Top 10 electric motorcycles

Would you buy an electric motorcycle? Don’t bet against it in the future

Top 10 electric motorcycles

ONLY a handful of years ago electric motorcycles were something of a laughing stock. Championed by freaks and weirdos, they offered questionable environmental benefits and demanded unacceptable compromises in terms of range, performance and practicality.

Many will argue that’s still the case, but electric bikes have taken huge strides towards becoming viable alternatives.

Even finding 10 real, production electric bikes among the litany of concepts and vapourware renderings is a challenge. But look hard enough and they’re out there, in showrooms and ready to plug in just as soon as we’re prepared to give up that addictive whiff of petrol.

This is a fast-moving field. At the moment big names like Honda are still missing, but that’s going to change soon and in five years’ time we’d be surprised if there aren’t electric offerings from every serious player in the motorcycle market. There are also intriguing machines promised in the near future from brands like Bultaco, but we’re sticking to real, showroom-ready bikes here. 

So, at the moment, there’s no question that the best and most desirable bikes in the world are still powered by dead dinosaurs. But that no longer means a top 10 ranking of electric bikes is as pointless as a list of the tastiest dog turds. Some of these things are – whisper it – good. Well, goodish, anyway. Starting with...

10: Johammer

If you wanted to illustrate all that’s wrong with the electric bike industry it might be tempting to start with Austrian firm Johammer. Its J1 (pictured above) looks frankly ridiculous, features unloved technology like hub-centre steering, has the performance of a scooter and the price of a high-end Ducati. So why’s it here? Well, it’s officially on-sale (you’ll have to go to Austria, but it can be done), which gives it a head-start over plenty of its rivals. It also claims a decent range  - 150km or 200km, depending on the model – and doesn’t weigh as much as the Titanic. Yes, that's faint praise but at €22,900 this is the most expensive 15hp we know of.

9: Saietta

If this was a list of the ugliest motorcycles ever made, there’s a strong chance the Saietta would be vying for the outright win. It’s an aesthetic horror, although the new NGS model due in 2017 is a substantial improvement over the original design. But underneath that styling there’s some substance that’s worth further investigation. A tie-in with Agni (the firm that won the original electric TTXGP at the Isle of Man in 2009) promises improvements for the NGS, but even the original Saietta R (pictured) managed impressive performance with around 100hp and an all-in weight of 220kg. Its near £17k price tag doesn’t even seem as ridiculous as once it did. The NGS promises double the power and double the range of the original Saietta R, albeit at nearer £60,000…

8: Energica

Italian firm Energica is another banging the electric superbike drum, and now it’s got three models on its books. The naked Eva is the entry-level, with 95hp and a £25k price tag, followed by the faired Ego with 136hp, and the top-of-the-range Ego45 (pictured), also with 136hp but offering higher-spec suspension and a terrifying £50k price tag. Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re also pretty convincing motorcycles. If you’re rich enough and have the desire to be early on the electric bandwagon, they’re one of the better choices. There's even a UK dealer. 

7: Alta

Alta’s Redshift, in supermoto (pictured) and motocross form, and previously known as the BRD Redshift, is one of those things that’s been on the scene for a while but never quite seems to be ready for the limelight. You won’t get one in the UK yet, but they’re available to order in America with a price of around $15,000. Yeah, it’s a lot, but the bikes are among the better developed electric offerings, with sophisticated aluminium frames and 40hp motors.

6: Lightning

It’s up for debate whether Lightning meets our ‘available’ criterion for this list. You can reserve one, and the price is set ($38,888) but it’s not clear how many have actually been delivered as yet. However, the firm has definitely managed to create something impressive, as proved by the performance of its race and land-speed record models – the bike’s name is 'LS218' because it hit 218mph during a record run. The production model (pictured), with suitable preparation, is also claimed to be able to go that fast.

5: Yamaha

From the fastest, we go to one of the slowest. Yamaha’s EC-03 is pretty pedestrian offering, but ranks high on this list because, back in the real world, it’s an electric bike that you can go out and buy right now, from a manufacturer with a proper dealer network and at a price that’s less than the national debt of a small country. While the list price is £1,999, a quick search turns up nearly-new models with little more than delivery mileage at under £1000. If you have a short, city-bound commute, that could be quite tempting if purely on the facts that it will cost next-to-nothing to run and qualifies for zero road tax. Yamaha will likely be back to the electric market soon with production versions of its much-cooler PES and PED concept bikes, too.

4: BMW

Real-world showroom availability is also the key to BMW’s position in the upper half of this list. Figures show that, unsurprisingly, the firm’s C Evolution scooter (pictured) hasn’t sold very well. At the last check there were just 37 of them on the UK’s roads, and some of those could be dealer-owned demonstrators. The fact that prices start at £13,500 is probably the be-all-and-end-all here, but the BMW is a convincing machine in other respects. It may not be the electric bike you want but it shows that BMW’s next attempt might tick many more of the right boxes.

Read our review of the BMW C Evolution

3: KTM

Again, we’ve got a proper brand here, and it’s the peace of mind offered by that which largely contributes to KTM’s position on the list. The Freeride E-SM and E-XC (pictured) are both road-legal, and thanks to a twist of legislation they might be the fastest L-plate-legal offerings you’ll find. That’s because while electric bikes wanting to fit in the nominal learner-legal 125cc class must meet the same 15hp power limit, it applies to ‘continuous’ power from an electric bike rather than ‘peak’ power. For short bursts, the KTM quite legally offers as much as 22hp. It also makes 31lbft of torque, which is far, far more than any 125 can ever hope for. As with other electrics, the high price is the sticking point – they list at over £10,000 – but the classifieds reveal some pre-registered electric KTMs in dealer stock for under £6000, making them a much more tempting proposition.

Read our review of the KTM Freeride E.

2: Victory

As of right now, you can’t buy an electric Victory in the UK, but that could change any time and when it does there will instantly be an appealing combination of a dealer network and a whole range of electric models on offer. That’s because Victory’s electric bikes are the machines formerly known as Brammo, one of the best-established of the early electric bike brands. They offer decent performance (as proven by podium finishes at the TT Zero) and range, along with price tags that don’t seem as insane as many electric rivals. Surely Victory will make the decision to bring its electrics to Europe and the UK soon…

Read our review of the Brammo Empulse R.

1: Zero

Perhaps the best-established of all the pure electric motorcycle brands, Zero’s offerings are once again available in the UK. Offering six models ranging from 44bhp to 67bhp, with prices starting at around £10k and rising to a little over £14k for the top-of-the-range SR (pictured) and DSR, they’re the most convincing electric road bikes that you can go out and buy right now. Yes, they’re still a little pricier than equivalent petrol bikes, but not by the same margin as in the past, and if you factor in savings in fuel and tax as well as potentially high resale values, a bit of man-maths could soon see a convincing argument forming for one if you’re desperate to be an early-adopter of electric bike tech.