It’s official, the electric motorcycle revolution is coming. Well, it’s been coming for a while but in 2022 the whole market is gathering pace. Quietly, of course.
Embrace or ignore it as much as you want, the decision by legislators to set a 2035 target for the phasing out of all new motorcycles equipped with an internal combustion engine (ICE), there is little more than a decade for manufacturers to convince you that zero-tailpipe emission riding can deliver the same sensory thrills as today’s conventionally fuelled machines.
It’s no easy task and public resistance is reflected in electric powered two-wheelers (PTWs) accounting for just over 5% of the UK market in 2021 compared with 18% of all new cars sold last year being electric/plug-in hybrid.
However, this is up on the 2.3% share from 2020, while history was made last year when the Super Soco CPx scooter became the first electric model to crack the overall top ten in the sales charts.
It’s a figure that will continue to grow as public perception - and laws - continue to shift towards a greener future with the next couple of years set to see some big names ‘charging’ into the EV market.
While some are certainly better further down the development line than others, these are the electric motorcycles what we can expect to see soon from each major manufacturer.
Of the so-called ‘Big Four’ from Japan, Kawasaki has communicated the most defined road map for an alternative fuelled future and - in deference to its more hesitant compatriots - looks set to take on the responsibility of being one of motorcycling’s most active electric trail blazers over the next couple of years.
Kawasaki has already announced it plans to gradually swap out its ICE-powered range for alternative methods over the next decade, with as many as ten new eco-minded models set to be launched between now and 2025.
The first of these is due to appear at EICMA 2022 in the form of what appears to be a small 125cc-equivalent naked motorcycle similar to the Z125. Kawasaki has previously shown a prototype during various stages of development, but the most recent sighting during a demo at the Suzuka 8 Hours shows an almost finished product hinting at some radical packaging solutions with the battery cells discreetly integrated into the design, rather than tacked on as a single ungainly lump.
Moreover, Kawasaki isn’t just relying on a purely electric future. Taking inspiration from the Toyota Prius - which arguably took the first mass-market steps towards electric in the four-wheel industry - Kawasaki has been working on a Hybrid powertrain, so often shunned by manufacturers due to the negating benefits around economy, power and weight.
However, with an increasing number of cities banning any vehicle that belches emissions, Kawasaki is banking on being in the right place at the right time with a motorcycle and scooter range that would still be permitted by running on electric in urban environments before the ICE kicks in on more open roads.
It too was present during the aforementioned demonstration looking ready for production [pictured]. While clearly inspired by the Kawasaki Ninja 400, the as-yet-unnamed machine could provide reluctant riders to use this as a bridge towards full electric.
Kawasaki isn’t stopping there though. It is also plunging significant resources into hydrogen technology, which goes beyond the benefits of electric by emitting just water.
For now the overall benefits of hydrogen - zero emissions and quick fill-up - are cancelled out by environment-harming fossil-fuel burning extraction methods and cost (around 9x higher than charging a vehicle), but a significant new deal that will see Kawasaki pool resources with car giants Toyota could see that gap shorten more quickly now.
Though not as forthcoming as Kawasaki in outlining its plans for an electric future, Yamaha has tapped into its renowned engine building expertise to put itself at the forefront of refining electric powertrain technology.
It has hinted towards its plans with some wacky design studies over the years, including the PES1 and PES2 - the latter a convincing looking sportsbike previewed in 2016 - the Y, a motorcycle you steer with your forearms, plus the outlandish MOTOROiD that incorporates AI technology and can self-balance.
While we ‘might’ see models akin to this in the future (some time between electric and flying motorcycles) returning to reality for a moment, the first conventional electric model from Yamaha will be the Yamaha E01 scooter which is already on sale in Japan and expected to make its European debut in 2023.
The equivalent of a 125cc scooter, the E01 is similar in approach to the NMAX but sporting its own contemporary design that has changed little from the concept. While the E01 may not seem the most exciting opening gambit, given Yamaha’s scooter market share globally, its importance cannot be overstated.
In the meantime, Yamaha has launched a 50cc-style scooter - the Neos - in Europe and is expected to turn its attention towards larger models in the very near future.
Given Honda’s size and notoriety, it was somewhat surprising to see it staying silent on the question of electric as rivals were laying out their plans.
At least it was until very recently when Honda formally laid out its roadmap for an electric future, complete with a few little surprises.
Indeed, with a global motorcycle market share of between 25-30%, Honda’s input isn’t just important to the industry, it’s absolutely critical.
Which might go some way to explaining why it is setting relatively modest targets of having just 15% of all Honda models sold annually by 2030 being electrically powered.
Then again, ‘modest’ by Honda’s standards is still huge relative to rivals, equating to a sales objective of 3.5m electric motorcycle/scooter sales in the year 2030.
Spearheading those targets will be 10 new electric models being launched between now and 2025, though seven of these will be scooters - most of which we won’t get in Europe - including what appears to be an X-ADV style maxi model, plus a pee-wee kids’ bike.
However, there will be ‘FUN’ models - as Honda terms them - which without giving away too many details is expected to be a naked similar to the CB300R/CB650R, plus a Rebel-style cruiser.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Honda’s electric plans, however, is actually quite the opposite of what the wider industry is planning. Indeed, such is Honda’s global ubiquity, it will still need to cater to poorer markets not setting deadlines for the electric switchover any time soon.
As such, Honda says it will continue the use and development of the internal combustion engine for the time being, but focus on reducing the net impact on the environment through the use of synthetic fuels and material extraction methods.
Like Yamaha, BMW was one of the first major manufacturers to set the groundwork for an electric future with concepts like the 2016 BMW NEXT100 Vision and it's the 2019 DC Vision Roadster successor that, while ambitious, at least dropped some very clear hints.
While the latter might influence a future production model in time, for now BMW is focusing on the entry-level end of the market with the imminent launch of the BMW CE 04 scooter.
Having made it to production virtually unchanged from the Definition CE 04 concept, the CE 04 complements its pioneering powertrain with a quirky design and modern tech features. It is actually BMW’s second attempt at an electric scooter following on from the C Evolution, but this is its first dedicated, new-from-the-ground-up effort.
Next up from BMW is set to be the CE 02, an urban mobility solution similar in philosophy to the Honda Grom, while it recently announced plans to develop a range of electric models with Indian firm TVS Motors, its collaborator on the BMW G 310.
Triumph has been burning the midnight oil recently as it completes an overhaul of its current range and prepares to embark on a significant expansion of lower capacity models developed in conjunction with Indian giants Bajaj.
That association will likely set it on the path towards electric, with Bajaj recently announcing it will build a fourth factory that will in part be dedicated to forthcoming EV models from KTM and Husqvarna too.
For now, it is unclear exactly how Triumph will approach the electric shift but it did catch attention with the unveiling of Project TE-1 in 2021.
Developed in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, the Project TE-1 sportsbike jumped from page to practice earlier this year with the unveiling of full working model boasting 175bhp, 80Ib-ft of torque and a 0-60mph sprint of 3.6secs.
Curiously, however, despite the work that went into creating the Project TE-1, Triumph says there are currently no plans to put this particular model into production and will instead curate the technology to other motorcycles. What form these will take, however, remains unknown.
With a reputation fuelled by the very sensations that could come at the expense of electric power, for a long time Ducati was content to keep its head in the sand when it came to discussing an EV future.
However, as influential as Ducati is in the motorcycle industry, it can’t halt legislation, which is why rhetoric has softened significantly in the last few months.
Knowing it needs to get its first models spot on if it is to protect its image and not turn off its loyal customer base, Ducati freely admits it will take its time with electric with a first model slated for launch several years down the line still.
However, it has pulled a masterstroke to buy time with its deal to become the control supplier for the MotoE World Cup from 2023. Securing the tender for four years, it means Ducati will receive plenty of electric exposure from the series’ position on the MotoGP/Grand Prix support programme without needing to commit to a roadgoing model so soon.
A Panigale-inspired prototype has already been revealed and is undergoing development, but Ducati is coy on suggesting this will form the basis for a model we can buy.
Beyond this, Ducati has dipped its toe into charged waters with the Giugiaro-penned Ducati 860-E Concept [pictured], a design study that while not official, it didn’t distance itself from either.
While we’re still getting over the shock that Harley-Davidson of all motorcycle manufacturers beat its rivals by years to get its first proper electric motorcycle on the road, the much-discussed LiveWire is already getting ready for its second generation.
Though you can’t fault Harley-Davidson’s ambition, the risk perhaps hasn’t enjoyed the reward it had hoped with a lukewarm response to its design and high price ensuring modest sales at best.
Nonetheless, while the future for the LiveWire looked bleak for a while as new CEO Jochen Zeitz talked up a desire to prioritise H-D’s core cruiser range, things have gathered pace in recent months as the American firm repositions it for a second crack.
This means LiveWire has now been spun off into a brand in its own right and though that originally appeared to be Harley distancing itself from the anomalous model, the recent news that it has reached a collaborative agreement with Kymco and is being floated on the stock exchange to drum up investment sounds more promising.
With lessons learned from the ONE, LiveWire has now moved onto its second electric model - the trendier, smaller and more affordable LiveWire Del Mar. Using a heavily updated Arrow powertrain, the Del Mar is a chunky, flat-tracker inspired motorcycle designed for shorter, sportier journeys.
The LiveWire (ONE) may have come perhaps a little too early to make its mark, but there is evidence to suggest the market will - eventually - swing back in its favour. The waiting is always the hardest part…
Given we had to wait more than two decades to receive the second generation Hayabusa and it perseveres with the SV650, boasting a platform that can say it partied like it was 1999, it is perhaps no surprise to see Suzuki lurking a little behind the curve when it comes to electric.
Tellingly, it said in 2020 that it is watching the market development closely, which translated means it will allow its rivals to set the framework for it to enter at a later date.
Indeed, Suzuki finds itself in an awkward spot being pitched somewhere between mainstream and budget offerings, which may also explain why it wants to swerve launching something innovative but at odds with its value ethos for the time being.
While Kawasaki, Yamaha and now Honda are forging ahead, we’re still waiting for Suzuki to declare its electric ambitions, though an EV Suzuki Burgman scooter has previously been spotted undergoing testing.
Still, it has indicated ‘some’ movement, albeit via the shock shuttering of its motorsports programme - which includes halting its title-winning MotoGP project - after justifying its abrupt call on a desire to delegate funds towards developing more sustainable transport methods.
At one stage it appeared KTM was going to be the manufacturer to lead the electric revolution, promising in 2019 that it would have a sporty EV ready to buy come 2022/2023.
Well, we’re in 2022 and there’s no sign of anything particularly sporty and electric coming from the Austrian firm, the lynchpin of Europe’s largest motorcycle company, Pierer Mobility.
Still, there has been some development with prototypes of an electric version of the KTM Duke 125 spotted testing in its biggest market of India. Set to be called the E-Duke, the model is essentially the KTM-version of the Husqvarna E-Pilen (see below).
Elsewhere, KTM does offer a range of electric off-road and motocross-style models, but beyond this it is unclear what the firm has in mind. That said, we are secretly hoping that KTM enters the scooter market with its own version of the quirky Husqvarna Vektorr.
It makes sense for Sweden’s Husqvarna to position itself in the more eco-conscious section of motorcycling.
The brand has adopted various forms over its long history but developed something of an identity crisis under BMW and KTM ownership. However, by originating from a country and Scandic region heavily investing in EV infrastructure and promotion, electric ties in well.
Two electric models have already been announced - the Vektorr scooter and the E-Pilen motorcycle - the latter of which is Husqvarna’s first original model under Pierer ownership, rather than a restyled KTM.
The Bajaj Chetak-based Vektorr will hit the road this year lavished with striking angular looks, to be followed by the E-Pilen, a low capacity 125cc equivalent roadster focused on range for use in urban environments rather than outright power.
It’s hard to believe today, but only ten years ago Tesla was a little-known low volume American manufacturer with a charismatic CEO in Elon Musk. Today it is the Apple-style trend setter in electric technology that many established firms are still trying to keep up with.
It’s a trail blazing approach that has inspired myriad motorcycle start-up companies committed to electric to emerge (and quickly disappear) over the years. However, in Damon Motorcycles the motorcycle industry ‘might’ have found its Tesla.
The Canadian company has an interesting recent history. Originally founded as a tech firm to develop its (very clever) 360-degree Co-Pilot radar assist system, Damon found it wasn’t able to integrate it easily into existing motorcycles. Determined not to let a good idea go to waste, it instead set to work on developing its own fully-integrated model.
But it didn’t stop there, committing to a high-performance electric sportsbike brimming with clever ideas. The result was the HyperSport, first revealed in 2020 and now two years later is almost ready for the general public.
While no-one in the media has thrown a leg over it yet, on paper there is a lot to get excited by. In flagship trim with a 20kW battery, the HyperSport claims 200bhp of power, a 200mph top speed and even 200 miles of range. It also offers less headline grabbing but more affordable smaller battery options.
Moreover, we think it looks fairly sharp for a first attempt at designing an electric motorcycle in possibly the hardest segment to crack, while other clever features include AI that is constantly learning and updating the software and, much simpler, adjustable Shift handlebars and footpegs to adapt the riding position.
Damon has since unveiled a streetfighter version - the Damon HyperFighter Colossus - while it has confirmed sales for Europe too, albeit once it has met a rapidly growing waiting list for the HyperSport in North America.
Looking into the future, Damon CEO Jay Giraud recently told BikeSocial the company has ambitious plans to expand its technology on a whole range of models - stretching right down to 125cc equivalent.
Royal Enfield has been very open about its bulging portfolio of forthcoming models and is currently in the midst of a huge range expansion over the next couple of years to capitalise on soaring global sales. Within this will eventually come the Indian firm’s first electric model.
Despite a recent image more aligned with simple, yet emissions-unfriendly motorcycling, Royal Enfield is skipping forward to put resources behind electric powertrains.
Confirming recently it is studying how to approach the electric question, expect its first model to land around 2024/2025.
It’s one of the world’s biggest motorcycling firms with sales figures stimulated by its vast scooter range but to date Piaggio - owners of Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Gilera, Vespa and Derbi - haven’t been terribly forthcoming with regards to electric.
It is now beginning to test the waters at scooter level with the launch of the Piaggio 1 in 2021 and the classic-yet-contemporary Vespa Elettrica, while the staple of commercial transport in Italy - the Piaggio Ape - has also gone electric
However, there has been almost complete radio silence as to how it plans to integrate electric power into its big bike brands, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.
The purveyors of Motorcycle Art are still riding the tail end of a difficult period that required an entire restructure of its business model, so one can excuse MV Agusta for not having electric at the forefront of its objectives.
However, the future looks more promising as MV Agusta repositions itself towards offering more affordable volume models as part of a plan to quadruple sales in the coming years.
Inevitably, electric will feature somewhere down the line with rumours the first models could take on a surprising form in Cagiva.
Indeed, the brand that brought us the Mito and Elefant could be revived by MV Agusta to act as an electric sub-brand in the interim. Let’s just say, we wouldn’t say no to a modern-day revival of the Cagiva Mito regardless of how it is powered.
While Kymco’s UK footprint is fairly small, in Asia and Europe it is one of the most revered scooter and low-capacity motorcycle companies, the Taiwanese firm having broken away from the more budget associated image of the many equivalent brands emerging from Asia.
It is also one of the electric forerunners having already plunged resources into getting the Ionex and funky-looking F9 scooters to market, but Kymco is also looking to electric to spearhead its global expansion into the larger motorcycle market.
Its intentions were previewed in 2018 by the SuperNEX concept and then its successor, the RevoNEX. Its first attempt at both the mid-range and the sportsbike market, both were well-received for their design and quirky features, not least a ‘soundtrack’ you can change to imitate a conventional engine.
Though not much has been heard of the RevoNEX for a couple of years now, Kymco is pushing ahead with establishing a new production base in Italy, while recent confirmation of its tie-up with LiveWire should speed up the process of getting it on the road soon.
It will also launch its first electric scooter for the European market with the sharply styled Ionex iOne.
Given its tumultuous recent history and a reputation forged on offering premium, bespoke models, you’d initially assume Norton and electric are two words that wouldn’t go together.
As it turns out, the opposite is in fact true. Having been made financially stable under the ownership of TVS, the rejuvenated Norton Motorcycles sees electric as a way for it to skip to becoming a pioneer in the evolving market and has been name dropping it into press calls at every opportunity.
While it doesn’t intend to drop the ICE until it has to, Norton (petrol V4 CR pictured) believes there is a market for high-end models with an electric powertrain, not least because the mark up on going EV will be partially soaked up by the British firm’s upper tier price range anyway.
It says it is already studying existing electric motorcycles, though there is potential for some crossover with TVS via its fresh deal to develop EV models with BMW.
Arguably the first manufacturer with a pure electric model line-up to establish itself in the mainstream, Zero has expanded quickly since being founded in 2006.
Today its range is split between Enduro/MX and more conventional models, spearheaded by the S - SR - SR/F roadsters, the SR/S sportsbike and the brand-new DSR/X, which marks a bold foray into the ultra-competitive ADV sector.
Certainly, more cost-effective than its American compatriot LiveWire, Zero remains relatively niche but has the advantage of understanding rapidly evolving EV technology in a motorcycle context.
This has led to its most recent innovation, a system that allows owners to adjust the software of their motorcycle using their phone. Through this, you can tune your Zero for greater efficiency or for greater power, a nifty feature that will no doubt be adopted by rivals in time.
Like Zero, Energica is well versed in electric technology, though it aims its models - the Ego sportsbike, Eva hyper naked and the all-new Experia sports tourer - at a more premium end of the market.
Benefitting hugely from its status as supplier to the MotoE World Cup, Energica has enjoyed immense growth in recent years while the quick advancement of EV technology was reflected in its second-generation updates that saw impressive gains in not only power, but also range.
Looking forward, Energica entered into an agreement with Dell’Orto to develop a range of more affordable models in 2019, though it has been quiet on the wires ever since.
While the electric movement has been shuffling fairly slowly among the mainstream, the growing gap in the market has instead been filled by faster reacting lower profile firms, particularly in the scooter segment.
Indeed, you’re actually spoiled for choice when it comes to zero emissions scooters in the UK or Europe with firms such as NIU, Horwin, Lifan, Rieju and Silence just some of the options out there.
However, they have all been playing catch up to Super Soco, which made history by getting the first electric PTW - the Super Soco CPx - into the overall UK Motorcycle sales charts top ten in 2021.
Founded as the Vmoto Soco group in Australia, the spin-off Super Soco brand is otherwise based and financed in China and has enjoyed huge growth in just seven years of existence.
With momentum gathering pace, the company is now looking to take on the full-size motorcycle market for 2022. Reverting to its Vmoto prefix, it revealed its first model at EICMA - the Vmoto Stash.
Designed in Europe, the Stash is styled somewhere between a sportsbike, naked and scooter, with its 7.2kW battery pack equivalent to around 100-125cc. Some thought has gone into the approach too, with neat touches inspired by its scooters - such as the under-seat helmet ‘stash’ (geddit?) - showing a clear pitch towards its existing customer base.
While the Stash may not exactly tug at the heartstrings, there is an argument for it being the most significant model in this entire list. Why? Well, with a predicted starting price of around £4,000, it is a remarkably cheap avenue into electric motorcycle ownership, one that proves an EV doesn’t have to trading a high starting price for cheap running costs.
Likely to kickstart a wave of similar models from the likes of NIU et al. that will drive down the average price of electric motorcycles, expect the unassuming Vmoto Stash to give high-profile brands a bit of a headache when it comes to pitching and pricing their equivalents.
Electric may be the future, but who can resist a motorcycle laced with a bit of nostalgia?
That was certainly the thinking behind Mahindra’s (Classic Legends) decision to revive mothballed British company BSA, kicking things off with the charming BSA Gold Star 650.
However, this is not how Mahindra initially planned to develop the modern-day BSA brand. Indeed, you may have forgotten but the original idea for BSA - as communicated in 2019 - was for it to offer electric models only.
A combination of COVID and sluggish progress on electric powertrain development meant BSA deviated to a more conventional ICE path, but bosses insist electric remains at the heart of its future plans.
So much so that BSA Director Ashish Singh Joshi told BikeSocial in an exclusive interview that the second new model to come from BSA could well be electric.
While BSA played it safe with its revival, the same cannot be said for another retro brand making a big 21st century comeback: Can-Am.
Famed in the 80s for its high-performance off-road and enduro motorcycles, while Can-Am lived on offering quirky three-wheel trikes, it hasn’t produced anything on two wheels since 1987.
However, this will soon change following the decision by parent company Bombardier to pump resources and finance into reviving Can-Am as an electric motorcycle manufacturer aimed right at LiveWire.
While we are still some way off seeing it on the road - with 2024 the earliest estimates - Can-Am have gone ahead and revealed its first two models in the Origin and Pulse.
With the larger Origin reflecting Can-Am’s motocross heritage - while looking suspiciously similar to the Husqvarna Norden 901 - and the Pulse styled as a sportier commuter roadster, each cuts a surprisingly attractive dash to sufficiently whet our appetite.