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Why electric motorcycles are falling flat in New Zealand

Home Forums Bikes Electric Motorcycles Why electric motorcycles are falling flat in New Zealand

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    • Town/City: Tauranga
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV, BMW R100GS
    • Rank: Round the World Adventure Globetrotter

    You may have noticed that electrically assisted bicycles are now a dime a dozen in cycle shops across the country, so it’s a surprise that more Kiwis don’t see electric motorcycles as an even better solution to their personal mobility needs.

    Some established motorcycle brands now have electric-powered models on sale in offshore markets but it appears that the New Zealand distributors of these brands have yet to be convinced that there is a market here for them.

    Contrast this to electric bike importers, who now are upping their order volumes to meet the demand of a personal mobility segment that is expanding rapidly here.

    Faraday-inspired force flings BMW C evolution from 0-50kmh in 2.7 seconds.

    In the interest of clarity, let’s call electric bikes (those that retain pedals) E-bikes for the rest of this feature, and electrically powered motorcycles (those that have no need for human leg muscle assistance) E-motos.

    According to most of the traditional motorcycle distributors and dealers contacted, unless E-motos become more cost-effective in terms of their high purchase prices, there is little chance of Kiwi bikers being able to purchase sophisticated zero-emission motorcycles like a new BMW C evolution maxi-scooter or KTM Freeride E dirt bike.

    Both these latter machines are proving popular with European consumers. The Freeride has become the recreational dirt bike of choice on the continent because it completely skids around the noise pollution issue, while the C evolution scored a couple of high-profile fleet sales deals in May.

    The urban police forces of Barcelona and Sardinia’s Cagliari, have both adopted the plugged-up Beemers as their latest cross-town pursuit vehicles, signing off what are thought to be the first fleet supply contracts to be granted to purely electric-powered motorcycles.

    Wi-Bike range goes on sale in NZ in July. Ten levels of assistance, including one for fitness.

    But why aren’t E-motos more accepted here, where electric vehicles have an opportunity to have a bigger impact on the environment thanks to our ability to generate more 80 per cent of our power needs from renewable sources?

    Is it that motorcycles are perceived as being more dangerous than bicycles, despite a British study finding them to be 30 times safer in terms of the number of injuries sustained per the number of kilometres travelled?

    Or is it the high cost, both at the E-moto’s point of sale, and ongoing costs such as the need to invest in protective clothing and road registration? Most in the motorcycle industry are quick to point out an inconvenient truth about E-motos – that their petrol-powered equivalents continue to out-trump them on cost-effectiveness.

    “A 50cc scooter will cost about three grand while its electric-powered equivalent would be seven grand (if imported and sold here),” says multi-franchise motorcycle distributor, Ian Beckhaus.

    “You can travel for quite some distance on all the petrol that difference will buy you.”

    As the Kiwi importer of Vespa, BMW, Triumph, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, and other motorcycle brands, Beckhaus says that he is watching the electric motorcycle market closely, but he won’t be bringing the C evolution in any time soon. The most silent-running BMW motorcycle/scooter would cost approximately $20,000 if imported here.

    Harley Livewire still under development, but NZ dealers are keen to sell it.

    “We’d then have to invest tens of thousands of dollars in technical support, and the demand just isn’t there to justify it… yet.

    “But the proponents of electric motorcycles are doing an exceptional job of promoting them, and that’s why we’re watching any developments closely.”

    One of those proponents is Sheldon Nesdale, owner of the website loveelectricmotorcycles.com. He sees the E-moto sector as an opportunity for new start-up brands to appeal to a new breed of motorcyclist.

    “In many cases new E-moto brands are the innovators. They don’t have decades of dealer network relationships to clear a path to the market, so they will need to rely on direct sales, crowd-sourcing campaigns and guerrilla marketing and sidestep the existing industry completely.”

    For Ponsonby Vespa dealer, Chris Hyland, there is a simple reason that the E-bike is beating the E-moto in the battle for the hearts and minds of those who wish to ride a zero-emission two-wheeled vehicle.

    “The bicycle is far lighter and therefore there is no need for range (you can simply pedal it home if the battery runs out). A battery range of 100km is considered not enough for a motorcycle but it’s more than enough for an electrically-assisted bicycle.”

    Come July, Hyland will have the first imports of the new Wi-Bike range on sale, made by Vespa’s owner, Piaggio. There are four models to choose from, each featuring pedal power assisted by a 250-watt electric motor. There’ll be 10 levels of electric assistance to choose from and three riding modes, including one for fitness. A cellphone app will then monitor the rider’s heartbeat if required while also aiding parking security, communications, and navigation.

    The power stored in lithium-ion battery of the Wi-Bike can provide up to 125km of electrically-assisted travel in optimum riding scenarios. The top speed in calm, flat conditions is 45kmh.

    Before unveiling the Wi-bike range at the EICMA show in Milan last November, Piaggio crowed loudly about the increased fuel efficiency of new petrol-powered 125cc Vespa models capable of travelling 42km on a litre of fuel but an electric version was conspicuously-absent. It appears that Italy’s largest motorcycle maker has decided that the E-bike is a better bet than the E-moto.

    From: http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/bikes/80581364/Why-electric-motorcycles-are-falling-flat-in-New-Zealand

    • Bike: 2102 Husaberg FE570 Rally Australia Bike, 2007 BMW 650 x-Challenge, 2009 Buell XP Ulysses Police Duty (1 of 137)
    • Rank: 800cc Rider

    It’s also a question of value. Same thing happening in the EV market for cars, although to a less extent and there are at least options in NZ. People see a high price tag for limited range or ability a pointless expenditure. Once the range of an ‘E-moto’ surpasses 200-250km, they will start selling even at 20,000NZD because they do what a regular bike does, with less maintenance costs. But that all depends on battery tech, and the e-moto engineers realising they can make a better distance/range bike with better aerodynamics (only seeing this in TT and racing so far).

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