you go. But so far, it’s not happening. Getting different companies with different agendas to agree on a common format is not easy.
But let’s look at the manufacturers. There are two kinds of manufacturers; the existing motorcycle manufacturer, and the new one.
Existing manufacturers, like Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki, make small displacement-style motorcycles and scooters that are electrical. They don’t really have anything revolutionary, they are just small 50cc equivalent bikes, with a very limited range, but great for getting around town. Or look at KTM, who have recently announced an electric motocross, the Freeride. Off-road electric motorcycles are a perfect match, quite and maneuverable.
But new manufacturers may have the edge. The likes of US-based Brammo, Zero and Vectrix, or Quantya and the modern Agility Saietta in Europe have an advantage over existing manufacturers; they have no legacy! Their designs are truly greenfield exercises, from the bottom up. Just look at the Brammo Enertia, it’s an electric motorcycle that doesn’t look like any motorcycle you can buy from any existing manufacturer. But it works very well, it’s reasonably fast and has a reasonable range.
This is an advantage. The new electric motorcycles have a design made for transporting batteries, not an existing motorcycle frame changed from a small fuel tank and bigger engine to carry big batteries and a smaller engine.
But on the downside, new manufacturers do not have the infrastructure needed to attack a global market. Virtually no money, no dealers and very small manufacturing facilities. Therefore, new manufacturers will not be selling many electric motorcycles, therefore the price will remain high, despite many government subsidies. Many face financial difficulties, and some have to close down. Just looking at their counter part in the automobile industry, you can see Teslar is facing problems selling an electric car. They do not sell many, and those that are sold are expensive.
So what will happen to the electric motorcycle? Will the new manufacturers disappear despite have better products, or will the existing manufacturers come out with proper designs?
The answer is probably in between. Existing manufacturers will acquire the new ones, injecting much-needed capital, and put in place a complete global infrastructure with dealers and sales & marketing. A Brammo with its novel designs could be purchased by a Ducati, Zero by KTM and Vectrix by Kawasaki.
That would bring stability to the market, proper designs at a more reasonable price and global availability.