As much as we may attempt to fight it, the end appears nigh for internal combustion engine powered production motorcycles. In 2016, Germany voted to ban the fossil-fuel-powered polluting motors by 2030, and in 2017 the UK government announced plans to ban the sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, too.
Although this leaves just over 20 years of petrol-powered mainstream motorcycling, manufacturers are now making huge advances year-on-year in the level of accessibility and engagement of electric vehicles (EVs) on both two and four wheels.
Although there is still some way to go in the development of fast charging and weight shedding, electric motorcycles are taking on an ever more central role in the two-wheeled market place.
And while some will complain at their lack of noise and soul, the fact that an electric motor has access to 100% of its torque anywhere in the rev range can make it huge fun. Additional weight over a petrol machine can also make it feel more planted on the road, too.
This popularity in EVs has been boosted by the introduction of a new MotoE racing series, which will see a star-studded line-up going toe-to-toe on competition-spec Energica Egos on the same weekends as the MotoGP world championship. This sits alongside other electric racing events, including the Isle of Man TT Zero, which takes place on the famous 37.73-mile mountain course every year.
To help whet your appetite for the advancement to come, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite electric bikes of 2018, which you can see below. The future may actually be closer than you think.
- Motor: 399-volt electric
- Performance: 133bhp / 292ftlb
- Weight: 220kg (kerb)
- Seat height: 840mm
- Price: £90,000
British company Arc unveiled an all-new electric bike that could change the way we ride bikes forever, at Eicma 2018. All the ride information comes through a heads-up display in the helmet, which also acts as the ignition key. Riding feedback comes through the electronics in your jacket, which plays music through your body, too.
Weighing just 220kg and developing 133bhp and 292ftlb of torque, it will go from 0-60 in 3.1 seconds; the same as the 2019 BMW S1000RR. Tested to the European standard test, the Arc has a 362 miles of urban range. Better yet, use a fast charger and you’re fully powered-up in just 45 minutes.
Arc’s founder, Mark Truman, was previously the head of Jaguar’s White Space (an out-of-the-box ideas division). There he made the first concept for an electric bike, which has become the Vector.
The engineer assembled a top team, including a MotoGP chief engineer, and FEA analysis specialists, to push the idea through to development stage and ultimately production. The project has been running for two years within this Whitespace department, with Arc Vehicle Ltd being established 18 months ago.
Production for the Elettrica began in September 2018 and Piaggio are now taking deposits of £550 for the new bike online. The remaining balance of £5999 has to then be settled at a dealership.
Despite being worlds away from the early two-stoke Vespas, this latest all-electric version is being produced in the very plant where the first machine rolled off the line in 1946.
Riders can enjoy 62 miles from a single charge from the lightweight, lithium-ion battery. Producing a continuous 3.5kW of power with a peak of 4kW, performance is said to be better than a 50cc scooter (but then most things are) thanks to an utterly bonkers 147.5ft-lb or torque at the wheel - around 24ft-lb more than a Yamaha V-Max.
Formula 1 technology
A full charge will take four hours and can be done through either a household plug, or from an outside charging point and the battery is good for 1000 cycles – meaning a life of between 50,000km and 70,000km.
The bike enjoys two riding modes – Eco and Power – with the former limiting the scoot to just 30km an hour (around 18mph). The scooter also uses a Formula 1-style KERS system to regenerate energy when slowing. A reverse function will also aid slow-speed manoeuvring.
Other technology included on the bike includes a multimedia system that allows you to pair a smartphone and Bluetooth headset to the scooter. The 4.3 inch TFT dash gives the rider plenty of interactive options, too.
The Elettrica X
Vespa will also offer the Elettrica X, which has a usable range of up to 124 miles thanks to the addition of a generator that’s powered by a three-litre petrol tank. The smaller battery in the X will see a range of up to 30 miles on its own, but goes further when combined with the generator.
The generator will kick in automatically, when the charge level falls below a certain threshold. Failing that, the rider also has the option to start it manually by selecting the 'Extender mode'.
Revealed as part of a much larger new Harley-Davidson range, which promises 21 new models over the next four years, the LiveWire is the firm’s first fully-fledged electric motorcycle and is available to pre-order as of January 2019.
With the latest information surrounding the bike released at the Eicma show in Milan in early November, the fully twist-and-go roadster features Brembo monoblock front brake calipers gripping dual 300mm discs, alongside fully-adjustable Showa suspension at the front and rear.
Alongside this, there is also ABS and traction control as standard and providing grip is a set of co-branded Harley/Michelin Scorcher tyres - 180mm at the rear and 120mm up front. Seven rider modes mean you can customise performance to your liking too, with four modes predetermined by Harley and three changeable by the rider.
The LiveWire’s small 12-volt lithium-ion battery can be fast charged through the tank, or via a wall socket with the leads under the seat. A full-colour TFT dash is also able to pair with a phone over Bluetooth for calls, music, mapping and bike diagnostics. It will also feature a rechargeable Energy Storage System composed of lithium-ion cells, which lives in a cast-aluminum case, lined with cooling fins.
There is still no word from Harley-Davidson on range, power or price but they have promised that it will come with all the latest rider aids and that it will be powerful enough for you to need them.
The Energica Ego took the first ever MCN Award for Electric Bike of the Year, after impressing our dedicated road test team both on road and track.
As well as being a competent road-going sportsbike, it has also spawned the basis for the first-ever MotoE championship next year, with Energica supplying a grid full of machines for riders, including former factory KTM MotoGP rider, Bradley Smith.
In 2018, MCN Senior Road Tester, Adam Child, took fifth-place at the Isle of Man TT Zero on a Moto Corsa-prepared Ego, with an average speed of 81.3mph around the TT course.
To put that into perspective, that is just 6.13mph down on the winning time set by Rob Barber at the first-ever electric TT, back in 2009.
Updates for 2019
For 2019, Energica have updated their Ego range to feature an Ego Sport Black version in celebration of their partnership with MotoE, which features a nice contrast of gloss black against a striking red trellis frame, as well as various MotoE decals.
Alongside this new paint, Energica have also gifted all of their motorcycles with 50% faster charging times, heated grips, traction control and cruise control.
Following in the Ego’s footsteps, the Esse Esse9 took the crown of best electric bike in the 2018 MCN Awards. Based on the standard Energica Eva, it has been re-styled for a more retro appeal.
Producing a respectable 109bhp and 133ft-lb of torque, the Esse Esse9 is classy, smooth and has a shrieking character all of its own, produced by its oil-cooled electric motor. Keeping this in check are four riding modes (Eco, Rain, Urban, Sport) alongside four levels of engine braking control/battery regeneration, however the more you use it the quicker the battery runs out.
What's more, it also has the most natural fit of all of the bikes in the Energica range – being able to successfully do battle with its 100bhp petrol-powered counterparts, where it’s fellow machines would struggle.
'It's like a turbo boost in an arcade game' - Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves
Terminal speed is restricted to 125mph and whilst low-speed work is a little clumsy, once you’re going the Esse Esse9 will carve up the turns with the best of them.
MCN Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves was the first to ride the bike for MCN and said: "The merest flash of throttle delivers 133ftlb instantly to your door, like a turbo boost in an arcade game. Grabbing great handfuls of throttle between corners and gaps in traffic is addictive and the Esse Esse9 vaults forward with the kind of violence that would unseat a pillion in seconds.
"You miss the gravely rumble of an engine at first, but then you don't. The Energica glides along the tarmac, almost hovering on a magnetic field, with otherworldly smoothness, like taking a hot bath in double cream wearing a velvet suit. There’s no rawness, or in-your-face attitude here, which will disappoint many, but you quickly enjoy the refinement. There's no clatter from the suspension, bearings or brakes, just dreamy forward motion."
Super Soco TC-Max
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 to be 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.
We’ve been running a Zero DSR as part of the 2018 MCN long-term test fleet and it has 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.
Alongside this, there are a number of adventure riding accessories, ranging from a dual-sport wind screen, to tank grips, to a 12V accessory socket.
Despite producing 69bhp and more torque than a KTM 1290 Super Duke R, current rules surrounding electric bikes mean that the DSR can actually be ridden on an A2-licence, too – providing you can stomach the £16,190 starting price.
Kymco surprised everyone when they unveiled their new SuperNEX electric superbike at Eicma 2018. With ever-tightening emissions regulations, the firm decided to skip any attempt to develop a petrol-powered sportsbike and instead began developing an electric machine instead.
Unlike most modern electric bikes, which are twist-and-go, the SuperNEX features a six-speed gearbox and slipper clutch, alongside the equivalent of a quickshifter and auto-blipper.
Kymco have opted for this system, as they claim a single gear bike will fizzle out once you start going really quick, unlike a petrol-powered superbike that crescendos as you hold onto the gears. By giving the SuperNEX a gearbox, Kymco say you can shift gears to hold onto the maximum power. The result is a 0-60mph time of 2.9 seconds and 0-150mph in just 10.9 seconds.
Alongside traction control, wheelie control, ABS and four rider modes, the SuperNEX has also been given an ‘Active Acoustic Motor.’ This is a device that recreates the sound of an engine, so that when you ride it still feels like you’re riding a combustion-engined sportsbike. While that might sound daft to some, it could be the answer to the age old ‘soulless’ feel of electric bikes.
Find your next electric two-wheeled companion at MCN Bikes for Sale.