The performance of electric motorcycles may not yet be on par with their fuel-snorting brethren, but our outings on this new breed of two-wheeler have convinced us that they are well on the way. Now San Francisco start-up BRD is throwing its hat into this rapidly expanding ring by announcing plans for battery powered bikes designed to "outperform their gas equivalents." Called RedShift, the motorcycles are slated for production in 2012 and will come in "dual-sport" and "urban" variants with both promising performance that would put them in the same ballpark as a gas-powered 250cc 4-stroke.

BRD unveiled a pre-production version of the RedShift SM (the urban version) in San Francisco this week. The dual-sport RedShift MX is in parallel development and the preliminary specs have both bikes at about the 250 lb mark with "target power" of 40 hp and 5.2 kWh battery capacity. Range is likely to be around 50 miles per charge but the company isn't rushing to confirm this figure at this stage of proceedings. Given the wild variation we've encountered depending on how hard you twist the throttle on electric motorcycles, we can see the sense of this cautious approach.

The very sharp chassis design is also common to both models, as is the drivetrain and suspension. "We've developed a completely new method for manufacturing motorcycle frames that allows us to build a competitive chassis right here in California," said Chief Design Officer, Jeff Sand.

Speculation on pricing puts the bikes at around US$15000, which is it at the high-end of already relatively expensive options like the Zero range. If it turns out to be accurate, that kind of pricetag would seem to make the challenge of knocking gas-guzzlers off their perch even more difficult.

That said, early adopters are often willing to pay a premium and there are lots of reasons to like electric motorcycles - they're zippy, fun, quiet, require very little maintenance and they don't produce emissions at the tail-pipe. Range anxiety and twiddling your thumbs while waiting for the bikes to recharge are the clear downsides, but improved battery technology and designs that allow batteries to be swapped over should help address these issues moving forward.

BRD is definitely putting the focus on the performance. "We just want to make faster motorcycles" said CEO, Marc Fenigstein. "We're a team of riders and racers with high-performance gas machines in the garage. We're building the bikes we'd rather be riding."

More information on the RedShift bikes will be revealed at EICMA in Italy this November.

Sources: BRD, Wired.