The increase in electric car production in the wake of Tesla’s success isn’t the only intriguing development in the auto world. Other manufacturers are getting in on the action with their own quirky vehicles, ranging from outdoor-focused SUVs to electric scooters.
But one that seems particularly unique is the Tarform Luna. Based in New York, the start-up focuses on all electric motorcycles with an emphasis on two things: modularity, and sustainability. While the second is a word with which many are familiar, “modularity” might need some explaining.
Modularity is a concept that’s been gaining ground in the tech world. From the perspective of the consumer, it’s a design method that divides the product into smaller parts, each of which can be modified, fixed on their own, or changed out, as necessary. In other words, a “modular” product is one that allows even a novice user to swap out parts on the item as they wish, in order to upgrade it, almost as easy as swapping out cards in a deck.
Modularity has garnered attention for three major reasons. The first is the inherent appeal of customizability. The second is that modularity is a bulwark against obsolescence. If you can upgrade the individual components on your own, you don’t have to worry the device will go out of date. And that is the cause of the modularity’s third appeal: the ability to keep the device instead of tossing the whole thing is a huge win for sustainability. All in all, modularity pushes back against the wasteful consumerism that plagues much of the world, and that has resulted in such horrors as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
In the case of the Tarform Luna, they advertise the ability to change three major components: the battery pack (which is the main part of electric vehicles undergoing important and fast changes), the body work (allowing you to customize it for your needs and style), and the software. The ability to change the battery pack is quite substantial, as it will play the biggest part in preventing your vehicle from becoming obsolete as time goes on. It also means you can feel comfortable buying one now, instead of waiting for the tech to improve.
This modularity brings us back to sustainability. Tarform intends to use all natural materials wherever possible, instead of the toxic chemical mixtures you may find in other vehicles. The intent is to create something that, if left behind in a dump, won’t pollute, and will biodegrade without issue. These materials include flax fibers, biodegradable leather, and recycled metal.
Despite all this, Tarform doesn’t market their products as stripped down, hyper-ethical machines. Rather, their intent seems to be to create elegant, aesthetically pleasing machines that appeal to stylish motorcyclists. They even call one of their models the “Racer,” and claim they have a 120mph top speed and can go from 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds.
But, as of yet, most of this (except the modularity) is all advertising. The question is: does any of it hold up to scrutiny? We’ve done a broad look at the various reviews of the Tarform line to see if the claims hold up.
For me, one of the biggest considerations here is the claim of sustainability. On a theory level, the modularity gives it points on this mark. But, that modularity may matter little if the component parts are just as environmentally unfriendly as those found in competitors.
Yet, after a survey of various reviews of the vehicle, we’ve yet to find an inkling that anything is amiss. It seems, indeed, that all the materials are just as sustainable as claimed. Many components are created from flax seed (known for being an incredibly sustainable crop). The plastic is flax seed and corn starch. The “leather” is made from plant fibers. Even the pigments are derived from natural sources like algae.
Given that they’ve supposedly designed (and priced) the vehicle as one to be kept, long term, this bodes well for the claim of sustainability. Assuming the build quality is up to snuff (something we can’t know until it’s been on the road a few years), then Tarform’s claims of sustainability are as good as they say.
Speed and Range
This is probably the main place where the Tarform suffers. While they make 120mph sound like a lot, that’s well under the top speed of traditional bikes. Most sportbikes hit over 200mph. Even dirt bikes can go over 150. 120mph is only fast if you’re comparing it to mopeds, which top out at 60.
Then there’s the range. They advertise the range on a single charge as 120 miles, in the city. You can often assume to expect less than what the manufacturer advertises, for obvious reasons. This is actually at the low range for gas powered motorcycles, which can generally go 120-200 miles on a tank of gas. Even for electric motorcycles, it’s not a terribly impressive range. Not bad, by any means, but it doesn’t stand out too far from the crowd.
Of course, that’s where the modularity comes in. If it’s as easy to replace parts as Tarform says, then you can expect more battery packs to become available as the technology improves, allowing you to increase the range of your motorcycle and offset this issue. Increasing top speed may be more troublesome.
Modularity and Build Quality
Far as we’ve seen, there’s been no reason to doubt the build quality of the bike or the effectiveness of the modular system. The only problem is that it will be impossible to know until the bike has been on the road for some time. This is something we may have to cover later on. But for now, know there’s been no red flags.
The Biggest Problem: Price
Something that’s harder to argue is the dissuading effect of the price. The average price of a starter motorcycle ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. Overall, the average is closer to $16,000.
This puts the Tarform’s proposed intro-level price of $24,000 as far above-market. While this vehicle is meant to be seen as an investment, paying so much for something that lacks the performance of comparably priced vehicles (despite the lovable element of sustainability) is a hit to the pocketbook.
As a result, the Tarform feels aimed at people with money to burn. While it seems like an amazing product, that price point will be a deterrent for those who would otherwise love the chance to get a motorcycle that is genuinely sustainable.