Electric motorcycles have been more successful than electric or even hybrid motor cars. These motorcycles have been in production for longer and are more price competitive with similar conventional machines than is the case with motor cars. Performance comparisons between electric motorcycles and petrol powered machines have also narrowed more quickly than has been the case between electric motor vehicles and normally powered cars.
Power assisted pedal cycles have existed for many years. The power units have been similar in size to a lawnmower engine. Batteries as the power assistance devices are now more common. These machines retain the pedals of ordinary bicycles. These can be used to assist the battery propulsion unit although this as not usually necessary for petrol machines. The Electric Scooter organization and Reef Bikes both manufacture this kind of machine. The bikes retail for between about $1000 to $2000 and the latter company also makes a similarly powered tricycle. Battery powered chairs or scooters for the use of the disabled have existed for some time but such machines were never intended to be used on the open road.
Pure motorcycles are now available with electric propulsion units. Manufacturers such as Zero Motorcycles and Brammo Inc now compete directly with the well known manufacturers of conventional motorcycles. Electric motorcycles are not yet competitive in performance on the major world MotoGP tracks. A good range of sporting and commuting bikes is made for the MotoCross circuits and the open road respectively. MotoCross races are usually short and well within the endurance capabilities of current batteries. Across their range electric motorcycles are the equivalent in performance of a 250 cc petrol powered bike.
Road bikes are now capable of a range of some 100 miles (160 Kms)and speeds of 100 mph (160 kmh). New battery technology combined with very low weight owing to the use of light aircraft strength aluminum make this possible. Touring with luggage as added weight would cut both of these performance indicators but the ease of refueling and low cost more than compensates for these disadvantages. Modern batteries can be fully recharged in about four hours from an ordinary domestic power outlets at 110 volts in the U.S.A. The running costs amount to about one cent a mile. With no carbon emissions and, compared with a conventional motorcycle, little noise the electric motorcycle is truly a lean, mean, green machine.
The electric motorcycle is easier to drive than any of its ordinary predecessors. It has no gears. The enormous torque allows a smooth and high acceleration to about 50 mph (80 kph) in less than 5 seconds, outstripping all but the large petrol driven cruising bikes. The capital cost of an electric motorcycle is now less than $10,000 for a top of the range model. In many places this is reduced by tax concessions rewarding the low carbon footprint. Often no driving license is necessary nor is there any road tax or registration fee. Good clean performance coupled with the avoidance of bureaucracy makes the electric motorcycle very attractive.