The rise of the electric vehicle industry into the mainstream is no secret, but what about the rise of the Electric Dirt Bike?
No, I am not talking about electric peddle bikes, electric scooters, or even electric motorcycles.
As electric vehicles become more mainstream, this technology will naturally spill over into other types of industries, such as dirt bikes.
Types of dirt bikes:
Enduro dirt bikes are used for technical single track terrain and are considered a full-sized dirt bike. A Trials dirt bike is used for competing in Trials competitions where you use the bike to get over obstacles without putting your foot down. A Trials bike is not a full-sized dirt bike. A Motocross dirt bike is a full-sized dirt bike that can be used to race motocross and supercross. The difference really is between the size, frame, motor, and suspension.
Honda claims to have made the very first gas-powered dirt bike, but who created the very first electric dirt bike?
In the late 1800s, a patent for the “Electric Bicycle” was filed in the USA by Hosea W. Libbey, according to Wikipedia.
The notion of using electric motors and batteries has been around for some time, but is the dirt bike world ready for an electric dirt bike?
There are still some questions about how long the batteries last and how long it takes to charge them. Gas-powered dirt bikes typically get around 70-80 miles out of a gas tank and can be filled up in under 5 mins.
Most of today’s gas-powered dirt bikes are built off the motocross chassis platforms, and size is a problem when it comes to battery space for an electric-powered dirt bike.
Not having enough battery power dramatically decreases the range of an electric dirt bike vs. the electric car.
Riders can get instant torque and horsepower out of an electric motor, so the performance of the electric dirt bike motor isn’t really an issue.
However, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that we actually started to see a dirt specific electric motorcycle.
Zero Motorcycles was founded in 2006 and came out with a “dual sport” electric motorcycle called the Zero FX.
So, I give them the nod for coming out with the very first production electric dirt bike.
However, this was a dual-sport electric dirt bike that was built to spend more time on the pavement than on the dirt.
We are still looking for that dirt-only electric dirt bike. In 2007, a company called Alta Motorcycles designed and built an electric dirt bike that rides just like a gas-powered dirt bike.
Alta Motors’ Redshift MX electric dirt bike was the first true-to-form dirt bike—not a dual-sport electric dirt bike like the Zero FX.
The Redshift MX comes with the same quality parts you expect from a standard gas-powered dirt bike. The only difference is the motor is an electric motor instead of the gas. The suspension, frame, tires, wheels, brakes, and even the horsepower evenly matched its gas-powered dirt bikes brothers.
Since then, the Redshift MX has been used and raced by professional dirt bike racers and freestyler dirt bikers.
Finally, a true electric dirt bike for the hardcore dirt bikers, but not so fast—in 2019, Alta Motorcycles closed its doors.
Does this mean that the dirt bike industry isn’t ready for the electric dirt bike?
Within other industries, innovative companies break through barriers, but they don’t always make it in the end.
Where does the Electric Dirt Bike go from Here?
Yamaha, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, and Kawasaki are the major dirt bike players in the world of dirt biking.
Honda teased us with the electric prototype Mugen Honda Electric bike a few years ago. Heck, they even raced it.
Then in 2017, KTM released a “hybrid” electric dirt bike. I say hybrid as it’s a mix between a Trials and a standard dirt bike.
Honda’s was just a prototype, but KTM actually released the 2017 KTM Freeride E-XC into the dirt bike market.
They did a pilot program in the USA with the majority of the Electric Freeride E-XC going to the European Market. The Freeride is built for gnarly single track riding and not for the supercross or motocross track. Most of the gas-powered dirt bikes that are purchased today are built off the same platform as its motocross brothers.
Let’s fast forward to 2020.
Besides Honda and KTM, none of the other major dirt bike manufacturers have even hinted about coming out with an electric dirt bike.
In 2019 Honda released another prototype called the Honda CRE. This Honda Electric Dirt bike looks just like the CRF gas-powered dirt bikes.
This is good news. There are videos of Honda racing and using the CRE, which means it’s closer to production than it has ever been.
Will Honda come out with a 2020 CRE electric dirt bike? Who knows?
The big news for the progress of the electric dirt bike for 2020 comes from the KTM camp, which is known as the dirt bike company that takes risks in the market.
This year, KTM has released three electric dirt bikes.
- 2020 KTM SX E 5
- 2020 Husqvarna EE 5 (Husqvarna is owned by KTM)
- 2020 KTM Freeride E-XC
The KTM and Husky electric dirt bikes are kid’s motocross bikes—great news as these kids’ electric motocross bikes are the VERY first electric motocross dirt bikes from one of the big dirt bike Manufacturers.
The 2020 Freeride is a mix between a trials bike and an Enduro dirt bike.
In the past few years, we have seen most of the innovation in the dirt bike world come from the KTM camp.
Perhaps, we’ll see the other dirt bike manufacturers follow suit.
Currently, smaller companies are building electric dirt bikes but are usually built off a smaller chassis and not patterned after the Motocross/Enduro platforms.
The bikes then, unfortunately, won’t be as widely accepted in the dirt bike world.
Will there be more progress in the electric dirt bike industry for 2020 and beyond?
Companies like KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Beta will need to be the ones who bring electric dirt bikes into the mainstream dirt bike industry.
Sam Oldham loves dirt bikes and frankly anything with a motor, especially 2-stroke motors. He started the website chargethebike.com because he loves talking about dirt bikes.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.