For a motorcycle to be street-legal, it must have several things. Among them are a license plate holder, turn signals, brake lights, and a tail-light. But, most of all…it needs a speedometer. This is so the police can write you a ticket when you’re having too much fun, and then you can’t claim you had no way of knowing how fast you were going.
This index will just provide a snapshot of all the electric motorcycles that I could find that are made to be street-legal. Some are readily available right now, a few can be built to order, and the bottom half of this list is filled with the prototypes that are likely “looking for investors”.
#1 Zero DS, S, SR, DSR,
This company was started in 2006 by Neal Saiki, on the beautiful coast of central California, in Santa Cruz. I have to list them first because right now (June 2018) they are the largest and most successful company producing electric motorcycles, and they have a variety of models to choose from. Zero has contracted with 86 dealers in the US to carry their product line.
Their winning formula uses a large single motor mounted in the frame which drives the rear wheel with either a belt or chain (depending on model). The motor is air-cooled, which reduces complexity and weight (compared to the liquid-cooling used by race motors). It is a brushless permanent magnet 3-phase AC motor. The rotor uses Interior Permanent Magnets (IPM), which improves efficiency and reduces the heat generated near the magnets.
The battery pack uses lithium-Ion cells that are configured for a nominal 102V. In the near future, I will be writing several in-depth articles on all the ready-to-buy brands in the top portion of this list.
#2 Alta Motors, Redshift SM
Alta is based in Brisbane, California…very near to San Francisco. It was started in 2010 by three friends who originally named it BRD, a name that was changed to “Alta” in 2014. The name Alta refers to an off-road riding spot in Baja California.The Alta brand has 62 dealers in the US that carry their products.
Alta is primarily an off-road electric motorcycle company for now. However, they have one model that has had a few upgrades added to make it street legal. Their “Supermoto” is made without turn signals, a brake light, or a speedometer, and this is because it’s setup for a certain style of track racing. However, it didn’t take much to also put together an “SM” upgrade package from the factory to create a model that is similar to a street-legal dual-purpose enduro, but with street tires.
The motor has a gear-driven reduction to a jackshaft which reduces the size and weight of the motor they would need, while still providing the target horsepower. From the jackshaft output, there is a single-reduction chain to the rear wheel. The highly advanced lithium-Ion battery pack has a nominal voltage of 350V, which reduces the amount of amps the motor needs to pull from the pack.
#3 Energica EVA
Energica is a company that is based in Modena Italy. It was started in 2010 specifically to design and produce electric motorcycles. It was created by the international CRP corporation, who specializes in various cutting-edge production techniques and materials for Formulas-1 teams and the aerospace industry. Energica’s first model was the eCRP racer, and soon after, the retail EVA model.
The retail EVA model uses an oil-cooled motor, and an actively air-cooled battery pack. It was made available to the public in 2015. And as of 2018, their website shows there are six dealers in the US that carry the Energica products, along with a large contingent of dealers in the EU.
FIM has chosen a design by Energica to be the race model for the 2019 electric Moto Grand Prix series. Many different international riders will all ride identical Energica race bikes.
Lightning will build you a super sport bike, but they are made to order at this time. They started in San Carlos, California…located in the southern part of San Francisco Bay. I will add more information here as I find it.
The Bultaco company is based in Spain, and they are best-known for their offroad bikes. They have also been making gasser street bikes for some time, and now…they will be producing an electric version.
Sur-Ron White Ghost
Sur-Ron is based in China, and last year they burst onto the US off road scene with their light-weight MX “Light Bee” for off road. They are also in-production with this street sport bike, which is slated to be be imported to the US in 2019.
The Tork T6S is made in India, and I suspect they will be growing quite rapidly very soon.
Italian Volt Lacama
This is a sport-bike, and I have to confess that I really like the way that it looks. Soon…reviewers in the US will be providing ride reports, and I hope it runs as good as it looks.
This is a very wild looking model that would fit right in as a movie prop about a futuristic society. This company is from France. Mounting a single rear suspension shock on the side has recently been used by frame designers to allow the bike to be as short as possible. This time, the Wattman uses this configuration to take the existing long wheelbase and use as much of it as possible for a large battery and motor system.
The 2018 Voxan Wattman
The Lito Sora is from Quebec Canada, and…nobody can accuse them of being afraid of bold styling.
What can I say about the Livewire that hasn’t already been said by 100 other websites? I’m happy to see that they will make some of these, in order to make sure they won’t get caught off-guard “IF” electric motorcycle sales start to take off (they will), but…these aren’t being made to sell to the public just yet. You won’t have to wonder when the retail units actually begin to arrive in the hands of reviewers. Trust me…they will tell you. None of us will be able to escape the PR flood…
Two interesting bits I could find are that…some of the early development team members were formerly on the Lightning TTXGP race team, and…This model is slated to come out right about 2020, when Solid-State Batteries (SSB’s) will be available. These will double the range of a lithium-Ion battery pack of a given size, which is a crucial design element for a motorcycle…especially for a brand that prides itself on the long range of it’s products.
Agility Motors, Saietta R
As much as I want to encourage anyone who is trying to produce an EV, the Saietta R uses a very bold and unconventional style, and this is partially to encase a very large battery pack. It also uses an obscure and sophisticated front suspension, which is another risk. I hope they succeed well enough to continue innovating. Agility Motors is based in the UK.
The Mankame company is from India, and the info on the internet claims the EP-1 model is in production, but…all I could find right now is this graphic. It looks good to me, and I hope they are real.
The cruiser style of frame is something that is usually very polarizing. Either riders love them or hate them. Well…I’ve owned a sport bike…I’ve owned a cruiser, and…I loved them both. I must confess that this appeals to me very much. I think it’s beautiful, and…I also like the spartan style, with a lack of clutter.
All I’ve found out today is…they have dealers in the Netherlands, and Belgium. I will find out more and post it here later.
This sport bike is based from India, and it looks good to me…
The 2019 Emflux Model-1
Johammer is based in Austria, and the J1 is …innovative? It uses an obscure front suspension type that may have certain benefits, but…the most obvious feature is the bold style of the bodywork. I would like to suggest that it may be an updated tribute to the 1929 Majestic, but with an electric drivetrain…The unusual front suspension looks suspiciously like it was derived from the 1993 Yamaha GTS1000.
This company is from France, and the prototype shown below is clearly not “street legal”. However, their first product for sale to the public is in development, and it is a street-legal version of this “scrambler” style electric motorcycle.
Menza Motors Lucat
From India, possibly in development. Likely to be “looking for investors”.
This is a prototype designed by 13 university students from Zurich, Switzerland. It has an enormous battery pack made from 18650 cells.
The Curtiss company is based in Alabama, and this caught my eye because they are partnered with Zero for technical design expertise. They use a very unusual style, and also a “girder” style of front suspension…It is named after Glenn Curtiss, one of my heroes…
I had never heard about Roehr Motorcycles until my research for this article. They are a small operation in Illinois, and even though they started out building low-production superbikes with gasoline engines, they came to a point when they realized that the electric motorcycle industry was a completely new field with lots of opportunity, so…They put together an electric racer for the 2010 TTXGP. But…after that impressive initial introduction to the motorcycle world, they filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
The Mission Motorcycles company won the US leg of the 2011 TTXGP, and they then attempted to sell an electric superbike to the public. The pic below is Jay Leno on the Mission-RS from his youtube channel “Jay Leno’s Garage”. They sadly had to file for bankruptcy for lack of sales. As cliche as this may sound, I truly believe they were simply ahead of their time.
Brammo / Victory Empulse
The Brammo Empulse had a lot of things going for it (having started in Ashland, Oregon) but…it has still fallen by the wayside. After they burst onto the racing scene, they were bought by the global Polaris company [most known for producing snowmobiles]. Polaris also formed the Victory motorcycle division to make-and-sell large cruisers to compete with Harley-Davidson. Polaris then also purchased the production rights to the defunct Indian motorcycle brand, which then came roaring back as a surprise success.
Shortly after the time when Victory began selling and servicing Brammo Empulse motorcycles (now built in Iowa) alongside their gasoline models (at a few select dealerships), the success of the Indian brand influenced Polaris to close down the Victory brand. Their Indian cruiser brand has not announced whether they will carry the Brammo Empulse, so the Brammo patents and copyrights might either collect dust for a while, or be sold to another corporation. Only time will tell. Polaris has sold some of the Brammo assets to Cummins, who is best known for large diesel engines. Confused yet?
One of the quirks of the Brammo Empulse is that they used an off-the-shelf 6-speed transmission and clutch. This did allow the motor to be smaller, and it also gave potential buyers a more familiar experience. However…it may have also been a miscalculation that didn’t pay off.
It’s a spaghetti-ball of confusion, so…a few months from now I will perform a deep-dive into this and write an in-depth article on this interesting historic example.
Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, July 2018
Possible future additions:
Denzel ECR V1 (Russia, China)
BMW eRR, S1000RR
Brutus 2 Café, V9
DCH1 Pablo Gonzalez
Honda Cub E-scooter
Phaser-1 by Union Motion
Valetta Kickstarter prototype
ZEV Electric M-S
Vectrix R-Moto electric superbike 2007 Milan EICMA