2013 Zero Electric Motorcycle LineupEnlarge Photo
Motorcycles, as any biker will tell you, are as much a device for recreation as they are a method of transport.
More so even than many cars, they're bought for the thrill of the open road, the interaction between man and machine, and the freedom to go anywhere.
And that, says The New York Times, is just a handful of reasons as to why electric motorcycles may not have a future in the U.S.
While electric car sales have been relatively slow, electric bike sales have just about been a non-starter. Sales are estimated at fewer than 1,000 units in total, from almost 441,000 motorcycle sales last year in the U.S.
A wealth of inexpensive commuter bikes with good gas mileage, and sports bikes with high performance, have meant that electric motorcycles have been left to take whatever ground is left--not a great deal, in other words.
The electric motorcycle's plight could be likened to the reason we have no diesel motorcycles to choose from.
Diesel is primarily the fuel of working vehicles or gas sippers. Nobody goes misty-eyed over romanticised diesel road trips and few drive diesels solely for recreational purposes.
If ridden gently, bikes are already relatively fuel-sipping so there's little advantage to be had by putting a heavy diesel engine in there. And motorcyclists like the noise too--whether that's the scream of a Japanese sports bike or the thunder of a Harley-Davidson.
Electric motorcycles cover much of the same ground as their hypothetical diesel cousins.
Many motorcycles are used at weekends, for special trips or just to have a bit of fun on back roads. Riders cover short enough distances that saving money on gas is fairly irrelevant, but long enough that a circa-100 mile range is inconvenient.
And then there's the expense. A 77 mpg Honda CBR250R is $4,509.
An electric machine with equivalent performance and around half the range, the 'S ZF11.4', made by popular electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero, has an MSRP of $15,995.
The average commuter trying to save money would take decades to pay off the difference, and an enthusiast with $16,000 to spend could get an incredibly special machine, with huge performance or crazy detailing.
Electric motorcycles are still fun to ride, but until they capture the American freedom image of a Harley-Davidson, or offer cost-effective commuting--combined with an Apple-like "must have" factor--they may be doomed to occupy an almost non-existant niche in the market.
That may change, of course--and riders who own electric motorcycles certainly enjoy them--but for the time being, the appeal is limited.
Do you ride, or intend to buy an electric motorcycle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.