Imagine traveling at 160 mph on a motorcycle while making virtually no sound. You hear the wind whipping past your helmet, and the purr of your wheels on the pavement, but no engine. This is the potential of the electric motorcycle. Technology keeps pushing the boundaries of electronic motorcycle performance, proven by the first electric bike winner at the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb of 2013: the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike.
Looking at some of the most popular electric motorcycles demonstrates just how far technology has come, and how far it can still go.
2014 Mission RS
The Mission RS is the first electric motorcycle that can go head-to-head with gasoline-powered motorcycles in the performance category. Setting a record time at Laguna Seca, the Mission RS proves that electric powertrains really can deliver exceptional performance.
Electric motors stand out from their internal combustion peers in the way they deliver power. In a gas-powered engine, it is necessary to shift gears and monitor RPMs to generate the most acceleration out of a bike. Get it wrong, and there is a good chance the bike will bog down. This is part of what makes professional riders so talented — they can milk the most power out of their bikes.
Electric motorcycles also benefit from very little maintenance. The parts for motorcycles powered by electric engines have few moving pieces, minimizing wear and tear on the bike.
With the Mission RS and all other electric motorcycles, there is no need to shift gears. Pure, consistent power is delivered to the rear tire at all times. It is available whenever the rider needs it: traveling through a turn, passing another vehicle or merging with traffic. With a performance bike like the Mission RS, the power available is tremendous, with 120 foot-pounds of torque and a top speed of 160 mph. The top speed is not remarkable, and the manufacturer claims it is in place to promote longer range for the bike. The torque, however, is 20 pounds more than even the fastest gas bikes.
With a range of 230 miles in the city, and 140 miles on the highway, the Mission RS is a class leader in electric motorcycles. Only 40 have been produced so far, however, and the bike costs $58,999.
The Zero DS, according to Wired, is meant to appeal to tech-oriented individuals interested in riding for the first time. It is a more practical demonstration of electric bike technology than the Mission RS, with a more practical price tag of $15,000. This is still high compared to a gas-powered bike with equivalent performance, but for those interested in electric, the Zero DS stands out.
Being electric, the Zero DS offers the same silent ride and constantly available power as the Mission RS. With 60 foot-pounds of torque and a 95 mph top speed, the Zero can more than handle everyday traffic. Riding is simple, with no gear changes necessary. Range, however, can be a limiting factor.
With serious conservation, the rider can take a Zero DS 137 miles without a charge, says the company. It can travel 76 miles at 55 mph. After that, it needs seven hours plugged into a standard wall outlet or an hour on a quick charger to juice back up.
It is important to note that only a few years ago, Zero motorcycles were barely making 40 miles on a single charge. The improvements in range and power have been tremendous.
About the Author: Ricky loves working on and writing about American cars.