The report that Honda and Yamaha may be planning electric motorcycles is interesting and brings with it problems and opportunities for smaller companies trying to get into the electric motorcycle business. One commenter said, "e-bike manufacturers which are currently filling a niche market will be utterly crushed and destroyed." That's one possibility, but not the only one. There may be a big opportunity in conversions and kits or even custom electrics.
The Big Guys Are Coming
Anyone getting into the electric bike business today has to realize the major manufacturers will be getting in soon, either your business plan takes that into account or you'll be closing your doors. Move fast or don't bother would be good advice. As with cars, the Chevy Volt is coming and if the Tesla and others don't hit the road quickly, they're in for some tough competition.
Benefits from Competition
On the other hand, there are benefits to the big guys entering the market, like what it will do for the demand, development and cost of batteries. If the cost comes down and the design is somewhat standardized, the little guys may be better able to afford them for their own projects. Also, if their initial entries are low performers, they have a base to build on and they'll get better faster than if those companies weren't working in the field. The Chevy Volt will definitely accelerate electric car development, Honda and Yamaha may do the same in the 2 wheel segment.
Honda and Yamaha may be building new bikes but have you noticed all of the electric motorcycles showing up in home garages? Some look pretty good, some look a little rough but they all work, more or less, which means electric motorcycles are not extremely complex. Batteries, a controller and an electric motor mounted in place of the engine now removed and you're in business. Some models may be well suited from a physical size and weight perspective to be converted into an electric. Suppose an enterprising little company focuses on which bikes convert well, assembles all of the parts into a kit and sells them with plans, there's probably a waiting market of hands on do-it-yourselfers who would buy one if the cost was reasonable.
Old Builders Can Adapt
How about all of these custom bike companies that have been hit with EPA emission rules at the same time as the demand for custom choppers is in decline. They've been in business alongside the major companies for quite a few years which means a small builder with an eye on a changing market can supply consumers with a product they want. If they can adapt, electrics get around the emission problem and demand is about to rise. If those companies have building skills and aren't too tied up in the chopper image and lifestyle, electrics could offer a way to move into a changing future. Either that, or it clears the way for companies who can.
Electric motorcycles are coming in one way or another. How much of the market switches to electric power remains to be seen as other alternatives compete. But when the big companies enter the segment, it brings more awareness to the average customer. If a company stays positive and keeps looking for opportunity, they'll see it, but they have to be ready to move. Opportunities in a changing market don't wait forever.