Could motorcycles powered by electricity be the next big thing?

My family spent the weekend welcoming summer with a camping trip to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While driving around searching for the park’s infamous ...

Tagged: electric vehicle, motorcycle, Harley Davidson, Zero Motorcycles, Livewire

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Could motorcycles powered by electricity be the next big thing?

Electric motorcycle illustration

Change could be coming to the iconic motorcycle industry, as many of the world’s top manufacturers launch electric motorcycles in the next few years.

Key Points

  • Many traditional motorcycle manufacturers are working on electric-powered models.
  • Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda and Yamaha all have plans in the works.
  • Zero Motorcycles has electric motorcycles available now that go over 100 mph and have a 200 mile range. 

My family spent the weekend welcoming summer with a camping trip to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While driving around searching for the park’s infamous buffalo herd, we saw a lot of motorcyclists out enjoying the scenery. The roar of a Harley is a sound of summer that reminded me it’s officially motorcycle season.

Change could be coming to this iconic industry, as many of the world’s top manufacturers launch electric motorcycles in the next few years. Harley-Davidson is developing Livewire, an electric sportbike. The company hasn’t announced when the prototype will go into production, but some speculate it could be within a year. And I know what you’re thinking: no, it won’t be silent. In true Harley fashion, it will sound more like a jet turbine than a Prius. BMW, Honda and Yamaha are all working on electric motorcycle plans too.

Surprisingly, the current leader in electric motorcycles is a company you probably haven’t heard of. California-based Zero Motorcycles already has electric motorcycles on the road throughout the U.S.. The company started in 2006 and has six electric bike models to choose from, ranging in price from $8,495 to $15,995. According to Cool Hunting, the company has now designed a bike it believes will be appealing to even more customers. Its 2017 models can go over 100 mph and have a 200-mile range. Plus, these motorcycles can be charged using the same type of outlet where you would plug in a lamp or a toaster.

Zero Motorcycles has also gotten creative with its marketing. Fearing that customers might put off an electric motorcycle purchase until Congress decides if it will resurrect electric vehicle purchase incentives, the company started a Don’t Wait for Washington promotion. If you purchase a bike now and the Electric Motorcycle Federal Tax Credit doesn’t get renewed this year, Zero Motorcycles will send you a check for 10 percent of the purchase price..

Would you consider trading in your current motorcycle for an electric one? Or, would having a good electric motorcycle option get you to buy a motorcycle if you’ve never been the leather-wearing, hair-blowing-in-the-wind type in the past? I’m curious to see if options like the ones Zero Motorcycles offers might bring people into the motorcycle market who wouldn’t have been interested in them in the past.

Oh, and before I forget, if you do happen to motorcycle through Custer State Park this summer, don’t get too close to the buffalo.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Is the electric vehicle about to become the go-to family car?

I was perusing the U.S. Department of Energy’s website the other day (what, like you don’t?) and came across a great article on what life is really like with an electric vehicle. ...

Tagged: electric car, electric vehicle, Department of Energy, tax credits

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Is the electric vehicle about to become the go-to family car?

Green car word cloud

I explored buying an electric vehicle a couple years ago, but after crunching the numbers decided it wasn’t practical for my family.

Key Points

  • Considering an electric vehicle? Read this.
  • Today’s EVs fit two car seats and tall people. Really.
  • Federal and state tax credits might make it a good financial decision too.

I was perusing the U.S. Department of Energy’s website the other day (what, like you don’t?) and came across a great article on what life is really like with an electric vehicle. With kids. And a tall husband. Check out the whole article here

Here are a few highlights:

Can it charge with a regular outlet?

“Yes! I didn't realize our car would plug into the same type of outlet that we use for our microwave, but sure enough. The typical 120 volt household outlet can provide a Level 1 charge for an electric car. You can install a 240 V outlet — like the kind used for hot tubs or other large loads — for a faster, Level 2 charge.”

Can it fit two car seats?

“And more. Both of my kiddos, my 6'3" husband, me and my massive purse, and our hiking gear can comfortably fit into the car together. In fact, my daughter sometimes complains that she can't reach her brother for hand holding, toy taking or general sibling shenanigans.”

But doesn’t it cost a lot more than buying a gas-powered car?

“That’s not necessarily the case. I mean, if you want the new Tesla Model X (and who doesn’t?), then yeah, it probably does. But really, we felt like we were making the right financial decision when we purchased our EV. Here’s why. We became eligible for up to $7,500 in federal and $6,000 in state tax credits with the purchase of our car. This majorly contributed to a reasonable bottom line. Already, the cost was in line with other new cars when these rebates were taken into account. Add to that the 30 percent discount as part of Solar Benefits Colorado and 0 percent financing over six years — which were both active deals when we bought our car — and we’re actually going to be in the black for several months after filing our taxes. Crazy, huh?”

I explored buying an electric vehicle a couple years ago, but after crunching the numbers decided it wasn’t practical for my family. More on that here. Looks like I might have to reconsider when we’re ready to buy again.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Did you hear what they’re doing to cars in The Netherlands?

If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much. My dad is 100 percent Dutch, and I remember my tall, blonde cousins saying this to me on a family trip to a mostly Dutch town in Iowa.

Everyone’s ...

Tagged: Netherlands, bike, zero-emission, electric vehicle

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Did you hear what they’re doing to cars in The Netherlands?

Windmill alongside road

More than a third of the countrymen use bikes as their primary mode of transportation.

Key Points

  • The Netherlands will make it illegal to buy a gasoline or diesel-powered car in 2025.
  • Citizens will need to purchase zero-emissions vehicles instead.
  • Many already own electric vehicles or mostly use bikes for transportation.

If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much. My dad is 100 percent Dutch, and I remember my tall, blonde cousins saying this to me on a family trip to a mostly Dutch town in Iowa.

Everyone’s last name started with Van or Ver. The streets were clean, and during parades, they even dressed up and swept those streets for show (yep, for show).

Maybe it’s this Dutch obsession with cleanliness that fuels the motherland’s clean energy policies.

As soon as 2025, it will be illegal to buy a gasoline or diesel-powered car in The Netherlands. It’s hard to believe that in less than a decade, an entire country will only sell zero-emissions vehicles.

It seems like a huge undertaking from where I sit in the Midwestern United States. But to the Dutch, it doesn’t seem to be all that big of a deal. They like electric vehicles, giving plug-ins a 9.6 percent market share in 2015. Plus, more than a third of the countrymen use bikes as their primary mode of transportation. 

Back here in the Midwest, I somehow missed the genes to be tall, blonde, clean or good on a bike. But maybe I’ll look into buying an EV to make my distant relatives proud. And, I might even save a little on my energy costs.

Here’s a calculator from the Department of Energy to compare how much you’ll pay to power your vehicle per mile using an electric vehicle versus gasoline. It even breaks it down by state.

Can you imagine a policy like this ever being passed here? Tell us below. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Showing 2 Comments (oldest to newest)

Dan
Many cities in the US are becoming more bike friendly and it seems more EV friendly as well. I've been inspired by what the Dutch are doing with transportation for a long time.
1 year 2 months ago
Sarah
I agree. I spent a semester in The Netherlands in college and was surprised by how all the students pretty much exclusively used bikes to get around. And the scarves. I was also impressed with their posh scarves.
1 year 2 months ago

This might be the coolest car ever

P-85D. No, it’s not a workout DVD program used by Navy Seals and busy moms. It’s Tesla’s latest electric vehicle and it's getting rave reviews.

The reviews are ...

Tagged: Tesla, electric vehicle, smart car, P-85D

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This might be the coolest car ever

Tesla's new car

Tesla's new car is really smart. It will read speed limit signs, change lanes for you, and pick you up at your door when your calendar says it’s time for a meeting.

Key Points

  • Tesla’s P-85D is awesome.
  • Consumer Reports loved it so much they broke their own rating scale.
  • Oprah has one, so you know it’s awesome. 

P-85D. No, it’s not a workout DVD program used by Navy Seals and busy moms. It’s Tesla’s latest electric vehicle and it's getting rave reviews.

The reviews are so good that Consumer Reports broke its own scale in its review. The P-85D got 103 points on the 100 point scale.

What makes this car so great? Here are a few highlights:

  • A second motor in the front allows the car to go from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds.
  • The two motors combine for 691 horsepower.
  • Top speed of 155 mph.
  • This car is really smart. It will read speed limit signs, change lanes for you, pick you up at your door when your calendar says it’s time for a meeting, and even get over-the-air updates.

Here’s a great video with a full breakdown of the new car:

 

And if that’s not enough to convince you that this car is awesomesaucey, Oprah just got one. Which reminds me, Oprah, are you planning any car giveaways soon? I can make a strong case for a certain mom who could really use one to haul her kids to school …


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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21-year-old hot shots design snowmobile for scientists

Scientists studying chemicals found in the Greenland Ice Cap need a vehicle with zero emissions to get around. They are measuring chemicals in the snow in parts per billion, so the ...

Tagged: South Dakota School of Mines and technology, Greenland Ice Cap, electric vehicle, Society of Automotive Engineers

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21-year-old hot shots design snowmobile for scientists

Electric snowmobile

Scientists studying chemicals found in the Greenland Ice Cap need a vehicle with zero emissions to get around.

Key Points

  • Scientists in the Greenland Ice Cap need a zero emissions vehicle for the snow.
  • Students competed to create one.
  • South Dakota Mines students made an innovative traction control system for the vehicle. 

Scientists studying chemicals found in the Greenland Ice Cap need a vehicle with zero emissions to get around. They are measuring chemicals in the snow in parts per billion, so the exhaust of an engine could completely skew their results. But an electric vehicle for the snowy conditions with the range and reliability they need didn’t exist. Until now.

Enter a group of ambitious 21-year-olds from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. These mechanical engineering students spent their senior year designing an electric snowmobile. Yeah, that’s way more than I accomplished when I was 21 too.

The project was part of a competition through the Society of Automotive Engineers. Kyle Roe, Shiloh Birkenfeld and Patrick Allen created a traction control system for the snowmobile that reduces the slip of the track. Less slip means no energy is wasted, which improves the snowmobile’s range. Their snowmobile is also quieter and safer than its traditional counterparts.

Kyle Roe explains it here:

The team placed second in the Society of Automotive Engineers competition. The innovations from the competition aren’t commercially available yet, but will likely hit the market in the near future


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Does an electric vehicle make sense for my family?

I love my Subaru Forester. As I buzz through South Dakota’s snow-covered winter streets, I feel like a Super Woman as I expertly pump my breaks or get a running start to soar up ...

Tagged: electric vehicle, EV, sarah

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Does an electric vehicle make sense for my family?

Electric vehicles plug in here.

Considering my top priorities, the only electric vehicle practical for my family today is the Ford Fusion Energi.

Key Points

  • Thinking about buying an electric vehicle?  Here’s how I determined if it was a practical purchase for my family.
  • There are two types of electric vehicles – those that run only on electric charge, and those that have a combustion engine to use as a back-up.
  • Right now, neither electric vehicle option seems to be a good fit for my family, but I plan to keep an eye on the industry to see if future improvements make an electric vehicle more practical for family use. 

I love my Subaru Forester. As I buzz through South Dakota’s snow-covered winter streets, I feel like a Super Woman as I expertly pump my breaks or get a running start to soar up an icy hill. All while singing itsy bitsy spider to my daughters, sitting safely in their car seats behind me.

But with a growing family, I’ve decided to have an open mind as we shop for a new car. And what better opportunity to consider alternatives that could keep our energy costs lower?

Here are my top priorities:

  • Safety – I carry precious cargo. Crash ratings and safety rankings are important. 
  • Space – An infant car seat has to fit in the back seat with the front seat back far enough to accommodate my 6’2” husband.
  • Practical for Midwest – It needs to be winter-and long-distance ready. I might want to pack the kids in the car and make the seven-hour trek across South Dakota to visit my sister in Milbank. Is the car up for the trip? Can it handle winter conditions?
  • Price – Upfront cost is important, but so are the long-term savings at the pump.

Narrowing it down

I listed the five best-selling electric vehicles for 2014: Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Hybrid, Tesla Model S and the Ford Fusion Energi.

The first elimination round was pretty easy. Electric vehicles can be divided into two categories. The first is battery-powered. and all-electric, so when the charge runs out, you’d better be close to an outlet. The second is a plug-in hybrid, with an internal combustion engine as back-up when the batteries run out of charge. 

The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are both all-electric. The Leaf can go 80 miles on a single charge. That would work for daily use, but 80 miles across South Dakota gets you approximately to the middle of nowhere. So, bye bye Leaf. 

The Tesla S can go an impressive 265 miles on a single charge. It can seat seven, go from zero to 50 in four seconds and has a perfect five-star safety record. I thought we had a winner until I saw the price tag. It starts at $70,000. Eeek! Too steep for the “Real Housewives of South Dakota.

That left me with the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Energi. All three have the back-up engine, so they pass the distance test. And all three rank well on 2014 safety tests

The sticker prices weren’t too bad either. The Volt starts at $26,685; the Prius hybrid at $32,000; and the Energi at $38,700. Plus, you get to factor in the long-term savings at the pump.

A handy government website lets you compare fueling costs with a similar gasonline-powered vehicle. In South Dakota, I’d save $2.34 every 28.2 miles (the average distance a gasoline vehicle can travel on a gallon of gas). If I currently go through a 15-gallon tank of gas a week, I’d save about $140 a month. That’s a significant chunk of change toward a new car payment. 

On to the next round. Space. 

Here’s how they compare for leg room. I measured them against the 2014 Subaru Forester and was a little surprised at how well the electrics fared.

 

Volt

Energi

Prius Hybrid

Subaru Forester

Front leg room

42.05

44.3

42.5

43

Back leg room

34.10

38.3

36

39.2

The back seat of the Volt and the Prius Hybrid wouldn’t accomodate a rear-facing infant car-seat unless my husband drove with his knees up to his chin.

That leaves the Energi. It has an electric range of only 21 miles, so I’d likely use its gasoline engine pretty often – cutting into those long-term gasoline savings. However, its overall range is 620 miles –enough to get me across the state.

The bottom line

Considering my top priorities, the only electric vehicle practical for my family today is the Ford Fusion Energi. However, with an electric range of only 21 miles, I question if it’s worth making the jump to a new electric vehicle when I’d likely have to use the gasoline engine quite frequently. Plus, I question how well it would do on our icy winter roads.

So, I’ll hold on to my Forester for now and watch as electric vehicles – and my family – continue to evolve.

Sarah is mom to two of the cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bedtime stories her full-time gig, she earned her master’s degree in political science from the University of South Dakota, was a poicy analyst in the South Dakota governor’s office, and dabbled in communications at her favorite Rapid City utility.  

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Showing 5 Comments (oldest to newest)

liana
Feeding kids that like to eat, and making sure to have enough food on hand for company, I feel like I should have an extra refrigerator/freezer in garage. Would that be worth it to save money in the end or is my bill going to go through the roof?
2 years 8 months ago
Nicole o.
We have looked in the electric cars as well. As something to drive in town and when the roads are good. Loved the volt but my tall hubby and a child in the back do not mix. :( hopefully soon!
2 years 8 months ago
Marla
thought provoking & entertaining article
2 years 8 months ago
Sharon Thompson
Something to keep an eye on!
2 years 8 months ago
Ryan
Hey Sarah, nice practical analysis of vehicles. Legroom may not be the first spec. that most folks think of, but it quickly excluded some vehicles from your list. For a future post, might I suggest comparing various heating fuels? I did my own analysis of this some time ago, but I would be interested to see your perspective on heating a home with natural gas, electricity, propane, fuel oil, or even more labor intensive choices like wood or corn pellets.
2 years 8 months ago