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Electric Motorcycles in 2021 – where are we at?

April 06, 2021

As we progress into 2021, the inevitability of electric vehicles is becoming inescapable. With Tesla stock skyrocketing and all major car manufacturers announcing their impending transition to electric, many motorcyclists find themselves wondering where this leaves their preferred mode of travel. The relatively low level of electric bike announcements is likely primarily due to the priorities of automotive manufacturers. Even Tesla themselves - widely seen as the front runner in the electric race – is yet to announce an electric bike, with Elon Musk reportedly stating they have no plans to explore this avenue due to a near-death experience he had in his youth.

Developing the tech for electrified bikes is doubtless an expensive and time-consuming process, and the undeniable fact that car sales are the priority for most manufacturers leaves motorcycles as an afterthought for the time being. That’s not to say it won’t happen (it will), just that the big players can’t justify it yet. With BMW announcing they are further scaling up their electric production past a fifth of their overall output and other manufacturers following suit, it may not be long before we can expect an announcement from one of the A-class brands.

Harley-Davidson have positioned themselves as the leading electric motorcycle company, a far cry from their historical aesthetic.

The big problem of course is the technology. Many of the biggest vehicle manufacturers’ electric drive train and battery technologies are already years behind Tesla, forcing massive investment into a catch up and innovation game. With such fierce competition in the sector, the priority has been and remains to be one thing: making an affordable electric car with a range comparable to a traditional vehicle. With companies laser focused on this goal for the time being, its probable that bikes will come back into consideration once the electric scene has stabilised somewhat and some of Tesla’s lead has eroded, allowing innovation and product development resources to be spread around more widely again. That leaves the motorcycle-only companies for now.

It is no surprise that the only premium vehicle maker that has yet built a custom production electric motorcycle is Harley Davidson, a company who only make motorcycles and who can justify the huge investment costs of developing this niche technology. It is possible that this is the smartest move Harley has made in years - if they continue to develop and build on their lead. Positioning themselves as the premiere electric motorcycle brand with a clear technical advantage could pay dividends in a few years time when the landscape has shifted entirely. An ironic shift for a company that has always maintained an outlaw, petrol-head marketing slant. 

The Triumph TE-1 promises to bring a wealth of unique technology to the scene and is being developed in collaboration with Williams F1.

In the background we also have an intriguing inbound effort from Triumph, the “TE-1”. Still in development, Triumph is claiming to be developing a revolutionary product with greater power and range than any electric motorcycle currently on the market. While it remains to be seen whether they can achieve this, the investment in innovation is certainly appreciated.

Manufacturers like Zero are capitalising on a power vacuum in the electric motorcycle space to create affordable products like the Zero SR/F.

Despite the obvious technical hurdles, the one glimmer of hope for motorcyclists now is ironically Tesla’s complete apathy towards the market. This disinterest has left a vacuum for quality products which may spur one or two of the big names to put down the cash to develop a prototype. Or perhaps a completely different story? Tesla had its success by building from the ground up with an electric only model of production that has reaped rewards in recent years. Could companies like Zero and Energica replicate this success and revolutionise the motorcycle market with quality affordable products in the coming years? For now the question remains unanswered and it will likely take time before we begin to see the grand designs of our favourite manufacturers in the moto sector. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

This blog is part 1 of a 3 part series on electric motorcycles, subscribe to our newsletter to be informed when future blog posts launch and to receive exclusive offers and information on Ultimateaddons products.

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