No road vehicle needs a 218 mph (350 km/h) top speed. No motorcycle needs to make 200 horsepower, with as much torque as a Hyundai iMax people mover. These are figures of absolute excess – and that's the point. The Lightning LS-218 will be a truly, horrifyingly fast motorcycle, the fastest on the planet. And it's set for release this summer in America.
You may notice that we're getting a touch excited about electric motorcycles right now – and with good reason. The segment is coming of age at the moment, finally beginning to deliver bikes with practical range and genuinely exciting performance to go along with all their many well-known ancillary benefits. Perhaps the one thing still missing is the electric superbike, the performance king of excess that will prove to petrolheads once and for all that the biggest, fastest, meanest bikes on the road won't be burning dinosaur bones in ten years' time.
And here it is. The Lightning LS-218 is due to launch this summer in the USA, and it promises to be the fastest production bike on the planet.
After a runaway 20-second victory at Pike's Peak last year, Lightning gave the world a sneak peek at its production superbike over the weekend at the Quail Motorsport Gathering in Carmel, California.
While these photos just show a hollow shell of the superbike with no battery fitted, Lightning has also released some truly eye-popping specs to go along with it.
For starters, the 218 in the model name refers to the bike's tested top speed – a ridiculous 218 miles per hour, or around 350 km/h. Lightning believes it'll go faster. Either way, it already holds the world record for the fastest production motorcycle.
To get there, it makes a liquid-cooled 200 horsepower (150 kW), which sits right at the pointy end with the latest hypersport machines in the market. But this is a false equivalence, as the Lightning also belts out a truly mammoth 168 lb.ft (228 Nm) of torque, nearly twice what the Ducati Panigale manages. The feeling of acceleration on this machine will be absolutely effortless, and it will flip your brain inside out. This is excess in its purest form.
The LS-218 doesn't use a clutch or transmission, it's a direct drive system. You can think of it as the world's fastest twist-n-go, so presumably in lower power modes it will be ridiculously easy to ride, when you're not out setting land speed records on the weekend.
Different battery pack options will be available depending on your budget, from 12 kWh up to the big daddy 20 kWh pack that boasts a maximum range of around 180 miles (290km), and lightning is claiming it'll take 30 minutes to top up on a quick charger. Getting from 0-100 percent will doubtless take a long, long time on a standard wall socket.
Wet weight ready to roll is 495 lbs (224.5 kg), and the running gear is all absolutely top-notch, with Öhlins FGRT forks and TTX shock, magnesium Marchesini wheels and radial Brembo front brakes.
Customer bikes can be upgraded with more than just battery pack options. The frame and swingarm can be swapped out for carbon fiber units to save weight and unsprung mass, the dash can be swapped out for a fully programmable Android touch screen, the seat unit can be customized and the bike's Glyn Kerr-designed looks can be totally overhauled using a custom graphics wrap.
This is an important motorcycle, because it's really going to be the first electric on the market that goes too fast, accelerates too hard, and reduces most riders to trembling lumps of jelly – all the things that make street superbikes so alluring and awe-inspiring. Just look at Motorcycle.com's very quick test ride of the 2012 prototype. The poor guy, a professional bike tester, spends three solid minutes just howling and jabbering in fear and exhilaration.
Electric bikes are exceptionally practical, we know that already, but this is the kind of machine that will take them to the next level: fearsome and drool-worthy. If I could take any bike in the world out for a test today, this would be the top of the list. Whaddya say, Lightning?
Source: Lightning Motorcycles