5 Step Power Guide to Electric Motorcycles
The automotive industry is heading toward electric vehicles (EVs), including more than just sedans, trucks and SUVs. Off-road fans are starting to see electric ATVs and UTVs from respected manufacturers like Yamaha and Polaris. Electric motorcycles are another popular addition to the mix.
These machines are becoming more popular with bike and off-road lovers because of their advanced technology and benefits for drivers. So, how do they work? Here’s a beginner’s guide to electric motorcycles, explaining everything you need to know.
What Are Electric Motorcycles?
From the outside, electric motorcycles look the same as their gas-powered relatives. They have a similar setup with two tires, seats, and handles. However, when you get into the finer details, there are distinctions between the two types of bikes.
Regular motorcycles have an engine requiring oil and gasoline, but electric motorcycles have neither. Instead, they run on batteries. These battery packs provide energy for the bike to move wherever you like. Gas-powered motorcycles require replacing the burned fuel, but you simply recharge electric motorcycles’ battery packs.
Another significant difference between the motorcycles is the weight distribution. Electric motorcycles’ battery packs are smaller than the standard engine and are at the back of the bike. Thus, the weight shifts to the back of your motorcycle, lightening the load on your front wheels and increasing your rear grip.
What’s Inside an Electric Motorcycle?
Electric motorcycles aim to provide the same fun riding experience as gas-powered bikes. However, the mechanical details make them unique. Here are four characteristics that define the machine.
The most important part of an electric motorcycle is its engine, which isn’t a conventional motor with pistons, combustion chambers, and carburetors.
Electric motors have only one gear instead of multi-gear transmissions, making operations much more straightforward. These engines also don’t need a cooling system because they emit significantly less heat.
Gas-powered engines rely on combustion chambers to generate power for the motorcycle. However, electric motors rely on electromagnetism — the relationship between electric currents and magnetic fields. Electric motorcycles harness power through magnetic fields through the rotor.
The rotor is one of the most essential pieces in an electric engine. It’s a moving part inside the motor that generates a magnetic field along with the stator. The two magnetic fields combine to produce torque for your electric motorcycle.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to TechTrends
Electric motorcycles have battery packs with multiple lithium-ion cells powering the device. These batteries are similar to those in electric sedans and trucks.
Electric motorcycles typically run on 12-volt batteries, with operating power ranging from 10.5 to 14.5 in a standard pack. They are also common in ATVs and other types of off-road equipment.
Most electric motorcycles use lithium-ion cells to power the machines, but other innovations are starting to hit the market. For example, nickel metal hydride, lithium phosphate or lead acid may be in the battery packs.
Electric motorcycles also have a battery management system (BMS). These devices track your battery pack to identify its voltage, temperature and other important information. The last thing you want is a dead or overheated battery on the trail.
Electric motorcycles don’t have a carburetor to mix fuel and air because there’s no gasoline. Instead, these machines rely more on their controller to regulate engine operations. For example, the controller is responsible for power regulation. This part manages how much power comes from your throttle position to the engine.
The controller also controls the braking process. Electric motorcycles have regenerative braking, which captures energy instead of releasing it. Braking with an electric motorcycle causes the controller to convert your bike’s kinetic energy into electrical power — thus recharging the motorcycle.
Gone are the days when you had to rely on a gas pump to refuel your motorcycle. Electric motorcycles let you avoid the gasoline smell and use a charging port, which is typically located where the gas tank would have been. Alternatively, you may find them just under the seat, in the rear or on the side panels.
Can Electric Motorcycles Go Off-Road?
Imagine it’s a warm summer day with the sun shining brightly. You drive electric motorcycles down the highway with your buddies and decide you want to go off-road for a while. Thankfully, they’re just as good as gas-powered bikes and even better in some situations.
For example, consider a situation where you need rapid acceleration, such as climbing a hill or traversing sand and mud. Electric motorcycles are better than gas-powered bikes because of their torque. You instantly get torque from an electric motorcycle, whereas a gas-powered machine may require shifting gears. In this circumstance, electric motorcycles are better for beginners with bikes and the outdoors.
Electric motorcycles typically have a lower center of gravity than their gas-powered counterparts. This feature makes it easier to keep your bike stable despite the unforgiving terrain you drive on. Internal combustion engine (ICE) motorcycles have an engine and fuel tank, raising the center of gravity and making them more unstable for riders.
Benefits of Electric Motorcycles
Electric motorcycles are advantageous on pavement and rough terrain. The benefits of these machines are similar to the ones you see with other EVs on the road. Here are five advantages you get when driving electric motorcycles.
One reason many off-road enthusiasts turn to electric motorcycles is environmental health. These bikes don’t need gasoline to run, thus reducing your fossil fuel consumption. No fuel means you don’t need an exhaust system to emit fumes from your motorcycle. Electric motorcycles have no tailpipe emissions — thus lowering your environmental impact on the trails you drive.
Moving from gas-powered machines to EVs has been a sticking point for the automotive industry. Research shows the transportation industry accounts for 28% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, leading manufacturers across the board to find alternatives.
New technology often comes with steep price tags. However, more market competition and better practices make the products cheaper. You can see this trend specifically with EV batteries. A decade ago, only a handful of companies produced batteries, and they were expensive. In the last 10 years, battery production costs have dropped 87% due to research and development in the industry.
Tax credits are another source of affordability. The federal government used to offer rebates if you purchased an electric motorcycle, but those credits have expired. Still, you can take advantage of state tax credits. For example, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) offers a $750 rebate for purchasing a new zero-emission motorcycle.
Gas-powered motorcycles can be a nuisance to neighbors because of their loud sounds. Their exhaust systems are less restrictive, with short pipes and high-performance engines. However, this problem isn’t present with electric motorcycles, so they offer a quieter experience.
Electric bikes are much quieter because there are no exhaust pipes or mufflers. Manufacturers often implement noise-reduction technology to minimize vibrations and insulate the sounds coming from the motorcycle. Electric motorcycles excel at lowering air pollution and are terrific for mitigating noise pollution.
A common theme with electric motorcycles, ATVs and other machines is how low maintenance they are. EVs have fewer moving parts and are much simpler for riders to operate. For example, gas-powered vehicles typically have 2,000 engine components, whereas EVs have about 20.
With electric motorcycles, you don’t have to worry about keeping up with the fluids in your bike. You’ll save money by not purchasing oil, transmission fluid, coolant and more. Electric motorcycles also have fewer parts that wear and need replacement, such as spark plugs, clutches and sprockets.
Charging can be complex for EVs, but it’s relatively straightforward with electric motorcycles. You’ll need a cable to plug in your bike but not a unique outlet. You can plug in your bike and charge the machine overnight without visiting a charging station.
Drawbacks of Electric Motorcycles
Electric motorcycles bring numerous benefits to the table, but these drawbacks give some people pause.
The range can be a limiting factor for electric motorcycles. These bikes typically have a lower range than gas-powered motorcycles because the energy density is lower in the batteries. Innovative technology may close the gap this decade — but electric motorcycles still lack in their range. Most bikes on the market top around 100 miles, while some get closer to 150 miles.
Imagine you plan an entire day riding your electric motorcycle down paved and unpaved roads. Unfortunately, you can only go so far before you need to charge again. You’ll have a much easier time finding a charger in the city. Finding a charging station while off-roading in rural areas may be challenging.
Currently, the U.S. has over 130,000 chargers in 50 states and territories. The federal government plans to reach 500,000 chargers, which will help with access. However, planning off-roading trips with your electric motorcycle can be challenging if your destination doesn’t have enough charging stations.
Another drawback for electric motorcycles is the charging time itself. Filling up a gas-powered bike takes a few minutes. However, an electric motorcycle could require a few hours to charge fully.
New technology will reduce charging times and improve the electric motorcycle experience. For example, Lightning Motorcycles says it only needs 10 minutes to recharge its electric motorcycles fully. Until this technology is more widespread, you’ll have to be patient with the charging times.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to TechTrends
Wrapping It Up
New technologies become the norm as the auto industry advances. Off-road fans have only seen the beginning of electric ATVs, UTVs and motorcycles.
Electric motorcycles are a welcome addition because of their environmental friendliness, simple operations and incredible torque. However, there is room for improvement regarding the charging infrastructure. Regardless, they are an alternative worth considering.