Niu introduces RQi "urban performance" e-moto capable of 100 mph
We know about plenty of high-performance electric motorcycles that look amazing but carry super premium price tags and we know about plenty of affordable electric scooters that do the job in the back streets, but don't have enough punch to commute on a freeway. The middle ground is an interesting space – mid-performance bikes with similar capabilities to the 400cc class, genuine highway capabilities and a range good enough to handle just about any commute with a genuine fun factor.
These sorts of machines might be a bit too expensive for the average Chinese buyer, the bulk of whom seem satisfied to get around at 40 km/h (25 mph) on cheap plug-in scoots. But they could just hit the sweet spot for Western riders who expect a bit more fun and the capability to mix it with any traffic on any road. If somebody can hit that sweet spot for the right price, they could make a decent splash in America, and the bike Chinese manufacturer Niu just brought to CES may yet tick the boxes.
Based some 100 km (60 mi) outside Shanghai, Niu does the bulk of its business in small electric scooters, but it brought a prototype road bike to Vegas that's worth a look.
The Niu RQi is an angular electric motorcycle targeted at "urban performance." It runs a 30-kW (40-hp) mid drive motor with a belt drive to the rear wheel, even if the renders show a chain. Niu claims a top speed of 100 mph (161 km/h), which speaks to plenty of potential for overtaking at highway speeds.
It carries two Panasonic lithium battery packs, which are removable so you can carry them inside to charge if you don't have a power outlet where you're parking it. These two packs combine for 6.5 kWh of energy storage, which is not a lot.
Niu claims a range of 80 mi (128 km) in combined city/highway riding, or a maximum of 124 mi (200 km) if you sit at a constant 30 mph (48 km/h).
Those estimates sound extremely optimistic to us. We tend to defer to California's Zero Motorcycles for genuine range estimates, as their published ranges seem reasonable provided you don't ride like your bum is on fire, which I always do. Zero's FX offers 7.2 kWh of energy storage and roughly comparable performance, and Zero claims 54 mi (87 km) of combined cycle range or 91 mi (146 km) of slow-speed round-town work.
We'd expect the Niu bike to have a slightly lower range figure than the Zero. But that's still more than enough for a zippy daily commuter if the price is right.
The Niu's Chinese heritage and mass manufacturing capability would suggest a great price is possible. On the other hand, the RQi appears to have some fancy stuff built in that may push the price into "hell I'll just buy a five-grand KTM Duke 390 that I can ride all day in the hills as well" territory.
The RQi has an adaptive headlight that looks around corners, which is a great idea. It rocks traction control, which is of negligible value at this performance level, and ABS, which is always a good idea. It's got built-in 5G connectivity, enabling anti-theft systems and GPS tracking of your bike, which is fine, but it's starting to sound premium, as is the big color dash and Bluetooth control.
Our sense is that the RQi will need to drop at around the US$6,000 level or below to really sell in volume. The Zero FX ZF7.2, for reference, costs more like $10.995 before you factor in up to $2,000 or so of tax credits.
We think a lot of people are ready to switch to a zero-emissions commute as long as it's fun and affordable. E-bikes selling around the $1,000-$3,000 range are going gangbusters, and people are aware of the advantages of EVs, they're just hoping for an offer they can't refuse. We'll be interested to see if Niu makes such an offer.