Electric motorcycle registrations are on the rise. Is it time for you to ditch the petrol and get an electric motorcycle of your own?
Telsa grabs headlines with its electric cars, and big names like Toyota, Ford, and Audi are releasing their own production electric cars. But as electric begins to make an impact in the car market, so far it’s made little headway into the motorcycle market.
But, although the vast majority of motorcycles on the roads are petrol, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t time to start thinking seriously about electric. Find out why electric motorcycles have struggled to find popularity in the UK, and why it might be time for you to invest in one of your own.
Electric Motorcycles in the UK
Electric vehicles might feel like a recent development, but electric motorcycles have a long history in the UK. In fact, patents were first mentioned way back in 1911. Incredibly, this was for a machine with a range of just 75-100 miles, and a top speed of 35 miles per hour; that’s not bad, even by today’s standards!
Electric motorcycles in the UK really only became a viable proposition with the debut of Zero Motorcycles, which introduced a range of electric motorcycles well ahead of the big manufacturers. But even Zero had problems; although they first came to UK shores as early as 2009, they temporarily pulled out of the UK market in 2012.
At the time, Zero cited a lack of support from the UK Government for electric motorcycles as a big factor in their decision to withdraw from the UK. However, they returned in 2016 and have slowly been gaining market share with their impressive range of bikes.
But why have UK riders been slow to adopt electric motorcycles?
What’s been holding electric motorcycles back?
Despite the return of Zero Motorcycles, as well as other manufacturers, electric motorcycles still haven’t made a huge impact in the market. Why have UK motorcycle riders been hesitant to go electric?
The good news is that perhaps the biggest thing holding back electric motorcycles, the buying price, has been removed with the help of Government grants. Electric cars have benefited from a Government grant for quite some time via the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), offering buyers of pre-approved electric cars a grant of up to £3,500 towards the purchase price, thus making it easier for buyers to afford electric cars.
The OLEV have offered this grant to electric car buyers since 2011, but there was no such support for electric motorcycle buyers until seven years later.
Thankfully, this has now been rectified; the OLEV now offers a similar grant of up to £1,500 towards the purchase of pre-approved electric motorcycles. We think this should help boost the adoption of electric motorcycles, but it’s not the only thing that held back wider adoption.
Lack of recognised names
Zero Motorcycles offers a fantastic range of electric motorcycles, but, despite their presence in the UK as early as 2009, they don’t have the same name recognition of bigger, more established brands. This has almost certainly led to slower adoption rates!
But, just like the OLEV grant, this is all set to change.
News emerged in early 2019 that Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki are working together to establish shared standards for their electric motorcycles. The Big Four are working together to make sure their bikes will all be compatible with charging stations and other infrastructure to boost adoption of electric motorcycles, indicating that they’re all getting ready to enter the market.
In fact, while Yamaha has displayed a number of electric motorcycle concepts in the past, such as the PES2 and PED2, the company has recently registered patents for a variety of electric motorcycles, including an electric version of their R1 superbike.
But we’re perhaps most excited by the release of the Harley-Davidson Livewire.
If any brand represents classic motorcycles, it has to be Harley-Davidson. Yet it took its entry into the electric motorcycle market so seriously that it sent 32 different prototypes to over 12,000 customers for feedback well before they made the final bike available for sale.
Even better, the Livewire has been well-received, garnering positive reviews from both critics and riders alike. It seems the only thing putting off new buyers from picking up a Livewire is its price: £25,500.
The Livewire isn’t the only bike to have been held back by cost; electric motorcycles, just like electric cars, are based on new technology. If you’re looking to pick up a petrol motorcycle, not only have the prices been driven down over the years as the technology becomes cheaper, but there are plenty of pre-owned vehicles available to pick up at a reasonable price.
Pricing for Zero Motorcycles, for instance, starts at £9,990, and you can pick up pre-owned bikes for less. Alternatively, there are other electric bikes and scooters available with the cheapest scooter coming in around £2,000.
There’s no denying that an electric motorcycle is different to a petrol version.
Riders looking for something to tinker with might be put off by an electric motorcycle as there’s no engine to tinker with! There are still opportunities to adjust the suspension or the ride height, but ultimately there is very little maintenance needed due to little to no running parts - just the brakes, tyres and suspension.
For some, this is a huge benefit! Low maintenance means low costs and less standing between you and your next fantastic ride. But there is a large section of the riding community that enjoys maintaining, tinkering, and even stripping down their rides.
There is also the matter of experience; if you like the rumble and roar of a motorcycle engine, or the experience of working the gears and feeling the revs, you might think that electric motorcycles will disappoint.
For those who prefer their motorcycles to have gears, manufacturers are trying to develop electric motorcycles that offer this experience.
And, although some electric motorcycles are silky silent, others are noisier than you think. The Harley-Davidson Livewire offers what they describe as a “new signature sound”. Although it’s very different to the traditional Harley sound you’re used to, it’s certainly not silent.
Some electric motorcycles are set to emit an artificial engine sound that you can even adjust yourself, such as the Kymco SuperNEX concept, so you can decide if you want a quiet ride or an epic roar!
And for those who prefer their motorcycles to have gears, manufacturers are trying to develop electric motorcycles that offer this experience. But with the constant introduction of ever-increasing emissions regulations (Euro 5 is the latest as of January 2020), will it only be a matter of time before petrol engines are no longer the same as they are now?
Concerns over practicality
As a new technology, electric motorcycles couldn’t initially compare to their traditional, petrol alternatives. Electric motorcycles couldn’t go as far between charges, there weren’t many places to charge them, and very few insurance companies were willing to offer cover.
Thankfully, as the technology has evolved, many of these problems have been eliminated. But some of those concerns still remain. We’ve addressed a number of these below, because nearly all of them have been addressed in recent models.
Is it time to upgrade to an electric motorcycle?
Although their green credentials have been unrivalled since they first entered the market, for many years the practicalities of electric motorcycles just couldn’t rival their petrol counterparts.
But many riders aren’t aware that many of the factors that made an electric motorcycle a poor investment have changed.
As charging infrastructure improves and the market offers a greater variety of quality electric motorcycles, it’s definitely time to take a fresh look at electric motorcycles!
This was once a huge downside to electric vehicles (and is still something holding back some electric cars), but electric motorcycles are finally starting to rival petrol motorcycles for range. In fact, depending on the model, you might be able to get farther on an electric motorcycle than you can on a full tank in a petrol motorcycle!
Average purchase cost
Petrol motorcycles are still cheaper than electric alternatives, and there’s no getting around that; it will be a few more years before prices for electric motorcycles come down far enough to rival classic petrol models.
But don’t discount electric motorcycles entirely due to the price; the running costs are much lower, meaning that you could still be saving money even with a higher purchase price.
Electric motorcycles are still relatively new to the market, and many insurers have been slow to offer cover, meaning some of them have offered non-competitive premiums.
Lexham Insurance, on the other hand, has been offering cover for electric motorcycles for over 15 years. And you might be surprised by our premiums; the average premium for an electric motorcycle is less than for a petrol equivalent!
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any grants available for buying a petrol motorcycle. But the OLEV fund offers 20% of the purchase price (up to a maximum of £1,500) towards buying an electric motorcycle.
Air pollution charges
Depending on where you ride, this might be of no concern to you, or it could be a regular cost! Air pollution charges are on the cards for a number of cities, and London has led the way with it’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Any petrol vehicle driving through the ULEZ will have to pay a fee of up to £12.50 a day. Whereas an electric motorcycle, with zero emissions, won’t pay a penny.
Would you be surprised to learn that there are more charging points in the UK than there are petrol stations? It certainly surprised us! According to the data, there are 8394 petrol stations in UK, but a surprising 9922 charging points.
So we don’t need to worry anymore about being caught with a low battery and no way to charge it. (And there are plenty of apps and websites to help you find your nearest charging point.)
Unfortunately, not all charging points are created equal. Not all of them are compatible with every vehicle, such as Tesla’s proprietary supercharging stations. So, when you head to a charging point, we’d recommend having enough juice in your bike to find another point, just in case!
Of course, a single petrol station has multiple pumps and, more importantly, a busy petrol pump can refuel many more vehicles than a busy charging point. Which leads us to...
You can fill up a petrol tank in a matter of seconds. Charging an electric motorcycle can take longer, ranging from an hour on high-end models to 3-7 hours for more affordable models.
But recharging times will keep improving, and manufacturers are already taking steps to combat this issue. Some offer rapid chargers that dramatically improve charging times, while others allow you to remove the battery and replace it with a pre-charged one. You can even charge some of these batteries from your desk!
Electric motorcycles have always enjoyed a huge advantage in this area; it can cost just £1 or £2 to fully recharge an electric motorcycle, compared with £15 to £20 to fill up a petrol tank.
That’s not much for a one-off saving, but if you find yourself filling up multiple times a week, that’s a saving that’s going to add up fast.
|Average range (miles)||200*||30-223 depending on model|
|Average purchase cost**||£2,581||£4,539|
|Grants||None||20% of purchase cost (£1,500 max)|
|Air pollution charges||Up to £12.50 a day||None|
|Refuelling locations in UK||8394 petrol stations||9922 charging points|
|Refuelling time||Full tank in minutes||Up to 95% in one hour***|
|Refuelling cost||10p per mile||1p per mile|
**Based on Lexham insurance data
Is an electric motorcycle right for you?
Ultimately, only you can decide if an electric motorcycle is for you. If you like to spend your Sunday afternoons disassembling your bike and putting it back together again, or you like the petrol roar of your ride’s engine, you might want to stick to a petrol motorcycle.
But if you’re looking for a zero-emission, economical, low-maintenance ride, or you just want to be at the forefront of the electric wave, then an electric motorcycle might just be for you.
Interested in getting an electric motorcycle? Find out how much it would cost to insure.