Electric biking


Jeremy looks into the electric bike market and turns green with envy.

When I was asked to look into the ever-growing range of electric bikes, I didn’t want to make my piece just a list of what is available. So I didn’t.

I started riding motorbikes aged eight, fascinated by seeing my uncle riding his bikes and then him taking me on the back. I soon wanted to ride my own and luckily he bought me a Yamaha DT100 which I loved, but could not touch the ground so my uncle sat as pillion while I rode. I was hooked on the noise, speed, thrills of bikes, all types. Motocross, Enduro and of course the sports bikes from Italy and Japan. I was introduced to Moto Guzzi, Laverda and MV Agusta, as well as my uncle’s Suzuki, and the six-cylinder Hondas of the period.

I would never have thought 43 years later I would find the same thrill riding an electric bike as say my modern 1300 cc adventure bike, but my opinions are changing. Electric-powered machines are no longer considered toys, purchased from Argos or Toys R Us. The new era of bikes, whether mopeds or motorcycles, are highly-technical and developing rapidly to take on, then take over, combustion engine powered machines.  This is becoming a necessity for many reasons.

London, Paris and many more cities are taking to banning motorcycles over a certain age and eventually all combustion engine driven machines will be banned. This means the only choice of two-wheel powered machines will have to be electric.

Noise pollution is almost as much a problem in towns and cities as emissions, so one huge advantage with these electric mopeds and motorcycles is they are pretty much silent. Reducing noise is a big bonus.

The city is the natural environment for electric motorbikes, where they can whizz through congested traffic, always close to a charging source. The bikes available at present only have limited range but this is not an issue if you only intend to commute daily.

On average most commutes are 35 miles to the place of work, so a 70 mile combined journey. In reality, bikers are commuting about 40 miles on a round trip.

The majority of electric bikes and scooters on the market have reported ranges of 70 miles in economy mode, allowing roughly two days of commuting before recharging.  If the owner has a garage or parking area near their residence then they will generally charge their machine overnight. This would put pay to any range anxiety. However, whilst reviewing some bikes and scooters for this piece, I found some machines have poor real-world range and I definitely stressed about getting home.

The issue comes when owners don’t have charging sources near their residence, so they have to rely on running extension leads and the charging leads from an outlet to their bike’s charging port.  Manufacturers are now taking this into account when designing new bikes, by introducing removable batteries – easy to access batteries that are light and can be carried inside to charge at work, college or inside your home.

I tested a few different types of mopeds and motorcycles and experienced different methods of charging which are available according to the manufacturer you choose. As I learned from talking to many dealers, people buying electric bikes of any type do their research and are not brand followers as, say, Yamaha bikers could be. The buyers will look at range, ease of charging, and then price. There is a great difference in price from entry-level mopeds such as the EcCityModel 50 to an Energica Eva motorcycle, both of which I’ve ridden.

I had an EcCityModel 50 from GreenMopeds for a few weeks so I could truly utilise it in my weekly schedule. The Model 50 is an L1e category moped, governed to 30 mph with a maximum range of 75 miles, which is decent and allows plenty of short trips without the need for charging.

The category defines what age and what driving license you need to ride the moped. L1e being the equivalent to a 50cc Moped, so sixteen-year-olds can ride one after obtaining their CBT.

The Super Soco TC I tested from Andy Sills, is an L3e bike with a maximum speed of 45 mph. L3e category machines are equivalent to bikes up to 125cc, for people seventeen and older.

See this link for more details on bike categories. https://www.bikesure.co.uk/bikesureblog/2016/05/electric-scooters-and-the-law.html

Once the larger motorcycle companies such as Honda, Yamaha, and BMW fully commit to producing electric bikes in various shapes and sizes, bikers will start changing their buying habits. Prices will start to come down as more options are available and technology improves. Batteries will be less expensive yet provide more range and power.

BMW does make a superb scooter-based machine, the C-Evolution which I rode for a few days earlier this year. I would totally recommend this to anyone who has £12k and wants a machine capable of beating nearly anything else away from the lights and still reach 85mph very rapidly. It also has good range when used in eco mode and regenerative braking which puts energy back into the battery when applying the brakes.

bmw electric bike

Lots of other companies are starting to manufacture electric bikes, but only in certain segments or in very limited numbers so availability is still patchy. KTM have their E-ride electric off-road bike, Bultaco another famous name have trials bikes and are launching a road sports machine. Another firm leading the way in the ever-increasing electric market is Zero Motorcycles which have four models covering street, supermoto, enduro, and trail. They are an American company who have been established ten years. Sadly, I could not get on a model to review.

An Italian firm that is making a name for itself in electric motorbikes is Energica. They have entered one of their machines in the Isle of Man TT. The bike I rode courtesy of Moto Corsa in Salisbury was the Eva which is beautiful to look at and ride.  A proper super bike it handles superbly, responding to every input and body movement. The agility is great. Performance is awesome with the 70kw power going straight to the rear wheel, pushing you forward rapidly if you open the throttle wide from startup. So much fun.

The electric streetfighter has a range up to 200km (ECO mode) and can reach a top speed of 200km/h in Sport mode. The brand produces three other models all with exceptional performance and great looks.

Talking of high performance machines, another American firm Lightning have a model, the LS-218, which will be available in Europe by the end of this year. It can do 100 miles at motorway speeds, produces the equivalent of 200hp and does 218 mph. It retails at around £29000. I have been invited over to California to ride one. Sadly I have to pay my own airfare, but I think it will be worth the flight. Anyone care to donate?

The market for electric motorcycles has taken off massively with sales outgrowing predicted figures. Predictions now are by 2023 forty million units will have been sold. This has lead to a number of bigger brands actively reporting they will be producing electric models within five years. One company is Harley Davidson who stated they will have one by 2019. Green sales are worth some 2.5 billion Dollars, currently.

Before bikers make the change to clean green biking I believe they will want to wait for technology to improve, manufacturer support to increase and more of the leading makers to produce machines.

Having ridden a variety of electric bikes and mopeds researching for this article, I would be very happy to own an electric machine. This would be if I had somewhere to charge it overnight and for local use only. For me, range is still a drawback. I want an electric bike with 200-mile range on a single charge, fast charging and that can cruise at a steady 80mph whilst carrying luggage. This will come, there is no doubt about it. Companies are pushing the limits of battery technology, size and weight so long ranges and quick charging will be possible. Prices will also come down, along with emissions and noise. Three huge benefits to bikers and the planet. The bikes I have ridden have been fun and that’s why I got into biking in the first place.

Despite the possible issues I have mentioned I would love one of the sports bikes to blast around on.

In fact, one machine makes me Green with Envy.