For some people, the appeal of electric motorcycles is their combination of incredible torque, gearlessness, and eco-friendliness. For others, the lack of vibrations, physical feedback, and the sound of a traditional two-wheeler are what put them off electric two-wheelers. Italian motorcycle maker 2Electron has built a machine, the Emula, that combines more than the best of both worlds. It's made a motorcycle that, like a modern computer emulating classic gaming consoles, can mimic the characteristics of conventional, gas-guzzling rides while offering all the benefits of an e-bike.
2Electron calls its anachronistic system for endothermic mimicry, "McFly Technology." As in, Marty McFly from Back to the Future. Geddit? The company calls it "a fusion between gaming and motor world." And that's spot on. The company has used all of the best tricks of high-end simulators — sound, vibration-based feedback, and physical controls in the form of a clutch — and applied them to a motorcycle you can actually ride.
Memories made physical — Arguably, the Emula isn't the best of all worlds but, rather, the worst of some of them. It's taken all of the benefits of electric motorcycles and hamstrung them with the failings of combustion engines. It's an exercise in nostalgia that simply accentuates the failings of what's gone before. But, like playing 8-bit games on a monstrous, contemporary, powerhouse of a computer, it's also a reminder of how we got here and could appeal to those old enough to remember what it was like to have to change gears on a motorcycle, and who yearn for the physical experience of doing so.
Nostalgia for download — Though it's only a concept for now, if the Emula came to market it could conceivably offer downloadable profiles of classic rides. In fact, it's hinted it might do just that. It's a novel concept, but also a bizarre one, so it comes as a relief that, should the Emula ever actually make it to market, there'll also be the option to turn off the emulations entirely and ride it like a conventional, gearless electric motorcycle.
While we can see the appeal of riding a motorcycle that provides an astounding accurate sensory experience to riding the first motorcycle you owned, or even more appealingly, the one you always dreamed of owning, there's something perverse about saddling a contemporary, electron-powered motorcycle with the physical limitations of a combustion one. Especially if you're new to the world of motorcycles, and dealing with noise and shudders isn't in your frame of reference. We fear, were we to buy one, we'd tire of the emulations rapidly, and they'd wind up being the sort of thing we'd show friends, but seldom use ourselves... a bit like reverse charging on a contemporary Samsung smartphone.
Sound for one — The McFly system doesn't just let riders enjoy zero emissions, thanks to the ability to pipe the simulated sound straight into a helmet, it means riders — or, more importantly, passersby — can also enjoy zero noise emissions. Now that's the sort of future we could sign up for.
While we understand the appeal of the a Harley's iconic sound when you're riding one, it's intolerable to those of us near one when it starts up. That's precisely the sort of historical motorcycle hangover from the days of combustion we'd be only too happy to bid farewell.