We are on the cusp of a significant change in the motorcycle industry. Electric motorcycles are slowly making their presence known as more manufacturers try their hand at these modern machines. However, while these new machines are exciting, not everyone is sold on their performance possibilities. As new models emerge, you may be convinced to give an electric motorcycle a chance.
Before you decide that an electric sportbike or electric Harley Davidson motorcycle is for you, consider these pros and cons.
If you’ve never ridden an electric bike, you are in for a fun surprise. These bikes are not like riding an electric bicycle or scooter. Instead, they are tuned for performance with a surprising torquey feel. Twist the throttle, and you will feel the adrenaline-pumping pull. For many, this feeling of harnessed power is what people love about motorcycles.
Don’t be fooled by smaller electric motorcycles; they can be tuned for more torque than a similarly powered internal combustion engine (ICE) motorcycle. For example, the Yamaha YZF-R3 has 42 horsepower and 21.8 lbs of torque. We can compare this with the Electric Zero FXE that has 46 horsepower and 78 lbs of torque. Both motorcycles are close in horsepower, but the electric sportbike has three times as much torque. The result is a much punchier bike that will feel faster.
Some people will claim an appreciation for the motorcycle shake. However, all of that vibration negatively impacts your circulation and ride quality. Electric motorcycles do not have this vibration because the engine doesn’t have all of the movement that a combustion engine has.
Performance improvement traditionally required the replacement of mechanical parts and hours spent fine-tuning. The best electric motorcycle changes this. With a few finger taps in an app, you can completely transform how your electric sportbike performs. You can adjust things like top speed, throttle response, and traction control. This lets you make changes faster to instantly change the bike’s performance for the changing riding conditions.
Electric motorcycles have fewer parts and components than ICE motorcycles. When there are fewer parts, fewer things can break, malfunction, or simply stop working. This makes electric motorcycles more reliable than combustion-engine motorcycles. The increase in reliability also means reduced repair costs over the bike’s lifetime.
ICE motorcycles have a list of routine maintenance tasks required to keep them running in top condition. Electric motorcycles are far superior when it comes to maintenance. Because there are fewer parts in the construction, there are also fewer maintenance requirements. For instance, you never have to worry about oil changes. You never have to deal with clutch, transmission, camshaft tensioning, or valve adjustment issues. Outside of the engine, chain-drive motorcycles require routine cleaning, lubricating, and tension adjustments. You do not have to worry about any of this with an electric bike. Essentially, the only regular maintenance you have to worry about is replacing your tires or a headlight bulb that goes out.
This con may seem contradictory to what we previously talked about. However, there is a beauty to riding a traditional combustion engine motorcycle. Traditionalists sing their praises of feeling at one with the machine. Electric motorcycles lack this mechanical simplicity and do not have the same feeling.
In addition, electric bikes also come with a lot more technology. If you aren’t tech-savvy, this can be a major hurdle. Do you really need another app on your phone? If you have an electric bike, you may need an app to operate your motorcycle. This creates a big learning curve just to take a ride.
If you love to turn a wrench, you may find electric motorcycle ownership disappointing. Unlike a combustion engine motorcycle, an electric bike isn’t very DIY friendly. In addition, most electric bikes have a fully encased system, so you can’t access the bike’s inner workings, let alone work on them.
This lack of DIY capability means you also won’t be able to do DIY aftermarket customizations. Because of this generally small market size, there are limited aftermarket part options. However, as the market grows, the custom parts available should also increase.
Electric motorcycles are not old enough to determine their reliability. Because the entire industry is in its infancy, it will take time and use to compile reliability data. Decades from now, we will be able to look back and accurately assess the performance reliability of specific electric motorcycle models.
The biggest hurdle with electric motorcycles is the initial purchase price. Unfortunately, the best electric motorcycles are priced noticeably higher than comparable ICE motorcycles. As of 2023, you won’t find an electric motorcycle for less than $10,000. This is disappointing when you consider there is a large motorcycle market that falls into this affordable price range. Most electric bikes have a new purchase price of $12,000-$30,000. This price range is too expensive for a large segment of riders. However, it does put electric bikes in the same range as ICE super sports. They are also more affordable than some full-dresser bikes that can easily hit $50,000 or more.
The natural lifetime of new technology shows us that as innovative technology becomes more prevalent, it also becomes more affordable. With time, these new purchase price points are likely to come down. For example, there are boutique motorcycle brands that do produce affordable electric motorcycles. However, these brands are not established enough to support owners nationwide.
There is a lot of misinformation surrounding battery replacement for electric motorcycles. A common fact stated is that an electric motorcycle battery will last three to five years. However, this sounds like confusion with a standard motorcycle battery found in a combustion-powered motorcycle. These small batteries typically last this long. However, these are not the same batteries that power electric motorcycles. The batteries in electric motorcycles are designed to last five-plus years. Zero Motorcycles, one of the most prevalent electric motorcycle manufacturers, warranties its batteries for five years. Motorcycle manufacturers are also working to make these batteries last longer.
That said, how long your bike lasts depends on how well you take care of it. Similar to an ICE bike, if you take care of it, it will last longer. With electric bikes, you need to follow the manufacturer’s charging, storing, and operation directions. Unfortunately, when it is time to replace the battery, it can cost thousands.
As with any new and innovative technology, there are limited models available. One aspect of this is the limited number of motorcycle manufacturers that produce electric motorcycles. Each motorcycle manufacturer has their own design team that creates a unique look for its motorcycles. As more manufacturers embrace electric technology, we will see more variety in the designs produced.
In addition, electric motorcycle manufacturers only produce a limited number of models. For example, the electric Harley Davidson motorcycle began as a single Livewire bike. We will see more model options as more international motorcycle brands embrace the electric movement. As each manufacturer expands their electric line, we will see more variation in the models offered.
If you plan to primarily commute to work or ride around town on your electric motorcycle, then you won’t have a problem with the range. Electric motorcycles will have no problem zipping about town. However, if you plan to take a longer ride that covers great distances, you may find the range of electric motorcycles frustrating. The maximum range you see listed for an electric motorcycle is when the bike operates in ideal conditions. If you travel at faster speeds, this can reduce the range. If you load the bike with gear and belongings, the extra weight will reduce the bike’s range. Finally, extreme hot or cold temperatures reduce the battery’s effectiveness, which results in a lower maximum range.
Filling up a combustion engine motorcycle takes a few minutes, and you are back on the road again. There is no denying that charging an electric vehicle takes significantly longer. The technology used in motorcycles lags behind the technology seen in the latest electric cars and trucks. Because of this, it is common to see charging times of five to eight hours. This makes electric vehicles impractical for traveling long distances and road trips.
However, technology continually evolves, so it is only a matter of time before electric bikes catch up. For example, Tesla Supercharging stations only take 30-45 minutes to charge vehicle batteries up to 80%. Motorcycle batteries are much smaller, so this time would be significantly shorter.
You still need to buy insurance if you ride an electric motorcycle. Generally, insurance for an electric motorcycle is more expensive than a traditional bike. This is due to the higher purchase price, increase cost of replacement parts and the possibility of more severe damage and injuries in the event of an accident. Our agents work with motorcycle owners to find the best policy for their needs and budget, no matter what type of motorcycle they ride.
Depending on who you talk to, a sound reduction could be a pro or a con. Harley is famous for producing motorcycles that you can hear from miles away. Owners repeat the mantra “loud pipes save lives” to naysayers. Then there are the sportbike riders who love to hear the iconic “scream” when they twist the throttle and open up their bike.
Conversely, some riders prefer a more subdued experience, and the nonriders find the excessive noise a nuisance. Electric motorcycles are the answer. Some of the best electric motorcycles are whisper-quiet. However, it may not always be this way. For example, Dodge introduced an electric Charger with manufactured engine sounds. It’s only natural that this same approach will be taken as more motorcycle manufacturers embrace the electric trend.
Deciding to switch from a traditional internal combustion engine to an electric motorcycle is a personal decision. However, several positive benefits can make riding one of these innovative motorcycles enticing. Here at Rider Insurance, we support your decision to ride, whether it be an electric Harley Davidson motorcycle, an electric sport bike, or a traditional ICE bike. Our agents will work with you to ensure you have the right amount of coverage.
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