Electric motorcycles have been the province of backyard builders for many years and they've been getting a lot closer to everyday practicality with each attempt. Brammo Motorsports, the Oregon company responsible for the Ariel Atom here in the U.S., has introduced the Enertia electric motorcycle and it may very well be the first electric motorcycle that finds more than a very tiny group of buyers.
First, the specifics. Top speed of 50 mph, range of 45 miles, full recharge time from a 110 volt outlet is 3 hours. Direct chain drive with no clutch, just twist and go. It weighs just 275 pounds. Now, here's what you'll want to know, the price. They will start with a limited edition carbon model for $14,995 which you can order online right now for delivery the first quarter of next year. You can also reserve a standard model at $11,995 expected the third quarter of '08. Both bikes can be shipped to your door for about $300.
There are 6 Valence Lithium Phosphate batteries with a nominal voltage of 76.8 volts and a capacity of 3.1kWh. The chassis is carbon fiber. Pirelli tires, Brembo brakes, it seems to be a pretty nice package and it looks good, too.
The Enertia will not replace your standard motorcycle for weekend riding with your buddies where the 50 mph top speed and limited range would leave you all alone by the side of the road, but, as an around town commuter, riding back and forth to work or running out for a few errands, the Enertia will work fine. This is no freeway flyer but a lot of us spend a fair amount of time in town at low speeds and with an average commute of 29 miles you can do it all and never see a gas pump, ... ever.
The Enertia itself is a zero emissions vehicle, any emissions come from the power source generating the electricity. It isn't going to be your only means of transportation unless you live in the sunny south and have limited transportation needs, but it can replace a lot of short range commuting in other vehicles.
The Enertia also has appeal to those who want to be green and want others to know they're being green, which has been shown to be one of the reasons many people buy a Prius instead of other hybrids, the others are invisible while a Prius is visually distinct, the same would apply here. Anyone looking at this knows right away, this isn't your average gas burning motorcycle even if they don't see it going silently down the road.
The price, while not cheap, is certainly low enough that other companies attempting to produce an electric bike will have to rethink their marketing plans. The other plus is Brammo Motorsports, a company with a pretty solid reputation so far and a lot of positive press from the Ariel Atom. Having a reputable crew behind the Enertia can only help get this off the ground.
While batteries are still the limiting factor, I have been amazed at the rapid advances coming in that field. Every time some battery expert expounds on some inherent limitation of a particular design, another battery comes out that lasts longer and costs less. Right now, the demand for good batteries is huge and there are an awful lot of very smart minds working long hours to develop new ones. As electric motorcycles like the Enertia hit the streets you can be sure their performance will constantly improve.
By itself, this is no world changing motorcycle, but I expect they will sell as many as they make. That will be a signal to a lot of other companies around the world that the time may be right to begin producing electric motorcycles in larger numbers which will lead to rapidly advancing technology. We're getting very close to a tipping point in technology where momentum will start to pick up rapidly in this direction. Keep your eye on this one.
Link: Brammo Motorsports