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Are electric motorcycles doomed already?

Alta Redshift MXR Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles EV doomed
Alta Redshift MXR

Are electric motorcycles doomed even before they really get started?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that is the case given the recent demise of American off-road electric motorcycle company Alta Motors (pictured above) and the departure of Zero Motorcycles from Australia.

But Alta was doomed because they made high-end off-road motorcycles for a market that didn’t want them.

Meanwhile, Zero pulled out of Australia for the moment citing unfavourable exchange rates and taxes. It is still the top-selling electric motorcycle company in the world.

Electric power is definitely coming to two wheels. It’s just that it might not initially take the shape of bikes to replace our beloved machines.

Urban mobility

(Image: Intermot) E-Scooter electric scooter women female plug doomed
Electric scooter/bike from E-Scooter (Image: Intermot)

Instead, two-wheeled electric power seems to be making more of a mark in urban mobility.

The biggest market for electric motorcycles in the world is China where small electric motorcycles and scooters dominate.

Similarly, Europe is bursting with electric scooters and small bikes.

Most are mopeds or “ebikes”, some with pedal assistance.

But even these models are improving with ABS, dual seats, luggage cargo capacity, increased range and higher top speeds.

So rather than electric motorcycles replacing petrol motorcycles, we are more likely to see a growth in these urban electric bikes first.

Big electrics doomed?

Curtiss Zeus Prototype electric motorcycle doomed
Curtiss Zeus Prototype electric motorcycle

Which seems to make a mockery of companies such as Curtiss and Lightning making big, powerful electric motorcycles.

Even Harley-Davidson understand this.

The big American has been trumpeting their entry to the electric motorcycle market with the LiveWire electric sports bike next year.

Some say the bike is doomed to failure.

However, Harley also recently announced range of smaller electric bikes and scooters to be introduced in the next four years.

They call them “lightweight urban” bikes.

Harley plans adventure, streetfighters and electric bicycles sporty doomed
Harley’s electric bikes and scooters

Interestingly, Harley partnered with Alta Motors to gain vital battery technology before the latter ceased operations, despite the injection of Harley funding.

Their partnership ended a couple of months ago before Alta was doomed by a lack of financial backing, despite technological acumen and even some race wins.

Harley is now planning their own satellite product development centre called H-D LiveWire Labs in Silicon Valley to develop electric bikes and other future product.

Company boss Matt Levatich says they have started conducting EV Readiness seminars with dealers.

“Already, hundreds of US dealers have raised their hands to be among the first EV-ready dealers,” he says.

“We are energised by the great enthusiasm among our dealers who also want Harley-Davidson to define and lead two-wheeled electrification.”

Just don’t expect their range of electric bikes to replace any of their current line-up. Even the LiveWire sports bike is no replacement for any model in their range of cruisers, tourers and trikes.

  1. As usual our governments are light years behind…They should be encouraging the use of electric bikes and 3 and 4 wheelers like the chinese. They could solve the congestion problems pretty much overnight without spending a fortune on more infrastructure. Should start by banning 4wds from the cities…..

    1. “Banning 4WD’s from the cities” is a stupid idea, which would have to come from someone who never ventures outside the city. Those of us in the bush, where we have to contend with poorly maintained gravel roads, floods and pot-hold bitumen roads that are just as bad as, or worse than, the gravel roads sometimes have to go the city for medical treatment or for other reasons. With no public transport, how the hell are we supposed to get to the city? We tried a small, city-type motor car, purchased new, and within a couple of years it was all but destroyed by our roads. Only well-built 4WD’s last for any length of time in these conditions. Pete, you really need to get out and about and see a bit of the world outside your city cocoon.

  2. Why not ban them for people with city addresses rather than ban them outright? Or something like that whereby country people can use them without 4WD’s clogging up inner-city roads. I understand your point but in the city, as a motorcyclist, 4WD’s are a menace.

  3. Good analysis and I agree – mobility will totally transform over the next few years, with personal electric vehicles at the front. Australia is a bit slow with regulations, but one look in China with its scooters, Europe with kick-scooters, and ebikes everywhere shows we’re on the cusp of a revolution. Motorcycles (electric or otherwise) will kind of head towards being like boats – not the best form of transport, but a heck of a lot of fun.

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