The Tarform Motorcycle is a Retro Electric Bike

Steampunk, but emission-free.

The number of electric motorcycle companies has just grown by one. Tarform, based in New York City and Stockholm, Sweden, has announced its first model.

The bike, available for pre-order, is powered by a battery with 90 miles of range. Prices start at $18,000 for the standard model, and a Collector’s Edition is also available.

The design is a very 2018 type of technological convenience wrapped in vintage materials. The Tarform is electric and made with 3D-printed parts, but the leather seat and bronze ring around the instrument panel are clearly from the brain of a designer who likes old stuff (Taras Kravtchouk has worked for companies like Spotify, Google, and T-Mobile, and also designed mid-century furniture).

The lack of a guard for the chain makes me nervous, though. Zero’s electric motorcycles use a quiet, easy-maintenance belt drive. The bike will have connectivity features that send maintenance prompts to the owner via phone app.

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I’ve ridden a few electric motorcycles and think they are generally brilliant. Silent, agile, fast—riding one in a city makes you think This is how civilized society should move around.

But they’re still expensive. And there’s an unconquerable issue with batteries that doesn’t really apply to cars: Adding more batteries for more range means more weight. That’s manageable in a four-wheel car, but you can only make a bike so heavy before impacting the ride or getting diminishing returns on range.

Tarform hasn’t released performance specs yet, but the bike will need to post impressive numbers if it’s going to make a sub-100-mile range acceptable at an $18,000 price tag. That’s a tough sell when you can get 60 miles of range around a city for less than $3,000.

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Elsewhere, Harley-Davidson is following through on its plans to make an electric motorcycle, and companies like Zero, Alta (which is helping build H-D’s electric line), Energica, Nuuk, even Kalashnikov are in the game. That’s not including the lesser-known startups like Evoke, or electric bicycle-motorcycle manufacturers like Monday and Lithium Cycles.

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