E-bikes look for a new image

Sensemaking / E-bikes look for a new image

Manufacturers BMW, Honda and others roll out new designs to get electric motorcycles out in the mainstream.

30 Dec 2011

Manufacturers BMW, Honda and others roll out new designs to get electric motorcycles out in the mainstream.

The market for electric motorcycles is looking to spruce up its image – but, like any adolescent, doesn’t know whether to stand out or fit in. New designs range from a sci-fi inspired bike, to a practical, high performance scooter. On one hand, there’s the Lightcycle (left), built in the US and inspired by the computer animated two-wheeler in the 2010 film, ‘Tron: Legacy’. And at the other end of the scale, there’s BMW’s eScooter (below left).

You can’t buy a Lightcycle, but it does work, using a 96-volt lithium-ion battery set and electric motor to reach a claimed top speed of over 100mph, and a range of 100 miles between recharges. It’s an outlandish machine, the rider lying prone, and it doesn’t look like the most practical transport, but the neon-lit wheels and bodywork certainly make it a striking sight.

Back in the real world, the number of mainstream manufacturers announcing electric bikes is growing. Until now, this market has been the preserve of Chinese companies, or recent US start-ups. But high street brands like Honda, Yamaha and Peugeot have all announced electric scooters this year.

The latest entrant is BMW, whose eScooter claims to offer the same performance as the equivalent petrol model, with a comfortable cruising speed of 70mph, rapid acceleration up to 40mph and a battery range of 60 miles. It will recharge from flat in less than three hours, and includes regenerative braking – meaning the battery gets a small recharge as you slow down. It will be on sale within two years, and should cost the same as an equivalent petrol scooter – about £6,000.

And the Lightcycle? Don’t hold your breath. – Peter Henshaw

Photos: Parker Brothers; BMW

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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