The futuristic electric motorcycle is here to stay, and although there are some amazing machines currently on the market, the best is yet to come. In taking charge of the future with a review of the best electric motorcycles, one thing is clear. The futuristic electric motorcycle genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and there’s no getting it back inside!

After six years in court trying to register their engine sound as a trademark, Harley-Davidson now produces a motorcycle whose motor is entirely noiseless.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Harley Davidson

Ironic yes, but whether we like it or not, that’s progress. The internal combustion engine may not be buying the farm just yet, but the emission control vultures are circling.

So with this in mind, what are the leading bike brands of the world doing about this issue?

After unleashing the mind-blowing tech of their Riding Assist prototype, Honda has now added an electric motor into the mix to become the Riding Assist-e.

Meanwhile, Yamaha has been waving the battery-powered flag since 2013 with their road and dirt prototypes, but with nothing hitting the showroom floor yet.

The same goes for Kawasaki, who despite filing patents in 2015 for as many as ten electric bikes, is yet to see one in production. Suzuki is dragging their heels too, but along with battery power is also considering hydrogen cells. Some new companies, seeing a potential gap in the market, seized the day and beat them to the punch.

So let’s review what electric motorcycles are available right now, and what’s in the immediate pipeline.

Vespa Elettrica

Launched at the Milan Show in 2016, it’s taken the Italian scooter giant two years to develop a production model, but is it worth the wait?

The Vespa is a natural shoo-in for a battery-powered model. Those trademark curvy body panels being perfect for hiding the one thing that can make electric bikes ugly, namely the battery.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Vespa

Behind the bodywork is a lithium-ion battery producing a max of 4kW power giving the Elettrica a comparative engine displacement of 50cc. A full charge arrives in just four hours, and for that you’ll receive around 62 zero-emission miles.

The Elettrica comes with two riding modes; Power and Eco. The latter limits performance to just 18 mph, which presumably makes sense battling through the traffic-clogged streets of Rome.

The scooter comes with a multimedia TFT dash that allows for Bluetooth connectivity, thus making it perfect for pairing to an app, such as one of the Damon Motorcycles smartphone apps.

Harley-Davidson Livewire

Harley-Davidson took enough flack when they launched the V-Rod, so what their die-hard following will say about the Livewire is anyone’s guess.

Buyers aside, H-D shareholders will welcome the Motor Company’s futuristic hog even if it did take four years to iron out all its lumps.

The electric bike can be charged either at home or via a level-3 fast charge station and will be the first H-D to feature ‘Connect.’ This feature uses a smartphone app that links rider to bike and is available free for the first year, requiring a subscription after that.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Harley Davidson

Harley says the first batch is available for immediate pre-order and owners will be able to enjoy a top speed of around 110 mph and 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

Apart from an estimated range of 110 miles of urban use, these are the only figures currently available for the bike. What we can say for sure, however, is that it’s going to cost $200 shy of $30K.

Zero Motorcycles SR ZF14.2

As mentioned at the outset, while the big boys were talking the talk, small start-ups specifically focusing on electric bikes had already hit the floor running.

Zero Motorcycles is a case in point. Launched in 2006 by a former NASA engineer, it’s safe to say they are now the name in electric motorcycles, often tagged as the two-wheeled Tesla.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Zero Motorcycles

For 2019, they’ll be fielding a range of four basic electric bike models, which together with additional battery options, will give a 12-bike line-up. Being all-American bikes, comparisons to the H-D Livewire are apparent, but on paper the Zero has it beaten in several key areas.

Tank range for the Zero SR ZF14.2 + Power Tank gives a city mileage of 223 miles with a combined riding score of 150 miles. Top end may be slightly down on H-D but off the line acceleration, thanks to its 116 pounds of torque, would make a drag race between the two highly entertaining.

The area where there is just no comparison between the two bikes is in price. Even the top of the range SR is approximately half the outlay of the Livewire.

Lightning LS-218 and Lightning Bolt

Going to the opposite end of the electric motorcycle spectrum in terms of outright performance and price is another Californian start-up; Lightning Motorcycles. In 2013, their LS-218 beat everything on two-wheels at the prestigious Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.

In terms of speed, try this on for size, the LS-218 will go from 0-150 mph in just over nine seconds!

Now as exciting as this is, you have to pay for that kind of performance, and at $38K they aren’t cheap. The even more exciting news is the upcoming launch of the Lightning Strike.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Lighting Motorcycle

Due to break cover in March 2019, you can expect 150mph, a 150-mile range, and a recharge time of just 35 minutes. It has enough onboard technology to keep even the most die-hard nerds happy, all for a paltry $13K.

For an industry that often receives criticism for its high unit cost in relation to performance, the Strike could well be a game changer.

Zero Motorcycles is currently leading the way, Vespa is tapping into a niche, Harley is playing catch up, and Lightning is pushing the envelope. Add to this significant numbers of promising electric motorcycle start-ups waiting in the wings, including Arc Curtiss and Tarform Motorcycles, and the road ahead looks hopeful.

Electric Ducati By 2021

As for the major bike brands, we are still yet to see an electric motorcycle from aimed at the mainstream middleweight market. Ducati, on the other hand, has at least committed to launching a battery-powered bike by 2021. However, but Ducati’s CEO has not yet revealed whether the electric bike will go down the super sport or monster route.

Electric Motorcycle
Photo from Ducati

Although overall designs differ wildly, battery-powered electric bike brands both large and small have all adopted the smart-dash. This hi-tech information system gives the rider an amazing array of information.

While this is a significant step forward the potential for motorcycle technology developers to take it further is vast. In taking charge of the future with a review of the best electric motorcycles, one thing is clear, the future for these new generation motorcycles is electrifying.