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What’s the Best Ride for You? Electric Car vs Electric Motorcycle vs Electric Bike

Stephen Mash
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Introduction

The government has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 to meet its net-zero carbon emission target. You can read more about the phase-out plans here.
Currently, battery-powered electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes dominate the options for zero-emission vehicles. This article will look at the options and see how they match up against each other, comparing electric bike vs electric motorcycle vs electric car.

Introduction to Electric Vehicles

The rise of electric vehicles has been the government policy of zero tailpipe emissions. There are various options to achieve this, including hydrogen combustion, fuel cells and battery power.
For the consumer today, battery-powered vehicles are the most practical solution. The infrastructure for battery charging is more widely available and is receiving significant levels of investment to improve accessibility. By contrast, the lack of availability of refilling facilities limits the use of hydrogen combustion engines.
One thing to bear in mind is that for any electric vehicle, its range in summer will typically be longer than winter due to environmental differences affecting battery capacity, vehicle performance, and additional power used by lights and heating. Therefore, when choosing the right vehicle for you, make sure it meets your needs all year round.

Electric Vehicle Types

Electric Cars

The options for switching to an electric car are now quite broad, and a second-hand marketplace is becoming established. However, predominantly, electric cars look and feel like their petrol and diesel predecessors, so the ownership considerations remain relatively unchanged.
Notably, the range available on a single charge has reached the point where it’s now possible to use an electric car without needing to stop during the journey to top up the battery charge. For longer trips, the network of rapid recharging points is extending, and the reliability of charge points slowly improving. These improvements now make the switch from petrol or diesel to pure electric more attractive.
While currently there’s a choice of all-electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, the government’s goal is for all new vehicles to be all-electric eventually. So at this point, we can expect to see petrol and diesel availability reduce and electric recharging availability increase.
Fundamentally, electric vehicles operate on the principle of a large and heavy battery pack powering an electric motor for the drive system to power the wheels. Here, cars have the advantage over motorbikes and pedal bikes. They can carry larger and heavier lithium ion batteries and offer ranges anywhere between 100 and 300 miles on a single charge. Typically smaller hatchbacks and minis will be at the lower end of this range, while larger vehicles will be at the upper end.
Rapid battery recharging takes around an hour, while the more widely available fast recharge takes 3 or 4 hours. Recharging cars using standard domestic sockets is possible, but the smallest cars will take more than 10 hours to charge, the larger vehicles even longer fully. This period may be practical for topping up overnight, but realistically, owners will need access to fast charge facilities.

Electric Motorcycles

While more expensive to purchase than their internal combustion engine equivalents, running costs are significantly lower. Electric motorcycles are still relatively rare in the UK. Once consumer adoption increases and a second-hand market becomes established, the expectation is that costs will fall. Currently, new electric motorbikes cost from a few thousand pounds for a basic low-performance model to a few tens of thousands of pounds for a high-performance model.
The technology has now reached the point where the performance and range of electric motorcycles are comparable with their petrol forebears. Typically they can travel between 100 and 150 miles on a single charge that will cost a few pounds in electricity costs. Charging can use the same chargers as electric cars, but they are also practical to charge using a domestic supply socket overnight. Typical charging times are 3 to 4 hours, though rapid charging in less than an hour usually is possible with the correct charge point.
Electric motorcycles have the same age and licencing restrictions as petrol engine bikes. The only difference is the basis of the limits are on electric motor power rather than engine capacity.
  • Anyone seventeen or over with an A1 motorcycle licence can ride an 11kW electric bike;
  • Anyone nineteen or over with an A2 motorcycle licence can ride a 35kW electric bike;
  • Anyone twenty-four or over with an A motorcycle licence can ride any electric motorbike.

Electric Mopeds

Electric mopeds occupy the niche space between motorcycles and electric bikes for users looking for higher speeds than bikes before meeting the age and licencing restrictions needed to ride a motorbike.
Electric mopeds are a more accessible and cost-effective option for a novice rider, offering younger drivers access to personal transport that will allow them to commute longer distances but with the same age and licencing restrictions as equivalent petrol engine mopeds.
  • Anyone sixteen or over with an AM moped licence can ride an electric moped with a maximum speed of 28 mph after passing a CBT;
  • Anyone seventeen or over with a P moped licence can ride an electric moped with a maximum speed of 31 mph after passing a CBT;
  • Older riders can use electric mopeds with a provisional, motorcycle or car licence.
Just like motorbikes, an electric moped requires registration with the DVLA and must carry a licence plate. Riders must also wear a helmet and have insurance to ride on a public road.
The range of an electric moped depends on the nature of the road, wind strength and direction, the number of hills and how often the rider needs to start and stop. Typically an electric moped will have a range between 35 to 90 miles in an urban environment.

Electric Bikes

Electric bikes, or ‘e bikes’, are the most straightforward options available, comprising a standard bicycle with an electric motor to drive one wheel and a battery pack incorporated into the frame. The majority use a pedal assist feature where the motor provides additional power when the rider turns the pedals. Thus, the more force the rider applies to the pedals, the more energy the motor provides.
This powered e bike option is a game-changer when comparing an electric bicycle vs motorcycle; suddenly, the e bike is no longer in a completely different species but rather is a lower performance relation.
It is legal for anyone over the age of fourteen to use an electric bike on public roads as long as the electric motor’s power does not exceed 250 watts and the speed, when powered by the electric motor, is no more than 15.5 mph. Of course, the bike can reach higher speeds without the motor’s assistance when pedalled downhill in precisely the same way as an unpowered bike.
Electric bike range depends on a host of factors, from the weight of the rider and any load, the smoothness of the road surface, wind strength and direction, and of course, the steepness and length of the uphill sections. Typically an electric bike can power itself for between 40 miles and 70 miles on a single charge, though long-range models are available.
However, the critical advantage of an electric bicycle over other electric vehicles is that when the battery is flat, it still works. Thus, the rider can still pedal exactly like an unpowered bike; it will just be harder work due to the extra weight of the now inoperative motor and battery. When comparing an e bike vs electric motorcycle, this is a significant differentiator.
Another advantage of an electric bike is that they don’t require any licence or insurance to operate. And anyone that can ride an unpowered bike can ride an electric bike.
The benefit of an electric bike is that it effectively get rid of the uphill parts of a journey, taking the strain, which means the rider can travel further and faster with less effort. This benefit has significant advantages for commuting, arriving at work sweat-free and less exhausted. It also means an extension to the practical commuting range for the average person.
Electric bikes are not just for commuting by road and cycle lane; off-road electric bikes are available to allow riders to spend more time on the fun downhill rides by reducing the time and effort spent getting back to the top of the descent.

Electric Scooters

Recent years have seen a significant increase in the ownership of electric scooters thanks to their simplicity, ease of use and low cost. Typically they can reach speeds of 15 mph with a range of around 20 miles.
They are attractive to users due to their compact size and lightweight that makes carrying and storage convenient. However, it is currently illegal to use an electric scooter on public roads, bike lanes, or footpaths, so they are not a practical option unless you’re only looking to travel on private land.

Electric Vehicle Advantages and Disadvantages

Electric Cars

Pros
  • Excellent load and passenger-carrying capabilities;
  • Copes well with all weather conditions;
  • Offers occupants the best protection in an accident.
Cons
  • Highest purchase and running costs of available options;
  • Reliance on access and availability to a network of charging points;
  • Slow progress in heavily congested traffic;
  • Requires driving licence and insurance.

Electric Motorbikes

Pros
  • Most efficient for commutes with no luggage or passengers;
  • Lower purchase and running costs compared to cars;
  • Effortless commuting over longer distances than a pedal bike;
  • Faster progress than cars in congested traffic;
  • Simpler to park than a car with currently more practical recharging options;
  • Greener than cars, as they require fewer resources to manufacture and impact road surfaces and structures less.
Cons
  • Needs access to recharging facilities for long journeys;
  • Need extra care in adverse weather conditions;
  • Require protective clothing to shield the rider from the elements;
  • Requires helmet, driving licence and insurance;
  • The rider is significantly more vulnerable than the occupant of a car in the event of an accident;
  • A combination of speed and vulnerability to simple hazards such as potholes means motorcycle riders require the highest concentration levels compared to other road users;
  • Require more maintenance than cars or pedal bikes to keep roadworthy.

Electric Pedal Bikes

Pros
  • Riding an e bike is just like riding a push pedal bike;
  • Lowest purchase and running costs;
  • The greenest option with the lowest carbon footprint in terms of manufacturing resources and direct environmental impact;
  • Minimal maintenance needed;
  • Best flexibility for route options with access to bike lanes;
  • An excellent way to increase fitness without exertion on the daily commute;
  • Allow practical commuting over longer distances compared to an unpowered pedal bike;
  • It still works when the battery runs out of charge;
  • Recharging can use standard domestic electric sockets.
Cons
  • The rider is considerably more vulnerable than motorcyclists or the occupants of a car in the event of an accident;
  • Care needed during adverse weather like wet or icy conditions;
  • Clothing choice needs to reflect the weather conditions.

Summary and Conclusion

In the battle of electric motorcycle vs electric car, the arguments are the same as they have ever been for their polluting alternatives. The main pros and cons are unchanged.
The main difference comes with electric bikes; these offer significant performance benefits over their push pedal equivalents. Thus, in the battle of electric car vs electric bike or electric motorcycle vs electric bike, the former both have speed, range and practicality. In contrast, the latter has low cost, no regulation and health benefits thanks to physical exercise.
The main issue that appears to be holding back a move to electric cars and motorbikes is the fear of running out of battery charge and not finding a working charging point. Of course, recharging an electric vehicle is possible using domestic power supplies, but realistically electric cars require connection with high power capacity chargers to gain reasonable recharging times.
There are limits to the number and dispersal of chargers around the country, but the hope is that the proliferation rate will increase as more electric cars appear on the roads in the next few years. In addition, the other, smaller electric vehicles are more flexible when it comes to recharging, so this will be less of an issue for owners.
Another barrier to adoption is the higher purchase price of electric vehicles. The government is currently offering plug-in car grants of up to £2500 for economy electric cars and plug-in motorcycle grants of up to £1500. There’s also a grant of up to £350 towards installing a fast charger installation at home. Check here for further details of all available grant schemes for plug-in vehicles.
The hope is that once all new vehicles are electric-powered, market forces and economies of scale will reduce vehicle prices. All factors considered electric vehicles will be more common unless government policy changes, so now’s the time to consider the options.
About the Author: Stephen Mash is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Stephen is a UK-based freelance technology writer with a background in cybersecurity and risk management.

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