Peruse any motorcycle publication these days (either paper or digital) and you will be constantly assaulted by news and articles about electric motorcycles. The erstwhile journalists whose job it is to keep publishing something new are not so presumptuous as to suggest that everyone WILL be riding an electric motorcycle soon, but that is clearly what they believe. And that is clearly what they want YOU to believe as well. But, rather like the continual dripping of water wearing away a stone, they know that the battle is not going to be won by a head-on attack. No, subtlety and cunning is what is required if they are to win the war. So the headlines usually read something like this, “Electric bikes are the way of the future – will you be riding one?”
As usual, my answer to this headline is, “No, they’re not and no, I won’t.”
So here it is. Electric bikes (and cars) are the emperor’s new clothes. Everybody knows that the king is naked but nobody is game to say that he is for fear of what everyone else will say. Carried along on the waves of eco-Nazism, journalists have jumped on the electric bandwagon and are wildly praising the emperor’s new outfit. The fact that, for the most part, the emperor’s new outfit looks like it has been beaten with an ugly stick until the ugly stick broke is not even considered by these new-age prophets.
We have been being told for years that electric vehicles are the way of the future, there’s nothing new here. As motorcyclists, the news has elicited a passing interest since most of us are tech-heads anyway but the fact that they take hours to charge and then only do a couple of hundred kilometres before they have to be tediously charged again, makes the whole prospect pretty laughable. While charging time is coming down and potential distance travelled before recharging is coming up, the equation is still pretty diabolical.
Factor in (and here the eco-Nazis would rather you didn’t) the enormous cost of mining the required minerals, processing same and ultimately disposing of the toxic waste that is the end product, and you end up with a vehicle that is more expensive, has many inbuilt disadvantages and pollutes the environment much more than good old faithful internal combustion.
The elephant in the room of course is that this does NOT include the monumental hypocrisy of the vehicles having to be charged with electricity that is mostly produced by coal-fired power stations!
Nevertheless, the wealthy and privileged who fly their private jets half way across the world for a coffee, live in gated communities and splash money around like it is confetti, continue to lecture us about “inequality” and drive around in their Priuses to demonstrate their environmental commitment. The emperor’s new clothes.
Now, take that same absurd premise and apply it to motorcycles and the whole thing becomes too ludicrous for words. Why do we ride our motorcycles? What is it about riding that so obsesses us? Well, I could write article upon article about that but, the bottom line is that we do it because it FEELS good. Motorcycles answer a primal need in all of us; the need for freedom, for engagement with the world around us, for noise and excitement but, mostly, for the way that motorcycling is a pastime that strips away the layers of complexity and gets us back to the basics.
And yet we are being told that the way of the future is a silent vehicle that looks repulsive, cares for the environment (cough, cough) and delivers none of the benefits that good, old, polluting internal combustion does. “But the instant torque of an electric motor is amazing,” the disciples say. So? How much power you can put on the road is still going to be limited by your tyres regardless of what sort of motor you have.
No, I’m sorry but the electric motorcycle fails all the basic tests. There is no exciting NOISE (oh, and don’t tell me they can synthesise that, of course they can, but you’ll still KNOW that it’s fake, won’t you?) There is no tactile experience of feeling the pistons going up and down, the cams going round and round and the gears that drive those cams meshing. Oh, I’m sure they could synthesise THAT too, but my question about this has already been asked above.
For a small group of dedicated hipsters who need to be seen to be adopting everything that is new, the electric motorcycle is probably viable, but, for the vast majority of existing motorcyclists and the new ones yet to start riding, you can’t beat and you won’t beat the existing motorcycle platform.
When Charlton Heston, President of the NRA, was asked if he would give up his gun he replied, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands.” The same applies to me and my PROPER motorcycle.