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Your guide to electric motorcycles currently on the market

Added August 31, 2020
Outlet for an electric motorcycle

As we navigate our current situation, some of us are taking our first look at motorcycles, as they’re a great way to find some enjoyment, while also social distancing. Veteran riders might be looking for a new motorcycle that’s more eco-friendly.

So, this is a great time to look at the motorcycles of the future. One of the hot topics when discussing the future of motorcycling and the motorcycle industry is the advent of the electric-powered motorcycle. Electric vehicles—or EVs, as they are often called—have been sharing the road with us in small numbers for some time. 

Tesla, and its innovation of the lithium battery, is probably the most well-known manufacturer of plug-in electric automobiles, and these are no longer a rarity on the road. If you’re intrigued by EVs and look carefully, you’ll see them now produced by several manufacturers and in growing numbers. The electric vehicle market is here to stay. But what about electric motorcycles?

Where are the electric motorcycles?

The idea of an electric motorcycle has been with us almost as long as internal combustion-powered motorcycles, with the first patent for an electric motorcycle filed in 1895. The early pioneers of powered two-wheelers quickly discovered the nascent internal combustion engine and its fuel tank proved to be less expensive to build, while offering a longer riding range than electric battery power.

It’s just within the last 10–15 years that advancing battery technology and battery capacity has allowed the process of prototyping and developing electric motorcycles to create marketable machines. As a result, for about a decade, electric motorcycles have been available for purchase in the U.S. Still the adoption rate is slower than electric automobiles because of reduced range and high cost.

Reduced range anxiety and sticker shock

Two issues have held back the adoption of electric motorcycles and limited the electric motorcycle industry in general: limited travel range and high purchase price.

Several factors—the primary ones being the battery size, electric motor design, and the rider’s usage habits—limit travel range of even the best electric motorcycle.

Range anxiety was first recognized as a fear affecting electric vehicle users back in 1997, and it still keeps people from buying plug-in electric vehicles today. Tesla has had good results overcoming that fear by operating one of the largest private charging station networks with a charging point in most cities across the U.S., and there are other networks available today.

The widespread availability of convenient charging stations addresses one of the two problems that affect the adoption of electric motorcycles. With few exceptions, purchase price is a different matter, as most current electric motorcycles are priced on par with high-end touring models.

It’s all about the ride

If you have never ridden an electric motorcycle, the first time you throw your leg over one and roll out onto the road, you’re in for a real surprise. Electric motorcycles are a whole new experience in riding.

The only roar you hear is the wind rushing over you—not the exhaust. The thumping you feel isn’t the motor—it's your heart pounding with the excitement of riding. Instant electric power is found with a twist of your right wrist, and the cycle uses regenerative braking, so rolling off the throttle is like engine braking, only better. The eerie near silence of the motor is contrasted by the sounds of the final drive, and at slow speeds, maybe the tires on the pavement.

What you’re left with is the best part—riding a motorcycle. No powerful thunder or roar, just the ride into the future.

Check out this small review sampling of today’s electric motorcycle brands.

Zero Motorcycles

Start with a story that sounds like the beginning of most historic American motorcycle brands. Some guys in a garage with the vision to build a machine, evolving into a small storefront operation catering to enthusiasts. Thirteen years later, the company originally called Electricross, and founded by aeronautical engineer Neal Saiki, is now the global leader in electric motorcycles and powertrains.

The five models Zero Motorcycles offers range from supermoto and dual sport to high performance street motorcycles with plenty of torque. They’ve developed affordable electric motorcycles designed and built in California. Information on their models is below.

Model: SR/F
Battery capacity: 12.6 kWh
Range city: 161 miles
Range highway: 99 miles
Range combined: 123 miles
Base MSRP: $19,495

Model: Zero S
Battery capacity: 6.3 kWh
Range city: 89 miles
Range highway: 54 miles
Range combined: 68 miles
Base MSRP: $10,995

Model: Zero DS
Battery capacity: 6.3 kWh
Range city: 82 miles
Range highway: 49 miles
Range combined: 61 miles
Base MSRP: $10,995

Model: Zero FX
Battery capacity: 3.2 kWh
Range city: 46 miles
Range highway: 28 miles
Range combined: 34 miles
Base MSRP: $8,995

Model: Zero FXS
Battery capacity: 3.2 kWh
Range city: 50 miles
Range highway: 30 miles
Range combined: 37 miles
Base MSRP: $8,995

Harley-Davidson® LiveWire®

Some said it would never happen—an electric motorcycle from the maker of the most recognizable brand of gasoline-powered v-twin motorcycles in the world.

Harley-Davidson® campaigned a demo ride tour for project LiveWire®, giving many American motorcyclists their first ride on an electric motorbike. Motorcycle riders around the globe also had a chance to ride the prototypes and offer feedback on the experience. LiveWire® may well be the start of the next 100-plus years of Harley-Davidson®.

Model: LiveWire®
Battery capacity: 15.5 kWh
Range city: 146 miles
Range highway: Not listed
Range combined: 95 miles
Base MSRP: $29,799

Lightning Motorcycles

If you love superbike and Bonneville land speed racing, then Lightning Motorcycles will interest you. They lay claim to making the fastest production motorcycle, electric or otherwise.

Using solar power, they set a Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) official world record of 215.960 mph during the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week in August 2011.

Model: LS-218
Battery capacity: 12 kWh
Range city: Not listed
Range highway: 100 miles
Range combined: 150 miles
Base MSRP: $38,888

Model: Lightning Strike Carbon Edition
Battery capacity: 20 kWh 
Range city: 200 miles
Range highway: 140 miles
Range combined: 152 miles
Base MSRP: $19,998

Energica Motor Company S.p.A.

Europe also finds itself in a budding romance for electric motorcycles with a continental flair.

Think about Italian motorcycles, and you probably see red, race-bred machines. Energica Motor Company produces three beautifully sculpted electric motorcycles. At a quick glance while they’re parked, you might not even notice they’re electric motorcycles. But watching them in action, there’s no mistaking their inner power plant.

The Energica Ego was chosen as the single model electric motorcycle for use in the 2019 FIM MotoE World Cup races, a zero-emission version of the famed MotoGP World Cup races.

Model: Eva EsseEsse9 Base
Battery capacity: 11.7 kWh
Range city: 124 miles
Range highway: 80 miles
Range combined: 100 miles
Base MSRP: $20,930

Model: Eva 107 Base
Battery capacity: 11.7 kWh
Range city: 124 miles
Range highway: 80 miles
Range combined: 100 miles
Base MSRP: $21,656

Model: Ego Base
Battery capacity: 11.7 kWh
Range city: 124 miles
Range highway: 80 miles
Range combined: 100 miles
Base MSRP: $22,565

Please note: We listed the base models for comparison for each of these electric motorcycle companies. Most of these bike models offer options and upgrades. 

Till next time, ride safe!

Related links:

You have to plan more when heading out on your electric motorcycle, but there are a lot of great motorcycle rides that would be even better in near-silence.

Just like any other motorcycle you own, you want to protect your electric bike, too. There are plenty of coverage options and discounts available for motorcycle insurance.

If you’re into technology, Bluetooth-enabled helmets are a great way to stay connected to your passenger and fellow riders.