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Challenges Facing the Fastest Production Electric Motorcycle in Asia

Written By: Connor McRae

It has not all been easy sailing building and selling Evoke motorcycles so let me explain some of the problems we have had with Evoke up until now.

The Chinese market

China is simultaneously the best and worst place for a high end electric motorcycle company.

Pros

Low Cost High Skilled Labour

Ever since China’s economic boom, there has been a considerably higher number of university graduates and highly skilled labour available. Combining this with the lower cost of living and wages in China, it is the perfect place to start developing and building next generation vehicles.

Tech Startups are Highly Encouraged

With the increase in China’s development, there has been a push for new startups (especially tech based) in the tier 1 cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen. The local governments provide tax breaks for new startups to encourage development and growth.

China is Pioneering EVs

Its pretty well known now that China is investing heavily in electric vehicles and in the areas it is not investing, it is discouraging internal combustion engined vehicles. In the last few months, China has come down hard on car manufacturers, much more than other countries have and in a lot of ways, the Chinese domestic car companies are struggling with the new quotas they must meet. At the moment, these automotive companies are not very happy about this but ultimately it may be the main contributing factor that will be pushing them ahead of the rest of the world.

Parts Availability

Nowhere else on the planet can technology be manufactured and developed as quickly as China. By far the biggest reason is the shear number of options companies have to choose from when it comes to components and their proximity to population hubs. For example, why do you think Foxconn manufactures iPhones in Shenzhen? Although the price of labour is cheaper than developed nations, it is a lot more expensive than India, Bangladesh and South-East Asia. The real reason is that all the components required to build the phones can be sourced on a mass scale within the city and the surrounding areas. No other country on the planet currently has this sort of capability and it is why the majority of the worlds high end electronics come from that region. With all these component manufacturers in such close proximity, the prices are also lower than anywhere else.

Cons

Motorcycle Culture is Lacking

Anyone who has been to any region of China (with the exception of Shanghai) will know that motorcycles are seen as the poor mans transportation. In general, you will struggle to find motorcycle enthusiasts as most bikes are 150cc or less and quite utilitarian. This has a knock on effect with the way high end motorcycles are perceived as even if you are riding around on a $30,000 Ducati, it is still seen as a lower form of transport than the cheapest car. The general way of thinking is that if you have the money to move from a little motorcycle up to a nicer motorcycle, buy a car as it is more of a status symbol and will ‘gain face’ with your peers. There are a handful of Chinese motorcycle enthusiasts and the numbers are growing but these numbers are still very low especially compared to other countries.

Electric Cars are being Promoted but not Motorcycles

There are incentives for electric cars in China but not for 2 wheeled EVs. The vast majority of 2 wheeled electric vehicles are low cost sub $500 e-scooters and are seen as a nuisance by the general population. They are the next step up from bicycles and are also ridden in a horrendously, jumping red lights, ridden the wrong way down the street and overall in a dangerous manner. Along with motorcycles, they are actually banned in a lot of major cities and are in no way promoted by the government. It is actually quite a strange sight when you see the police confiscating e-scooters in mass while there are billboards heavily promoting a new electric car.

The Laws are a Grey Area

At the time of writing, you do not need a licence or any form of documentation to ride an electric 2 wheeled vehicles in Beijing and in the cities they are still permitted. This may sound like a great thing for riders but new laws are implemented overnight in China so it is sometimes quite hard to justify spending a large some of money on a high-end vehicle just to find a few weeks later, it is illegal to use it.

Because of the negative reasons regarding the Chinese market, Evoke has been pushing towards the international markets, especially those whom already have an established motorcycle consumer and enthusiast base but there are still problems to be assessed. I’m going to be focusing on Europe but this is also applicable to the rest of the developed world.

The West is Changing at a Very Fast Slow Pace

The adoption of electric vehicles is really starting to gain it’s footing, especially ever since Elon Musk showed what electric cars can do. That being said, there is still a level of reluctance from some consumers who are attached to their ICE vehicles which I fully believe is down to a lack of exposure. This is actually one of the reasons Evoke targets new riders as most conventional motorcycle riders are still not willing to even look at an electric motorcycle as they were brought up to know, ride and enjoy ICE bikes. People in general do not like change which is ironic when you consider how adaptable to change humans are.
I personally have given a number of bikers their first test ride on an electric motorcycle and every one of them have come back with a smile on their face. Electric motorcycles themselves are fun and if everyone who was interested in motorcycles got a chance to ride an electric motorcycle, the perception of them would change for the better.

There is Still a Price Gap Between EVs and ICEs

It is no secret that electric vehicles initially cost more to buy than an ICE vehicle and that is something that puts some consumers off. Over the lifespan of the vehicle, an EV is cheaper but there are still a lot of people who want something that is a lower cost now. Ultimately this shouldn’t affect most new car and motorcycle buyers as most consumers in the West buy vehicles on credit these days but it is still a challenge for EVs.
The biggest issue at the moment is young people. Having the younger generations using your product make it trendy and desirable and the big problem with that is that young people usually don’t have much money. How old were you when you bought your first new vehicle? When you buy your first vehicle, usually you are forced to buy used purely from a financial standpoint and as EVs are still very new to the market, they have not yet filtered down into the used market in considerable numbers. Once the current generation of EVs become affordable on the used market and lower income buyers can get their first EVs then the real change will be possible.
Companies like Evoke are challenged with accelerating the shift to electric and are the best way to get this current generation of consumers onto an EV. There have been lower cost electric vehicles in the past and the problem they had was that your average consumer would not be seen driving one as they didn’t look particularly inspiring. I can safely say that the Evoke Urban models of electric motorcycles are the lowest cost EVs on the market that can offer you a vehicle you can ride on the highway and still be proud to be seen riding.

The challenges facing Evoke in the Western Markets are only challenges during the switchover to electric so once the majority of vehicles on the roads are electric, these problems will cease to exist. It will be very interesting to know what the global markets will demand from EVs in the future but for now it is glaringly obvious what needs to be overcome to carry out the electric revolution.

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