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How fast are electric motorcycles?

Mugen isle of Man TT Zero tt electric motorcycle record fast

This week an electric motorcycle tore around the 60.72km (37.73 mile) Isle of Man TT circuit in 18:34.956mins for an average speed of 196.056km/h (121.824mph) which is pretty fast.

However, Team Mugen’s (pictured above) Zero TT electric class record is still a long way from the fastest motorcycles on the circuit.

The current outright record is two minutes faster at an average speed of 217.989km/h (135.452mph) by a BMW R 1000 RR.

In fact, the electric record is only 34 seconds faster than the 205cc record and is 12 seconds slower than the lightweight 650cc class.

Fast electrics

But that doesn’t mean electric bikes are slow.

At 351km/h, the $US38,888 (about $A51,150) Lightning Motorcycle LS-218 is the world’s fastest street-legal production motorcycle.

Lightning electric motorcycle fast
LIghtning record-holding electric race bike

The Kawasaki H2R may be the world’s fastest production motorcycle at 400km/h, but it is a track-only bike, not a street-legal version and it costs $A60,000.

The Lightning is also the fastest motorcycle up 1440m in elevation to the 4300m summit of Pikes Peak in the famous Colorado hillclimb event.

Its 2013 record of just 0.694 seconds over 10 minutes still stands.

The distinct advantage of electric vehicles on the famed hillclimb is that they are unaffected by altitude like internal combustion engines.

Electric concerns

Concerns about an electric motorcycle future revolve mainly around cost, feel, range and recharge times, not speed or acceleration which are not in dispute.

Costs are rapidly coming down and feel is very similar to many four-cylinder motorcycles, although they will admittedly never provide the feel or character of a single, twin or tiple.

However, their performance is literally electrifying.

We’ve ridden several electric motorcycles and the most noticeable thing is their linear and rapid acceleration.

Victory Empulse TT fast
MBW on the Victory Empulse TT electric motorcycle

Electric motorcycles have instant peak torque like turning on a light switch, only its rolling a throttle.

It can be so abrupt, some manufacturers attenuate the throttle for smoother and more controllable acceleration.

Even range will soon be of no concern.

An Indian startup claims it can make an affordable electric motorcycle (from $A11,350 to $17,350) that is capable of 250km/h and 480km range, beating the current range record of 360km by Zero Motorcycles.

However, Mankame Motors has not yet announced charging times.

Charging remains the last hurdle for electric motorcycles to conquer.

  1. But there still are the questions that nobody is willing to answer.

    1) How many years does the battery last? We know they will do a lot of kilometres and a lot of charge/discharge cycles. But batteries degrade with time and if you don’t ride often or have several bikes and none of them do a lot of kilometres in a year, you may not get many kilometres before the battery needs to be replaced.
    2) At what rate does the battery degrade? For example, after 5 years what percentage of the battery’s capacity, and therefore its range, will remain? The Zero website says that a reduction in capacity of up to 20% in 5 years is not covered by warranty.
    3) How much does a replacement battery cost? They seem to be hiding this from us. I have heard that they could cost from a third to a half of the total purchase price of the motorcycle. When the range has been reduced to an unacceptable level because of battery degradation it could cost big money. On bikes that aren’t used a lot this could cost more than the savings in fuel.

  2. …And:
    How unique is each battery pack for each bike? After the warranty period for the battery pack expires, who will make or stock suitable new battery packs? You don’t want one that has been sitting on the shelf for 5 years or more.
    Will your 5 year old electric bike become obsolete when nobody makes a replacement battery pack for it? It could be a great opportunity for planned obselescence.

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