Electric vehicles (EVs) have long held the promise of a more efficient and sustainable future. While much of the spotlight has been on electric cars, another industry could be poised to take the world by storm. Electric motorcycles are here, but when will they become mainstream?
As we've seen with battery-powered four-wheelers, there needs to be a catalyst that ignites radical change. For electric cars, that was Tesla. Beginning with the Roadster in 2008, the Elon Musk-led company hit the ground running and never stopped innovating in the EV space. The result was an industry-wide revolution that forced the hand of the world's top car manufacturers.
Now, legacy automakers like Ford, Toyota, and more appear to be all-in on electrifying at least part of their vehicle lineups. If electric cars aren't already mainstream today, they're getting absurdly close to that status every day.
We need a game-changing electric motorcycle
Many people around the globe would like to see the same happen with electric motorcycles. That would be well and good—if only the two-wheeler space weren't as complex as the car industry. There is no Tesla in the motorcycling world, at least not yet.
EV startups like Zero and Energica have come out with compelling electric bikes, but so far, none of them has reached the masses in a way that a truly game-changing model inevitably will. That means a model with near-universal appeal and a highly-competitive price point. Perhaps our best bet at this elusive model won't come from a fledgling company but one that has made motorcycles for over a century.
Could Harley-Davidson lead the way?
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire made noise when it launched in 2019. With the equivalent of 105 horsepower and plenty of torque to boot, it gave us hope that an electric motorcycle could eventually look, feel, and perform similar to a traditional internal combustion engine-powered Harley.
In mid-2021, Harley-Davidson spun out the LiveWire name into another company. The new brand's follow-up product, the LiveWire One, now sells for $21,999 (around P1.1-million). That's hovering around the price point of some of the better premium gas-powered motorcycles out there. However, hitting the critical mass needed to make electric motorcycles accessible requires formidable competition.
More manufacturers need to enter the EV market
According to CFRA Research, three motorcycle manufacturers control two-thirds of the global motorcycle market—Harley-Davidson, Yamaha, and Honda. That's a large chunk of the industry, and it tells us a lot.
The best-case scenario would be Yamaha and Honda stepping up and following Harley in producing their own all-electric models. That doesn't seem far off, as the two brands have partnered with KTM and Piaggio to set up a swappable battery consortium.
With this development, perhaps a fully-electric motorcycle from one of these companies is coming sooner than we realize. In fact, Kawasaki has promised to produce only all-electric or hybrid models beginning in 2035. We expect the rest of the top dogs to follow this transition eventually. Some of them may even be planning it today.
When will electric motorcycles become accessible?
As of now, electric motorcycles with respectable performance and range remain relatively expensive to produce. If we see significant advances in battery and electric motor technology in the coming years, motorcycle manufacturers could realistically introduce EVs with competitive price points. That includes models from Honda and Yamaha.
When that point could arrive is anyone's guess. We're venturing to say that we could see most top companies coming out with an electric model before the end of the decade. For all-electric motorcycles to become mainstream, they have to present a viable, affordable alternative to traditional bikes that we know today. When that happens, it could signal the beginning of the end for gas-powered motorcycles.