Saturday, January 21, 2012
Electric Motorcycles On Faster Than Electric Cars at 2012
Electric motorcycles powered by lithium batteries are beginning to look like contenders in a bike market that is increasingly concerned about fuel efficiency, emissions and noise.
Electrics may attract customers who like the idea of two-wheel transport but are put off by the mechanical complexity of traditional motorcycles and the perceived difficulty in riding them. They may also have particular appeal to urban riders and commuters who can operate more easily within the bikes’ limited range.
I test-rode an electric sport motorcycle called the Zero S this and week and was surprised by how appealing it is even for someone who loves the chugging rhythm of a Ducati twin or the wail of an old Honda V4. The quiet whir of the electric motor and its impressive off-the-line acceleration made the Zero ideal for city riding, where hearing nearby traffic can be as important as seeing it.
While the motor puts out about 28 horsepower, it feels like much more, especially when accelerating from a standstill. I was able to leave menacing taxis far behind and the bike’s weight of less than 300 pounds gave it a light, athletic feel that made getting through midtown New York’s congestion enjoyable.
The Zero S has evolved since 2009, when I rode an early version. The new bike is faster, smoother and better-looking than its predecessor and has a tighter, well-finished feel. It’s ready for prime time.
As with electric cars, though, high prices could keep some customers away. The S and its on-road-off-road stable mate the DS start at $11,495. The higher-capacity battery that boosts range to 114 miles from about 76 miles with the standard battery also increases the price to $13,995. That amount would buy a Honda CBR1000RR, which is close to being a street-legal racing bike.
Of course riders interested in electric motorcycles are not cross-shopping superbikes. But the Zero’s price premium could hurt sales.
Still, the simple joy of riding the Zero could be as big a selling point as its potential fuel savings. In many ways its design and the way it rides are throwbacks to the minimalism and excitement of earlier motorcycles that drew so many people into riding decades ago.