Electric motorcycles are a thing again. They were invented in the late 1800s, pretty much disappeared and only now are they making a comeback. Like the electric car, they’re doing it in a big way.
Bikes have lagged behind electric cars because the battery packs are so heavy, but we’re getting there now. Smaller batteries, an increasingly urban lifestyle and environmental pressures have combines to turn an electric motorbike into an aspirational and practical thing.
They’re still not perfect, this is technology in its infancy and range is still an issue. But they’re getting better.
Here are 9 of the best electric motorcycles you can buy right now and one that is on the way.
1. Zero SR
It isn’t the fastest bike here, or the most expensive, not by a long way. But the Zero SR might just be the most complete real-world package you can buy right now.
The electric motor puts out the electric equivalent of 67bhp and 106lb/ft of torque. So while it’s down on horsepower, it puts out more torque than most petrol-powered superbikes and you can have it all right off the line.
So the Zero SR 0-60mph time of 3.3s is more than respectable and it gives a top speed of 102mph. Crucially, the range of 197 miles with the optional power tank means you can use this bike without any major sacrifices.
With the fastest charger you can fill the battery in just three hours, too, so this is a legitimate daily use motorbike that you can run for a fraction of the cost of a petrol equivalent.
There are bigger, better and flashier bikes on this list. But this is all the bike you actually need.
2. Lightning LS-218
The Lightning LS218 is the world’s fastest production electric motorcycle and it is, frankly, ludicrous.
It comes with 150kW, so the electric equivalent of 200bhp and 168lb/ft of torque. That’s more than BMW’s all-conquering, fossil-fuel burning S100RR. It is also a few pounds lighter at 495lb.
The end result is a bike that can storm through the 60mph mark in two seconds and leave almost anything on the road trailing in its non-toxic wake.
This has become one of the flag bearers for electric power and it certainly made a powerful impression on Jay Leno.
The 218mph top speed is a conservative estimate based on the speed the bike actually achieved on the Bonneville Speed Flats. Now, with a number of new developments on the final production bike, the manufacturer claims it could be even faster.
This is almost too much bike for the public road. It’s a race motorcycle with number plates and it isn’t for a novice or the faint of heart. It is, though, an awesome machine and we should celebrate its mere existence.
3. Alta Motors Redshift MX
Alta Motors spent eight years and at least one name change coming up with the Redshift MX. Now it thinks it has a supermoto that isn’t just the best electric motorcycle, it’s the best motocross bike on the track bar none.
It comes with the electric equivalent of 40bhp and 36 lb/ft of torque. It could have had more, and the bike could go for more than 2.5 hours, but weight is critical with a motocross bike.
That’s why you get a thermosetting resin frame with a hollow structure like an aircraft fuselage, which is so trick we want to see it used everywhere.
A total weight of 251lb is a minor miracle considering the electric tech and the specialist motorcycle press think this could be the bike that wins over the supermoto community once and for all.
4. APWorks Light Rider
Imagine an electric motorbike produced by the high-tech skunkworks at Airbus. Now open your eyes, it’s already here.
Light Rider’s ornate frame is made from a new material called Scalmalloy, a corrosion resistant aluminum alloy that is almost as strong as titanium.
That means that APWorks could use less material and trim the weight, so you’re left with a whole bike that weighs an incredulous 35kg. The strength comes from the material itself and the cellular-type organic structure that means there is no excess material and you only get what you need.
The company achieved the finished structure with the help of 3D printing. The end result goes beyond a naked bike. This is basically a skeleton.
Less really is more with the Light Rider and you that means less power, too. The motor produces just 6kW, but that’s enough to get this stripped down piece of minimalist art on wheels to 50mph.
Now the range of 37 miles really isn’t that hot in this company and it makes this motorcycle an impractical choice. But it is just stunning to look at and if you never go beyond the confines of the city then it’s a designer label that you’ll simply never tire of.
It’s new technology and you’ll be lucky to get one from Airbus in Europe as the numbers are strictly limited.
5. Victory Empulse TT
Charge time is the Empulse TT’s USP. A full charge takes less than four hours, if you’ve got the accessory charger and a 240V supply.
That provides more than 140 miles of range, so this is another motorcycle you can actually live with.
Victory bought Brammo’s technology, so this 40kW bike has been with us for a while in some form or another. Polaris owns Victory, as well as the iconic Indian Motorcycles and it produces snowmobile, off-road buggies and more. So this is no mom and pop operation.
The motorcycle got a minor facelift, including polished aesthetics and a 10% boost for the battery pack. But essentially this is the same bike.
That’s no bad thing. It has intense competition from the Zero line-up, but this is a genuine 100mph electric motorcycle and a real world proposition.
6. Energica EGO
Now we’re back in electric superbike territory with a motorcycle that has been around for a while.
It isn’t cheap, but it looks like $1 million. The company opted for sharp angles and flat surfaces rather than the traditional curves. So it looks modern and will stand out from the crowd.
This Italian superbike was one of the first serious electric bikes and it was designed by a team of Le Mans and F1 engineers that specialize in rapid prototyping for the big teams.
The 100kW (136bhp) motor comes with synchronous oil cooling and 143 lb/ft of torque. It hits 60mph in 3 seconds and the top speed is 150mph.
It’s a seriously quick bike then, but it’s not quite the full-bore lunatic that you’ll find elsewhere on this list. It also weighs in at 585lb, which is a substantial lump to force through the bends.
A DC charger can brim the battery in just 3.5 hours, but it returns just 93 miles at a constant 50mph. The weight and the range suggests the Ego could do with a new battery/motor set-up and it’s time for a change.
Still for a serious weekend warrior who wants to make the switch to electric power and doesn’t mind paying a premium for Italian style, this is a real contender.
7. Brutus V9
Not everybody wants a superbike. Some people want a cruiser and Brutus is there to cater to your needs.
The V9 is a big, retro machine that harks back to the old highway patrol police motorcycles. Law enforcement agencies could even order specially equipped versions.
Brutus is big on styling and has a café racer in the line-up that is arguably more impressive. But the cruiser comes with sturdy, exposed metalwork in the frame and a decidedly vintage look.
In one sense it’s totally at odds with the futuristic feel of electric motorbikes. In another sense, it just works.
There’s solid tech under the skin, too. This is a 115mph motorcycle that comes with a 93kW (125bhp) motor. The battery gives it a city range of 280 miles and 165 miles on the highway. So this is another practical, stylish bike and the only real downside is the premium price.
8. Lito Sora
The Lito Sora comes with an eye watering price tag, but then it is an incredible looking thing. Lito does a $100,000 version, too, so the base model is a relative bargain.
It’s clearly influenced by the street fighter bikes, which superbikes with the fairing removed and other aggressive touches if you wanted to know. So the overall appearance is butch and it hints at some serious performance.
That’s where the problems start. Because the Sora just can’t back it up. It hits 60mph in four seconds and has a top speed of 120mph, which used to be impressive.
It has a range of 185 miles, which is still good to this day. There are cute touches, too, including a touchscreen, keycard ignition and an electrically adjustable seat that can turn it into a sportsbike or a comfy cruiser. The body work is carbon-fiber and everything on the motorcycle is beautifully ornate and perfectly crafted.
It isn’t a technical tour de force anymore, though, it’s the designer watch of the electric motorbike world. That could be enough, but we’re hoping for something new.
There isn’t a big scooter culture in North America, but in the major urban centers in Europe a buzzing two-stroke engine and billowing black clouds of noxious gas are an everyday thing.
The Motorman is one Dutchman’s answer, and it’s simply stunning. Of course you can get cheaper electric scooters from the likes of Mahindra, that will get you from an outlying apartment to the office or class. But this is art.
It borrows parts from vintage café racer bikes and you can even see cues of the classic Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycle lines.
It does 28mph, has a range of 43 miles and a six-hour charge time. The motorman weighs in at just 99lb, too, and early testers described riding it as ‘like floating on air’
We have to rethink urban transport and this is just one way to do it. It’s effectively a bicycle without pedals or effort and that could work on the city streets. Of course electric bicycles are already here, but this is just better.
Despite promising it would be available in the US by the end of 2015, the company doesn’t have an importer in place. We can’t help thinking this would be a smash hit in the upscale parts of LA, New York and every college town, though.
So it’s an opportunity that’s just waiting for an entrepreneur.
10. Yamaha PES2 Street Sport
This motorcycle is just a concept right now, but Yamaha just has to build it. This is basically an electric version of 1980s TV show Street Hawk and we have the technology to make it real.
The bike has two motors and one is built into the front wheel. So it’s a two-wheel-drive motorcycle that will give added traction and more speed.
Yamaha is keeping quiet about the power figure, probably because this bike is on the way. But we do know it weighs less than 290lb and it’s going to be fast.
Then there’s the helmet, which is linked to cameras on the bike to provide a heads-up display with all kinds of information and the potential for hazard warnings and more.
If it’s fast enough and it has the range, which we think it will, this motorcycle could change the game.
That’s it for our list of the best electric motorcycles available out there? Which one is your favorite? Let us know!