Electric Bike Comparison: Going Gasless

Jul 19, 2018 View Comments by

Electric Bike Comparison

“You Brake, You Lose.” Or do you? Taken with a grain of salt, this phrase becomes more meaningful when the subject turns to electric motorcycles. While the energy created by conventional brakes is lost in the form of heat at the disc, it is used to reclaim energy to charge the battery in electric vehicles, as is the case with Energica models.

These days we can’t escape the topic of electric vehicles. Especially in times when stories like Volkswagen’s Dieselgate and the resulting fallout and penalties remain in the headlines. Mounting threats to close off more and more land enjoyed by off-road enthusiasts doesn’t make our situation better either. Perhaps bypassing gas stations altogether with viable alternatives from the electric motorcycle market holds the key to solutions, but that market is still in its infancy. And there isn’t a wide range of models to choose from. To date only one manufacturer offers enough models to call it a lineup. The big players of the industry are noticeably absent, too, leaving the door open for small-scale operations and tech savvy start-ups.

Energica EVA and EGO

Energica EVA and EGO
Based in Modena, Italy, Energica, the only OEM using an energy recuperation system, has been building electric motorcycles for a few years. First the EGO hit the market as a fully dressed sportbike, followed by the streetfighter EVA.

The EVA puts out approximately 95hp, a number that won’t impress many, and weighing in at 620lbs (281kg), it certainly won’t convince anyone it’s a lightweight either. But however noticeable the EVA’s bulk is at a standstill, none of that matters when it’s in motion. Thanks to the upright seating position and wide handlebar, the motorcycle is easily handled. Top speed is limited to 125 mph (200 km/h), whereas the EGO can go up to 150 mph (240 km/h) before electronic sensors pull back the reins. As for range, you can count on approximately 75 miles (120 km) per charge, and then a journey can resume after a 30-minute break at a quick charge station. Starting at $23,400, it’s not a motorcycle meant for the masses, and surely not with an upgrade to an Öhlins suspension, pretty wheels, and an assortment of accessories which will peg the price at just under $35,000.

So, where’s the allure? That’s all about the torque—an unbelievable 125 lb-ft (180 Nm) for the EVA and 144 lb-ft (200 Nm) in the EGO hauling the chain and propelling you forward into breathlessness. And done with so little effort or fuss, it’s an experience you’ll want to have over and over again. No clutch, no shifting, just twist, launch, and grin.

Even much of the braking can be forgone through use of the “high” setting of the electric motor’s braking power. It feels familiar, like an engine braking, and it also provides a smoother ride as braking happens at the rear wheel. There’s no exaggerated front-end dive this way, which annoys the passenger more than the rider, and amounts to bad form either way. Throttle response can be adjusted from Eco to Sport. ABS is standard, but traction control is not an option. And though unnecessary but welcomed, it also has a reverse gear and a USB outlet.

The disadvantages of taking the Energica models on the road are their limited range and the current unavailability of an adequate number of charging stations. Nonetheless, navigating suburban or country roads is quite the experience. It would be wrong to compare specs with a conventional motorcycle. Many riders have preconceived biases concerning electric motorcycles, often based on opinion rather than facts. To really feel the spirit of an Energica bike, it has to be tried. One reason to buy one might be that it’s bound to be the source of never-ending conversations, at least for a while. Wherever we ride to or stop, a group immediately forms and the questions are always the same: What’s the range? How long does it take to charge? How much does it weigh? How fast is it? How much?

For the classic touring rider, an Energica is not an option – not yet. But for the casual rider, whether to instigate debates with “burners” or just to enjoy the acceleration and quiet ride, these bikes are certainly worth considering.

The EVA’s racier brother is the EGO. It’s a straight-forward concept: racing technology with massive performance output and no emissions. Putting out 145hp and 144 lb-ft (200Nm) of torque, taking off on it from a standstill feels like a rocket launch. For a base price of $24,900, you get a lot. Features like rapid-charge technology, Öhlins suspension, and lots of carbon fiber demonstrate what’s possible these days but drive the price up to $34,307, a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the EVA. Considering the price of the Energica EGO, it’s difficult to consider it a reasonable purchase, but for about half the cost of a Tesla Model X, you can get a street-legal race bike with top of the line everything that will take your breath away. Can’t put a price on that. www.energicamotor.com

2017 zero fx

Zero Motorcycles
In business for ten years, the Scotts Valley, CA, manufacturer Zero offers the greatest range of electric motorcycles – six different models. They all share the same extremely robust battery, clutch-free drive via chain and sprocket, and maintenance-free motor. The compact and brushless motor doesn’t require anti-freeze or air cooling parts, and thus weight and maintenance costs have largely been eliminated.

Range can be extended with an optional Power Tank and charging time can be reduced with the optional quick charger. Most of the ride settings can be dialed in via an app, which also spits out all sorts of cool data. Where most riders would stick the fuel nozzle, Zero provides a practical storage compartment.

Both the Zero S (60hp, 81lb-ft/110Nm), a streetfighter, and the Zero SR (70hp, 116lb-ft/157Nm), akin to a naked superbike, are for road use. If you want to venture off pavement, then the Zero DS and DSR are your choices. The DS puts out 81lb-ft (110Nm) and the DSR 116lb-ft/157Nm).

For even more fun, the Zero FX is the off-road bike in the lineup, while the FXS is the supermoto variation. Both produce 106Nm of torque and weigh a meager 293 pounds, making them extremely easy to handle, and fun.

As technology advances the prices increase a little, often leaving some of the older models with even more attractive prices; and state, and sometimes federal, tax incentives also help justify the price: $900 incentive from California or $720 from Maryland. The S, SR, D, DSR start at $10,995 with the ZF7.2 battery. For $13,995, you get the ZF13.0 battery. The optional Power Tank costs $2,895, Charge Tank $2,295, and a Quick Charger $600. The FX and FXS start at $8,495. www.zeromotorcycles.com

Johammer J1
The most unusual and unconventional representative on the scene is the Johammer electric motorcycle. If you start from ground zero and don’t care about how it should or shouldn’t be done, and forget about what others are doing, then you arrive at such a creation. It looks a little like a corrugated iron horse with snail-like tentacles, or something straight out of a Mad Max sequel.

If design is your thing, then the J1.150 and J1.200 (named for their kilometric ranges) are cutting-edge developments in the e-mobility sector. The Johammer J1 won a Red Dot Design award in 2016, after all, for its blend of an unusual aesthetic with unusual technology, as in the front end, where the bike’s twin-arm box-section front fork with progressive suspension control is an ocular delight. The super stiff aluminum frame provides space for shock absorbers and the battery, while the motor is integrated directly at the rear wheel. The sourced battery has a second life, too. After serving its purpose in Johammer bikes, the battery can be reused, storing electricity generated by a photovoltaic system, for another 20 years.

For €22,900 ($28,300) a radical machine can be yours, which includes out-of-the-box solutions like employing the mirror to do double duty displaying information usually found on the instrument panel. It probably goes without saying, though, that whoever rides a Johammer will command all attention. That’s if somebody hears it because this electric motorcycle is extremely quiet. www.johammer.com

BMW C Evolution

BMW C Evolution
On the opposite end of the spectrum from where Energica and Johammer reside, we can find the rather tame scooter BMW offers, the C evolution. Although it has been mass produced since 2014, we’re just now getting the opportunity to purchase them in the U.S. With scooters already an afterthought here, it remains to be seen if an electric scooter gains much traction stateside.

Four ride modes and a host of other features, along with a 100-mile range, is still more than what even the longer commutes require. Starting at $13,750, it’s a 48hp introduction to e-mobility.

We can’t help but report that this is BMW’s only electric model. (An electric version of the RR, the eRR, was seen during a 2015 university project in Munich but has since disappeared.) So, for a multi-national corporation with the engineering, design, and marketing chops BMW possesses, it’s a little embarrassing that the C evolution is the best they’re offering. They have the means to do it. Whether they want to or are simply waiting for the right time remains to be seen. www.bmwmotorcycles.com


Honorable Mentions

Lightning LS-218

Before we’ll be able to even ride one, the Lightning became “the world’s fastest production motorcycle.” It reached 218 mph, more than even a gas-powered motorcycle can muster. So, this electric is faster than your gas guzzler. And speaking of “fuel,” the company reports that the Lightning’s record was achieved for under a dollar, after charging the battery with solar power costing a modest 80 cents. You can also spend money with lightning speed on a bike preorder for $38,888. www.lightningmotorcycle.com

Brutus V9

And then there’s the unicorn, Brutus, the only electric motorcycle maker that offers a classic American cruiser complete with batwing fairing. The Brutus V9 is a beautiful cruiser with a lot of attention to detail paid, yet it doesn’t scream electric. Don’t be fooled by the “normal” looks, however, because Brutus puts out 125hp at a whopping 276 lb-ft (375Nm)! The company is also working on the V2 Rocket slated to race at Pikes Peak, as well as a retro-inspired Brutus 2 and Brutus 2 Café. www.brutusmotorcycle.com

Project LiveWire

Harley-Davidson LiveWire
We got to see and test ride demos in 2015, when Harley-Davidson officially launched Project LiveWire. It was a test to see if a production model would strike a chord with its rather traditional customer base. Charge time was 3.5 hours and performance hit 75hp and 70Nm. Recently, the brand announced they will offer an electric motorcycle for sale in 2020, and H-D has invested in Alta Motors, a leading manufacturer of electric motorcycles and lightweight EV drivetrains.

Alta electric motorcycles

Alta Motors
Similar to Zero in models, Alta offers electric motocross, supermoto, and enduro motorcycles. All street legal, they put out 42-50hp and 120-147lb-ft of torque. Rapid charge via 240v takes 1.5 hours, while a standard 120v outlet juices up the battery in 3 hours. Premium bits like WP Suspension, Brembo brakes, and Acerbid bodywork don’t leave a lot to be desired either. Prices range from $10,495 to $13,495. www.altamotors.co

Tags: Categories: Motorcycles