With increased global urbanization, transportation choices are going to have to evolve. There’s no escaping it. With two-wheeled transportation such as motorcycles and scooters already ubiquitous in nearly every non-North American market, the further evolution of single and narrow-track transportation is not a matter of if, but of how. Things are going to change, even here in America, and a new report from PR Newswire is predicting that 2015 will be the kick-off to significant market growth in three key areas: electric motorcycles, electric maxi-scooters, and 3-wheel vehicles such as the Piaggio MP3 and the rickshaw.
This unique new report analyses three closely related new electric vehicle markets due for takeoff in 2015. They are electric motorcycles, e-maxi scooters and electric three wheelers from e-rickshaws to disruptive new forms of car and car-like vehicle. This creation of major new EV markets is occurring partly because big brands Yamaha and BMW are entering the field, Yamaha with on and off road e-motorcycles and BMW with an e- maxi scooter initially all in 2015. Harley Davidson is getting user response to a first test design of e-motorcycle in 2014. In 2014, Toyota has garnered huge interest with an enclosed three wheel, tilting electric motorcycle, the iRoad. In addition, Chinese companies are newly offering impressive e maxi scooters and three wheel cars and car-like vehicles and at one third of the price. Leaders in sales such as Zero Motorcycles and Brammo are achieving increased sales and going global and there is now a steady stream of new companies offering all these vehicles and most of them have production coming on-stream in 2015-16.
With major manufacturers like Yamaha, BMW and Harley Davidson taking electric two and three-wheelers seriously, the market at large is beginning to take notice of electric bikes as a viable transportation staple. What must also be acknowledged in this area is the cultural penetration that EVs have enjoyed in the automotive sector. With gas-electric hybrids now as commonplace as the taxi cabs that use them, 100% electric vehicles are even beginning to pass fully into the mainstream. So much so that in recent months, sales of some 100% electric vehicles have surpassed Prius sales. Which EV? The BMW i3 to be specific.
With BMW being first to market with a 100% electric two-wheeler, the C Evolution maxi-scooter, their dedication to this new area of transportation is obviously going far beyond what other mainstream automobile manufacturers in its investment in electric vehicles. Where Toyota is still only exploring these areas in concept, BMW has made significant investments not just in electric drivetrain components, but in an entire carbon fiber production facility to produce raw materials for its i3 and i8. What’s more, BMW’s Motorrad division is serving as the “Center of Competency” for the company’s urban mobility initiatives. This explains how the BMW i3 wound up with the engine from the C-Series scooters as its range-extension generator.
Yet in the world of two-wheel electrics, the watershed moment may in fact have come with Harley Davidson’s Livewire concept. Where other companies such as Vectrix (now defunct), Zero, Brammo and Mission have done the hard work in terms of ground-breaking electric development in the motorcycle segment, it’s going to be the adoption from major OEMs like BMW and Harley that really drive a cultural shift that would lead to wide-spread sales. While BMW has taken the practical approach with the C Evolution and packaged it up as a viable transportation tool, what Harley has managed to do with the Livewire is present electric motorcycles as something they’ve just not previously been: sexy.
Now I know that for scooter fans, the Livewire is just another gigantic motorcycle, but the possibility it opens up is for other scooter OEMS (I’m looking at you, Vespa) to start thinking seriously about commercial grade electric vehicles, rather than trade show concept conversation pieces. In that vein, at some point Vespa may have it in their best interests to produce a 100% electric version of their 946. That’s an interesting prospect indeed.
The other noteworthy mention in this report is the predicted growth of 3-wheeled vehicles. Their prediction includes items like the auto-rickshaw, which is ubiquitous in Asia and India, but also tilting vehicles like the Piaggio MP3. Yet we can’t help but wonder if these form factors aren’t still a little to “out there” for mainstream buyers. The benefits, especially of a tilting 3-wheeler, are perhaps still too nuanced to be understood by the general public. They just see something that’s weird looking, and the advantage of that strange configuration, while real, is not immediately apparent. That said, we would hope that a wider variety of three and four-wheel tilting vehicles would come on the market because the advantages in handling and braking are definitely significant. The challenge is in helping people understand them.
In the meantime, we’ll be watching this space with great interest. Will the predicted boom in electric scooters and 3-wheelers between 2015 and 2025 come to pass? Time will tell.