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Lightning's Electric Superbike takes 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

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July 15, 2013

Carlin Dunne takes his Lightning Electric Superbike up Pikes Peak (Photo: Lightning Motorc...

Carlin Dunne takes his Lightning Electric Superbike up Pikes Peak (Photo: Lightning Motorcycle Corp.)

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Innovation through competition. That is the corporate motto of Lightning Motorcycle Corp., the designers and manufacturers of the Electric Superbike. A production version of the Electric Superbike has won this year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb among two wheelers (both gas and electric) with a time of 10 minutes and 0.964 seconds. The nearest competitor, racing a Ducati Multistrada, finished with a time nearly 20 seconds slower.

The Lightning Motorcycle Electric Superbike seems to collect records as easily as falling off a log. It holds the current world records for fastest production motorcycle (189.086 mph / 304.304 km/h), and in a tweaked version for fastest electric motorcycle (215.960 mph / 374.554 km/h). While setting this latter record, the equivalent fuel mileage was still better than 50 mpg. Now it also holds the record for fastest ascent of Pikes Peak by an electric motorcycle. More importantly, it is the first electric motorcycle to win over a field of gas-powered motorcycles.

Carlin Dunne, who rode the Superbike to two-wheel victory at Pikes Peak this year, is no stranger to records himself. He has now won the Pikes Peak climb three years in a row, and owns the all-time record of nine minutes and 52.819 seconds for his performance in 2012 on a Ducati Multistrada 1200.

A beautiful beast of a bike (Photo: Lightning Motorcycle Corp.)

Of course, the Pikes Peak Climb is ideally suited to electric bikes. It takes place at altitudes that make regular gasoline engines cough and wheeze. But as the twists and turns of the course are a bit more difficult on a bike with a battery pack weighing about 250 pounds (110 kg), what the Superbike wins in the straights might be lost in the roundabouts. But not this year.

The Electric Superbike boasts an amazing set of specs. The motor is an internal permanent magnet Remy HVH250, an oil-cooled electric topping out at 10,000 rpm that pumps out in excess of 125 hp (92 kW). The exact value isn't specified, and the HVH250 can put out 230 hp (170 kW) at higher voltage than used in the Superbike. The basic Superbike comes with a lithium-ion battery pack that holds 12 kWh of energy at 370 volts, but a larger pack can be chosen. The total weight of the bike is just under 500 pounds.

Lightning claims 0 - 100 mph (160 km/h) time of 3 seconds, and acceleration from 100 mph to top speed (166 mph for the basic Superbike) in less than ten seconds.

The Lightning Electric Superbike concept drawing by Glenn Kerr (Photo: Lightning Motorcycl...

The Superbike uses a monocoque design by Glenn Kerr, wherein the battery pack and motor serve a dual function as the primary stressed elements of the chassis, a design whose equivalent appears in most large gas-powered bikes. The swingarm of the Superbike is directly connected to the rear of the motor.

Lightning's Superbike is equipped with user-programmable regenerative braking, allowing the batteries to be charged whenever the throttle is closed and the brakes applied. The effect on the ride is said to closely replicate the engine braking effect characteristic of gas-powered bikes. The programming allows the user to balance the braking between maximum range and driving style.

As for range, Lightning says that if the rider can expect a range over 100 miles (160 km) on the highway, and perhaps 150 miles (240 km) in mixed driving. So even with recharge times of under two hours, the bike cannot be confused with a touring bike.

A basic version of the Superbike can now be purchased for US$38,888. Lightning has not given details on the available options, but control electronics that provide larger voltages to the motor would be of particular interest, as would a gear ratio (the enormous torque of an electric motor makes shifting unnecessary) more similar to the record-winning prototypes.

The Lightning Electric Superbike could provide a practical proposition for would-be weekend warriors. The bike can be driven as a commuter during the week, for which it has sufficient range and recharge times. On the weekends, it is one of the fastest bikes available for short races. The market may be limited, but most riders will not be able to safely wring the top performance out of a Superbike. Still, many would like to try.

Check out the video below for scenes from the Pikes Peak climb.

Sources: Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Lightning Motorcycle

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
10 Comments

EV bikes are way better in high areas where the air is thin because they do not loose power.

DaveBG
15th July, 2013 @ 01:53 am PDT

Nice! EVs are improving so rapidly. Exciting times.

Adam Cecchini
15th July, 2013 @ 10:22 am PDT

That's sour grapes saying EV's have an advantage at high alt. Most of the bikes by the best in the world gassers had either adjusted their carbs or they run FI which is most of them that compensates automatically.

Facts are The Lightning EV kicked the best of the world's azzes by a wide margin.

Nor is the range a factor as many gas sportbikes have the same or less.

You don't drive sportbikes long distance because who wants to crouch that long.

jerryd
15th July, 2013 @ 10:24 am PDT

Holy crap. Pretty impressive job by Lightning Motorcycle! $38,888 is still out of my price range but I have taken my GSX-R up to the drag strip a couple times and there are guys up there with souped up Hayabusa's and ZX-14's who probably have close to that much money in them.

It isn't the main focus of the bike but the 3 second 0-100 time is 2 seconds faster than a stock Busa (4.99) or ZX-14 (5.04) so with some work it would probably be a beastly drag bike.

Daishi
15th July, 2013 @ 01:39 pm PDT

It is very slick however..it never takes me more than 3-5 min. to refuel at the pump not under 2 hrs. and that is for the standard pack. The bigger heavier pack will take longer. Heavy bikes wear out parts faster and wear you out faster. I'll wait for better and lighter battery tech. with faster charge times.

maj.havoc
15th July, 2013 @ 04:02 pm PDT

re; jerryd

Unless the ICE has an intake blower of some sort the altitude dramatically reduces power even at optimal fuel air ratios.

Slowburn
15th July, 2013 @ 04:12 pm PDT

@maj.havoc 500 lbs is actually not that heavy for a bike. A 1000cc Kawasaki Ninja is 509 lbs curb weight. A 1200cc BMW GS Adventurer is 564 lbs with fuel. On the heavier end a Harley Road King is 811 lbs and a Gold Wing is 933 lbs.

The lightest street bikes on the road are the supersports between 415 (600cc) and 455 (100cc) lbs. I don't think 45 lbs makes that much of a difference because the battery can occupy a lower center of gravity than a fuel tank and it doesn't slosh around like liquid. I doubt it would be much more work or wear to drive and electric engines themselves are pretty simple without that many moving parts to service.

The 2 hour charge time is a bit of a hurdle but most the guys I know that drive Harleys sit around and look at them for that long between stops anyway.

Daishi
15th July, 2013 @ 08:59 pm PDT

Hi Brian, great article but I don't think we can call it a "production version". I was there at Pikes Peak and interviewed Richard, Lightning Motorcycle's founder. Yes, they won with only four years of development. Yes, they left the competition behind. But the production bike isn't there just yet. On the flip side, it will be pretty 95% of what you see, but much lighter.

Lightning is the Ferrari of the electric motorcycle world. You should have seen Carlin roll the the start line. Quiet, whisper quiet... and then it was over for the competition.

33Nick
16th July, 2013 @ 10:32 am PDT

ALso have to wonder 2 hours at what voltage? Most ecars give their times in relation to the voltage because you can use multiple different kinds of charger to juice them up. this thing charging off 110, 220, 440? More? Nema 1 or 2?

There are standards for these things, unfortunately there are also companies that make up their own as well. Portland,or where I am has echarging stations around, but I'm not certain if they would be the same in other cities outside the NW.

mystixa
16th July, 2013 @ 01:02 pm PDT

Kicked the worlds best azzes? Really? Lightening hires the guy who has won 2 straight PPC's, holds course record and he wins...what a shocking display!! He still finished 10 seconds behind HIS personal best set on a bone stock Ducati Multistrada.

45lbs doesn't matter? You clearly dont ride. Not to mention the weight penalty is closer to 70lbs as the Panigale is 432lbs w/fuel. We spend thousands of dollars to shave single lbs off race bikes, every gram counts and a 500lb race bike is a joke.

Electric motors are all about torque and only operate efficiently at constant rpm. If you got weight reduced dramatically it could be competitive as a drag bike or even a ds/enduro bike. An electric bike as a race bike? No way unless they can develop a very wide range cvt.

Its exciting to see this being developed as prototype, Musk-Tesla Motors is also developing bikes, but this is not a viable production item...not even close.

Tahoe61
12th August, 2013 @ 10:42 am PDT
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