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Are Electric Motorcycles Innovative or Dangerous?

Following other vehicle manufacturers, companies have released electric motorbike models. However, their quietness is a concern.
April 8, 2021
6 mins read

Motorcycles zoom by and can be hard to spot at the most vital times while driving. People recognize motorcycles for their loud motors, and the noise pollution saves lives on and off the road. On the other hand, manufacturers have introduced a relatively new variety of motorcycles: electric and quiet. Electric motorcycles are considered the next step in the evolution of road-ready, eco-friendly bikes, offering their own set of advantages. Which is better? Like everything, there are pros and cons and no definite answers, but here’s what we do know.

The Pros of Electric Motorcycles

What defines an electric motorcycle is the use of a rechargeable battery rather than combusting gas. This battery is powered via electricity from sources like sunlight and recharging plugs, similar to Tesla’s Superchargers often seen at gas stations. With a battery instead of a standard engine, the necessary parts for a gas-based cycle are no longer needed. However, contrary to what most people think, electric motorcycles are not noiseless. Generally, most generate some motor and belt noise, but they are considerably quieter than gas bikes. You’ll be able to hear the sounds of nature and people as you ride, free of excessive shaking while in motion and while stopped.

Besides noise, the manufacturers of electric bikes also advertise the difference in emissions. Gas bikes produce greenhouse gases that increase global CO2 levels and trap heat; both effects contribute to global warming. Since electric bikes don’t use gas-based motors, the harmful emissions are minimal.

Another upside to electric motorcycles is that they enable rangers to help combat endangered wildlife poaching in Africa. Without the noise, rangers can approach poachers discreetly, and since the bikes are electric-based, they require fewer refuels. Electric motorcycles offer law enforcement agencies the same advantages and more. With smaller, quieter bikes, agents can stealthily patrol locations that were previously inaccessible.

However, though the lack of noise is one of the top-selling points for electric motorcycles, it is one of their most controversial features as well.

The Cons of Electric Motorcycles

Unlike gas-powered bikes, electric motorcycles are much more expensive; the technology just isn’t refined yet. For example, gas motorcycles have been around for decades, allowing for years of technological innovation, while electric bikes are relatively new. However, as technology advances and more people buy electric vehicles, prices will drop, meaning price is only a temporary problem. In contrast, quietness is an issue with no clear resolution.

The silence produced by electric motorcycles is a massive plus for many riders. Driving through your neighborhood silently without shaking the foundations of nearby houses appeals to people. But on the flip side, the dangers of noiseless road vehicles are clear. When crossing a crosswalk, many people often look both ways or use noise as an indicator of incoming traffic. Imagine the problems a noiseless vehicle can cause — pedestrians may walk into the street without realizing a motorcycle is heading toward them. On the road, drivers may think it’s safe to change lanes only to find out a biker was in the way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has labeled silent motorcycles as dangerous, setting minimum noise standards for manufacturers and riders. However, the risks of quiet motorcycles still persist — but so does the issue of gas-powered motorcycles and carbon emissions.

Ultimately, electric motorcycles are environmentally friendly because they produce less noise and gas pollution. At the same time, they present a danger to pedestrians and riders, although fat tire scooters can sometimes offset some of the safety issue.. Like cars and other vehicles, electric motorcycles have their faults and are here to stay; choosing between a gas-based or electric-based bike is just a matter of preference.

Popular Electric Motorcycles

For those interested in the attributes of specific electric motorcycles, here are five popular models and their respective manufacturers.

1. Often compared to Tesla, Zero Motorcycles is considered by some to be the leading producer of electric bikes. The Zero SR makes it hard to disagree. With a top speed of 102 mph and a single charge allowing 179 miles in an industrial environment, the SR is one of the best bikes out there. It looks like a futuristic version of a motorcycle with the trademark quietness of an electric vehicle. The best part? It’s around $10,995, which is relatively cheap for such a high-quality bike.

2. The Italian company Energica Motor Company Inc. is right up there with Zero Motorcycles. The Energica Ego is a sleek, aesthetic bike built for speed, boasting a top speed of 149 mph. However, a single charge of the battery generally lasts 93 miles, comparatively less than the Zero SR, and the price averages around $34,000.

3. Harley-Davidson offers its version of an electric bike, the Harley Davidson LiveWire, for those loyal to classic motorcycle manufacturers. The LiveWire only tops 95 mph, less than the Zero and Ego, but it gets 195 miles depending on use. The price hovers around $30,000. Despite the numbers, LiveWire gives riders a smooth ride on a streamlined and aesthetically pleasing motorcycle.

4. From Damon Motorcycles, the HyperSport HS offers cool plating and a refined design. The motorcycle offers a whopping 200 mph top speed with a range of over 200 miles if used in a combined city and highway environment. As of early April 2021, the HyperSport has yet to be released to the public, but HyperSport HS SX’s pricing is $19,995. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2022. With the incredible speed, mileage and cost, this motorcycle is looking to be an excellent challenger to its competition.

5. Like Damon’s HyperSport, the British company Arc has started reserve orders for the Arc Vector, but has yet to release it. Claiming to be the “most advanced electric motorcycle ever brought to market,” the Vector is looking to occupy a whole new level compared to its competition. Boasting a range of around 270 miles with a top speed of 124 mph, the Vector may live up to its expectations with its next-generation technology and parts.

Joseph Gorzka III, University of Virginia

Writer Profile

Joseph Gorzka III

University of Virginia
English and East Asian Studies

A student at the University of Virginia, an avid reader and a dabbler in the writing arts.

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