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Are Electric Motorcycles Viable for Adventure?

The discussion of Global Warming is such a hot button topic in today’s world. I personally do not believe it is because everyone disagrees that the world is warmer but more of why and what we can really do to change it. There are countless experts with varying opinions as to how to fix the problem and this just adds to the confusion of how we fix this problem. We do not dispute anyone’s belief and value all opinions on the subject. During this cancel culture world we take this subject out of the equation and discuss how relevant our choices are today for electric powered motorcycles that will do the job our current bikes are capable of.

Electric motorcycles are here! From Harley Davidson’s Livewire to any of the bikes offered by Zero, there are options available for just about any style of riding. That being said just because there are options it does not mean they are viable alternatives to their gas powered counterparts.             

In September of 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsome joined a few other governments around the world in calling for a ban on selling new vehicles. Newsome put a target date of 2035 for California and that is surprisingly consistent with other places around the world. The EU is also aiming for a 2035 phase out of internal combustion vehicles. France, Spain, UK, Sweden, Norway and Canada are a few of the other countries pushing towards this phase out.

For Adventure riders this poses a difficult mountain to climb with the current technology at our disposal. While you can travel cross country as Felix Stellmaszek did on his HD Livewire. Careful route planning must be done beforehand to find charging stations as detailed in this article from electrek. The HD Livewire has a fast charge time of 40 minutes on a level 2 charger which in my research is leaps above the competition. Felix also did the trip with only a backpack, no tent or saddle bags to limit his range, which does not help the adventure rider any more than the Livewires design for street riding.

Looking into the adventure arena you would have to go to Zero motorcycles and the DSR/BF model. At first look this bike screams adventure, but once you start digging into the specs there are some that are troubling to the typical rider. Firstly the 102mph top speed is more than enough for any adventure seeker but don’t go to far at high speeds or you will regret it. With a short 157 mileage range for city driving (196 with optional power tank) you would think “I don’t plan to ride in the city so I will get better range.” Sadly this is not the case. At a modest 55mph the range of this motorcycle gets cut almost in half to 88 miles (110 with power tank) and Zero estimates if you do 50% stop and go and highway at 55 you would get 112 mile range (141 with power tank). If you actually plan to get on the highway and travel at a normal 70mph highway speed… well your range gets cut to a mere 64 miles (80 with power tank).

Looking at these range numbers the prospect of getting an electric adv bike is not promising. With the charging times from the Livewire it wouldn’t be so bad though, 55mph with 88 mile range maybe you would get an hour and a half if you were light on the throttle. This would be right about the time your butt would be saying pull over. A mere 40 minute charge to have a coffee or a few smokes and back on the road you go right? Wrong!

Using the integrated charger you are looking at 9.8 hours (12.1 with power tank) to charge the battery. With one accessory charger you can reduce that to 5.7 hours (7.0 with power tank) or with max accessory chargers (not sure it does not state how many) you can reduce your charge time to 2.8 hours (3.3 with power tank). They do offer a quick charger called Charge Tank, this reduces your charge time to 2.5 hours (not compatible with power tank). The Charge Tank option allows you to use level 2 charge stations, but only if you have the smaller battery with less range.

Using our example from before, your ride of 90 minutes to get 82.5 miles and you find a level 2 charger. Charge for 2 and a half hours, you are now 4 hours into your trip to get 82 miles from home!

The technology needs to improve severly for me to consider the large price tag on these options. Not to mention the fact that you would have to charge before you did any adventuring off road and be 100% sure you don’t get lost.

If you want to hear more about our ideas and thoughts on this subject check out the Podcast. If you already listened to the episode and came here for some links you can find them below. While you are here how about drop us a comment and let us know what you think of the Podcast!

Links related to the podcast!

Newsome new proposal
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/climate/california-ban-gas-cars.html

Andrew Wheeler letter to Newsome
https://apnews.com/article/climate-change-technology-environment-california-gavin-newsom-a00a0d4e495fbc2f7714a7f3228ec6fb

World Gas Phase out
https://www.coltura.org/world-gasoline-phaseouts

Zero motorcycles ADV
https://www.zeromotorcycles.com/model/zero-dsrbf

Livewire
https://www.harley-davidson.com/us/en/motorcycles/livewire.html

Alta
https://www.rideapart.com/news/289708/what-happened-to-alta-motors/

Livewire cross country ride
https://electrek.co/2020/08/14/harley-davidson-livewire-electric-motorcycle-3500-mile-cross-country-ride/

5 Responses

  1. Electric is coming fellas, it will be the bee’s knees in less than 10 years. Its already happening with manufacturers like Harley Davidson with the LIVEWIRE, Zero, and now Tesla is getting in the game. Government regulations across the globe are already increasing, European regulations are higher than the US and bike manufacturers are building them to sell in Europe. same reason KTM just released an 890 adv, so it could meet the Euro 5 restrictions. Bikes will change as fast as cell phones over the next 10 years, everything is variable valves now to meet Euro 5.
    Electric will develop over the next 10 years. Battery technology will get better, Infrastructure will be built, and manufacturers will develop better bikes.
    Manufacturers know this and that’s why they’re all building electric cars and bikes. Electric is the future. Thanks for another shot!!

    • Thanks for commenting Rodney. It does seem to be the future but we are a long way off from being viable for Adventure riding unfortunately. Happy Holidays!

      • They did just overland a continent and a half on electric bikes and SUVs for the first time ever proving its possible. Cant’ braaap a livewire but you can still burn the tires down! Happy holidays guys.

  2. First time listening to throttledadventures podcast.
    So if I buy a Livewire because #notmypresident says riding my gas powered bike disturbs to many people that have there head in the sand. I say cancel culture can suck it.

    • Haha, great use of the keyword! Can definitely tell you listened to the whole thing as well. Thank you for listening and participating in the give-away!

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