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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Environmental and Health Issues Raised by Electric Vehicles, Including Motorcycles

Zero’s SR/F electric motorcycle

The electric vehicle revolution is well underway, of course, and there are clearly environmental benefits associated with the new technologies. But it is not all good news, and MD readers should understand some of the basic facts.

Current technology requires that nearly all electric vehicles contain batteries with three essential ingredients that need to be mined, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. The environmental costs of mining are well known, but are beyond the scope of this article. Although the supply of these ingredients is finite, depending on the necessary mining investments and political instability issues being resolved, the supply of these ingredients should not be a major issue over the next several decades.

Lithium is more frequently discussed, but the supply of cobalt is potentially more problematic given the political instability of its primary source, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Take a look at this article regarding the supply issues surrounding cobalt and nickel.

The disposal of all the batteries is, of course, an environmental problem, although there is some progress in recycling lithium and cobalt from batteries.

Another fairly obvious point often overlooked by the average consumer is that the electricity used to charge these batteries (plug-in sources) is largely generated by the burning of fossil fuels (roughly 63% of U.S. electricity generation). The rest comes from nuclear energy (20%) and renewable energy sources (17%). The statistics for 2018 can be found here. So charging your electric vehicle involves, although indirectly, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas and petroleum. Certain parts of the country rely on differing percentages of fossil fuels and renewables, of course.

A topic getting more attention lately is the impact on health of EMF (electromagnetic fields) radiation exposure. The studies are all over the place, unfortunately, with some of them biased by industry funding. EMF exposure can have a negative impact on health, including causing cancers, but the safe amount of that exposure is the subject of seemingly endless debate. All cars produce EMF, but electric and hybrid vehicles seem to produce significantly more EMF than ICE powered vehicles.

This article contains a good summary of the EMF issues, but also take a look here and here. EMF exposure is greater when the source of the radiation is physically closer … automobile drivers’ feet are exposed to more radiation than their heads, for example. On a motorcycle, of course, the rider is extremely close to the EMF sources – physically straddling the engine, typically. We are not aware of any specific studies on the health impact of EMF exposure on riders of electric motorcycles.

So buy and enjoy your new electric motorcycles. With the major OEMs about to jump in, we should see them everywhere before too long. Just make sure you understand that the burning of fossil fuels in ICE powered vehicles is not the only source of human health and safety concerns – electric vehicles pose their own.

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  1. mickey says:

    The issue with solving this problem is like reading thru all the posts here … get a conference together of all the earths brightest minds with the intent of saving the earth, let them hash it out, and in the end, there will still be no consensus on how to solve the problem.

  2. southbound says:

    Boy, Dirke, did you open a can of worms.

  3. RichBinAZ says:

    Hmmm, I heard that Britain turned off their coal plants for a week this year, so they were running on Renewables and Nuclear. First time since 1882. Check out this article by the Guardian Newspaper

    So instead of whining about how we can’t do this and we can’t do that, if the USA actually did something we could be in the same enviable position. It would change the calculation of this whole topic.

    Texas is on the ball, saw a whole bunch of windmills in use and being built in a recent trip across their state. But wait, Isn’t Texas an oil state??? Apparently they are more than that!!!

    • Jeremy says:

      It always surprises people to find out that Texas produces more megawatts of green energy than any other state.

    • Provologna says:

      And how does China’s carbon foot print compare to the USA’s? If the USA had no carbon foot print, what’s the effect of China’s carbon foot print on the earth?

      • Whataboutism says:

        China’s carbon footprint is bad, no doubt. The difference is, they’re finally starting to do something about it.

        Here in Trumpistan, we don’t do anything that benefits the planet until everybody else does it first. “Why should we care about the environment when Bobby is still making it dirty?! It’s not fair!”

        No wonder everyone hates the US. We’re quite hate-able.

        • Provologna says:

          I do business in China. Do you?

          My business partners have told me personally that FB is turned off at random to control speech. Bibles are illegal in China. Only one party is allowed, the PRC, which owns and runs the government and military. China recently changed the law to allow their current dictator a lifetime appointment. A Chinese female employee works in the US. A coworker, noting she chose to walk long distances home, offered to give her a ride. She declined because if she did not walk enough steps daily China would terminate her internet access.

          I pretty much hate Trump. Applying terms like yours to Trump is an insult to persons living in military dictatorships like China. A reality check would do you well. Get out and talk to persons from other parts of the world and compare notes.

          Stop trying to undo the 2016 election. Has it worked so far? Check the urban dictionary for the meaning of “insanity.”

          • mickey says:

            Stop trying to blame everything on Trump. The world has been a mess for decades and both parties have been in charge multiple times, both have had plenty of chances to make things a little better, but neither has seen fit to do so. They are so busy fighting each other making sure the other side doesn’t get anything done, and therefore doesn’t get any credit, that they don’t get anything done at all. Pretty soon they will stop working for us altogether and start working on elections 2020 since getting re-elected is far more important than doing anything positive for the people.

            IMO not nearly enough of the swamp was drained. It needs to be totally drained, dredged and made into something actually beneficial to the people.

            Term Limits!

        • huls says:

          No the US not hate-able. It is actually leading the world by far in emissions reduction. Actually the US is the only nation to have reduced more than the Paris accord prescribes. The same Paris accord that Trump pulled out off because he did not want to pay the loser nations. And rightfully so.

  4. Sir Real Ed says:

    So……. It seems that whether I ride an ICE bike or an electric bike, saving or destroying the planet are two tasks that require more effort and resources than my recreational activities can deliver. Come to think of it, that’s not why I started riding motorcycles 50+ years ago, so it is all working out just fine!

  5. The Other Dave says:

    I think that the main problem is that there are too many of us. Our foot print is so large that no matter what energy source we use there will always be problems.

    • Moat says:

      Bingo. Until we quit propagating like flies on a carcass, this problem (and virtually every other major problem humanity faces) will only continue to worsen – no matter what else is done to address it (energy, in this case). Get a handle on population, and within 50-70 years it could/would ALL be 100% solved. Simple as that.

      • Provologna says:

        You can personally address (fix) the alleged problem of your parents “propagating like flies.” Would you do so now?

        Yeah, I figured so.

        I respectfully suggest you and others who claim similar ideology, stop promoting faith in a problem for which there is sum total one fix which you yourself shall never do.

        IOW: Do the unborn have any less right to their place on earth than do you? Be very exact and specific in stating your case.

        I find your ideology and your labeling your parents affection for each other as mimicking “flies” repulsive, revolting, and hypocritical. Anyone who equates human beings with flies is spreading a big lard of potentially genocidal ideology. I suggest, unless you are willing to do the only known fix for the alleged problem you promote, you take a good close look at flushing that ideology and stop with the hypocrisy.

        • Moat says:

          “You can personally address (fix) the alleged problem of your parents “propagating like flies.” Would you do so now?

          Yeah, I figured so.”

          Yes, I have. No kids (59 and certainly not having any in the future). Had plenty of opportunity to do so, but actively did not – simply out of a sense of disgust around the obvious damage/unintended consequences we humans create, just due to our *sheer number*. Something that was blatantly apparent to me even as a teen – and the 45 years since has only strongly confirmed that sense.

          So, the buck stops here. I’ve done my part – *the* most important part… you??

          Yeah, I figured so. Hypocrisy, indeed.

          So stand high upon your podium, Provologna, nonsensically hot-$hit talking “repulsive, revolting, genocidal, etc.” all you want – you are only displaying the very lack of perspective that’s been a primary reason behind the insidious movement of humanity towards these grave issues, in the first place. For whatever sociopolitical/ethical/religious/etc. reasons… doesn’t matter – they’re *all* in dire need of revision.

          And BTW, according to Wikipedia re; China’s one child policy – “76% of Chinese people said that they supported the policy in a 2008 survey”. And even though the policy has no longer been in effect for years, China’s birth rate remains at a similarly low level.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Yes, overpopulation is the biggest issue facing humanity. If the world’s population was half of what it is now we wouldn’t have these problems. But nobody is doing anything about it. Big business (who heavily support and influence political parties) don’t want anything done because more people means more customers. Governments won’t do anything about it because more people means more tax revenue and greater security against invasion from more populous nations. China did have a one child policy, which has shown us the undesirable consequences of that. But if one nation does it alone they suffer the negative consequences without there being any benefit. Unless we can find another planet to inhabit and a way of getting there, humanity will self-destruct because of overpopulation – and that comes from leading scientists.

      • todd says:

        I blame all the do-gooders. There have been too many people who have gone to other countries and solved their medical problems. People used to die occasionally, now that’s a bad thing. Why? Because it’s sad? No, people want to make other people dependent on them. In the old days, when overpopulation was not a problem, people got sick and died. Now, you get sick and then become dependent on medication or constant medical care. You become a burden (financially and mentally) for your family who are forced to artificially extend your life so you can continue to watch TV commercials, as an invalid.

      • Crazyjoe says:

        How did you come up with half? Why not 3/4 or 1/4? What science came up with that number? assuming no one is going to volunteer for your population policy how will you enforce it.

        Very white or European to suggest they are the problem when we spew more co2 than they ever will. Just me redefining white priveledge for the Green Party progressive types.

        • Ralph W. says:

          “assuming no one is going to volunteer for your population policy how will you enforce it.”

          I didn’t state my “policy.” I stated a problem. China’s one child policy was effective but had undesirable consequences. But maybe they are consequences we will have to deal with even if we don’t like them. Soon we may be forced to use electric vehicles even though I don’t like them. In the future people may be forced to have less children, even if they don’t like it. If it is essential for the survival of humanity it will have to be done.

          Western society now is like a big, long debaucherous party. You know there will be a hangover and you will have regrets later, but for now you just want to party hard and ignore the future consequences. But in this case, you won’t be around to suffer the after effects. It will be the future generations who will have to deal with the effects of your over-indulgence. Do you only care about yourself?

          • Crazyjoe says:

            Half? Clarify. You defined the problem if there is one. Whats the next step? I don’t care only about myself but I don’t think I have the right to save the world. Why can’t the human race thrive with 15 billion people? They said there was going to be a population disaster in the 70’s and 80’s. We’re still here. More people die of obesity than starvation.

            Who knows the population will start going down as developement spreads around the world.

          • Moat says:

            “But maybe they are consequences we will have to deal with even if we don’t like them.”

            Agreed – and minimizing those consequences really could be a primary focus in planning/preparing, now.

            China’s former one child policy currently has them worried about the resultant contracting workforce, and that workforce’s need to support a proportional growth in the elderly population. But in reality, China sure doesn’t appear to be suffering too badly from it (yet?).

            Meanwhile, it’s estimated the policy will have curtailed a population expansion of at least *1 billion* by 2060 – certainly a far more positive situation than the alternative, I’d have to think.

          • Provologna says:

            “…China’s one child policy was effective but had undesirable consequences…” How gracious and merciful of you to call a military dictatorship (China) forcing abortions on unwilling women “undesirable.” /sarc off

            “…But maybe they are consequences we will have to deal with even if we don’t like them.” Would you please replace your vague, cryptic language with very specific language? Why not? Are you afraid to do so?

            “In the future people may be forced to have less children, even if they don’t like it.” Again, the single common thread of over population fear mongers is this: “There’s too many people! I’m not one of them!”

            Are you American? Are you familiar with the Constitution? How is forcing abortion and/or birth control consistent with the US Constitution? It’s not. It’s just as unlawful as non-believers in over population deciding to kill you to give you your wish: less people.

            I respectfully suggest you consider and read about Chinese women who suffered the lifetime of emotional suffering from forced abortions.

            I praise my friend for having 6 children, and love him more for it.

            If you can not or refuse to inform readers exactly why you deserve something the unborn don’t deserve, I posit that is the definition of hypocrisy. “Over population” is only fixed with less people, period.

            Why exactly are you less of the over population problem than the unborn? Hint: you’re not! Your philosophy is the pinnacle of NIMBYism.

            Persons other than, and after your parents procreated to make you, deserve the same thing your parents had: the right to procreate.

            “…If it is essential for the survival of humanity it will have to be done…” Translation: I support fixing the population problem as long as it does not include me.

      • Gutterslob says:

        Paging Thanos. You can snap your fingers anytime now…

      • Provologna says:

        I have never met anyone yet who promotes the idea of over population willing to do the only known thing that can fix this alleged problem.

        I presume you are no different, as you are here posting your conjecture.

        • Anonymous says:

          You’re an idiot, Provologna. There are two ways to reduce the population. 1)Kill people, and nobody finds that acceptable. 2)Reduce the birth rate, which China has shown can be done. If we allow the population to increase as rapidly as it is the Earth will be decimated and humanity will self-destruct. You need to “get your head out of the sand.”

          • Provologna says:

            You personally promote #1. I’d rather be an idiot that someone like you who promotes killing unborn babies by force. China did exactly that, which you promote. Stories are legion on the subject. China now suffers tremendously because of abortion for sex choice, something likely right up your alley.

            Everyone including you who promotes “over population” says they are not part of the over population problem, the very definition of hypocrisy.

            Wanting to kill and/or prevent births to achieve your goal, by definition is hypocrisy. Kill yourself and have your epitaph read: “I did something about over population.”

          • Provologna says:

            BTW, “you’re an idiot” tells readers everything about you and nothing about the alleged subject.

            Didn’t quite make the Harvard debate team, huh?

          • mickey says:

            Kill yourself and have your epitaph read: “I did something about over population.” Provologna

            lol good one.

            The man has a point. Kinda of like voting..if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you want the population of the earth to be reduced, you have the power to voluntarily reduce it by one if that would make you feel better about the situation.

            My parents had 5 children, my wife’s parents had 6. We had two. One of our children had 2. The other 3. Kinda feel we are doing our part at reducing the population.

          • Provologna says:

            It’s quite fitting that a person calling someone else “an idiot” ignores or denies that over population zealots can make their wish come true by killing themselves, not just others.

            The same person apparently ignores and/or denies the extreme, proven and egregious felony crimes and human rights abuse always associated with every single government-sponsored form of enforced birth control.

            Again, over population zealots: “There’s too many people, but NOT ME!”

            The logic is so lacking it would be comical if it did not result in unborn babies being ripped from the womb and murdered, which it does, every single time, sometimes for xy chromosome selection, even more offensive. (Are most readers here xy, minimizing their level of offense?)

            When government controls birth by force, families often favor males for their perceived future wealth and physical labor potential, plus families in many cultures must often supply their females with a dowry for her to be married or find a male mate.

      • huls says:

        Population is not a problem at all. The worlds population could all live in the state of Texas with the same density as NY city. The worlds population has never been healthier, richer and longlived than ever in history. There are no resources running out, least of all energy. Peak Oil does not exist. Warming is far less deadly than cooling by a factor 20. The world has become 30% greener thanks to CO2 increase, wich is plant foor after all.
        If you want to stop population growth there is 1 thing that always works: improve standards of living, the higher the less offspring.
        Oh and the latest scare of species dying out: just business as usual: 99,9% of all species that have ever existed on earth have died out. Part and parcel of living.
        You worry too much

  6. SexyBeast says:

    Drove a Model 3 Performance the other day. If you enjoy driving you’ll be ready to radiate your feet every day and twice on Sunday.

  7. allworld says:

    The batteries have always been a point of concern for electric vehicles, I support hydrogen fuel cells as the best foot forward, but we are not there yet.
    Graphene offers a lot of potential with both the battery and structure of future vehicles. One thing is certain the ICE is being phased out.

    • joe b says:

      Hydrogen, is a carrier of energy. it takes as much energy from other sources, to make hydrogen, there is no free lunch.

      • huls says:

        The batteries in a Tesla are carriers of energy. However they are much more wasteful than hydrogen is. Tesla’s electricity is generated from energy sources like oil (waste 1) which is transformed (waste 2) to a different voltage for transport (waste 3) to the consumer but only after being tranformed (waste 4) again for charging (waste 5) the Tesla batteries that store (waste 6) the electric energy. Why the 6th waste you ask? Tesla batteries lose charge overnight equal to a quarter gallon of gas. Imagine you finding a puddle of gas underneath your car every morning !

    • Provologna says:

      About 20 years ago Gordon Jennings published a superb article of the results of two hydrogen powered vehicles colliding in an accident. Let’s just say the local FD is of little consequence at such event.

  8. DP says:

    Great article. These are sobering considerations due before jumping into EPVs tech. But then, is it not someone else who makes the decisions for us? So far we seem to have options, but that will not last forever. We ancillaries will be obligated to follow one way or the other.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Carbon is so overrated. Today we sit at about 142 ppm ( parts per million). In the past, before man and the industrial age carbon levels have been in excess of 5,000 ppm. Many cycles have seen that level rise and fall. A more significant greenhouse gas is methane, amongst others. The biggest greenhouse gas by far is water vapor.

    • todd says:

      True. The world does everything it can to increase the carbon in the air with volcanoes, natural fires… and here we are thinking we are going to help the world by trying to remove all the carbon in the atmosphere. In our Great Wisdom we even extinguish natural forest fires because it’s inconvenient for homeowners, like people who move near an airport or racetrack and then complain about the noise. Plants and trees need the carbon to survive. It would be like us trying to remove oxygen from the oceans regardless that the things already living there need to breathe.

    • oscar fish says:

      The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2017 was 405.0 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

    • Jeremy says:

      It has been above 400 ppm for the past three years. The last time it was that high, you could have bought some nice beachfront property in Dallas and hiked through the forests of Antarctica.

      Regardless, it isn’t the ppm levels themselves that scientists are so concerned with, but the rate at which they are rising, a rate which currently has no parallel in the fossil record. Since you don’t see a bunch volcanoes constantly spewing the earth’s internals these days, that kind of leaves us as the primary suspects.

      • Anonymous says:

        But the warming isn’t because of CO2, it is part of the whole natural cycle that has occurred in the past, over and over. We are still coming out of an ice age, which is why we are still gradually warming up. “Doing Something” isn’t going to stop it, it might make you feel better in your head, but no one is going to reverse this part of the cycle. The ice core and fossil records are proof of that.

        • Dave says:

          The ice cores and fossil records show us that our climate is changing faster than it ever did before we began producing pollutants.

          We should do everything we can to effect change. If we wind up being wrong, we’ll still come out better for it with renewable clean energy and efficiencies that preserves the precious, finite resource of oil for use in durable goods. There really isn’t a downside.

          • Anonymous says:

            Actual global temperatures have in fact not risen as much as predicted over the past 30 years. Also, if you honestly think that humans are capable of altering a natural climate cycle then you really are hopelessly naive. The “downside” is that it will not be reversed by people, not ever.

  10. Dino says:

    So we have a tin foil hat to protect us from aliens or satellites.. now we need a foil cup so Big Jim and the twins don’t glow in the dark!
    No free lunch indeed. Electrics are certainly not Zero emission. Manufacture plants, battery production (then recycling), is not zero. Is it more green than ICE? Well, it is certainly different. Everything has pro and con..

  11. My2cents says:

    This discussion makes me wish for another engine oil thread. Just as long as I can still eat bacon I don’t care about ICE vs EV. Pass the butter too.

    • Anonymous says:

      And that’s the attitude that brought the world “President Trump”. Hope you’re happy. Your grandchildren won’t be. Believe me.

  12. Crockette says:

    Great article. It always makes me laugh (cry?) when I see Tesla cars with their “Zero Emissions” plates. What they should say is “Deferred Emissions”. I would wager that most of the owners are clueless about the source of the energy of their “green” cars! Another point: here in California we regularly have brown outs, especially in summer, where the utility companies ask you to use less electricity (or charge you more for it) certain times of the day. With over 30 million living here, can you imagine if even only half the cars in CA were electric cars? You say “we just build more power plants”. Good luck with that one; they can’t even keep up with incremental demand. ICE not the long solution, but I can’t see a realistic path to all EV mode either.

    • Jason says:

      Do you have brown-outs at midnight to 6 am? That is when most EV owners charge their cars because electricity is in low demand and much cheaper. Pretty much every EV allows you to program when you want it to charge.

      • todd says:

        Most people charge their cars at work where companies are pressured into offering free charging stations. I asked if they would give me free gas for my bike just so they weren’t discriminating against me.

      • RyYYZ says:

        Get enough people charging electric cars overnight and there might not be that excess capacity at night anymore.

        • Bryan says:

          Not an issue. IOU electric companies have reported that they can charge about 70% of the transportation without grid expansion. 40% of BEV owners have solar. I charge at work primarily, we have so much solar on the roof that they look for ways to use electricity. I work in the solar industry, we make hybrid inverters. If I do charge at home I have solar there as well. I haven’t paid for electricity in 12 years I have generated my own.

  13. Kermit says:

    Look folks, there is no free lunch. You trade one set of disadvantages for another set and this dreamy idea that one day someone will figure it out in regard to this topic is just crazy talk. About 65 miles north-northwest of me are least 100 windmills. To the east about 15 miles(I can see them from my city) are another 200. They are ugly(can I have another color besides white?), not friendly to birds, and clutter up the landscape. But then who cares about people living here in the flyover states. And solar is something else. True or not I heard on a radio program there was somewhere around 25 elements in solar panels that are toxic. Are they all that way? No idea. But I wouldn’t want it. I said it here before and I’ll say it again. GO NUCLEAR! Fill up 2 times in a lifetime. C’mon people!

    • Dino says:

      for almost every leap forward in technology, there is a dirty little secret somewhere. Ultra efficient batteries, but with what checmicals, production, or other concerns. Cell phone batteries with light weight, good power, but if they malfunction they can get too hot, and burst into flames (don’t charge your batteries in the hot sun, for one).

      Enjoy the simple things… and Reduce, reuse, recycle..

    • guu says:

      People have solved energy crisis before – and have failed to do so with devastating consequences. In about 1700 Europe was at the door step of ecological, environmental and human catastrophe. Most of the forests had been cut down for fire wood and the continent was running out of energy.

      This wasn’t solved by crying and hoping that to old failed ways would work in the future. It was solved by moving to fossil power sources (coal). In the transition the economic power center of the world moved to Europe. The same happened with American oil. And it will happen again. Those sticking to the old, failing ways will be left behind (China on 1700) or worse (Easter Islanders f.ex.).

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      Go nuclear? Remember 3 mile island and Chernobyl? Not to environmentally safe by any means.

      • fred says:

        Actually, the risks of nuclear energy are quite low. The problem with nuclear power is hysteria and politics, not science.

        • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

          Electric still less risk and inexhaustible if from solar. And that (supposedly) low risk for nuclear still didn’t stop the problems at 3 mile and Chernobyl.

  14. RyYYZ says:

    Apparently, even when powered by coal burning power plants, electric cars (never mind motorcycles) are still significantly lower carbon emitters than ICE powered ones, taking the whole cycle into account – you have to remember that there are significant carbon outputs involved with fossil fuel production and distribution, too. So I’m not sure that’s a good argument against them.

    There has, as far as I know, never been a proven link between exposure to EMF (which we’re all pretty much constantly surrounded by anyway, especially in our homes) and any disease, including cancer. High energy photons at something short of the ionizing level MAY be related to health problems.

    To me the real downsides of electric bikes are their high price/performance ratio, and limited range and long recharge times. But if I lived in SoCal and commuted by bike almost every day? Maybe.

    • Brian says:

      If you lived in SoCal and commuted by bike every day your life expectancy would be a far bigger issue than pollution or EMF.

      • Grover says:

        Weather permitting, I commuted in SoCal on a motorcycle 40 years. Still here to talk about it. Secret is to pretend you are invisible and keep your speeds reasonable. As always, there is no guarantee in life, but you can increase your odds favorably by practicing these two suggestions.

        • RyYYZ says:

          I visited LA a couple years ago, rented a bike, hit the freeways, including a stint at rush hour. Honestly, didn’t seem any crazier or worse than typical rush hour traffic here in the GTA. Except in LA I could split lanes instead of sitting there in the stop and go sweltering. I’d probably commute by bike a lot more often here, weather permitting, if there was any advantage to it. But if I have to sit in the stop and go on the highway just like everyone else in a car, I might as well be in my car (taking up space) with A/C, stereo, and a cold beverage at hand.

  15. Skybullet says:

    For the foreseeable future, I see Electric Motorcycles and Scooters primarily as transportation in urban areas due to the limited range. The way most of us use our bikes for recreational purposes, Electric Bikes just don’t work. It will be many years before we can expect a significant improvement in the technology, not that a huge amount of research isn’t going into it. Many of us would not go Electric even if the range problem was solved. I don’t even like 4 cyl bikes because some of them are too smooth, give me a twin or single cyl that I can feel. Internal Combustion Forever!

    • Nick says:

      I agree, wholeheartedly. In days gone by, I tried a 4-cylinder bike or two but felt they had as little character as an electric motor. I couldn’t have imagined that, years later, electric motors would actually be touted as the coming thing. The vee-twin and single ICE bikes in the garage will see me out with pleasure!

      • mickey says:

        I love I-4 motorcycles. My favorite bikes since 1977 have been liter I-4’s. Had multiple P Twins and V twins in the past, and have ridden big singles. Seen metal fenders, chain guards and battery boxes broken due to vibrations. Mirrors all blurry. Front wheels hopping off the ground at stoplights.They vibrated so bad it made your hands itch, vibrated thru the tank into your knees, vibrated up thru the footpegs, vibrated up thru the seat. If I wanted something to vibrate the twins, I’d just buy a vibrator.

        The invention of counter balancers and dual counter balancers are the only things that have made riding singles and twins tolerable. Barely.

        • Ralph W. says:

          Agree with you, Mickey. I4s are my favorite engine for a motorcycle. I love the smooth quick throttle response. For any given capacity an I4 will easily outperform a twin. It’s like comparing 4-cylinder cars to V8s. Everybody prefers V8s. The only thing that feels better than having four cylinders in a bike is having six. But that is only practical in large touring bikes.

          • RyYYZ says:

            To me it’s not so much about the performance (for a given displacement I’ve seen twins that outperform multi-cylinder bikes), but flexibility and tractability. I’ve had two large-displacement twins that make ~100 HP – a V-Strom and my new-to-me ’07 R1200RT. Neither of these bikes was/is really happy at low RPMS, like say 2,000, typically needing at least 3,000 before they smooth out.

            OTOH, I had an 1,100 cc 4-cyl (ZRX1100) and still have (until I sell it) a 800 cc one (Yamaha FZ8), which also both made/make somewhere around 100 HP. The 800 obviously needs more revs to do it than the 1100. The 1100 would snap into wheelies from about 2,000 rpm in first on throttle only. The 800 will happily troll along in town at 2,000 rpm.

            The 800 (inline 4) is clearly tuned quite a bit more highly than the 1200 (flat twin) that makes similar power. And yet the 800 will pull cleanly from lower RPMs. And that is largely due to the more evenly distributed power pulses of a 4.

        • Jeremy says:

          For tooling around and having fun, I like the smoother twins and especially singles… probably what I really like are just really light bikes come to think of it.

          But if I’m going to a race track or need to gobble up a lot of high-speed miles, it’s hard to be a good I4.

          • mickey says:

            My old 360 degree 2003 Bonnie with counter balancers was really smooth for a P Twin…much smoother than my younger brothers new 2016 270 degree Bonnie (guess it still has counter balancers?) but his 270 has these constant throbs when you are going down the road. Guess they did it for character, but to me it’s just annoying. Much rather ride my CB1100 I-4.

  16. falcodoug says:

    Electric motorcycles are like sewing machines to me.

  17. Grover says:

    I’m onboard with the whole ‘lectric motorcycle thing as soon as they figure out the range, charging time and initial cost. Oh, and please figure out a way to keep the “family jewels” from frying during a long ride.

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      Ride most any air cooled V-Twin, and your family jewels will fry way before an EV would even think about frying them.

  18. Ed says:

    No thanks on the electric vehicles, too much expense and pollution. My Vespa GTS300 gets 70 mpg and if that’s not good enough, there’s always my bicycle. EV battery mining production and disposal create too much pollution. I’d rather not spend any extra money supporting countries that hate us.

    • Dave says:

      “EV battery mining production and disposal create too much pollution.”

      Where does this idea come from? Compared to petroleum and coal extraction and use, it’s nothing.

  19. ham says:

    Lets not forget now, going to light speed also causes spatial disruptions in space. I think we are just screwed.

  20. Tom Shields says:

    Thank you, Dirck, for the thought-provoking article.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      No problem. Too many people seem to think electric vehicles have no down side.

      • MacSpoone says:

        I’ve long regarded the extended environmental risks as part and parcel of owning an EV, but I still come back to the same question..

        What can we, as EV owners, do to mitigate any of that? Driving/riding an EV is as generally close as the generic ‘we’ can get to cutting back on our carbon footprints in any way we might regard as meaningful.

  21. Brian says:

    I figured we could all supply our own energy via solar systems until I built one myself and found out how little energy is produced relative to how much is required to power a home or vehicle.

    • KT says:

      A 100 by 100 mile square of solar panels would supply the current US electric needs. A second array the same size would allow provide the required power for all vehicles to be EV. Take a map of the US and draw two 100×100 mile squares.

      My Tesla goes 300+ miles on a charge. I pay $8 for the power for a full charge. It is much faster and drives better than the Mercedes I owned before. There is no scheduled maintenance, and the batteries will last 300K miles or more. EVs are practical now.

      • todd says:

        Let’s see. The average price of a Tesla is $87,450. The average auto loan is 4.77% and that equals an opportunity cost of $1,641 per month for five years. You were financially better off keeping your old Mercedes. Better yet, sell the Mercedes and buy an old VW tdi and have enough cash left over to pay all your fuel and maintenance costs for the next six decades…

      • guu says:

        I’m pretty sure there are more than 10000 sq-miles of roofs, covered car parks etc in the USA.

  22. guu says:

    “Just make sure you understand that the burning of fossil fuels in ICE powered vehicles is not the only source of human health and safety concerns”

    This isn’t even the only concern with ICEs. Hydrocarbon emissions from the fuel tank straight in to the riders lungs would be another. Microplastics from the tires to everybody’s lungs would be yet another. And so on, and so on.

    Just my opinion (and hope): Electric vehicles should be just a temporary and then a speciality solution before hydrogen fuel cells come in to wider use. Hydrogen can be produced as a by-product of nuclear power generation.

  23. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    Li-Ion batteries are what the CURRENT technology is for batteries, but this is a very young technology (yes, I know, there have been electric cars in the distant past, but those were nothing like what’s out here now). This technology is changing fairly rapidly, and more than likely will end up with solid state batteries with some help with capacitors. Also, the old argument of generating electric from coal burning, and other fossil fuels, is steadily reducing and will continue to do that. Some charging stations, and several homes are now generating their own electric through solar panels with battery back-up and that itself is just getting started. Some islands are or are almost completely powered by solar with battery back-up.

  24. todd says:

    I don’t enjoy electric vehicles nearly as much as gasoline or diesel powered vehicles so I’ll probably never buy one. However, I have always felt the “coal” argument to be very misleading. Yes, 63% of electricity may come from burning “fossil” fuels (no one really knows how oil was formed) but the type of populations that purchase electric vehicles are the ones that live in areas that produce the greatest amounts of renewable energy. Yes, Wyoming burns coal but there’s likely one electric motorcycle to ever be sold there. On the other hand, the majority of motorcycles are sold and ridden more often in California which does not burn coal for electricity.

  25. Tank says:

    Just bring back 2 cycle motorcycles and plant a tree.

    • Max says:

      Planting tree is the right thinking. People always forget this part of the equation. We tear down all the trees. Without trees, CO2 goes up because we all emit it with every breath.
      If we really want to solve the problem, there’s only one way. Quit making babies.

      • Kermit says:

        Not that you could or would want to, an acre of corn takes out 8 tons of C02. Not bad for something whose growing cycle is so short.

  26. Rapier says:

    As a general thing non ionizing radiation is considered harmless. I mean a strong enough radio frequency source can burn you, but other than that? And what about the subtle things some seem to feel? Got me.

    Consider the possibility that the number of vehicles of any type may decline sharply in the future. Which would make this a small concern in a world that might be rapidly changing.

  27. gpokluda says:

    The e-motorcycle horse has left the barn and there is no getting it back in there. These problems are small and easily solved. eBikes are here to stay.

    • Electronic Waste says:

      I don’t know if there’s a current solution for an efficient e-waste recycling. We’re trading CO2 for an e-waste problem.

  28. Gary says:

    Adoption will drive market demand, as well as the R&D needed to overcome these and future obstacles. If you doubt this, consider the internal combustion engine as it was first developed to drive the first Model T motor car. Now compare that engine to the ones we have today. You can expect the same level of tech advancement for batteries and electric motors.

    • Jeremy says:

      Batteries and electric motors have been around and under heavy development for as long as the internal combustion engine. It is a fallacy to think that electric is an emerging technology that will be characterized by huge and numerous breakthroughs. I hope that does come to pass, but I’m not counting on it.

      • Dave says:

        Breakthroughs are happening all the time. 20 years ago NiCad batteries were cutting edge. Charge times were glacial and neodymium magnets weren’t readily available. Just those things are bigger innovations than have happened in ICE propulsion in the last 50+ years.

        I think the bigger innovation opportunities will be in the ways the cars/bikes capture (solar/wind/battery charging) and use energy. Electrifying our current vehicle types makes little sense because the vast majority of Americans are driving vehicles that don’t make practical sense for their use cases, ie. driving around alone in a 6,000lb SUV. EV’s are an opportunity to reset the expectations of what personal transportation should be.

  29. azicat says:

    EMF radiation health risks are currently unclear, with limited evidence. The type of EMF radiation also needs to be specified.

    The link you provided is to a non-peer reviewed personal blog post.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Provided 3 links. “Unclear” doesn’t equal safe. That “blog post” provides direct links to studies, including one by WHO. No one disagrees that EMF radiation can be harmful. As the article states, the disagreement concerns the level of “safe” exposure.

      • azicat says:

        Dirck I think we might actually be agreeing here. Unclear, as in the evidence is inconclusive both for and against harm.

        The Joel Moskowitz page you linked to, although full of references to academic articles, is also not really ‘evidence’ in the form of critical academic presentation. That would be in the form of peer-reviewed structured meta-analysis, such as Cochrane.

        Some valid concerns are mentioned in a few references with regards to specifics (such as interference with implanted devices) but we all need to be careful in making general statements.

      • Dave says:

        Is it more or less safe than petroleum fuels and its associated hazards?

        • Dirck Edge says:

          No easy answer. The federal government says “scientists admit that more research is needed” on the dangers of EMF exposure and proceeds to link to a study showing male rats got cancer as a result of exposure to EMF radiation. Even when the federal government does require scientific research they too often make mistakes. Take the FDA, for example. Its fundamental purpose is to act as gatekeeper and prevent unduly dangerous drugs from harming US patients. They do so by requiring “rigorous scientific study” of drugs proposed for FDA approval. The list of FDA approved drugs that have ultimately proven too dangerous, been withdrawn, led to class action lawsuits, etc. is quite long. There is still a place for common sense, but each person has to exercise that on their own.

          • Dave says:

            My question was semi-rhetorical. This conversation usually ignores carbon monoxide emissions and fire hazard of gasoline. Those things just get lost in the noise.

            Hopefully common sense can be reached. Yes, we know for a 400+ mile/day rider an electric bike isn’t in the cards, but that’s a vanishingly small portion of road users. Also, the average age of cars on the road is 11 years right now, so electric won’t eradicate ICE for at least a couple of decades.

    • Max says:

      What’s clear is that it’s been everywhere for ages now and our population keeps increasing.

  30. Scotty says:

    Not too worried about EMF sensitivity.

  31. Crazyjoe says:

    There was a horse problem in the late 19th and early 20th century. They left a lot of solid and liquid waste around, they also died leaving a huge amount of waste. The internal combustion engine solved the horse problem. China is building cheaper electric cars than the rest of the world and they’ll find their way here. If they stick around for a hundred years Green Party types will be complaining about electric cars I’m sure.

    What no one talks bout is synthetic fuel like what Mobil has invented. Let’s call it renewable for now. It’s totally pollution free. According to it’s inventor it would need a lake the size of San Fran metro area to grow the material that’s processed into fuel. Would this be a better alternative to metals that could cause health problems.

    Just thinking pollution free fuel could make transportation much cheaper. No more fuel injectors. We could go back to carbs.

    • joe b says:

      Mobil didnt invent synthetic fuel. Statistically, it takes a gallon of gas to grow and make a gallon of corn based ethanol. Ethanol has less power than the gallon of gas they used to make it. Not knowing anything about the synthetic mobil fuel, i seriously doubt its “pollution free”, your dreaming. You say they need a lake the size of SF to grow it, it too would be like corn, needing a gallon of gas to make a gallon of it. Just because one has an engine that is capable of using synthetic fuel, doesnt mean injectors will be obsolete, your dreaming again. You say it would be a better alternative to metals, those are added, and probably need to be added also to your synthetic, if necessary. China does build cheap electric cars, there are about 50 manufacturers of them. You will never see one as long as there is a president with the intelligence of a baby. I have nothing against electric cars or electric bikes, but there isnt one today that makes any sense, yet.

      • Dave says:

        There are plenty of electric vehicles on the market that make sense already.

        • Electronic Waste says:

          There isn’t an EV that makes sense for me.

          1. Too expensive. Without gov’t subsidies, a Chevy Volt is $40K, a Chevy Cruze is $23K.

          2. There is not a good solution to battery e-Waste. CO2 is less harmful to the environment.

          I believe H2 fuel cells are more promising than BEVs.

          • Dave says:

            A $40k car that never requires fuel, oil & coolant changes, or significant engine/transmission repair is really a $20k car. The Cruze is about to be discontinued because it wasn’t profitable at a competitive price. Maybe it was really a $27k car that they were forced to sell @ $23k. As electric cars proliferate, the price will drop dramatically. They’re far simpler to produce than ICE cars.

            Compared to the damage we’re doing with petroleum fuels, battery waste is a non-factor.

            H2 fuel requires far more energy to make than it produces and is more difficult and dangerous to handle than gasoline and it still is used to power over complicated ICE engines. Non-starter.

      • Crazyjoe says:

        Not that synthetic fuel but one made from an algae. The US Navy runs on a syn fuel that’s supposed to be clean. Cost $20 a gallon.

        • Jeremy says:

          The fuel from algae is basically vegetable oil, which like other biomass stocks can be used to synthesize fuels like bio-diesel. It’s only “clean” under the assumption that the CO2 emitted from burning the fuel is netted away by the CO2 consumed by the algae before it is harvested.

          The navy did a proof of concept by generating a hydrocarbon similar to kerosene from sea water. There are huge environmental cons to that. They only produce it in a research context right now, and the tech’s only intention is for the navy to be able to produce jet fuel at sea during wartime when fuel supplies are limited or made impossible to supply from port.

  32. WillyL says:

    EMF is easily shielded if found to be an issue. Lithium is extracted from dry salt lake beds for the most part and can also be extracted from sea water. Cobalt content is being reduced significantly due to cost and the Congo problem but there are large deposits left untouched in Canada for instance due to a low market value, that may change. All in all other factors are the move in most countries from coal to renewables for power generation is happening steadily mostly due to cost and mining equipment going to electric power instead of diesel again cost is the driving force.

  33. Mikey says:

    Great balls of fire!!!
    I did some research on EMF years ago and attended some seminars for the idea of opening a business.
    Bottom line, the US government doesn’t recognize it as a harmful threat to human life, at least yet. But look how long it took them to come around to identify cigarette smoking as a cause of harm.

    You can buy an inexpensive meter and see for yourself the hot spots around your home. Electric motors are the biggest offenders.

  34. pat dep says:

    great article as always

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Thanks Pat.

      • steveinsandiego says:

        second that. those issues never crossed my mind. i was more interested in entertaining myself than helping the environment 😉
        tho’ i’m politically conservative, i’m not at all opposed to weening ourselves from fossil fuels, but it can’t change overnight.
        thanx for the great info.

    • Provologna says:

      Ditto! Likely the best article of year here, and maybe anywhere. Bravo.

  35. Jason says:

    EVs are way more efficient than gas vehicles even when charging from our current electrical grid. Also, the source of power varies wildly by region of the USA.

    • joe b says:

      A friend at work, who had a hybrid finally had his battery end its life, and he had to replace it. we worked out how much money he saved in fuel mileage, over the years, and found it to be less than the cost of a new battery. Gas vehicles continue to be more efficient. Renewable energy is about 12-14%, so one must figure if your charging your battery, maybe one tenth is from renewable. There is no free lunch. Now, what do we do with his old battery?

      • Jason says:

        I’d be curious what hybrid he owned. I had a 2005 and 2009 Prius. Both were on the original battery when I sold then after 12 and 10 years respectively. A brand new battery is $2300 from Toyota and remanufactured ones are about $1000.

        What to do with the old battery? Well Toyota will give your $300 for the core. Those go to remanufacturing companies or get recycled. They also work great for battery back-up applications because the reduced capacity isn’t an issue like it is in a vehicle.

        I’m currently thinking of picking up some used Nissan Leaf cells for an electrical motorcycle project.