Posting in Cities
Electric motorcycles run contrary to the chopper's outlaw image, but a new generation of buyers may be attracted to eco-friendly bikes.
Orphino is one of several start-ups that are attempting to popularize the electric powered motorcycle; its recently announced model resembles a roadster, and tops out at 75 miles per hour. The burning question is whether motorcycle enthusiasts would really buy it.
An electric chopper is hugely contradictory to the motorcycle’s classic outlaw image, but many of today’s riders care much less about appearances than pragmatism and price. An Orphino will take you 60 miles on a single charge, and breaks the oil habit.
I asked some of my friends who already own bikes whether they would consider riding the Orphino, and was surprised by their answers: a resounding yes, with the caveat that it would not be suitable for the occasional weekend long excursion.
An urban denizen in his early 40's responded that he would consider riding one around Philadelphia, while a baby boomer aged family friend from my hometown of Churchville, Pennsylvania, thought that the Orphino’s range was ideal for most riders.
“75 is pretty decent,” said the family friend. “The reality is that most guys who ride don’t ride a lot of miles at any given time. I ride 13 miles to work. Most ride normally 30-50 miles.”
Interestingly, my urban friend’s observations that the bike might be great for the streets of Philadelphia mirrors the findings of a recent Pike Research study that concluded electric motorcycles and scooters will bridge the gap between rapidly increasing density and inadequate transit infrastructure in growing cities.
Other bikes such as the Brammo Empulse electric motorcycle go even further on a single charge. The Empulse has an effective range of around 100 miles. Its cost ranges between US$10,000 and $14,000.
There will always be constituencies who resist change – no matter how practical an electric bike becomes. Baby boomers and hardcore bikers could not conceive being sighted on an import. It’s really a generational thing.
After War Two, clubs of thrill seeking veterans began modifying bikes to run as fast as possible, and their clubs gradually morphed into an underground culture that refused to conform to the humdrum of 1950’s America.
Films such as “Easy Rider,” and Hunter S. Thompson’s writings about infamous biker gangs enshrined the outlaw image into the minds of baby boomers. That nostalgia is what precipitated the weekend warriors’ motorcycle craze over the past two decades.
Today’s youth have gravitated toward trendier imports that eschew chrome for glossy paint finishes. Young riders and riders in the developing world have different transportation needs and tastes. They would probably be attracted to an Orphino.
I once wrote a market research report on the Harley-Davidson V-Rod, Harley’s attempt to attract the youth market by selling a sportier bike outfitted with a water-cooled engine. The V-Rod hit all of the checkmarks for what young people were buying.
It didn’t catch on, and I determined that its fatal flaw was its high price, which a young person couldn’t possibly afford. Knowing what I know, electric bikes could have a high probability for commercial success if the price is right. Just don't expect to see one on Sons of Anarchy.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Zero Motorcycles debuts 2011 lineup, quick-charge electric models
- What we're reading: Yamaha's electric motorcycle
- Electric motorcycle affordably reaches 100mph per charge
- In growing cities motorcycle, scooters, to bridge gap
Jul 20, 2011
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The short answer is no, certainly not those who enjoy blasting your ears off. I admit getting a blast doing it when I was a kid with a BSA Firebird 650 with modified exhaust pipes but I eventually saw it as it is: blatantly antisocial behavior. Today, I'd go electric any day, as long as I'd could do a minimum of 150 km and easily recharge in say 30 minutes. (BTW, 1 hog pollutes as much as 50 Honda Civics).
I also wonder if the drag caused by side cases would significantly reduce the range.I also wonder if the drag caused by side cases would significantly reduce the range.
...they are slow and ill-handling. hell, i am not young, and they're too slow and ill-handling, even for me! ;~) lotsa nice bikes that the "young" buy, that are spendy. check out the prices of ducati's, bmw's, ktm's, aprilias, the japanese litre bikes, etc... i am not sure how enwironmentally friendly the electric wehicles are, considering the problems w/battery manufacture and disposal. but, when an electric bike has 150-200 mile range, can be recharged in 2 hours, tops out at 120mph, and goes to 60mph in under 4 seconds, (and costs
Just ask the doctors and lawyers that can afford them. Thats why the young don't buy them. That Orphino looks awesome. I think many minds will change about electric bikes when they feel the instant torque of the electric motor. Never needing repairs will also help.
The 50's and 60's harleys made famous in easyrider couldn't do the ranges your quoting without breaking. Saying electric's can't cut it because they can't initially do everything new gas vehicles can because of decades and hundreds of billions of dollars in research is ridiculous. Seeing as electrics can currently do 90% of what 90% people need to it's especially true.
http://www.uqm.com/news_article.php?aid=169 OK - this is a special, one-off record-setting bike, but it shows that it is possible. UQM and Swigz have since taken the electric bike to Pikes Peak to show the technology is suitable for more than just straight lines. So you can't buy one to use on the road - yet. So what? It's almost always been the case that racing improves the breed. The future may be quieter than we expect...
I understand that the 1st e-bikes will not \ cannot be everything to everybody, but they can't be as lame as the Volt. I've been riding for 46 years and usually trade in my bikes when they reach 60K to 80K miles. It doesn't seem unreasonable to have a 2 wheeled vehicle that only weighs a few hundred pounds to be able to go a few hundred miles on a single charge and do it a a reasonable speed exceeding a 100 MPH. At least not with all of the incredible genius' out that I keep reading about. Oh, and has to recharge within 15 minutes. Enjoy...
Bike riders are attracted to the idea of just getting on and going, going, going. That means, as one commenter already observed, a 500+ mile range. While less would do, EVs simply do not have the fill-and-go convenience of gas vehicles. As much as I like the concept, I won't buy one until they can get at least around 250 miles on a charge. Maybe new batteries could make the difference.
There is another side to the noise issue for the Harley vs quiet bikes debate. The cost and the time it takes to change the batteries in your hearing aides.
If they would include a system that would blast out the rumble of a Harley, people would most assuredly ride it!
This Orphino certainly looks 'plump' - but then again, that could mean that it has a lot of room for customizing artwork !
There will be the same problem with electric bikes as there is with plug-in electric cars - the lack of sound. I have been around 1 manufacturer's electric bike and about the only noise was the chain and sprocket noise - now that manufacturer has changed to a aramid belt drive - so it's absolutely quiet. Not good. Range is also a problem. There are days I may ride 600 miles a day on a trip..An electric bike would be the wrong tool for the job.
My daily commute is 75 miles round-trip. I've had motorcycles that would barely make the trip twice, and at that rate, stops for gasoline become annoying. With an electric, however, I'd be satisfied with a true range of 100 miles at highway speeds. 75 mph is fine, though 80 might be better just for a bit of cushion. I would expect that the advertised range does not anticipate riding it flat-out, which is essentially what I would be doing on the highway. I also wonder if the drag caused by side cases would significantly reduce the range. I would probably not buy one until someone has an advertised range of 150 miles at highway speeds. I would still recharge it every night, but without being able to stop for fuel, range is one of the main considerations.
No thanks. When I get on my bike for a ride, I like to be able to as far as I want. Most days, it might only be a 100 to a 150 miles, but when on a long trip, 500 or miles are normal. Unless they had a universal plug in battery pack or a charger that can replenish the battery in 15 minutes or less I wouldn't want one.
I drive a Vectrix and I like it quiet. It's not completely silent, but it makes very little noise. I really hate the loud bikes. They disturb everyone within blocks of the bike for no reason other than they like to be noticed. If safety is your issue, maybe you'd be better off in a car.
E-bikes are capable of very quick times. The Mission Motors bike hit 150 on the salt flats and turns 0-60 in just under 3 seconds. It has a range of about 150 miles, too. The Killacycle is a one-off dragster that hits 0-60 in .98 seconds. That's right, under a second.