The latest news is that from 2035 all new motorcycles produced will have to be electrically powered. That’s five years after the same rule will apply for cars. But will we really be ready for that? Will the industry be ready for it? And will the infrastructure be there to support it? I’m not so sure. And I bet I’m not the only one that thinks 2035 isn’t a realistic target for motorcycle electrification.
We’ve talked quite a lot about electric bikes and motorcycle electrification in general this week. And whilst some will be sick to the back teeth of it, unfortunately, it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to.
The news came out last week that, despite the government being desperate for us all to ride electric bikes, they’re dramatically cutting the financial incentives. You can read about that here.
Anyway, that’s another story, but it leads me to my first point. Electric bikes, just like electric cars, are still at the wrong end of the affordability spectrum. And neither shows much sign of change, where that’s concerned. The Harley-Davidson Live wire, for example, is £28,995. Motorcycle-wise, you could have almost any bike you wanted for that. Yes, you can buy electric motorbikes for less than that; the Zero range is a bit cheaper (£19,590 for the S/RS); and then there’s a plethora of ‘smaller capacity’ city bikes available for less than £10,000; but they’re more akin to scooters than real bikes. When you think of what you can get with the same money if you’re prepared to put some petrol in it, the electric bikes of the early 2020’s just don’t cut it.
New and improved
And whilst some say they’ll be more affordable in ten or fifteen years’ time, I’m not sure if we can count on it. Because when was the last time a motorcycle manufacturer brought out a new and improved bike that was less expensive than the last one? I can’t remember that ever happening. Battery and motor technology will, I’m sure, improve and become more readily available, but will the manufacturers really pass that saving onto the end user? I like to think they will, but I don’t know.
Whether they pass the saving on or not though, battery and motor tech really does need to improve. Because electric bikes just aren’t good enough yet. They’re heavy, not particularly fast, don’t go far enough and take too long to charge. And that’s the good ones. Really, they need improving in every way. And I’m sure they will be improved in every way over the next fifteen years.
The fact that they’re a bit heavy and slow isn’t even that much of a problem. Loads of bikes are heavy and slow. The issue is, they are just so impractical, unless you have a very specific way of riding. All you can really do with them is 100 or so miles at a time. You can’t go touring. You can only really use one to commute if you live within a certain distance from the office, or you can plug it in whilst you’re at work.
Some models boast over 200 miles worth of range, but that’s a load of rubbish if you intend to actually open the throttle and enjoy the thing. Maybe in town, but who’s going to spend the thick end of £30k on a bike just to ride round town?
No, if the motorcycle world is to achieve full electrification by 2035, we’ve got a long way to go. There needs to be a massive improvement in the efficiency of the motors, battery capacities and charging capabilities.
I want the electric bike thing to work. I’d love it if electric bikes were genuinely a viable option for people, as electric cars are starting to be. And by that I mean having a comparable price, performance and practicality, compared with ‘normal’ bikes. It’d mean more variety in the motorcycle market and I don’t see a downside to that. And if the technology was there to make an electric motorcycle as good as a conventional one, we wouldn’t need a deadline for total electrification; because if electric bikes were better, people would buy them without having their arms forced.
I think it’s going to take a lot longer than fifteen years for there to be any real parity between electric and internal combustion engined bikes, though. So let’s enjoy the next decade and a half. Let’s make as much noise, burn as much petrol, and have as much fun as we possibly can. Before Greta and all her tree-hugging pals put a stop to it all.