Monday, January 19, 2009

The Art of Electric Motorcycle Design

“If it looks right, it will fly right”: This is a long standing adage in the aircraft industry that describes the physical appearance of an aircraft as a determinant of its flight capability. Whether or not it’s ever officially admitted, military contracts for airplanes have been won and lost based upon this perception of design for decades.

Motorcycles and automobiles are not unaffected by the ramifications of styling perception. The only exception to this natural law of vehicle sales is if the vehicle can be bought cheaply enough. A modern precedent is the Pontiac Aztec. Pontiac dealers were selling this car for years after it had been out of production. Hideous? Yes. But after heavy discounts and incentives, they eventually started looking pretty good to those in need of transportation for minimal cash.

Admittedly, motorcycles may be less affected by this phenomenon since variety is more the norm and cost is less of a factor, but it does happen. A recent example is the Pierre Terblanche designed Ducati 999. There was no question about the bike’s pedigree or engineering, but the styling was, and still is, very controversial.

Currently in the electric motorcycle world, there are a handful of machines that have the potential for aesthetic mass appeal: Flying right, via looking right. But do they have a high enough level of design that will change perceptions and sell electric motorcycles regardless of performance or cost?

Rapidly evolving technology leaves little room for styling priority, nor does it allow for appealing pricing. It’s not that manufacturers and home builders are disregarding style. After all, this is a new type of vehicle and it’s not subject to the conventions we associate with a typical internal combustion powered motorcycle. The manufacturers are definitely developing distinctive styles. Unfortunately distinctive style does not always translate into world-beating style.

For an electric motorcycle to go to the next level, to become a must-have product that will displace one’s desire for a gasoline fueled bike, it’s going to have to deliver more than great power or range of operation. It will have to look incredible and create neuron exploding lust in the minds of enthusiasts.

This is the next step in taking ever-improving performance to mass recognition. Whoever introduces a design that blows minds and lands on the cover of a major enthusiast magazine will have truly shaken up the motorcycle world.

In truth, if it looks right to enthusiasts, it will fly right off the showroom floor.

Lead image is a screen shot from Motorepublic. A motorcycle design studio based in Sweden specializing in motorcycle design concepts. Link:

No comments: