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Motorcycling at turning point: Erik Buell

Motorcycling at turning point: Erik Buell

Innovative motorcycle engineer Erik Buell has turned his back on fossil fuels and says motorcycling is at a turning point.

Last year Erik launched the Fuell Flow electric motorcycle and Fluid e-bike that he claims is virtually future proof with a replaceable and updatable battery, motor and charger.

It also has a connected dashboard that automatically downloads software updates.

Fuell Flow and Fluid electric motorcycle
Fluid and Flow

Now, Erik has released the first in a two-part assessment of the current state of motorcycling and the electric future in a post-pandemic world.

Erik says our streets are getting more crowded, yet people want more space and the obvious solution is single-track vehicles … in other words, motorcycles.

Here is his assessment of our riding future.

Erik gets “close and personal”:

Let’s get personal here. I’m talking close and personal.

That is the closeness of city streets and personal freedom to travel. Because cities are getting bigger, and more packed. Yet people want freedom to move. We don’t want to be trapped and limited. We want to go where we want, when we want to.

When I look to the future, there is one compelling solution for urban/suburban transportation. Well, two actually, two wheels… two wheels in a single track with green power. Whether it’s a human pedaled bicycle, a pedal assisted electric bicycle or an electric moto, two wheels are the clear solutions for urban mobility.

On a single track two-wheeler, you basically take up the same space as you do walking. Driving a car or riding in an Uber is like walking down the street with your arms stretched wide out, taking the street for yourself.

Mass transport works to some extent, but it’s just not a pleasant experience, and it only gets you vaguely near the place you want to be. It’s also a very expensive endeavor that burdens city budgets. Sometimes these huge expensive vehicles are full and sometimes near empty. In either case they keep running from point A to B at Y o’clock despite the fact that you need to get from C to D at Z o’clock.

In Europe where streets are smaller, the support and infrastructure for two wheelers is exploding. In the US it is starting as well. In Asia, two-wheelers have always been the solution, and now the growth is in making them greener, less polluting, less noisy. Replacing the 60 million new gasoline powered two-wheelers sold annually with electric creates a huge impact on quality of life.



Motorcycling at turning point: Erik Buell
Fuell Flow

What is happening now?
These past months have definitely reinforced the importance of personal space and safety. Worldwide, the movement to change our habits is accelerating. Urban transportation should be a comfortable personal tool empowering us to better live our multitasking lives.

Personal urban transportation needs to incorporate communication and safety devices, so that the experience creates a connection between rider, vehicle, and the environment (city, suburbia, open outdoors).

A really well designed two-wheeler becomes one with the rider, with speed and range far beyond the rider’s ability. Those great two-wheelers make you feel like you have super-powers!

We have to blend this feeling with the needs of today and tomorrow. So quite frankly, innovation is critical – you cannot build a new future hanging onto the old ways. New urban electric vehicles must not only feel approachable but also integrate with the digital environment and technology that is part of our society.

The goal is not autonomous two wheelers. We know riders do not want to give up control – if they did they’d be on a subway reading a book. What riders do want, in fact, is more control. They want unobtrusive innovative safety devices. They want the next wave of technology integrated into their personal urban mobility vehicles.

And Beyond?
We can imagine many other form factors coming to the market as technology, needs and regulations evolve. One can think about compact electric 3 and 4-wheelers, but must think first of the importance of single track wherever possible to minimize space use.  We cannot take the engineering easy way out, but instead must push, push ourselves to innovate in the two-wheeler format. And this innovation must include a complete integration with smart cities (the famous V2V and V2X protocols to connect all infrastructure and vehicles) and further safety assistance.

Today we are at a turning point. The only question is, which way will we go?

Erik Buell

  1. A lot of people worship this guy because of Harley missing the boat on his ideas.
    However, whatever his reasoning might be, in this case, the justifications he makes are all about electric bikes as a group, rather than a specific product or engineering innovation. Those justifications appear to be based on certain universal assumptions about the needs and wants of riders all over the world (he mentions Europe, America, etc.) but I don’t share his vision of a universal commonality in the market. He bases too much on beating the traffic.

    There will be a market for electric bicycles: electrically assisted pedal bikes, or simply low power electric bikes that can use bus and bicycle lanes, subject to less stringent licensing and insurance requirements than motor vehicles. These will be used by some hobbyists and commuters but they don’t replace a 600 or 1000.

    There will be a much smaller market, differing as to locality, for higher power electric bikes which purport to “replace” ICE bikes. These bikes are incredibly expensive to produce, they are already available at a high price, and there is no sign that the price will come down. Most people will not want them, either, because the high power ICE bikes are mostly used as leisure vehicles in developed countries, with the occasional “transport” use. They come with certain disadvantages (which are too often glossed over as irrelevant), and as a result the people who buy them now have them in *addition* to at least one other ICE bike, which is *also* a leisure bike. Why? Because tactile, audible, mechanical preferences are too often ignored by electric bike purveyors.

    In summary, you can’t understand your market if you come from a different place. In his message, Mr Buell doesn’t talk about his personal collection of ICE bikes at all. In fact, I don’t know a single bike that he owns, but I think we can all safely assume he has a collection. In my view, he is advocating for *others* to replace their bikes with his new product, but he will not do the same himself, and if he asked himself why that is, he would come up with a narrative completely different to the sales talk he’s pitching. It sounds like an older man telling a younger man there’s no point chasing girls, it’s so passe. He may be right, but that doesn’t mean the world will change; a point upon which he should reflect.

    1. Might remind you it was the humble 50cc step through that had the biggest impact on the economies of the 3rd world. And it will probably be these same countries countries that drive the bread and butter business of the manufacturers. Not just marketers of toys for 1st World elites.. Solar charged electric may open whole new markets

  2. This will not end up being a matter of choice
    The fossil powered machine is doomed. Not next week but not that far away. Your kids won’t get that much use of the ‘heirloom’ you leave them. Manufacturers who have learnt
    Nothing from the past will fail. It is no good
    Owning a petrol powered vehicle if you are not allowed to ride it anywhere.

    1. “It is no good owning a petrol powered vehicle if you are not allowed to ride it anywhere.”

      That much is true, Tom, but that’s not what’s actually happening.

      For example, the guy talks about “smart” cities and how wonderful all this is for two-wheelers in Europe. He is factually incorrect as these cities don’t exist, and there is no Europe-wide implementation of any such plan. I live in the UK, and the rapid trend here is to close off roads and lanes to both cars and motorcycles to make new and unnecessary bus lanes. Councils here are open in saying this is how they are “enticing” people (they mean “forcing”) to use buses and to cycle everywhere. This has happened in London (almost all over it), and has spread to places like Oxford, Bristol and Slough. In addition, they are putting up bollards in unnecessary places to prevent (legal) filtering (“lane splitting”) so that all motor vehicles are equally inconvenienced. This means a Tesla or Buell electric is going absolutely nowhere on those roads.

      As for the other remarks in his comment about integrating the bike with a smart city, there’s no subtle way of putting it but all I can say is, it just reminds me that however good he is at mechanical engineering, he is no business mastermind. NOBODY wants that integration – not car drivers nor motorcyclists. To call a spade a spade, a little bit of judicious speeding when the time and place are right is the whole point of riding a motorcycle. Integration will come with traffic and speed monitoring. Fortunately, this is only in the fevered imagination of certain people at this point. I really think he should actually come and visit us here in the UK and take a trip around Europe, to see how this really doesn’t work out. Doesn’t matter if it’s my classic Kwak or Harley’s Livewire or Buell’s single track thing. The point is, they are chucking up obstacles in the way of private transport. There are policy documents by nudge groups which openly state electric vehicles are not the answer and are not what they want. I can see why they’re doing it – too many people. But the excuse (the environment) should not blind us, nor people like Buell, as to the plan.

      1. Covid 19 has just thrown a spanner into the works of the efficient public transport model, the lack of petrol and diesel vehicles has suddenly given the populations of major cities a view of clear air. So what are we left with? If we are going to live in a globally connected world this
        Isn’t going to be the last pandemic. And people will still need to get to work

  3. In a very narrow demographic of say a commuter then Buell is more or less on point. But as Anti Electric points out that’s not what is needed for the majority of situations, like taking the family out, or needing to be dressed in a certain way, or inclement weather, failing health, I’m sure there are many other reasons. More than two wheels is hear to stay.

  4. No electric bike for me i like to feel the engine rev and listen to is as i ride, i love to tinker with it and do my own servicing, and i love even more that i can refuel it in 5 minutes and be back on the road.

    I have said it before but electric bikes ignore a large part of the reasons we ride at all.

  5. He calls for “innovation” and then just trots out the usual diatribe of well meaning intentions that are so over done across the business world, that I was just waiting for some reference to LGBTQI Rights, Black Lives Matter, etc, etc, in his designs for the future. All this New Age thinking has given us is an enormous pile of stinking debt that will burden our future generations so you can sure bet they are going to need to think about how they get to WORK. B/c they will be working all their lives like slaves to pay for Erik Buell, Elon Musk, etc, etc, the new generation of billionaire with a special talent for SPENDING money rather than ever MAKING any of it(ie; that thing called PROFIT. Ahh remember those days!!)

  6. Eric Buell is a visionary and right on point. I am mildly amused (or is it slightly irritated?) by the anti electric brigade who are in denial and can’t accept that the power source for all personal transportation will Irreversibly change within the next 10 years. COVID 19 has only underpinned the need for cleaner and greener safe travel arrangements.and lifestyle choices. Personal traffic beating electrified vehicles will proliferate and older polluting technology vehicles will initially be denied access to cities, taxed very heavily and eventually legislated against to drive them off the road. It is a foregone conclusion. We had all better get used to it.

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