How an Electric Motorcycle Works

An electric motorcycle works essentially the same way a gas-powered motorcycle works: it is propelled by an engine, and that engine requires fuel. The main difference is that the gas fuel in a conventional motorcycle is replaced by either batteries or fuel cells in an electric version.

Main Components

An electric motorcycle powered by batteries will likely use much of the space needed by a gas engine to house those batteries. The engine itself will likely be a good bit smaller. In one new model, the “Enertia”, the engine is approximately the size of an alternator, and is mounted low on the chassis just in front of the rear wheel. A chain and sprocket connects the motor directly to the rear wheel.


Depending on the type of battery used, battery life in an electric motorcycle can range between 1.5 to 10 years. Battery types include:

Lithium Ion


Lithium Phosphate

Litihum Ion Phosphate

Lead Acid

Nickel Metal Hydride

One perceived disadvantage of electric motorcycles is the range between charges. Most of the electric motorcycles now available can travel a range of 40 to 100 miles between charges. Most gas-powered motorcycles will exceed that, though it depends on the size of the gas tank.

Recharging the battery is another concern with electric power, considering that the recharge time will be a minimum of 2 to 3 hours. Compare that to the 10 minutes or less to needed fill a gas tank, and this might be a valid concern.

Other Factors

Cleaner - Electric engines are considered cleaner than gas engines for 2 primary reasons: no oil and no exhaust fumes. Oil is used to lubricate a gas engine, and is virtually unnecessary with an electric motor. With no exhaust fumes, electric vehicles can be ridden indoors, and this alone may change the future of competitive events.

Quieter - No loud exhaust sounds are heard from an electric motorcycle, which may be a good thing as it relates to decibel levels, but there is a down side as well. Sometimes that loud engine noise alerts other vehicles to a motorcycle’s presence on the road, and this may result in more risk.

Easier, Cheaper Maintenance - While upfront costs compete and sometimes exceed pricing for gas-powered models, electric motorcycles have fewer maintenance activities and lower related costs.

Longer Extension Cords - One consideration a potential electric motorcycle owner must consider is the recharging protocol. A homeowner with a garage will have no problem, but if you live in an apartment on an upper floor, your power outlets may be hard to reach.

Electric motorcycles may work much the same way gas-powered bike do, but how we as riders interact with them is the larger adjustment.