Review: Energica EGO Electric Motorcycle

The future of motorcycles? The jury is still out. But, the technology keeps moving forward. Battery range and charging capabilities are improving and you can expect usable performance. The weight issue still needs to be addressed.
Thanks to Adam at Rocket Moto in Nashua, NH for the loan.


Here’s a narrated video to see and hear what the bike sounds like. Details and more thoughts are below. Enjoy.


A few details:
$25,000 base price, $32,600 as tested – Price Reduced from original cost of $40k as tested!

MOTOR– Permanent Magnet AC, Oil Cooled

MAX SPEED- Limited at 240 km/h (149mph)
HORSEPOWER– about 135 hp
WEIGHT– About 580 pounds
TORQUE- 195 Nm (143 ft lbs) from 0 to 4700 rpm
RIDING MODES- 4 Riding Modes: Standard, Eco, Rain, Sport 1)
4 Regenerative Maps: Low, Medium, High, Off
PARK ASSISTANT- Reverse and Forward (1.74 mph Max Speed)

BATTERY CAPACITY-11.7 kWh
LIFE- 1200 Cycles @ 80% Capacity (100% DOD)
WARRANTY- 3 years / 50.000 km
RECHARGE- 3.5 h (0-100% Soc) Mode 2 or 3 Charge (220), 8 hours using 110,
30 min (0-85% Soc) Mode 4 Dc Fast Charge

The Energica website.


Street Tested

The EGO is in its element on the sweeping, twisting rural roads near my home in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. The EGO may have felt awkward and even a bit slow on the racetrack, but it comes into its own at street speeds.

Power

The Energica rips! At least it does up to about 80mph. After that it starts to flatten out significantly. But you’ll get to 80 very rapidly with all 143 foot pounds of torque on tap from the get-go. The motor spins up quickly and can take your breath away at first. Thankfully, the ride-by-wire throttle is impeccably controllable. The rush is amplified by the almost angry whistling sound that builds to a crescendo.  It’s hard not to notice the contrast of speed and sound coming from a bike that a moment ago sat in total silence.

Rider Modes

The EGO has 4 rider modes:

  • Eco- This mode neuters the power to the equivalent of a 500 Ninja and limits speed to just over 55mph. That may sound sucky, but I would be glad to have it when there is no power supply nearby and I still have miles to go to get to one. Eco mode would be absolutely fine for any city or suburban riding, with plenty of git up and go. Just be sure to witch to Standard , Wet or Sport modes before hitting the highway.
  • Standard- Now we’re talkin’. Twist the grip in this mode and hang on. The bike sharply snaps to attention, but is quite controllable as the power builds in a linear manner.
  • Wet- From what I can tell, Wet mode is a softer sibling of Standard mode. It still jumps forwad nicely, but the torque seems slower to build. Sounds like a good thing to have in rainy weather.
  • Sport- Gitty Up! This mode is the E-ticket ride. Sport mode seems more urgent and angry compared with Standard mode. Like the other modes, power still flattens out at about 85mph. No problem. The rush of getting there is enough excitement for most.

Regenerative Modes (Engine Braking)

There are 4 modes to choose from that controls the amount of regenerative engine braking the bike produces.

  • High- Close the throttle all the way in this mode and you’re launched forward. The blue lights on the instrument cluster tell you that you’re recharging the battery when this abrupt deceleration occurs. That’s good, but I can envision times when having that much engine braking could cause loss of rear tire grip, so it’s smart to select a softer setting in the rain or on gravel. That said, It’s a great setting for helping to control speed on steep hills with hairpin curves thrown in. Uphill hairpins are better handled with the Low mode.
  • Medium- This mode is a good compromise between charging your battery and abrupt deceleration. his mode feels most like a conventional 2 cylinder internal combustion motorcycle.
  • Low- This mode was great on tight uphill hairpins where gravity already provides enough force to slow the bike. This mode feels most like a conventional 4 cylinder internal combustion motorcycle.
  • Off- You can turn off the regenerative feature, which would be my choice for slippery surfaces where it’s better to rely on the brakes to manage traction.

Brakes

What’s to say, except Brembo makes the best brakes out there. It’s good to have these babies on board to slow down this relatively heavy, fast machine. Feel is good and controllable. That is all.

Handling

Handling on the street is great. It’s stable and precise with no tendency to stand up mid-corner and when trailbraking. Keep the tire pressures at the 42/42 and you’ll be happy.

Ergonomics

The riding position is sporty like a small 1990s Ninja ZX-11. Or maybe a cross between a ZX-11 and my old 2005 ZX636. Yeah, that’s it. The bars are low and the pegs are high. The seat is hard, but not too bad for the amount of time and riding distance the battery will afford. It feels compact with the small windscreen that deflects wind only away from your mid-chest.

Battery Life

One thing you’ll have to get used to is energy management. Think about having a bike with a 2-gallon gas tank and then imagine not having any gas stations readily available. And then imagine needing hours to fuel the bike. That’s what you need to think about when you ride an electric motorcycle.
3.5 h (0-100% Soc) Mode 2 or 3 Charge (220), 8 hours using 110-  You can recharge if you carry the somewhat heavy charging cord with you all the time and can find an available 220 power outlet while you’re putting a burger in your pie hole at some rural lunch spot. But don’t rush because with a 220 charge, it takes 3.5 hours to get a full zap. Normal 110 takes 8 hours!
30 min (0-85% Soc) Mode 4 Dc Fast Charge- If most of your riding is in suburbia where you have Tesla charging stations hanging around, you can get recharged to 85% in about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the are no Fast charging stations where I ride, so I’d need to carefully plan where to turn around to make sure I can make it home.
The range is claimed to be about 100 miles (120 on Eco mode). I did about 70 miles and used up 70% of the battery, so maybe that’s fairly accurate. To be fair, I did several full-throttle bursts and only a little Eco mode riding.

The Nutshell

I really enjoyed my day on the Energica. The more I rode it the more I like it. My neck and wrists were tired after using up 80% of the battery, but the buttery smooth power offset that discomfort. It’s a lot of jingle, but if you want a really cool looking bike that is unique and a ball to ride, maybe the Energica will charge you up.

Updates

Energica reduced the cost of the EGO significantly since I tested this bike. The base price is now $25k with the premium Ohlins suspension, carbon kit and OZ wheels upping the price to $32,600. Still a lot of money, but not out of line with other premium models still being propelled by internal combustion engines.
Also, Energica announced that they will be the sole supplier for the upcoming FIM Moto-e World Cup starting in 2019.

Track Tested

I was able to do a couple of laps on the Energica Ego. The bike is a terrific street bike, but felt heavy at track speeds. Part of the issue was that I lowered the tire pressures to a typical 30-rear/30-front and the bike didn’t like it. The bike handled better with 35 pounds, but would have been even better with the full street pressures that would better support the weight.
Also, I apparently used up enough juice to limit the top speed from the 110 mph of the first session to a maximum of about 80 mph during the second session. A recharge is needed to keep access to the top speed.
Besides that, the bike was a hoot to ride. Take a ride with me:

 


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Harley Goes Electric! Will it Fly?

Project LiveWire
Project LiveWire

Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival back in 1964 and his diehard fans nearly fell out of their Birkenstocks. Well, history is repeating itself with the release of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle. We haven’t heard too much from the Harley Faithful about this apparent departure from what has made the Motor Company famous, but from past experience with the V-Rod and Buell machines, I can only guess that some American made folks will not be happy.
Bob held his ground even as his most devoted fans booed when he sang “Like a Rolling Stone” with a Fender Stratocaster in place of his usual acoustic guitar. It is said that Dylan “electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other.”
Is this what Harley can expect? Boos from the Faithful? I hope not, because I believe that electric motorcycles just may be a big part of motorcycling’s future.
I recently rode a Zero electric motorcycle and was really impressed with almost everything about it. The power was smooth and instantaneous, the sound was soothing in contrast to the invigorating thrust from the radial flux permanent magnet, brushless motor. Sure, the range needs to be improved, but that’s coming.
Update: I also spent time riding an Energica e-sportbike on the racetrack and on the street. The full review is here.

Not Your Biker’s Harley

The LiveWire bike differentiates itself by more than just its motor. It also looks different than the traditional V-Twin cruiser that we’ve all come to know. It’s styling is more power cruiser, like a V-Rod or Ducati Diavel. From a marketing perspective this is smart, because there is no sense in trying to convert the already captured audience that Harley-Davidson counts on to pay its bills. Instead, aim for a wider audience who has an open mind to new technology, engineering and modern styling.
The risk is whether H-D will alienate the traditional rough and tumble segment of the riding community enough so that they harm their established image. Let’s hope we can all just get along and Harley can succeed at catering to both segments: young and old, modern and traditional.

Rolling Thunder

Harley’s are not known for their performance. Sure, they do fine for what they are designed to do, which is to cruise the boulevard or tour the countryside at a leisurely pace. The H-D technology doesn’t exude performance that more modern designs from Victory or the Japanese companies can deliver. But, that’s not the point. What Harley does deliver is a visceral experience of a rumbling V-Twin that means business, even if the performance numbers don’t exactly impress.
Part of the visceral experience of the Harley (and almost any other motorcycle that burns dino-juice) is the sound it makes. I like relatively quiet bikes, but I also enjoy the auditory satisfaction of an accelerating machine with a throaty exhaust note. The number one difference that people need to get used to when introduced to an electric motorcycle is the lack of exhaust noise. Now, for many of us socially responsible motorcycle riders, we see this as a good thing.

But, What about Loud Pipes and Safety?

For those who believe that loud pipes save lives, you will likely exclaim that e-bikes are more dangerous. But, I’ve never been a believer that loud pipes save lives. Sure, noise can add additional conspicuity. But, it’s more important to be seen.
Anecdotal evidence alert: My own experiences suggest that being loud is not a reliable safety measure. For one thing the physics of the way sound travels and my attempts to hear loud bikes as they approach from the opposite direction both convince me that a loud exhaust does nothing to make you safer. I have witnessed loud bikes coming my way and I could not hear them as they approached. That’s why I believe that noise is not a reliable strategy. Your perceptions may vary.
The proven way to avoid being involved in a crash is to be seen.  If a driver can see you, he or she can avoid you. Yes, loud pipes will let them know you are in the vicinity, but they won’t know where you are.
Electric motorcycles will polarize a lot of riders because of the lack of noise and the challenge to the status quo. But before you judge…ride. I found that the combination of seamless power and silent operation are just as satisfying as the rumble and roar of an internal combustion gas burner. Maybe you will feel the same way.

LISTEN to Ken being interviewed in this National Public Radio (NPR) report on the Harley LiveWire project

Thanks to the LA Times for this video:

Would you buy an electric bike?


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Riding the Zero Electric Motorcycle

Ground control to Major Tom.
Ground control to Major Tom.

I’ve ridden all sorts of motorcycles, from Harleys to sidecar rigs, to all manner of sport and touring machines. But up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never had the chance to ride an electric motorcycle.
Thanks to Eugene Morin of Seems Electric Vehicles, I was able to cross that off my bucket list. The bike Tony (Tony’s Track Days) and I rode was the Zero “FX” , which is the dual-sport model. This particular motorcycle is outfitted with police lights and siren for the Block Island, Rhode Island Police Department. Eugene has outfitted machines for the Newport, RI men and women in blue, as well.

How Long Will it Go?

The number one question I get when I tell people that I rode an electric bike is how long will it run on a charge? According to Zero’s specifications for the FX, it can go for up to 35 miles with a single battery configuration, or 70 miles on a dual-battery setup. This is for what they call “city” riding. 70 mph highway riding causes the battery life to plummet to only 15 miles with the single battery and 30 miles with the dual battery.
But, this dual-sport model is perfectly suited for the job it is intended for: curb jumping, rock hopping and general shenanigans, and not for droning on a highway.

Eugene brought the magic machine from Rhodie.
Eugene brought the magic machine from Rhodie.

What About the Power?

The Zero FX puts out 70 foot-pounds of torque from the moment you twist the throttle. The unit we rode had just a single battery, but a second battery is available that provides more horsepower (but the same torque). With 70 foot pounds of torque from the bottom, the bike jumps to life, reaching 60 mph in 4 seconds! Yahoo!
However, once underway you quickly find the top end of its 27hp (44hp with two batteries). Max hp is reached at just 3,750 rpm. Flat out, baby.
Tony and I took the little FX in some dirty parts of Thompson Speedway’s infield, dodging construction equipment and roosting the rear tire to see what the potential is for trail riding. In four words, “it is a blast”. This is more of what the FX is made for.
There is no gearshift lever or clutch to modulate, just twist the throttle on and off to regulate speed and power. With fully- adjustable suspension, the bike will handle most anything you toss in front of it.
On the racetrack, it was lively, but ultimately, it fell flat once you got the motor wound up. Max speed is 80 mph, but I wasn’t comfortable going much over 60 on the dual-sport tires. The bike only weights 240 pounds, so it was light and flickable. Perfect for off-road or city riding, but out of its element on a pavement racetrack (or extended highway riding).

The dash was spartan, but has plenty of ways to customize power delivery.
The dash is spartan, but had plenty of ways to customize power delivery.

We didn’t mess too much with the power modes, but there are some. One mode delivers a mellow power delivery, while the other snaps to attention with a bit more authority. There is much more to learn about all the settings. I can see the potential for some riders to just hit the “easy” button and ride happily for weeks.

What’s It Like To Ride?

Riding the Zero FX was a pleasant surprise. I expected scooter-like sensations. What I got was the power and responsiveness of a real motorcycle. It’s combination of liter-bike torque with 250 Ninja horsepower is something I’d have to get used to. But, that torque is enough to satisfy me and make me want to ride the Zero more and more.
The other observation that stands out when riding the Zero is that something visceral is missing…sound. What you hear when the bike is stationary is complete silence. Tony had to ask whether the bike was “running” or not. It was. There is an ignition key and some safety switches to prevent accidental launching, which is a good thing, because it is impossible at a quick glance to know whether the thing is loaded or not. Until you get used to the immediate torque and the safety systems, it’s probably best not to point it at any solid objects before you’re ready to roll.

Can I Live With One?

Tony
Tony

Electric bikes are definitely something I am interested in. I can imagine stealthily working my way through the woods or traffic with just the whistle of the wind, the whine of the tires and the whirring of the Z-Force® 75-5 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux permanent magnet, brushless motor to remind me that I’m on a motorcycle.
The range may be a problem, but not if you use it for what it’s designed for. A bike like this would be a great trail bike and commuter. I would keep my Triumph Sprint for long-haul duty and my Street Triple for the track.
The street versions offer more power and range and a more streetbike-like experience, or so I’m told. (Try 106 foot pounds of torque for the Zero SR!) Thankfully, Eugene promises to bring a handful of Zero Electric Motorcycles to a few Tony’s Track Days events for us to try (yes, customers can ride them, too). Join the TTD mailing list to stay informed.
For you loud pipes folks, I never believed that loud pipes save lives, so I am not concerned about any safety deficit. And even though I love the sufficiently muffled, but booming sound of a V-Twin, or the music of a spinning triple or in-line four in my ears, I can equally appreciate the silence of an electric motor. My neighbors will, too.
Imagine eliminating all the problems off-road and paved racetrack owners have now with neighbors who complain about loud motorcycles. Silence is golden, people.

Cost

Unfortunately, prices are still a bit high for my personal bank account to endure.  The FX retails for $9,500.00 with a single battery or $12,000.00 for the two-battery setup. What you get is a unique, quality-built machine that happens to get the equivalent of 470 mpg (city).
Prices should continue to fall, so I suspect we will be seeing more and more electric bikes in the woods, on the street, and on the track in the near future. One may even appear in my garage before the next decade rolls around. But for now, I’ll have to stick to fossil fuel-consuming road burners.

Videos


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