Granted, these initial models leave a lot to be desired, particularly in the range department. The best models only get about 100 to 150 combined city / highway miles between charges. But that deficiency isn't a problem for folks looking for a hassle-free commuter. I used to ride 40 miles a day, and now I'm down to 20. Electric bikes are surely not designed for weekend all-day touring. But some of the electric rock-hoppers like the KTM Freeride can give you a few hours of fun before recharging.
Unfortunately, that's the way most riders currently see electric motorcycles, as a niche item. I'd like to introduce you to a couple bikes that are jockeying for main stream acceptance. One you may have heard of, and one you probably haven't. One is the product of years of engineering and refinement, while the other is a half-arse attempt simply playing off it's company's name.
The new Harley Davidson LiveWire doesn't look bad at first glance. For your convenience, here are the specifications:
I'm sorry, but first-off, we have to address the elephant in the room: The LiveWire's jumbo price tag. For $30,000, you could buy one helluva nice standard-powered bike. But let's set that aside. If you have money to burn, and want to be an early adopter, maybe this is for you. Harley has been working on this for years, and this is their first electric motorcycle. If you have any common sense, warning buzzers should be going off in your head. 30K for an untested bike from a company known for losing parts and dripping oil? It will be interesting to see how many they sell.
On the more sane side, we have the Zero SR/F bike.
While not cheap, this bike has a more palatable price of $20,000. Zero Motorcycles have been making e-bikes for years. It's all they do, and their reputation rides on the quality of their product.
The two bikes are very similar in overall stats. I couldn't find the LiveWire's claimed top speed, but I read from one source that it was just over 110 MPH. That's slower than the Zero bike. Also note that the Zero has more torque. The Harley weighs more, which might make for a more comfortable ride, but sucks in every other aspect, especially low-speed handling and parking.
But the big deal for me is the quality and experience in design. If this doesn't work out for Harley, they lick their wounds and move on. Zero is young, hungry, and not limited by legacy thinking.
I heard that Harley was considering putting a noise emulator to make their e-bike sound like a "real" motorcycle. How 20th Century of them.
Overall, the LiveWire is 10 grand more for worse specs and questionable quality. But, you get bragging rights that you're ridin' a hawg. Maybe?
I honestly think Harley Davidson wants their bike to fail. The same way Ford made the Pinto out of spite. Or Chrysler made the K-car to conform with CAFE standards. This is corporate virtue signaling. I don't think they even like their own product. Most of their "visionaries" still think it's 1952, and James Dean will be riding their bike. Or The Fonz. Ayyyyyyyyy.
Do your own research. There are some cheap e-bike being released soon, including ones from Korea and China. There's also some Italian electric superbikes that go for around $50,000. That makes the LiveWire look reasonable. But honestly, the future belongs to models like the Zero FX. It's light, agile and fun to ride. The range is more limited compared to the SR/F model, but at $10,000, it's the best bang for your buck on the current market. A co-worker says he's getting one (once he gets done pleading with his wife). When he gets it, I'll pass along his impressions.
Electric motorcycles aren't for everyone. But they are worth a look. Just don't settle for some silly bloated corporate flash. It's a new world. Go explore it.