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Are Electric Motorcycles the Next Big Thing?

(Photo: Hbmallin)

Hybrid Motorcycle Revolution?

The hybrid revolution has come to cars, and some say motorcycles are next. With the technology becoming more commonplace, it has inspired DIY world records, and electric vehicles that almost defy description. Will you see them on your street soon?

Hybrid cars feel fairly commonplace these days, and although they make up only 3% of the vehicles on the road, you likely know what they are. Based on the industry talk and self-proclaimed early adopters, you’d think electric motorcycles are next. Offering the efficiency of a Toyota Prius and the joy of a wind-in-your-hair rocket ride, it’s an appealing proposition. However, the best in electric motorcycles is likely still to come.

Hybrid cars feel fairly commonplace these days, and although they make up only 3% of the vehicles on the road, you likely know what they are. Based on the industry talk and self-proclaimed early adopters, you’d think electric motorcycles are next. Offering the efficiency of a Toyota Prius and the joy of a wind-in-your-hair rocket ride, it’s an appealing proposition. However, the best in electric motorcycles is likely still to come.

The problem is there are plenty of fuel-efficient and quite affordable gas-powered motorcycles on the road already. While the e-bike makers point to a fuel-efficient daily commute, it’s hard to offset the high entry cost of an electric motorcycle. The 2013 Zero S Streetfighter starts at $13,995. But it’s hard to justify a bike made for commuting when many motorcycle riders prefer to escape on the weekends for a joyride instead of using their bikes for a getting to work. How then, are electric bikes going to take off? By inspiring the wrench turners of tomorrow and creating new technological innovations.

He Built a World-Record Bike in His Backyard

Kevin Clemmens, an editor for Automobile magazine and former engineer, set a land speed record during the summer of 2012 on a bike he constructed himself. How does an author and engineer end up molding motorcycle parts into a world record? He gets inspired by the way things on our streets can be improved today. While completing his journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan, he wrote a book about oil, infrastructure and the future of our transportation system. “The Crooked Mile” led Kevin to a new path in life. Hoping to inspire the next generation of innovators, he’s taking his handmade creation across the country to visit schools and colleges. While he inspires the inventors of tomorrow, there are exciting new technologies popping up every day.

Is it a Car, Or is it a Bike?

Take one look at the Toyota i-Road, and you’ll probably be confused for a second. It’s hard to classify as a motorcycle. Toyota’s answer to overcrowded streets in big cities all over the world has two front wheels that move forward and back to facilitate turns, one back wheel, and a covered and air-conditioned cabin. Bigger than a motorcycle but smaller than a Smart Car, you can put four of them in a spot designed to park one car. The Active Lean system uses stability technology to make smooth turns and keep the ride nice and tight. While they’re not going into production soon, they are an exciting look into the future of electric motorcycles.

This Bike Stands Up by Itself

The Lit Motors C-1 will be on a road near you before Toyota’s i-Road with a similarly enclosed cabin, two flywheels that make it self-balancing, and a completely electric engine. Also designed to meet the needs of commuters on over-crowded megacity streets, the bike will have go into limited production in late 2013, followed by full production next year. The C-1 uses recovers the kinetic energy created while braking, and then spins the flywheels that keep it stable. Filled with new technology and connectivity points, this is one bike sure to turn heads. If you’re interested, you can put down a $250 deposit on one today.

Benny Johnson is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago and loves musicals.

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