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Pipeburn Poll: Electric Motorbikes – Yes or No?

Posted on March 7, 2011 by Andrew in Other. 49 comments

Batteries DEFINITELY included. The Motoczysz E1PC – 165 mph, 135 hp, 250 lb-ft or torque, 500 lbs

God, I love internal combustion. Like, I REALLY love it. I love the smell of it. The hot engines that creak and tick as you kill the ignition and walk away from them. I love the flames and primeval brutality of exploding something that you get out of the ground. I love the fact that they drip oil and blow smoke and burn your fingers and wake up the neighbors at 7 am on a Sunday morning. I still remember with ridiculous clarity the moment I fired up my first engine sans exhaust header. The thing shot 12 inch blue flames out of the side of the engine as if Satan himself was battling to escape from inside the block. And the sound; like a squadron of Supermarine Spitfires had landed in my garage and were singing an incendiary opera at 180 dB just for my own childish amusement.

For me motorbikes and internal combustion go together like stink and poop, steak and red wine, or Charlie Sheen and bat shit. They are indivisible. I think about a world without exploding liquid dinosaurs and I’m genuinely sad. But with that said, I’m imaginative enough to see that an electric bike could also kick serious butt, albeit in an entirely different way. Instant power with maximum torque right across the rev range would be pretty incredible. And as cool and a loud pipe is, I can picture a long ride through a forrest with little more than a cool power station whine and the sound of the wind to keep me company as something that could be rather freakin’ sublime.

So what do you think? Could you ever replace hydrocarbons with electrons? That is to say, electric bikes – yes or no?

  • Tony240Z

    Give me a tree-hugging electric bike to ride on a daily basis and a smoky, smelly, filthy, petrol-powered "grin machine" to have fun with during the weekend. Our passion for internal combustion is soon going to be relegated to a rich man's hobby, just like horseriding was once a basic form of transportation and now is reserved for the social elite. With that in mind, I want to be prepared before that happens and prices skyrocket.

  • Greybeard

    Maybe for you young guys but ……naaaaah!

  • JR

    Before you poo-poo electric motorcycles ride one. I was a skeptic but then had a chance to ride a Zero DS for an engineering school project I helped with, and I loved that thing. Whisper quiet, stealthy (good and bad points I know), but ultra easy and fun.

    Try one.

  • BB


  • Andrew

    @BB Care to elaborate?

  • Emaychee

    I have to say, I voted for the 'middle' option purely because I agree with Tony – for the commute, or the silent, scenic vista you don't want to ruin for everyone within a couple miles, yes. But for the love of everything I ride for – no.
    Also consider the safety aspect – Look what happened within the cyclist community when the Smart car came out. Noise is one of those factors that motorcyclists need in their deck..

  • zig

    As soon as price, range, and recharge times are up to par with gas then you can count me in. I would get in on it now but I can't justify or afford another bike in the stable that can't go the distance. I would rather just ride my bicycle at this point.

    Speaking of bicycles, what happened in the cycling community when Smart cars came out? I didn't know there was a correlation between the two.

  • JR

    I am not arguing for the replacement of IC engines, just for the happy friendship of the two.

  • jack

    part of safety on the road as a cyclist is being able to hear things like cars, trucks, people, other bikes etc. that are in your vicinity so that you can avoid them. thats why people who ride a bike with their ipod plugged in are in a lot of danger. same is when there is some silent car near you that you dont know about until it hits you. part of cycling on street is predicting the traffic, you cant predict traffic as well if you cant hear it.

    anyway, to answer the question, im sticking to my old bikes. there isnt one new motorcycle on the market today that interests me (if i had more money then maybe). i love old bikes. i love how there is a certain degree of challenge in keeping them alive (depending on how old we're talking). you have to know how the machine works to operate it. you have to understand how to maintain the machine. you really have to use your hands and get grubby fixing bits and putting in the research to find replacement parts. there is more of an ownership involved becuase you are more involved in the bikes mechanics. a new bike has all this under plastic fairing and is so complicated you need to be a trained technition to understand it. there isnt anything to go wrong under that plastic.

    in an electric bike, you really cant do anything with your hands but hold onto the grips. you cant work on your bike. the part of motorcycling i really really love is working on them. its so much more satisfying when your attached to this machine on the road knowing that you made it run, instead of some fellas at a factory.

  • D.

    Arguments that motorcyclists need noise are asinine. Adapt or prepare to die off.

    Once batteries (or another similar technology) reaches a weight ratio worth stocking up on, I'm in. Also: just when you thought acceleration couldn't get any quicker…

  • Yes, a big yes. I love ICE engines a great deal but progress marches forward. Once the oil runs out (or becomes too expensive) I'll convert my bikes to ethanol and plant a corn field but I'll also buy an electric bike for no nonsense commuting.

  • lance houston

    The torqe curve on an electric driven motor comes on quicker than the internal combustion engine .If they could only attach the sound track of a Moto GP bike to this bike, that would be icing on the cake.

  • Sam

    Good for burn outs…..great for burn outs!
    But really, no glorious guttural thump of a twin, no spine tingling wail of a four.
    No passion, no soul…… character.
    I like bikes that smell, fart, leak, rust (he he he), back fire, don't stop, kick back and do sever grievous bodily harm – ah, that's not so much fun actually – but you get the idea. I bit of attitude, a bit of mongrel, to me it's what bikes are all about; passionate and moody and practicality be dammed.
    I don't see an electric bike covering those bases….. maybe if I got caught in the rain perhaps?
    Nah, give me a pre unit Triumph or a bevel drive Ducati any day!

  • Phil

    You guys who are a bit skeptic need to ride one, I have a geared down Zero S and this thing is awsome around town. Smokes scooters at the lights and sneaks through places you wouldnt think about taking a petrol bike.
    Cant beat it for city riding..

  • Raúl Vicente

    Andrew, you just summed up my point of view on motorcycles and their inevitable evolution. Excluding the waking up of unsuspecting neighbours nonetheless LOL! One day I'll have an electric one to silently roam the land, but my twin-exploder-satan-summoner will always be there as metal chunk of history, a comet through the night skies.

  • Frank

    If it is coming to E-Bikes, the chapter motorbike in my life is going to be closed. Half the fun of riding a bike is tinkering around, smelling, hearing, and seeing. It stimulates your senses.

  • KrookStreetRacing

    I for one would love an electric motorcycle (and can I have an e-car as well?). I live in Sweden and we are rapidly heading towards an electricity surplus, which makes electric bikes and cars the way to go. At least for shorter trips like commuting. We've tried the ethanol route, but it didn't really pan out.

    The question is if I could learn to love a motorcycle that doesn't need oil changes every 500 clicks or constant finicking to work properly (I ride a Husqvarna). Yes, I guess I could. And I bet we'll find ways of spending our weekends tinkering with our electric bikes as well. "- Honey, I'll be in the garage. My bike needs a software update".

  • Raúl Vicente

    @Krook: That's it! Beautiful…!

  • BB


    From a cauldron of alloys and oil

    Tattoos and chrome, baggers and nakeds

    Hairy and hairless

    Leather, studs, spikes and denim

    Breasts like helmets bared to the wind

    Bandanas and bullet heads

    Roaring, shrieking, smoking

    They come, crashing through the sunset sky

    To idle for awhile, here, at the bus stop

    On the highway of life called-BIKE NIGHT!

    Electric bike?
    Might as well stay home and admire my refrigerator.

  • RocketRobinHood

    @BB – Judas Priest called. They want their imagery back; they said you gay'd it up too much.

  • scritch

    @lance houston Sound energy is much, much less than motive energy. It wouldn't take too much power to put some speakers on a bike and blast out simulated ice noise, and you could hook it up to your radar so that it would quite down when the cops show up.

  • Jay Allen

    electric bikes won't be for bike people any more than the Prius is for CAR people. Let some guy ride it thinking he's saving the world. He's probably already got a Piaggio scooter. Still, I think the first paragraph was one of your finest ever

  • Yes, sure. Why not. Bikes like Brammo Empulse or MissionR are great. And they're the future. When a big company (like Honda, in example) really get into it, we'll see a big leap in perfomance and prices.

    The noise argument is hilarious.
    A) Electric vehicles make noise. As in IC vehicles, most noise comes from the friction between tires and asphalt and other parts. Face it, your utilitary car doesn't sound like a Porsche. And doesn't scare any old lady.
    B) Electric motors make noise. Well, maybe they sound like a TIE fighter passing by. But they make noise. (I.E.:
    C) A lot of people, even cyclist and some motrocyclist (as we can saw on this web) wear headphones.

  • yes to electrics only when batteries become small enough to emphasize the "zero space" or lack of components we admire today. Otherwise they will be fairly bland to look at after the ride. (great descrip: "The hot engines that creak and tick as you kill the ignition and walk away from them.")

    Dan Anderson's "Votra" concept is a good glimpse into the styling of "nothing"


  • Pat

    I actually own a Brammo Enertia and I love it. It's my 4th bike, after a Kawasaki ZL600, ninja 500 and Yamaha DT100. There is no reason they can't live happily together.

  • Andrew

    @RocketRobinHood It's funny 'cause you said what I was thinking. LOL.

  • Andrew

    @JayAlen Don't be fooled by the "80s Mobile Phone Effect" – when mobile phones first appeared in their brick-like form EVERYONE laughed at them. "Wankers" said all the Aussies. 20 years later EVERYONE has one. It'll be the same with electric vehicles. Buy one now and yr a "save the planet" do-gooder, but in 20 years time it'll be the I.C.E. crowd who are looked upon as strange.

    @Everyone I think the noise argument will be moot once there's a critical mass of electric vehicles on the road. Electric cars do make noise, just a lot less than I.C.E. cars – so once our ears become accustom to listening out for them, it'll be business a usual. And then people will start complaining about the minority of I.C.E. cars as "too loud". Huh.

    @ Kumo TIE fighter? Yes please!

    BTW thanks for all the positive comments re: the copy. 🙂

  • FrostyMcBeverage

    I am with Jay Leno when he says electric vehicles will be the savior of hydrocarbon burning vehicles. We need to make the switch so that there will be fuel left for enthusiasts and racers to burn.

  • Chris

    It was the same the late 19th century, when the automobiles came up and all the horse riders and coach drivers said it would never
    substitute the horse – and history told us – it did well. I'am looking forward to ebikes. This is just another transport revolution!

    And yes, i admire my Bonneville, but time is changing and oil is getting rare and expensive. And i want one of those T-Fighter bikes as well!

  • 522design

    Are you guys fucking retarded ????? Run out of oil? Is this Pipeburn ? Maybe next week will talk about global warming ! If you really look at electric vehicle any of them they all pollute . It takes power to make electric power ! We need to spend more money and time refining internal combustion ( direct injection )

  • zig

    If it's really the environment that we are talking about here, there's only one REAL solution…bicycles.

    You won't get fat riding them either.

  • trag

  • Raúl Vicente

    Altough rude, 522 is right. There's plenty of oil, amounts we haven't even found yet. The problem is an economy based in only one type of energy source: combustion. To make electricity non-stop to fit our needs, we burn the oil. The renewable energy sources are NOT permanently online. Only nuclear presents itself as an alternative. I quite fancy a bike running with a mini nuclear reactor inside 🙂 And forget hydrogen for now: the one existing not associated with other molecules is a by-product of oil refining, as natural gas is. It still takes more energy to separate hydrogen from other molecules than the energy it provides. So, we can only hope the interest in electric vehicles spawns fresh new concepts, as in the internal combustion beginning. But I'm going to wait sitting down on my SV, with a grin on my face and enjoying the roar for as far as I can go down. And don't forget: the first 10min or so of warming the catalyser in ANY vehicle are the ons which really pollute. Best to let engine run all the time, if it weren't for those greedy oil sheiks and 'businessmen'.

  • eBikes, just for conmuters? Don't think so:

    Lots of Tie Fighters at MAN TT

  • Tony240Z

    Kumo, you hit the nail on the head with the TIE Fighter comment! Just imagine a gray and black electric motorcycle with a rider wearing a Darth Vader style suit, helmet included… I'm in!

  • every car, RV, motorcycle, bicycle, big-rig on the road is as silent as an electric motorcycle when you play your music as loud as I do. That doesn't stop me from paying close attention to every mirror and car on the road ahead and behind me. Being a motorcycle commuter and generally intense driver, my awareness and focus when in a car is just about the same as on the bike and I pride myself in my hyper-focused driving. It's too bad that the general public doesn't do this, but alerting them with sound is such a crude way of solving the problem.
    It's not noise or lack of noise/sound that is the issue with electric motorcycles, it's our licensing laws, the proliferation of multi-tasking culture and idiocy.

  • Jon Panichella

    I voted yes, but I am a bit biased considering I am currently converting my '78 CB750 to run on batteries.

    I definitely agree with you guys about the romance of working on an old bike. The oil, the smell, and the sound. Walking away from the garage with greasy hands is such a satisfying thing. But electric bikes provide a different sort of "tinker" effect. Via software, motor performance, acceleration curves, braking, all of it can be tweaked and fiddled with. There are all sorts of bells and whistles and gizmos that can be integrated in making the bike your own, but there isn't the same feeling of "regular maintenance".

    I'm hopping on the bandwagon early so I can get an early understanding of this stuff and tinker and upgrade as new tech becomes more affordable. If you can live with the restrictions that current tech has to offer than electric bikes can be great fun. If you want more than what's possible right now, wait a few years. But I'm pretty sure they're here to stay.

  • Andrew

    So these TIE fighter bikes would have lasers on them, yes?

  • chris simpson (cjs cafe racers)

    Iv watched them twice now at the TT, and to be honest at the moment they are a sideshow to keep the tree huggers happy. The Motoczycs bike is quick, but im a wrong in thinking they started off trying to produce a moto GP bike, failed and are now trying to race these pretend bikes?

  • droog

    The only thing that will be kind of weird about an electric engine will be no shifting. Correct me if they changed something, but as far as I know all electric engines have linear acceleration, so you twist the throttle and it goes, so shifting, no power band no redlining. Also with no moving engine components means higher speeds since the mass of the pistons don't need to be moved. Once negative aspect will probably be that there is nothing to play with, you have a bank of batteries, and an electric motor, no carbs to tune, no cylinders to bore our, no exhaust, no gearing ratios, etc, unless you are an electrical engineer.

  • A part of the beauty and love of vintage bikes is that they aren't daily grinders. They're saved for gorgeous days and miles of open road. Only a select few ride or drive incredible bikes everyday.

    90% of the time an electric vehicle is all a person needs. They're perfect daily drivers, good torque, decent range, a long enough charge to drive a person to and from work or the grocery store or around town. Why subject something as beautiful as a motorcycle to that abuse?

    Save the gasoline power for when it really matters; a lazy Sunday with the sun shining and miles of twisted blacktop waiting.

  • Andy C

    Once they said that new-fangled steam trains were dangerous as people would suffocate at speeds of over 15mph. Wrong. I read in an old (old, old) motorcycle book that electric lights were good but not sa good a set of acetylene laps. Wrong. The works teams from Yamaha and Honda hwere laughed at and ridiculed at the TTs in the 1950's. Dumb.

    No one will be able to feel truly fee and at one riding a bike powered by electricty. Erm….

  • Andy C

    Sorry for all the typos everyone ! Looks like I got my worms fuddled!

  • Caffeineandpixels

    Isle of Man anyone?

  • Dr. Gellar

    Personally, I'm quite excited about the potential of electric motorcycles, particularly in road racing. One day in the near future I'd love to see the FIM's e-Power series (or whatever it would be named at that time) become an official MotoGP class, running along with the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes throughout the entire racing season. Heck, perhaps someday further down the road MotoGP bikes may actually become electric racers themselves, or at least electrics will be allowed to compete in the class.

    I have to laugh at the folks who seem to get all bent out of shape and bitter about electric motorcycles in general. Relax guys…your ICE bikes are all safe for now. In fact, I don't really see electric bikes necessarily replacing ICE bikes, but rather complimenting them. Sure…there will be some motorcycle niches in the future where electrics could come to be dominant or at least popular, such as off-roading, where their relative silence and environmental friendliness may help to increase the opportunities people have to enjoy motorcycles off-road, rather than as we see now where riding areas are being constantly threatened or eliminated.

    It's very true that electrics are still significantly limited by battery technology at the moment. But with all the supposed research and development going on with batteries to improve weight, storage capacity and range, I think it will only be a matter of time (within this decade) before most of these issues are ultimately solved and dealt with, or at least where these battery limitations are significantly improved.

  • scott

    as my only cycle – NO WAY! one for a commuter? light, simple, cost effective – sure, so long as when I actually wanted to go riding for the sake of riding, I could hop on something that ignites, vibrates, and makes great noises. I mean I have a hard time riding a jap bike over an italian bike because I don't think they have the character. pull out the motor and put in a big blender??? it'll never have the character of petrol power. anyone who says otherwise, i'm fairly certain is lying.

  • John

    Never, and I would use Twitter tools to make this kind of poll, , it would be better.

  • Dave Kozicki

    Two wheels, goes fast, I'm in.

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