Electric bikes? No thanks…  Says Phil Hall

The media has been abuzz recently with the news that Harley Davidson has released a prototype electric bike. As you can see from the heading, I find this news about as interesting as watching the grass grow.

“But they are SO powerful,” the pundits say, “All that torque from zero revs, you have to like that.” Well, no, I don’t. Any modern superbike is capable of performance that will suck your arms out of their sockets, in first gear, yet. And the roads we ride on aren’t even suitable for that amount of performance, so where is the advantage in having even more power?

“But they are environmentally friendly,” say others. Well, actually, they’re not. The cost of manufacture, maintenance and disposal of the exotic materials used in their construction is vast and their construction uses way more resources than building a normal bike. And, of course, you have to REGULARLY plug them into an electric power point to recharge them. Mmm, I wonder where that electricity comes from?

“They are the way of the future,” says another. Oh, really? When you can make one that will do 350km on a tankful (recharge) like my “normal” bike does and be able to be used anywhere in the country, then, perhaps, they may have a future.

“It’s a good image for motorcyclists who need some good publicity,” Is that so? Last time I looked our image (apart from a few at the fringe) seems to be pretty good. Sales are up, scooters litter our city and the cheap and cheerful nature of motorcycling continues to attract more and more followers.

Let me give you my take on electric motorcycles and feel free to disagree. Electric motorcycles are a gimmick, in the same way as electric cars are a gimmick. They are for people who want to flaunt their so-called environmental consciousness in front of the world and assume the moral high ground in the process. “I’m better than you because my car/bike doesn’t pollute the atmosphere like yours does.”

Surely all this morality and environmental jiggery pokery flies in the face of the most fundamental tenet of motorcycling. Motorcycling is good BECAUSE it doesn’t kow-tow to the norms. Motorcycling is good because a motorcyclist can express his/her individuality in a way that no other road user can. Motorcycling is good because it IS just a little on the fringe, still just a little bit naughty. When you are on your bike you can thumb your nose at the rest of the world and not have to justify why you are doing it (hells bells, I am starting to sound like another writer who makes a speciality of being controversial just for the sake of it)

I don’t care about electric bikes or electric cars. It is a dead-end technology that continues to waste millions of dollars of research and development which could, and should, be being used to make the existing technology better.

So the next time somebody glides silently by me in their electric car or motorcycle with an air of smug superiority, I will smile inside my helmet and feel sorry that they have sacrificed the real joy of motorcycling for a facade of technological which has dubious worth. Shocking, isn’t it?

Harley Davidson Live Wire
Harley Davidson Live Wire