Legal loophole allows battery bikes to flaunt loud pipes

Here's what the big manufacturers have given us instead of electric superbikes: plain Jane battery-powered commuters.

No matter where you stand on the issue of loud pipes (and we’ve certainly talked about the subject at length on CMG), there’s no question it’s a controversial subject in Canada. And it’s about to get even more controversial, thanks to a federal government oversight in its recent EV regulation update.

When drafting Bill C487 (updated regulations for EVs), legislators forgot to add anything about decibel limits for electric vehicles. This means manufacturers are now allowed to make battery-powered motorcycles as loud as they want, with no national standard to meet.

As a result, several manufacturers are already moving to capitalize on this opportunity. Harley-Davidson confirmed yesterday that the company is planning a new electric model that offers noise levels MoCo enthusiasts could only dream about before.

For years now, Harley-Davidson has been working on bringing an electric motorcycle to market, but naysayers have panned the idea, saying the faithful would never accept a machine that doesn’t make a lot of noise. But Brad Ladoust, Senior Manager of Aural Engineering at Harley-Davidson, says the company is about to release a cruiser that will be “the loudest bike the company has ever released yet, believe me.”

When Harley-Davidson’s electric bike finally makes it to market, it will be the company’s loudest bike ever made.

In an interview with a Milwaukee newspaper, Ladoust says the new electric bike’s sound output will make it Harley-Davidson’s most desirable cruiser in the company’s history. He even suggests the bike could revolutionize the company and its fortunes, as the traditional Baby Boomer customers are moving away from motorcycle purchases and younger buyers remain difficult to bring in the fold. The technology behind the new bike would appeal to the coveted millennial market, but boomers will still be attracted to the loud noise.

Speaking of those younger buyers, Indian Motorcycles is also supposed to be developing an extra-loud electric bike. It’ll be a sportbike, not a cruiser, based on the Empulse model previously sold by Victory, before parent company Polaris shut them down. Traditionally, sportbike riders have been less interested in running loud pipes, but several moto-mags claim they’ve been leaked audio clips of an updated Empulse with selectable noise outputs. Riders can choose between the sound of a V-4, a V-twin, or an inline four engine (crossplane or standard configuration).

The Empulse will be revived as an Indian, not a Victory model, and will have selectable noise output profiles, which can be upgraded at a dealership for extra money.

Rumour has it that an aftermarket “noise map” (installed at dealers at extra cost) will allow them to add “Pro” modes, including an inline triple and even a single-cylinder thump for fans of supermono racing. Users can also pay for “Track” sound mode, which replicates the sound of classic two-stroke GP bikes.

Even the Japanese manufacturers are said to be taking advantage of the legal loophole. Honda is rumoured to be working on a motorcycle similar to the classic Shadow model, emulating not just the new look of the updated made-in-America cruiser, but also the new sounds. Early gossip suggested the new machine will be called the Echo, and patent applications filed last week in Europe support that theory.

Quebec’s provincial politicians are getting ready to set the police on loud electric motorcycles.

In face of these developments, provincial governments are now drafting their own anti-noise legislation for electric vehicles. Quebec was first, with Transports Québec proposing a sweeping ban on electric motorcycles in urban areas, following up on the pilot project that saw motorcycles banned from areas of Montreal, St. Denis, Old Quebec City, and other cities.

Many cities aren’t waiting for provinces to tackle the problem, deciding to draw up their own regulations against loud electric vehicles. So, no matter where you live in Canada, you can be sure that starting today, April 1, we’re going to see a massive change in the battery bike scene going ahead.


  1. Several years ago at the Milan motorcycle show, I talked to a fellow who was working on a device that would be installed on a scooter, had a speaker, and could be adjusted to put out the engine noise of a V-twin, a racing 4 cylinder, and several other motorcycle sounds. So; not so far fetched.

  2. Yeah – it’s official – this was an April Fool story. Pretty good one too, if we say so ourselves. Click on some of the links for the confession, and have a think about what Brad Ladoust really means. Thanks to Harley and Indian and Honda for being good sports!

  3. Like the April Fools joke, but one line had me thinking about obnoxious sounds of another kind. It’s not hard to name the noise that speaks like this, “ . . . the loudest bike the company has ever released yet, believe me.”

    • Kind of. So far only Harley has made a prototype motorcycle that sounds like a jet engine. As for the fake engine sounds? It’s been done with gasoline powered cars,…

  4. The idea of making E-Bikes sound like their internal combustion counterparts seems absolutely ridiculous to me. I agree that E-Bikes should make a certain amount of noise, mostly for the safety of pedestrians, but the sounds emanating from them should be the natural noises of an electric machine: motor and gear whine, chain noise, etc. Some of the electric bikes that I’ve heard sounded as if they had small jet engines in them, likely coming from the large electric motors and straight cut drive gears, that I thought sounded pretty cool. I think the folks that will install noise generators on their E-Bikes fall into the same category of people as those that install fake air scoops and AHH-OOO-GAA horns on their Corollas.

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