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Coming Soon to Best Buy: Motorcycles?

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 7 Comments

startup-friday.jpg
enertia%20electric%20motorcycle.jpg“I bought my motorcycle at Best Buy,” is a sentence I bet you never thought you’d utter. And yet, that may be exactly what you do in the near future, if you were to buy an Enertia electric motorcycle from Brammo.
Along with the comic book sound effect name, Brammo has put a lot of thought into this bike. And they have answers for the questions people may have about them. Like the fact that regular motorcycles are already a lot more efficient then automobiles. True, twice as efficient, they acknowledge. And up to 15 times the emissions of them as well. That’s something I’d never heard before.
Addressing the deeper question of evenly comparing the environmental impact, they mention that on the gasoline based side, there’s the transport of the fuel to stations, and on the electric based side, there’s the emissions of the possibly coal and nuclear powered facility on the other end. I can appreciate their going beyond merely saying the vehicle itself has no emissions, end of story.
So how do they compare?


It’s not clear, to me. And other non scientifically/mechanically minded people, I imagine. The graph on “Well-To-Wheels Efficiency” gives no context as to what the figures mean, or how they came to them. It looks like it should be impressive, but without reference as to what it means, it’s mostly meaningless. If they’re going to be selling to people at Best Buy, I’m guessing that means some that aren’t deep motorcycle enthusiasts. So quick, clear, obvious comparisons are advised.
This page comparing CO2 emissions does a much better job. In a nutshell, your average motorcycle emits 140.4 grams per kilometer. An Enertia, 21.8, and a Prius 130.4. This, factoring in, “The data presented here assumes that a large portion of the electricity used in the Enertia is generated from powerplants running a coal furnace.”
All well and good, until you encounter the price. $11,995. According to Brammo there will be a 10% federal tax credit. And yet, for this fairly petite motorcycle, stylish as it is, that’s still a fairly steep price if you’re trying to wean people off their cars and on to a motorcycle. While not quite hitting the premium motorcycle price point, it’s still a fairly large up front expenditure. Long term, factoring in fuel savings, perhaps?
Factor in that it has a top speed of 50 mph, not fit for any freeway driving, and I’m not so sure Brammo will make it much beyond the starting line as a company. I’d really like to see companies such as these succeed, but until they offer an option that’s either robust enough for the money, or affordable for being a commuter motorcycle, it’s going to be a tough road to go, especially in this budget conscious economy.
Readers: What’s your take on this? I’d like to hear from current motorcyclists especially. Am I off base, or is there still work to be done for electric motorcycles such as these to be a viable force in the market? Comment below please.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums.


▼▼▼      7 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • David

    To be safe when I ride, I want to be faster than the cars behind me, stop faster than the cars in front of me. 50 is not fast enough.

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Yes, I’ve heard from motorcyclists that much of riding is defensive, watching out for motorists that are oblivious to you. It’s not all about speed, but that certainly helps

  • http://www.daveconrey.com daveconrey

    I have a problem with the statement of 15x emissions. There’s no documentation referenced in the Enertia site, so the stat is questionable unless they can show proof. I can’t imagine Honda, who makes some of the most efficient and lowest emission vehicles, producing a motorcycle that with that much of an emission problem.

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Agreed. That could have been the worst cycle vs the most efficient car. Let’s see if Brammo is listening…

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith
  • Andrew Wilson

    I have test-ridden a Vectrix electric motorcycle (or “maxi-scooter”). It is rated to 100km/hr (about 62mph)and I rode it at up to an effortless 90km/hr (56mph- the local speed limit). Our freeways vary between 100 and 110 km/hr (about 70mph). Its range is speed-dependent, losing charge a lot faster at higher speeds. I would describe it as a very competent city commuter. Its owner charges it from photovoltaics on his roof so mostly avoids the question of burning coal at the power station to operate the machine. (He lives a way out of the city so on cloudy days he does sometimes plug it into the power supply at work; so his boss charges him AU$2/week.) The lifetime carbon efficiency will include the carbon costs of manufacture of the motorcycle itself and of the proportion of the PV panels used to power it. Lifetime general maintenance costs are less because electric motorcycles with direct drive don’t even have gearboxes and chains/belts/driveshafts to maintain, use regenerative braking (less wear on the actual brakes) and their elctric motors require a lot less maintenance than internal combustion engines. Neither do they require catalytic converters, another environmental plus as that saves mining rare platinum-group metals. I hope this is helpful. Andy W

  • Mark

    I think when they state that the emissions are up to 15X higher for a motorcycle than a car they are referring to 2 cycle engines. That’s not a fair comparison since there are very few 2 cycle manufacturers in the US, if any anymore.