Are we in the future, or what? We can buy groceries from Beijing while we video chat with family in Baltimore, carry supercomputers around in our pockets, and doctors can make new human body parts in a Petri dish. We don’t have jet packs or hoverbikes, but we may have the next best thing: practical electric motorcycles, motorcycles that ranges of 100 miles or more.

The problem is those bikes can cost close to $20,000. The cheapest brand-new, street-legal electric motorcycle is Zero’s FXS – and it’s almost $9,000 new. What if you only have five grand to spend?

Go Used!

The used electric-motorcycle market is small, but the bikes are out there. They’ve held their value well, but if you’re willing to accept the smaller range of the pre-2013 Zero, or a 2009-2013 Brammo Enertia, they’re out there from both private sellers and dealers for under $5,000. If you want to spend just a smidge more – maybe $6,000 – you can find a decent 2013-2016 Brammo Empulse or Empulse R (note: Polaris purchased Brammo and rebranded the Empulse as a Victory for 2016). Though limited on range – about 50 miles at 70 mph, or 120 around town –  the Brammo has appeal for experienced motorcyclists with its 6-speed gearbox and clutch, high-spec brakes and suspension, and sporty styling.

Victory Empulse TT First Ride Review

Electric Motorcycle Under $5,000

MO answering the question: What’s the best electric motorcycle (in 2013)?

2013 Brammo Empulse R Vs. Zero S +Video

Electric Vs. Gas Supermoto Shootout

Go Small!

So an electric motorcycle is out of your price range, but how about an electric bicycle, moped or scooter? Exact definitions vary state to state, but they’re all basically limited to 30 mph. Still, that’s about as fast as a 50cc gasoline-powered scooter, and for bicycles, you may not need a helmet, registration, insurance, or even a license. Electric scooters like the GenZee are under $3,000 and are very fun and practical in-town transportation. There are also numerous importers of Chinese-built, low-quality electric scooters, motorcycles and bicycles. Caveat emptor is all we’ll say about those.

Roll Your Own!

Electric motorcycles have been around a long time, you know. It’s just that you had to make them yourself. Finding a rolling chassis of your favorite motorcycle is cheap and easy – after all, who wants a GSX-R with no engine? You do, and you can name your price! Finding the batteries, controllers, motors and other components online for under $5,000 is not a problem, and there are numerous books, articles and videos, as well as a robust community of like-minded crazies.

Got five gees and an itch to ride electric? There are no excuses! Get out there and ride.

  • Vincent Swendsen

    There no question about used electric motorcycle being cheap. I traded in a 2014 Zero SR on a 2016 SR and because dealers are concerned about getting rid of them trade in values are pretty low. And it only took two weeks before someone bought my trade-in. But if anyone is interested in a new or used Brammo you might want to check the forums before you buy. Bottom line here is Polaris is not providing any parts or service for Brammos so if you have a problem you are screwed.

    • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

      Cummins now owns Brammo, maybe they will support your bike but I doubt it.

      • benswing

        Cummins bought the drivetrain and battery parts of the Brammo business. The electric motorcycle part already is owned by Polaris.

        • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

          Batteries are what your going to need.

  • Ozzy Mick

    Pray tell who’s hiding behind “motorcycle.com staff”? Chicken licken?
    Interesting article, but you couldn’t resist the dig about low quality Chinese products, could you? Keep that up and before before you know it, they’ll leave the so-called developed countries for dead.
    I worked in China for 5 years. Into my second year, l bought an electric bicycle/moped. It had a recommended retail price of 2,500 Yuan, but l knocked it down to 2,100 (that’s USD315!).
    I rode it everywhere that was within range, had a ball on it, cost me zip to run except for a plug in recharge every couple of days, nothing failed, no service cost, no licence or helmet required, no stopping at red lights, out dragged most cars driven by incompetent locals.
    In short, it met all my needs, was fun, and cost buggerall to buy, and even less to run.
    So there!

    • Mister X

      Calm down mate… they just doesn’t know how great electric vehicles are, we both know, but many still need to be convinced, it will happen with time.
      I’ve been repairing/building electric vehicles for over 30 years, the battery technology was the only thing that limited their potential, now that thats changed, we’re starting to see some amazing things, which will change their views into practical believers like we are.
      If I could afford one, and didn’t live in a remote place, I’d own one too.

      • Ozzy Mick

        THIRTY YEARS! You’re a pioneer mate.
        IMHO, manufacturers will have more success targeting commuters first, as they won’t suffer from range anxiety.
        They can then build on success in this market, and profits will fund research into the more demanding market of longer distance riders of clunky, heavy, primitive, noisy, polluting, high maintenance machinery.
        Just fishin’….😛

  • Matt O

    I’ve been thinking about making my own, but I’m confident I’ll muss it up

  • Jared

    Does anyone sell conversion kits for existing bikes/frames.

    Wouldn’t this be a great business model?

    • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

      Ideally you would buy a rolling chassis and lease the batteries. That way when say in 2 years battery tech makes quantum leaps your not tied to old tech batteries and you theoretically could lease the newer batteries with the newer tech. Ideally….

  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Do not buy a pre-2013 Zero. It used the old battery architecture and most of the batteries life cycle is most likely used up. At least with 2013 and forward you can buy new batteries if you have to that will go right in.

  • benswing

    If price has kept you off an electric motorcycle, definitely check the used market! There are some amazing deals to be had. And electric motorcycles don’t have the parts that wear out like gas bikes, so mileage basically doesn’t matter (except for tires).

    Do not buy a 2012 or earlier Zero unless you are an electrical engineer or use it for parts. I rode one for 25,000 miles and loved it, but Zero changed the basis of their bikes in 2013 and they are much better.

    I rode a 2012 Zero S across the US, a 2014 Zero SR from Mexico to Canada, and a 2016 Zero SR across the US. These are great bikes.