The purchase price is not the full cost; just like gas motorcycles, they have additional costs like maintenance and fuel or electricity. The purchase price of an electric motorcycle might be higher, but the additional costs are much less.
In this article, we look at the costs of owning an electric motorcycle. I think it might be worth looking into what it would cost you to recharge your electric motorcycle with solar. And how long it would take before your investment is paid off.
We will discuss the following:
- Comparing cost per mile for gas and electric
- Comparing maintenance on gas and electric
- Recharging your bike with solar
Comparing cost per mile for gas and electric
My approach to comparing the cost per mile is rather simple.
We have a table for the average cost of fuel on a gas-powered motorcycle and then a table for the cost of electricity on an electric-powered motorcycle.
I reckon that $0.40 per mile would be a good average for most commuters using a gas-powered motorcycle.
On an electric bike, you pay for electricity per kWh, which is $0.17 in California, and you multiply that by the amount of kWh your battery holds and then divide it by the number of miles you can get on the battery.
So I worked out that you should be paying an average of $0.02 per mile when travelling on highways.
So let’s have a look at what a gas-powered motorcycle would cost in fuel.
|Average $0.40 per mile for gas|
You can see that after a certain number of miles you had spent the same amount of money on fuel as what the bike was worth when you bought it.
Now let’s have a look at electric motorcycles.
Electric powered motorcycle
|Average $0.02 per mile for electricity|
Clearly, the cost per mile is much less on electric motorcycles.
But does it make up for the price of an electric motorcycle? We know that electric motorcycles aren’t cheap (at least the nice-looking ones aren’t).
The answer is yes, even for the price of a Harley-Davidson Livewire it will eventually be cheaper to ride electric.
In fact, if you do an average of 20 000 miles every year, just the cost of fuel will be the same as the price of a Livewire after 6.5 years.
And in case you were wondering, the Livewire comes at a price of about $30 000 in the United States.
But we know the Livewire is top of the top when it comes to electric motorcycles and maybe motorcycles in general.
You can still get along very comfortably and cheaper on the SR/F. It costs around $10 000 less than the Livewire so you would expect to spend what its worth on fuel in 4.5 years doing the same 20 000 miles a year.
Comparing maintenance on gas and electric
We all know that electric motorcycles have no maintenance… Or does it?
Of course, you have to wash it like every other bike out there, but there are also some other things you need to consider.
For example, you still need to replace brake pads even though you can extend their life significantly by making full use of the regen-braking.
You will also still need to replace the belt drive or chain or some other electric motorcycles (like dirtbikes).
But other than that there really isn’t much except maybe lubing a brake cable or replacing a lightbulb if it doesn’t have LED lights.
Gas-powered motorcycles, on the other hand, have much more maintenance.
The fact that they have more moving parts theoretically means more parts to replace due to wear or failures.
But internal combustion engines have evolved over more than a hundred years and are rather reliable in our modern era.
But electric motorcycles have only just begun evolving and leaves them a lot of room for improvement in comparison to gas motorcycles.
So let’s have a look at what maintenance these two different types of motorcycles need (given that nothing breaks on either of them).
Gas-powered motorcycle maintenance
|Battery (2 years)|
Electric-powered motorcycle maintenance
|Battery (100 000 miles / eight years)|
|Motor (15-20 years)|
Let’s face it; electric bikes are much cheaper to maintain and even if you need to replace the battery someday and ends the big saving you had, you still had so little maintenance up to that point you wouldn’t mind paying it.
Recharging your bike with solar
Very few people are using solar to power their motorcycles today, and there is a good reason for this; it’s expensive.
In the short term, it is very expensive to set up, and you don’t always have good weather for powering your bike with sunlight.
But if you do live in a place with an exceptional amount of sunlight, it might just be worth investing in your own solar system (not planetary systems just to be clear).
As you might have guessed, carrying along solar panels isn’t a good idea. Instead, you can build a fixed system at home and not worry about transport or theft.
Though, I think having a system on your RV (if you have one) is a good idea. You can stop at the place you are staying and explore the surrounding areas on your bike.
How much sunlight do you get?
I found an excellent visualisation of the world’s solar intensity that you can visit at engaging-data.com/solar-intensity/
But even if the map shows that you have good sunlight you need to consider things like trees or surrounding mountains that can block the sunlight throughout the day.
Building a solar charging system
You will probably have to do some proper research before buying solar panels and all the other equipment you may need as it is a rather heavy investment.
But I’ll show you what my little configuration looks like with links to the products.
Firstly, let’s look at the circuit diagram I made (image below) on partsim.com, so you know how everything fits together.
I figured that having enough solar panels to power the bike directly is probably a good way to ensure that I have enough power.
Obviously, you aren’t going to get the same amount of sunlight throughout the day, but you still get more than 4.5 hours of sunlight each day required for charging.
You will need a charging regulator that can handle the input and output while keeping your batteries safe from overcharging.
Seeing as my solar panels are 24V, I need to get a regulator made for 24V supply.
The same also goes for my batteries; I use two sets of 6x 12V batteries to get the 24V I need.
These batteries cost about the same as the solar panels, but I think its worth buying seeing as I want to charge my bike when I get home at night after work.
If it turns out to be more than what I need, I can simply power some other things in and around the house to make the most of my investment.
Most electric motorcycles have their charging system built into the bike, so you need to supply it AC power. For that, we need an inverter to change the current from DC to AC.
It seems like a waste converting the current from DC to AC only so that the bike can convert it back to DC.
But until we have another method, this is probably the best way. Luckily inverters are very cheap, but you need to make sure they can handle the power necessary for the bike to charge.
Below I put all the things we need into a table to make it easy. Though, you should probably add things like cables for the batteries to your own schedule. But there are complete kits available too.
|Solar Panels||Renogy 300 Watt 24 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel||10x||Paralleled|
|Solar Charging Regulator||100A MPPT Solar Charge Controller DC 24V Auto Solar Regulator||1x||Inline|
|Batteries||VMAX MR127-100, Two Group 27 12 Volt 100Ah AGM Deep Cycle||6x||Paralleled|
|VMAX MR127-100, Two Group 27 12 Volt 100Ah AGM Deep Cycle||6x||Paralleled|
|Invertor||Alextreme Inverter, Onduleur, Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12/24V DC to 220V AC||1x||Inline|
Cost of solar power per mile
From my schedule, I calculated the total cost to be around $6300.00 for the solar power setup.
If we take the 20 000 miles I do each year, that would mean we need to divide the cost by the number of miles.
So for myself, it costs me $0.32 per mile for the first year and after that its virtually free power.
You might have noticed that the cost per mile for the first year is still less than the $0.40 per mile of a gas-powered motorcycle which is still rather good.
Time to pay back your motorcycle
Now for the interesting part; remember when I said it would take you 6.5 years to pay back the Livewire on paid electricity in California?
It would take you 4.5 years to reach this point with solar plus having also paid for the solar charging system.
But if that isn’t enough to convince you, you are also contributing to the wellbeing of the environment.
Other than that, you are off-grid when it comes to transport, and if something fails, you can always use the power from the grid.
But if the grid is off, you are either forced to take a cab or borrow your old man’s gas-powered motorcycle.
I’ll start by saying I don’t like quiet motorcycles, but if you want to save in the long term, buying an electric motorcycle is definitely worth the investment.
And depending on where you live and the weather conditions, powering your bike with solar is even better.
That being said, I think that even if your investment doesn’t fully pay for your electric motorcycle, you should at least get it down to the price of a gas-powered motorcycle very quickly.
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