Congress Rewards The Electric Motorcycle Industry

Government may have narrowly avoided a recent shutdown, but Congress is still rewarding private companies with tax credits, grants or other special deals. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden(D-OR) was able to slip some fine print print language into that last minute Jan 1, budget deal that rewards an Oregon electric motorcycle producer with tax credits.

Using the logic that electric vehicles have less of an impact on the environment and also that the upstart Oregon electric motorcycle producer, Brammo, may be able to provide up to 16,000 jobs during growth in the next five years, the company was able to successfully lobby the senator to look out for their interests and carry their case to the floors of the Senate, and get the company this special sweetheart deal. Republican congressman from Oregon, Greg Walden also helped to craft the measure to get the Ashland, Oregon based company the tax credits, introducing legislation language into the House Of Representatives.

While the tax credit doesn’t specially mention Brammo by name, it applies to any electric motorcycle, automobile or vehicle able to travel at speeds of 45mph or better on public roads. Brammo will see customer tax credit discounts of as much as 10% off the price of their all-electric motorcycles which range in price from $7995 to $18995 MSRP. The credit also applies only to two or three wheeled electric vehicles, and seems to involve just enough specifics that Brammo and only a few other select companies may qualify for the tax credit at this time. But, some Chinese companies are offering up a few three wheeled all electric models that some American importers might be able to import into the U.S. market, have their own name put on the models, and reap the benefits of the tax credit to their customers.

By 2018, it is probable that electric motorcycle sales may reach levels toping 18 million units a year, although Chinese brands are likely the lion’s share of that market, although American brands like Brammo hope to chip in on that market. Electric motorcycles are lighter vehicles than the bigger electric cars, and are able to take advantage of that weight difference by using much smaller weight and size battery packs and engines. The Lithium-ion batteries are a major component to these lighter weight vehicles having adequate power, long driving ranges as designs as compact as gasoline powered motorcycles.

But, some companies like Zap have had a difficult road because of problems with their low priced Zebra models. The 2006 Zebra models had problems with the charging system not adequately protected against water and moisture damage, and was prone to failure. But, far worst was in 2008, when the NHTSA acted against the company for their Zebra vehicles for failing to meet even minimum brake safety standards for motorcycles, using just a single master cylinder system that needed separate sections between the front and rear. After the company failed to repair the problem to the satisfaction of the NHTSA, the company was ordered to buy back their electrical motorcycle cars for an average price of $3100 per vehicle, re-title the cars as junk, and crush down the cars as scrap. It was a sad end for many electric motorcycle cars that were far less than most customers ever expected. The cars were unfortunately not much more technologically advanced than your average golf kart. But, that also has left better brands like Brammo and Zero to fill a market role for far better technology electric motorcycles.

And while some electric motorcycles actually look and ride like real motorcycles, other electric motorcycles like the Zap Zebra, looked like an automobile with three wheels, but used inferior technology. Electric motorcycles of all types still battle with a consumer sales resistance due to more restrictive motor vehicle licensing in most states, where a motorcycle endorsement may be required to legally operate the vehicle, which seems like an absurdity for vehicles like the Zap which have far more in common with a subcompact automobile than a motorcycle.

But, with quality brands like Brammo and Zero producing quality products, and government encouraging consumers to buy the vehicles through tax credit incentives, the road looks straight ahead for many more electric motorcycles to hit the road in coming years.

With some Brammo models like the Empulse able to reach speeds of 100mph, and electric motors able to provide lots of torque and immediate power, these new generation electric motorcycles are nothing like some of the sissy and lame Chinese entries of only a few years ago like the Zap Zebra.

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