A few thoughts on electric motorcycles

A few thoughts on electric motorcycles

Posted by Ben Baker on May 25th 2017

Judging from some news reports, the electric motorcycle is about to take over the world. No doubt, the e-rides are getting a boost from the hybrid and electric car publicity.

Ebikes are also proving worthy in races.

However, they may not be everything that is promised.


To start, a lot of people think the electric motorcycles are better for the environment. Certainly, they produce fewer byproducts like exhaust fumes. But they are not 100 percent green no matter what anyone says.

Tires are made from rubber. Motorcycle tires are made in part from petrochemicals. A barrel of crude oil produces gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, kerosene and a whole lot of other products including some of the materials that make tires.

Tires also wear out. What happens to it? We do not know for sure.

Electricity has to come from somewhere. More than 60 percent comes from burning fossil fuels. That percentage is going to vary across the world and even by region in the US and Canada.

The batteries in a motorcycle are made from lead or lithium. Both of these metals have to be mined. Mining is a pretty harsh process. Refining the metals out is also pretty harsh.

Fortunately, the metals in the battery can be recycled pretty much infinitely. Recycling takes less energy than pulling the raw material out of the ground and refining it.

Here is a look at the difference between lithium and lead-acid batteries.


BMW and Honda have come out with self-balancing motorcycles.

"In the distant future, motorcycle riders will have no need of helmets or padded clothing. They also won't need to put their feet on the ground when they stop. That's because, according to BMW, the motorcycle of the future will balance itself and will help the driver avoid crashes," says a report from CNN.

Willing to bet a steak dinner that the reporter for this article does not ride.

Despite the promise of "road sensors" and an "electronic safety cage," wearing a helmet when on two wheels is always going to be a good idea. Cages are always going to claim "I didn't see him. " No electronics are going to work fast enough to prevent a crash when a cage driver pulls out in front of a bike that's only 20 feet away and moving at 40 MPH or faster.

Helmets do save lives

If you ride, you have laid your bike down. A memorable lay down of my own was across the road from my house. The residents in the community across the road wanted me to get pictures of their roads. (I run a newspaper.) Pictures of the terrible roads would help them get the roads paved. I rode over. It was deep Georgia clay after a good 2-inch rain and lots of traffic on the road. I was barely moving and my bike went down. I've also gone down in sand.

No self-balancing features are going to keep a motorcycle upright under those circumstances.


Part of the joy of a motorcycle is just getting out and riding. If necessary, strap a jerry can of extra fuel on the back. That way you can ride much farther without worrying about how you will get back or to the nearest gas station.

Ride long enough and you are going to coast into a gas station, push a while or sit beside the road waiting for someone with a gas can.

No matter where you are, gas can be brought in.

Extension cords are only good for a few hundred feet. If you can find a place to plug it in.

Have a charging port? Then wait for the battery to charge up. The Zero takes 4.7 to 11 hours to get fully charged. You can fill a tank in less than three minutes. Other batteries take 4+ hours.

Electric bikes have a range of 80 to 200 miles, in the case of the Zero S with the Power Tank option. Not much of a road trip there. Add weight, just like on a gas motorcycle, it cuts down how far you get before you need to fuel up, either with gas or electricity.


Whether it is the sound of a V-Twin cruising past on the highway, a set of short straight pipes that rattle windows or the roar of a dirt bike coming over a hill, part of the reason we ride is the sound. It sets us apart from cages that are sold with "quiet ride" being a selling point.