Five electric motorcycles you must know now

Five electric motorcycles you must know now

Electric motorcycles by Harley-Davidson and LiveWire are seen at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Queens, New York City, the United States, on Feb 7, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)
Electric motorcycles by Harley-Davidson and LiveWire are seen at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Queens, New York City, the United States, on Feb 7, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

On June 17, 2022, Norton Motorcycles announced it would build an electric motorcycle.

Representatives from the 124-year-old British brand, which is known for its successful racing motorcycles and cafe racers and is now owned by TVS Motor Co told Bloomberg they would work with partners in the United Kingdom to make a motorbike that would have both racing performance and touring range.

That dual goal — power and mileage — is what the companies making electric motorcycles today are sprinting to accomplish.

Startups like Zero and Energica have brought top-quality battery-powered motorcycles to market for years now. Others, like Tarform, have promised electric bikes but have yet to deliver many. Meanwhile, Kawasaki has pledged it will be all-electric by 2035 — despite not currently selling any electric-powered motorcycles. (I am not counting the new electric bike for kids it announced earlier this month.) BMW has made electric scooters for a decade, but no electric motorcycles have emerged, other than some very intriguing concepts. Even Harley-Davidson has spun off a new company, called LiveWire, to make US$23,000 electric motorbikes.

Then there are the handful of electric scooters on the market—the bulk of which are sold outside the United States — which are characterised by their smaller bodies, lighter weights, and lesser horsepower. Segway makes them, so do more obscure companies like Aventura, Ola, Ather, and Hero. This type of two-wheeled electric vehicle (EV) is perfect for short spins around the neighbourhood but less ideal for highway use because of its inability to hit higher speeds.  

Detractors claim electric motorcycles are little more than plug-in appliances, while fans point to their exciting riding performance and ability to deliver an even purer riding experience with none of the distracting engine noise, dirty emissions, or intensive maintenance of regular bikes.

While we wait for Norton’s entry to the range, here are some of the best electric motorcycles and scooters on the market today.

- LiveWire One ($22,799) - 

At 562 pounds (254 kilogrammes), the LiveWire One is the heaviest motorcycle on this list, and this weight cuts into its riding range — 146 city miles (234 kilometres) at full charge, or just 95 of combined highway and city riding. But its 30-inch seat height and clever engineering make it accessible for riders of all sizes and abilities. 

The LiveWire One will charge to 80% in just 40 minutes on a DC fast charger. 

An upcoming LiveWire S2 Del Mar motorbike includes snazzy colourways and a lighter frame.

- BMW CE 04 ($11,795) -

With its long flat seat and tiny windscreen, BMW provides the oddest-looking two-wheeler EV on this list, but the CE 04’s 80 miles (128km) of city range and 42 horsepower earn it a place in the scooter category.

But contrary to appearance, the 30-inch seat is barely lower than those of other motorcycles on this list; an optional pad bolsters it 1.5 inches higher. At 509 pounds (230kg), it is lighter — but not by much — than the Zero SR/S. A full LED headlight, ABS, and electronic reverse come standard. Extras such as heated grips, a luggage carrier, and an anti-theft alarm system are optional. 

The company says it will charge to 80% full in 65 minutes on a quick charger. Top speed is 75 miles (120km) per hour.

- Vespa Elettrica ($7,949) -

The most affordable option on this list, the Vespa Elettrica combines the charms of the 76-year-old Tuscan brand with modern technology.

This is the electric two-wheeler that you need when you just want to drive around the neighbourhood to the local coffee spot or bookstore. With a top speed of 44 mph (70km), it has a range of 62 city miles (99km) and a charge time of four hours on a 220-volt outlet.

Its 31-inch seat height accommodates most riders. Yes, even though it is a scooter, the law says you will need a motorcycle license to ride it.

- Zero SR/S ($20,595) - 

The best all-around offering on this list, the 110-horsepower Zero SR/S combines nimble rideability at highway speeds with well-made craftsmanship and ergonomic design.

With a weight of 518 pounds (234kg), the Zero SR/S is one of the heavier bikes on this list, but that does not keep it from significant speed. It can reach speeds of 124 miles (199) per hour and has a class-leading range of 156 miles (251km) of city riding. (Charging to 95% capacity takes 54 minutes on a rapid charger.)

Manufactured in Santa Cruz, California, the SR/S will receive new software and performance upgrades in September.

- One to Wait for: Tarform Luna ($24,000) - 

I have not tested this one, and neither has the market, but I like the way it looks so far. With the Luna, Tarform at least presents another modern take on a motorcycle made in the USA. The Brooklyn-based company says it will get 120 miles (193km) of range and fill up to 80% of that range in just 50 minutes on a household outlet.

Clad in a hammered-aluminium-style body, the 440-pound (199kg), 55-horsepower Luna goes to 60 miles (96km) per hour in 3.8 seconds and hits a top speed of 120 miles (193km) per hour.

Scrambler and Race editions are currently open for reservations. The company website claims deliveries will begin this summer.

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