I’ll come clean: I want to like electric vehicles, I really do. What’s not to like about a motor with a flat torque curve that starts at zero RPM? What’s not to like about stratospherically high redlines? What’s not to like about a vehicle with fewer moving parts that doesn’t require oil changes or coolant flushes?
Sadly, there are no electric cars in my price range, but electric bikes are another matter entirely. Take, for example the Brammo Enertia pictured above. With a list price of $7,995 and a 10% tax credit, I could own one for just under $7,200.00. Problem one is that I’d need to travel to either California or Oregon, where the Enertia is available from one of six specially authorized Best Buy stores. Not handy for a test ride when you live in Florida.
Problem two is the bike’s range and top speed. Current production models have an advertised range of 40+ miles for urban commuting, 30+ miles for suburban / rural commuting and only 20+ miles of open highway commuting before they require a four hour charge cycle. As with any electric vehicle, a lot of factors come into play when determining range. Electric vehicles generally favor stop and go traffic to achieve maximum mileage per charge; they don’t like elevation changes or sustained highway driving. Which turns out to be a good thing, since the advertised top speed is said to be around 60 miles per hour. That may be good enough for commutes on city streets and feeder roads, but it’s likely to make you a hood ornament in rush hour metropolitan highway driving.
To be fair, I haven’t ridden a Brammo Enertia, and their fit and finish appear to be top notch. I’m sure they make perfect sense for someone with a short, urban commute and no interest in weekend road trips; I just don’t know any people who fit that demographic.
For a $7,200 investment, there are plenty of great commuter bikes that offer fuel economy in excess of 50 mpg. Take the Kawasaki KLR 650, for example; new, they can be purchased for under $5,000. That leaves you plenty of scratch to buy decent gear, with enough left over to ease your guilty, fossil-fuel-sucking conscience by donating heavily to the Sierra Club.