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electric motorcycles

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I was surprised yesterday when I saw that respected news service Reuters was pushing a story about how Apple was the reason Mission Motors closed its doors. That very premise couldn’t be farther from the truth, and is readily apparent to anyone who has followed the San Franciscan startup at even a casual distance for the past few years. On its face, the story’s logic is akin to the idea that the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive at the wreckage of Titanic, should be accused of poaching the ill-fated ocean liner’s passengers. The premise of the of the assertions made by the Reuters article’s headline rests on statements made by one of Mission Motors’s former-CEOs, Derek Kaufman, who like our comedic parody of the Captain of the Titanic, blamed the iceberg for his misfortunes.

Today was a pretty big day in the electric vehicle world, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a company blog post that the California based company would not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wanted to use their technology. While the term “good faith” is a subjective one, Musk’s announcement opens up Telsa’s arsenal of patents to any other OEM, with the hope that the adoption rate of electric vehicles at these manufacturers will be improved. If a small manufacturer, or small product team in a large OEM, wants to start an EV project now, they can use Telsa’s patented technology to jump-start their development, and bring something to market quicker.

As it stands now, electric motorcycles are basically conventional motorcycles with batteries and motors that replace fuel tanks and engines. It is the same basic offering that we have had since the turn of the century, except with three times the cost, forty times the refuel time, and a quarter of the range. While the big hold-up for electrics, battery technology, is still advancing rapidly, at the end of the day consumers are still be making apples-to-apples comparisons between internal combustion and electric motorcycles because only the most basic elements of this new technology is being offered by electric OEMs. Even I have a hard time looking at the market, and imagining a scenario where I would grab an electric motorcycle over its internal combustion counterpart.

One of the big talking points for electric motorcycles is the subject of price/performance parity, i.e. when electric motorcycles will provide similar performance figures as internal combustion engines (ICE), for the same price. Performance can mean more than just raw power of course, with the cost of a motorcycle over its lifetime also being an important measure.

Considering that ICE motorcycles require more up-keep…and gasoline, the variable costs can stack up over time; whereas electric motorcycles require very little in additional costs, but are more money up-front (fixed costs). If that sounds like a lot of economics and math, it’s ok because a blogger by the name of Empulse Buyer has put together a handy break-even calculator that shows the total cost of owning electric and ICE motorcycles.