Ted Dillard wrote a post about a New York Times article a while back. I spent the past month zoned out watching anime and hoping the big bad world would disappear, so I missed it. I saw it the other day and replied. The NYT article was entitled “Electric Motorcycles in Search of a Market,” but the link says differently, “electric-motorcycle-sales-are-low-despite-hype.” I encourage you to read the article. Ted finds it more and more truthful as time goes on, or so he has told me. I read it, and it made me think of what my boss at work was all on about the other day. He was stuck on the infrastructure. He was complaining about how much it was going to cost. His biggest thing was his tax dollars going to it. Really he doesn’t want his tax dollars going to anything so that he can have them back. I tried to explain that all the power lines are all there, and charging stations cost only $1500 for a simple Level 2 we could put in at work. But it didn’t seem to quell his fears. But what did calm him down was me pointing out that ev sales are growing slowly, and so we don’t need charging stations every where tomorrow. This article has that similar feel of, “OMG it’s not happening right now so it’s not going to happen.” First off anyone who says this, “It might even talk to your iPhone, though it’s hard to imagine what kind of a useful conversation the two might have,” is only proving my point that the main stream press doesn’t know an amp from their ass, and makes it hard to take the rest of the article seriously.
Why is everyone in such a hurry? Brammo and Zero do not have the infrastructure to sell thousands of units tomorrow. Both companies seem to be growing in both employee numbers and sales. Lightning, MotoCzysz, eCRP, Muench, and Mavizen are still around. Who is saying it is going to be an over night success, or that it needs to be? The leap in performance from 2009 when you could buy a Zero S or a Brammo Enertia to a month from now where you can buy an Empulse, Enertia+, or one of 5 different Zero models is staggering. I am sorry Mr. Ford but comparing the performance of a 2013 Zero S to a CBR250 is just silly. With Zero Ss and Empulses roaming the streets anything with a 650 twin really should just stay home, especially in the canyons. CBR250s can barely hang with older Ninja 250s on the track, and that is with an very experienced rider on board. What happened at PIR with pretty much stock 2012 Zeros against race prepped Ninjas? The Ninjas only managed to get away on the straight.
The electric motorcycle delivers a better ride from what I have read, or at least a very different yet equal one. Is everyone going to jump ship tomorrow? No, but it seems everyone but the manufacturers is expecting it, or it will be considered a failure. It takes time to build companies. It is going to take time to get the battery tech where the range is competitive with gas. It is going to take time to get the liter bike beating performance the current race bikes have over, admittedly, stock liter bikes to the street in the form of reliable production models. It is going to take time to get the price down as well. It is all going to take time, but as long as there is growth every year and companies continue to make money and stay open who cares?
Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber told me that in the US, unless it’s a Harley-Davidson, three things sell bikes; top speed, HP, and weight. I think we both agreed that adding to that your buddy beating you on a faster bike adds to that. All that has to happen for people to start buy electric motorcycles is people out riding them, for them to have more HP, go faster, and/or weigh less. But really, if Ain (the first Empulse owner) starts regularly leaving his buddies in the dust, they will be going down to Scuderia West and ordering one. If they can afford it.
The HP power will be there. It’s in the race bikes now, and two or three years and it will be in the street bikes, if not sooner. And shortly after that the gas bikes won’t be able to touch the power. Top speeds will come with the power, so no worries there. Weight however; well if you are talking Hyabusa or ZX-14 weight, not a problem. More power, speed and less weight in 5 years max. Or in a few months if the Lightning ever get produced. But if you are talking 600cc or liter bike weight, that is an issue. Battery tech is making a steady progress as we can see in the Zeros alone. But that is just it. It is steady. But do I see prices dropping faster than density increases.
Does no one stop to think that all the “hype” isn’t about the sales, but that these things are so damn cool? Does any blogger or journalist write about motorcycle racing because they think sales are good? No. They write about it because it’s cool as hell and it creates passion within them.
The final thing that I find hilarious is that people like Mr. Ford think the EVs will disappear if they are not immediately successful. I am sorry folks, the cat is out of the bag and they are here for good. It is all just going to take time to be widely accepted. So what’s everyone in such a huff about?