Easy Rider 2030
Reading time: approx. 20 min. Easy Rider 2030The new generation of electric two-wheelers heralds a new era of mobility and arouses emotions.
1 / Pioneers on the go
2 / Biker anxiety
3 / Brand confusion
4 / Urban tour riders
5 / Change from the top down
6 / The end of accelerator pedal dominance
7 / Cultural change!
8 / Electrifying racing spirit
9 / Freedom 2030
Fire and flame for e-bikesOn the night of March 13–14, 2019, eighteen motorcycles worth more than one million euro caught fire on the racetrack in Jerez de la Frontiera, Spain. Under normal circumstances, a fire like this would have quickly been forgotten as an insured loss caused by a short circuit. Differently when it comes to electric motorcycles. Images of the charred electric racing motorcycles for the new MotoE World Cup were bombarded with dramatic comments in related Facebook groups: “Bravo! The rest of this electric garbage needs to be incinerated too! Loud bikes rulez forever!” These comments inevitably culminated in a flame war.
Many bikers see themselves as guardians – they love the society of like-minded people and are keen to protect their rituals. Almost all motorcyclists see themselves stopping at a pub while on tour in the rebellious, liberal tradition of Easy Rider. However, many part-time rebels leave little room for maneuver when it comes to their idea of freedom.For them, change is unnecessary, especially when it comes to the motorcycle itself – a fossil fuel-powered engine to be driven for sheer enjoyment.
1st stationPioneers on the goThe number of two-wheelers out on the roads shows how much support there is for this opinion: In 2018, 1,004,063 motorcycles and scooters were registered for the first time in Europe. Of this total, just 7,478 (0.75%) were electric models, although this is 81.5% more than in the previous year. In the same year, only 620 buyers (0.41%) opted for an electric motorcycle out of the 156,108 new vehicles purchased in Germany.
One of these buyers was Marcus Lacroix, Chief Editor of Northern German motorcycle magazine “Kradblatt” (“Motorcycle Journal”). Lacroix bought an Energica EsseEsse9 for EUR 26,000 in spring and started reporting on his experiences with the new bike shortly afterwards. “The reaction was extreme right from the beginning – I received angry emojis by the dozen,” Lacroix says, recounting the feedback from his readers. “In spite of that, there were a few who agreed with me: that this is the future of the market and you have to see it in that way.”
Lacroix changed his own driving behavior in just a few weeks: “You learn to adapt; you plan differently. You know after 120 kilometers to find a fast charger and top up the power for twenty minutes.” And all things considered, Lacroix still feels that the electric motorcycle hasn’t changed much for him. If he wants to get to a client from Oldenburg quickly, he knows his bike can get him there.
What about on the weekend?“I rarely do more than 350 kilometers on a Sunday; two stops is always sufficient to do that.” Lacroix now writes less about his electric adventures – the sheer existence of the vehicle is polarizing enough.
2nd stationBiker anxietyThere isn’t just one type of motorcyclist. The bikes, the driving styles, the routes, and especially the people behind the handlebars are too different to be painted with the same brush. There are plenty of conflicting sensibilities among them: the super-athletes versus the offroaders, the streetfighters versus the tour drivers, the old-school-rockers versus the café racers. The gearheads look down on casual Harley riders, motorsport hooligans look down on riders in safety vests.
Their mottos are also quite different. While veterans re-read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” young Instagrammers like Lea Rieck are writing their own books about their journeys around the world. Influencers post new wheelie videos on YouTube every day. The one thing many motorcyclists can agree on is that the electric motorcycle could put an end to their beloved hobby. For some, removing the combustion chamber from between their legs also means removing their dreams of freedom: It means no more opportunities to take that endlessly long trip you were always planning to take next year. No hope of slipping into a different (leather) skin, at least for a little while.
The electric motorcycle is set to take over, and that’s what hurts the most: The end of the combustion engine spells the end of unlimited opportunities to indulge your inner child.
3rd stationBrand confusionEnergica, the Italian small-volume manufacturer based in Modena, only sold its first motorcycle in spring 2015: the electric superbike Ego. The EsseEsse9 chosen by Marcus Lacroix is now in its second model year. But since Energica bikes were selected as the MotoE competition bike for the premier MotoGP class, the brand has been the name on everyone’s lips. Livia Cevolini, the young CEO, says with confidence: “We want to build motorcycles that are sexy and innovative, and that only appeal to premium customers.” Cevolini expects to produce 5,000 bikes in 2023.
Of course, there are plenty of exotic companies like Energica among the manufacturers of electric motorcycles. Zero, for example. This Californian company dominates the American market and is also strongly represented in Germany. New manufacturers and start-ups such as Arc Vector and Curtiss also make an appearance on a monthly basis. The range of manufacturers is especially overwhelming when it comes to electric scooters and mopeds, which are usually produced in China. For example, a typical fleet of electric two-wheelers offered by a rental company in Hamburg’s HafenCity includes models from NIU, Kumpan, Doohan, Meijs, Zero, Scrooser, Soco and many more; in some cases, up to a dozen different brands are available to hire. However, the legalization and regulation of electric scooters in Germany has brought additional movement to the market.
The established manufacturers are as well starting to catch on: Japanese companies like Yamaha and Honda are also making inroads into the European market, as well as Kymco from Taiwan. Harley Davidson, the core brand for all easy riders, will start delivering its electric LiveWire model from the end of 2019. Ducati has been hinting at the possibility of sporty electric motorcycles in the future, and already sells the MIG-RR electric mountain bike. Plans for a fleet of vehicles that don’t rely on fossil fuels are also well underway at the BMW Motorrad headquarters in Munich.
4th stationUrban tour ridersThe undisputed bestseller on the German motorcycle market is the R 1250 GS from BMW. The Munich-based motorcycle manufacturer reliably sells between 6,000 and 8,000 units a year. Buyers hail this large trail bike as an “all-rounder”: It is considered an ideal travel bike and can carry mountains of luggage. At the same time, the GS has the flair to drive around the world or through any Siberian riverbed.
Markus Lederer is responsible for the strategy and development of the motorcycle business segment in BMW’s two-wheel division. Lederer’s job is to steer the division through an uncertain future – one that is brewing like a storm on the horizon for some, while others see the change rising like the sun. Paris, London, Amsterdam and various cities in Italy want to start banning internal combustion engines and motorcycles in the next two to four years, the goal being to rid city centers of anything but electric vehicles from 2030 onward. German cities will follow suit, meaning around four million German motorcycles will be affected. “As you would expect, we are working very hard on a strategy for the urban sector,” says Lederer. He refers to urban vehicles such as the battery-powered C evolution scooter and the small X2City electric scooter. However, the strategists and developers in Munich are already thinking much further ahead.
The radical change in favor of electric power was announced in Munich back in 2016 with the presentation of the “Vision Next 100” design study for the long-term future of BMW Motorrad. At the time, Chief Designer Edgar Heinrich described the engine of the vehicle, saying: “In terms of form and design, it is reminiscent of the traditional flat engine, but it now houses the emission-free drive unit.” A few days ago, Heinrich and Lederer followed up with a brilliant concept vehicle: The Vision DC Roadster features a battery designed in the style of the iconic flat engine; the electric motor sits where the gearbox used to be. The visionary design is combined with historic BMW features such as the open Cardan shaft.
In terms of the production technology required, BMW would certainly be able to bring the Vision DC Roadster onto the road in four or five years, but it doesn’t want to: Provided that politics don’t change the rules of the game and the market does not demand high numbers of the Vision DC Roadster, BMW would rather sell the significantly more profitable GS in Munich. The company also points out that the Vision DC Roadster will be sure to have a better start in ten years’ time – when more efficient batteries are available and an even lower weight can be achieved.
Lederer sees tough challenges, but also great opportunities, in the socio-political and technical development set to dramatically change the landscape for motorcycle manufacturers in the coming decades:“There is no doubt that an emission-free motorcycle that is digitally networked but still inspires same emotional power as before will ultimately be a great advantage for our industry.”
5th station Change from the top down15 million people live in the cramped downtown area of Chinese megacity Shanghai, and they are constantly on the move. The inhabitants of urban centers like Shanghai use electrically powered mopeds, scooters or (to a lesser degree) motorcycles for up to 30 per cent of their daily traffic movements.
Sales of the popular two-stroke engine and mopeds with small, four-stroke engines were banned in the Shanghai area since 1996, and driving these vehicles was banned from 2003 onward: air pollution, traffic noise and space requirements were all reasons for limiting their use. Today, an estimated 350 million electric two-wheelers are on the road in China. The success of the drastic conversion, prescribed and implemented on a partisan basis, is striking: Strolling along the promenades of the Huangpu River is a pleasure again – two-wheelers glide past more or less in silence. Even globally, the Chinese approach to electrification has had measurable consequences: According to a Dutch study, 29 million tons of CO2 were saved by all electric vehicles worldwide in 2017. Chinese electric bikes were responsible for 80 percent of these savings.
The fact that Chinese electric scooters and mopeds, traveling at a leisurely pace of 25 or 45 km/h, have become fast sellers is also thanks to their price: Buyers only have to fork out the equivalent of EUR 300 for a good-quality new vehicle – and they can even pay in installments. In comparison, an imported German GS costs around EUR 40,000 in Shanghai, and a license to enter the city costs an additional EUR 25,000.
6th station The end of accelerator pedal dominance“In the not too distant future, 20 km/h will be the measure of all things when it comes to urban traffic,” says Heiner Monheim. Monheim is a geographer, a traffic expert and has been dealing with urban space development issues for decades. He is obviously aware of the example being set in Shanghai, and estimates that the development there will arrive in Germany in ten to twenty years.
Monheim expects that from 2030 onward, most of the traffic in German cities will not have the combustion engines that have been dominant until now: “We’ll see plenty of electric scooters and electric motorcycles. However, the idea that private cars, huge SUVs or motorcycles that run on fossil fuels will still be clogging up cities in a decade is absurd.” Monheim is no doomsayer. His forecasts are based on data, policy frameworks from Brussels and, more recently, on the technical specifications for the much-discussed concept of autonomous driving: “The constant data exchange required reaches its limits at 20 km/h, even with fast G5 mobile communications. So the previous dominance of fast vehicles will disappear. A shared space like that will be wonderful.”
The idea that abandoning the internal combustion engine could encroach on the fundamental right to mobility does not concern Monheim. He argues that even fully autonomous driving is still self-determined at its core: “You choose your destination, your route, your vehicle. The only change is that you are no longer entitled to set your own speed. Choosing not to drive your own car or motorcycle is far from a loss of freedom.”From Monheim’s point of view, the Sunday motorcycle tour, cruising for fun with the wind in your hair, will still have its place in the future, but under different conditions: “Motorized wandering and driving for fun will probably remain unchanged – just with different motorcycles and at a different price.”
7th station Cultural change!You can find them on every corner in Berlin-Mitte, Friedrichshain and Neukölln: Bright-red electric Schwalbe scooters, electrified replicas of the stinking two-stroke scooter from the GDR era. Even as late as 1985, nobody ever imagined that these basic socialist vehicles would ever disappear. Five years later, they met their sudden demise. With a top speed of 45 km/h, the new Schwalbe appeals to a different audience without a motorcycle license: “We were obviously targeting the people in their mid-twenties on the way to a party with the Emmy rental service, but we’re far beyond that now. Now, even people in their mid-forties and commuters use us to get into the city center,” says Valerian Seither.
Seither is in his early thirties and is a typical startup founder: The service got off to a flying start in 2015 with a co-founder, several investors and the idea of offering 150 rental mopeds in Berlin. Emmy now has more than 2,000 electric mopeds in sharing fleets for four German cities. The competition is catching up, even among large companies: In Berlin, COUP, a subsidiary of the Bosch Group, has entered the market. COUP already has branches in Madrid and Paris; Bosch, a former supplier to vehicle manufacturers, is becoming a fleet supplier throughout Europe.Customers love the sharing fleets:The total number of kilometers travelled per month is increasing and behavior is changing just as quickly. Many sharing users have already bought a ticket for car sharing and have learned that it is increasingly uncool to own your own vehicle in the complicated traffic network of a large city.
This mindset distinguishes the modern Emmy rental users from traditional motorcycle clientele. Brand loyalty is passé. However, the passion is still there, says Seither: “The typical Emmy driver wants to get from point A to point B as cost effectively as possible, but they also like the look and feel of the electric Schwalbe.”
8th stationElectrifying racing spiritRandy de Puniet is what motorsports fans like to call a warhorse. The French racer drove in the premier MotoGP class. de Puniet gained popularity thanks to his surprising successes and is well-known for his spectacular falls. He retired from racing in 2014 but now de Puniet is back, to the delight of his fans. He is driving in the new MotoE class for the LCR Honda racing team. Energica has managed to rebuild and replace the bikes from the Jerez fire in March in record time. In July 2019, the new racing series will be officially launched on the Sachsenring in Germany.
Randy de Puniet is looking forward to the electric motorcycle races; he can’t understand most fans’ negative attitude. He sees electric motorbikes as great fun for himself and for other racing drivers, and the fact that the Energica is a one-size-fits-all model for all teams inspires him: It creates a level playing field for all drivers in the race. Rather than the driver with the most money and the best technology, it’s the fastest driver who wins. Randy de Puniet is happy to do without loud engines and long-distance racing in particular: “I see this as a very positive development. No team orders, no strategizing, no tire protection. Just get out on the track, full speed ahead and ten laps flat out. Electric racing is pure freedom.”
Freedom 2030Electric motorcycles, electric scooters and pedelecs are comparatively cheap in the year 2030. They were relatively exotic at the beginning of the 2020s, but after ranges were repeatedly expanded and inner-city areas were completely closed to privately owned cars throughout Europe, their triumphal march can no longer be stopped. The new means of mass transport are changing urban dynamics and traffic structures and, above all, the habits of their users. Private ownership of mobility is no longer a desirable asset.
This change has also been encouraged by the fierce competition between old, established motorcycle manufacturers like BMW and a host of new service providers and start-ups: sharing systems, services and rental products are now customer-oriented, reliable and efficient.And the new breed of premium electric motorcycles are stunningly sexy: A new generation of racers, motorcycle developers, customizers and service designers have continued to do what was tentatively hinted at by companies like Zero, Energica or Arc Vector and which took shape with BMW concept vehicles such as the Vision DC Roadster. The motorcycle industry has emancipated itself from the combustion era with radical new looks instead of retro style, digitally integrated clothing for good measure, lively communities, new biker tribes and new goals on the horizon.
Electric is popular thanks to new formats and new heroes. The idea of attracting incurable petrol-heads with MotoE was quickly shelved. But then the E-XCross Champions League was founded in 2023. After the first face-offs between Marquez, Rossi, de Puniet and co. in front of more than 90,000 fans at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, one thing became clear: The fun is still there with electric motorcycles. It’s just different.
BMW Vision Next 100The far horizon Flexframe – the frame steers with the rider; also featuring an emissions-free power unit, a variable tire profile that actively adapts to the road conditions, a self-balancing stabilization system, a visor instead of cockpit, no need for a helmet or other protective clothing, sensors in the driver equipment; normally BMW looks just five to ten years into the future when developing a vehicle. The horizon of VISION NEXT 100 is much further ahead. Chief Designer Edgar Heinrich: “VISION NEXT 100 brings together the best of the digital and analog worlds. It offers the ultimate emotional experience – the great escape.”
BMW C evolution RollerAn elegant vehicle for the office commuteIn France and Spain’s big cities, where commuters like to ride prestige scooters, the first building block of BMW’s “electric mobility concept” has been warmly received. In Germany there is still a lack of acceptance – this may also be linked to the high price tag.
Power: 35 kW
Max. torque: 72 Nm
Speed: 129 km/h
Urban range: 160 km
Charging time depending on the connection: 3:30 to 4:30 hours
Price: EUR 14,150
Niu NGTSmart city cruiserNIU is one of the largest electric moped manufacturers in China and uses high-quality components such as Bosch motors and Panasonic cells for its export fleet. The NGT is the flagship of the model series and is digitally networked: The NIU app can track a scooter if it is stolen.
Power: 3 kW
Speed: 70 km/h
Urban range: 135 km
Battery: two 60 V × 35 Ah battery packs
Price: EUR 4,499
Energica EsseEsse9Bella FiguraItalian design, high-quality components, plenty of elegant details and the best possible charging technology: Small-series manufacturer Energica based in Modena is confidently making inroads in a buyer segment for which decision-making is determined not by price, but by statement.
Power: 80 kW
Max. torque: 180 Nm
Speed: 200 km/h
Battery capacity: 13.4 kWh
Highway range: 135 km
Charging time depending on connection: 20 minutes to 3:30 hours
Price: from EUR 24,000
Vespa ElettricaElectrified cult classicWhat began more than 70 years ago with a flexible two-stroke engine has now become an Italian two-wheel legend. Now the Vespa is going electric. For fans of a relaxed drive, it is a must-have, but watch out – progress has its price: The 50 cc four-stroke cycle used to cost only half as much.
Power: 4 kW
Speed: 45 km/h
Urban range: 100 km
Charging time depending on connection: max. 4:00 hours
Price: EUR 6,390
Arc VectorA collector’s item from WalesArc’s founder, Mark Truman, formerly of Jaguar, announced that production of the Vector would start at a Welsh factory in 2020. When the prototype goes into series production, the Vector will have some exceptional features such as carbon frames and rear wheel swingarms. Only 399 units will be built.
Speed: 200 km/h
Highway range: 193 km
Combined range: 436 km
Price: GBP 90,000
Curtiss HeraHot rod goddessCurtiss used to be called Confederate, but has only manufactured electric motors since 2018. Hera is a tribute to the V8 racing engine of legendary American designer and racer Glenn Curtiss (+1930). The Hera can be ordered and paid for already; delivery is reportedly expected in 2020. More details are not available.
Harley-Davidson LifeWireSilent Heavy Metal Harley-Davidson, the guardian of legendary motorcycle freedom, is now launching the electric LiveWire. Harley-Davidson is still keeping a lot of details under lock and key, including the torque and battery capacity. The intensity of the discussion among fans of the American cult brand has already reached fever pitch.
Available from: 4th quarter of 2019
0 to 100: 3.0 seconds
Highway range: 140 km
Charging time depending on connection:
40 minutes to 6:00 hours
Price: from EUR 32,995
E-SchwalbeA dashing birdThe E-Schwalbe, German for “electric sparrow”, is a daring moped-blend of socialist two-stroke convention and modern electric scooter. Its high cult status is guaranteed; its driving style is fairly good-natured, reaching 45 km/h in no time at all. In Berlin, the E-Schwalbe is used by distributor Emmy for its sharing fleet.
Power: 4 kW
Speed: 45 km/h
Urban range: 60 km
Charging time depending on connection: 1:00 to 4:30 hours
Price: from EUR 5,590
ZERO SR/FStripped and stunningThe ZERO SR/F is the first truly attractive vehicle from the American manufacturer; from a visual perspective, the “naked bike” holds its own against modern vehicles with combustion engines. The driving stats are impressive. When accelerating, it practically outperforms mid-range petrol vehicles. If only the limited range were better…
Power: 82 kW Max. torque: 190 Nm
Speed: 200 km/h
Battery capacity: 14.4 kWh
Highway range: 140 km
Charging time depending on connection: 1:00 to 4:30 hours
Price: from EUR 20,490
BMW X2City E-ScooterThe SUV scooter BMW Motorrad sees the X2City pedelec scooter as the ideal vehicle for city traffic: “The urban vehicle for that last mile.” The approach is commendable; electric scooters will be credited with playing a major role in urban spaces in the future. The X2City has a slightly more polished appearance; BMW just likes to build SUVs.
Speed: 20 km/h
Battery capacity: 408 Wh
Urban range: 25 km
Charging time: 2:30 hours
Price: EUR 2,399
BMW Vision DC RoadsterAn electrified naked bikeA modern naked bike, to be realized in four or five years. The electric drive is based on state-of-the-art technology and the design pairs emotive styling with historic BMW features such as the open Cardan shaft. Form follows function, even on an electric motorcycle: As with the flat engine of the BMW R 32 developed in 1923, elements requiring cooling (now, the battery) will be positioned so they are exposed to the airstream when driving.
Ducati MIG-RRA weapon in wine country Expensive and noble. In other words, the high art of electric bikes for Italian terrain. The first electric mountain bike in Ducati’s portfolio, but the second cooperation with an Italian bicycle manufacturer. Ducati has learned from its experience first time round and is slowly moving in on a target group for a sporty electric motorcycle made in Bologna.
Supported speed: 25 km/h
Drive: Shimano Steps E8000
Battery capacity: 504 Wh
Charging time: max. 5:00 hours
Price: EUR 6,250