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Is the electric motorbike lagging behind the electric car?

27th January 2021 Print

The world of motoring is in the middle of a period of fundamental transition. Soon, the point will come where the electric car is cheaper to buy than its ICE-based equivalent – and after this milestone, the days of the internal combustion engine will be numbered.

But the pace of change isn’t quite as convincing across the entire industry. While the electric car has enjoyed widespread adoption, the electric bike has yet to achieve quite the same levels. Despite this, shared electric scooters and bicycles are now available in 600 cities around the world, and there are 350 million two and three-wheeled vehicles available, accounting for around a quarter of all bikes worldwide. 

Despite the less explosive change, few in the industry are in any doubt that the future of the motorbike is electric; it’s just a question of how quickly the point of change will arrive.

Tom Warsop, Marketing Manager at Devitt Insurance, said: 

“With mainstream motorcycle manufacturers such as Harley Davidson entering the electric bike arena with Livewire, and Triumph and Ducati not far behind, it’s clear that the future is electric. There’s work to be done on the infrastructure to support widespread use of electric vehicles but with emergence of electric bike manufacturers such as Zero, Energica and Arc, it’s certainly going to be exciting to watch it develop within the motorcycle industry.”

The trends which are  driving electric car performance and adoption will inevitably have a similar impact on bikes. The 2018-2019 versions of some common cars have displayed energy density levels up to 100% higher than their counterparts from 2012 – this coming alongside an 85% decrease in battery prices.

Unfortunately, some of the challenges are inherently more difficult to solve on a motorcycle. The size and weight of a battery is less easy to countenance on a more lightweight vehicle, and the size of the market is smaller, which means that innovation takes longer to spread, and less investment is available. 

There are several push factors which make the transition a necessity. The UK government has already expressed a desire to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – which makes the market for other kinds of ICE-based vehicles less than viable. When the market for traditional petrol and diesel cars has vanished, motorcyclists will be forced to follow suit as infrastructure will fundamentally change.

For adoption to truly become widespread, charging infrastructure will need to be solid and reliable. Of course, the same factors which spell doom for filling stations is going to provide an abundance of charging station – if there are millions of points at which petrol and diesel cars can charge, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to plug in your bike at locations throughout the UK.