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Greased Frightening – Lightning Motorcycle’s Scary-fast LS-218: MD Riding Impression

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If you’re like many motorcyclists, you’ve been casually dismissing electric motorcycles as “not viable”—not enough range, too heavy, too expensive, and so on.

But maybe you’ve perked up your ears a bit of late, as the tech continues to get better, less expensive, more “viable.” On the Isle of Man, top TT Zero lap speeds have been steadily increasing, with John McGuiness’s lap speed hitting 117 MPH in 2014, not too far behind Bruce Antsey’s outright top lap speed of 132 MPH in 2014.

So maybe you’ve heard of Lightning Motorcycles, maybe you haven’t. Maybe when I say, “Ride The Lightning,” you just think, “Metallica, YEAH!” Or maybe you said to yourself, “Yeah, I’d like to ride that 200 HP beast.”

Doesn’t really matter, anyway—if you’re reading this, you’ve now heard of Lightning Motorcycles, and their LS-218, claimed to be the “world’s fastest production motorcycle.”

Now, we’re wont to be rather skeptical of such claims, and maybe you are too. And anyway, one could argue that being the fastest production bike is a pointless claim in a world where speed limits top out at 70 MPH. One might also argue that Lightning isn’t really making “production” motorcycles—they’re just a handful of folks in Palo Alto, essentially hand-building these things.

Whatever. These are all moot points. As Eric will tell you shortly, the bike is ridiculously fast. His first words to me after riding it: “The bike is an animal.  Fastest thing I’ve ever ridden.” Remember, this is a guy who goes by the nickname “GoGo.”

Before Eric tells you about the ride, let’s talk about the tech. Set the stage, if you will.

Again, Lightning calls their LS-218 the world’s fastest production motorcycle, electric or not, and backs up that claim with a video of the speedometer on the bike hitting 218 MPH at Bonneville.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is a bike you can buy today, starting at under $40k—less than Kawasaki’s H2R—and take out for a 200+ MPH joyride down I-5. Who needs high speed rail to El Lay?

Wait… forget I said that. The last thing I need is some over-financed, entitled brat pulling a chunk of his trust fund, buying an LS-218, bookin’ it down The Five with news choppers capturing every minute of it, and then saying “But Surj told me to!”  in the interviews afterward … after daddy’s lawyers bust him out of the hoosegow. I’m not taking the fall for that one.

Back to the matter at hand. The LS-218 is fast. The numbers:

  • 200 horsepower.
  • 168 foot-pounds of torque. (That’s not a typo. I double-triple-checked.)
  • 10,500 RPM “redline”—if that’s even relevant.
  • 218 MPH top speed, with high speed gearing and fairing.
  • 100 mile average range with the 12 kWh battery pack. Presumably worse in practice since no one who rides one will be able to keep their throttle hand in check.

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The bike weighs 495 pounds, and comes with a RaceTech fork, upgradable to Öhlins, and an Öhlins TTX shock out back. Both ends are adjustable for preload, compression, and rebound, with the rear also getting a ride height adjustment. Swingarm is billet aluminum.

Brakes are Brembo, wheels are Marchesini forged magnesium. Transmission? None, thank you very much. Direct drive for direct results from the liquid cooled motor, in speedy fashion.

Charge time is 30 minutes on a fast DC charger, 120 minutes on a level 2 charger. If you’re an internal combustion person, these designations will be meaningless, but the important thing here is that neither of these are standard wall outlets. A level 2 charger, though, is a pretty standard upgrade for the electric car crowd, requiring just a 240-volt source. You didn’t need that clothes dryer anyway, right?

So I know what you’re saying right now. I said it too. This is an expensive bike. Forty grand will get you a couple of fast street bikes, a couple dirt bikes, maybe even a project bike or two, and a crappy old truck to haul ‘em in. Good times, right?

The point here is that Lightning is doing some magical stuff, out on the edge of electric motorcycle technology, with impressive performance in various events from Pike’s Peak to road racing.

I commuted on a Zero for a couple weeks in 2014, and while I’m a lifelong gearhead, who grew up with grease-stained hands and gasoline for cologne, I’m excited by the dawning of this new age of electric bikes. You should be too.

Riding The Lightning

By Eric “GoGo” Gulbransen

I’ve been conscious of electric motorcycles for years now. I’ve filmed them at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and at Laguna Seca. I’ve interviewed their engineers, their riders, and I’ve even pushed them around the pits. But I’ve never ridden one. Never that is, until the Lightning LS-218. It’s a beautiful motorcycle, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

What you might need me to tell you, though, is what it’s like to ride. I was lucky enough to ride one recently in the city, on the highway, and in the mountains—the perfect test.

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I went into this experience a blank canvas: I had never even seen a Lightning LS-218. I knew nothing about it. Richard Hatfield, Lightning’s Founder and CEO, met me at the door with a welcoming smile and talked me through a quick tour of the company’s Palo Alto headquarters. He’s clearly done this before; I imagine it’s a daily routine.

It’s pretty cool to see a motorcycle being built right here in the Bay Area. I leered at half-built bikes on stands, just waiting to be finished; carbon fiber body panels in various states of completion sitting patiently on racks; techs meticulously forming parts … one sexy, sweeping curve at a time.

The business end of it fascinated me—just how do you start something like this? The technical side overwhelmed me—apparently there’s a lot more to electricity than plugging a toaster in the wall. But curiosity tugged relentlessly at the back of my Vanson jacket like an eight year old at an amusement park, “What’s it like to ride this thing?!”

Finally, with my leg over the bike and helmet sliding over my head, Richard went through his pre-flight checklist of riding instructions with me. As my faceshield went down I cringed a little for him.

Imagine what it’s like putting some stranger on your most prized creation, and aiming them both at the technical, bike-eating mountain roads around Alice’s.

Richard led us out of Palo Alto driving the Lightning support van. It only took me about a hundred feet to feel comfortable on the LS-218—it’s easy to ride. With all the talk about electronics, power delivery and re-gen, I welcomed how natural the bike felt once underway.

That seems to be one of the most compelling traits of electric motorcycles: infinite adjustability… If you want more aggressive power delivery, you can have it. Less? You can have that too.

I don’t own an electric car, but I’ve seen them around enough to know they are whisper-quiet. I’m also a motor-head—I’ve raced open class twins for decades. For me, power comes in the heart pounding rhythm of twin cylinder war drums.

Lightning’s LS-218 is not quiet. This bike whines its way up to speed. The faster you go, the louder it gets—makes sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is how much power it makes. Apparently this machine is such a wild stallion that it can’t even be strapped to a dyno without burning the rear tire to shreds. Engineers had to build a special assembly for the dyno to measure the Lightning’s 200+ horsepower. I was told all this at the factory but I don’t weigh such claims and numbers with much enthusiasm—I’m a seat of the pants guy. And I’ll tell you right now: my pants say this is the most powerful motorcycle I have ridden.

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Take any standard motorcycle out there, roll it at mid-speed, mid-throttle, and then quickly twist its throttle to the stop. What happens at first isn’t all that exciting: the motor gasps for air, the pipe resonates a low drone of exhaust, the chain draws tighter and tighter as you wait for it all to get faster and faster and louder and louder.

Do the same on the Lightning, and you better hope you did your homework last week.

First of all: the sound. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the sound it makes echoes off the pavement below you like an F-22 Raptor launching from the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s intensely thrilling and intimidating—because the wild stuff comes before you get there. If a standard sportbike’s motor screams once you’re running flat out, the Lightning’s motor screams a warning: “You better be ready for flat out!”

I’ll admit, I never ran flat out on the Lightning. The world we were in was just too small.

I rode back and forth through a string of esses so we could get photos. This was a great opportunity for me to focus on the Lightning, and on the first two passes, I gently leaned it in and out of turns. The next few runs I set it free, faster and faster each pass. This is how I get to know a bike.

The Lightning holds its weight slightly higher than a traditional sportbike, yet it’s surprisingly easy to throw around. No surprises on the brakes, they’re right on with anything at this level.

The LS-218 likes to turn, yet it’s stable—a good pairing. The riding position is aggressive; it’s bred from racing. I felt at ease approaching turns, I felt confident in turns, and I loved powering up and rocketing toward the next one. This is a solid, well-designed machine with tons of potential.

In its present state, the steering stops offer a limited range of turning ability. While this is appropriate for the track, it’s not ideal for the street—you need that extra steering lock to navigate slow-speed stuff like parking lots and U-turns. Richard told me they already have plans to offer more lock.

When you roll off the throttle, the bike goes into a regenerative mode. This is the bike’s way of using motion to create energy.

Inertia is the resistance of an object in motion, to change in its motion. Imagine trying to stop a free-rolling freight train by reaching out and grabbing the last car. It could take miles to slow down even though it’s not under power. That is inertia.

The LS-218 uses this same inertia to recharge its batteries as you ride—every time you roll off the throttle —by capturing the motion of the rear wheel, instead of just letting it freewheel. Again, the intensity of this function is adjustable.

The more aggressive the regenerative setting is, the farther you can go on a charge. Right now the Lightning travels about 100 miles on a charge; surprisingly far.

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The other surprise about the Lightning is its “wet” weight—just 495 pounds. That’s not much more than many leading inline-four Superbikes on the market today, which is remarkable.

To me, the idea of an electric motorcycle has always seemed like a novelty, an interesting idea to play around with. But I never took them seriously.

I stand corrected. The Lightning LS-218 is not a toy; it’s one very serious machine. In fact, I left the Lightning factory that day wondering what it might be like to race one, against the best of the rest—the gas-powered sportbikes.

Aw come on. What are motorcycles for, if not to dream.

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This article is copyright CityBike Magazine – used with permission. Surj is Editor in Chief of San Francisco-based CityBike Magazine and also runs LaneSplittingIsLegal.com.

137 Comments

  1. Jmess says:

    When an experienced rider considers a bike scary fast…IT IS! The only other bikes I have ever heard that said about over the years were a CR500 and a 2004 ZX-10. The only bike that I found ridiculous was a modified Hayabusa my friend swapped me for a day–it was close to scary. This sucker should come with a couple of boxes of depends built into the price, although they would look kinda funny under leathers.

  2. Tank says:

    It doesn’t matter if you like electric bikes or not. This article shows us what can be done with an electic bike. I don’t understand how anybody that loves motorcycles can have anything negative to say about this bike (or the article). At least it isn’t another V-twin cruiser.

  3. Nuck Chorris says:

    The range problem is easily fixed: Make the batteries removable and make them exchangeable at gas stations. You just pull in, exchange your wasted battery for a charged one, drop it in and off you go. The station charges the battery, and it’s ready for the next guy.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Not so easy as it sounds. Assuming everyone could agree on a standard battery chemistry (they can’t), battery cell size (they can’t), a universal battery pack (they can’t) and standard charging format (they can’t), there would still be some huge challenges to a model like that.

    • Buzz says:

      We’re not talking about Duracells here.

  4. Tuskerdu says:

    not interested.

  5. PatrickD says:

    I’m really waiting for the TT Zero to bump up the race distance to two laps, so we can see how a ‘pit-stop’ change over might work out.
    I think the TT has a great deal of credit due for giving these bikes a showcase and helping to bring electric bikes into the minds of lots of nay-sayers.

    • Chris says:

      Good idea. I wonder how 2 laps would go. Didn’t the MotoCzys (sp??) have removable batteries?

      The TT has been airing on Velocity since Saturday. I think tonight’s episode will have the TT Zero race.

  6. Hot Dog says:

    Boy, are there ever a lot of real rocket scientists on this site. The electrics are coming and nothing will stop them.

    • Artem_T says:

      Agreed.
      But batteries are still heavy.

    • Grover says:

      I don’t think the average rider is against electrics as much as they are shocked by the price of entry and lack of range. This is what turns them off and creates the negativity towards electrics. This includes Zero and other manufacturers that offer substandard bikes at premium prices. Also, with the exception of the LS-218, the other electric bikes being produced fall way short aesthetically. Electrics will prosper when they are directly competitive with their ICE brethren in range, aesthetics and price. There is more to motorcycling than “gee, look at all the money I saved by not having to buy gas”.

  7. Gham says:

    Some people complain about being born to late,they should have lived in some mythic earlier time.I think I was born to soon.They’re going to get this electric stuff down pat in a few years and I’m afraid I’m going to be to old to enjoy it!Sounds like huge fun except I live in a flat,straight line boring state (Michigan).

  8. Norm G. says:

    re: “The other surprise about the Lightning is its “wet” weight—just 495 pounds.”

    tip o’ the hat. that’s less than some of the buckets I tool around on.

    • Selecter says:

      I agree on this. It’s only a few pounds more than my current bike – a 600cc standard.

      The down-side is that it doesn’t get any lighter as you run the tank out of gas! 🙂

      • Bryan says:

        That really isn’t a downside. You can adjust the handling for the weight it is and it doesn’t change based upon the fuel tank level.

        Always the same, always consistent.

  9. Brinskee says:

    Well the bike looks and sounds neat, I’d love to swing a leg over one sometime. I’ve ridden and owned some very fast bikes so it would be fun to do a “from the pants” dyno and experience comparison as the author mentioned.

    For me, range will always be an issue, especially with all the touring I like to do. I realize this bike isn’t set up at all for touring so I’m just speaking in generalities, but when battery tech comes along that will get me 250 miles down the road between charges, AND those charges can be achieved in 30 minutes, AND the batteries hold the same amount of charge for 10 years before needing a replacement, well that’s when I’ll be ready to sign up. Just me, personally.

    Oh and having done 168 MPH legally on the Autobahn, and just a few days ago doing 85 legally in Idaho and Wyoming it made me chuckle a little at the statement that 70 MPH is the fastest one can travel in the world. I too live in the bay area and actually work very close to Lightning Motorcycle in Palo Alto, but the world is bigger than our backyard, even if the article was originally written for City Bike magazine.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_limits_in_the_United_States

  10. TF says:

    Until an e-bike allows me the freedom to ride anywhere I want, as far as I want and for as long as I want, I am not interested. I have seen enough e-bikes plugged into 110 outlets fifty miles from home to know that I don’t want one. I can re-fuel my present ride in about five to ten minutes. A two hour wait while I gain the ability to ride another 200 miles would put a serious damper on my weekend adventures.

    • Joe Bogusheimer says:

      That’s two hours to charge on a 240 volt level 2 charger. You think you’re going to be able to access one of those when you’re out in the boonies somewhere (places where even gas stations are few and far between)? How long to charge on 110, I wonder? 100 mile “average” range? Wonder what they mean by “average”? How long/far will it go at a steady 60 mph on the highway? Electric bike mileage drops considerably even at a moderate highway pace, whereas ICE vehicles typically do better at moderate highway speeds than they do in the city.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “You think you’re going to be able to access one of those when you’re out in the boonies somewhere (places where even gas stations are few and far between)?”

        the man who gets Musk on the phone and secures an agreement to use whatever socket and charging standard he employs with his existing network of “Superchargers” (wherever those are?) wins…

        that’s how I’d do it.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I read where Lightning’s CEO is trying to get Musk on the phone.

          • Blackcayman says:

            How about just include a free Tesla-Lightning converter that stores under the seat!

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            The socket isn’t the issue as Tesla allows anyone to use it royalty free. And it is great for motorcycles since it is so small unlike the CHAdeMO and SAE standards which are large, expensive sockets. The issue is that the charging stations belong to Tesla, the use of which is provided as a free service to Tesla customers. So Lightning would have to strike some kind of a deal with Tesla to allow Lightning owners to use the stations.

        • Joe Bogusheimer says:

          AFAIK, supercharger locations are still pretty limited. Maybe OK if you’re riding the highways between major centers in the US, or between Toronto and Montreal. Zip once you get off the beaten track.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            It is actually pretty vast considering it is the work of just one company, but the infrastructure is still situated along major cities and interstates. Gotta start somewhere, though.

            http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

          • Joe Bogusheimer says:

            I agree it’s impressive what Tesla has been able to do. If electric cars are eventually to take off at all, we’ll need infrastructure like this that’s usable for all electric vehicles, and some sort of common standards. Imagine if your car or motorcycle required some special gasoline that others don’t use, or if the pump nozzle hole on different vehicles were radically different shapes and sizes.

          • Dave says:

            The average American drives 30 miles/day (much higher than other countries). For most drivers the infrastructure is unnecessary, only the acquisition cost must come down for a desirable e-car. Tesla and GM are both promising that for 2017. We will see.

          • Joe Bogusheimer says:

            The average driver may only do 30 miles per day, although I would bet the average commuter’s commute is longer than that.

            Still, many of us can’t afford or don’t have a place to park a second vehicle that’s basically only useful for local driving. Most current electric cars would require me to have a second vehicle if I wanted to make a trip of even 200 km (120 miles) round trip, or plan a lengthy charging stop somewhere along the way.

            It’s OK, though – the pioneers who buy electric cars for commuting (or more, although Tesla type ranges seem to be prohibitively expensive in the immediate future, especially if not heavily subsidised by other people’s money) are helping to pay for the R&D and create demand for charging stations that may eventually benefit us all. I don’t see an electric car in my near future, not because I hate the idea, but because a car that can’t take me a couple hour round trip on the weekend, or a 400-500 mile drive to go skiing in the winter, just won’t do it for me. A Tesla would probably be OK (still not usable for a road trip in this country, given the dearth of charging stations), but they are rather expensive.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            “The average American drives 30 miles/day”

            With my commute / lunch outings, I probably average about 50 miles a day, within the range of some e-bikes and just about all e-cars I would imagine. As with everything, though, averages aren’t worth much. It’s variance that tends to run things: those days that require 100, 200, 500, 1000 miles of driving.For people that have such variances in their driving needs, that means an additional vehicle is required for those days if you are outside of the “charge” infrastructure (or cover a lot of ground as quickly as possible).

            Those types of variances are rare occasions for some people, and that need can be economically met with taxi fares and rental/car sharing cars when required if you live in a large enough metro area. Those like myself who very frequently need to go beyond the range of an electric vehicle would need to own an ICE vehicle in addition to the electric. I don’t know which category the majority of people fall into.

    • TF says:

      I will not use a motorcycle for daily commuting mostly because of the dangerous mix of cars and cell phones. As a result, I might be interested in an electric 4WD F150 sometime in the future.

      As for the MC riding I do and enjoy, I visit places on my motorcycles where it still requires planning and forethought to acquire gasoline. Hence, I don’t see the ability to do this on an e-bike happening during my lifetime.

      It’s really an economic problem of supply and demand. No one will build a charging station in some area where it will see little to no use due to the lack of human traffic…….which is precisely where I want to go on my motorcycle!

  11. abe says:

    After riding the Energica Ego last summer I realized that the clutch and transmission aren’t connections to the engine, they are distractions from it. It was, hands-down, the most “connected” feeling to a motorcycle I have ever experienced and I crave my next opportunity to ride an E-bike. Power, road-feel, the sound of the rubber groaning against the road, the sensation of gathering speed being directly connected to the throttle… it was thrilling and intoxicating. All of the nay-sayers are just exposing the fact that they haven’t ridden one yet and the standard anti-E bullet points sound pretty foolish from the other side of the fence. Like many others I am eagerly waiting for the price-point and range to align with my finances and transportation needs, and I will buy one.

  12. Denny says:

    In ten years E-bikes will have a 20% market share or better – that’s my prediction. The technology will be cost effective by then and gas prices will loom larger. Battery power storage will be overcome and ranges of 200 miles plus will be achieved. I’ve been riding for 43 years and never thought I’d say this – if they do succeed in making a comfortable riding position E-bike with a cost point for the “common” man. I’ll be in the “cue” to have one in my garage. JOMO

    • Scottie says:

      How will battery storage get better? The lithium ion battery has been around for forty years, so you must be aware of some new technology in the pipeline.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        Even absent huge advances in battery density, e-bikes will become more acceptable simply as a function of better infrastructure built up around them, and mass production leading to lower cost. Most longer term riders have more than one bike anyway. For the umpteen trips that doesn’t require much range, a less pricey e-bike will increasingly become the default choice. Especially as a similar product mix change in the much larger car marketplace, reduces the density of gas stations in urban environs.

        I’m also excited about e-bikes’ potential to bring more race tracks closer to where most people actually live. Less noise, less smells, less EPA/Nimby hurdles to clear (assuming batteries hold up to crashes). And battery life is already good enough to cover most track sessions. Just need hotswap and charging facilities in the pits.

        Ditto for the potential for the likes of the E-Freeride to keep hikers/mountain bikers/general busybodies without anything more useful to do, from using the nannystate to ban bikes from virtually every trail network in the country.

        • Nuck Chorris says:

          Totally agree. Range won’t be an issue for much longer. Faster charging solutions as well as the ability to swap your drained battery with a charged one in minutes, will be ways to deal with that problem. Also as you say, racing can become far more popular. You could get a permit and organize a supermoto electric race pretty much anywhere.

  13. allworld says:

    The regenerative system is a key feature, with a less powerful bike, this could calm the range anxiety of many riders.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      How much range could you regain with regenerative braking? I can’t imagine it would be more than 5% or so.

      • Norm G. says:

        yeah, and you’d have to be either off the gas or physically “on the brake” to reap any benefits. this would be same how a hire car that’s spends it’s time on the gas travelling the motorway doesn’t wear out it’s brakes like a New York City taxi or garbage truck would. it’s 2 different duty cycles.

      • allworld says:

        This is all true, but anxiety is a strange animal and facts are not always the cure, sometimes it takes the razzle dazzle.
        It is also the first electric bike that I know of to use this type of system

      • todd says:

        On an electric vehicle you can adjust the amount of regenerative braking from not much to tire screeching abrupt halt. The problem on a motorcycle is that it is typically done through the rear wheel. There’s not much traction available at the rear so regenerative braking needs to be kept at a minimum. Put a motor in the front wheel and suddenly there’s a lot more braking recovery available – at the expense of heavy steering.

  14. billy says:

    This bike is not quiet? Why can’t it be, gears? An electric vehicle should be nearly silent. Makes sense to me.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      To conserve energy to extend range it likely uses straight cut gears which do produce noise. Helical cut gears are quieter but absorb energy. The earlier Honda VFRs used straight cut gears in the valve train and the noise was always reported in road tests, as one example of many available. Absolute silence in electric vehicles has been found to pose a danger to pedestrians to the extent that some now make artificial engine noise.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        It is a direct-drive as far as I know, which would mean no transmission or reduction/step-up gear. How would helical vs. straight cut gears come into play?

        Other than some chain noise and motor “whir”, I don’t know what other noise it would be making. Maybe the motor is just intentionally loud? The belt-driven Zero I rode once was almost silent.

        • Norm G. says:

          Q: Other than some chain noise and motor “whir”, I don’t know what other noise it would be making.(?)

          A: f@#kall.

          anybody catch the E-grandprix from Moscow on FoxSports over the weekend…? well I did, beautiful cars i’ll give ’em that, but nothing but the “whoosh” of gear mesh, brushless motors, and the limits of Electron Chemistry (as set by the Universe) on display from my read.

    • Bart says:

      Main sources of noise for this machine are the chain picking up and dropping off the motor sprocket (there is a torque ripple/noise effect) and the energizing/collapse of the magnetic fields of the motor winding can cause the windings and even the iron to chirp. Also, the effect of PWM (pulse width modulation)but I don’t know how they are shaping the waveform for this application.

      The chain can be quieted with rubber plates on the sprocket faces, the motor coils can be quieted by potting them in epoxy and designing out as much of the iron as possible, that requires very good control of the coil shape and placement in the field windings. Requires water cooling, which they have done. I went through all this learning 30 years ago on motors and drivetrains for advanced robots and automated guided vehicles. All we had was lead-acid batteries then. Good to see this stuff coming of age in bikes.

  15. Azi says:

    Very nice stuff. Only problem is that I’m sure I will get something even more awesome with my $40k if I spend it 5 years later. E-bike development is so rapid that it’s more similar to computer equipment in depreciation and opportunity cost. Dinosaur powered bikes have definitely peaked in tech – not much gain in performance compared to 5 years ago for these.
    I looked at buying a Zero S last month but decided to wait a bit longer. Took the same approach when Blu-Ray came out 🙂

  16. Alex says:

    Why the giant rear wheel sprocket? Is the 200 hp and 168 ft lbs of torque not enoug to get the front wheel up? Canyon gearing?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Obviously it has a large front sprocket to go with it. My guess is the motor’s torque combined with the tall, single gear ratio would put way too much stress on the motorshaft with a normal sized sprocket set.

    • todd says:

      Or likely, it’s because the motr spins at a relatively high RPM compared to the rear wheel. Since the sprockets are it’s only transmission they need to be sized appropriately to balance acceleration against top speed.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Its a 10500 rpm motor, so the ratio shouldn’t be much different than a modern sportbike in top gear.

        • todd says:

          Ok then, an ICE has three reduction ratios (primary crank to clutch, transmission ratios, and final sprockets) resulting somewhere around 4.5 or 5:1. So a 16 tooth “countershaft” sprocket would give you a 70-80 tooth rear sprocket with similar ratios on this bike.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Yep, you are correct.

          • todd says:

            The challenge with the single ratio is like choosing which gear you want to be stuck in. I imagine to get the level of acceleration you would get out of a ICE you wouldn’t want to go with the 4.5:1 ratio (6th gear). You probably want to choose something that is closer to third since this bike makes about 50-60 percent more torque than a gas bike. That would limit top speed – unless the motor revs beyond 10k. Imaybe to get the claimed top speed you have to swap a smaller rear sprocket and the demo bike is geared lower for more impressive acceleration.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I had read on their website that the 200mph bike has a different sprocket. I don’t think it was made clear in the review which gearing this particular bike has, but I would imagine it isn’t the 200mph bike.

          • tyg says:

            If I recall, electric motors also typically have a completely flat torque curve, so you’ll be able to make use of that entire 10,500 RPM.
            Must of our gearing is designed to make smaller bands of RPM usable at whatever speed we need.

          • todd says:

            Electric motors do make max torque all the way down to zero, correct. Now look at a big inline four, it’ll stay pretty close to peak torque from 4k through 11k and beyond. So yes, you may need to be in a lower gear for a little while to get the additional torque from the lower gearing. You can do this many times over the range of speed available. On an electric motor (without a transmission) you are limited to the acceleration and top speed dictated by your single gear ratio. Even an electric bike would benefit from a multi-ratio gear box.

            When I was developing an electric vehicle the multi-speed transmission was the single most difficult and costly system in the vehicle. It did prove to be of great advantage to retain it but many electric vehicle startups are smart not to include one until talent and deep pockets permit.

  17. Bill says:

    A smart move would be to include a Tuono version, upright and just as powerful, but with a little more legroom and less wrist busting. I’d be in.

  18. Rocky says:

    Looks fantastic!

    A mate of mine has built his own electric racebike using a slightly more powerful (and much, much torquier) motor than that one, and is currently killing it in the Australian racing e-bike racing series. His bike makes about 160kw and up to 600Nm (~440ft-lb!!!) peak torque. Needless to say, it is brutally quick. https://www.facebook.com/voltronmotorcycles?fref=ts

  19. Krisd says:

    That really is one gorgeous looking bike- the only gorgeous ebike that I am aware of. Great job Lightning Motorcycles.

  20. Grover says:

    What is the range of 218 mph?

  21. Austin ZZR1200 says:

    In 5 years the ratio of e-bike haters will have leveled off to the same level as Harley-haters: a stable 20% or so. As soon as one of these things comes on the market with 200-mile range at $8k price-point (I estimate 24 months)..sign me up.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “I estimate 24 months?”

      I estimate 24 years.

      • Austin ZZR1200 says:

        This was in 2012 http://www.wired.com/2012/12/hanebrink-x5/

        I’ll see you guys in 2 years. There are too many macro-economic forces in play for this not to happen

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          “I’ll see you guys in 2 years.”

          Only because that is how long I’d have to wait for you to get here on that bike (X-5).

          Those are nothing more than claims in 2012. That pretty little bike in the picture never went from LA to Vegas, and it still isn’t even available for sale even though it was scheduled to be complete in 2013. If it ever does become available for sale, any attempt to reach Vegas from LA even at 25mph average speed will result in a long walk through the desert, I’d wager.

          The laws governing physics and chemistry related to battery technology have been thumping the macro-economics of it for the better part of a century now. E-bikes (and cars) will get better. They will find their place. But it will require an act of government or a quantum leap in technology for electrics to really deal a blow to the ICE market.

          • Austin ZZR1200 says:

            I work in the battery industry so I have a bit of insight into where demand is going and why…

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Well, that certainly makes you far more qualified than me. And yet I am still going to bet against that 200-mile range, $8K bike in two years. If I’m eating crow in two years, well, then I won’t mind because there would be 200 mile electric bikes I could buy for $8K.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I estimate 24 months”

      Norm G estimates, if it were doable…? they would’ve done it already.

      the “driver” and the perhaps most important (the financial incentive) to create the “longer lasting light bulb” here already long existed with NASA and the Space Program, particularly the Shuttle. if anyone thinks the needs of civil transportation are suddenly going to bring this to fruition, you’re kidding yourself. Mendeleyev’s table says different.

  22. Butch says:

    You smell that ?
    You smell that ?
    What sir ?
    Castrol son.
    Nothing else smells like that.
    I love the smell of Castrol in the morning.

  23. Gary says:

    I have never ridden an e-bike, but I’ve driven in an e-car. A P85 Tesla.

    To all you naysayers who think an e-vehicle can’t be fun and exciting, I challenge you to take a test of this car. Go ahead … I’ll wait right here.

    • Mark R says:

      I can’t afford these ‘competitive’ electric vehicles.
      $30k+ for this bike, $120k for the tesla!
      Gas suits me just fine until electric vehicles drop in price.

    • RRocket says:

      P85 fast? Absolutely. Exciting? Somewhat. But 100%, absolutely soul-less. No lust-worthy, thrilling engine sound. And those of us who love petrol cars and motorcycles, those 2 things are deal breakers.

      • Gary says:

        Soul-less? Have you driven one?

        I am not sure what soul-less means … maybe you are having the same problem. But the only thing stopping me from buying a Tesla is the purchase price. And I think that will come down with volume production.

        And BTW … I’m pretty sure people were saying things like “soul-less” each and every time there was a revolution in propulsion. Horses, no doubt, have plenty of soul.

        • Selecter says:

          I had a Moto Guzzi for a couple of years. Other Guzzi owners would refer to other (almost invariably Japanese) bikes, like my ZX-6R or Z750S, as “soul-less”.

          So far as I can tell, “soul-less” means “it’s actually a quantifiably better machine than what I have, and need to find some way to knock it down a peg for my ego’s sake.”

          Irrational justification wasn’t my thing; I don’t have any Italian bikes now. 😉

          • Selecter says:

            This reply did not go where I intended – was supposed to be under the Tesla comments… Go figure.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            “‘soul-less’ means “it’s actually a quantifiably better machine”

            I agree with you. Whenever I read the word “soul” or “character” in a review, I just automatically translate that to mean flawed. I don’t think “soulless” is the word that would come to mind of anyone who has ridden a ZX-6R or similar wailing past the 12K rpm mark squirting out of a 3rd gear corner.

          • Gary says:

            In my 42 years on two wheels, here is a list of vehicles judged to lack “soul.”

            – Two strokes
            – Bikes with no spokes
            – Bikes with no kick starters
            – Bikes with more than two cylinders
            – Bikes not built by Harley

            – Electric bikes

            Admittedly, that last leap is a big one. But electricity is the lowest common denominator … the core into which all energy feeds. I’d bet good money this is our future. The profit motive will make it so.

          • mickey says:

            Gary says:
            June 9, 2015 at 6:29 pm
            In my 42 years on two wheels, here is a list of vehicles judged to lack “soul”

            – Bikes not built by Harley

            Pretty narrow view of the motorcycle world, you should get out more

      • Rocky says:

        hey, if fast, quiet and modern isn’t your thing, there are plenty of Harleys to go round. Just get yourself a nice tasseled leather vest and some chaps, and off you go 😛

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Honestly, I haven’t enjoyed driving a single car I’ve owned since manual transmissions virtually disappeared. And I have had a few fast ones. They are just appliances.

      • ApriliaRST says:

        Are you certain that you haven’t just aged a bit and developed a more realistic attitude?

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          The VW I rented recently a couple of years ago in Europe was manual, and I was surprised how much fun I had diving it around.

          • Norm G. says:

            even an econo-box manual bought and kept for driving on the weekends feels like a friggin’ Ferrari after doing time in a lumbering truck or SUV with a slushbox. amazing innit…?

            “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up” – Ferris Bueller

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I drive a 300hp sedan right now (with slushbox as the only available transmission option, just like the last six vehicles I’ve bought). Powerwise that is probably average by today’s standards, but hardly slow or lumbering. I’d rather drive that manual Passat (not that much smaller or nimbler than my current car) any day. Yep, it is amazing how much more engaging a car is with a manual transmission. I suspect I’d feel the same way about a motorcycle.

      • Frank says:

        Couldn’t agree with you more Jeremy. I thought Brammo was on to something when they produced an e-bike with a six speed tranny. And I know it is probably not as “efficient” with a tranny but I like the experience of shifting.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “To all you naysayers who think an e-vehicle can’t be fun and exciting”

      hmmn, that’s not what I’m hearing. practically seems to be the “fly” in everyone’s proverbial “ointment”.

  24. Grover says:

    I’d like to them produce a sport touring bike with less HP and more range for perhaps 1/3 the cost. That would be an achievement and an instant sales success. Why does every boutique builder have to prove that they have the fastest bike in order to catch our attention? Build a bike that average folks will buy and then you can have all the business success you can handle.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Build a bike that average folks will buy”

      Zero makes the “average folk” electric bikes right now. That is what is possible at those price points right now.

      I don’t think you are going to get appreciably more range by reducing power of the motor. Same way a 600cc bike gets roughly the same highway mileage as a 1000cc bike.

      • Grover says:

        My point is nobody gives a cr@p how fast the bike If there is an extremely limited market for it. As for Zero, most riders think they build the ugliest bikes on the planet and still charge up the bum for it. Not impressed. Also, motors come in different levels of efficiencies, just like IC engines. Bearings, rotor design, materials, brush/brushless, magnet type, windings and heat limitations, etc all have an effect on motor performance. All these variables and a lot more are considerations when designing a motor for a specific application.

        • Dave says:

          The motors are already extremely efficient. There is very little opportunity there. The ideal/most practical application for electric moto is lightweight urban scooters. Not very exciting, at least not what’s going to grab the kind of attention necessary to attract investors that will be necessary to an electric vehicle company’s growth.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          “My point is nobody gives a cr@p how fast the bike If there is an extremely limited market for it. ”

          On the contrary: they are trying to sell to an extremely limited niche market who they believe will specifically give a crap how fast the bike is. They are only building 150 of these things for this production run if I remember correctly. There are probably that many people out there who would care to have the worlds fastest production motorcycle at that price.

          My point is they are not building these things for “average folk” because the bikes, even the “average Joe” Zeros, just aren’t particularly affordable to the average guy who uses his/her motorcycle for more than just commuting, and I don’t think they will be for a while.

  25. J Lowrance says:

    I’ve ridden the Italian Energica Ego and have to say these new electric bikes are impressive.

    Once the manufacturers start popping them out with 200+ mile range with performance of a typical liter bike they will sell like hot cakes.

    Very little maintenance, no fuel, no noise to disturb the locals….where do I sign?!?!? Petrol head die-hards (I place myself in this catagory) can deny it all they like, these bikes are the future and the future is starting to look good….real good.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Once the manufacturers start popping them out with 200+ mile range with performance of a typical liter bike they will sell like hot cakes.”

      translation, my grand children and I will all go to our graves (peacefully) never having seen the wiley and elusive “Unicorn”.

  26. Kevin says:

    “like an F-22 Raptor launching from the deck of an aircraft carrier.”

    The F-22 is an Air Force aircraft and not designed to land or take off from a carrier.

  27. xLaYN says:

    I would like to give the price to the higher foot pegs ever to LS-218.
    LS-218… when you want to think in a reason to visit your chiropractor think in LS-218…. (yeah I know, race bike: race position).
    I’m on the side on the pistons moving… and anyone with a particular bike configuration (v-twin, v four, 4 in line, triple) is.
    It’s the connection to those gears moving… the clunky noises… the Goldberg machine running…
    But newer generations would think different and to them the future belongs…

  28. Montana says:

    I’m all for electric bikes if they are light and as maintenace free as my other electric appliances. I’d miss the addictive power pulses of my airhead, but I could tolerate that if I didn’t have to stop for gas, change drive-line oils or shift gears.
    What I can’t put up with is the short range. Perhaps a 60 HP model will mitigate that.
    But I doubt it.
    Unless there is a totally new technology on the horizon, battery tech is already at the point where heat problems preclude much more energy storage. I fear that gasoline won’t go away anytime soon.
    America has huge natural gas reserves. I don’t understand why the politicians are so keen on subsidizing battery power (derived largely from coal and oil) when natural gas is by far the cleanest carbon based fuel and the technology to use it in vehicles is extant.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “when natural gas is by far the cleanest carbon based fuel and the technology to use it in vehicles is extant.”

      A lot of people use it to heat their homes, directly or through electrical production. Start adding U.S. transportation demands to the natural gas supply, and prices won’t look too pretty. We have to drill for gas, and it still produces CO2 when you burn it. So it is still an ugly fuel from a political standpoint, which is why you don’t see much backing for it I imagine. Yes, a lot of coal gets burned to produce electricity, but the visionaries see a future where our EVs are being charged by wind and solar energy, not coal.

      Besides, I wouldn’t really want to straddle a 3600 psi tank full of LNG while humming down the road. But that’s just me.

    • Toddo says:

      America has huge natural gas reserves. I don’t understand why the politicians are so keen on subsidizing battery power (derived largely from coal and oil) when natural gas is by far the cleanest carbon based fuel and the technology to use it in vehicles is extant.
      The answer to that is simple. The oil and gas companies still make money if electric vehicles are sold. The real answer would be to use hydrogen. (convert existing vehicles with zero emissions)but then nobody would make money in the powerful realm of the oil and gas industry .

      • Joe Bogusheimer says:

        Where does the energy come from to produce the hydrogen? Unlike coal, oil, natural gas, etc, there is no way to drill for or mine hydrogen. You can get it out of natural gas, wasting a bunch of energy in the process, or you can split water molecules, which takes a crap load of electrical energy, and isn’t terribly efficient. And where do you get the electricity from?

        It’s the laws of nature that prevent us from switching to a “hydrogen economy”, not the power of the oil and gas industry.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        “then nobody would make money in the powerful realm of the oil and gas industry .”

        I don’t buy your “simple answer”. Almost all hydrogen produced in the world is manufactured from fossil fuels right now, so guess who will be making the money if we all of a sudden switched to hydrogen powered vehicles? Yep, you’d be pulling up to the Exxon station to fill up with H2-SuperPure. Yes, H2 can be made from water for substantially more money, but you need a lot of electricity for that meaning O&G would still be making as much money as they would if we went all in with batteries.

      • Bart says:

        Water is burnt (oxidized) hydrogen, H2O. Takes about twice as much energy to unburn it to make H2 as you get burning it. Add energy to pressurize, hydrate or liquefy it. H2 is more like electricity, it all had to be made, then handled without leaks (difficult).

  29. Marshall says:

    e-bikes dominating the market are just waiting on the batteries. The batteries are getting better by the minute. The electric motors power electronics have been better than any ICE-equivalent for years. I hope well healed early adopters buy lots of these (and Zeroes, Teslas, Leafs, etc.) to create a huge market soon. That said, I will always love the v-fours that I have had over the years. Great article!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I haven’t really noticed any big advancements in battery chemistry that would lead me to believe that batteries are getting “better by the minute”. They are making more room to package in more cells, but I haven’t really seen any big aha moments in battery technology, unfortunately. I would say they have some good stuff on the horizon, but that good stuff has been on the horizon for a very long time: it just never seems to materialize. E-bikes will find their place for certain applications, but I think they are several decades away from dominating the market.

    • Grover says:

      So what are we looking at here- an $8,000 motorcycle with $32,000 in batteries? Where is all the money going? Development? Advertising? Start up costs? Markup? Anybody have any idea of what the breakdown of
      cost is on this bike? I can’t imagine $40,000 being spent on a frame, two wheels, a motor and a battery pack. Must be some nice wheels!

      • Dave says:

        @$40k, there is probably very little profit left. This is essentially a repeatable custom buid. Considering they’ve built a 200+ mph motorcycle with very immature technology, with refined functionality and a genuinely capable chassis for only $40k is nearly miraculous, in my opinion.

  30. Jeremy in TX says:

    If I commuted on a motorcycle, I think an e-bike would be a great addition to the garage. I really don’t care about the economics of it: I would just love to never have to stop for gas or change oil on a weekend. I would also seriously consider an e-bike as a dirt bike.

    The LS-218 may be great for a drag strip / track day enthusiast… who also likes to commute on the same motorcycle. It is an exclusive machine with an exclusive performance claim, so I don’t think the asking price is out of line.

  31. mickey says:

    Cool bike.

    I’d welcome a ride on an electric automatic. I’d also welcome not paying for gasoline and changing oil. I don’t need 200 horsepower, but I do need at least 75 horsepower and a couple hundred mile range…oh and a buy in comparable to an ice bike of equivalent performance.. Like under $ 10K. Couple hour charging would be ok with me too, but for convenience at a normal 110 outlet so I could charge it at a relatives or friends house while visiting, or hotel for that matter.

  32. Chrisgo says:

    Sounds great to me. Bring on the future! I’ve still got my old airhead BMW if I feel I need to ride something with soul (and a recalcitrant transmission, and questionable brakes)…

  33. Rod says:

    “When you roll off the throttle, the bike goes into a regenerative mode. This is the bike’s way of using motion to create energy.”

    A small point… energy is not created, just converted from one form into another. Very interesting bike!

    • Dirck Edge says:

      very small

      • Rod says:

        The law of conservation of energy is one of the fundamental laws of Physics. I was just being polite.

        • Dirck Edge says:

          … so was I.

          • TimC says:

            Errrr, well, to be polite the article has several factual errors. Better fact-checking would be in order. Readers interested in technical stuff are often technical themselves…admittedly, a tough crowd, but that’s the reality….

          • Dirck Edge says:

            Tim, can you identify them so we can correct them?

        • Bill says:

          I think this bike transcends beyond the scripted laws, of physics or otherwise, and blends the unknown with style and performance that makes me check my finances.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “I think this bike transcends beyond the scripted laws, of physics or otherwise”

            *sigh* if only that were true. 🙁 as it stands NOTHING transcends the scripted Laws of Physics (or the Law of NATCORK for that matter).

            like the Matrix the Laws of Physics are everywhere. it is all around us… you can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. (Morpheus voice)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “energy is not created, just converted from one form into another”

      FISTPUMP…!!!

  34. Randy in Nebraska says:

    Sorry, Go Go, but the F-22 Raptor, pride of the United States Air Force and gem of an airplane that it is, is strictly land based. Trying to launch an F-22 from an aircraft carrier would probably result in a very loud, very expensive splash. I hope that isn’t what this rather awesome motorcycle sounds like.

    • TimC says:

      “loud expensive splash” ROFL!

    • TF says:

      It’s also a bad analogy in that our current short sighted and PC politicians pulled the plug on the F-22 program…..arguably the most advanced aircraft in the history of the world.

  35. Gary says:

    Cool, yes. Fun, I’m sure. But an electric bike can never provide the sensation we crave from riding a piston engined motorcycle. This, and features such as automatic transmissions, eliminate the machine-human experience and are probably best marketed for those simply interested in efficient transportation. I’ll keep my love affair with things that have a soul, thank you.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Great having input from someone who has ridden E-Bikes as much as you have. 😉

    • Bocker says:

      Have you ever ridden a bike on a track? I have a feeling you’d change your mind. I’ve not ridden an electric motorcycle, but the performance of a machine such as this is really only fully useful on a racetrack. Sure, you may find it dull on a daily commute. But railing from corner to corner in a controlled environment would surely wake you up. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool IC engine lover, but I’ll throw my leg over just about anything with sporting intent if I get the chance to really test its mettle on a track, where it belongs.

    • Dave says:

      The elimination of a gas bike’s flaws is not an elimination of it’s “soul”. It won’t be long before sport riders see shifting gears and fi-mapping as the distractions that that they for performance riding. With nothing but throttle and brakes, the rider can concentrate on the ride itself.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Some people really like the mechanical connection a clutch and transmission give the rider to the bike’s engine. I certainly do. By definition, I suppose recognizing the pleasure in that connection makes it a distraction to performance riding. Hopefully, as you suggest, the rider could find something else to connect with.

    • Starmag says:

      Difference of opinion will not be tolerated here and will be met with snide sarcasm despite the mildness of your rejection. All responses should start with “WoW! Neato!”. You almost had it there with “Cool, yes. Fun, I’m sure.” but you are not allowed to dissent unless you’ve ridden as many electric bikes as the author.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        I value opinions based on personal experience over speculation. You are free to disagree…and, by the way, neato comment. 🙂

  36. Bart says:

    That bike has “Pikes Peak” written all over it!

    168 lb-ft of instant torque on Skyline to Alice’s, that would be a thrill ride!