Electric Motorcycles. How Should They Sound?

All major brands have spent the last decade focused on bridging the generation gap between loyal boomer customers and new millennial fans by offering customized bikes like the Harley “Dark Customs” line up. More or less successful at it, at least they have proved that they can grow simultaneously in multiple generational directions . And because the motorcycle industry expects a heightened competitive environment to continue for the foreseeable future, these same brands are rushing to offer an even more diverse line-up in which electric motorcycles are expected to be a new and very fast growing “sub-range”

In 2014, Harley-Davidson presented “Project LiveWire, its first-ever electric bike, and received an overwhelmingly positive back for design, acceleration (claimed 0-60 mph in 4 seconds) and handling, although negative reactions remained for riding range and regenerative braking system. For sure, motorcycle market disruption is coming. The electric vehicle manufacturing technological revolution is going on at full speed and new more compact and efficient batteries point to the possibility of all major brands launching their new affordable /performance electric models around summer of 2021.

Agreeing that obviously electric motorcycles do need to make noise to make their presence known, at least for security reason, one of the main points of discussion is how they should sound? Until now, all currently produced or concept electric motorcycles make jet turbine engine sounds. Harley gas powered bikes create that unique “potato-potato-potato” chugging growl and the Milwaukee manufacturer would like its electric LiveWire bike to produce its own very unique recognizable jet fighter sound. So, do you think that each electric motorcycle brand should have his own unique signature sound? To the point that it could be marketed by some as a status symbol of the brand you ride? A la Tesla? Imagine all possibilities from the sounds of this F-22 Raptor.

31 Responses to “Electric Motorcycles. How Should They Sound?”

  1. 1 Gasbag May 19th, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Can I get the Jetson’s spacecar sound?

  2. 2 Sam May 19th, 2017 at 8:43 am

    If it sounded like the A-10 Warthog you should get right of way from tanks.

  3. 3 Chief Waldo May 19th, 2017 at 9:07 am

    No artificial sound. Period. You should only hear the natural sound of the moving components, and the sound the tires make while rolling on the pavement.

  4. 4 May 19th, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Why should motorcyclists be dictated to sound “like” anything? Audiology testing is not a prerequisite for roadway usage.

  5. 5 BobS May 19th, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Agree with the above. I’ve demo’d Zero’ and Empulses. No need for the fake ness of artificial sounds. Road and gear noise is plenty.

  6. 6 Dee May 19th, 2017 at 10:17 am

    It really doesn’t matter what it sounds like when it’s sitting on the side of the road dead after 60 miles. They should be focusing 100% on battery range instead of worrying about making it sound “cool”. I’m surprised Harley didn’t build in a handlebar shake as well.

  7. 7 fuji May 19th, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Make them sound childish or annoying like their big brother.

  8. 8 Thomas Lane May 19th, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    It really doesn’t matter what they sound like. If you can’t charge them for 200 miles of riding @ 70 in the time it takes to pump 5 gallons of gas, they will always “sound” like a stupid idea….What’s next, charging ports in front of the “biker” bars?

  9. 9 Chris May 19th, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Pumping out artificial noise would be a moronic waste of energy and resources if I may be blunt.

    Tesla is installing charging stations all along America’s highways that charge the cars AT NO COST TO THE OWNER/DRIVER. If I recall the details right, they are close to a 300 mile range with a full charge taking about 20 minutes, a little longer than what I spend at a gas station after fueling up, drinking some water, using the facilities, and stretching my old back out, but not completely out of line

    The Tesla battery pack is too big for a motorcycle, so if it were scaled to size, just a wild guess, I’d figure a 150-200 mile range with a recharge time of ten minutes. Not too shabby.

  10. 10 seymour May 19th, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Zzzzzzip! Boom! Cuckoo!

  11. 11 .357 Magnum May 19th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Harley-Davidson, please listen to me:

    I am the perfect customer for an electric motorcycle. I commute 100 miles a day, and my motorcycle allows me to maintain my sanity in rush hour traffic. I would love a bike that’s cheaper to fuel, and doesn’t require oil changes. I want a Livewire with cruise control, really, really badly. It’s the perfect machine for my commute.

    DO NOT ADD ANY ARTIFICIAL SOUND. The horn is enough. Let me say that one more time: DO NOT ADD ANY ARTIFICIAL SOUND. If you do, I’m buying a Zero. Period, the end. DO NOT DO IT.

    You’ve been warned.

  12. 12 Carl H Hursky May 20th, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Artificial sound would be as simple as installing the mp3 player speakers already available and you could have a wide range of sounds to change at will. There is no need for extended research on this. One system and the owner can select any sound they want. However this is going to come across as nothing but a child’s toy. You might as well tie a Teddy Ruxpin to the handle bars. I agree with the previous comments. Sound is not needed, better mileage is the key to making these marketable.

  13. 13 Jerrman May 20th, 2017 at 10:09 am

    With ranges around 100+/- miles or so, sound would seem to be the least of the issues to be solved. If you’re going for a day ride, that means 50 miles and you now have to turn back. Not much of a ride unless you’re a commuter which is maybe what electrics are designed for. Unlike cars, a number of which have 2-3x the current motorcycle range, there are no charging stations so don’t you have to get home to avoid getting stuck? Talk about range anxiety.

  14. 14 richards May 20th, 2017 at 10:12 am

    It should sound like an electric motorcycle….

  15. 15 USAYGO May 20th, 2017 at 11:01 am

    They should like a dinosaur, extinct!

  16. 16 Greybeard1 May 20th, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    It should sound like it’s far, far away.

  17. 17 Greybeard1 May 20th, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    …and if the government decides they need to be louder to be safe…well, you can see where that’ll go!

  18. 18 Richard Lee May 20th, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    They should make a loud cracking sound as the crusher platens close tight before spitting them out to be thrown at the back of the junkyard.

    Unless of course they are actually a hybred with a big twin motor powering an alternator and electric drive but synchronized to sound like its running a normal gearbox.

    Just need some straight thru pipes SORTED.

  19. 19 May 20th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Most HD’s now are known by the volume of the music player, not the exhaust. The other sound they and most other new bikes make, is cha ching when you by them, and all the aftermarket stuff to make ” your own”.

  20. 20 May 20th, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    This subject always makes me giggle like a schoolgirl! Anyone remember Boston having to make electric vehicles noisy enough to prevent running over pedestrians? All great comments above. Oh, I personally think they should sound like they are dragging a bunch of cans behind. peace

  21. 21 J.grif May 20th, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I don’t know, what kind of noise does a deer make when it runs out in front of a car or a motorcycle, I think an electric motorcycle should only make tire and driveline noises natural to operation of the vehicle, like others have said.

  22. 22 Easygear May 21st, 2017 at 2:17 am

    Why don`t they just record someone`s voice, say from Willie G. for instance, when he says “potato potato potato”, and the sound system of the electric motorcycle is playing this in a rythm depending on driven speed ?

    So when sitting on traffic lights, it`s the familar “potato potato potato” (spoken by Willi G. Davidson, what a cool marketing tool), and at high speeds it`s kind of “pwoawopwoafkowzzpfwo” without having to fear the pistons come through the gas tank dummy.

    Additional features like a handlebar switch, which enables the pilot to choose between the exhaust note of all the existing Vintage Harley engines, top it off and offer the customer individual settings.

    Oh i want one so bad !

  23. 23 BobS May 21st, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Where would we be today if rugged men of the first half of the 20th century rejected motorcycles because they only had a 50 mile range, there were no highways or interstates, and no Quik-E-Marts just blocks away for them to buy gas and mocha latte smoothies at? Thankfully those men pressed on with their passion in spite of limited range and inconvenient refueling options and we benefit today. Our tomorrows would be better if such rugged men existed today.

  24. 24 1550tc May 21st, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    ive always said

    1. travel in a car you see lots
    2. travel in a convertible you see a lot more

    3. travel on bike and you see even more and you can use all your senses to enjoy the ride

    so please keep it quiet and #3 will be even better

  25. 25 Gorgax May 21st, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    As someone who has owned and ridden an electric bike before (Vectrix) and who currently owns and rides and electric bike (BMW) The problem is not the sound they make but the lack of volume.
    They could be made to run almost silently but that too would be a mistake.
    Since beginning to ride an electric bike I have nearly injured 15 pedestrians who have just stepped out into the road in front of me, most giving the excuse “I didn’t hear you coming”.
    So don’t waste time and effort trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
    Make them sound like an electric bike, like they do now. Only a bit louder.

  26. 26 Gorgax May 21st, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    If we’re honest, Harleys have not had the ‘potato, potato’ sound since the demise of the EVO engine.

  27. 27 Dave May 22nd, 2017 at 9:17 am

    In my younger days, I had some of the loudest HDs in the cities where I lived and still had to deal with other drivers not knowing I was near them (or coming at them from the side of an intersection.

    When asked for tips from new riders, part of my response is “always ride like you’re are invisible”. Should have said “ride like you’re invisible and silent”. Best way to stay safe is to realize there is a large portion of fellow motorists that are not going to be aware of your presence. That said a choice to be silent or make a reasonable noise is nice.

  28. 28 JohnnySpeed May 22nd, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Cars are already pretty silebt now and people get by just fine.

  29. 29 May 22nd, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    It looks like that motor could be a modern inline four hidden under there.

  30. 30 May 23rd, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Throw in a deck of cards and a clothes pin as an option. Problem solved!!
    (Note: only those lucky few who lived as a kid in the 60’s and 70’s will know what I mean)

  31. 31 Easygear May 24th, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Johnny Speed
    i don`t think so, i had the same problem that Gorgax described, when i stepped into the road and then noticed the extremely silent electric car the last half second, he almost got me

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