Thanks and credit go to Vinny Swendsen for contributing this article. Vinny is a North Carolina resident and an owner of a Zero SR electric motorcycle.
While electric vehicles of the four wheeled variant seem to make most of the headlines today, electric motorcycles are slowly gaining in popularity. Electric motorcycles offer many of the same benefits as owning an electric car and also face many of the same challenges. But the two wheeled world clearly has a different view of the electric motor and battery pack that is at the heart of an electric motorcycle. The environmental benefits so frequently touted with four wheeled electric vehicles takes a back seat to the performance aspects of an electric motor when you are talking to the two wheeled world. Automatic transmissions so common in today’s cars are extremely rare in motorcycles. Motorcyclists expect to use a clutch and to shift gears! But electric motorcycles are direct drive and use a belt or chain to transfer power from the motor to the drive wheel. No shifting makes the electric motorcycle ideal for commuting. With the electric motor producing “all the torque all the time” the electric motorcyclist never has to worry about what gear they are in or what RPM their engine is running at. This means they can focus more on the traffic around them and how best to assess and respond to inattentive drivers. The direct drive feature of the electric motor also makes the electric motorcycle ideal for people who are interested in a motorcycle, but find using the left handed clutch and left foot shifting of a gas powered motorcycle a bit intimidating.
Team Power Sports of Raleigh and Motorcycles of Charlotte are two local motorcycle dealers who sell the Zero brand of electric motorcycles. Zero Motorcycles is based out of Scotts Valley, California and is the largest manufacturer of electric motorcycles in the U.S. Not only does Zero sell motorcycles designed for street and off-road use to the general public, but Zero also offers a law enforcement version of their dual sport motorcycle and a military version of their off-road motorcycle.
The Zero SR is Zero’s top of the line model for 2015. The Zero SR comes with a 50kW motor and a 15.3 kWh battery (with optional 2.8 kWh Power Tank) giving the SR a range of 185 miles in the city or 115 miles on the highway. Charging the SR’s battery pack is done with an internal 1300 watt charger that plugs into a standard household outlet and can take up to ten and a half hours to charge. Zero offers quick chargers to speed things up a bit, and there are aftermarket chargers available as well. By using two 2,500 watt Elcon chargers and the Zero’s internal charger, a rider can fully charge the Zero’s battery pack in under two hours using a level two charging system. The Zero SR can go from 0-60 mph in under four seconds and has a top speed of 102 mph. But this performance comes at a cost and the base Zero SR is listed at $17,345.00. The Power Tank equipped Zero SR is listed at $19,840.00. Start buying extra chargers and the price climbs quickly.
But electric motorcycles aren’t just for commuters looking for an easier way to ride to work. Lightening Motorcycles is producing their LS-218 electric motorcycle with a 150 kw motor (200 HP) and up to a 20 kwh battery. The LS-218 is so named for its 218 mph top speed at Bonneville on 2011. In 2013, the Lightening electric motorcycle beat all gas powered motorcycles in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge by 21 seconds! Mission Motorcycles is also designing an electric motorcycle with a 120 kw motor and up to 17 kwh battery pack capable of 0-60 mph in under three seconds. With performance numbers like these, electric motorcycles can meet the needs of the most demanding sport bike rider.
Electric motorcycles, like their four wheeled counterparts are slowly becoming more accepted and more commonplace. Harley Davidson has been taking their prototype electric motorcycle called Project Live Wire on the road this year giving many motorcycle enthusiasts their first chance to ride an electric motorcycle. Getting people to try electric vehicles no matter how many wheels they have is important to their acceptance. Riding a motorcycle has never been easier than when it is equipped with an electric motor, so perhaps now is a great time to give your four wheeled electric car a two wheeled electric companion!
Interesting feats by electric motorcycles:
– Winning the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge against ICE bikes!http://lightningmotorcycle.com/lightning-story-chapter-6-2013-record-year-fastest-production-motorcycle-world/
– Terry Hershner covers 1,047 miles in under 23 hours on a heavily modified 2012 Zero S!http://insideevs.com/board-time-lapse-video-electric-motorcycle-covers-1047-miles-23-hours/
– Other sources of information on electric motorcycles: