In a surprise move, it turns out that NIU is planning to release the first version of its highly anticipated RQi electric motorcycle later this year.

This news comes as a bit of a twist after NIU’s latest product launch earlier this week turned out to be an unveiling for an electric kickscooter for international markets and three electric mopeds for the domestic Chinese market.

The company had teased a new product ahead of the launch, leading many to believe that the previously unveiled RQi electric motorcycle would finally be launching.

The NIU RQi was unveiled at CES2020 last January, touting a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) from a 30 kW (40 hp) motor.

It had originally been planned to launch by the end of the year, but 2020 wreaked havoc on product launches around the world.

Niu RQi-GT electric motorcycle

While not the main feature at NIU’s product launch event in China earlier this week, the RQi actually took the stage with an announcement about the bike’s impending release.

We just didn’t hear about it in the west because it wasn’t meant for us… at least not yet.

Multiple sources within NIU have now confirmed to Electrek that the RQi electric motorcycle will officially launch first in China, entering the market in the second half of 2021.

One source indicated that the RQi would be ready for stores by September 2021.

However, the bike won’t be quite the same version we were expecting.

A lower-spec version will debut first, offering a 5 kW (6.7 hp) motor and 100 km/h (62 mph) top speed, though there will be a boost function that will offer a quick sprint up to 110 km/h (68 mph).

This initial version of the RQi will include a pair of removable 72V 36Ah battery packs for a combined capacity of 5.2 kWh. The World Motorcycle Test Cycle (WMTC) range is rated at 119 km (74 miles).

The WMTC is a standardized testing regimen for motorcycles that mimics real-world riding and covers a range of speeds in a single trip from stop-and-go city riding to highway riding.

A source familiar with NIU’s product strategy has confirmed to Electrek that the full spec RQi announced last year is still in the works and will follow the initial lower spec model. NIU has not yet announced a release date for the 160 km/h (100 mph) version.

First public display of a NIU RQi; note the included passenger foot pegs

We can also confirm that a version of the RQi will be homologated for Europe by the beginning of 2022, in time to reach NIU dealers in Europe by spring 2022. Rollout in the US will follow shortly thereafter, but will take slightly longer to achieve DOT homologation. It is not clear if the specs for the US and EU versions will identically match that of the initial Chinese version, but based on past releases of NIU products, they are expected to be quite similar.

NIU has also followed a fairly rapid development path after releasing its electric mopeds, with higher power versions following quickly on the heels of initially lower power models. Assuming the company follows the same strategy, we may not have to wait long for the full power RQi motorcycle.

And a clue to its imminent status can even be seen in an image posted to the company’s Weibo page, a Chinese social media.

There an image lists the motorcycle with the designation RQiPro along with similar specifications to the full power version we heard about last year, though the power has been boosted from 30 kW to 32 kW.

Previously only seen in computer renderings, the NIU RQi electric motorcycle actually made an appearance at NIU’s product launch event earlier this week.

It took the stage and then was available for a few lucky people in attendance to throw a leg over. The bike looks similar to the original computer renderings, though now sports added passenger foot pegs.

With the Chinese launch just a few months away, we expect to learn more about the bike soon. The company has not yet released pricing info, but we can extrapolate a bit based on NIU’s existing products.

Batteries and motors are the most costly components on an electric two-wheeler. Compared to NIU’s highest powered electric moped, the NIU NQi GT, the RQi appears to feature around 20% more battery capacity and 60% more motor power. Assuming a 40% premium over the RMB 20,299 NQi GT (US $3,095), that would put the RQi at around RMB 28,500 (US $4,350) in China. But of course the new tooling and components needed for the RQi’s production will likely add to the price, perhaps pushing it closer to RMB 35,000 (USD $5,300).

What would that translate to in the US? Again we can use NIU’s domestic prices to extrapolate. That NQi GT receives a 48% price hike when it is imported to the US, reaching USD $4,599. That same proportion would see the RQi priced at around USD $7,800. A 10% US federal tax credit for electric motorcycles could see the price drop closer to USD $7,000.

Of course this pricing talk is speculative at this point, but NIU has followed a fairly consistent product rollout and pricing strategy for many years now, so these numbers could be fairly accurate if current trends continue.

Electrek‘s take

So two things: 1) I’m bummed to see that we’re getting the training wheels version of the RQi first, but 2) I’m stoked that the RQi is finally going to roll out of NIU’s skunkworks and into the light of day.

Ok, “training wheels version” might be a bit harsh. After all 110 km (68 mph) is nothing to scoff at. It’s more than enough for an urban electric motorcycle, though barely reaches the minimum necessary for highway riding.

I’m also excited to see the bike will feature removable batteries. That’s been NIU’s specialty on all of its mopeds, but it was never a guarantee for what will be the company’s largest EV to date. Removable batteries are key to allowing apartment dwellers to own these types of motorcycles, as they let riders charge the batteries at home or work while the motorcycle remains parked on the street.

The market for urban electric motorcycles is certainly heating up, especially in the US. If SONDORS can get the Metacycle out by Q3 of 2020 like it intends to, they could head off NIU by several months with a potentially slightly higher power urban electric motorcycle.

The Metacycle is currently priced at USD $5,000, though features a smaller battery than the NIU RQi. The Metacycle’s price is also speculated to be promotional, and thus is unlikely to remain this low after deliveries begin.

Both the Metacycle and NIU RQi could compete favorably with established entries in the market, such as the $9,295 Zero FXS, the closest spec electric motorcycle already on the road.

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