Interview with the founder of Electric Motorcycle Club

We have an interview with the founder of the very cool Electric Motorcycle Club, Adam, in association with our sister publication CarNewsCafe.  The senior editor, Aaron Turpen, interviewed Adam to talk about the electric motorcycle industry and why he’s built this website.

In the interview, we discuss the current state of electric motorcycles, where it is going, what the outlook is like, the challenges of getting riders to go electric, challenges electric motorcycle companies face and where electric motorcycles stand in the electric vehicle landscape. In addition we talk about the Verisign Internet Official Contest which ElectricMotorcycleClub.com is a first prize finalist in.

Energica Ego

CarNewsCafe (Aaron Turpen) – So Adam, tell us a little bit about Electric Motorcycle Club?

Electric Motorcycle Club (Adam) – Well, the club is not operational yet but I’m working on the nitty gritty details of it now.  It will be the first club for electric motorcycles as one does not exist currently.  The club will be a great resource for learning, sharing, and encouraging people who are interested in riding an electric motorcycle to take the plunge.

CNC – Why did you decide to start the club?

EMC – I was wondering if there was a club for electric motorcycles that I could join. As you know clubs and organizations are popular in automotive and motorcycle circles around specific types of vehicles, so I thought there would be one. While there were online communities for electric bikes currently there is no official club, so it’s a classic entrepreneurial story of, “Hey, why don’t I build and start one?” I checked and the domain was available so I registered it.

CNC – What got you interested in electric motorcycles?

EMC – I believe I was bouncing around online since I was working on my own bike and I thought, “I’d rather be riding honestly, than fixing this.”  I had looked into Zero Motorcycles which currently builds the most complete and consumer friendly electric motorcycles on the market. I thought it was cool what they were doing but the cost for the range vs what you get with a conventional gas bike didn’t seem to make sense to me. Today you are talking about $15,000 for a electric bike with decent range.

What started to change my mind is an esteemed electric vehicle evangelist and automotive colleague.  I remember he was reporting from Pikes Peak in 2013 and was telling me about some of the teams up on the mountain that year. There was an electric motorcycle team that beat all the gas powered bikes in the open class division by almost a full 20 seconds. In racing terms that is huge time difference. It took a lot of teams by surprise at Pikes Peak and surprised the motorcycle world I believe. The kicker? They charged all the bikes with solar panels.

A while after I sold my motorcycle, which I still regret, I decided to research electric motorcycles a little more. Still like a lot of people I had look into what Zero Motorcycles was offering.  I was impressed with the quality of the bikes their were selling.  Still I guess I was lukewarm on the idea of an electric motorcycle because of “range anxiety” and it just being a new technology.  I started reading more about it and realized an electric motorcycle makes a lot more sense. There’s less maintenance, you obviously don’t pay for gas, there is no transmission, which means no shifting, they are quieter, and they don’t produce much heat. 

I thought, “Hey, if this team could charge electric motorcycles for racing with solar panels, why can’t you do that with a regular bike?” Did a little more research and realized that is possible.  I guess the goal is to be cool riding a motorcycle while also saving a ton of money not buying gas and not doing maintenance.

electric powered odyssey

CNC – What are your general plans for this website?

EMC – I’d like to get the site operational with great information about electric motorcycles which is not readily available anywhere else and build a core group of members and enthusiasts. I’d ideally like our news and article section to be the most comprehensive online. This story about a journalist going from Philadelphia to Patagonia has generated a lot of interest  Some of our other stories have too like this one about the Sway on Shark Tank and one I wrote about Evoke Motorcycles, a Chinese company.  I’ve gotten compliments about the articles, so that’s a good sign.

In the future there will be a private and public discussion boards, classified ads, a business directory, and more for club members. I’ll also organize group rides eventually.  Maybe when the club is more established we can even have a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course available for members. MSF courses would a great thing to offer for members but logistically it would be difficult. Learning on an electric motorcycle would be a lot easier for a beginner motorcyclist as there is no clutch, so it is something I’ll look into.

Another thing, back I was first reading about electric motorcycles I was interested in finding out about electric vehicle rebates or tax incentives that could apply to electric bikes and haven’t found much. My goal is to find a knowledgeable tax person that can help build information and knows how to stay updated on changing tax laws. This will be available to Electric Motorcycle Club members and we would also have detailed information on what applies to electric cars, trucks, etc.

I’ll be looking into finding a great WordPress designer to build out a nice design so everything is easily accessible and looks pretty as well.

CNC – What inspires and motivates you to do this?

EMC – It’s an extremely small and new market which means there is a lot of innovative technology going into electric motorcycles. Having a successful club and organization around an industry is important for it’s growth and development. I see this as a great opportunity to change the world, one motorcycle at a time.

CNC –  How do people react when you tell them about starting this club?

EMC – Positively, usually. Electric vehicles are in vogue now and motorcycles are considered cool but of course dangerous by moms everywhere. Put the two together and I think people are into the idea of an electric motorcycle club. It probably helps I won money for the website too.  This at least gets us off to a good start. 🙂

CNC – About the contest, want to tell us a little bit more about it?

EMC – The Internet Official contest is being put on by Verisign, the registry for .COM and .NET domain extensions.  This means they run all the backend servers to make these extensions work so you can visit this website.  The company gets money for every .COM and .NET domain registered.

The contest is to encourage people to find a great .COM that is available to register for a business, service, or whatever you want.  With millions and millions of .COM domain names registered it can be challenging but there are still good domains out there.  ElectricMotorcycleClub.com shows that I believe.

There are 15 first prize finalists that will receive $5,000 to make their idea a reality.  These fifteen first prize winners are eligible to compete for the grand prize of $30,000 and can garner votes from the public. Eleven of the finalists submitted a video explaining why their website idea is the best in the contest and why they should be the grand prize winner.  A panel of judges and public votes determines the winner.  The public voting phase is open now and I’d appreciate if people voted for us.  You can do so through June 27th and vote once per day.

CNC – Other than it being yours (haha), why do you think EMC is the best website in the contest and why should it win?

EMC – If you check this site vs the other websites you’ll see I’ve put effort to write articles consistently. The other first prize finalists have nice ideas but most have no website up or just a landing page without much actual content. I’ve shown that I’m going to actually use the domain name and build something useful on it. Also it is easy for someone to understand what the site is about before they visit. Some of the other sites need explanation and it’s still not clear to me how the site will work.

CNC – What are your plans for your first prize winnings?

EMC – I feel it is a blessing to have been a first prize finalist, so first thing I’ll do is donate money to the local area animal shelters and rescues.  People who know me understand I’m a big dog person and I’ve done rescue work in the past. A little bit of extra funds can go a long way to help rescue animals.  When you get money unexpectedly I think it’s always good to be generous, right?  Here is a video of Scout, a singing puppy, we fostered with one of my other dogs.

This is kind of funny but I’m looking into getting a road bike so I’ll probably use some of the money for that. When I say “bike” I actually don’t mean a motorcycle I mean something with no motor and pedals, ie you are the motor. Prices for entry level road bikes these days are kind of crazy, a lot of local shops around here have models in the $800 to $1,000 range.  Probably won’t spend that much at first as I want to see if I’ll stick with cycling.

Some will go to help design this website, looking at different themes and options now.  I’ll try to save most of it.

CNC – What would you do with the $30k if you are the grand prize winner?

EMC – I’ll do the same thing, donate a portion to animals rescues and shelters.  I’d feel great donating a larger amount.

With regards to the club, the grand prize money would allow me to work on getting operational a lot more.  It would probably allow me buy insurance for our first event. I’d look into buying an electric motorcycle myself, likely a Zero S, and buy a solar panel to charge it.  There are still expensive so I don’t own one.

As much as I’d like to buy something fun I’m currently looking for full-time or part-time employment.  The money would be helpful for education expenses I have which are always a burden. So I need to take both of these into consideration.

CNC – Give us an idea of where you think the club will be in, say, 5 years?

EMC – Ideally in 5 years I’d like Electric Motorcycle Club to be the premier destination for learning about electric motorcycles and encouraging new riders or those looking to go electric. We’d hopefully have several hundred members in the US and around the globe.  I’d like to have a core team of people helping in the club, maybe a Board of Directors or something along those lines and volunteers.  We should be known throughout the motorcycle industry. I’d definitely like to have regional meet-ups, a large yearly convention, and a printed quarterly newsletter.  Hopefully the revenue would cover these costs.

CNC – Why not start a club for electric cars too?

EMC – There are already a lot of clubs and organizations for electric cars and I don’t think I’d bring anything new to the table. Also the motorcycle market is smaller and different and there is opportunity in this space.

This might sound crazy but I think it is easier to convince someone to buy an electric motorcycle over an electric car.  Since a motorcycle is a second vehicle for most people they should be more open to trying something a little different.  While there might be “range anxiety” still it’s not your main vehicle so I don’t see it being as much of an issue. Having to worry about charging isn’t as big a deal. Most bikers need to keep their battery on a battery charger or battery tender anyway since when you don’t ride much the battery gets depleted. So a lot of motorcyclists are already used to plugging in.

Most electric cars are seen as not cool but most people think any motorcycle is badass. If you are trying to convince the public to try go electric, you need them to want to actually want to buy EVs. That’s the whole reason Tesla got started.

2015 zero s

CNC – What do you think the outlook is like for the electric motorcycle market going forward?

EMC – It’s small but we are seeing several large manufacturers that are introducing electric motorcycles or electric scooters. This includes KTM, Harley-Davidson, Yamaha, BMW, and Polaris.

Since Polaris bought out Brammo it’s clear they want to beat Harley-Davidson to market.  They’ll be introducing the Victory Charger, the company’s first electric motorcycle, soon. I can likely see they’ll want to dominate the electric motorcycle space and make it difficult for Harley-Davidson to catch up.  Polaris with the Indian and Victory brands has always played second fiddle in the heavy cruiser market, so they really want to beat them in something.

The LiveWire prototype has been good marketing for the electric motorcycle industry as a whole but the company that is known for loud pipes seems apprehensive to build it. Reports have said they’ll introduce a model by 2020, but will dealerships actually want to sell electric Harleys? I’m sure some will but a lot may not be keen on the idea.

We’ve seen other successes like Zero Motorcycles and hopefully there will be more in the future.

CNC – What’s the biggest challenge for these electric motorcycle companies?

EMC – In a sense the electric vehicle industry is it’s own worst enemy.

As an example I remember you telling me about Boulder Electric Vehicle and you driving 4 hours to see their facility. When you got there the doors were locked and you never got an explanation of why.  The company shut down about a year later.

The BEV business plan was flawed and they couldn’t work with journalists. So why should they have survived as a company?  When EV companies fail I hear EV advocates harp on the EV technology and not what actually went wrong with the company.  If anyone reading this wants an even better idea they should read about Better Place. 🙂

I’ve had similar experiences with people in the EV space being difficult. I remember once an EV race team criticized my positive article since I stated, they only have 2 race cars. which made them feel marginalized. If I recall he wrote a fairly long email about it. He also criticized my grammar and subsequently I’ve never written another article on them.  I also haven’t seen other articles on the team since then.

Most of these companies that are started or run by engineers with terrible people and marketing acumen.  If you want to be successful there needs to an effective team with varied skills and good leadership.  You need someone like Neal Saiki, founder of Zero, with a clear goal or the drive of Elon Musk.  Of course even Elon Musk admitted he thought Tesla would fail when he started it. Getting a vehicle company off the ground is a lot harder than people realize. Probably getting an electric motorcycle club off the ground will be a lot harder than I realize. 🙂

CNC – Have anything else you want to share?

EMC – I encourage people to add the Electric Motorcycle Club RSS feed to your RSS reader to stay updated with developments. Also, again it would be wonderful if people voted for us in the contest. I hope that when we get the club going there will be enough interest to make the effort worth it.

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