Colorado-based electric motorcycle startup Zaiser Motors has met their initial funding goal and has also expanded their model line from one to two bikes. The “Electrocycle” motorcycles feature retro styling but are technically complex, with two-wheel drive and other tech touches Zaiser hopes will set them apart from the growing electric motorcycle marketplace, which is beginning to see more models from more brands, including both pure-electric players like Zero Motors and traditional marques like Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire sub-brand.
The company hoped to raise $100,000 in a crowdfunding effort and ended up with just over $103,000. Zaiser CEO and Co-founder Anthony Cross told Forbes.com that the company is on pace to produce bikes in 2022, although no firm date has been set.
Cross said the idea for the bike began in 2019 ahead of the pandemic when he was frustrated in his search for an electric motorcycle with “adequate power, adequate range and adequate cost.” He said the market and features are improving, but he still believes his Electrocycle models will be a better fit for many riders interested in electric machines. Cross said prototypes are currently in development.
I took issue with Cross’ claims of a range of 300 miles, especially on a motorcycle with two motors drawing power from the battery pack. Cross said they are focused on utilizing “next-gen battery tech” that is still under development. “We’re kind of hinting at something more solid-state [battery] related… something with much higher energy density,” Cross said. He also said that the two-motor approach, with the motors in each wheel hub, opens up space for more battery storage area within the chassis where a motor would normally reside. He said they are still working on battery maker partnerships for the bikes. “It is a huge challenge,” Cross said of battery challenges and the related engineering.
Cross said he thinks initial production of the first small production runs will take place at their Colorado location, “but as we expand, I don’t want to rule out the possibility that we partner with somebody, but scalability is fraught with all kinds of craziness.”
In regards to the model expansion, Cross said a new director of design helped suss out a two-model approach and sharpen the look. The Silhouette model will be the most powerful and have the longest range, while the new Arrow variant will have a more urban-focused “cafe racer” design, with shorter range, a smaller battery and an $8,500 price tag. Cross said the Arrow (below) will still be able to hit 100mph and have a 160 mile range.
The Silhouette will retain all of the high performance and features of the original “Mark I” machine, with a $25,000 price tag.
On the tech front, putting rather heavy electric motors in the wheel hubs presents a challenge for Zaiser: unsprung weight. Heavy wheels acting on heavy suspension components adds weight and can negatively affect handling, so much so that in the current motorcycle marketplace, expensive feather-weight carbon fiber wheels are often found on top-tier race-replica streetbikes, full-on race bikes and even electric bicycles to both reduce unsprung (and overall) weight and give a handling edge. How will Zaiser cope with this issue? Cross said they are looking at lightweight materials for the wheels and suspension solutions that allow for the hub motors but pare down weight as much as they can affordably include in the design. “I think it’s solvable and it’s becoming more solvable every day” as new and improved lightweight materials and motor technologies are developed, Cross added.
Another tech challenge for Zaiser will be the promised feature of “removable” batteries for the motorcycles. While swappable batteries for scooters is commonplace, those are much smaller power cells than what the Zaiser bikes will require. The batteries in motorcycles Zaiser will be competing with from Zero and others can weight hundreds of pounds and so far, no major electric motorcycle maker features a quick-swap or removable battery. Cross said it’s a tough issue, and they are looking at options with battery makers around removable batteries, and hopefully new developments in battery tech will make the problem easier. Cross also said the “removeable” feature may ultimately mean that owners can easily swap in a new (possibly better) battery when the current unit begins to decline in performance after several years. “Having the option and flexibility where [the battery] isn’t completely integrated into the design is the important thing about that,” Cross told Forbes.com.
The styling of the Electrocycle is, of course, unusual. With many bike makers trending towards either a more angular, futuristic profile or calling back to decades gone by, the Zaiser bikes appear to embrace an almost steampunk aesthetic with art-deco touches, some anime influence, and large, flowing features. Cross admits the initial Mark I design (below) was “very polarizing” and was essentially a “living model” for the team to work from and not an end design goal.
He said comments he read after the initial Forbes story posted online indicated to him that new riders liked the design while experienced riders and long-time motorcycle owner didn’t find it so hot. The new models do echo back to the original design but also reflect some re-thinking based of feedback they received, Cross said, noting the “fin” tail light design from the Mark I that didn’t make onto the current designs. “We didn’t want to lose the DNA of what we were try to go for,” Cross said. He also said that feedback from the new design has been much more positive from experienced riders than the first go-round with the Mark I, with the cafe-racer inspired design of the Arrow resonating more strongly with inexperienced new riders.
There are now over a dozen people on staff at Zaiser, mostly doing engineering, and when we talked late last year, Cross said they hope to have initial prototypes completed this quarter.