Are Electric Motors Here To Stay?

What does the rise of electric motors mean for the future of gas powered motorcycles? Shaun P gears up for a ride that goes beyond fuel pumps and charging stations.

There’s an electric storm coming, Mr Wayne. You and your internal combustion engine-loving friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the electric motorcycles.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but you can’t ignore them. Electric motorcycles are everywhere. From Athers zipping around to Revolts blending in with the other commuters – the number of electric motorcycles around us has really grown and how in the last five years. And they’ve brought the motorcycling community together like nothing else has before. But unfortunately, not for the nicest of reasons.

Hate On Electric Vehicles?

Almost all Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) motorcyclists I know mock these silent two-wheelers. Conversations at meetups range from how electric motorcycles are nothing but giant mixers. How they all feel the same and lack personality. How their range is unpredictable and some blow up like bombs. Everyone said this. Everyone including me.

Recently, I finally had a chance to ride my colleague Hardik’s Ultraviolette F77. Right off the bat, the design isn’t for me. The front end is too chunky, rear end too skinny. I’ve always felt that the styling is a little college project-ish. Personally, I prefer my street fighters to look sharp and minimal – The Ducati Streetfighter V4 is at one end of this spectrum, while the Bajaj NS 200 is at the other. But then again, looks are subjective.

The Attention

What isn’t subjective is the copious amount of attention this bike gets. My monstrous Versys 650 with its massive guards and top box fails to attract eyeballs the way this sleek fighter-jet inspired bike does. Parking it on a public road almost seemed illegal with passersby constantly stopping to admire and figure out what this unique piece of machinery is.

The Good Bits

As soon as I got on the motorcycle, I forgot all about the looks. Because all my attention now was focused on the sheer torque this motor produces (100 Nm!). Everyone talks about how dramatic the acceleration on electric motorcycles is, but nobody tells you to hold on for dear life. I didn’t get to punt it around too much thanks to Andheri West and its eternal traffic. But I’ve heard from auto-creator and journalist friends that this is a very fun bike to have on open roads.

The Upgrade

And very recently, Ultraviolette launched the updated F77 Mach 2 which seems to be fairly improved and they’ve taken care of a lot of the niggles that plagued its predecessor. The estimated range at 323km still isn’t enough for a lot of motorcyclists who want to seriously tour the country. But breakfast and weekend rides if planned well don’t seem impossible anymore. What blew my mind is that they’re offering the Mach 2 with an 8 lakh km warranty for the battery pack – a show of confidence in what they’ve built. I’m sure they believe this might help convince enough enthusiasts to go green and let go of their gas guzzlers.

The Goodbye?

Letting go of ICE motorcycles is not going to be easy. It’s going to be emotional, it’s going to be painful. I’m sure many are going to hate it and I’ll probably be one of them. But it seems inevitable. Not today, not tomorrow, not anytime soon. In fact, I personally don’t see them replacing petrol motorcycles for the next 10 years. But I can assure you that the EV engineers are working very hard to lower that timeline. They’re building these motorcycles to be quicker and lighter. They’re getting them to be more durable and give out more predictable range. And most importantly, they’re making them a lot more affordable. We all cried a little when we heard of the loss of the beloved Yamaha R1 this year due to pollution norms. But someday, we might just see Yamaha take the covers off an all electric E1 with a spec sheet that could be just as impressive, if not even more than the legendary ICE motorcycle we love.

Past, Present & Future

We motorcyclists will survive. Remember how we thought we’d never get over the mental 2 stroke bikes from the early ‘90s? Look at us now, fondly remembering the iconic RD350 and its maniac performance, but still salivating over the current generation R3 and how it does almost everything better.

The future is electric. There’s no fighting this. And we’ll get there when we get there. But let’s not forget, we’re living in the present. And it would be a shame to not enjoy our current crop of fantastic ICE motorcycles. Everything from the looney Husqvarna 400, the razor sharp RS456 and the indomitable all-new Himalayan – we’ve got so many great choices in India, pick your flavour of motorcycling and get the one that fits your budget. We could all do with more riding and less reel-watching.

With that, I’m off to enjoy these dinosaur fuel-consuming machines for as long as I can. And I’d suggest that you do too.

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