A few years ago, a couple of enthusiastic young blokes from Rockhampton test rode an electric motorcycle and became well and truly hooked on the concept of building a business supplying electric motorcycles.
Peter and Chris Hull spent the ensuing years testing a variety of different bikes and ultimately secured the import rights for Evoke Motorcycles. They spent of a lot of time testing, providing valuable local market feedback to the factory, developing their business models and researching how to buy, sell and support an electric motorcycle in Australia.
Fast forward to today and the boys are in the middle of an east coast road trip complete with a trailer full of Evokes showing them off to anyone who is interested which included this very lucky old sod.
You will see a nice video feature we shot here, and on the RenewEconomy Youtube channel, but here’s a bit of extra detail for you.
Quick summary of the bikes
There are currently two models of Evoke available locally – the Urban S and the Urban Classic.
They are identical in all ways, but the Classic features a larger 3.6kW charger and more cafe racer styling. The S model has a bikini fairing and smaller 1.8kW charger.
Outside this, both bikes share the same key specifications which are listed below.
Overall and after some decent test riding in the real world, I have to say I walked away pretty impressed. The Evoke is not a cheaply built featureless and drab budget bike. Neither is it a glamourous high end example of electric motorcycle unobtanium.
Instead, it sits pretty much right in the middle. Decent, well considered features and power. Respectable handling and good brakes. Appealing good looks, respectable range and a mid-range price, for an electric motorcycle at around AUD$15k.
The bike comes with a 2 year/20,000km warranty.
One of the most interesting features of the Evoke is its hub drive motor. Usually used in low power scooters, the Evoke features a decently powerful and grunty brushless DC hub motor with 19kW of peak power and 116Nm of torque. Seat of the pants feeling was roughly equivalent to a 400c ICE bike, so quite nice.
The typical downside of a hub motor is significant unsprung weight but I have to say, the team have done an awesome job of designing a suspension setup that really makes this invisible. Through bumpy, choppy and winding roads the suspension behaved really well and I really couldn’t notice it.
On the upside, they are super simple, have no belt or chain losses and provide more flexibility and space for battery and ancillary electrical component location within the main frame.
Interestingly, their website has an Innovation section which talks about lot of cool whiz bangery but appears to feature a bike with a conventional belt driven motor featuring “twin shift”, implying they may move away form hub motors on some models.
The frame is pretty tried and tested Chinese affair, featuring welded steel tube throughout.
Likewise the suspension and brakes feature all the right specifications (43mm USD forks, Radial mounted twin pot calipers and braided lines, albeit without the familiar brand names. The bikes both feature a 110/70 front tyre and a huge 180/55 rear, both 17inches.
The Evokes both features some small but pretty cool features that I really liked.
It has a reverse gear for example, activated by holding in the mode button and then using the throttle. Anyone with a motorcycle knows what a pain it is to push a deadweight backwards up a hill.
It also has a J Series/Type 1 charge port on the rear tail piece which is also a simple and practical feature allowing easier charging at charge points.
It also has linked brakes which I personally love, being brought up on Moto Guzzi’s who pioneered this feature. It allows one front disc and the rear disc to be activated via the brake pedal and provides a nice balanced front and rear braking.
Honestly, I tried really hard to not compare this bike to the other electric bikes I’ve ridden or owned too much because it has a different design intent and target market. It’s unashamedly a lower priced bike so my expectations around power, handling and finesse were lower.
Personally, I found the suspension to be very respectable for a 180kG bike. It rode bumpy windy roads really nicely and felt plush without being sloppy, and I didn’t have a chance to dial in the adjustable spring preload or damping rates.
Being a more price focused bike only time will tell how well these components will stand up over time, but it felt good.
It felt very nimble and like all electrics, was utterly devoid of spinning inertia or drive train slack so overall it turned and bounced very well.
I rode a couple of different models during our test and my only criticism was a slight feeling of vagueness in the front end. I suspect that dialling the suspension in well, adjustments to the handlebars and perhaps some higher quality tyres might really help improve this and in fairness its wasn’t dissimilar to my Zero.
Overall, I think it’s a pretty decent ride and I certainly had a smile and plenty of fun punting it through the twisties as I got more and more acclimatised.
Things I didn’t like
Now I understand this is not a $30k electric bike but I do feel like a few things need some attention and I know Peter and Chris are working with the factory on these issues too, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you the things I thought could be improved.
Firstly, although I love the linked brakes I found the combination of linked brakes plus regen a bit too ferocious. I’d like way more regen on the front brake and less when I’m hitting both discs – any one who has ridden in anger on tarmac knows you want progressively aggressive front braking first and trailing rear braking second. I’d also like way more regen so I’m using the pads less and recharging more.
Secondly, and this may not be possible at this price point but really, I think most riders want and need a custom mode because we are all a bit different. I think a custom mode allowing adjustment for regen on closed throttle and on brakes is really important.
The manual says a dealer can adjust regen on closed throttle from 0-50A (standard is 40A), but no mention of braking regen behaviour or adjustability.
And being honest although I’m experienced on electrics, of course I set the bike straight to the highest power/torque mode and couldn’t imagine a circumstance where I would want less power that couldn’t be managed through my brain and my wrist, so I don’t know what purpose the other two modes really serve (being lower power).
Thirdly, for goodness sake get rid of the throttle cable that’s just dumb. The best thing about electrics is digital throttle response and I reckon they are probably cheaper and less complicated than a throttle to cable to actuator like the Evoke has and, avoids a maintenance and wear and tear part.
On one of the bikes I rode there was a lag in throttle response which I reckon was cable related – get rid of it! I also found there was a slight “overrun” as a rolled off the throttle before the power came off which was a bit disconcerting at first although in fairness I got used to it.
Throttle response is sooooooooo important on a motorcycle I think this needs a bit more work (although I acknowledge I have been spoiled in this way with excellent performance on my bikes)
Fourth, there is the finish of the bikes. It was ok and I know these are early production bikes but it didn’t take me long to find unsightly welds, a few spots where the paint was pretty poor and generally the finish was a little patchy.
Again and in fairness, my Zero had some similar issues and was much more expensive so I don’t mean to be harsh just honest.
Fifth, the dashboard/display screen has a pretty cool set of information and diagnostics. However, it really isn’t bright enough/the screen is too reflective to see in direct sunlight. In fairness many ICE motorcycle owners complain about this issue too.
Lastly, perhaps an indication of how early Evoke is in the entire process of getting a bike to global markets, I was a bit confused and disappointed by the inconsistencies in the manuals, websites and brochures.
For example, the manual says if the bike is not used for 3 days it is considered to be in short terms storage and recommends storing at 50% SOC, which is just impractical. It also defines long terms storage as more than 14 days and recommends you disconnect the Battery Safety Disconnect to reduce battery drain.
In both cases it suggests in big bold letters that the battery should be stored at between 0-24degrees C, which also lacks practicality and bizarrely states that it should not be left unattended or indoors while charging.
I was also confused by the battery capacity which is listed as 9.05kWh, 8.4kWh and 7.6kWh depending on where you looked, likewise the controller is listed as both 400A and 800A and the range estimates also vary.
These are just written inconsistencies but if I was a buyer researching the bikes, it would set my spidey senses tingling. Get the specs right and be realistic about what they are or customers will be disappointed would be my advice.
Would I buy one?
If I was in the market for a well priced and reasonably well specced electric motorcycle I would seriously consider buying an Evoke. It has some great features that would be really nice in the real world and is a good looking machine.
I think there is a little bit of work to do to get the specifications, small details and finish a bit better but as production ramps up I reckon this can be solved.
Well done Evoke (and Peter and Chris) for developing an electric motorcycle that is more affordable but still has some great features and rides well.
See Nigel’s video review and interview with Peter and Chris here.