Plug in, ride out: Best electric motorbikes of 2021
It’s time to take electric motorbikes seriously. In 2016, Germany voted to ban the internal combustion engine by 2030, and the UK Government has followed suit, bringing its ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans forward from 2040 to 2030, too.
This leaves electric vehicles as our only current viable alternative, something we expect to have a direct impact on the bike market too. So, what do you need to know about electric motorcycles?
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Tesla have made huge steps towards bringing electric cars into the mainstream, even working to improve the infrastructure by installing fast-charge points at service stations. It doesn’t look like they have any interest in launching a motorbike anytime soon, but others are making serious progress and they’re getting pretty good. Ranges of over 100 miles are already possible, making an EV bike a viable proposition for many commuters as well as those who just want to have fun. Furthermore, there are plenty of electric mopeds out there should you need a lower-cost, more practical solution.
- Jump to: Electric motorbike FAQs
Plus, in September 2020 MCN reported on a project between the 'big four' Japanese motorbike manufacturers, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki, to produce swappable battery technology for electric motorbikes.
The best electric motorcycles in the UK to buy now
- Zero S
- Cake Kalk INK
- Zero SR/S
- Cake Kalk&
- Energica Eva Ribelle
- Harley-Davidson Livewire
- Zero SR/F
- Čezeta 506/02
- Vespa Elettrica
- Energica Ego
- Super Soco TC-Max
- Super Soco CUx
- Zero DSR
- Sur-ron LBX
It's not as wild as the SR series of bikes, but the S is a realistic electric commuter bike that's also genuinely fun to ride. Read the full Zero S review here.
Fancy an off-roader that won't wake the neighbours? You need a Cake Kalk INK in your life; a 72kg battery-powered machine that's considerably cheaper than the road-going Kalk& alternative. Prices start at 9,500 Euros, or around £8,300.
The faired version of Zero's SR lineup offers a compelling proposition for commuters. We've dissected its strengths and weaknesses in our review, and on video.
Cake Kalk& (2019-on)
It's available to buy now, and will cost you £12,000.
This supernaked electric motorbike doesn't rewrite the rulebook, but it does feature the lightest, most powerful battery ever fitted to an electric motorcycle, promising 60% more range than previous Energica models as a result.
Our star tester Michael Neeves said "As road-going battery bikes go, it’s the most accomplished and desirable we’ve ridden, but it still isn’t quite the future… but it’s getting there." Quite an endorsement.
Read the full MCN Energica Eva Ribelle review.
After years of talking and concepts and temptation, Harley-Davidson have launched their Livewire electric motorcycle. The bike features Showa shocks, a TFT dash with Bluetooth connectivity, and the option to fast charge the battery through the tank.
The Livewire costs £28,995 and that price puts it in direct competition with the Energica Eva, although the Livewire certainly has more gadgets.
Find out what it's like head to our full Harley-Davidson Livewire review on MCN.
This latest development comes as Zero Motorcycles have successfully raised another $25 million (£19.3 million) to invest. This brings the total injected into the company in 13 years in business to over $250 million (£193 million).
Zero have been fighting a considerable headwind with electric motorcycles, with uptake slower than expected, however they do claim to sell more electric bikes per year than any of their competitors combined.
As anticipated, the latest SR/F closes the style and performance gap between their previous electric offerings and modern internal combustion bikes - claiming the award of MCN's Best Electric Motorcycle in 2019. Even so, the entry level model with the £1500 grant still comes in at a salty £16,490.
Cezeta 506/02 review
A glance at the past, but with modern electric underpinnings, the Čezeta 506/02 offers the brave a claimed 75-mile range and 75mph top speed. Read our review to find out how realistic that is.
Think of Vespa and you probably think of classic scooters propelled by two-stroke engines. Back at the 2016 Milan Show Vespa announced their own electric scooter, bringing the historic Italian brand firmly into the 21st century. The Elettrica has a guaranteed range of 62 miles, which is more than enough in the city, and orders have started being taken on the Vespa website. Read more here.
For 2017 we created an entire new category for the MCN Awards: Electric bike of the year. The Energica Ego took the first ever award after impressing us both on road and track, as well as around the TT course.
The Ego is also the basis for the racers that will be used in the MotoE series, still making its debut in 2019 in spite of a huge fire that wiped out all of the teams' bikes. The electric class will see riders like Britain’s Bradley Smith battle with well-known names such as Randy Depuniet, Maria Herrera and Sete Gibernau. Read more here.
Worlds away from the likes of the Energica Ego and Harley-Davidson Livewire is the Super Soco TC-Max, which was one of two new Super Soco machines revealed to the UK at Motorcycle Live 2018.
With a top speed of over 60mph and around 133ft-lb of torque (similar to the Energica above) the bike aims to rival the performance of a petrol four-stroke 125, whilst remaining more economical.
With a planned price of just £3999, the removable, 72v and 45Ah lithium-ion battery fully charges in just four and half hours and offers a maximum range of around 80 miles.
What’s more, there are also Brembo hydraulic brakes and a combined braking system to help it pass Euro4 legislation. The battery was developed in conjunction with Amperex Technology Limited (the company that supply Apple with batteries) and uses pouch cells to pack more energy into a smaller space.
The Super-Soco TC-Max is available for special order from April 2019.
Super Soco CUx with Ducati
Super Soco will be selling a Ducati branded version of their existing CUx scooter. Ducati have been using CUxs as paddock scooters at the MotoGP, so now you’ll be able to say you ride the same bike as Dovi and Petrucci, except it will have cost just £2299.
The co-brand comes at an interesting time for Ducati, with parent company Audi saying that all of their brands will have to have an electric offering. With Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali already admitting that the firm is looking at making an electric motorcycle, this is their first toe in the water.
Speaking about the idea of developing an electric motorcycle earlier this year, Ducati’s Head of Innovation, Pierluigi Zampieri, said: "Being a company that is usually state of the art, we could arrive (with a product) that’s state of the art or even better than all of our competitors.
"The problem is: is now the right moment? It’s a small market and we’re still trying to understand when it’ll be ready for such innovation."
This was added to by Super Soco spokesman, Andy Fenwick, who said: "We’re very excited to launch this special Ducati version of our CUx moped, a stunning representation of the Italian brand and helps to add even more credibility to the Soco range.
"The standard version has already been incredibly popular since its launch only two months ago so we’re looking forward to giving riders the chance to purchase this limited edition version."
Zero have announced an upgrade to the DSR model for 2019, but MCN ran the previous version as a long-term test bike in 2018 and it impressed from the word go – proving to be a capable machine on shorter spirited rides. For 2019, the DSR gets a host of upgrades, including a new ZF14.4 battery.
Zero have also attempted to create an adventure bike for the electric class in the form of the DSR Black Forest. It comes with luggage and a 163-mile range (at city speeds) as standard, but optional upgrades like a range extending battery (£3000) can improve this.
Alternatively, a Charge Tank (£2300) will increase the charge-rate to 93 miles of range per hour of charge. Serious adventure touring on the DSR would be an expensive and impractical affair at the moment, but things are moving in the right direction.
The new electric Sur-ron LBX effectively bridges the gap between bicycles and motorcycles.
Available in two versions, there are no pedals and all the power control comes from a proper twist grip, while the rest of its cycle parts, like the suspension (which is adjustable), brakes, wheels and tyres are all built specifically for a bike of this size.
The result is that it weighs just 50kg but doesn’t feel flimsy like an up-specced push bike. For those wanting purely off-road, there is the X model (that can only legally be ridden on private land) and there is also a road-going L1E model.
Electric motorbike FAQs
Q: Is an electric motorcycle worth it?
A: This depends heavily on how you use the bike, because electric bikes are very expensive relative to conventional motorcycles of similar performance. You'll need to cover a lot of miles on electricity in order to pay back the premium in most cases.
However, with the introduction of finance deals specifically aimed at making these bikes more affordable by spreading the cost over long periods, it's likely costs will drop at some point in the coming years.
Q: Are electric motorcycles good for beginners?
A: The lower-powered versions are great, because they're twist-and-go bikes, which means they don't require gear changes. You can also get some that are equivalent to a 125cc petrol bike, which means you don't need to pass the full bike test in order to ride one. You'll just need a provisional driving licence and a day-long CBT course. A good example of this is the Super Soco TC Max.
Of course, there are now several electric bikes available with far higher performance.
Q: Are electric motorbikes fun?
A: They're different to a petrol-powered bike, but do have their advantages - primarily, that they usually have 100% of their torque available at 0rpm, which makes them feel properly rapid, even when they're not. They're also smoother.
Q: Is an electric motorbike harder to insure?
A: Our specialists at MCN Compare are on hand to answer this question. Head this way for their advice.