Electric motorcycle purchases are on the rise, but the question is - is it time for you to ditch the petrol and get an electric motorcycle of your own?
Tesla grabs headlines with its modern, futuristic electric cars, and big names like Toyota, Ford, and Audi have followed in their footsteps, releasing their own production of electric vehicles. But as electric begins to impact the car market, it’s made little headway into the motorcycle market so far.
So without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we…
A history of electric motorcycles in the UK
Whilst electric vehicles may seem like a fairly recent development, you may not know that electric motorcycles have a long-standing history within the UK already.
In fact, patents were first mentioned back in 1911, with talks of a machine with a range of 75-100 miles and a top speed of 35mph - which by today’s standards, isn’t that bad!
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 thanks to the introduction of the plug-in motorcycle grant (PiMG) and have slowly been gaining market share with their impressive range of bikes. I think it is fair to say that thanks to the rise in popularity of the electric car manufacturer Tesla, really helped to bring the idea of electric vehicles to most of our lives and forefronts.
Since then, the likes of BMW Motorrad, Piaggio, Harley Davidson, and Honda have all introduced their very own production of electric motorcycles and scooters, as well as rumours of Triumph, Kawasaki, and KTM also coining in on the electric market very soon.
Fast forward to 2022 and the Government had released its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, ending the production and sale of petrol motorcycles within the UK by 2035. These plans will also include the end of petrol three-wheelers as well as other L-category vehicles, meaning the days of petrol are coming nearer to an end.
However, this was until Porsche carried out their Porsche Strategy for 2023 rearing sustainability objectives, finding that there is not enough raw materials to create the batteries in order to supply everyone with electric cars and suggested that instead, eFuels could be the best foot forward in order to keep cars and motorbikes as carbon neutral as possible made from CO2 and hydrogen, using only renewable energy sources.
But overall, the big question is - even despite the obvious change we have ahead, why have UK riders been slow to adopt electric motorcycles and have the advancements in synthetic fuel meant that people might skip past the electric generation in its entirety?
So, are electric motorcycles worth it?
Although their green credentials have been shouted about since they first entered the market, for many years the practicalities of electric motorcycles just couldn’t rival their petrol counterparts.
But some riders out there 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!
Range that rivals petrol bikes
From the beginning, range is an area that has let electric vehicles down thus far. However, over the last few years, electric motorcycles have really revolutionised and are starting to rival many petrol motorcycles - 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!
There is no denying that petrol motorcycles are still far cheaper than their electric counterparts. However, this doesn’t mean you should discount electric motorcycles entirely due to the price, even with the inflation in electric costs, the running costs can be much lower - meaning that you could still be saving money even with a higher purchase price.
Again, due to the recency of electric motorbikes and unanswered questions about their reliability and risk, many insurers have been slower/hesitant to offer cover.
That being said, you’ll be pleased to know we here at Lexham have been covering electric motorcycles for 15 years, so if you’re in the market for electric motorcycle insurance - make sure to get a quote directly with Lexham!
OLEV grant benefit
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any grants available for buying a petrol motorcycle. However, the plug-in grant funds up to a maximum of £150 towards mopeds and £500 towards buying an electric motorcycle providing they cost £10,000 or less.
It is worth noting that the plug-in grant is due to end in 2023, so before purchasing an electric bike or scoot, it is worth checking if the grant is still available.
No ULEZ or air pollution charges
Depending on where you ride air pollution charges are on the cards for a number of cities, and London has led the way with its Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ). If you’re petrol fuelled motorbike does not meet the minimum standards of ULEZ which currently at the time of writing requires your motorbike or moped to be Euro 3 or higher, and have been produced after July 2007, you 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.
More charge points
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in electric charging points in the UK. At the end of June 2023, there were a total number of 44,408 electric vehicle charging points across the UK - a 36% increase in the total number of charging devices since June 2022.
Unfortunately though, not all charging points are compatible with every vehicle, such as Tesla’s proprietary supercharging stations. So, when you head to a charging point, make sure you have enough juice to find another station (if needed)!
Refuelling times are constantly improving
Whilst you can refill a petrol tank in minutes, recharging your electric motorbike can take anywhere between 3-7 hours on a standard charger. However, you’ll be pleased to know that recharging times are ever-improving, with manufacturers taking steps to create rapid chargers or removable batteries.
Refuelling cost is lower
Electric motorcycles have always enjoyed a huge advantage in this area; it can cost an average of £5 for 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*||30-220 (model dependent)|
|Average purchase cost**:||£2,581||£4,539|
|Refuelling cost:||10p per mile||3-6p per mile|
**Based on Lexham insurance data
Reasons Stopping riders switching to electric Motorcycles
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?
Grants are not appealing enough
As we mentioned previously, the Government have tried to incentivise electric vehicles/motorcycles by offering the plug-in OLEV grant (up to £150 on electric mopeds and £500 on electric motorcycles under £10,000). However, this grant is due to end sometime during 2023.
Brands are slow to market
Whilst many brands such as Honda, BMW, and Harley Davidson have jumped on the electric bandwagon, there are still a rather large amount of manufacturers who have not yet made the leap to electric. With the market feeling so limited, there is no wonder why people have opted for petrol-fuelled counterparts where there is pretty much a bike built to suit every type of person.
However, as we mentioned earlier, we are due to see electric motorbikes from the likes of Kawasaki, KTM, Yamaha, and a few more - so keep your eyes peeled.
Electric motorcycle prices are still high
Electric motorcycles are still extremely expensive on their own, costing anything between £2,000-£35,000, without taking into account ever-rising energy costs, the reducing grants, or the lack of bikes available in the market.
When it comes to second-hand electric bikes, due to how new they are there are few very sitting on the used market at the moment, and still holding much of their value as if bought new.
The experience is different
There is no denying that electric motorbikes differ massively from their petrol-fuelled counterparts. Two ways in which they vary include:
Maintenance is lower
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 some 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.
No rumble and roar
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.
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 from 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!
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 technology has evolved, many of these problems have been eliminated. But some of those concerns still remain.
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 (feel free to check out our things you need to own for having an electric motorcycle article if you're tempted!)
Interested in getting an electric motorcycle? Find out how much it would cost to insure.