I’d like to clarify my position on electric motorcycles (subsequently referred to as eBikes.) I am in no way against alternative methods of mechanical motive force, alternative fuels or saving the planet. On the contrary, I am a strong supporter and actually live my life as a conservationist and environmentalist. Additionally, for geopolitical and military reasons, I also believe America needs to be self-sufficient in our energy needs and move — quickly — away from fossil fuels!
However, “battery” is simply not the answer and is too unrealistic — at this juncture — to seriously consider. There are two deal breakers with electric vehicles and specifically ebikes:
1) Mass/efficiency: Battery chemistry is simply not ready for mainstream use. Batteries currently weigh too much and/or are too physically large, to be used in motorcycles. This may change as chemistry advances, but for the foreseeable future, batteries are too big to return a reasonable power-to-weight ratio and offer a realistic range.
2) Charging systems:
a. The US does not have the infrastructure to charge electric vehicles. Granted, 110 VAC is pervasive, however, it is not typically available in parking lots or where electric vehicles might currently charge. Perhaps we’ll get one or two ebikes plugged into the Starbuck’s receptacle, but remember, it needs to be there (with current battery technology and low amperage 110 VAC circuits) for 6 to 24 hours! So is 110 volts enough? 220/480 VAC circuits could shorten the charging cycle, but do we want high voltage accessible to the little four year-old that briefly wanders away from mom?
b. On-board charging is also unrealistic. Regenerative braking technology, like that used in hybrid cars, is not practical in an all electric vehicle. There’s simply no such thing as perpetual motion, so the physics won’t support it.
c. Photovoltaic technology could provide a partial charging system, but in motorcycles, there just isn’t the surface area to generate the required yield to charge a battery faster than it’s being consumed. Again, it’s chemistry.
So to me, at this point in time, ebikes simply make no sense. 40 to 100 mile ranges are as impractical in my book, as a bike that weighs 600 lbs to net the equivalent horsepower of a 200cc gasoline powered machine.
I am hopeful that battery chemistry will someday have the requisite breakthrough and advance enough to make ebikes a viable, realistic alternative, but for now, it’s just not there. Maybe, in five years or so, I’ll revisit ebikes, but currently it’s just way too much marketing and hype for the unrealistic, paltry results ebikes return.