Friday, December 11, 2020

Filling in the blanks on electric Royal Enfields

Royal Enfield's electric future is a blank.
Royal Enfield says there will be electric power.

What's going on with Royal Enfield and electric motorcycles?

You can read "a detailed story rounding up every single fact that has been reported by the media here, in what is shaping up as the most exciting electric motorcycle launch early this decade."

That's according to editor Shrawan Raja of the ElectricVehicleWeb site. Based in Chennai, India (along with Royal Enfield), this website updates the electric vehicle scene daily, including cars as well as motorcycles. He's an engineer who proudly notes that he learned to ride a motorcycle on his dad's 1982 Royal Enfield 350.

The article he pointed out to me in an email tells what is known about Royal Enfeld's electrifying plans, based mostly on widely reported hints from executives that electric vehicles are in the works.

In the same email to me, Shrawan prodded me to pay more attention to electric Royal Enfields.

His website does exactly that.

Click this link to find ElectricVehicleWeb's comprehensive articles about:

The "Charging Bullet" built from a 1961 hulk that has crossed England from Scotland to Land's End.

The "E-Bullet" design that imagines a kit to convert Royal Enfields to electric power.

And the "Photon," a high-end creation that brings high style and impressive power to an electric Royal Enfield.

You'll be impressed by the Photon (and its price), distressed by the blocky appearance of the E-Bullet, and encouraged by low-buck approach of the Charging Bullet.

Photo of young man.
Shrawan Raja of

"So the E-Bullet was a bunch of college students who rigged up a prototype, and our idea is to support startups to give them some kind of encouragement to keep getting better," Shrawan explained in his email.

"Many of them have rough edges, but we feature them in the hope that they progress and improve the standing of electric vehicles in India."

With so much going on, "I'm wondering why you haven't yet featured Royal Enfield's electric vehicle plans on your site?" Shrawan noted, accurately.

Design concept for electric Royal Enfield.
Electric Royal Enfield, as imagined on IndianAutosBlog.

My reply seemed lame, even to me:

"I was attracted to Royal Enfield by the fact that its products (at the time) were obsolete and they appealed to my sense of nostalgia," I wrote.

"Royal Enfield has improved and saved itself by modernizing its products. It approaches the future with confidence and naturally takes electric motorcycles into its plans. I hope that it accomplishes this with care and style. In the process, however, I feel increasingly left behind, more interested in the past than in the future."

Even I can dispute my argument.

I noted that The Vintagent himself, Paul d'Orleans, America's stand-out authority on vintage motorcycle design and culture, devotes a whole section of his website to electric motorcycles. He curated the "Electric Revolution" exhibit presented by the Petersen Automotive Museum. Although an "automotive" museum, Petersen's Electric Revolution featured only electric motorcycles and e-bikes.

Which leaves me in the dust and rust of internal combustion Royal Enfields of the past and, well, actually, of the present. Royal Enfield can make anything, as its newest products (all gasoline powered) illustrate. But are electric motorcycles a natural fit? The company has to get this right.

I have in mind Harley-Davidson, which seemed to want to build electric motorcycles and now, confusingly, seems to want to build electric bicycles.

What's the harm? Harley, a company that made its unmatched reputation doing a few things well, is now done with that and anxious to tackle everything new. No wonder I feel left behind.

My hope is that Royal Enfield will avoid creating a similar impression.

Photo of Kalashnikov motorcycle.
Kalashnikov goes for a vintage look on its electric Izh-49.

How? Well, poking around on I encountered the (to me) startling news that Kalashnikov (yes, the gun maker) created the Izh-49, a limited edition electric motorcycle that summons up vintage appeal.

(One nice detail: I love the way the Kalashnikov runs the wire for the tail light over the top of the fender.)

Not everyone will be nostalgic for a Soviet-era vintage look-alike electric motorcycle. But if they can do it...


  1. Now I have another excuse, I mean reason, to put 220 service in my garage. There is a growing pile of motorcycles that are bringing vintage looks with these power plants. A couple of the more interesting, albeit expensive ones, are the Cezette from the UK and Metralla based on the old Bultaco design. The RE offering looks very nice.

  2. Oops...that's Cezeta and the other one is Pursang, a Bultaco name from the 1970s....sorry about that.

  3. Would I rent an electric motorcycle? Sure. Would I buy one? Probably not. Maybe a car. I'm too set in my ways. That thumping and thrumming and tippity-tapping are too crucial to my mental health regimen. One day, when we're all swanning around in autonomously-piloted silent electric ova dispatched by our device implants by 'Google Ride' or something, I suspect some of us oldsters will miss that sound of an old pickup struggling by with a bad exhaust or a Harley with straight-throughs barking up a hill.

    For an interesting speculative vision of that world, those with Amazon Prime might want to check out the pilot episode of "The Last Motorcycle on Earth" on their streaming service at:

  4. Last week David wrote about a clutch cable and at this point the blog was on its way to a dozen comments.This week's topic is electric motorcycles, something that ostensibly is on everyone's minds these days. We have three comments: One from a guy who couldn't care less about them, and two from a guy who only likes them if they look like the old internal combustion engined bikes he's always loved. Maybe e-bikes are like the medicine mom used to give us. Tasted awful but was good for us.


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