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Today's Electric Motorcycles

Advances in battery technology are making it possible for electric motorcycles to transition from a novelty vehicle into a genuine transportation contender. It?s easy to see why since electric motorcycles are environmentally friendly, quiet and affordable to drive. They?re also easy to maintain. Regardless of the many benefits that come with electric motorcycles, the industry continues to face challenges.

Industry Challenges 

Because electric motorcycles receive their power from batteries, operating range, speed and refueling are a few of the challenges that the industry is facing. In spite of being more efficient than an internal combustion engine, batteries continue to suffer from disadvantages due to their bulk and weight. These factors force electric motorcycle manufacturers to choose between power and range.

Gasoline is more energy dense than batteries, so bikes fueled with it can travel farther. In addition, electric power doesn?t have the infrastructure to support refueling as the gasoline industry does with gas stations on every street corner. For electric powered vehicles, quick and easy refueling is not readily available. Because of this, manufacturers must focus on vehicle range.

Demand for electric power will make a difference. When you consider the modern battery industry, it only got its start about 20 years ago, and it just began making serious progress about 10 years ago to provide power to the mobile computing segment. During the last few years, battery energy density has doubled, and experts speculate that it will do so again soon. Driving this demand are electric vehicles, laptops, smartphones and other products.

Price is another problem that the industry is facing. Right now, the cost for an electric motorcycle ranges from around $7,000 to $15,000. These prices will not put a bike in every garage, but as the technology continues to improve, prices are likely to come down.

Current Specifications 

The electric motorcycle with the best range can go 185 miles with a single charge from its 15.3 kWh battery setup. It can do this as long as the rider has the bike?s extra power tank plugged in. This range will vary according to how the bike is ridden as well as the rider?s weight. In the electric motorcycle industry, speed has been an issue. The fastest bike on the market today can go about 65 miles per hour. Electric motorcycles are capable of going faster. During prototype testing, they?ve reportedly reached speeds of at least 145 miles per hour, so the technology is there. However, the electric bikes that are on the road today are designed for urban settings. Because of this, their gear ratios are set for acceleration instead of sustained high speeds.

Gas powered motorcycles are fuel-efficient, but under today?s emission standards, SUVs operate 95 percent cleaner than motorcycles do. Gas powered bikes decrease oil consumption, but they come with the price of dirty air. Alternatively, electric motorcycles offer the best of both worlds since they decrease oil consumption and eliminate tailpipe emissions, so they don?t add to air pollution.

Today?s electric motorcycles are also low maintenance since they don?t require oil or valve changes. With most electric bikes, maintenance merely consists of brake pad changes and new tires.

Disposal Regulations 

To provide a power source, electric motorcycle manufacturers equip the bikes with a nickel metal hydride battery or a lithium-ion one. Both power source options are durable and capable of lasting for at least 10 years. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter than nickel metal hydride making bikes powered with this technology easier to manage.

The safe disposal of lithium-ion batteries is a concern when it comes to expanding the number of electric motorcycles on the road. The United States classifies these batteries under the Class 9 Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials section. This classification makes it tough for people to dispose of lithium-ion batteries legally. It also increases costs in the form of transportation and treatment. With the 10-year lifespan, the industry has time to develop a strategy. Responsible recycling would be the best result.

Can Tesla Help?

To tackle the problem of range and speed, electric motorcycle manufacturers should consider turning to Tesla. The company has a longtime history of developing major electric vehicle mechanisms for other manufacturers. In fact, Tesla has worked with the industry since it developed the electric drivetrain and the battery pack for electric motorcycles. The company has invested heavily in its battery production. In addition, Tesla?s cars have the longest range out of the current batch of electric cars. Theoretically, the company could modify this technology for electric motorcycles.

Finding Balance 

While China may stand to benefit the most from electric bikes due to the country?s excessively poor air quality, other countries will see advantages from them as well. With a few tweaks regarding the operating range and top speed of electric motorcycles, the vehicles are an ideal transportation option for environmentally conscious motorcycle enthusiasts. If Tesla decides to come onboard, the industry may get the support it needs.

By Daniel Relich

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