Predictions For The Year Ahead, Pt. 2: Are Friends Electric?
Not so long ago, the idea that the internal combustion engine was on its way out would have been laughable. These days though, the sight of four-wheeled electric vehicles is pretty unremarkable. That, in tandem with the ongoing international discussion of banning production of new fossil-fuelled vehicles, has surely encouraged entrepreneurs and long-standing motorcycle manufacturers alike to explore the concept of the electric motorcycle further.
Since riding a motorcycle will probably always remain something of a niche activity, technology may always lag behind the car industry a little. However, this does mean we can benefit from research and advancement over there – something that is definitely helping out development at the BMW Motorrad division for example. As EV ownership increases, so do the number of charge points around the world, and as the electronics industry continues to improve battery technology, I think we can take it as read that barriers to uptake like range and charge time are on the way out.
So, what makes 2019 a candidate for the electric motorbike breakthrough year? I call my first witness: the MotoE World Cup. This year will see the inaugural edition of this 5-race series, and while I am of the opinion that design for competition performance doesn’t always directly translate to everyday use, the positive effect of something like this cannot be denied. The investment in and exposure of new electric bike technology will work wonders. The very existence of this race series is also a huge vote of confidence in the Energica Ego motorcycle – which will be supplied to all competing riders. This bike’s ground-breaking lap at the Isle Of Man TT Zero in 2017 proved the viability of such a competition, and here we are.
Electric motorbike specialists Energica have not rested on their laurels either: for 2019 their entire range has been upgraded to include heated grips, traction and cruise control – not to mention a 50% faster charge rate. Outside of the Ego range, Energica also cater to those who may not want to dress up as a Power Ranger and rub their knees on the floor. The EsseEsse9 variant of their Eva naked sports bike has been specced with a more traditional headlight and clock arrangement, and a tracker-inspired seat which positions it much more within our comfort zone – even if the £24k price-tag doesn’t!
While emerging electric-specialist brands are more than pulling their weight when it comes to innovation (shout-out to the uber-disruptive Cake), I would anticipate mainstream manufacturers will be responsible for tipping electric motorbikes into common usage. Enter Harley-Davidson.
2019 will see the release of the much-anticipated Harley-Davidson Livewire. For my money, this electric motorbike is the least visually alien to the seasoned biker. Sure, it is a little unusual for a Harley silhouette, but the stance is reminiscent of Buell and even the chunky battery and transmission has something of the BMW K100 about it. Most importantly, HD have proven that it is possible to design an electric vehicle without covering it in sky blue trim, the letter E, or some sort of circuitry illustration. Who signs off on that stuff?
The price of electric bikes is still a significant factor in preventing widespread uptake but with the Livewire release and competing models from other manufacturers sure to follow, the nature of a competitive market will surely see those figures start to fall. Then factor in the massively reduced running costs of an electric vehicle: no emissions duty, no oil or filters to change, cheap servicing, and (according to some sources) an estimated energy cost of 1p per mile – all of a sudden, the overall cost starts to look a lot more palatable.
While it does seem that every year is pitched as *the* year for electric motorbikes to break through, 2019 looks best equipped to act on such a claim. Check back in December and we’ll see how right or wrong we are!