Few things compare to the thrill of a morning motorcycle ride through the mountains, and almost always the fastest way to get where you are going is on two wheels – plus nobody asks you for a ride to the airport. In the past, some Americans considered motorcycles fun but expensive toys, weekend luxuries, or a loud, windy mode of transportation, but a new era of electric motorcycles is disrupting the industry and changing the way people think about traveling on two wheels.
Like most cutting edge technologies, new companies, like Zero, developed the first couple of production EV Motorcycles in small batches, but now even massive companies like Triumph, Harley-Davidson, and even Vespa are racing to mass-produce a battery powered bike. While those smaller companies are on second and even third generations of their EV motorcycles, the larger companies are just now breaking into the market, as Bryan Campbell of Gear Patrol puts it, “The electric motorcycle landscape is evolving and advancing every day; the technology and performance have reached a point where battery-powered bikes are a viable option for day-to-day transportation, putting their gas-powered brethren on notice.” So who are the major players out there? Well even in the USA you’ve got a lot of homegrown companies producing a variety of products to fill every niche.
Harley-Davidson, an iconic 117-year-old American motorcycle manufacturer, produced their first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, and they hope to use this model to serve as the basis for various other EVs in the future. Each LiveWire comes equipped with four modes: sport, range, rain, and road. These modes determine the throttle response and other performance characteristics of the bike, and customers can customize three of their own modes in addition to the ones preprogrammed into their Harley. So the LiveWire is fully adaptable to almost every riding style out there, and on a level 3 charger (the fastest),
Harley-Davidson boasts the bike will achieve full charge in one hour. Cycle World tested the LiveWire and reported that the almost silent bike packed a wallop of performance (including superbike speeds) and had plenty of power and personality throughout the life of it’s battery. You can test the LiveWire yourself at almost any Harley-Davidson dealership, and if you take it home, remember there’s a level 1 charger under the seat you can plug into any 120v household outlet.
What about those cutting edge companies? Zero, newly partnered with Polaris, was born in 2006 in Santa Cruz, California with a mission to transform the motorcycle industry. With a line-up of nine motorcycles and a score of accessories, this relatively small company has a big catalogue, and they approach motorcycle ownership with a “long term perspective.” That’s not just because their bikes have zero emissions, but according to their website, “each mile ridden on a Zero is considerably less expensive, making it considerably more enjoyable, due to the elimination of routine powertrain maintenance and no gas expenses.” They even include a list of “The Top 15 Things You’ll Never Do Again” with routine annoyances like check engine oil, replace clutch, and change oil filter among some of the chores. Zeros offer this simplicity of maintenance because they are obsessed with quality and they are minimalistically produced.
Their bikes feature materials like aircraft-grade aluminium to ensure their bikes reach their performance specifications. The Zero SR claims over 200 miles of battery life and a 5 year, unlimited mile battery pack warranty. At roughly 2/3rds the cost of the LiveWire, the Zero SR is a solid rival for America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.
Part of the appeal of a motorcycle has always been the open-road cruise, and no electric motorcycle is more equipped than the Brutus V9. Bell Custom Bicycles (Parent company of Brutus) is a family-owned business that rolled out the first electric motorcycle in 2011. Handbuilt in the USA the Brutus V9 features classic American motorcycle looks and a staggering 280 miles of range according to Dgit. With American cruiser styling, the only thing missing from the Brutus V9 is the rumble of the engine (oh and the need for fossil fuels.) Brutus builds each bike to suit the particular needs of each customer, and they offer deals for members of law enforcement as well as law enforcement agencies. Don’t think the folks at Brutus are one trick ponies, they’re building bikes with enough horsepower to shock the competition. Their V2 Rocket looks like a Grand Prix motorcycle ready for the track, and it can back up it’s racing styling with lightning-like performance that won its class at the 2014 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Most importantly, Brutus builds bikes that showcase that traditional American motorcycle culture has a future in the production of EV motorcycles. So whether you cruise the highways with your buddies, zip through the street to your next appointment, or set a new speed record in the mountains every weekend, the EV motorcycles of tomorrow are available today.