Electric motorcycles are at the forefront of innovative electric vehicles, and for good reason.
Even a gas-guzzling machine head like myself loves how much money I save at the pump-but what if we can spend $0 at the fuel nozzle and cut our emissions down to an almost-imperceptible level?
While that sounds excellent for our wallets and the planet we call home, there are still some issues with electric motorcycles that might stop you in your tracks if you’re gung-ho about purchasing one.
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Before I get accused of bashing electric vehicle technology in favor of the old, dinosaur-fueled 2-wheelers, the real issues have more to do with limited tech. This issue is fairly common fodder for due diligence with anything that’s a recent push into the consumer market.
While electric motorcycles can be as seductive as the most recent Tesla, it is important to factor in constant updates in technology, relatively low range, low speed, the rarity of replacement parts, few electric vehicle charging stations, and long charging times.
I, for one, look forward to the day that I can cruise cross-country with an electric touring bike, leaving a carbon footprint no larger than my size 9 boot leaves in the forests I’ll wander along the way.
Until then, I’ll keep shelling out the clams for fuel and easily available parts to keep my ol’ reliable steed burnin’ up the rubber. Below are eight reasons to hold off buying an electric motorcycle:
1. New Tech Still Isn’t There
Have you ever heard of LaserDisc (LD) technology? If you’re younger than 30, you probably haven’t, and for a good reason.
LD technology paved the way for DVD and BluRay-it was the first disc storage way to watch movies from the comfort of your own living room. Because of early design flaws, the LD went the way of the Dodo bird-total extinction.
Well, what does this have to do with motorcycles?
Early forms of revolutionary technology like electric vehicles are often flawed because they haven’t had enough time to be thoroughly road-tested.
The brave souls who buy cutting-edge innovations often fall victim to faulty designs that need to be tweaked before being truly reliable.
In the case of electric motorcycles, the lacking elements are engine life, availability of replacement parts or service technicians, the distance between charges, and charging time.
2. Electric Motorcycle Motor Life
Electric motorcycles use engines just like their internal combustion counterparts. Instead of burning up fuel in the engine’s combustion chamber to get power to the drivetrain, the electric motor uses Direct Current (DC) from a battery.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough conclusive durability data for this relatively recent technology.
The best we can do is to convey a relatively speculative approach to figuring out how long an electric motorcycle’s engine is going to last. We’ll use the example of Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle.
The LiveWire comes with a warranty that guarantees the bike for 5 years with unlimited mileage. This might show us how undetermined the mileage range is for an electric motorcycle before it fails.
If the average motorcycle is ridden for an approximate 3,000 miles/year, then Harley is considering a high-mileage LiveWire to be somewhere around 15,000 miles.
15,000 miles on an electric motorcycle is certainly leaps and bounds beyond previous electric motor technology but still makes it a gamble to buy a bike that is considered high mileage with 10,000 miles less on the odometer than most sportbikes that become considered high mileage around 25,000 miles.
3. Low Range
A point of contention for electric motorcycles is the boasted range vs. the consumer reporting of the true range. Lots of bikes that advertise a higher range on a single charge are still coming in under the mark.
According to VisorDown.com’s review of Zero’s popular SR/S electric motorcycle model, the range and charging time were lower than initially advertised.
Equivalent reviews of other models like the aforementioned Harley LiveWire show an actual road range of about ⅔ of the advertised range, as well as longer charging times.
4. Unavailability of Charging Stations
One commonly voiced frustration about electric motorcycles isn’t even about the motorcycles themselves. Instead, the frustrations pertain to a lack of infrastructure.
Although electric vehicles seem to be the future we slowly amble towards, charging stations are few and far between.
Even when electric motorcycle riders planned out routes that seemed to fit their need for Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, malfunctioning stations or chargers left rider after rider stranded overnight in unfamiliar locations and cities.
Who wants to ride somewhere they might not be able to get back from without the 12+ hours needed to charge an electric motorcycle on residential-level electricity with the stock charging cables they come with?
On top of that, long-distance cruising is about kicking back and enjoying the scenery! So many riders have commented on the anxiety that comes with having to maintain exact, manufacturer-specified speeds to get to a charging station with 2% of their battery power displayed on their screen.
Although the fault is with the lacking infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations, it doesn’t do the bikes any good if you can’t take them anywhere without a certain sense of worry!
Now, this isn’t necessarily true of every electric motorcycle, but paying upwards of $25,000 (on average) for extended range models doesn’t seem to be a great idea for a technology that’s essentially in its infancy.
But if you want to get a sleek bike with incredible range, be sure to check out the 362-mile range of the Arc Vector available for a paltry $118,000 (this is where I would insert a crying/laughing emoji if it was allowed)!
5. Limitations of Models/Styles
Hello, world! It’s me, the cruiser boy!
As I’ve stated before, I’m looking forward to a world where we can ride in style with greatly limited economic and environmental impact!
Let’s be real; the models and styles of modern electric motorcycles are too racy, street, and high-tech for riders like me. Even Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire is a naked sportbike at best, from the best contender for sleek cruisers and touring bikes, as manufacturers go.
With the exception of Kawasaki’s 1988 electric lowrider/cruiser motorcycle, the ‘KawaSHOCKI’ (bless the punster behind this), there’s not really a single electric motorcycle that calls to me or my clique of riders.
6. Dangerously Quiet
“Loud pipes save lives” isn’t just a bumper sticker that shows you how important motorcycle safety is to the crusty dude in the ‘82 Dodge Caravan up ahead. It is the heard-and-not-seen safety feature that Harley has based generations of exhaust design on!
I don’t know how many times some ditzy motorist has thoughtlessly pulled into my lane, even with my Harley pipes singing.
I’m legitimately scared for electric motorcycle riders for this reason. Especially in states where lane-splitting is legal, motorists and motorcyclists alike rely on auditory cues from motorcycle exhaust noise.
For my neighbors back in the city who left many a passive-aggressive note about my bike’s volume, I’m sure the electric motorcycle seems like a godsend. But we don’t do it to annoy anyone or ruin a good night’s sleep.
7. Lack of Replacement Parts and Certified Technicians
Much like anything mechanical just out on the market, electric motorcycle parts are going to be hard to come across with the ease of OEM replacement parts for something in the Honda CB series.
And when you do order them online (sadly, as of yet, there are no electronic motorcycle pull-and-pay junkyards) they are expensive.
One of the upsides to consider is how little maintenance an electric motorcycle is going to take. With an electric motorcycle, there’s no need to replace the engine oil or filter, worry about the transmission or clutch maintenance, carburetors, or fuel injectors.
Unfortunately, with limited knowledge of electric motorcycles, you could get stuck or stranded by a non-working bike that nobody in your area knows how to fix (maybe try an RC car ‘mechanic?).
And honestly, I know of only a few people who don’t get some kind of kick out of working on their own bikes. If all of these maintenance points aren’t necessary, what are we going to do on our off-days?
8. The Future Looks So Much Better
Once again, I’d like to frame all of this seemingly negative advice about electrical motorcycles by saying how excited I am for a great future full of them!
Simply put, we’re just not quite there yet. Check back in 10 years or so, and I’m sure I’ll be writing about my almost-silent adventures cross-country astride an electric touring cruiser!
Our advice is simple enough-wait it out until real-world reviews force manufacturers to up their game in the electric motorcycle arena! Your wallet will be glad you did, and ultimately, so will the Earth!