Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

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Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #1 by SnoBrdr » Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:55 am

https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/31/cars/electric-motorcycles/index.html

Motorcycle sales, particularly in the United States, have been struggling ever since the Great Recession. As older riders lose interest, or simply become unable to ride any longer, the younger generation hasn't been showing the same kind of enthusiasm.

But the industry is hoping that electric motorcycles -- with a quieter, simpler experience -- might be the key to attracting new riders.
For one thing, electric motorcycles are easier to ride. With an electric motor, there's no need to shift gears. To experienced riders, that's no big deal, but most Americans today have become accustomed to automatic transmissions and don't know how to shift gears.
"It's just a lot easier learning curve," said Susan Carpenter, a writer and radio host specializing in motorcycles. "You just hop on and twist the throttle. If you can balance, you can go."

Another benefit is that electric motorcycles are much less noisy than gasoline-powered motorcycles. To many veteran riders, the roar of the engine is part of the excitement. But a lot of other people would prefer to enjoy their surroundings much more peacefully. The bikes also don't have hot engines and exhaust pipes that can become burn hazards, especially when parked around kids.
Electric motorcycles also qualify for federal and state tax credits, similar to those for electric cars, although in smaller amounts.
There are tradeoffs, of course. Electric motorcycles have the same disadvantages as electric cars, namely cost and range. Motorcycles can only accommodate small batteries so they have a lot less range than gas-powered bikes. And that range diminishes greatly during high-speed highway riding because the bike's electric motor has to compensate for increased wind resistance pressing against the rider's not-so-aerodynamic body.

Harley-Davidson's Livewire motorcycle is likely too expensive for most first-time buyers.
Hoping to get the attention of a new generation of riders, Harley-Davidson introduced the LiveWire electric motorcycle earlier this year.
But with a starting price of nearly $30,000 -- more than three times the cost of an entry level motorcycle -- it's unlikely to attract many novice riders. With its extreme performance capabilities -- it can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds -- the LiveWire doesn't appear to be for first-time riders. (The bike does have selectable performance modes so it can be set up for less aggressive riding.)
"LiveWire sets the stage and sets the tone and is designed and priced to be a halo vehicle," said Harley-Davidson spokesman Paul James, explaining that the LiveWire is aimed at establishing an image for the brand's electric offerings rather than being a big seller. "And we'll quickly follow that up with other form factors and other electric two-wheelers that will be in various price points and aimed at different customers."

Not your father's Harley: How the motorcycle industry is attracting new riders
Harley-Davidson (HOG) wanted this bike to get people used to the idea of a motorcycle that doesn't have the brand's signature engine burble, said James. The LiveWire does make its own distinct sound, though. It comes from the gears that carry power from the electric motor to the belt that spins the back wheel. Harley-Davidson engineers spent time specifically tuning the naturally occurring whirring sound, much as they would the rumble of a gasoline engine.
For the real novices, Harley-Davidson offers the IronE, which targets tiny riders aged three to seven. The teeny off-road bike is powered by a small detachable battery similar to ones used for electric power tools and starts at around $650. Harley-Davidson has also shown pedaled e-bikes and scooters as concepts.


California-based Zero offers electric motorcycles like the Zero FX ZF3.6 for around $9,000. That bike has an estimated 27 miles of riding range from a small battery that can be easily changed for a fully charged one when it runs low on power. For about twice that amount, or around $20,000, bikes like the Zero SR/F can get about 123 miles in combined city and highway riding. (That compares to the 95 miles Harley-Davidson estimates for the LiveWire.) Buyers can also add battery power using a "Power Tank" accessory.

Zero's bikes are used in a program called Discover the Ride, which introduces novice riders to motorcycle riding and takes place at Progressive International Motorcycle Shows across the United States. Riders demonstrate their basic two-wheeler skills on an electrically-assisted bicycle, then they are offered a ride on a Zero electric motorcycle.
Cake, a Swedish company, has models starting at a slightly more affordable $8,500. For that price, a buyer can get Cake's ultra-minimalist Ösa+ model. Its design was inspired by a workbench and it looks like it. With detachable clamps, the owner can quickly customize the bike with cargo racks or an additional seat. The Ösa+ has a top speed of just 60 miles an hour. It's intended as an urban workhorse.

The Cake Kalk& is a street-legal version of Cake's eletric dirt bike.
Cake also makes the slightly faster and pricier Kalk& with a more traditional, but still distinctively spare, design.
With their emphasis on light weight and simplicity, Cake bikes take the idea that electric motorcycling should be different from riding a gas-powered bike to an extreme. The models are particularly popular with new riders, according to a company spokesman. After being available in the US for a little over a year, there's a three-month waiting list for the bikes, Cake claims.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #2 by Lucien Harpress » Wed Jan 01, 2020 2:09 pm

Without getting too in-depth with reasons for this or that, as a 32-year-old, here's my thoughts on the issue.

You want new motorcyclists? Make it affordable. Everything else is essentially bonus points.

You gotta convince a generation already strapped for cash (for whatever reason, argue elsewhere) that they can shell out that little more for what his essentially a large toy.

Don't mistake this for my arguing against a lot of really good points (which they are)- I'm just stating what I see as the first hurdle to get over before you get to the rest of them.

On a personal note, I don't see "complexity of operation" as big of a hurdle as others do. People my age have grown up with the entirety of human knowledge accessible in the palm of their hand, and we know it. "Just Google it" is a joke now, but for a brief aquaintence on a subject, it's super useful. Now, it's no alternative to months of first-hand experience, but it's sufficent to get feet in the door. Not downplaying the importance of training programs, but don't be surprised if they don't fix as much as one may think.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #3 by gltriker » Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:49 pm

Lucien. I'm 70 years old. What does your statement mean?

"Not downplaying the importance of training programs, but don't be surprised if they don't fix as much as one may think."

Training programs for what purposes?

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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #4 by Lucien Harpress » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:54 am

gltriker wrote:Lucien. I'm 70 years old. What does your statement mean?


Just the idea that I've got a pretty good feeling I skew a bit younger than the average age these forums tend to have, and when conversations start with "attracting new riders", I'm right in the demographic they're talking about.

gltriker wrote:"Not downplaying the importance of training programs, but don't be surprised if they don't fix as much as one may think."

Training programs for what purposes?

Thanks. tumb2


Use in operating a manual transmission, and motorcycles in general. The thrust of the main argument was the reason for low ridership is in part to people seeing them as too complicated to operate, and training programs combined with simpler electric motorcycle may fix this.

I'm just saying don't be surprised if this doesn't help as much as people think.

But this is all personal opinion anyway. I'll leave the economics to the experts.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #5 by RAT » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:05 pm

My wife drives a Mini Cooper .... standard trans .... the kids at the High School where she works call it 'an anti theft' device ....

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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #6 by CYBORG » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:31 pm

what I don't understand is why do we need new blood. And why do we need to make it easier for them to get involved? What we need is more committed people to the life style. And those who are committed will have the respect for those who have come before, and put in the time to learn to shift etc. Not sure I want those who can't put in the time on the road around me. I grew up with cars that were fun to drive, and had personality. Now look what we have. What will be, will be....doesn't mean I have to like it
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #7 by SnoBrdr » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:37 pm

CYBORG wrote:what I don't understand is why do we need new blood. And why do we need to make it easier for them to get involved? What we need is more committed people to the life style. And those who are committed will have the respect for those who have come before, and put in the time to learn to shift etc. Not sure I want those who can't put in the time on the road around me. I grew up with cars that were fun to drive, and had personality. Now look what we have. What will be, will be....doesn't mean I have to like it


The newest generation appears to want it all done for them. From what I've experienced tey rarely want to put any effort into doing much.

That's their loss,
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #8 by Whiskerfish » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:24 pm

I think electric Motorcycles will have some following with the "Green Folks" but seriously doubt it will be anything like it has been. The tech is just not there for a touring or "over the road" option unless there are some significant breakthroughs. 10 years from now Motorcycle sales will be a small fraction of what they are today.

From what I have seen much of the younger generation has a completely different idea of transportation than we did. Uber and other things are driving pretty dramatic changes in the younger generation's view of transportation. For some Payments, Maintenance, fuel costs, Insurance and the associated aggravations are just not worth it when you can have someone else do it. I know some youngun's that are not even bothering to get a license. Because transportation is so convenient, cars and individual ownership do not have the same Freedom association that they did in past decades.

In 30-40 years I really suspect Internal Combustion Motorcycles and cars will be nostalgic items, as a result I can envision that in the future gas stations may be the real limiting factor. Certainly not one every corner like it is now.

Instead for cars there will be battery pack charging and changing stations. You drive in with your electric car, park over a pit and they drop out your low power battery pack and install a freshly charged pack in 5 minutes and on about your trip you go. Once the manufactures get together and develop a standard I could see that starting to happen in the next 10-15 years. Range is still the big limiting factor for many folks and once that is fixed that will be the death knell for the combustion engine.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #9 by CYBORG » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:02 am

I feel you might be correct. With any luck, I will not live to see it
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #10 by Sidecar Bob » Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:43 am

CYBORG wrote:what I don't understand is why do we need new blood.

We all age and eventually either die or are no longer capable of operating a motorcycle. If new people don't become interested in motorcycles there will be fewer and fewer of us every year until there is nobody left. Long before that point the industry would fall apart due to insufficient customer base so those of us left would not be able to obtain basic things like tires (which can't be stockpiled because they don't last).
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #11 by CYBORG » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:03 am

Sidecar Bob wrote:
CYBORG wrote:what I don't understand is why do we need new blood.

We all age and eventually either die or are no longer capable of operating a motorcycle. If new people don't become interested in motorcycles there will be fewer and fewer of us every year until there is nobody left. Long before that point the industry would fall apart due insufficient customer base so those of us left would not be able to obtain basic things like tires (which can't be stockpiled because they don't last).

I agree with that....to a point. I can envision a Sturgis type crowding everywhere. streets clogged with motorcycles. Think Viet Nam. I enjoy the back roads, and city streets where you meet the occasional on coming bike, and you can exchange the occasional wave with a like minded individual. Yes, it is probably coming. Bikes will all look alike. Clogging up the roads. And yes parts will be readily available from multi sources. But to true believers parts will still be able to be found, including tires, if you are willing to search for them. Pre war cars are still being restored by loving individuals. Yes at a price. But if you REALLY want to get them, and restore your love, it can be done. The community is small. as it should be
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #12 by Sidecar Bob » Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:54 pm

I'm not saying that we need to increase the numbers to the point where the roads are clogged with bikes (although increasing our numbers a bit might make people notice us more) but as I said, if there are no new motorcyclists to replace those who die or become incapable the numbers will dwindle to the point where there aren't enough to support a parts industry. At least if we have electric bikes some of the industries will still be there to support those of us that are keeping internal combustion machines running.

One more reason to try to attract new riders: There is strength in numbers. A lot of people feel that bikes are just a nuisance and would rather have us legislated off the road. They just might be successful if there aren't enough of us left to stand up for our rights.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #13 by CYBORG » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:11 pm

Sidecar Bob wrote:I'm not saying that we need to increase the numbers to the point where the roads are clogged with bikes (although increasing our numbers a bit might make people notice us more) but as I said, if there are no new motorcyclists to replace those who die or become incapable the numbers will dwindle to the point where there aren't enough to support a parts industry. At least if we have electric bikes some of the industries will still be there to support those of us that are keeping internal combustion machines running.

One more reason to try to attract new riders: There is strength in numbers. A lot of people feel that bikes are just a nuisance and would rather have us legislated off the road. They just might be successful if there aren't enough of us left to stand up for our rights.

I think we agree. But like a snowball rolling down a mountain side,....hard to control how fast it grows......or those caught in the avalanche...…. proceed with caution. And be careful what you wish for.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #14 by Lucien Harpress » Fri Jan 03, 2020 10:53 pm

All I know is that, even though I'm REALLY iffy when it comes to electric, if the kinks can be worked out and it gives me a comparable experience to internal combustion, I don't see what we're losing. Yeah, the thrill of gasoline, the insanity of being pushed along by hundreds of tiny explosions a second, the living breathing nature of the machine, etc., etc. We had that with steam, and we seemed to move on from that just fine. At the end of the day it's two wheels, an open road, and some way to move you along it.

And I'd rather not see motorcycling become a "niche" pastime, where parts can be gotten, but everything is a struggle. I get a bit of that with my KZ1300, and none of it is fun. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally don't want to see motorcycling become another exclusive pastime where "you need to be this rich to enter".
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1976 GL1000 (Yellow)- Carb Shenanigans.
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Re: Going electric could help revive the motorcycle industry

Post #15 by low-side » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:23 pm

In the US, the biggest sales year (number of units) for motorcycles was 1973. In nearly 50 years with 50% population growth it hasn't been topped. Boomers have been and are still the largest group of riders. As they exit there is going to be a lot more pain in the industry. It's pretty likely that the pool of riders will shrink to what it was prior to their involvement no matter what programs are put in place to attract new riders. Motorcycling is only going to appeal to so many people.


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