We head to Germany’s Intermot Show in Cologne to come to grips with the inevitability of motorcycling’s electric future
On my way to this year’s motorcycle show Intermot in Cologne, I stopped in a small, pretty German town for lunch. In the car park were three spaces reserved for topping-up electric vehicles, with a sign saying: ‘Free parking while charging’. This is an increasingly common sight in Europe, along with new symbols for charging stations on motorway signs. Even road maps are marked with these now.
Meanwhile, back at my lunch table, I could see where the power was coming from. The tips of the blades of wind turbines were sweeping the air above the nearby hill. You see these things everywhere in Europe, especially in Germany. The solid teutonic burghers seem not to have the problems with headaches, loss of libido and the decapitation of pet parrots that Australians living near these things allegedly experience. Come on, Aussie, man up.
Once at the show it became clear that the two- and three-wheeler industry has picked up on the growing popularity of electric propulsion. I know that ethanol, hydrogen and fuel cells are all being touted as replacements for petrol (and especially diesel) but there was no sign of any bikes or scooters powered by these alternatives. There was, however, plenty of evidence of electric bikes and especially scooters. Examples ranged from Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire all the way down to powered, self-balancing roller skates (imagine a tiny, stalk-less Segway for each foot) with all price and size stops in between.
The Australian argument has always been that, hey, it’s a big country and it will be ages yet before there are enough charging stations to make electric vehicles practical. Well, maybe. In fact, most of these things are aimed at in-town and commuting uses, so it doesn’t matter if there is no recharger in Curdimurka. But the problem is being addressed by the technology anyway. More and more rapid charging is becoming possible using a standard power socket. And then…
Some time on the early ‘80s, the president of the WA BMW Bike Club rode a Vespa from Leonora in WA to The Rock, along one or the other Gunbarrel highways. He had a backup 4WD, I seem to remember, and he did it to show that it’s not the bike, it’s the rider. Today, you could do the same thing on an electric scooter as long as you had a backup vehicle too, to charge your swap-out batteries for you.
Read the full story in the current issue of AMCN (Special Edition Vol 68 No 12)
Words & Photography Martin Collins