I drive from south-suburban Denver up to Boulder a couple of times a week. Whenever I make the drive, I swap my relatively gas-guzzling Jeep for my wife's relatively fuel-efficient Subaru. Lately, I've been thinking that I'd like to trade the Jeep in for something more economical and planet-friendly, but I've also toyed with this crazy idea -- especially now that the weather is nice -- of getting a motorcycle. Depending on the route you take, the drive up skims the edge of the mountains, and seems like it would be a lot of fun to do on a bike.
Of course, even the most gas-guzzling of motorcycles would be huge improvement over the Subaru in terms of fuel economy. And then there's this option:
Advanced battery technologies are enabling a much cleaner alternative to pollution-spewing gas-powered motorcycles and could help promote a larger-scale move toward electric vehicles. Yesterday, an electric scooter with motorcycle-like performance made by Vectrix, based in Newport, RI, was delivered to its first customer. And next year at least two motorcycles powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries will be sold in the United States.
The thing is, while conventional motorcycles are a big help on the fuel-saving front, they aren't that much help on the save-the-planet front:
Although conventional motorcycles get extraordinary gas mileage--with many getting more than 50 miles per gallon--they emit more pollution than even large SUVs because they aren't equipped with equivalent emissions-control technology. Indeed, with new emissions standards, SUVs are 95 percent cleaner than motorcycles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So while motorcycles could help reduce oil consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions, these gains come at the price of dirtier air. Electric motorcycles eliminate tailpipe emissions, keeping pollution out of the city, and they can be powered with clean sources of electricity. What's more, electricity costs less than gasoline. Vectrix estimates that it will cost riders just a couple of cents a day to operate its scooter.
The fastest of the motorcycles described can do about 65 miles per hour -- which would keep me within the speed limit, I suppose. However, the best range given for any of them is 80 miles,which means I wouldn't be able to handle a round-trip to Boulder. Depending on whether I could find a somewhere in Boulder to plug in -- and how long it takes to recharge -- it could still be doable.
Still, like with the iPhone, this might be a good technology to allow to mature a generation or two before picking one up.