Everyone gets it: Our highway-loving, gas-guzzling way of life is strangling the planet. We have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, cut greenhouse gas emission levels and reduce our carbon footprints. However, do sustainable living habits mean we have to completely give up machines that have speed and style?
With today’s breed of electric vehicles or EVs, increasingly the answer appears to be no. Look no further than the hot new trend of electric motorcycles for proof that you can get high performance, maintain your panache, and do your part to help Mother Earth.
While eco-friendly four-wheeled vehicles have been in the spotlight for years, two-wheelers are finally coming into their own and getting noticed in respected circles. At this year’s Isle of Man TT Races, the renowned international motorcycle racing competition, a new Grand Prix race (TTXGP) was introduced for electric motorcycles.
Billed as the world’s first zero carbon, zero emission race for motorbikes, the lineup featured EV racers from solo inventors and hobbyists, entrepreneurs and well-financed startups. The winning electric motorcycle posted an average speed of 87.5 mph, with a top speed of 97.8 mph along the 37.5-mile long course.
Low speeds and touch-and-go performance issues have long plagued the electric vehicle movement, dampening uptake among consumers, but with the numbers coming from TTXGP doubting Thomases have good reason to start to reconsider their biases.
“Until now, range and performance have been a concern for electric vehicles. With the arrival of new battery and power train technologies that barrier to adoption is falling,” says Mason Cabot, co-founder of Mission Motors, a California-based company that participated in the inaugural e-Grand Prix. The company’s prototype motorcycle, the Mission One, promises a maximum speed of 150 mph, the highest in the industry.
Power sources for electric motorcycles vary, but many run on high-energy lithium ion batteries and only need to be plugged into a standard 110v/220v socket for charge power. Charge times fall in the range of two to eight hours depending on the bike make and the voltage current. Worried about the impact on your utility bill?
The cost to power an electric roadster is surprisingly minimal. A full charge of Mission One will set you back a jaw-dropping low price of USD 1.96 (EUR 1.40) if powered up in California, which ranks 11th in electricity price rate in the United States. Oregon-based Brammo, a maker of ultra efficient plug-in vehicles, boasts a charge rate of USD 0.007 (EUR 0.005) to the mile for its Enertia Power Cycle. Vectrix, another American electric motorbike maker, claims USD 0.01 (EUR 0.007) to the mile for its VX-1 model.
At these prices, is an end to fuel-powered vehicles around the bend? Not necessarily. Electric vehicles have a limited drive range. Fossil-fueled vehicles still offer better mileage for long trips. But for shorter commutes, EVs are a fuel-saving bargain.
Companies like Vectrix, Mission Motors and Brammo, to name a few, are rolling out sleek, innovative two-wheeled beauties that promise clean, high performing, reliable and affordable transport. They anticipate that their market base will expand as the green movement continues to grow. The eco-conscious masses are already paying attention.
When Cabot and Mission Motors unveiled their prototype motorcycle at the TED 2009 conference in February, the response was overwhelming.
“TED provided an excellent venue to launch our company and give the world a first look at our Mission One Prototype,” says Cabot, a computer hardware engineer who spent a decade at processor-maker Intel. Mission’s website has seen over 100,000 unique visitors since the conference; race videos on their site have reported 40,000 views.
The company has scheduled a 2010 release of 300 units of Mission One: 250 Standard Editions, and 50 Premier Limited Edition that will be individually numbered and assembled with top line components (including suspension from Ohlins, Brembo brakes, and Marchesini wheels). Ultimately, the company plans to add more models at different price points to its lineup and position itself as a leader in the EV motorbike pack.
“We see ourselves at the forefront of this movement towards performance electric vehicles, proving that top performance and green are not mutually exclusive.”
The appeal of electric motorcycles cannot easily be overlooked. Low cost to power up; simple to use; easy to maintain; a quieter drive; and environment-friendly. And just simply a stylish ride for that quick commute to work or to run errands around town. To further clinch the deal: purchasing an electric motorcycle (or vehicle) comes with tax breaks in some domiciles. Do you need any more reason to plug and zoom?
As electricity storage technology advances, and manufacturers are able to deliver more power to electric motorcycles and cars, the barriers to entry for consumers will surely continue to drop. In the meantime, today’s crop of electric motorcycles gives us a nimble and striking test drive of things to come.
Prague gets greener.
Ekolo.cz, a Prague company that specializes in power-assisted bicycles, electric scooters and electric motorcycles, opened its first showroom in May 2008; to keep up with interest and demand the company plans to open additional stores in 2009. Their offering, and far more modest pricing structure, show the possibilities and applications to urban commuters, businesses and municipal service providers. For cities, services such as postal deliveries and neighborhood police patrols can mean dramatically reduced fleet vehicle purchases, operating expenses, and emission of pollutants. If the green argument isn’t strong enough to move local governments alone, the financial incentives certainly should help.