Evoke Electric Motorcycles Aiming to Bring Affordability to Market

The words affordable and electric motorcycle don’t usually go hand in hand, but if a new Chinese based startup gets their way then we could soon see electric motorcycles that are priced in line with ICE bikes. While currently only available for sale in Beijing and Shanghai, the company has plans to expand further afield into South East Asia.

The main man behind the company known as Evoke is Nathan Siy who grew up in Canada and began his exploration of electric motorcycles while offering tours of Beijing using electric scooters. Thus was born the Evoke Urban S and Urban – both naked styled motorcycles that aren’t half bad looking compared to what often comes out of China.

While they certainly sit below American based Zero Motorcycles insofar as specifications go, they’re also course considerably cheaper too. And if there specifications are to be believed (yes, grain of salt time) then they’re remarkably good value. Costing the equivalent of about $6,500 USD, the Evoke Urban S manages a range of up to 160 kilometers and a top speed of 130 kph – more than adequate for China’s clogged roadways and still acceptable for most western commutes, too.

The Evoke Urban S uses a 7.2 kWh lithium cobalt battery which produces maximum power of 19 kw (25 horsepower). That puts it roughly in line with 150cc to 250cc machines. Curb weight is 183 kg and it sports twin discs up front with 4 pot calipers and 42mm inverted forks.

Would it pass muster in comparison to the Zero and Victory range? Maybe not, but it’s exciting to see that China is already entering the electric motorcycle game and that can only be good for prices and the technology going forward.

evoke urban 001 evoke urban 002 evoke urban 003 evoke urban 004

Victory Empulse TT Unveiled

Not long after competing at the Isle of Man TT, Victory has unveiled their first electric motorcycle, the Victory Empulse TT. We knew that an electric motorcycle was on the way from Victory after Polaris acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business earlier this year, but it’s come unexpectedly early. And it’s final confirmation of a big change in Victory’s direction as a motorcycle manufacturer.

While the bike is based on Brammo’s Empulse, Victory hasn’t just rebadged the machine. Both the rear shock and front upside down forks are fully adjustable and dual front disc brake are standard. Victory engineers also worked on improving the Empluse’s battery capacity, display function, and handling. There’s been subtle updates to the bikes style, too.

The Victory Empulse TT is capable of top speeds of over 100 mph, and it has a high-capacity 10.4kWh battery. The bike has a built-in battery charger and an easily accessible SAE J1772 plug atop the bodywork in front of the seat. The bike’s Brammo Power Lithium Ion battery fully charges in just 3.9 hours using a Stage 2 charger (available as an accessory utilizing a 240V outlet).

In typical riding, the Empulse TT battery provides a rider with a range of about 65 miles (104 km), and a range of 100 miles (161 km) is possible with throttle management and use of the bike’s regenerative charging. In preliminary testing, the bike demonstrated a Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) city range of 94 miles (151 km). The bike delivered an MIC “combined 70 mph highway and city range” of 57 miles (92 km).

The Victory Empulse TT retains a manual gearbox which is a unique in comparison to most other fully automatic electric bikes. The rider only needs to use the clutch when shifting between gears, not for taking off or coming to a stop. When coming to a stop, a rider can leave the bike in gear, or choose to click the shifter down (without pulling in the clutch) to put the bike in neutral. That said, there’s enough torque in this engine that riders can virtually leave the bike in third gear most of the time.

At this stage, the Victory Empulse TT is only confirmed for sale in the US where it will be available before the end of the year. We understand however that is being considered by Victory both in Australia and the UK.

 

2014 Zero S Motorcycle Ride Review

As much as you might have been told before setting off for the first time on an electric motorcycle, nothing can prepare you for the strange sensation of near silence as you open the throttle on the Zero S and accelerate away. Zero Motorcycles are one of the more successful mainstream electric motorcycle manufacturers and their Zero S attempts to strike a happy medium between performance, price and range. But does it tick off all those aspirations or is the technology still not mature enough for the mainstream?

Zero Motorcycles was first established in 2006 and has quickly become a name synonymous with more mainstream electric bikes alongside the likes of Brammo. The Zero S is classed as a naked, with minimal fairings and a fairly upright riding position and has been available since 2009. Almost every year, Zero makes major advances with the bike and the bike that you can buy in 2014 is leaps and bounds ahead of the original machine.

Unlike it’s main competitor, the Brammo Empulse, the Zero S does away with a clutch and therefore has a single gear.  Using what Zero calls a clutchless direct drive, it does create a small compromise as the one gear needs to be a jack of all trades. But with full torque available from the get go and full power nearly the same, that’s not really a big deal. In additoin to making things simpler (and cheaper), doing away with a gearbox and clutch also means a reduction in maintenance – in fact the Zero S entire powertrain is maintenance-free.

The electric motor in the Zero S has an output of 54hp @ 4,300 rpm and 68 lb ft of torque at, well, all RPM. That’s a fantastic amount of torque in comparison to the actual horsepower of the bike and it’s instantaneous availability is one of the great advantages of electric motors. But all that torque in the world can’t make hide that low power figure. It’s only marginally more than the learner friendly Honda CBR500R (50hp @ 8,500 rpm) and gets dwarfed by the Yamaha FZ-07 (74 hp @ 9,000 rpm). I know we’re comparing apples and oranges in a way, but when the Honda and Yamaha cost $6,299 and $6,990 respectively while the Zero S is $15,345, those comparisons need to be made.

Starting the bike is another exercise in quirkiness. Turn the key, put up the world’s ugliest kickstand and you’re away. No starter button to press. I did find however that sometimes there was a lag between putting up the kickstand and when the engine was ready to go. The sound of the electric motor is great in my opinion, especially when you make it work hard. All those sound effects you remember as a kid growing up become reality now, the whine has a definite futuristic feel to it and I received a lot of strange looks from motorists when I filtered between their cars.

Claimed acceleration figures are 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds which is around what a Ninja 300 will do. Unfortunately, it feels even slower than that figure and it’s already fairly pedestrian for a two-wheeler, especially one at this price. A big part of that is probably the lack of noise. A howling engine that overwhelms your senses plays a big part in the sensation of speed. Without that it just seems like you’re accelerating slower than you actually are. Where it lets you down from a standing start it makes up for when you’re at speed though.

When at cruising speed, the torque of the electric motor becomes apparent. A twist of the throttle will see you going from 40 mph to 60 mph in less than 2 seconds and similarly from 60 mph to 80 mp in under 3 seconds. Not only is that impressive, it’s extremely practical for city riding. It makes overtaking far easier than a bike of this power should be capable of.  And combined with the decent ergos of the bike, makes it great to filter in heavy traffic with.

And city riding really does seem to be this bikes specialty. Sure, you can take it into the mountains for a squirt through the curves (as long as they’re close enough), but I question if that’s your main objective why you’d purchase this bike. A Ninja 300 is as quick and has better handling than the Zero S. The Zero is however effortless to ride.  No clutch, no gears, instant power when it’s really needed and a comfortable riding position.

I’d almost go far as to say it’s a motorcycle designed for scooter riders. And if that sounds like an insult, I don’t mean it as such. But at this stage, this to me isn’t a motorcycle for motorcycle riders. There’s no where near enough performance, and without better speed and acceleration the bike feels really lacking given it’s characterless personality. And that has nothing to do with the limits of the technology. Check out reviews of the Zero SR and you’ll see fairly consistent praise for its more powerful engine. But costs are obviously still an issue and hence what we have with the Zero S.

And it’s not just the engine that seems to have suffered from price constraints. The bike seems solidly made but I can’t shake the feeling that it seems somewhat cheap. That’s probably not helped by the black and yellow color scheme of the bike I rode. For the price it just doesn’t scream quality. As mentioned before, the kickstand is horribly ugly and I disliked how the front brake line seems to be so exposed instead of being hidden like on almost every other modern motorcycle – it reminds me of a children’s BMX. The seat padding is also thin and would definitely start hurting after a while in the saddle.

On the plus side I found the rear view mirrors excellent, providing a huge amount of adjustment for almost any sized rider to see behind them. The instrument cluster is clear and easy to use and the overall riding position is quite a nice place to be. The grips however are rather hard and I also found the rear brake pedal a bit too far forward of the foot pegs. Yes, I’m being pedantic but this is a $15,000 plus bike we’re talking about here.

The elephant in the room is of course the range. Claimed range for the middle of the road Zero S which has a 12.5 kWh battery is 115 miles of combined city and highway riding. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. And like fuel consumption figures, you can guarantee the reality is not as impressive. You can opt for a bigger battery which extends the range to 141 miles, but that bumps up the price up to $17,840 plus increases the weight of the bike by a substantial 44 lb, making it even slower.

While we tested the 2014 model, the 2015 model will get upgraded suspension, ABS brakes (which haven’t even been available as an option previously) and better rubber, but the motor remains unchanged.

I went away from riding the Zero S somewhat underwhelmed. No doubt the Zero S is made to a price point and that means an underpowered engine. Which is a shame because otherwise it’s a decent bike – just not an exhilarating one. The Zero SR, which starts at $17,435 would definitely be the bike to choose and is a proper example of what a modern day electric motorcycle can achieve.

EngineZ-Force 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux permanent magnet, brushless motor
Capacity12.5 kWh
Power54 hp (40 kW) @ 4,300 rpm
Torque68 ft-lb (92 Nm)
Gear BoxClutchless direct driv
Front BrakesBosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc
Rear BrakesBosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc
Front SuspensionShowa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear SuspensionShowa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front Tire110/70-17
Rear Tire140/70-17
Wet Weight408 lb (185 kg)
Tank CapacityN/A

2015 Alta RedShift SM – An Electric Supermoto

You could call the 2015 Alta RedShift SM the ultimate hooligan bike – if only the price was lower and the range longer. Unfortunately, these two factors make the Alta RedShift SM a rich man’s toy which is such a shame as it looks like it would be stupidly good fun to ride.

Here’s why. Firstly, the Redshift SM has the most powerful engine in a motorcycle today, based on a hp/lb ratio. It puts out 40hp from it’s 11lb engine. A typical 600cc engine weighs around 150lb and puts out around 125 hp – so the RedShift pumps out a hell of a lot of juice from a small package.

40hp might not sound like much, but the entire bike weighs only 265lb. Additonally, it comes with WP suspension (both front and rear fully adjustable) and Brembo brakes. So far it all sounds fantastic. Until you see the price.

For the Alto RedShift SM, you’ll need to part with $15,495. Granted, electric bikes are still in their infancy and attract a premium. But then there’s the battery range – 50 miles. No, I’m not missing a 1 at the front there – 50 miles is the calculated range for mixed riding, and you can guarantee that’s a conservative figure. To put that in perspective, if you ride on a freeway at 65mph, you’ll run out of power in about 45 minutes.

It’s like a remote control car you played with as a kid. You get a small amount of joy out of it, but most of the time you’re charging the battery. In fairness, the main point of this bike is to be raced and a 50 mile range is sufficient for this task. Alto has also designed it so that the battery can be swapped out in around 15 minutes. But this bike is being sold as a street legal motorcycle and for that purpose, it’s grossly inadequate.

Perhaps we should look at the Alto RedShift SM as a preview of things to come. In five years time when battery technology has matured sufficiently, a bike like this will probably cost half the price and have quadruple the range. And that’s something very exciting to look forward to. For now though, it’s hard to justify it’s expense. Especially when you compare it with the Zero FX. Granted, that’s not a true supermoto, but it has virtually the same performance figures, yet costs $9,845.

Alto is also releasing a dirt bike version (the Alto RedShift MX) with virtually the same specifications. So if you’re really serious about competition where range isn’t an issue and you want more reliability, no oil changes and no rebuilds, then perhaps the price is worthwhile. Otherwise, sit tight for a few more years.

 

Brammo Seek Capital Raising – Preview an Electric Cruiser

Electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo is looking to raise funds to further fuel its expansion, seeking investors on the venture capital website EarlyShares. While most of the details of the capital raising are for investors eyes only, it has been leaked that Brammo is looking at the possibility of manufacturing an electric cruiser in a similar vein to Harley-Davidson’s Electric Livewire concept.

Dubbed the eCruiser (no points there for innovative naming), it currently looks like a cross between the Harley-Davidson Livewire and an MV Augusta Dragster. Obviously this single render is hardly indicative of what the bike would actually look like (if it’s ever built) but it’s great to see the market for electric bikes is beginning to cover all styles and tastes.

Brammo recently slashed the price on its range. The Brammo Empulse can now be purchased for $10,000, a massive $7,000 discount. This years model receives a discount of $5,000 (down to $14,000). Ironically, these reduced prices are to do with Brammo’s IPO, as they are seeking volume before going public.

For those interested in investing in Brammo, the minimum amount you’ll need to pay is a cool $25,000, or two and a half 2013 model Empulse’s.

Electric Kawasaki Ninja On The Way?

There were strong indications that Kawasaki were working on an electric motorcycle back in 2012, but AMCN has gathered new images that show the Japanese manufacturer may actually be a lot closer than we thought to releasing a full blown electric bike.  And it looks like Kawasaki’s first electric bike will be a ‘beginner’ sports bike.

The patent image shows a bike that strongly resembles the current Ninja 300 and even though it’s not required, comes with a clutch and gearbox, perhaps to keep the traditionalists somewhat appeased.  Other components that are shared with the Ninja 300 include wheels and suspension.

While this certainly wouldn’t be the first electric sports bike to make it to the market, it’s certainly the first to be aimed at the entry level rider.  And it’s possibly not a bad idea – the current electric bikes have phenomenal performance characteristics with full power available from the go.  But with this comes the current limitations of the technology – limited range.

A potentially ‘slower’ electric bike may be able to trade off that performance for longer range.  This is obviously chief in mind for Kawasaki, as the patent images also show the ability to swap batteries in and out.  It’s not a simple looking process though, with the entire left hand side of the frame designed to be slid out using a trolley.  That may also indicate Kawasaki is looking at an electric bike series.

Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle the ‘Livewire’ to be announced

Harley-Davidson has all but confirmed it will be announcing a production electric motorcycle tomorrow after a whirlwind 48 hours of rumors.  Spy photos taken from the set of The Avengers sequel were published by UK tabloid the Daily Mail, back in April, but unbeknownst to most, they showed a potential all new electric Harley-Davidson.

After an article by UK magazine Visordown pointing out this electric possibility a few days ago, Harley-Davidson today released a teaser trailer on Youtube featuring one very quiet sounding bike.  The full announcement will occur tomorrow with patent applications indicating the bike will be called the Livewire.

This is a potentially game changing release by Harley-Davidson, as it would make it the first mainstream motorcycle brand to embrace an electric bike.   Not Honda, not BMW, but HD.  Its ground breaking for Harley-Davidson in itself, as it’s probably the last manufacturer one would expect to consider an electric bike.  Think of it like Toyota releasing the Prius and how that changed the industry, except that Harley-Davidson is actually a brand people desire.

Harley-Davidson is a very polarizing company.  Built on a macho, outlaw image, their bikes are hardly cutting edge in anyway.  In fact, Harley-Davidson is often criticized for solely relying on its brand image rather than actually manufacturing quality products.  As this scientifically created Venn diagram below shows, they’re a company you almost solely either love or hate.

Venn Diagram of Harley Davidson

And that’s what makes this impending announcement so exciting.  A company like Harley-Davidson releasing something cutting edge could bring electric bikes to the mainstream so much quicker.  That’s a good thing, as we’ve seen from the likes of Zero and Mission, electric bikes are actually damn exciting and already have incredible performance.

So, congratulations Harley-Davidson.  You may just be about to win over a lot of converts and new fans.