By Leon Poultney published
KTM Freeride E-XC Intro
Despite automotive brands continuously bigging up the benefits of battery-powered vehicles, the uptake of said machines has been relatively slow. Renault has experienced mild success with the Zoe, Nissan has its Leaf and Tesla manages to hog the headlines despite pouring money down the drain like it's bath water.
Electric motorcycles have suffered a similar fate to date but their lighter frames, lack of juice-sapping ancillaries and naturally shorter journey times make them a much more sensible proposition for electrification than a car.
However, few manufacturers have really committed to the electric bike, with early adopters having to shop across the Pond with the likes of Zero and Lightning if they wanted something more exciting than a battery-powered scooter.
That's all about to change, as motocross specialists KTM have just released a range of all-electric scrambler and supermoto models that provide the same sort of on and off-road thrills as their petrol-powered counterparts yet produce nothing in the way of harmful emissions and noise.
Our man Leon Poultney took KTM's Freeride E-XCfor a spin - he's the one on the right. Relax ladies (and some of the gentlemen); he's married.
You can select from three power modes: the first, dubbed Economy, limits power so novices can get to grips with the machine, while Standard and Advance add power gradually.
It's safe to say we stuck with Standard mode for the majority of the test, which was more than enough for the small but tricky course on offer. Acceleration is near instant and getting used to the sensitive throttle is a little unnerving at first.
But once confident, the rider can pile on the throttle and have the back wheel tearing up the loose surface in an instant. The extra strong frame and motocross-derived suspension can handle some epic jumps, yet it remains forgiving enough on the road to offer up a relatively comfortable commute.
Above all else, the innovative bike doesn't have a gearbox, so even novice riders soon become comfortable with the mountain bike-style layout of the brakes and the twist-and-go throttle.
This soon comes into its own in the challenging environment of an off-road course but it also makes road riding a complete doddle. Plus, that instant torque delivery is hilarious at the traffic lights.
The power plant
Underneath the chunky plastic cladding of its E-models sits a 16kW permanent-magnet synchronous motor, which develops the equivalent of 20bhp and 42Nm of torque.
That sounds a bit pathetic compared to a modern car, but this thing weighs just 110kg, meaning that power propels the skinny frame at hyper speed. Riders will be able to get around 45-minutes of hard off-road thrashing out of the 260 volts, 2.6 kWh battery pack, while on-road time can increase to an hour if you're careful with the throttle.
Charging takes around 80-minutes from a standard wall socket or 50-minutes for an 80 per cent boost, while the powerpack can be removed by undoing a few screws and replaced with a fresh pack. Although it weighs 28kg, so ensure your guns are pumped up before attempting.
The down side to all this electrically-powered fun and japes? The KTM Freeride E-XC does not have an amazing range. KTM quoted 45 minutes in the hands of an average Joe, dropping to 25 if you really spank the throttle. Around town, if you're careful, you could get an hour out of it - so enough for most road commutes, to be fair.
The beauty of the Freeride E-XC is that it is very difficult to distinguish from the rest of KTM's Freeride motocross range, and it certainly looks the part, with knobbly Maxxis tyres and tough plastic body addenda signifying its off-road intentions. The small digital readout that displays speed and distance is easy to view in direct light, while the ace power display makes it easy to see when a recharge is on the cards.
The upright seating position and lithe handling means the E-XC is at home dodging busy inner-city traffic but it is not really set up for longer cruises. Power is delivered low-down in the torque range and it is geared short, so a top speed of around 40mph is all you are getting.
However, KTM also offers a Freeride-SM supermoto version of the Freeride-E with more practical, slick tyres and longer gear ratios, which will better suit those looking to race their electric machines through the busy city environment.
Tech early adopters know that getting hold of anything new and innovative typically puts a large dent in the old wallet and the Freeride E-XC is no different. It costs £10,299, which is some £4,000 more expensive than the more powerful 350cc petrol-powered cousin.
To sweeten the deal, KTM guarantees some 700 charge cycles before the battery begins to offer just 80 per cent of its capacity, while the bike's frame, body panels and running gear are designed to take a daily beating.
It's certainly a hardy machine that will happily smash an inner-city commute during the week and tear up the trails at the weekend but the price and limited range will likely put many off.
This KTM Freeride is a fantastic little machine that offers some serious off-road performance without the ear-splitting soundtrack and nasty emissions. Some will argue that the noise and smell of motocross is part of the appeal but KTM's Freeride-E range of bikes open up a new set of opportunities and very different, visceral riding experience.
The E-Scape off-road centre, for example, skirts a number of planning permission restrictions, such as noise and CO2, thanks to the use of electric motorcycles.
This means owners of the KTM's Freeride E range could soon find that they can thrash their bikes on forestry commission land, mountain bike trails and even special indoor circuits thanks to the lack of noise and emissions.
Better still, the road legal bikes are fairly adept as an in-town daily commuter. Granted, they can't tackle longer journeys but they only require an A1 licence to operate.
That's the same licence that applies to those wanting to ride a motorbike or scooter with up to a 125cc engine, so all that's required is the simple and affordable Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).
This all-electric off-roader provides emissions-free mud-plugging thrills, as well as a cheap daily commute. Or at any rate, cheap once you've coughed up the £10K necessary to own it in the first place.
Cheap to charge
Not overly cheap
The testing ground
We thrashed KTM's battery-powered beast at E-Scape, the UK's first dedicated electric off-road riding centre. The course features challenging, banked bends, daunting jumps and technical segments, which perfectly highlighted the Freeride EX-C's handling prowess.