Tarform debuted new e-motorcycles, but is there a US market?


With more failures in the electric motorcycle industry than going concerns and a contracting American motorcycle market, now would seem to be an odd time to launch a new bike into the EV arena. But Tarform, a new startup that unveiled its first vehicle last month in Brooklyn, is undeterred.

That’s despite the fact that the company will likely face an uphill ride selling its high-end, higher priced e-motos.

The EV upstart recently pulled the cover off its first e-motorcycles—prototype Café and Scrambler models at Brooklyn’s NewLab.

The 295 and 320 pound machines bring 7 kilowatt-hour (KwH) Lithium-ION batteries, 43 horsepower, a top speed of 93 miles per hour, and 92 mile city riding ranges.

With the debut, the New York and Stockholm based startup now moves into testing phase and taking orders for its first production electric two-wheelers, expected to manufacture by late 2019.

Before getting back to the sobering EV topic of achieving scale and profitability, Tarform is committed to bringing a fresh design aesthetic to the motorcycle world.

The startup’s stated mission is “to set a new standard for two-wheeled transport by developing fully electric, zero-emission premium motorcycles, using sustainable materials and smart connectivity.”

For its prototype debut, the company did more than source parts and slap batteries into motorcycle frames.

Launching Tarform Motorcycles

“In order to distill the form to only the essentials, we were challenged to redesign every component,” said CEO and founder Taras Kravtchouk—an industrial design specialist, former startup head, and passionate motorcyclist.

From the swingarm to the pegs, speedo, fairing and handlebars—the company custom engineered a large portion of the Café and Scrambler prototype parts. Each also has a custom sound produced by a transducer inside the tank that matches a low pitch hum to motor revs.

A lot of the important stuff—such as the battery, suspension, and current power regulation system are sourced—but Tarform looks to shift toward more proprietary features, including a digital power delivery system with AI functions.

 “Were talking to a company in Sweden to do a custom vehicle control unit to integrate Bluetooth connectivity [and ultrasonic proximity sensors],” Kravtchouk told TechCrunch.

“You’ll be able to sync your ride to an app…and get inputs on your riding behavior…to become a better rider.”

Tarform will offer two variants of its production motorcycles. Version one will be a 9kWh, 53 horsepower, 350 pound two-wheeler with a 95 mile per hour top speed and 129 mile range.

A larger 13.5 kWh battery, 80 horsepower, 395 pound model will be good for 168 miles.

Charging time will be 3.5 hours to 80 percent and 8 hours to full power using a standard electrical outlet. A fast-charger option will get the bikes to 80 percent in less than an hour.

The starting price to pre-order one of Tarform’s first production motorcycles is $18,000.

That compares to $8K for an entry level FX from Zero—America’s highest selling e-motorcycle manufacturer—and $24K for an Eva EsseEsse9 from Energica, a high-performance Italian EV startup with a U.S. sales network.

As for market positioning, Tarform aims to attract buyers by hitting that optimum balance of performance and design, according to Kravtchouk.

On power and range, “the question is how much we compromise the design [for a bigger battery], without making the bikes look fat and ugly. We’re trying to find a compromise,” he said.

Some people may want to have “a bike that looks sweet” with a slightly shorter ride distance, versus “a bike that goes further with a big battery jammed into it,” he said.

And that pivots to the business side of the equation for Tarform as an EV startup. A core part of the company’s value proposition is to create motorcycles that recapture the imagination of young folks.

As we’ve covered here at TechCrunch, the U.S. motorcycle industry has been in the doldrums since the recession.

New U.S. sales dropped roughly 50 percent since 2008, with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40. Motorcycle manufacturers are now largely competing for an aging and shrinking American buying demographic.

Females are one of the only growing ownership segments. And per an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, total motorcycles on the road actually increased from 2008 to 2017—though nearly 75 percent of registrations are for bikes over seven years old.

So some Americans are buying motorcycles—but often not new ones—and the industry is (by and large) not connecting with 20 and 30 somethings.

Tarform believes e-motos (theirs in particular) can bring at least some segment of a more tech and design savvy younger generation back to motorcycles.

Of course, they’re not the only ones, and as mentioned, there have already been several flops in the U.S. market. Electric motorcycle startups Brammo and Mission Motors already tried and failed. And per TechCrunch’s recent reporting, California based Alta Motors—that had $45 million in VC—ceased operations two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Energica and Zero Motorcycles have revved up U.S. promotion, distribution and sales.  The two have extensive R&D facilities and roughly $90 million in VC among them.

Then there’s Harley Davidson’s full commitment to EVs. This year the company announced the debut of a production e-moto by 2019, an expanded electric line-up to follow, and the opening of a Silicon Valley research facility to support it all.

With their largely untested and higher priced product Tarform, faces a rough ride to compete with these companies in what is still a shrinking U.S. motorcycle market.

But going head to head with Harley or capturing existing market share from other e-moto startups isn’t necessarily Tarform’s strategy, according to CEO Kravtchouk.

“We’re not in the arms race. We’re not saying we’re faster than anyone else…We think our positioning is a little bit different,” he said.

“Since we started showing the design…so many people who are not motorcycle riders have come forward and said, ‘I want to ride that thing,” explained Tarform’s CEO.

“So maybe our demographic is not existing motorcycle riders, but people who wished they were motorcycle riders. That’s what industry, gas or EV, has had such a hard time capturing.”

Over the next year Tarform will look to see “how the market responds” to its first offering before raising a round.

“Before getting big funding we want to show we’re able to build this in a small garage in Brooklyn. Then the startup will “want to partner up with major manufacturers to take it to the next level,” said Kravtchouk.

More TechCrunch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

22 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info