No paradigm shift in sight
The electric motorcycle is on hold

This audio version was artificially generated. More info | Send feedback

Around 2010, the electric euphoria also spread to motorcycles. However, the spark has not spread among customers and established manufacturers since then. It will probably stay that way for the time being.

Even though critical voices about e-mobility have recently been raised again, mobility experts have long been in agreement: there is no alternative to the triumph of electric drives in cars and commercial vehicles. Things are different in the motorcycle world, which has long since set course for Electric Avenue, but remains true to the traditional combustion engine mainstream.

As early as 2012, BMW fueled hope for a future of high-performance and long-range single-track electric vehicles with the C Evolution large scooter, which was further nurtured in the following years by concepts and series model announcements from established motorcycle manufacturers.

While the electric car has long since become a mass phenomenon, the high-speed economic engine of the electric motorcycle has started to sputter. In any case, sales figures remain modest, especially since some established motorcycle manufacturers have put their plans for electric series models on hold and some start-ups have already filed for bankruptcy again.

Market figures for Germany for 2023

The fact that things are not going well for electric motorcycles is demonstrated, among other things, by the market figures for Germany for the past year presented by the Motorcycle Industry Association (IVM) based on KBA data. With around 212,400 new registrations, the overall market grew by 7.2 percent, and motorcycles even increased by 16.4 percent to around 125,700 new registrations.

The trough after the Corona dip in 21/22 has finally been passed, but not for motorcycles with electric drives, of which only 445 units were new on the road. Compared to 2022 with 561 new registrations, this corresponds to a decrease of over 20 percent. Compared to 2020, the decline is 42 percent. A changed funding regime like in the car sector cannot be used to explain this significant decline, as electric motorcycles have not yet benefited from government purchase incentives such as an environmental bonus.

No shortage of offers

There is no shortage of offers. The US electric pioneer Zero has been represented in Europe since 2009 and has been offering a broad model portfolio for several years. Projects such as Harley's Livewire and the Italian electric motorcycle brand Energica were also launched around 10 years ago. Initially there was certainly great euphoria on the part of investors in view of Tesla's meteoric rise. However, significant numbers have not yet been produced. Some newcomers like Cake from Sweden or Eysing from Holland are now even bankrupt.

If you look at the manageable list of manufacturers of electric motorcycles, you will mainly find newcomers. With a few exceptions, the established players have so far only neglected the issue. In some cases, announcements remain until further notice, which are currently being put on the back burner.

No significant demand

This is the case with BMW's motorcycle division, which originally wanted to present an electric model in 2025. This has now been postponed until 2027 at the earliest because there is no significant customer demand for electrically powered motorcycles “in any market in the world” either now or in the foreseeable future, BMW motorcycle boss Markus Flasch recently explained. Thanks to the latest battery cells, BMW is technically capable of building a motorcycle with a range of over 200 kilometers, said Flasch on the sidelines of a model presentation in Lisbon. As long as customers are not ready to buy, starting production makes no sense.

Other manufacturers are likely to assess the market situation in a similar way. Triumph from England reported publicly on the development of the TE-1, but stopped the project at the prototype stage almost two years ago. Things have also become suspiciously quiet about the electric ambitions of Ducati and KTM.

There is still no reason for manufacturers to buy new tires

The tire manufacturer Michelin – for whom electric motorcycles offer the opportunity to occupy a new niche with new types of tires – also has no reason to develop tires specifically for this segment. Romain Bouchet, Vice President Technical Division Two Wheel at Michelin, has not yet seen any strong signals from the motorcycle industry that two-wheeled leisure mobility could move towards electric drives in the foreseeable future. There is simply no technology on the market that allows electric motorcycles to compete with their conventionally powered counterparts, Bouchet said. He also sees little interest among motorcyclists, who in his opinion are traditionally oriented and love the combustion engine.

Not only when it comes to subjective perception, but also when it comes to objective fact checking, the electric motorcycle doesn't really cut a good figure, because it has to struggle with the corset of physics much more than the electric car. Ranges that are reasonably suitable for everyday use drive the weight to heights that are almost absurd for motorcycles. Especially since their range can literally collapse when driving overland, also because the possibilities for aerodynamic optimization are much narrower than with cars. Added to this are the long loading times. And finally, the electric vehicles cannot outpace their combustion engine competitors in the two-wheel sector as clearly and impressively as they can in cars, for example.

E-motorcycles are difficult to market because they are expensive

But especially in terms of price, electric motorcycles remain difficult to sell to customers because they are expensive, while at the same time Chinese manufacturers have been flooding the German market with well-made and particularly affordable combustion engine models for several years. These often only cost around a third of a comparable electric model.

What the electric motorcycle is missing are significant cost and price reductions through economies of scale, which Tesla in particular was able to achieve with the electric car and thus make it suitable for the masses in terms of price. This is where the old chicken and egg problem comes into play. Without competitive supply, there is no demand. Without demand there is no large and therefore generally cheaper offer. The automotive industry has long since overcome this hurdle, which is often difficult for new technologies to overcome, thanks to generous government funding programs.

Not hopeless

However, the future of electric drives in two-wheelers is not hopeless. In the area of ​​small motorcycles, electric models will probably prevail because they offer sufficient range for city use and e-scooters often represent interesting alternatives in terms of price, also because the exhaust gas cleaning of the little stinkers has now become quite expensive due to EU regulations. Interest in electric models could also soon increase in the area of ​​light motorcycles.

Perhaps the powerful and long-range electric two-wheelers from China will soon attract greater interest. Horwin is bringing the Senmenti 0 maxi scooter onto the European market this year, which, thanks to its automotive-standard electric architecture, offers performance like a sports motorcycle and also a generous range at a still moderate price. It is possible that this technological advance from China will soon find imitators and buyers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here