RIDDEN: Where are all the e-bikes? – New
RIDDEN: IN TANDEM WITH WAKA KOTAHI NZTA
When it comes to ever-changing technology, motorcycle manufacturers are still lagging behind the automotive industry.
Between the small budgets of boutique manufacturers, packaging challenges and the generally smaller market, it’s not really surprising that it’s taking some time for technology to go from four wheels to two.
So where are all the electric motorcycles?
The most obvious bike in the EV world, at least for Kiwis who lack the likes of the big dedicated e-bike brands Zero and Energica, was Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire (above), which has been transformed into its own brand shortly after launch.
It proved that an e-bike can not only work, but also be great fun! But the price tag of around $54,000 was way beyond the means of many but the most dedicated enthusiasts and sadly the brand has now been pulled from New Zealand.
Pricing, as well as packing enough range into a fun bike, is an issue the industry still struggles with to this day.
One solution could be the recently announced consortium between Honda, Yamaha, KTM and Piaggio, which is working to share the R&D costs of developing interchangeable battery technology for the motorcycle industry and to standardize charging systems.
Triumph Motorcycles (above) is developing its own EV platform with help from Williams Engineering; the Speed Triple inspired TE-1 is now in the testing phase.
KTM and its sub-brands, Husqvarna and GasGas, have their EV offerings primarily aimed at kids, with the entry point being the Stacyc-based 12e and 16e balance bikes priced at $1259, while the SX- The more performance-oriented E 5 was over $10,000 and dropped by KTM NZ due to uncompetitive pricing. It wasn’t surprising, when the ICE equivalent of the SX-E can be had for just over $6,000.
There have been successful electric motorcycle startups that have come and gone, the most successful to date being California’s Zero Motorcycles, which has managed to steer clear of established motorcycle manufacturers looking to take a step back. progress on development. However, the closest Kiwis ever to an official Zero distributor was the company’s brief foray into the Australian market.
That was the fate of Zero Brammo’s competitor, which was gobbled up by Polaris Industries – Indian Motorcycle’s parent company – in 2015. To this day, apart from the FTR Mini (below) which is again a product aimed at kids, we saw no sign of Polaris releasing an all-electric bike.
But that’s not to say motorcycle manufacturers aren’t working to catch up with the auto industry.
BMW Motorrad already sells electric executive scooters in other markets and has recently introduced concept vehicles to fill in the gaps around the CE 04, such as the smaller CE 02 and the boxer-inspired Vision DC Roadster concept.
Others, like Honda and Yamaha, have prototypes aimed at the performance dirt bike world, with Yamaha recently announcing a new version of its TY-E electric test bike, while Honda has a concept motocross CRF- E.
There is also a growing contingent of small moped and mini-bike style electric commuters, such as the range supplied by Super Soco – which offer a decent range and ease of use for commuter-oriented riders, if not the thrills desired by weekend warriors.
However, despite the technological challenges faced by manufacturers in terms of EV development, by far the biggest barrier to EV success is the riders themselves. No matter how fast, fun and exciting an electric motorcycle is, motorcyclists are extremely drawn to the sound and smell of internal combustion engines. Overcoming this cultural view of what a motorcycle should be and creating demand for EV motorcycles is by far the biggest reason motorcycles are so behind in EV adoption.