2018 has been a bumper year for electric motorcycle exploration, with manufacturers pushing the boundaries of performance, charging times and availability (not to mention cost).
With major players like Harley-Davidson taking their first steps into electric bike mass-production and scooter specialists Kymco shocking the world with their SuperNEX sportsbike, the future of EVs has never looked so promising.
MORE FROM MCN
After a decision in Germany was made in 2016 to rid the country’s roads of new internal combustion engines by 2030, the UK government announced plans to follow suit and ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
Keen not to be left behind, motorcycle makers are now locked in a technological arms race to answer the burning questions limiting the popularity of the electric motorcycle, such as charging times, battery longevity and availability to the mass market.
With major new machines revealed at both the Intermot and Eicma trade shows in October and November, as well as some smaller offerings at Motorcycle Live, it seems some of these burning questions have now been answered - making 2019 a tantalising prospect for the would-be electric bike owner.
After four years of talking, concepts and temptation, Harley-Davidson eventually unveiled their production LiveWire electric motorcycle to the public in late July 2018 ahead of a planned release the following year.
Part of a larger project promising 21 new bikes over the next four years, the bike is available to pre-order in January and stakes the claim of being the first finished electric bike to be brought to production by a major manufacturer. Not bad for a company that’s traded on thumping, raked-out twins for the best part of 115 years!
Further details about the finalised bike came at the Eicma Milan Motorcycle Show in November, with the American firm promising Brembo monoblock front brake calipers biting on dual 300mm discs, amongst other features. Suspending the bike will be fully adjustable Showa units at the front and rear.
Harley won’t be drawn on the price, range or charge time currently, however we can tell you that the bike will be powered by a 12-volt lithium-ion battery, which can be fast charged through the tank, or from a wall socket via the leads under the seat.
Revealed at Eicma, the Vector has been conceived by British bike building firm Arc and could well change the way we both ride and perceive electric bikes forever.
Weighing just 220kg and developing 133bhp and 292ftlb of torque from its 399-volt motor, the Vector is capable of 0-60mph in just 3.1 seconds; the same as the 2019 BMW S1000RR.
Alongside this, it also boasts a range of 362 miles in an urban setting, as well as a charge time of around 45 minutes, when coupled with a fast-charging unit.
Priced at £90,000, the Arc uses a monocoque chassis, with the battery, motor and all the internals housed inside a carbon 'tub', allowing the front and rear suspension to be directly attached. This allows it to be stiffer and lighter than its direct competition.
One of the greatest drawbacks of an electric motorcycle is arguably the lack of noise and vibration from the machine underneath you. Keen to combat this, each custom-made Vector will come with an interactive helmet and jacket.
The bulk of the information needed by the rider will be displayed in a HUD in the helmet, with a specially designed 'haptic jacket' offering everything from pumping through your favourite music, to giving you a tap on the shoulder to warn you of an approaching car.
Although there is no guarantee of production Vectors reaching customers in 2019, MCN is hopeful to get a ride on a pre-production machine in the coming year.
When Kymco released the SuperNEX superbike at Eicma no one expected it. Just months after announcing their intentions in the electric scooter market, the firm turned their attention to performance motorcycles.
Keenly aware that ever tightening emissions regulations make it difficult to produce a modern petrol race rep, they decided to skip this step and instead develop the next generation of superbike.
Unlike most of its competition, the SuperNEX actually uses a six-speed manual gearbox and slipper clutch, complete with quick shifter and auto-blipper, in an attempt to make the riding experience more engaging and tempt existing sportsbike buyers away from another petrol-powered missile.
There is, however, another important reason for including a manual box, too. Electric motors are famous for delivering huge amounts of torque from zero revs, however the downside of this is that they usually then reach peak power in the mid-range, before tailing off.
This then means the bike runs out of puff at higher RPMs, affecting top speed. With six gears at its disposal, the SuperNEX can hold on to maximum power for longer, by shifting up. The result of this is a 0-60mph time of 2.9 seconds and 0-150mph in just 10.9 seconds.
A production date has not yet been confirmed for the Kymco, however expect to see updates in the coming year.
Although not strictly a new motorcycle, Energica announced that the Ego (alongside all other models) would gain 50% faster charging times, heated grips, traction control and cruise control for 2019.
This is not the real reason to be excited about this bike though. No, what makes the Ego so special is that it will form the basis of the first-ever MotoE world championship.
Following the MotoGP circus around the globe, the series will see world-class riders like Bradley Smith and Sete Gibernau competing on tuned Egos to be crowned champion and marks yet another expansion of electric bike technology in the mainstream motorcycling sphere.
This is not the first time the Energica Ego has appeared in racing competition though, with MCN’s Senior Road Tester Adam Child bettering his own electric production bike record at the Isle of Man TT in 2018, with a fifth place in the TT Zero at an average speed of 81.332mph.
Updating their DS and DSR models for 2019, Zero are leading the charge into the electric era, selling more bikes than their competitors combined.
Although updates to existing models are nothing to sniff at, it’s not this that warrants Zero a place in this list. Instead, it is their belief that now is the perfect time to switch to electric for many existing motorcyclists.
In an exclusive interview with MCN at Eicma 2018, the firm’s Chief Technology Officer, Abe Askenazi, said: "Electric powertrains will get smaller while internal combustion bikes will get heavier and more complex. So over time the design opportunities get really exciting. A motorcycle will still be a motorcycle, but it’ll evolve into something cleaner and more practical.
"We say 'if it fits your usage case then now is the time'. For what many people use bikes for, ie short trips to work and quick journeys in the evening, the range is more than enough. Yes, we’ll continue to evolve and battery technology will get better, but that stuff will be more like the icing on the cake."
Super Soco TC-Max
Looking for an equivalent to the dependable four-stroke 125, offering even less fuel costs and a similar (often more affordable) price tag? Well, the Super Soco TC-Max is for you and could transform your commute in 2019.
Revealed to the UK at Motorcycle Live 2018, the bike is worlds away from the larger-capacity bikes it shares this list with.
With a top speed of over 60mph and around 133ft-lb of torque the bike aims to rival the performance of a petrol four-stroke 125. The bike offers a planned price of just £3999 and the removable, 72v and 45Ah lithium-ion battery fully charges in just four and a half hours.
Offering a maximum range of around 80 miles, it is the ideal for urban commuting - with the removable power pack meaning charging is possible in the office and no more searching for charging stations in the street.
British electric scooter manufacturer, Zapp, revealed more details about their i300 scooter in October 2018, including convenient removable laptop-sized battery packs and a 0-30mph time of 2.4 seconds, making it ideal for commuters.
A true congestion-buster, the bike weighs just 90kg and is powered by lightweight lithium-ion batteries and a claimed maintenance-free air-cooled electric motor. Once removed, the batteries can be charged using a household plug.
Based in Hethel, Norfolk, Zapp designed the 300cc maxi scooter-rival in the UK, before outsourcing the production to plants overseas.
Available to pre-order at www.zappscooter.com now, it also uses a regenerative braking system, which returns energy once the throttle has been shut, to help the rider gain more range.