Are Electric Motorcycles Actually Cool? - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Are Electric Motorcycles Actually Cool?

Are Electric Motorcycles Actually Cool?

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because you’re a cowboy and on a steel horse you ride. 

By Eugene S. Robinson

Back in 1994, Harley-Davidson realized that the sound coming from its V-twin engine, a wild, throaty roar, was one of the things that made us love it. Six years later, after an unsuccessful court fight, Harley dropped its sound trademark application and moved on. But a truth had been uncovered, one that had everything to do with the fact that part of the reason those of us who love motorbikes love them has everything to do with their announcing as loudly and angrily as possible: I am here.

With bumper stickers proclaiming “Loud Pipes Save Lives,” it seems strange that any interest in offsetting your carbon footprint by driving an electric one would be outweighed by the deflating overall quiet of an electric motorcycle. I have no idea if this factored into electric motorcycle makers’ factoring, but maybe, as a consequence, they made their bikes cooler in a number of different ways. Following along the “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature” marketing, Zero Motorcycles in Scotts Valley, California, makes its silent rides a benefit so that you can commune with nature without the heat or vibration of an internal combustion engine.

Would a troika of non-planet-destroying, café-racing, superbiking sleekness be complete without the most significant surprise of all?

Good enough for you? Not really? What about if the bike weighs less than 300 pounds, drives almost 200 miles without a charge and is able to go from zero to 60 in about 4.1 seconds? Now us two-wheeled wonks are paying attention. Especially if the cheapest one is around nine grand, an amount of money that if it doesn’t bother you, might be the perfect gateway to the self-proclaimed “luxury” superbike. Made by Lito Green Motion, the bike starts in the $50,000 range and can hit $105,000 if you’re not careful. What that money gets you? Outside of all manner of cool styling touches, it gets you an electric motorcycle that does almost 120 miles per hour and lasts around 120 miles between charges if you’re driving around town. That’s 120 miles per hour of whisper-silent death on wheels. 

But would a troika of non-planet-destroying, café-racing, superbiking sleekness be complete without the most significant surprise of all? Project LiveWire, Harley-Davidson’s answer to the fact that when people are asking questions about carbon footprints and waves of the future they have no intention of being left behind. Part road show, part project bike and not actually scheduled for production, the LiveWire is probably just a way for Harley to show that it won’t be shown up. With Yamaha sniffing around and young upstarts like Oregon’s Brammo making electric motorcycle moves, the MO has got to be: On your mark, set, go.

“If you consider that gasoline is a finite resource,” says performance vehicle fabricator Greg Davis, “and so far electricity is not, this seems to be the smarter way to go. Just put noisemakers on them so people hear them coming.”

Pretty sure we do.


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