Having visited the English Electric Motor Co just down the road from the Lexham offices to review the Super Soco TC Max and Niu NGT, we had a chat with Alec Sharp about a new' and growing two-wheeled electric market.
Q: For readers who haven’t come across English Electric Motor Co (EEMC), can you give us a quick summary of what you do?
Alec: We set ourselves up as the first and premier all-electric dealership in the UK, offering the best and most innovative electric brands available with the most comprehensive back-up available.
Q: You’ve been building incredible custom motorcycles with traditional British stylings through Old Empire Motorcycles since 2011. But what inspired you to get involved with electric motorcycles too?
Alec: Having little or no interest in the electric motorcycle world until being forced on one a few years back, it was literally a light bulb moment when I realised the opportunities that riding, owning and also customising electric motorcycles could offer.
Q: You’ve said that Old Empire was about “being very British”. Is there a similar philosophy behind EEMC?
Alec: Yes, it's a mind set of offering a very British customer experience that focuses on finding the most quality products and offering them with the sort of customer service people expect from a reliable and established UK-based company.
Q: What do you ride yourself on a day-to-day basis? Is it different depending on the weather?
Alec: More and more often I ride electric, even on longer journeys and on trips away with my partner if I can wangle one of the bikes with fast charging capabilities.
Q: Have you been tempted to build any custom electric motorcycles? How easy would it be for the average rider to customise their own electric motorcycle?
Alec: Yes, I think this is something we will begin to dabble with in the next few years and you will see more and more custom electrics appear in general.
Q: If you were to build yourself a custom electric motorcycle, what would that look like?
Alec: I think I would chuck away the ‘motorcycle custom build rulebook 101’ for the build and create something based around the limitation of an electric rather than combustion build.
Q: We know that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are riding customised Harley-Davidson Livewires for their upcoming series “Long Way Up”. What do you think of the Livewire, and do you think they’ve picked the right bikes for the job?
Alec: It’s an interesting bike to choose for such a trip! I think the only real limitation with electric right now is overall range, charge time and the infrastructure of where you are riding. All of those things make long distance riding difficult so it’s admirable for sure.
The Livewire would not be my first choice based upon its specs, however I’m sure they are more than capable of making the journey. Whatever the case it will help bring electric motorcycles in the spotlight, hopefully for the better.
Q: What are the top benefits of electric motorcycles?
Alec: Long term cost saving, minimal environmental impact (dependant on where the electric is sourced and where the batteries are sourced and disposed of), blistering performance (particularly acceleration), and a completely different riding experience to what you are used to.
Q: In your experience, what’s the biggest misconception about electric motorcycles?
Alec: Overall expense – they are actually in general only 10% more expensive than an equivalently priced and powered combustion motorcycle!
Overall longevity of battery – most of our models will easily exceed 150,000 miles before the battery falls below 80% of its original capacity.
Battery recycling – lithium itself if 100% recyclable, once recycling becomes cheaper than creating a battery from new, essentially, we can get most of the battery back in the recycling process.
Q: What are your favourite electric motorcycle models?
Alec: All the brands we offer are our favourite version of that style of bike! NIU for scooters, Soco for Mopeds, Surron for offroad and Zero for full blown motorcycle.
Q: It seems that electric cars get more attention than electric motorcycles. Why do you think that is?
Alec: It’s a much bigger market and motorcycles in general follow around 3 years behind the car market.
Q: The big motorcycle manufacturers are rather quiet in the electric bike market. Is this something you are expecting to see a change soon or do you believe the electric specialists like Zero, Energica and Supersoco have enough to remain dominant in the market?
Alec: I think we have between 3 – 5 years to start seeing the big boys come to market and 5 – 10 years in which we will see a significant shift from combustion to electric in the mainstream motorcycles market.
Q: Will it take a single big manufacturer to push electric motorcycles into the same realms as Tesla?
Alec: Not necessarily, it may seem like the bikes and brands we are dealing with are drops of water in the ocean but many droplets make up the ocean (I think I heard that in a film!)
Q: What’s the biggest hurdle facing wider adoption of electric motorcycles in the UK?
Alec: Infrastructure and following that the backing of the government.
Q: Have you noticed an increase in electric bike enquiries? Is it a market which is slowly building up?
Alec: Yes, we have seen a 120% increase in sales from 2018-2019 and we expect to break the 100 bike mark in 2020.
Q: Is there demand for second-hand electric motorcycles? How do they fare with depreciation?
Alec: Very good so far, as awareness increases and demand follows that, more people are looking at getting into electric ownership without paying full RRP.
Q: Do customers have issues getting suitable insurance cover?
Alec: Used to be an issue but working alongside the likes of Lexham, we have been able to level out the playing field.
Q: You also specialise in off-road e-bikes, as well including kids balance bikes, trials bikes, and even adult trials bikes - is this a market now starting embrace electric bikes too?
Alec: Yes, I believe there will be a growing crossover for people from the e-bike to e-motorcycle world.
Q: Do you foresee an all-electric future for motorcycles?
Alec: Maybe a long way down the line. Imagine where steam and horses now come into our lives, for recreation and run and ridden by enthusiasts alongside special events for them. That’s where we will end up: combustion isn't going away, it’s part of our history forever. It will just be superseded by a more superior and economical form of transport, as always happens, and you will see less and less of combustion and more and more electric!
Q: What’s next for EEMC?
Alec: We have an all-electric DirtEtrack opening in 2020 which will offer offroading electric riding experience to individuals and groups, and we’re doubling the size of our showroom and workshop facilities. On top of that all of our usual empire nights at starwing brewery, shows and demo days!
Huge thank you goes to Alec Sharp and English Electric Motor Co for speaking to us about the electric world - check out their website and see what they have in. We definitely recommend going to say hi if you're ever in the South Norfolk area!