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Rated: E · Essay · Technology · #2259287
Contrasting a view of technical barriers to electric motorcycles, with new archetypes.
Success of electric motorcycles in America is more a challenge of narrative than technology.

Electric Motorcycles are failing - and it has been proposed that they aren't yet technically sufficient for the 'wild west'. But the success of electric motorcycles in America is more a challenge of narrative than technology. This view contrasts with an idea that barriers to advancing electric motorcycles are technical, (as proposed in a YouTube video titled "Why Electric Motorcycles are Failing") and defines an iconographic barrier. Are manufacturers struggling in a market of imagination with aging traditional riders and youth still seeking heroes in a world of global dilemmas and constant change.


They don't have the throaty rumble. Nor do they have pipes shined like a gun barrel, or a stitched saddlery aesthetic that invokes the swagger of a wild bronco rider. Can you imagine bike gang gatherings sounding like a ruffle in the wind, rather than a storm of hornets, each with a bad attitude and big stinger? They can't either. The growth of this industry, or lack of, is more about its story than its technology. Many Americans still see their time and place with archetypes and heroes invoking conquests of the wild west; with chrome and saddlery inferring mythic powers harnessed by Marlon Brando and unbound testosterone.

Success for electric vehicles in America has come first to those successful invoking a new story. Tesla pioneered new technology, but also introduced a speedy serpentine aesthetic, for an audience less embedded in the traditional American archetypes; car drivers more than motorcycle drivers. And this aesthetic doesn't need a throaty rumble, or shiny buckles, to look authentic. It presents the possibility of buying the future now - technically yes, but lets say 'equally' in image. The progress of electric motorcycles in America depends on reinterpreting the archetypes of its audience as much as technical developments.

Look to China where growth of electric vehicles surpasses any other country in multitudes. There is no archetype coupling their success with muscle over landscape, but rather ingenuity, convenience and necessity. There urban landscapes are prevalent, but more importantly, their heroes do not ride boldly with swagger and a holstered gun. Their traditional icons yield skills with silent swordsmanship and tactfully redirect momentum. Although resting precariously on generalizations here, their archetypes have been easily coupled with electric technology which contrasts with America.

The movie Tron presented iconic visions of electric motorcycles. But they don't have traction in broad American culture because it doesn't reflect the landscape of iconic American power. Whether an American motorcyclist actually rides in rugged countryside, on windy roads, or through a slick urban landscapes is secondary to how they imagine themselves when doing it. They know archetypes associated with power in America are traditional and masculine. There is no James Bond in America - we have Marlon Brando, and variations of. Demographic shifts are changing this. The first manufacturer successful in reinterpreting the American imagination will succeed.

Enter 'The Bride' in Kill BIll. Tarantino and Uma Thurman's character is a young woman with pain, courage, determination and strength to travel the world to obtain new skills and topple her oppressor. This is a new vision of power, with seductive swordsmanship skills - obtained by seeking lessons from occidental archetypes and brandishing them in the wild west. It's not that she presents a new icon of power in America, but consider that the Ninja motorcycle is an imported idea that appealed very much to some riders imagination of their own success. Technical developments and engineering lineage are only part of the appeal that lead to the iconic success of Ninja motorcycles. Uma Thurman rode a Kawasaki ZZR, but the stinger lodged in American imagination is that of a ninja, in a skin tight, yellow and black striped suit, that represented a willingness to adapt in any way to overcome the most sinister of oppressors.

Some American youth will seek success by buttressing rigid thinking and seeking to oppress others. And some will seek success with a more open imagination. But the backdrop is the same, and both are susceptible to skillful narration and seductive heroes. Iconographers can reinterpret traditional stories to liberate youth, gender and nature with new ideas. Heroes don't have to conquer a rugged dangerous continent any more, but rather, old stories. Right now American youth are riding electric scooters and their imagination is on fire as they struggle to find and emulate heroes, in a landscape of global dilemmas and constant change. Even Harley Davidson can see these heroes won't look much like Marlon Brando. Neither a wild bronco, or a ninja, seem to fit with the aesthetics and narrative in the ballooning electric bicycle market. As an emerging market for electric motorcycles, today's youth will no doubt seek more function and utility than swagger. E-bikes seem to resemble swiss army knives, but as of yet no hero has emerged to dominate the narrative.

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