6 of the best electric motorcycles you should try
Electric motorcycles are becoming more and more serious, and the manufacturers appear to be stepping up their game.
Zero, Alta and Victory are among those selling their electric offerings to the market, while others including BMW, Yamaha and even Harley Davidson may not be far behind following increasing activity in 2015.
Battery range, charge times, performance, build and general quality of electric bikes is undoubtedly improving, as BMF’s Ted Foreman discovered when road testing the latest Zero DSR model in January. More on this in our Spring 2016 issue of Rider magazine. This plus minimal maintenance costs, no tax and next to no cost in recharging makes electric an increasingly viable option, especially for commuters.
Here is a selection of electric motorbikes to look out for this year:
Zero DSR – ZF13 (on sale for £13,450)
A beautifully crafted bike and a big leap forward on the company’s 2012 models, which failed to sell well in the UK. Although the price may seem steep, this is the top end model and easily able to compete on performance with its petrol counterparts. It is one of six models released by Zero and has a range of up to 288km.
BMF’s Ted Foreman tested the DSR at Street Bike in the West Midlands, and said: “What I did not expect was the way the bike rode, you see it is a bloody good bike in its own right - the chassis is simply great.
“With SHOWA upside down forks at the front and a monoshock unit at the rear the bike feels secure and nicely balanced. It is sure footed riding on Pirelli tyres. So it's a really nice nippy motorcycle which handles in a quick sporty way, think supermoto and I guess you are close to it. In short it is FUN.”
Ted’s full verdict will be available online and in Rider magazine in the spring.
Yamaha unveiled two new electric bikes at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of October last year, so expect to see further movement made in 2016, perhaps even a full launch.
Not much is known at this stage, however the company has released the following information about the bike: “In addition to the characteristics unique to an electric motor, these two electric motorcycle concept models have an operational feel that will seem natural even to today's motorcycle enthusiasts and they achieve a new kind of riding experience that will inspire the passion in riders. The Street sport "PES2" and Dirt sport "PED2" share a new power unit (Yamaha Smart Power Module) with a monocoque structure that also functions as the frame.
“The PES2 on-road sport model has an additional electric motor built into the hub of the front wheel to make it a 2WD motorcycle, and it is designed to pioneer new boundaries of performance never experienced before. In contrast, the PED2 is a partner for hitting mountain trails designed to capitalize on the clean, quiet performance character to better enjoy riding through the natural world. Both models are equivalent in performance to Class II (50–125cc) mopeds and motorcycles.”
Alta Motors Redshift MX/SM (pre order/on sale for approx £10,300)
The San Francisco-based company has finally put two new electric bikes up for pre-order, the Redshift MX (motocross) and SM (supermoto). It has taken eight years for the company to develop the MX dirt bike, and early reviews suggest it will overtake conventional petrol 250cc equivalents.
Zero FX/FXS (on sale for £7,775-9,500)
These smaller Zero models still pack a punch and offer an economical choice for city commuters in particular. Ranges vary from 66-145km with the batteries charging in just four hours for as little as 50 pence a time.
The bikes are also extremely lightweight, weighing between 112kg and 133kg with the seat height at 836mm on the FXS and 881 on the FX model.
Victory Empulse TT (on sale for approx £14,000)
Victory is now a serious player in the electric motorcycle arena. Its Empulse TT can easily hit 100mph and will charge fully overnight. The American manufacturer advertises a battery capacity of 10,400 watt-hours, which roughly translates to 200km depending on the way in which the bike is ridden.
The bike weighs 213kg and has adjustable 43mm inverted fork front suspension, with adjustable direct-acting shock rear suspension. Its wheel base is 147.32cm and seat height sits at 80cm.
BMW’s electric version of its RR could enter the market later this year, with technical details expected to be revealed soon. Regarding design and chassis technology, the eRR leans on the supersport motorcycle S 1000 RR, using an all-electric drive.
Stephan Schaller, Head of BMW Motorrad, commented: “Since their market launch, the RR is giving the creeps to motorsport athletes. If acceleration, handling or topspeed – the RR is setting standards. However, if acceleration on the first metres, up to 50, 60 kph, is the point, the RR’s 199 bhp have to admit defeat by another BMW product: the C evolution with its electric drive.
“We asked ourselves: What happens when combining a sport motorcycle and an electric drive? The experimental vehicle eRR brings the topic zero emission and electric drive on a new, more fascinating level.”
With the likes of Zero having already stepped up its game with new bikes receiving positive reviews, the mainstream manufacturers will surely want to catch up in 2016 in case electric takes off proper.
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