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'People are fascinated': Electric motorcycles surge in sales

Public's reaction to electric bikes is 'overwhelmingly positive. People are smiling. They think it's cool,' says industry insider

The "loud pipes save lives" crowd won't buy them, but the surge to buy electric motorcycles is quickly gaining momentum in Ontario.

Electric motorcycles have been gaining popularity in recent years as people look for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered bikes.

They offer several benefits that make them a compelling choice for many riders, and some were on display at the recent Toronto Motorcycle Show.

John Acton is the regional sales director for Zero Motorcycles in Ontario.

"We're really excited to be here," he said. "This is a huge show and this is the biggest market in Canada and one of the largest markets in North America."

One of the primary advantages of an electric motorcycle is its environmental friendliness. Electric motorcycles do not produce any emissions, making them a great choice for riders who are conscious of their carbon footprint. Additionally, electric motorcycles are much quieter than their gasoline counterparts, making them ideal for riders who want to reduce noise pollution.

"They're becoming more accepted," said Acton, who credits the automotive industry with raising the profile of electric vehicles. "They've made it easier for people to adapt to the idea of people having an electric vehicle, and by extension, electric motorcycles are becoming more appealing."

Another benefit of electric motorcycles is their low maintenance costs. With fewer moving parts than gasoline-powered bikes, there are fewer things that can break down and require expensive repairs. Additionally, electric motorcycles do not require oil changes, spark plugs, or other routine maintenance that is necessary for gasoline bikes.

But like cars, how far you can ride your battery-powered bike is still a question that often gets asked. One of the primary concerns for riders is the limited range of electric motorcycles. Most electric bikes can travel around 160 to 240 kilometres on a single charge, which is significantly less than the range of a typical gasoline bike. This means that riders need to plan their trips carefully and make sure they have access to charging stations along the way.

"It's the No. 1 question we get asked," said Acton. "Ranges are increasing, but what we're finding is the proliferation of charging stations and the expansion of electric charging infrastructure is really driving a lot of the sales. Many of our motorcycles can charge at the same place you charge your car. A bike will charge much faster than a car because of the smaller battery."

That fact alone is overcoming the "range" objections.

"It becomes a much more appealing and logical purchase," said Acton. "We see sales increasing every year."

Power isn't a problem and torque is awesome, he said. Because electric motors have instant torque, they can accelerate quickly and smoothly, making them a joy to ride.

"Our new flagship bike the DSR-X is 166 pound-feet of torque. It's an eyebrow-raiser, for sure. There's not a lot of bikes out there in that range and it's all instantaneous and it's something you really have to experience."

That's why demo rides are a huge part of the Zero marketing strategy. 

Another concern for riders is the cost of electric motorcycles. While the upfront cost of an electric bike may be higher than a gasoline bike, riders can save money in the long run on fuel and maintenance costs. Additionally, some governments offer tax incentives for electric motorcycle purchases, which can help offset the initial cost.

"Our bikes are priced pretty much on par with other premium brands like BMW, Ducati and KTM  We don't see a whole lot of cross-shoppers. I don't come across a lot of people saying 'I'm debating between a gasoline bike and an electric bike.' This is another alternative."

Despite a few concerns, electric motorcycles are becoming an increasingly popular choice, especially for newer riders.

"Our buyers are newer riders and people who are newly returning to riding. The ease of riding one of these bikes ... there's no clutch, there's no transmission to shift. They are very lightweight with a low centre of gravity. If you're just getting into it, it's incredibly appealing having a bike that you can turn on, twist, and go."

Electric motorcycles are also incredibly efficient. Unlike gasoline engines, which waste a significant amount of energy as heat, electric motors convert almost all of their energy into motion. 

Many major motorcycle manufacturers, including Harley-Davidson, now offer, or plan to offer electric models in their lineup. 

The reaction by the public to electric bikes is, "overwhelmingly positive," said Action. 

"People are fascinated. They don't know much about them so I end up telling the story of Zero. People are smiling. They think it's cool."

As the technology behind electric motorcycles continues to improve, it is likely that they will become an even more attractive option for riders. Advances in battery technology will lead to longer range and faster charging times, making electric motorcycles even more practical for everyday use. Additionally, as more charging stations are built across the country, riders will have more options for refuelling on long trips.

As more riders become aware of the benefits of electric motorcycles, it is likely that they will become an increasingly common sight on the road. 

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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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