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In our recent survey of bikers, the cost of buying and running an electric motorbike was cited as a big barrier for many who are choosing not to switch to electric just yet.  With 52% of respondents listing cost as a reason not to purchase, clearly many are not yet convinced of the financial perks.

Here we weigh up the costs of buying and running an electric motorbike in comparison to their petrol-powered equivalents.

Are electric motorbikes more expensive to buy?

The answer to this is ‘yes’ in the main.  If you’re after an entry-level 50cc equivalent electric scooter, prices are around the £1500 to £2000 mark.  Going up to a 125cc equivalent, prices are around £4k – 5k although the Zero S, which is comparable to a 125, costs more than £8,000.  An equivalent petrol-fuelled Honda costs less than £2500.

The most recent data on electric bike sales tell is that those at the cheaper end are the only ones making any in-roads to sales.  In 2020 65% (that is 1598 bikes) of all newly registered electric bikes, were under 4kw (5hp)*.

Prices start to get more eye-watering when you consider the mid to high-end bikes.  For example, Harley Davidson’s LiveWire promises better performance than the combustion engine models, but then costs close to £30k.

In comparison, the most-bought petrol bikes in the UK cost on average between £8k and £10k.  The most expensive bike in the top 10 bestselling bikes of 2019 was £14k.  It’s clear from these figures that the mid-market in electric terms is in a different league cost wise with few equivalent options in the same price bracket.

This ‘mid-market’ sector is dominated by leisure riders, those who like to enjoy a spin cross-country at the weekend, and the current limitations of electric bikes mean they are simply not meeting the needs of these riders.

Paul Etheridge of Ricardo explains “The combustion engine bikes are extremely good, and bikers like the look, sound and feel of the engine, it’s a bit part of the appeal, and this is missing in electric bikes. The electrification advantages don’t outweigh the disadvantages in terms of cost of buying them, the potential dynamic limitations caused by the heavy battery you need to have if you want decent range, the charging infrastructure, the range etc. All this stuff is stopping that market from developing. It will happen, but it will take a while.”

The government continues grants for electric motorbikes

Some good news is that in June this year (2022) the UK government announced it will continue to contribute towards the price of some electric motorcycles and scooters despite scrapping its grant scheme for electric cars.  The new grant system sees battery motorcycles priced up to £10,000 receive 35% off, up to a maximum of £500, and mopeds get 35% off up to a value of £150.

Are electric motorbikes cheaper to run?

With no petrol, no oil and no tax – are they really cheaper to run?

Fuel is where bikers can save big by switching to electric.  What could be pounds spent on petrol becomes pence when recharging with electricity.

Having said that the rising cost of electricity has also raised some concerns amongst our survey respondents.

Even the Harley Davidson LiveWire, mentioned above shows how relatively cheap it is to ‘fuel’ costing just £2.37 for a full charge at home.  Meanwhile with the current soaring fuel costs, it can cost around £50 to fill up with petrol.

As well as saving money on fuel, there is an additional financial benefit for electric motorbikes when it comes to road tax.  Electric motorbikes and scooters are exempt from road tax in much the same way that electric vehicles are now.

Insurance for electric motorbikes is not yet widely available as many still see it as niche business and can be more expensive as a result.  Most insurers will only offer Third Party Only cover for electric motorbikes – if you were to damage your battery in a crash, your bike is likely to be deemed too expensive to repair. They are also deemed to be high risk as they are silent and therefore a danger to pedestrians and because most electric bikes are currently centered in urban areas, you are considered higher risk from theft and accidents.

Conclusions – the costs weighed up

What is clear is that although they’re generally cheaper to run, electric motorbikes are more expensive to buy initially which is clearly putting people off. And of course, there is no second-hand market yet to help bring costs down.

Over a few years, the long-term savings on fuel and road tax will help claw back the extra initial cost of buying a battery powered bike but for now it seems we’ll be paying a high price upfront.

* https://www.bennetts.co.uk/bikesocial/news-and-views/features/electric-motorcycles/prices