Think you can’t take part in decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil? Want to support a local Washington business? Want to glide quietly along scenic Pacific Northwest roads, sneaking up on wildlife without leaving a smelly eco-footprint? Looking for an unusual plug-in present for that special someone who thinks he (or she!) has everything? Than take a look at this gorgeous all-electric two-wheeler.
The test ride
I recently had the pleasure of riding an all-electric motorcycle from a new company called Electro Force Cycles. CEO Jennifer Northern met my wife and I over lunch at the XXX Rootbeer Drive In and treated us to a short test ride on the Nucleus II, her latest model.
The test ride included: level and hilly city streets with stop and go traffic; an uphill onramp, with a slight uphill grade as it rolls towards Snoqualmie Pass, to sustained speeds of 70 mph on the freeway; and a steep climb toward the Sammamish Plateau.
City stop-and-go traffic was no problem for the Nucleus. A slight twist of the throttle provides smooth and firm acceleration, making keeping up with traffic easy. The front and rear brake levers are within easy reach and squeezing them doesn’t require a death grip to come to a controlled stop. A low center of gravity makes the bike feel lightweight and highly maneuverable in turns.
Climbing the freeway on-ramp, opening the throttle leaves me giddy with acceleration but there’s even more power in reserve ready to help me merge. Soon after I enter the highway, the speed limit increases from 60 to 70 mph, but the Nucleus has enough throttle left to keep up with traffic.
Taking the next exit, I release the throttle and coast down the off ramp without engine braking. Squeezing both brake handles (electric motorcycles usually have no transmission and thus no clutch) firmly brings me to a controlled stop without pulsing, squealing, or skidding. Two tight but smooth left turns get me back onto the freeway for the return leg of my test ride, the vehicle’s low center of gravity making the turns seem effortless.
To test more than just freeway handling, I take an exit to experience another hill climb, this time along city streets. The bottom of the freeway exit brings me to a mile-long ~10% upward grade at 40 mph. After its lively performance on the freeway, it was no surprise that the Nucleus took the hill in stride without opening its throttle all the way.
After a couple of turns, I’m back on the highway returning to the restaurant with a grin on my face.
If you’re already an EV (electric vehicle) enthusiast, you probably don’t need to read further—you’re either already sold on the benefits or money is no object.
If you’re on the fence, looking for that first electric two-wheeler, but not sure what to choose, there’s a lot going for the Nucleus. It’s an attractive bike, it’s less expensive than other electric motorcycles with similar claims of range, and it’s available here and now, with local sales and support.
You know the throaty roar of a cruiser. You know the buzzy whine of a sport bike. Imagine confidently rolling on the same amount of speed but without the engine noise and shift shock.
The point of view of a cruiser rider
When I ride a gasoline-powered motorcycle, I ride a cruiser. The windscreen, the relatively upright posture, the comfortable floorboards, and the saddlebags for modest storage are all important to my riding experience. Because it is an 800cc gasoline-powered motorcycle, I take it for granted that it is freeway-capable.
The Nucleus offers all of this: windscreen, posture, floorboards, highway speeds, under-seat storage, and optional luggage case.
Just because it’s an electric vehicle doesn’t mean it’s afraid of the rain—its electronics and batteries are just as weatherproof as any motorcycle’s equipment. I’ve already ridden a different electric scooter safely all autumn and spring in the Seattle area’s many rainy and windy days, on wet roads and freeways without incident.
The point of view of an electric scooter rider
As readers of my blog will already know, I already have an electric motorcycle. It is a standard model Current Motor Super Scooter with 40 miles of range, and a price tag of $9,995. Its acceleration is a little weak for the hills that I have to climb both to and from work, but it covers those 26 miles with one third of its charge to spare. This isn’t enough for a second round trip to work, so I recharge it overnight after each commute. In contrast, based on its advertised range of 100 miles and $9,999 price tag, the Nucleus would last three round-trips without needing to recharge. What’s not to like about spending the same amount of money for what feels like three times the range?
Directly observed advantages that the Nucleus offers include: a dashboard that is readable in sunlight (and hopefully not too bright to impair night vision), stronger acceleration even at low speeds, and higher top speeds on hills and level ground. Washington residents can also take advantage of local sales and support rather than Internet sales and remote support from Michigan-based Current Motor.
Although Current Motor did fly someone out to Washington to fix my circuit breaker, it would be unreasonable to expect that level of service to be a sustainable business model. A more effective solution would be to train local motorcycle service personnel to perform diagnostics and repairs of electric motorcycles.
The opportunities 100 miles ahead
An electric vehicle that can go 100 miles without recharging is not just a commuter vehicle anymore. It’s not just for running errands around town, either. 100 miles of range opens up so many more destinations. Try this exercise: find your home on a map and draw a 100 mile-wide circle around it. Within that circle lies all of the places that you could visit and return from without recharging. Now within that same circle, find all of the places where you could recharge the bike along the way and draw new 100 mile-wide circles around those.
Can’t find a charging station near the destinations you’re interested in? Call them to find out if one was installed nearby that isn’t on the map yet, or if they’ll let you plug your bike into their wall during your visit. Some campgrounds make 110V AC power easily available for their customers, and you might be able to ask nicely at hotels and motels, or even gas stations and restaurants, in a pinch. If you do take advantage of their generosity to recharge, please consider buying something, staying overnight, or having a meal to help encourage their good will towards the next electric vehicle that comes their way.
With a little planning, an up-to-date map of charging stations, and the generosity of the merchants you encounter along the way, what you once thought was just a commuter bike becomes your ticket to a multi-day adventure, further from home than you might have ever thought possible with an electric vehicle! Unless you plan to cross the country on an electric motorcycle, you won’t have to work as hard at it as Terry Hershner did when he set his coast-to-coast record earlier this year.
With a Level 2 or CHAdeMO charging port available for the Nucleus trips may become possible along the West Coast Electric Highway, whether to glide north-south along I-5 or to enjoy the scenery east-west along State Route 2 over Stevens Pass into Leavenworth or beyond to Wenatchee. As the charging networks expand and battery technology improves, you’ll have less reason to treat electric vehicles as special cases and gradually take them for granted just like you take gas stations for granted today.
By closing the range gap between electric motorcycles and electric cars, the Nucleus from Electro Force Cycle levels the playing field, giving consumers another choice when taking part in the growing excitement surrounding electric vehicles.
Take a test ride to see for yourself!