Harley Davidson's Worst Nightmare? The Electric Motorcycle

As a nation shifts toward more fuel efficient cars, will the motorcycle industry be able to keep up? With recent improvements in battery technology, companies are now producing electric-cycles. They carry the same qualities and benefits of an electric car, but can they deliver the same exhilaration and sense of freedom we are used to? Some companies think so.

Motorcycles get extremely high gas mileage, that is undeniable. However, they also lack emission controlling components, which makes them produce more pollution by most larger Sport Utility Vehicles by an astonishing 95%. Even though most are getting upward of 50 miles for every gallon of fuel, this comes at the price of clean air. Switching to an electric powered motorcycle would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would also be cut into the demand for oil in the US.

Electric motorcycles are practical today because of advances in battery technology. The traditional Lead-acid batteries, are very heavy, do not provide adequate range, and tend to last for only a couple of years, making the idea of an electric vehicle impossible. With the creation of the nickel metal hydride and the lithium-ion batteries, all that has changed. These batteries are lighter, and can last up to 10 years. They have become more durable and a lot more versatile.

Currently, there are only a few companies offering these electric powered motorcycles, one of which is Vectrix of Newport, Rhode Island. They offer the fastest to date clocking in at 65 mph. This can be improved by reducing gear-ratios which has been the topic of discussion with Vectrix. Costing only $11,000, it is also highly affordable to most of our the Nation and with no annual fuel purchases, cheap to run and easy to maintain.

These motorcycles are also becoming popular with the sport-bike world as well. In Scotts Valley, CA, a company known as Zero Motorcycles offers an off-road motorcycle capable of a jump in excess of 20 meters. There are plans to feature it on the X-Games in the coming months. They plan to release a street version soon. Electric power has also made its debut in drag racing. A123 Systems, of Watertown, MA currently holds the record for the fastest electric drag-racing motorcycle finishing the quarter mile in 8.17 seconds and reaching 156 miles per hour.

Will this be the end of our loud cruisers and our quick crotch-rockets? Only time will tell, but one this is for sure, electric power is the new and upcoming movement in new-age power. This may be the alternative that the world has been searching for since the realization that using fossil fuels was outdated, but will avid riders be ready for the change?

Sources: TechnologyReview and Gizmag

George Delozier
Guest Blogger

Oct 6, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Forget it

The Harley owners like how loud they are. They modify or remove their mufflers as soon as they get their bikes. A quiet bike isn't for these macho men and women. It makes them feel strong to be able to wake people up and set off car alarms just by passing by. No amount of fuel economy will lure these selfish, inconsiderate louts.

Oct 7, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

If they're worried about

If they're worried about noise maybe they can go back to the schoolyard solution -  stick a playing card in their spokes to give it that 'waaaaaaaaaa' sound

Oct 8, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

  Although I believe this


Although I believe this technology will be an asset to to fuel economy and emission control in the future,  I think the electric motorcycle will have about  the same effect on Harley as a TV dinners have on a steak house.  Anyone who thinks it will have a big effect probably doesn't own a Harley. Although there are a number of other motorcycle manufacturers that produce an excellent product, in my opinion, there are none that can completely capture the look and feel of a Harley. I just don't think it's possible for an electric to even compete in this area of the market. Now or ever.  

Oct 29, 2007
by harley rider (not verified)

Are YOU nuts..a HARLEY is a

Are YOU nuts..a HARLEY is a HARLEY...If I have to explain it to you... you wouldn't understand...

Oct 31, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

well said. I hate loud

well said. I hate loud harleys. Police are no help. They ride them themselves

Jan 2, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

You're an idiot

You are an idiot, and I haven't even met you. I like my loud pipes.

Jun 29, 2008
by Anonymous

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