Where Are All The Electric Bikes?

Harley-Davidson-Livewire-Age-Of-UltronSunday afternoon I braved the cold and headed down to the annual winter Toronto Motorcycle Show with one of my riding buddies. If you live north of the 44th (north) parallel and you love riding you know exactly what we’re going through this time of the year waiting patiently for temperatures to rise.

It was great to see the new 2015 bike models up close and under one roof. Though I couldn’t help but wonder, where are all the electric bike offerings from the major manufacturers?

Just like all the celebrities and reporters who were dumbfounded by Lady Gaga’s performance at the Oscars last Sunday night I found it strange to note the lack of electric motorcycle technologies on display.

Some of the most anticipated motorcycles coming to market this year have stuck with surprisingly old engine tech, yet have been jammed full of electronic gizmos. In the sport bike category KTM was showing-off their much anticipated RC390 (powered by a 1-cylinder 4-stroke engine), Kawasaki their pricey Ninja H2 (powered by an in-line 4-cylinder engine), and Yamaha their YZF R-1 (powered by an in-line 4-cylinder engine) billed as the closest thing to a MotoGP bike Yamaha has ever produced, though I’m not too sure about the front LED headlight placement and design —otherwise a visceral statement of Yamaha’s racing prowess.
2015 Yamaha YZF-R1

Yes, these new motorcycles are all really exciting for sport performance junkies like myself, but it’s long overdue consumers be given viable alternatives to the old gasoline powered bikes that still saturate the market. Sadly the motorcycle industry, like the automotive industry, seems painfully slow to embrace change.

The one notable exception at this year’s show was Harley Davidson. Shocking, yes I know! Their new project Livewire electric concept was on display and caught my eye. Hmm… this is the same bike shown for a split-second in the latest Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer.
It might be just a prototype, and HD have yet to say if they’re serious about putting the Livewire or any other electrics into production, but hats off to you anyway for at least taking the first step.

Jay Leno did a piece on the HD Livewire and a brief history of electric motorcycles on his YouTube channel noting the first electric bike was patented back in 1897. So EVs aren’t exactly new, rather abandonned technology (for 100 years no less!), as gasoline powered cars and motorcycles took over the market.
Interestingly Jay also pointed out some of the earliest electric bike designs (circa 1911) were claiming a range of 75 to 100 miles (120 to 160 kms) on a single battery charge, citing an old Popular Mechanics advertisment. Well, perhaps a trifle exaggeration of the day when you learn the HD Livewire prototype gets just 53 miles (85kms) on a single charge. Nevertheless, Triumph, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, KTM, and all the other major motorcycle manufacturers, isn’t it about time you stepped up to the plate?