When will the first true electric motorcycle from an large OEM hit dealer floors? Pretty soon by what we’re hearing come out of Austria lately. KTM’s Freeride is fairly straight-forward in concept, as it takes the tried and true KTM off-road package, and puts an electrical drive train inside it (easy enough, right?). Designed with help from Austrian firm Kiska, the KTM Freeride looks like a dirt bike, smells like a dirt bike…well, you get the idea.
While KTM Freeride concept has reportedly been more than peppy during testing, it’s big drawback during development has always been its battery life. That’s apparently about to change, as KTM’s lastest version has reportedly more power on-board (there’s been tremendous amounts of progress in battery density in just the past six months), and is set to come out later this year (we’d assume an EICMA launch in November).
This news is a double-edged sword for the electric space, as KTM’s long-awaited entry draws closer, it brings legitimacy to the space. From what we’ve gathered from our sources, the Freeride is more than capable of holding its own against its ICE compatriots, and sticks close to KTM’s “Ready to Race” mantra.
With the OEMs entering the marketplace though, the writing is on the wall for the current batch of electric startups, especially those in the off-road space right now. They’ll have to now compete on the merits (performance, price, build quality, etc) with a company that has a much larger dealer base, more money, and frankly more experience building, selling, and marketing motorcycles.
It’ll be interesting to see how KTM’s entry affects Quantya and Zero Motorcycles, since it is the obvious competitor to their offerings. Zero Motorcycles just held their press launch for its 2011 model line, garnering from the most favorable of outlets only mixed reviews for its updated motorcycles (one more critical test rider we spoke to simply called the bikes “total shit”).
Meanwhile the big positive point that journos are throwing Zero’s way in their reviews seems to be the company’s departure from bicycle components to more standard motorcycle fare. Certainly a step in the right direction for the California-based company, but sort of along the lines of giving bonus points for making a bike with two wheels, a seat, and some handlebars.
If that’s where the bar is set in this space, KTM might have a wreaking ball on its hands with the Freeride. While the idea that electrics can encourage non-riders to get on two wheels is intriguing, the triple digit sales figures we’ve seen from the companies hanging their hat on that approach suggests that the opportunity there is much smaller than it originally seemed.
Instead it would seem that from the quoting of non-rider purchaser figures there is proof that no one has made a compelling electric motorcycle that core enthusiasts will accept. From what we’ve heard, the KTM Freeride might change that.