By David Roberts
Hooray for spring! For motorcycle enthusiasts it is time to celebrate warmer riding weather and possibly consider a new ride. Fortunately for them, there are great electric-powered motorcycle options available today with more on the way. Electric motorcycles offer many of the same benefits of electric cars – smooth power, low maintenance, easy charging via standard 120V outlets and quiet operation, not to mention no toxic tailpipe emissions and a greatly reduced greenhouse gas footprint.
Zero Motorcycles is an industry leader – they only make electric motorcycles and have been in business for many years. They offer several different models and configurations and have several dealers in the northeast region. The standard Zero S model starts at $11,000 and has about 90 miles of range. Larger battery options are available with range topping out over 200 miles. They also offer dual-sport and off-road models that can hit your favorite local trails.
Alta Motors is another electric motorcycle manufacturer with several options geared to off-road use. The Redshift MXR retails for about $12,000 and is designed to compete with a modern 350cc gasoline trail bike and has enough juice to last four hours on single track and woods courses. The throttle response and engine braking can be tuned on-the-fly for beginner or expert driving styles. The direct drive system does away with gears, so riders can focus on enjoying the ride instead of when to engage the clutch.
Not to be outdone by these upstarts, Harley-Davidson toured their Livewire electric motorcycle concept in 2014 to gather feedback from over 12,000 riders on their electric preferences. They recently announced plans to offer a new electric model for sale in the next 18 months. Details are not yet certain, but they are using their Livewire experience to inform the development and collaborating with Alta on technology, so it should be great. No doubt an electric Harley will be quieter than their gasoline models, so traditionalists will be happy to hear Harley-Davidson has no plans to stop making road hogs.
In addition to these industry leaders, there are several more manufacturers of electric motorcycles – Energica, BMW, KTM, Lightning, and Lito all have options for sale, and other manufacturers are considering entering the market as electric drive technology continues to improve. More than a few homemade electric conversions of older gasoline motorcycles are out there too.
For shorter trips around town, there are also great options for electric-assist bicycles and cargo-bikes that cost less, provide an opportunity for exercise when you feel like it, and are great fun to ride.
David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric car for the past 5 years and says if you have to drive, drive electric.