All Signs Point to Electric Motorcycles Being the Future
Looking forward from 2020 it is safe to say electric motorcycles are here to stay, and that is good in the big scheme of things. There are more companies building electric motorcycles than there are big OEMs building traditional combustion powered motorcycles. The number of units built is far, far from comparable but that is going to change as most, if not all, of those big OEMs have been dabbling in the electric current.
Most prominent of course is Harley-Davidson with its LiveWire. There’s an argument to be made that building an electric motorcycle is simpler than constructing an internal combustion bike—hence the many small start-ups. Think of the things you don’t have to worry about: the thousands of reciprocal parts, radiator and cooling system, tank holding flammable liquid, a traditional transmission with gears and a clutch.
But simplifying the concept isn’t fair to the companies that have been working in the industry for years. An electric bicycle and an electric motorcycle are quite far apart on the spectrum. It took Zero Motorcycles 13 years of effort to evolve from bolt-together garage simplicity to the modern, efficient and excellent motorcycle that is the SR/F.
The other benefit to electric start-ups is that no one expects the electric motorcycle to look like anything in particular. The design parameters are wide open. To bring into focus the electric design paradigm, Elon Musk’s Cybertruck. For many of us with a history of traditional pickups, the new vehicle is unfathomable. But it isn’t a pickup truck for us but rather for a future generation. Tesla cracked the door open with traditional sedans and now the Cybertruck has thrown out the rules.
Granted Zero Motorcycles did achieved its success of recent years following a design theme that reflects the traditional motorcycle—and often without a closer look, it isn’t obvious whether the bikes are electric or gas powered. But electric bikes aren’t really for this generation, they are for the next and the ones after that, because let’s be brutally frank, motorcycling has practically skipped a generation in North America and with that comes the lack of preconceived notions as to what motorcycles are “supposed” to look like. Perhaps whatever comes next will spur both the environmental and riding passions of potential new riders.
There are other challenges electric motorcycles face but they too are partly generational. Range is one of them. Most of the world’s population is increasingly urbanized and that includes Canada and the US. Riders won’t need range, which is something previous generations wanted as they grew up exploring the country on comparatively affordable pump prices and insurance premiums. Rural or semi-rural lifestyles are no longer the norm and yet range will come.
The Energica featured in this issue has a claimed range of 400 kilometres in urban riding. Even if it is reduced by more than half for non-urban rides, it is good distance and adequate for most purposes. The automotive industry will come to the rescue with new battery technology because cars are more versatile with more range.
Current research into solid-state lithium-ion batteries suggests the technology could result in 2.5 times more storage capacity in an equally sized battery. If so, the Energica would suddenly have a range of 1,000 urban kilometres and several hundred in the wild. Staying tethered to the gas pump won’t be a concern. Add really fast, fast-charging and there goes the other problem.
The electric motorcycle of the future can do and be whatever it wants to be. Yes, the door has been pried open by tying the future to the past but as the bikes we look at in the following pages illustrate, this is only the beginning.
Damon Motorcycle out of Vancouver has plans for an electric motorcycle that not only solves some of the problems around a rider’s carbon footprint but also solves some safety issues and issues of motorcycle viability. Damon’s bike will come with a suite of safety aids that alert riders to dangers in the riding environment. The Damon prototype also shape shifts between sport riding, touring, or commuter riding positions by moving the handlebars, seat and footpegs. Damon will attend the massive Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas during the month of January bringing their bike with them of course because that is where the future lies.
BST HyperTEK – Beauty in a Basic
Pierre Terblanche was a designer at Ducati and he can be credited for some of the brand’s most iconinc and beautiful machines. Now he is at the firm BST, pioneers in carbon fibre technolgy, and has designed the HyperTek. The HyperTEK throws out the conventional, even the new electric conventional in what is most defintely a less is more approach.
The handbuilt, limited HyperTEK features a water cooled electric motor producing 88 ft-lbs torque. The bike weighs a relatively svelte 451 lbs due to a carbon fibre monocoque frame, and carbon fibre utilization in the front forks. Weight is also saved on gauges as all info is transferred to the rider with a heads-up diplay inside a helmet. BST claims the bike has a built in sound generator and riders will be able to rev the motor when using the clutch. Range is said to be 300 km and the recharge time via a fast charger is 30 minutes.
Curtiss Zeus V-8 – Big Dollar Custom Electric Motorcycle
Curtiss Motorcycle continues to float stunning electric bike concepts to keep the interest fully charged but this time the company appears committed to bringing one to market in the foreseeable future. The bike most likely to make the most enthusiasts hope for eventual production is the Curtiss Zeus V-8.
It looks impressive with eight cylindrical batteries arranged in a “V” formation and features other styling hints from the company’s namesakes record-breaking motorcycle. It is also refreshing to see an electric bike that gives up all pretense that there is something where the gas tank use to be before many manufacturers slid it under the seat.
Another concept from Curtiss is the Hades, which we could write more about but we think its looks say more than enough about the idea.
Energica Eva Ribelle – A Ferocious Electric Streetfighter
Energica calls the new Eva Ribelle the first 100 per cent electric motorcycle firmly in the streetfighter class. That claim is going to be a point of contention with many other electric motorcycle manufacturers but those others will still have to deal with the Eva’s other numerical claims: 145 hp, 159 ft-lbs torque, a top speed governed to 125 mph, an in-city range of 240 miles and a DC fast charger rated a four miles of city riding for every minute the bike is plugged in. Yes, those indeed look to be some serious numbers.
Ottobike MXR & MCR
Would an electric dirt bike with a factory-spec top end of 120 kmh catch your attention? This is what is on offer from e-manufacturer, Ottobike which launched its off-road MXR and the more street-oriented MCR for 2020.
Equipped with the same 11-kw motor as the MCR, the chain-drive MX bike kicks out 33 foot-pounds torque and can accelerate from zero to 100 kmh in a reported eight seconds. The 100-kg bike is fed by a non-removable battery with a capacity of nearly five kilowatt hours and is further equipped with an on-board 1.2-kW battery charger. Ottobike says the MXR’s charge time is about four hours for a full charge.
Say that three times in a row and include the “&” because it is part of the name. Cake is a Swedish company that builds electric motorcycles and as of mid-August was selling street legal bikes in North America. The Kalk& is only the tip of the Cake iceberg as the company promises even more electric motorcycles.
The Kalk& has an undeniable IKEA simplicity about it and was built from the ground up to be a combination, off-road/commuter motorcycle. The Kalk& has won numerous awards for its design including the 2019 Red Dot award and the 2019 IF design award and was nominated for both the Swedish and German design awards.
The Kalk& has a top speed of 90 kmh and a range of 86 km in city riding. Should you almost peg the throttle at 70 kmh you will roll to a stop at about 35 km. Recharge will take 2.5 hours on a standard outlet. What is most definitely not IKEA about the Kalk& is the price, which comes in at an eye opening $14,000 US.
E-Racer Rugged Mark 2 – Using the Zero Motorcycle Platform
Using base models from Zero Motorcycles as the platform, the firm E-Racer Motorcycle has lifted the curtain on two custom e-bikes: the Edge (a Zero SR/F cafe racer) and the RUGGED Mark2 based on the Zero FXS. Both will be in production and ready for sales from spring 2020.
The Edge features a custom headlight, side tank area and tail section. The bodywork is reversible and can be mounted without making changes to the original model in terms of structure. The result is a lighter bike than the original version.
Styling is a mix of classic and sport-modern with clip-on handlebars, hand-stitched saddle, and AirTender rear suspension system to complete the list of primary changes.
E-Racer’s audio-Forceback system (E-RAF) is a fun feature of both bikes. Developed by sound engineers, audio system experts and programmers E-RAF produces high and low frequency sound waves to warn pedestrians and drivers of the electric vehicle’s presence.
It also provides a force-feedback to the rider. The subsonic speaker produces vibrations that change according to the speed of the motorcycle to give the rider a sense of the performance.
Like a popsicle stick in the spokes of your pedal bike … except different.
Kawasaki eNinja Concept – Kawasaki’s electric motorcycle
Practically all major manufacturers are in various stages of developing an electric vehicle and now Kawasaki has unveiled a concept electric motorcycle that is similar in size and purpose to the Ninja 650.
The 219-kilogram e-concept vehicle features a battery pack re-energized by a quick style charging system or 100-240-volt domestic supply. The result is a range of approximately 100 kilometres with conventional equipment such as a clutch and four-speed gearbox. Other familiar middleweight Kawasaki attributes include the same suspension brakes and trellis type chassis used on many Ninja and Z family machines. Possessing the equivalent of 20 kilowatts for acceleration and a cruising output akin to 10kw, the EV project has been tested extensively at the Kawasaki owned Autopolis track in southern Japan as well as in real life urban environments.
Despite these efforts, Kawasaki insists the EV is simply a research project and that there are no plans to add an electric to its range in the near future.
NIU Aero EB-01
The new Aero EB-01 from NIU Technologies is a conveyance that straddles an increasingly vague line between bicycle and electric motorcycle. Equipped with a 500-Watt electromotor the EB-01 is capable of a 45 kmh max speed with a factory-spec range of 60-100 kilometres without pedaling. Its removable lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in an estimated four to five hours.
The NIU Aero EB-01 is expected to be sold across Europe and United States with a full two-year warranty for the motor and battery.
RMK E2 – Electric motorycle with an old idea
Back in the heyday of custom builders one of the holy grails of design was the hubless rear wheel as it one-upped the popular and now mainstream single sided swing arm. RMK Vehicles is yet another European electric motorcycle start up based out of Finland. The company’s first offering is the E2 which they refer to as a “bold cross between sporty cruiser and futuristic roadster.”
There is a lot of hyperbole among new electric motorcycles and the companies that build them with many claiming to have the best range, output, charging or power density but RMK seems to have one claim that will trump many others; their E2 features a hubless rear wheel. As we said earlier, oh the things you can do when you don’t have to think inside the box.
The motor of the E2 is integrated into the rear wheel and is said to be capable of 50kW power and immediate application of 236 ft-lbs torque. So much torque that the company states the motor can act as the primary rear brake. The set up looks complicated but RMK says that should you have a flat, changing the tire can be done with normal tools. Range is said to be between 200 and 300 km for the 200-kg machine.
The company plans to begin production of the E2 in late 2019 for deliveries in early 2020 with initial bikes being built to order while larger scale manufacturing is waiting on EU approvals.
Tacita T-Race Rally
Italian electric motorcycle manufacturer Tacita will launch its new race-focused T-Race Rally on January 4th, at the Dakar podium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Tacita T-Race Rally 2020 and its solar-powered trailer will follow the Dakar event as a display through the rally until the final day, at which point it will join the full field of competitors at the Qiddiyah Grand Prix to make its first Dakar debut.
Saudi Arabia will be the 30th country visited by the legendary Dakar, and TACITA has taken up the challenge offered by Dakar organizer A.S.O, to promote electric rally racing motorcycles.
“The TACITA project and its full electric rally bike is a main development axis. And we are glad to welcome and promote this bike and this team at the start of our first Saudian Dakar in January 2020,” said Dakar race director David Castera.
TACITA was the first e-motorcycle ever to race an African rally when it appeared at the 2012 Merzouga Rally.