Electric motorcycles and scooters are plug-in electric vehicles with two or three wheels powered by electricity. The electricity is stored on board in a rechargeable battery, which drives one or more electric motors. Electric scooters (as distinct from motorcycles) have a step-through frame.
|1895||Earliest known electric motorcycle patent.|
|1911||Popular Mechanics article introduces an electric motorcycle.|
|1919||Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies make an electric motorcycle prototype.|
|1936||Socovel electric motorcycle company founded.|
|1946||Marketeer company founded, based on an electric motorcycle made by Merle Williams.|
|1967||Karl Kordesch makes an hydrazine fuel cell motorcycle|
|1974||Mike Corbin's motorcycle Quick Silver sets electric motorcycle speed record of 165.387 mph (266.165 km/h)|
|1996||First mass-produced electric scooter, Peugeot Scoot'Elec, released|
|2011||Chip Yates sets Guinness record of fastest electric motorcycle with 316.899 km/h (196.912 mph)|
|2013||First FIM eRoad Racing World Cup|
The early history of electric motorcycles is somewhat unclear. On 19 September 1895, a patent application for an "electrical bicycle" was filed by Ogden Bolton Jr. of Canton Ohio. On 8 November of the same year, another patent application for an "electric bicycle" was filed by Hosea W. Libbey of Boston.
At the Stanley Cycle Show in 1896 in London, England, bicycle manufacturer Humber exhibited an electric tandem bicycle. Powered by a bank of storage batteries, the motor was placed in front of the rear wheel. Speed control was by a resistance placed across the handlebars. This electric bicycle was mainly intended for racetrack use.
The October 1911 issue of Popular Mechanics mentioned the introduction of an electric motorcycle. It claimed to have a range of 75 miles (121 km) to 100 miles (160 km) per charge. The motorcycle had a three-speed controller, with speeds of 4 miles (6.4 km), 15 miles (24 km) and 35 miles (56 km) per hour.
In 1919, Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies made a prototype electric motorcycle in which the batteries were fitted under the seat of the sidecar. Even though the vehicle was registered for road use, it never went past the trial stage.
In 1936, the Limelette brothers founded an electric motorcycle company called Socovel (Société pour l'étude et la Construction de Vehicules Electriques or Company for research and manufacture of electric vehicles) in Brussels. They continued production during the German occupation with their permission. Due to fuel rationing, they found some degree of success. But after the war, they switched to conventional models. The electric models remained available until 1948.
During the World War II, compelled by fuel rationing in the United States, Merle Williams of Long Beach, California invented a two-wheeled electric motorcycle that towed a single wheeled trailer. Due to the popularity of the vehicle, Williams started making more such vehicles in his garage. In 1946, it led to the formation of the Marketeer Company (current-day ParCar Corp.).
In 1967, Karl Kordesch, working for Union Carbide, made a fuel cell/Nickel-cadmium battery hybrid electric motorcycle. It was later replaced with a hydrazine fuel cell, giving it a range of 200 miles (320 km) per gallon and a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h).
In 1974, Auranthic Corp., a small manufacturer in California, produced a small motorcycle called the Charger. It had a 30 mph (48 km/h) and a 50 miles (80 km) range on a full charge.
In the early 1970s, Mike Corbin built a street-legal commuter electric motorcycle called the Corbin Electric. Later in 1974, Corbin, riding a motorcycle called the Quick Silver, set the electric motorcycle speed world record at 165.387 mph (266.165 km/h). The motorcycle used a 24 volt electric starter motor from a Douglas A-4B fighter plane. In 1975, Corbin built a battery-powered prototype street motorcycle called the City Bike. This motorcycle used a battery manufactured by Yardney Electric.
In June 1975, the first Annual Alternative Vehicle Regatta was held at Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. The event was created and promoted by Charles McArthur, an environmentalist. On June 17, Corbin's motorcycle completed the 8 miles (13 km) uphill course in 26 minutes.
In 1988, Ed Rannberg, who founded Eyeball Engineering, tested his electric drag motorcycle in Bonneville. In 1992, the January issue of Cycle World carried an article about Ed Rannberg's bike called the KawaSHOCKI. It could complete a quarter mile (0.25 miles (400 m)) in 11-12 seconds.
In 1995, Electric Motorbike Inc. was founded by Scott Cronk and Rick Whisman in Santa Rosa, California. In 1996, EMB Lectra was built by Electric Motorbike Inc., which used a variable reluctance motor. It had a top speed of about 45 mph (72 km/h) and a range of 35 miles (56 km). About a 100 of these were built.
On 26 August 2000, Killacycle established a drag racing record of completing a quarter mile (400 m) in 9.450 seconds on the Woodburn track in Oregon. Killacycle used lead acid batteries at a speed of 152.07 mph (244.73 km/h). Later, Killacycle using A123 Systems Li-ion nano-phosphate cells set a new quarter mile record of 7.824 seconds breaking the 8 seconds barrier at 168 miles per hour (270 km/h) in Phoenix, Arizona at the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) 2007, on 10 November 2007.
On 14 June 2009, the first electric Time Trial Xtreme Grand Prix (TTXGP) all electric street motorcycle race took place on the Isle of Man in which 13 machines took part. Rob Barber riding a motorcycle built by Team Agni won the race. He completed the 37.73 miles (60.72 km) course in 25 minutes 53.5 seconds, an average speed of 87.434 miles per hour (140.711 km/h).
In 2010, ElectroCat, made by Eva Håkansson, set the record time for an electric motorcycle to climb Pikes Peak. The motorcycle, ridden by John Scollon, completed the 12 miles (19 km) course in 16 minutes 55.849 seconds. ElectroCat uses batteries manufactured by A123 Systems.
On 26 June 2011, Chip Yates broke ElectroCat's previous record at Pikes Peak. He completed the course in 12 minutes 50.094 seconds. On 30 August 2011, Yates riding his prototype SWIGZ.COM electric superbike established the official Guinness record of the fastest electric motorcycle. The motorcycle clocked a speed of 316.899 km/h (196.912 mph) at Bonneville.
In 2012, Paul Ernst Thede set an SCTA record run of 216.8 miles per hour at Bonnevile Salt Flats, Utah. This did not qualify as a Guinness World record as it wasn't timed by the FIM timing association.
On 30 June 2013, Carlin Dunne riding a Lightning Motorcycle-built electric bike beat conventional motorcycles at Pikes Peak. He clocked a 10 minutes 00.694 seconds at the 12.42 miles (19.99 km) course.
Vectrix in 2006 introduced the first commercially available high performance electric scooter, the VX-1. Following insolvency and initial bankruptcy reorganization, the Gold Peak battery group purchased the company in 2009. Vectrix expanded product lines, offering the VX-2 and the three wheeled VX-3. But Vectrix ceased operations in January 2014 and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, with its remaining assets auctioned off the following June.
Electric motorcycle manufacturers include ?ezeta, Victory Motorcycles, Monday Motorbikes, Mahindra, Zero Motorcycles, Lightning Motorcycle, Energica Motor Company, Johammer, Evoke Motorcycles, Quantya, Electric Motorsport, Hollywood Electrics, Yo, Lito, Romai, Gogoro, Rondine Motor and Alta Motors.Yamaha plans to enter the market shortly with at least two models. Spanish company Bultaco entered the electric motorcycle market in 2015.Harley-Davidson introduced a new prototype electric motorcycle in June 2014.
Z Electric Vehicle is a US based commercial production supplier of electric scooters for worldwide markets. The BMW C Evolution electric scooter was released in Germany in May 2014.Honda participated in European lease demonstration and driving tests for its electric scooter in 2012 but has not yet announced its availability for sale. Terra Motors, a Japanese electric vehicle maker, will begin selling electric scooters in India by 2015. Gogoro announced a swappable battery electric scooter at CES 2015. eGen is a UK based company offering a variety of electric scooters utilizing lithium iron phosphate batteries. UGBEST is a China based electric scooter manufacturer that has been in operation since 2011, utilizing lithium iron phosphate batteries. The Company acquired Ecobit SRL electric scooter factory in 2013 including the WMI and facilities. In 2016, EcoKargo was formed to exclusively produce electric delivery scooters.
Alternative types of batteries are available. Z Electric Vehicle has pioneered use of a lead/sodium silicate battery (a variation on the classic lead acid battery invented in 1859, still prevalent in automobiles) that compares favorably with lithium batteries in size, weight, and energy capacity, at considerably less cost.
EGen says its lithium-iron phosphate batteries are up to two-thirds lighter than lead acid batteries and offer the best battery performance for electric vehicles.
In 2017, the first vehicle in the US to use the new Lithium Titanium Oxide (LTO) battery non-flammable battery technology is a scooter called The Expresso. This new technology charges a battery in less than 10 minutes and withstands 25,000 charges (the equivalent of 70 years of daily charges). The technology, created by Altairnano, is currently being used in China where over 10,000 urban buses run on these fast charge batteries. In comparison Elon Musk's electric vehicles use ion-lithium batteries which wane in 6-10 years.
All electric scooters and motorcycles provide for recharging by plugging into ordinary wall outlets, usually taking about eight hours to recharge (i.e. overnight). Some manufacturers have designed in, included, or offer as an accessory, the high-power CHAdeMO level 2 charger, which can charge the batteries up to 95% in an hour.
Manufacturers like Zero Motorcycles and recent entrants to the scooter market Gogoro and Unu have designed machines that allow quick battery swapping, for apartment dwellers who do not have a garage outlet, or for an instant recharge on the go.
Honda has developed an experimental internal combustion/electric hybrid scooter. Yamaha has also developed a hybrid concept motorcycle called Gen-Ryu. It uses a 600cc engine and an additional electric motor.Piaggio MP3 Hybrid uses a 125cc engine and an additional 2.4 kW motor.
There are several experimental prototypes using fuel cell technology. ENV developed by Intelligent Energy is a hydrogen fuel cell prototype. The motorcycle has a range of 100 miles (160 km) and can reach a top speed of 50 mph (80 km/h).Suzuki has also developed a concept hydrogen fuel cell scooter based on the Suzuki Burgman. Yamaha has created a hydrogen fuel cell prototype called FC-AQEL, which is considered equivalent to a 125cc vehicle.Honda has also developed a hydrogen fuel cell scooter which uses the Honda FC Stack.
Electric and gasoline powered motorcycles and scooters of the same size and weight are roughly comparable in performance. In August 2013 Road and Track evaluated a high-end electric motorcycle as faster and better handling than any conventionally powered bike. Electric machines have better 0 to 60 acceleration, since they develop full torque immediately, and without a clutch the torque is instantly available.
Electric motorcycles and scooters suffer considerable disadvantage in range, since batteries cannot store as much energy as a tank of gas. Anything over 130 miles (210 km) on a single charge is considered an exceptionally long range. As a result, while electric machines excel as daily commuters traveling a fixed distance round trip, on the open road riders experience inhibiting range anxiety. Also electric power trades off range against speed. For instance the current longest range electric scooter, the ZEV 10 LRC, travels 220 km (140 mi) at 89 km/h (55 mph), but according to the manufacturer the range drops to about 129 km (80 mi) at 112 km/h (70 mph). A BBC news blog reported that an Austrian bike, the Johammer J1, is capable of travelling 200 km (124 miles) on a single charge.
Electric scooters and motorcycles need very little maintenance. As Wired magazine's transportation editor Damon Lavrinc reported after an experiment of trying to go six months using nothing but a Zero electric motorcycle: "[w]ith only a battery, a motor, and a black box (i.e. the controller) to keep you moving, electric motorcycles are a breeze to maintain compared to a conventional motorcycle, what with all the lubricating and adjusting and tuning you have to do. You basically just worry about consumables: brake pads, tires, maybe a brake fluid flush. That's about it." Electric scooters and motorcycles equipped with regenerative braking typically have longer brake pad life because a significant portion of braking duty can be performed with the electric motor instead of the mechanical friction brakes.
At between one and two cents per mile (depending on electric rates), electric machines enjoy an enormous fuel cost advantage. Three months and 2,800 km (1,700 mi) of commuting on an electric motorcycle cost Lavrinc less than $30 for electricity; on a BMW gasoline bike a single trip of 650 km (400 mi) cost nearly the same. In Australia, UBCO battery Electric Motorbike running cost is 88¢ per 100 km
Even with special equipment, charging a battery takes significantly longer than filling a gas tank, which can make electric vehicles less flexible than their gasoline counterparts. With the maximum number of accessory chargers, it takes over an hour to charge a Zero S ZF6.5's 6.5kWh battery to 95% capacity. This refuel time also increases with battery capacity; the Zero S ZF13.0 (which has a 13.0kWh battery) takes over 2 hours to charge to 95% capacity using the maximum number of accessory chargers. While this may not pose an issue to commuting in an electric vehicle with overnight charging, it will likely impact taking long road trips that require refueling during the journey.
Electric vehicles are far quieter than gas powered ones, so silent they may sneak up on unwary pedestrians. Some are equipped to emit artificial noise. Popular Mechanics called the comparative quiet of electric motorcycles the greatest difference between them and their gas counterparts, and a safety bonus because the rider can hear danger approaching. Whether a loud motorcycle is more noticeable and thus more safe than a quiet one is contested. At high speed the whine of an electric motorcycle is said to sound "like a spaceship."
China leads the world in electric scooter sales, comprising 9.4 million of the total 12 million sold worldwide in 2013. There were only 31,338 electric scooter sales outside the Asia-Pacific region including Europe. The US market is comparatively small, with an estimated 2,000 sold in 2012.
While steadily becoming more practical, high prices and a limited range suited best for commuting have been impediments to electric motorcycles and scooters increasing their market share. In the US at least, cheaper motorcycles that can refuel in minutes at any gas station better suit weekend riders, the predominant users. According to a market report published in 2013, the sales of electric motorcycles and scooters in expected to rise over 10-fold by 2018 in North America, to about 36,000 by 2018.
In India, high costs and power grid problems have contributed to slow sales. In states like Tamil Nadu, where power supply of rationed electricity was reduced, a corresponding drop in sales has been observed by electric scooter manufacturers like Ampere and Hero Electric.
In January 2013, the Indian government announced a plan to provide subsidies for hybrid and electric vehicles. The plan will have subsidies up to INR 150000 (Approximately US$2200) for cars and 50000 on two wheelers. India aims to have seven million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.
The premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Liu Chao-shiuan said in 2008 that the government-financed Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) will help domestic manufacturers mass-produce 100,000 electric motorcycles in four years.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb began in 1916 and is the second oldest motor sports race in America. The PPIHC is a long-standing tradition in the Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Regions. The race takes place on a 12.42 mile course beginning at 9,390 feet with 156 turns and ending at the 14,110 foot summit of Pikes Peak. One of the main obstacles of the race is the increasingly thin air that slows reflexes, diminishes muscle strength and reduces the power of internal combustion engines by 30 percent as competitors advance up the peak. The electric motorcycle division has an advantage with the all-electric motorcycles because they do not experience power loss with increased elevation and thinner air.
TTXGP was conceived by Azhar Hussain. The first race was held on 30 June 2009 on the Isle of Man in which 13 teams took part. The event was endorsed by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). In May 2010, TTXGP started a world championship series. It went on to organize several races in US, Europe and Australia. In 2010, TT Zero replaced the TTXGP event in the Isle of Man TT race. Neither TTXGP nor Azhar Hussain were involved in the event. The event followed FIM rules.
On 18 November 2010, Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) announced an ePower International Series for electric motorcycles, causing a split between TTXGP promoters and FIM. FIM, unlike TTXGP, was unable to gather many teams of the series. In March 2011, TTXGP announced it would again collaborate with FIM.
In 2013, TTXGP and FIM collaborated to organize the FIM eRoad Racing World Cup with races in US, Europe and a final race in Asia.
In 2013, FIM announced an all-electric event, called E-MX, which was held in Belgium during Clean Week 2020 on 2 May. MiniMoto SX Energy Crisiscross is a regular event where electric off-road motorcycles are allowed to compete against conventional motorcycles.
After the TTXGP concluded its 2013 race season, it pulled out of the US, and Arthur Kowitz, who had participated in the FIM eRoad Racing World Cup founded eMotoRacing to fill the void. eMotoRacing kicked off its first season in 2014, running in conjunction with AHRMA which gave access to ten high-profile tracks around the US. In addition to its regular race season, eMotoRacing held its first annual "Varsity Challenge" on July 11-13, 2014 at the New Jersey Motorsports Park, urging engineering teams from universities to race custom-built electric motorcycles. At the start of its third season in 2016, AHRMA announced it had adopted eMotoRacing's "eSuperSport" class as a permanent addition to their roadracing lineup.
Torque [is] in line with some of the biggest, brashest, and beefiest bikes in the world. But unlike those bruisers and cruisers, the SR tips the scales at a relatively svelte 400 pounds. High grunt and low mass let you hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds.
[The Mission electric motorcycle] runs from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.7 seconds. That's better acceleration than any other commercially-available motorcycle ever built.
... more than anything else that set the [gas powered] BMW and [electric] Zero apart was the sense of freedom...
[R]ival schools have emerged. The first argues that EVs should remain quiet, void of any added sound. The second believes that these vehicles pose a risk to pedestrians and cyclists because they may creep up, ostensibly unannounced by a gurgling engine.
[S]ilence is actually a bonus; you can hear danger approaching and you become more a part of your environment.
[T]the pipes direct the sound backwards.. . . Seventy-seven percent of all motorcycle accident hazards come from the 11 to 1:00 direction, from in front of the motorcycle rider. And people that are 500 feet in front of you that may turn in front of you that will violate your right of way; they can't hear [the motorcycle noise] because it's pointed the other way
[I]t sounds like a TIE Fighter on an attack run.
Electric motorcycle makers like to talk about a rider's daily commuting distance and show how their bike's limited range is just right. The problem is that most real motorcyclists don't commute on their bikes. They commute in air-conditioned cars that keep their hair in place, their smartphones in hand and their clothes insect-free