In our series of #AskTheExpert interviews, we spoke to Director of The Electric Motorbike Company, Perry Burns – who knows more than a thing or two about electric powered two-wheelers.

How did you get into electric motorcycles?

I was lucky enough to visit Shanghai a couple of years ago and was astonished that although the vast majority of the working population uses scooters to get around this vast city, nearly all of them were electric.  The Chinese government is committed to reducing the amount of pollution in their great cities and they have introduced a number of incentives ranging from financial subsidies to the issue of ‘green’ numberplates to identify non-polluting vehicles.  The UK Government is also committed to reducing pollution and will be mandating that all vehicles sold after 2030 will need to be electric.  Last year there were more than 100,000 new motorcycles registered in the UK yet less than 2% of these are electric.  This will start to rise exponentially to meet the Government target in the course of the next one or two years.  And as the technology matures and people become more accustomed to the idea of electric motive power, we and the other electric suppliers will be there to support the changeover seamlessly and affordably.

What have the last few months been like in your industry?

Surprisingly, demand has remained strong as people recognise the benefits of a journey to work that avoids public transport, is cheap and contributes to preventing climate change.  Although we would have liked to see more customers in our showrooms we have developed ‘non-contact’ lockdown protocols which allow us to demonstrate vehicles using video platforms like Zoom, WhatsApp, Teams and Google Hangouts.  Orders can be placed online and delivery can be made with contactless handover almost anywhere in the country.  It’s not been normal but for both the car and motorcycle EV sector demand has continued to increase notwithstanding the contraction in other parts of the industry.

In your opinion, what are the main advantages of electric?

Well, the obvious benefit is cost.  Mile for mile electric costs less than 20% of petrol or diesel.  But there are also many other advantages.  EV’s especially motorcycles are practically maintenance free.  They are exempt from vehicle taxes, exempt from congestion and low emission zone charges and carry a lower Benefit in Kind charge than equivalent petrol vehicles.  While charging infrastructure remains a barrier for EV cars, electric motorcycles charge from ordinary domestic sockets and of course as well as zero emission they are also quiet which means that pizzas delivered at 2.00am will no longer wake the neighbours.

What’s next for electric-powered vehicles?

The technology is developing almost as we watch.  In addition to new features like fingerprint recognition starters and rear view cameras we are also seeing long term trends.  The challenge with electric vehicles in general is the size and weight of battery needed to produce useful mileage and speed.  For example, we have a bike capable of over 50mph but the battery needed to drive it weighs 18kg and runs low on power at between 40 and 50 miles.  This is fine for local commuters but not terribly efficient for riders needing to use the bikes all day such as delivery or courier riders.  Even the high power bikes produced by Harley and Zero are limited by range and speed.  So we are expecting to see newer, lightweight batteries with faster charge cycles in the next couple of years and this will radically change the profile of the bikes coming to market.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers for customers when it comes to choosing electric? 

In general, customers love the economic case and are completely persuaded by the ecological argument. But Insurance companies and finance companies are proving slow to accept that electric is here to stay and are still applying early adopter premiums.  In some cases, this overwhelms the economic case and makes it difficult for all but the most committed to make the switch.  The vast majority of motorcycles sold in the UK are mopeds and scooters and in this class electric is as good as, if not better than, the petrol equivalents.  For higher powered cycles the technology is not there yet but within the next 2 -3 years we will see bikes capable of 120mph over 200- 250 miles with charge times of less than an hour.  That will be the inflection point where the case becomes unarguable.

We also posed some of your questions… 

Paul on Twitter asked: 

How do you feel about the current infrastructure for charging points? Or lack of them here in Northern Ireland? Also, the lack of range in my opinion will not sustain electric growth. 

Paul is right.  For cars, the charging infrastructure is the primary focus of attention.  But for motorcycles charging is nearly always possible from a normal domestic 3 pin socket.  And in most cases the batteries are removable; so even for people living in high rise homes, charging their bike is no more difficult than charging their phone.

Jon on Instagram asked: 

I currently ride a Yamaha fz6 600cc is there a similar style of electrics bike with similar mileage? 

Nice bike!  But as I said, it’s going to be a while before there’s an electric equivalent that will deliver the speed, power or range.  But I’ll tell you what: one of my scooters will beat your FZ6 away from the lights any day of the week because of the torque in the electric motor.  Of course, you’ll catch me 100 yards down the road but you’ll be looking at my number plate for quite a while before that happens.

Find out more about The Electric Motorbike Company here.