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Yamaha yesterday announced they would begin selling in Japan an electric motorcycle this fall. Named the EC-03 it is due to be a small scooter, with a small 1000 vehicle annual production. If one is to go by their press release, Yamaha has lofty goals and this motorcycle is only the first very tiny step towards a grand vision. This first step is a small production volume vehicle which they expect to usher in several electric motorcycles by 2020 including “models offering high output, advanced function and affordable price”.
Yamaha’s press releases speak with a spot-on long term vision. They recognize that the expected future higher energy demand will lead to higher environmental impact (CO2 emissions and the like). They see governments around the world addressing issues of fossil fuel usage with fuel efficiency incentives, emissions restrictions, and more. In their view “small motorcycles offer excellent mobility for easy short-distance travel with their fuel efficiency, affordable price, and space-saving design,” and that electric motorcycles are even more convenient. They note that China is already a huge market for electric bicycles, and that China is expected to become a large market for electric motorcycles due to the bans on gas scooters and motorcycles being implemented across China.
The EC-03 is a very small scooter with a low power AC motor (rated for 500 watts, 1400 watts maximum) which they claim is equivalent to 50cc gas scooter performance. They claim a 26 mile range at 18 miles/hr on flat roads with a 120 lb rider. They do not list a maximum speed, however in this writers experience 500 watts would give a speed of around 18 miles per hour and not much more. For example the recently reviewed the A2B Metro electric bicycle has a 500 watt motor and a pedal assisted 20 miles/hr top speed. The EC-03 has a 50 volt 14 amp-hour battery pack, a size normally used on electric bicycles. For convenience it has a built in charger that gives a 6 hour charging time. The dashboard is an LCD panel with advanced information display.
Small scooters like this are a lot of fun to ride and are great for around town short trips. Their compact size lets them park next to the bicycles. At this low of a speed it should be thought of as a bicycle, except by lacking operable pedals it wouldn’t fit the legal definition of “bicycle” in most places.
The real news here is not the EC-03, instead it’s the vision of multiple electric motorcycles being built by a major manufacturer like Yamaha. Yamaha builds some fast gas motorcycles so when they talk of “high output, advanced function and affordable price” it is a clue to a possible Yamaha branded fast electric motorcycle by 2020. The race results in the electric motorcycle racing going on this year demonstrates that todays technology can build electric motorcycles which are competitive on the track with several classes of race motorcycles. Given a few years more R&D on the technology and the electric motorcycles will be even faster, and with the production prowess of a major manufacturer it could be big. But those of us who have been in the electric vehicle camp for long enough know better than to count on manufacturer promises until we can buy it and park it in the garage.
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For more info:
Yamaha Motor’s Push for Smart Power in the Medium-term Growth Strategy
Release of the EC-03 (50cc License Class)Zero-emissions Electric Commuter Vehicle