Not too long ago I wrote an article about the Mission Motorcycle bankruptcy and the current state of the Electric Motorcycle. Along with Mission’s failure, the article focused on the success of Zero and the potential future success of major players in the motorcycle industry. Market acceptance from gearheads and traditionalists who think Electric Motorcycles are for tree hugging hippies will come with time, but the one thing that remains the biggest deterrent for potential customers interested in touring is range, or at least that is what most of us perceive to be the biggest.
Well technology sure does move fast and in the short amount of time since I wrote that article three interesting things have taken place.
- Yamaha revealed its new electric concepts, the PES2 and PED2.
- The Storm Pulse was reported on, which is an Electric bike with a 236 mile range on a single charge!!! Created by a team of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland, they are planning to ride the bike around the world in 80 days next year (hopefully it is documented on YouTube!).
- Most importantly, Zero Motorcycle’s announced their 2016 lineup with new models, upgraded motors and increased range.
Battery technology continues to improve and that is always reflected in Zero’s lineup. The new claim coming from Zero is a maximum city range of 197 mi / 320 km (awesome) and 98 mi / 158 km on the highway (not so awesome)*. Also a new and improved motor was introduced that in a nutshell runs cooler, which powers all models except the FX line. Two new bikes have also been added which is bound to appeal to a broader audience. The new DSR is a more powerful DS, but the most exciting news is the new FXS, a supermoto version of the FX. The SM is bound to make some urban hooligans very happy.
* The claimed range number takes into account an optional Power Tank which carries a hefty additional cost of $2,674.
Also new for 2016 is the optional Charge Tank. This gives Zeros the ability to be charged at level 2 stations equipped with a J1772 connector, pulling up to 3.8 kWs from the charge source. This can charge a ZF9.8 pack to 95% in around 2 hours and the ZF13 in 3. There is a catch though, it fits into the same place on the bike as the Power Tank, so you are currently stuck choosing between more range or faster charging. The optional Charge Tank comes in at just under $2000.
A J1772 connector is a North American standard connector for electric vehicles, and this is what you see at hotels and charge stations slowly popping up around the country. It is pretty much essential that this component be included for the future of electric motorcycle touring.
People that use their bikes for commuting and ripping around the city must be pretty happy with the current offerings from Zero. However, riders that long for a few weeks on the road still can’t commit to the idea of owning an electric bike without an ICE sitting in the garage ready for their next long adventure. Going electric for a second bike makes perfect sense at this point. Commuting and evening fun has pretty much been concurred by Zero, and even the early models will get you to work and back without coming down with a case of range anxiety.
Extended range and faster charging time is all for not if you do not have a place to get a charge. The future of Electric Motorcycle Touring largely depends on the availability of charging stations, which largely depends on government policy, which may be a terrifying thought to some. It’s really going to take a strong joint effort from the private sector and all levels of government to get an adequate network of charging stations across North America. Places like California have been setting the pace when it comes to building infrastructure, but the North has not even come close to keeping up.
Check out Plugshare.com to find charging stations near you.
For me, a 250 mile range (highway) and a 45 min charge time would do it. You might scoff at that and say it is unrealistic. That would mean Zero would need to cut their best charge time in half. But others think it’s only a matter of time as technology continues to evolve and improve exponentially. Sometimes fuel stops turn into rest breaks and lead to a coffee or two, so 45 – 60 min out of your riding day is more than reasonable. As long as you time it right and camp near services, you could easily tour much of North America. Hell You could even head up the Dempster and charge at Eagle Plains over lunch.
The more I pay attention to Electric motorcycles, the more I realize that “range” may not the biggest issue, but rather charge time and infrastructure. Considering how fast technology advances, I am confident that the range of a typical Zero bike will be sufficient for touring in under 5 years. Let’s just hope by the time the industry develops a proper electric bike capable of touring; America and Canada have the proper infrastructure in place to fully utilize the bikes.
So what is your number, or should I say numbers? To replace your bike(s) and go strictly electric, what is the minimum highway range and charge time you would need?
Photo Credits: First 2 from Zero Motorcycles Press. Rest are own.