Electric Motorcycle Guide (2024) – Is the future really electric?


Are electric motorcycles biking’s clean, green future, or a soulless technological dead-end for gullible virtue-signallers? Well, the answer is… n’t clear yet. Sorry about that. But while we can’t be sure what motorcycling will look, sound or smell like 20 years from now, we know exactly where electric motorcycles stand today.

Battery-powered bikes represented just 3.6% of the UK motorcycle and scooter market in 2023, or 4062 out of a total of 113,589 new registrations. This could be optimistically described as a ‘niche’ share – though, for some context, it’s bigger than the petrol-powered touring motorcycle segment (just 2580 registrations). More surprising is that electric bike sales are in decline, down a whopping 37.8% compared to 2022. The story isn’t much different across most of Western Europe, where one estimate suggests electric motorcycle and scooter sales dropped 29% last year.

Faced with such a small (and shrinking) market, it’s easy to see why established motorcycle manufacturers have been so reluctant to dip their toe in the water. Some small steps are being taken in 2024: BMW have launched a second electric urban runabout; Kawasaki are debuting a pair of 125-equivalent electric motorcycles; Honda, Yamaha and Piaggio each now all offer an electric scooter. But as far as bigger bikes go, only Harley-Davidson (or its electric sub-brand LiveWire) have expanded from petrol into electric so far.

While recognisable biking names are hesitant, specialist electric start-ups are busy getting stuck in. Brands such as Super Soco, Sur-Ron, Maeving, Zero and Energica might not be recognisable names to old-school riders, but they’ve all quietly (ahem) developed brand-new electric machinery from scratch in the past few years.

So, where are electric motorcycles in 2024, how close are they to rivalling petrol power, and what’s on the horizon? Here’s everything you need to know, but were too afraid to ask…



Which electric motorcycles are available now?

At first glance the electric motorcycle cupboard looks pretty bare, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s more choice than you think. Right now you can buy electric scooters, enduros, roadsters, adventure bikes, sportsbikes, trials bikes, retros and even – as unlikely as it sound – an electric tourer. The brands are global too, with bikes built by American, European, Japanese, Chinese and even UK firms. Prices range from less than £3000 to almost £30,000, with power outputs from as little as 2bhp up to almost 170bhp.

More than 90% of electric bikes sold in the UK make less than 11kW (15bhp), so it makes sense to start at the smaller, steadier end of the scale. The biggest-selling electric scooter in the UK right now is the Super Soco CPx, a 125cc-equivalent step-thru commuter available in single or twin-battery versions.

More recognisable as a motorcycle, and a handsome one at that, is the Maeving RM1. Designed in Coventry by a team of largely ex-Triumph staff, the RM1 fuses its futuristic powertrain with retro styling. It’s a bike for strictly urban use, with a 45mph top speed, though later this year it’s due to be joined by the faster RM1S.

Also new for 2024 are the first electric motorcycles from a well-known Japanese firm, in the form of Kawasaki’s Z e-1 and Ninja e-1. Both are 125cc-class bikes, with a 12bhp electric motor and a claimed top speed of over 60mph.

Stepping another step up in performance brings us to American electric veterans Zero, whose range starts with the supermoto-styled FXE. It offers 44bhp and an 80mph top speed, yet can be ridden on an A1 (125cc) licence – we’ll explain why later. From here, Zero’s lineup builds in both power and price through a choice of A1, A2 and A-licence naked, adventure and sports-tourer models. Sitting at the top of their range is their DSR/X flagship.

Beyond this we’re into the rarefied atmosphere of motorcycling’s premium electric brands: LiveWire (formerly the Harley-Davidson LiveWire) and Italian firm Energica. The latter’s Experia is a Multistrada-style upright all-rounder that’s arguably the most complete electric motorcycle on sale today – but priced at more than £25k, also one of the most expensive.

Speaking of money, in the UK there is a government-backed plug-in motorcycle grant (PiMG) to help reduce the cost of buying an electric bike. But don’t get your hopes up: the maximum grant is just £500 (cut to £150 for mopeds), and it can’t be applied to anything costing over £10,000. You can find a list of eligible bikes here.



Which electric motorcycles are coming in the future?

If none of the above take your fancy, then could there be an electric motorcycle just around the corner that will change your mind? An electric R1300GS, for example? Or a Panigal-E?

BMW definitely have plans for more electric models. In addition to their current CE-04 scooter and CE-02 minibike, “…all future new BMW Motorrad models for urban mobility will be pure electric,” according to Oliver Zipse, the CEO of BMW. The firm also publicly confirmed they’ll bring battery power to more motorcycle categories from 2026. Whether this proves to be a development of their Vision DC Roadster concept, their eRoadster prototype, an electric G310R, or something else entirely, remains to be seen. Probably not a GS, mind…

Honda have also made public commitments to introduce 10 electric models globally by 2025, expanding to 30 models by 2030 – by which time they plan to be selling 4 million electric bikes annually. Details of the bikes are still under wraps, but it’s likely their first electric motorcycle will be a 125cc-equivalent roadster along the lines of their CB125R. Honda also say by 2030 they’ll have cut the cost of building motorcycles in half compared with today, which would be nothing short of revolutionary – if it happens.

Suzuki are more measured in their ambition. They say they’ll announce their first electric bike some time in 2024 – clock’s ticking chaps – and it will be a “small or mid-sized motorcycle used for daily transportation”. Beyond that, they have plans for eight electric models by 2030, though they’re explicit that none will be large, leisure bikes.

Few know large leisure motorcycling better than Ducati, who last year took over supplying bikes for the MotoE World Championship. On the face of it, a grid of 18 electric race bikes doing brief battle over a handful laps doesn’t look to offer anything to road riders – but Ducati are crystal clear about the purpose behind the project. “Our goal is to transfer this technology to the street,” says Roberto Canè, Ducati’s Director of E-mobility. “The MotoE team we created is made of both people from Ducati Corse [racing] and production [road bikes]. This group will take care in the future about the electrification inside Ducati.” So, could there be a road-legal electric superbike in Ducati’s future? “Yes… but not immediately,” says Canè.

Another firm who’ve openly discussed an electric future is Royal Enfield. Last year they revealed their Electric Himalayan Testbed – part fantasy concept, part functional prototype. “This is a glimpse of what to expect from us in the future,” explains Mario Alvisi, Royal Enfield’s Chief Growth Officer for EV. “There is a much larger electric mobility blueprint that is being brought alive at Royal Enfield.”



How do electric motorcycles work?

To build an electric motorcycle, you need two things: a battery and a motor. Batteries are, kinda obviously, the equivalent of electric fuel tanks, but instead of carrying litres of petrol they store kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy within packs of lithium-ion cells. A 125-equivalent scooter might typically have a 4kWh battery; Energica’s Experia has the biggest bike battery at around 20kWh. The bigger the battery pack, the more energy it can store and the further it can take you between charges. But bigger packs also weigh more, cost more and take longer to recharge.

Motors tend to be mounted either within the rear wheel (typically on smaller, less-powerful bikes), or fitted near the swingarm pivot, driving the rear wheel via a chain or belt. Like petrol engines, electric motors can be air-cooled (simpler, lighter, cheaper) or water-cooled (better performance, but heavier and more complex).

As for how they work, all electric drivetrains broadly follow the same process. When you open the throttle a message is sent to something called a motor controller – electric’s equivalent of a fuel injection system. This decides how much current to send from battery to motor. The more current that flows, the harder the motor spins, and the faster you zoom off towards the horizon.

Where things can start to get confusing is the way electric motors are rated for power. Typically they claim two figures – a “maximum power” and a “continuous power”. Maximum power is the more intuitive and familiar, and is directly comparable to a petrol engine’s power claim. Continuous power is a far stranger figure, defined as how much power the motor can sustain continuously for 30 minutes. Don’t ask us why. Weirder yet, it’s this figure, rather than maximum power, which is used to decide what licence you need to ride it. Which brings us to…



What licence do you need for an electric motorcycle?

The same licence as you need to ride a petrol motorcycle: either AM (moped); A1 (125cc / 11kW / 15bhp); A2 (35kW / 47bhp); or A (unrestricted). Where things stray from the familiar is the way electric motorcycles and scooters are rated on their “continuous power”, as explained above.

Generally, electric bikes mostly fit into familiar categories – so moped-equivalent electric scooters are limited to 28mph; 125-equivalent scooters typically do 60-ish mph; bigger electric bikes offer massive acceleration and three-figure top speeds.

But this continuous power malarky means a few bikes slip through the cracks, allowing a rider to legally ride an electric bike with way more performance than its petrol equivalent. Zero, for example, has a range of “11kW” bikes which can be ridden with an A1 licence (or, technically, just a CBT and L-plates if you’re over 17) – even though the bikes themselves can pack as much as 60bhp and hit 80mph. Similarly, LiveWire’s S2 Del Mar is A2-compliant, even though it actually puts out 84bhp, has over 190lb·ft of torque and does 0-60mph in 3 seconds.

Read more about the best A1 and A2 compliant electric motorcycles here



How do you charge an electric motorcycle?

Most electric scooters and commuters are charged by simply plugging them into a regular domestic socket. A full recharge will take several hours, though this depends on the size of the battery and the power of the charger. If you don’t have power where you park overnight, then look for a model with removable batteries so you can bring them into your home (or, even better, workplace) to charge.

Some midrange electric bikes can be charged via a Level 2 AC charger. These are the kind of 7-pin sockets you can find in supermarket and public car parks or can get installed at home. Level 2 sockets can put out either 7kW or 22kW of power, but in reality, charging speed is bottlenecked by the bike’s onboard charger, which has to turn the AC electricity supply into DC for the battery. Charge times are faster than home charging, but still take over an hour.

The quickest way to get energy into a battery is via DC rapid charging, where high-power public charging stations inject juice straight into the battery, bypassing the bike’s own charger. While this tech is on virtually every electric car on sale today, in the bike world it’s only offered on the high-end LiveWire One and Energicas. Charging speeds are around an hour, with 0-80% in about 40 minutes.



What are the pros and cons of electric motorcycles?

Like battery terminals, electric bikes have their – ahem, clears throat – positives and negatives. The downsides are perhaps more glaring. Batteries can’t carry much energy relative to their volume and mass, at least not compared to a tank of petrol. This means electric bikes can’t travel as far between needing a recharge – Zero’s DSR/X has a motorway range of around 85 miles. They’re also far slower to top up once empty, with even the fastest-charging bikes needing around an hour. On paper, that doesn’t look very appealing next to spending a few minutes at a petrol pump. And the riding experience is quite different – less noise, less smell, less vibration and, with no gearbox, less interaction. To some riders, this can all feel rather sterile. Fourth, and finally, they tend to be very expensive too.

The upsides of electric are less obvious and more subtle. They’re typically far cheaper to run, costing just pennies per mile in electricity if charged at home. There’s a lot less to service too – in most cases there’s no oils, coolants or filters to replace, plus no valve clearances to check, all of which cuts running costs. They’re generally easier to ride, with broad, forgiving torque curves and instant acceleration. You can’t stall them, and you can’t be caught in the wrong gear.

But the biggie is their dramatically reduced environmental impact. Even taking into account the energy needed to mine, refine and build the batteries; even given the energy needed to produce the electricity to power them; and even accounting for recycling the battery at the end of the bike’s life, the overall lifetime carbon emissions are way less than a petrol bike. A recent study by the independent Zemo Partnership estimates that a typical 650cc petrol motorcycle will create more than 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide over its entire life. For an electric equivalent charged using the UK grid, that figure drops to just 3.6 tonnes – a reduction of almost two-thirds.



Are electric motorcycles the next big thing?

The first production electric bike went on sale in the UK in 2007. Seventeen years later, in many ways it feels like we’re still no closer to knowing how big a part electric will play in motorcycling’s future. Whatever your opinion and personal preference, the theory supporting them is robust: electric motors turn energy into motion two to three times more efficiently than a combustion engine. Plus we’re much further along with creating low-carbon electricity than low-carbon petrol.

Clearly things aren’t that simple, or we’d all be riding one. Electric tech is hard to package on a bike, especially given the limitations of lithium-ion batteries’ power density. Range is short (especially riding at high speed), charging is slow, pricetags are high. And on top of all those obstacles is the really difficult problem to solve: most current riders simply aren’t interested. Yes, there are signs that we’re starting to thaw, slightly, and perhaps things will change when a new generation arrives unburdened by decades of expectations and associations with combustion engines. For now electric motorcycles are tough to design, , and riders are a tough crowd.

All this is true as far as leisure motorcycling goes. At the smaller, more practical commuter end of bikes, things look a lot brighter for electric. Range tends to be less important for urban riding, while lengthy recharge times aren’t a problem if you can plug in at home or work. Plus when it comes to daily transport, riders generally aren’t so hung up on the whole “soul / character / image / status” thing. Running costs, ease of use and minimal servicing are far more important – all areas electric scooters excel at. As overcrowded cities expand their use of low-emission and/or clean-air zones, expect electric two-wheelers to thrive.

Outside of urban transport, the question of electric motorcycles’ future depends on two things. First, how many years the sale of new petrol motorcycles has left before legislation intervenes. In the UK, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is due to end in 2035, but there’s no confirmed date for motorcycles or scooters yet. And second, whether any of the much-hyped low-carbon alternatives (such as hydrogen, biofuels and synthetic e-fuels) ever manage to progress beyond their current level – which largely amounts to a lot of ambitious talk, and not much else. For all their downsides, limitations and tiny sales, electric motorcycles are at least already here, in production and available to buy. And in that regard, perhaps we don’t need to think of electric bikes as the future when they’re already with us today.


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