By Jody McCutcheon
Once upon a time, not so long ago, electric vehicles were a green alternative to those powered by fossil fuels. Performance was slow and unsteady, not always reliable, and the pricetag was expensive.
Boy, have things changed.
Want steady and reliable? Want affordable? Above all, want speed? The Lightning electric motorcycle, developed by the Lightning Motors Corp., delivers all three, billed by its website as the world’s fastest production motorcycle, electric or otherwise. This lofty claim is backed by some significant belt notches: in 2011, the Lightning claimed a Southern California Timing Association land speed record of 215.960 mph; while in 2013, it became the first electric motorcycle to defeat gas-powered bikes in a major motorsport race.
By the numbers, the Lightning borders on unbelievable for an electric motorcycle: 0–160kph in 3 seconds, hitting 345kph in 10 seconds, with 228 newton-metres (168ft-lbs) of torque, an average range of 160km at highway speed (for a price of about $1.20 worth of electricity) and a top speed of 350kph (218mph).
The IPM liquid-cooled electric motor offers 10,500rpm and 150kw (200hp). A 380V battery comes with a 12kWh pack, 15kWh pack or 20kWh pack, the latter extending the range per charge to up to 290km. Charging time is about thirty minutes on a DC fast charger, or about two hours on a level-2 charger. The Lightning also boasts user-programmable regenerative braking, not to mention Brembo disc brakes and Marchesini forged mag wheels. No expenses were spared, it seems, yet the whole package retails for US$38,800, a generous figure by performance motorcycle standards.
Philosophically, the Lightning represents a means of championing alternative energy sources as viable fossil-fuel substitutes. It proves that a vehicle built with function and aesthetics in mind can rely on an electric power source without compromising its vitality. Several sources have bestowed favourable reviews, from Gizmag to Motorcycle Daily to Jay Leno’s Garage. Functionally, the Lightning blows away the competition. In fact, does it have any actual competition? Not in terms of electric motorcycles.
Nine years in the making, the Lightning has hit the market. And it’s not just another two-wheeled cruiser. With its unexpected combination of beauty, power and sustainability, it’s turning heads, leaving fossil fuel–powered motorcycles in its dust, turning them into fossils. Join the transport revolution, encourage the evolution, try the Lightning on the track or take it for a back-road spin, but get on that soon. Otherwise it’ll be gone—you guessed it—Lightning fast.