Maturity. For me, I look back at the point I became a mature human as the time in my life when my voice deepened, I was hungry all the time, and I was incredibly awkward talking to girls (some things never change). I’m guessing it was an awkward time for many of us, but the term “maturity” is also one I hear a lot when it comes to electric vehicles. As I noted in my long(ish)-term review of the Zero SR, my wife and I had contemplated an electric car for our daily transportation.
Then I had a conversation with my dad, a mechanical engineer by trade who has worked in many industries including solar, oil and nuclear, to name a few. A generally dismissive guy when it comes to new technologies, it’s more than fair to say he’s not an early adopter… of anything. Hell, the guy refuses to use the GPS function of his smartphone, fer cryin’ out loud. So, you can probably guess how the conversation went.
“Don’t do it,” he said, once I revealed my inklings towards an electric car. “I wouldn’t touch an electric car until that technology is more mature.” There was more to the conversation, but I’ll refrain from typing out the insults he made towards the folks who already own electrics. No matter, the point is he, like many MO readers who feel the same, simply dismisses these vehicles because of a perceived lack of range, or unproven technology.
Which got me thinking: When is that point of maturity? Is there a magic mileage number that must be met before you’ll buy, or much less consider an electric?
For my commuting needs, the range of a Zero SR with a Power Tank would be plenty. And let’s not forget that Zero markets the S and SR as commuters. However, in perusing the comments of our various electric motorcycle reviews or tests (yes, we do read them), inevitably one or more readers simply aren’t happy with the thought of constantly searching for charge stations (whether this concern is real or perceived is besides the point). In this case, I’m left with a simple question: why? It’s unlikely your daily commute is greater than the range of an electric, says the Department of Transportation, so how far do you want an electric to go?
The issue of charge times is a hot one, too. Obviously, plugging into your household outlet and waiting up to 10 hours sometimes is a terrible prospect, but fast-charging systems cut that down dramatically. The issue there, of course, is cost, and that’s the underlying factor. Electrics, like any new technology, are simply expensive.
Even with rebates and incentives, for the money electric motorcycle companies ask, one can purchase an internal combustion motorcycle with much higher performance. Conversely, for a motorcycle with similar performance as an electric, the blow to the wallet is considerably less with internal combustion. But let’s take cost out of the equation for a moment. When put on a level playing field in terms of price, I’m wondering if you, the reader, think an electric is at a suitable maturation point.
In my encounters with early adopters of electrics, all of them rave about the performance of their vehicles. Many of them also report no issues with range for their daily needs. Of course, there are those like Terry Hershner, who go to extreme lengths to make sure range and/or charge times aren’t a concern. Of course, those folks are outliers. If you don’t know who he is, check out his Electric Terry Facebook page to see the wild lengths he’ll go to with his Zeros.
Sure, longer range and shorter charge times certainly would be welcome, but interestingly, it seems to me that nobody is really concerned about the actual performance of electrics anymore. Maybe some of that credit can be given to Tesla and the numerous YouTube videos of a Model S in “Insane” or “Ludicrous” mode leaving muscle cars in its (silent) wake, but the point has been made several times that acceleration and thrust produced by an electric motor is jaw dropping, to say the least.
So then, my question to you still stands. If you haven’t already accepted electric propulsion, at what point will an electric motorcycle be right for you, and why? Considering the vast number of riders out there potentially reading this column, and the different type of riding you do, I look forward to reading your responses.