Driving tests

Can you learn to ride on an electric motorbike?

The Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999 was recently updated to include a definition for electric motorbikes under “approved motorcycle”:
…is powered by motive power wholly derived from an external source of electricity and is approved for use by the Agency by notice published on the Agency’s Internet site.

There are now a couple of motorbikes approved under LAMS (Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme), however, LAMS bikes are generally petrol-powered and less than 250cc but can be up to 660cc as long as they have a sufficiently sensible (read: low) power-to-weight ratio. This is currently set at 150kW per tonne.

E-bikes and electric mopeds

The problem with electric motorbikes is that none of the major manufacturers have one anywhere near ready to be mass-produced at a price affordable to the average learner. There are electric mopeds available, such as the 3kW NIU NGT, but they can be ridden on a car licence as they are not motorcycles.

An electric moped

E-bikes are not classes as motorcycles, either. They have under 300W.

Powerful e-bike which is not road legal – it has 4kW (1kW more than the NIU NGT electric moped)

Concerns about noise

Some riders believe that the noise of a motorbike makes riders safer as other road users are more aware of the bike (“loud pipes save lives” is the common catchcry). This opinion has been given credence by the NHTSA in America. The argument is should a new rider, who has much less experience of dangerous scenarios on the road while riding, be allowed to ride a motorbike which is less visible (sonically) to other road users?

Undoubtedly this story will evolve quickly once manufacturers produce a bike which is accessible to learners. In the meantime, it’s petrol all the way.

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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