Electric motorcycles are now ready for primetime, and this year's selection shows that the pace of development is quick. This buyer's guide focuses on street-legal, highway-ready motorcycles.
There are many two-wheeled electric vehicles out there that are more properly considered scooters or dirt bikes, but this guide covers only motorcycles (plus a scooter or two) that are safe to use on all highways.
2012 Zero S electric motorcycle [photo: Ben Rich]
Bikes are categorized by whether they can be bought now, or have be ordered ahead of time. My experience after covering the industry for several years is that nailing down a delivery date for motorcycles that haven't yet been built is challenging.
If you look online, some of the projections seem a bit inflated for some of the Pre-Order motorcycles; we'll see how they perform when deliveries start.
Zero Motorcycles and Brammo were the first two companies to put their money where their mouths were and put bikes into consumer hands. Vectrix also has bikes on the ground from 2007-8, though they are more of a maxi-scooter--but they're included because they can legally travel on highways.
I have ridden all the Zero and Brammo offerings as well as the original Vectrix VX-1. (The original VX-1 had a nickel-metal-hydride battery, but it will soon sport a lighter, more durable, and longer-range lithium-ion battery.)
2012 Zero S electric motorcycle and 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car [photo: Ben Rich]
Electric motorcycles with ranges of 100 miles or more have been available to the average consumer since 2012; each year they get faster and go farther. Reviews from traditional motorcycle-news sources have become more favorable with each passing month, and it truly seems as if electric motorcycles are ready to go mainstream.
While rumors of other electric motorcycles have sprouted periodically, so far there are no production models for sale--they require pre-ordering.
Companies like Lightning Motorcycles, Electric Motorsport, Lito Sora Electric Motorcycle, Evolve motorcycles, MotoCzysz, Mavizen, and Orphiro are among those from whom we're still waiting to see product delivered.
I had hoped Vectrix would have its new Lithium powered VX-1 available to test for this guide, but only the low-speed VX-2 electric scooter is available today.
As for the Pre-Order category of bikes: Don't get your hopes up. If history teaches us anything, waiting for an electric motorcycle from a brand-new startup company is a long lesson in patience.
ON SALE NOW
2014 Zero SR electric motorcycle
2014 Zero SR electric motorcycle
2014 Zero SR
$17k - 11.4kWh - 137mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 67HP - 106ft-lbs - 407lbs
$19.5k - 14.2kWh - 171mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 67HP - 106ft-lbs - 452lbs
This bike is for people who want to go out for track days and push the limits. It is a race-ready motorcycle that wants to eat up the competition with its massive torque. The only question is whether riders can handle the instant torque and power.
Single-gear belt drive means riders never have to shift gears, leaving them to an focus on passing other riders. Your iPhone can track power consumption, state of charge, and other variables when connected via Bluetooth.
2014 Zero S electric motorcycle
2014 Zero S
$13k - 8.5kWh - 103mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 367lbs
$15k - 11.4kWh - 137mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 399lbs
$17.5k - 14.2kWh - 171mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 444lbs
If you want a great bike with great acceleration for everyday use, this is your bike. Ready to accelerate at a moment's notice, the Zero S gives everyone from novices to experienced riders the confidence to ride on any road or highway.
Upgraded shocks for 2014 give a big improvement in the ride, and the storage space where other motorcycles would mount a gas tank is a handy feature. Bluetooth connection to your smartphone gives you the information you need when you want it.
A stock 2012 Zero S crossed the country without issue, so the latest model should deliver many miles of riding without worry or maintenance.
2014 Zero DS electric motorcycle
2014 Zero DS
$13k - 8.5kWh - 95mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 404lbs
$15k - 11.4kWh - 126mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 449lbs
The DS has the same internals as the Zero S, but it adds extra length in the shocks and dual sport tires for off-road riding. If you're 6'2" or taller, or want to ride off road occasionally, this is the bike for you.
Even using it as a dirt bike, you'll never hear the neighbors complain of noise--since it's all but silent. Like the rest of the Zero range, an app connects to your bike via Bluetooth to check on the state of charge and give you other data.
2014 Zero FX electric motorcycle
2014 Zero FX
$9.5 - 2.8kWh - 35mi - 1kW charger (110V) - 27HP - 70ft-lbs - 238lbs
$12k - 5.7kWh - 70mi - 1kW charger (110V) - 44HP - 70ft-lbs - 280lbs
The Zero FX is a wheelie machine: Everyone I've spoken to who has ridden this bike has accidentally done a wheelie on it. Of course, any wheelies after that are completely deliberate!
Lightweight and with lots of torque, the FX is an amazing bike to take off road or, fitted with street tires, to take to short tracks. Removable batteries allow it to recharge anywhere, even in the city--just bring the batteries up to your apartment or into work (where permitted).
2014 Brammo Empulse R electric motorcycle
2014 Brammo Empulse
$17k - 10.2kWh - 128mi - 3kW charger (220V) - 54HP - 46.5ft-lbs - 460lbs
2014 Brammo Icon Spec 32 electric motorcycle
2014 Brammo Icon Spec 32 electric motorcycle
2014 Brammo Empulse R/Icon Spec 32
$20k - 10.2kWh - 128mi - 3kW charger (220V) - 54HP - 66ft-lbs - 460lbs
Built for aggressive riding, these Brammo models are the only electric motorcycles available with a six-speed gearbox. If you already ride, and just can't bear to part with the experience of shifting your own gears, then look no further.
The sport-bike styling, solid shocks, forward seating position and higher foot pegs give this bike an aggressive feel visually.
2014 Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle
2013 Brammo Enertia Plus
$11k - 6.2kWh - 80mi - 0.85kW charger (110V) - 17HP - 29.5ft-lbs - 330lbs
The Enertia Plus is more of an around-town mode of transportation, and its relatively low speeds will get you where you are going. It can legally go on the highway--but just barely--and it takes a confident rider to do that regularly.
The Brammo Enertia, which has been on sale for several years now, is the electric bike made for those who want to ride on electrons but have a tight budget.
2014 Mission R electric motorcycle
$32.5k - 12kWh - 170mi - 4.5kW charger (220V) - 163HP - 133ft-lbs - 500lbs
$36.5k - 15kWh - 200mi - 4.5kW charger (220V) - 163HP - 133ft-lbs - 520lbs
$42.5k - 17kWh - 230mi - 4.5kW charger (220V) - 163HP - 133ft-lbs - 540lbs
The Mission R is a superbike from a small San Francisco company that designed it with the track in mind. With a top speed of 140 to 150 miles per hour, this bike yearns to be pushed to the limit.
The first Mission is one of the most anticipated electric motorcycles out there. It has a touchscreen user interface that can send data to a smartphone, and the display simply looks beautiful.
2014 Lightning electric motorcycle
$39k - 12kW - 150mi - (NA)kW charger - 168HP - (NA)ft-lbs - 495lbs
The Lightning motorcycle has been blazing new territory over the past year. Among other credits, it was the fastest motorcycle in the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb.
A Lightning electric motorcycle finished ahead of every other motorcycle--both gasoline-powered and electric--beating the second-place finisher by fully 20 seconds.
2014 Energica Ego electric motorcycle
$30k - 11.7kWh - 93mi - 3kW charger (220V) - 97HP - 94ft-lbs - 570lbs
Another super bike ready for the track, the Energica Ego is from Italy and quotes a top speed of 150 mph.
With four rider-selectable settings--Standard, Eco, Race, and Rain--this bike utilizes the abilities of its electric motor to change power delivery and hence riding style.
2014 Agility Saietta electric motorcycle
$23k - 11kWh - 120mi - 1.5kW charger (110V) - 96.5HP - 93.7ft-lbs - 485lbs
In the author's opinion, the Agility Saietta is the most interesting-looking electric motorcycle design out there.
With a sleek aerodynamic shape that takes advantage of not needing a gas tank, the Saietta is bound to stand out even in a crowd of other bikes. Currently Agility is only taking orders for the Saietta in the U.K.
2014 Vectrix VX-1 electric motorcycle
2013 Vectrix VX-1 Li/Li+
$12k - 3.7kWh - 60mi - 1kW charger (110V) - 28HP - 48ft-lbs - 425lbs
The Vectrix VX-1 looks more like a maxi-scooter than a conventional motorcycle, but it will do 68 mph, making it highway-legal. On test rides, it was very comfortable with lots of room for luggage.
If utility is more important to you than a motorcycle appearance, this may be your best bet. A full face helmet will fit in the storage compartment under the seat, which comes in handy.
(NOTE: The author has owned electric motorcycles since 2007, including an early Vectrix VX1 and a 2012 Zero S ZF9. He has gone for a test ride on every Zero and Brammo motorcycle in this article, and spends a lot of time in online forums on the topic.)