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Electric Bikes

By Mario

Much is being made of the progress of electric bikes at this year’s TT, with close-fought competition between Mugen and MotoCzysz taking the ‘Zero’ lap record to 109.7 mph (177.7 kph).

That's almost identical to Mick Grant's time in 1975, on a KR750, prompting headlines about four decades of progress in four years.  It's certainly an interesting and impressive technical achievement. But, in my view, a wild goose chase. Why?

First, the spectre that continues to haunt all electric vehicles (and their owners): range. One lap of the island is not a TT. It seems to have been set up that way so that the bikes can show some pace (they could go further by pottering) but in their anxiety to protect the bikes from their failings, the organisers have denied the opportunity to develop other interesting technologies (quick-change battery packs, anyone?).

Second, the entire premise of developing electric vehicles is based on the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption because a) it's running out, or b) the CO2 produced is causing global warming.

With identified oil, gas and coal reserves stretching hundreds of years into the future, premise a) is a non-starter. And with over 16 years of flat global temperatures, despite CO2 rising steadily to nearly 0.04% of the atmosphere, the wheels are steadily coming off the global warming bandwagon.

So is there any point in electric bikes? I would actually say, yes. As a means of urban transport an electric scooter would have several advantages, chiefly cheapness, quietness and lack of direct emissions. (Though its real emissions depend on what generates the electricity. Funnily enough, around the world that's increasingly coal. Hmmm...)

A cheap, non-polluting, low-speed urban transport where limited range doesn't matter seems to make eminent sense. But I’m not entirely sure that trying to beat the 1980 winning time, for one 60.7 km lap of the island, is the best goal to pursue.