What's Next for Electric Motorcycles?

The world of electric motorcycles is evolving rapidly. So far this year, Harley-Davidson is entering the market, one of the hottest selling electric bikes sees a substantial increase in battery life and therefore range before recharge, and another has had a whopping price decrease.

Harley-Davidson toured the nation a year and a half ago with its concept electric motorcycle, the LiveWire. Now they’ve announced that in another eighteen months or so they’ll have a production electric model. The LiveWire went from 0 to 60 in under four seconds and ran at 100 miles an hour, so you can expect good performance from the electric bike—which needs a name. The prototype could only go about 55 miles without a recharge, but, as we report below, battery technology is improving, so that will change for the better. The major drawback seems to be that riders like the sound and sensation of a gas-burning engine. The sound effects Harley-Davidson added to the LiveWire just didn’t cut the mustard.

Zero motorcycles are available right now. It just plain goes—fast off the starting block and no gears. With all its innovations, the Zero SR model is claimed to have the longest range without recharge of any commercially available two-wheeled electric vehicle at 223 miles for city driving. Without the added Power Tank, it gets 179 miles in urban settings and 90 miles going 70 miles per hour on the highway.

This year it has new batteries, called Z-Force batteries, that will extend the range before recharge by at least ten percent. The largest, ZF14.4 replaces the ZF13.0 in both the SR and DSR models. They have the same power stats—70 hp at 3,500 rpm and 116 lb-ft.

The ZF13.0, used in the S and DS models has been fine tuned for a thirty percent gain in power and in torque at highway speeds. The half-battery options will come with the new ZF7.2 rather than the older ZF6.5 and will gain eleven percent in rear wheel torque. They’ll also get at least ten percent longer range.

The ZF 3.6 Power Tank option extends that range even farther and the new 6 kW Charge Tank cuts recharging time by as much as 6 times. On a Level 2 outlet in tandem with the standard charger, you can fill a ZF7.2 battery to 95 percent in an hour. However, this factory-installed option costs over $3,000.00.

All this innovation is available at not much more than last year’s prices. The SR and DSR models will go up $500.00 but the price of all other models remains the same as last year.
Even better is the price change from Alta Motors Redshift motorcycles. The California-based manufacturer has slashed prices by as much as $4,500.00. Redshift bikes are impressive. The Redshift SM took first in a 250cc supermoto race in Sacramento. Then Alta Motors entered the same bike in the 450cc class and came in second.

Price has been the problem. Sure, you save on gas, oil, engine maintenance—but when the original cost is twice what at combustion bike costs, you’ve got to put on a lot of miles before you see any savings. That’s beginning to change. The Redshift MX motocrosser is down to $10,495 and so getting close to the cost of a Honda CRF250R. The road-registerable Redshift EX is down to $12,995 from $15,545. The SM supermoto costs $2000 less this year.

All of Alta Motors’ electric motorcycles use the same 5.9 kwh battery pack, said to be good for 60 city miles or 40 highway miles.

So, if someone can just combine the longer-range batteries with the lower-cost machines…

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