Electric motorcycles are here, and more of them are on the way


Zero Motorcycles, which opened up shop in 2006, is a niche electric brand . The privately-held, California-based company sells between 2,000 and 10,000 motorcycles a year, both domestically and internationally, and is growing fast, with a compounded annual growth rate of about 40 percent each year. Other electric motorcycle makers include KTM and Alta Motors.

While electric bikes only take up a small portion of the motorcycle market at present, the electric motorcycle industry is expected to grow nearly 42 percent by 2021, according to a market research firm TechNavio.

“There’s an inevitability to electric continuing to grow as a percentage of global transportation,” said Zero Motorcycles CEO Sam Paschel. “The question is, would you rather be early, having developed really robust technology and power-train systems? Or, would you rather come to that party a little late?”

In fact, electric vehicles have helped reshape the transportation industry globally, some experts pointed out.

“What Tesla showed with the Model S, was that once you have performance superiority and pricing parity, where there’s product availability, the market shifts dramatically to electric,” said Marc Fenigstein, Alta Motors co-founder and chief product officer.

In the U.S., the vast majority of Zero sales are in West Coast cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paschel said, cities that already have the infrastructure to support them.

At present electric motorcycles remain a niche market: Riders are typically city dwellers in their early 40s, slightly younger than the average age of a U.S. motorcycle rider — which is 47, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s U.S. Motorcycle Owner Survey — and uses the bike to commute.

The kind of people who “tend to have both the discretionary income to go and just buy a brand new electric motorcycle and have the mindset to be an early adopter of technology,” Paschel said.

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