The secret to this $5,000 electric motorcycle is a cast aluminum frame
It’s unavoidably clear that staving off the worst extremes of climate change will require a wide-scale electrification of our vehicle fleet. There’s a hitch, though—it’s not cheap. We have the technology to make electric vehicles, and it’s getting better all the time. But as of right now, the bill of materials for an electric car is still higher than for an equivalent vehicle with an internal combustion engine, even with impressive reductions in the cost of lithium-ion batteries.
The problem doesn’t just affect passenger cars. It’s more expensive to buy an electric garbage truck or school bus than one with a diesel engine, although after four to five years of operation, it balances out thanks to the cost of fuel. It’s even true for motorcycles; Harley Davidson’s new electric LiveWire costs an eye-watering $30,000—only slightly less than a Nissan Leaf. All of which makes the price of the Sondors Metacycle so notable. When it goes into production later this year, you should be able to pick one up for just $5,000.
Until now, Sondors was a brand people associated with electric bicycles. It’s the brainchild of company founder Storm Sondors, who decided the time was right to expand the company’s range with a highly affordable electric motorbike that’s meant not for enthusiasts but for everyday transport. And the key wasn’t perfecting a new type of motor or battery. “Oh, the hard part was done by people who are 1000 times smarter than any one of us,” Sondors told me by phone.
“The biggest challenge that we faced was actually not the battery, not the motor, not the controller—it was how you make a sturdy, affordable electric motorcycle frame. Once we figured out that component, the rest of it just came together pretty easy,” Sondors said.
For most of the industry, making a motorbike frame involves welding pipes together. “Right now, every motorcycle you look at—whether it’s Aprila or Ducati or whoever—it’s all pipe, pipe, pipe. And the more pipe, the more welding, the more potential failures,” Sondors told Ars. Instead, his company will use a cast aluminum frame, which is much cheaper and faster to produce.
The Metacycle is propelled by a single permanent magnet electric hub motor—no chains or belts here—with a nominal output of 10.7hp (8kW) and a peak output of 19hp (14.5kW). That might not sound like a huge amount, but the Metacycle only weighs 200lbs (91kg), and that’s still sufficient to reach 85mph (137km/h). Bench racers will be happier with the torque output—a nominal 80lb-ft (108Nm) with a peak of 130lb-ft (Nm). The motor is fed by a 4kWh lithium-ion pack that should give a range of about 80 miles (129km) according to the company.
Since we’re talking about a $5,000 motorcycle, don’t expect too many bells and whistles. There’s no DC fast charging option, although with just 4kWh to recharge, there really wouldn’t be much point. The Metacycle doesn’t even appear to be connected to the internet, although there is a spot for your phone with an induction charging pad and a clear cover so you can use your own device for navigation.
Sondors says that deliveries of the Metacycle should begin in Q4 2021.
Listing image by Sondors