Once you go electric… By Chris Jones
Editor’s Note: I asked Chris to pen this piece after Phil Hall recently wrote about his distaste for electric motorcycles
I am not a real tech savvy guy. I don’t have a TV, smart phone, or know how to download music. However I have been left stranded on the wrong side of history before. Back in the late 1990’s I thought mobile phones were a pointless waste of money. I swore I’d never get one. By 2007 almost every payphone had been removed from our streets, and those that remained were so badly vandalised you couldn’t use them anyway. Moreover, all my friends had mobiles, so a quick phone call cost me $10 more than it should have. In an attempt to get a date (unsuccessful, I might add) I finally folded and bought myself a mobile. She might have stopped answering my calls, but I was now the proud owner of a piece of highly functional technology which was, on the face of it, pretty darn handy. It took me 10 years of being left behind to realise I was just being a dick for the sake of it.
For someone who is pretty bad with technology, I have done alright with electric motorcycles. I’ve built a couple of electric bikes, the latest being Voltron Evo – a 140 kW, 260 km/h silent predator. It steers like a race bike, it’s as fast as any other machine on the track, and it’s one hell of a hoot to ride. There’s no Bluetooth or sat-nav on this machine; it’s literally a huge electric motor between two wheels, and a battery to turn it. For a high performance prototype, it was no more expensive than most bike projects.
So what is it about electric motorcycles, or electric vehicles in general, that really floats my boat? It’s hard to say. The cognitive dissonance you experience when you rap on the throttle is perhaps part of it. The sensation of being pinned to the back of the seat, holding onto the reins for dear life as you start to enter warp speed with no sound, spare a bit of chain whir and the wind screaming past your head, is truly something to behold. You can hear the numbers – 400 Nm of torque from 0 rpm, and think you know what it will be like, yet you’re still left with a stupid grin when you actually experience it.
It’s not just the performance; there’s the beautiful elegance of electromotive force. One moving part in an already simple machine makes for a very efficient power train. No gears to mash through, no clutch to waste all that torque. No surging as you go from one reduction to the next; just smooth, unadulterated power whenever you want it. On a racetrack, kicking gears only inhibits your concentration.
Perhaps it’s the knowledge that I can run my electric vehicle on electricity, that I collected, from my roof, for free, without paying any excise. No foreign country was invaded nor lives lost, so that I may ride for pleasure up a long windy road. Best of all, I can ride it as fast and as recklessly as I dare without selfishly annoying the entire neighbourhood with obnoxiously loud extractors.
It’s a wonder there’s any opposition to electric bikes at all really. The most vocally opposed are usually those who’ve never ridden one, and often have some big misconceptions clouding their views. People are always wary of something new or different, and this is even more obvious when it’s something so comprehensively good. Such disruptive technologies will always challenge how we think things should be. I personally don’t ride electric for environmental reasons, although the environment is a clear beneficiary. Some folks will, however, and that’s their own damn prerogative. Electric propulsion is here for good, and its only going to get better, faster, cheaper and more efficient. To ignore this trend is pointless. Go on – throw a leg over a >50 kW electric motorcycle and see for yourself. And be prepared to change your mind within minutes.