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03 Aug 2020
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

Electric motorbikes explained


Electric motorbike being driven

Fancy swapping your ride for something a little more eco-friendly? Here’s what you need to know.

What is an electric motorbike?

An electric motorbike is powered by electricity and not petrol. It relies on a rechargeable battery to give it power, rather than an engine.

You’ll probably come across these terms while looking at electric motorbikes:

  • Kilowatt hour (Kwh): this is a unit of electrical power. The more units a motorbike has, the more powerful it will be.

  • Range: this is how far your bike can travel before it needs charging again.

Even though the bike is electric, you’ll still need to get valid tax, a licence and MOT. 


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Why would I want an electric motorbike?

The pressure is on for the government to reach zero emissions by 2050. And by 2035, there will be a ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles.

So if you’re looking to make the switch sooner rather than later, a zero emissions electric motorbike could be a good option.

READ MORE: Petrol and diesel ban 2035: what does it mean for you?


How powerful is an electric motorbike?

The common misconception with any electric vehicle is the lack of power. But most new models boast high power and speed.

The Zero SR/F model, for instance, reaches 110 brake horsepower (bhp) and has a top speed of 124 mph.

An electric motorbike uses less power when it’s at a standstill. And if it’s fitted with regenerative braking you can restore lost power while waiting at the traffic lights. Perfect for city commutes.


How far can an electric motorbike go?

This varies. Some can take you up to 50 miles. Others, like the Brutus V9, can travel up to 280 miles on a single charge.


Does the government offer electric motorbike grants?

The government offers around 20% off a new electric motorbike, up to a maximum of around £1,500.

The dealers will usually include this in the purchase price, but it’s always worth double checking.

Some of the eligible models are:

  • BMW C evolution

  • Energica Ego

  • Energica Eva

  • Scutum Silence S02

  • Torrot Muvi

  • Vmoto 100

  • Vmoto 120

  • Zero Motorcycles (all models) 

You can find the full list at GOV. UK


How much does it cost to charge an electric bike?

Depending on the bike, you could expect to pay for electricity by the unit or kWh.

This usually works out at around 14p to 18p per unit. So if the battery holds 12.5 kWh of energy and has a range of 100 miles, a full ‘tank’ will cost around £2. 

The Zero S and Zero SR ZF14.4 + Power Tank have a 223-mile range. Working out at around £2 to fully charge. 

The Harley Davidson Livewire will cost around £1.50 to travel 100 miles, and £2.30 to reach its full range of 146 miles.

Your motorbike’s range will vary depending on what terrain you’re biking on.


Will I save on maintenance costs?

As the engine is electric, you have no oil, spark plugs, timing belts or air filters. There’s no gearbox or clutch either.

You will only have to maintain the tyres, the brake pads and the hydraulic fluid. The brake pads and fluid could last longer than a standard bike, as the engine provides most of the braking power.

You still have to take your electric motorbike for an MOT though.

READ MORE: How to pass your motorbike MOT


What some of the best electric motorbikes?

Zero SR/F
Power: 110 bhp
Top speed: 124 mph
Range: 82 miles

Energica Ego
Power: 136 bhp
Top speed: 149 mph
Range: 100 miles

Harley Davidson - Live Wire
Power: 104 bhp
Top speed: 115 mph
Range: 110 miles 


Do I still need to tax an electric motorbike?

For a completely electric vehicle, the tax costs £0. And for hybrid vehicles, the tax is reduced.

You still need to tax the bike, even though you don’t pay anything.

To be exempt from tax, the government says that the vehicle must “Use an external source or an electric storage battery not connected to any source of power when the vehicle is moving.”


How do I charge an electric motorbike?

This varies from model to model. But most you can charge through a wall socket. Usually this will take up to 8 hours.

If this isn’t quick enough, there are dedicated chargers that can speed up the process.

When you’re out and about you can usually use regular charging points for electric vehicles.


How much is insurance for an electric bike?

It’s difficult to say how much electric motorbike insurance will cost because they’re still a niche product.

Some insurers might bump up the price as the electric motorbike engines can be complicated to fix. But this could change as the market for the electric vehicles increases.

What we do know is that cost will vary. You should always shop around to find the best deal.

There are ways you could save on insurance. For example, making sure your bike has good security, like bike locks. Storing it in a garage or secure car park overnight could help too.

The good news is that with zero tax to pay and minimal fuel and maintenance costs, you could find that you’ll be saving money overall.

READ MORE: How can I get cheaper motorbike insurance?


What are the drawbacks of an electric motorbike?

Motorcyclists are a big fan of torque. That’s the force between the fuel, the piston and the engine. The faster the torque the better.

Although the torque is good on an electric bike, the acceleration is more gradual. Some bikers will miss the instant surge of power from a standard motorbike.

Many bikers take pride in tinkering about with their bike, but there’s not the same scope to do this on an electric one. The lack of noise and gear changes might be sorely missed by bikers too.

The other pitfall of electric bikes is the cost. The initial outlay for a bike is still expensive, even with the government grant on top.

Charging range and accessibility to charging points is a bugbear too. But with more money being invested in electric vehicle infrastructure, this could soon be a thing of the past.


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