Longtime readers of this site will remember the exclusive first ride I got on the Lightning electric superbike in 2012. Now, almost two years later, Richard Hatfield and the Lightning team are set to unveil the production version of the bike — the LS-218 — on Saturday, May 17, at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, CA.
The LS-218 is the street version of Lightning’s race bikes that holds three landspeed records and is the first electric vehicle to win a major motorsport event — the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb — against the top gasoline powered competitors. Lightning’s proprietary Ultra High Power Density Drive system was nominated as Engine Technology of the Year by Race Engine Technology magazine. This system consists of an IPM liquid-cooled motor capable of 150kw and 10,500 rpm. This generates an equivalent of 200 hp and 168 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Hatfield, Lightning’s CEO, understands the market will inevitably judge his bike against its internal-combustion engine counterparts, and so built his machine with this in mind. “Since 2006 the Lightning team has been dedicated to developing electric motorcycles that meet and exceed the performance of the best ICE alternatives,” he says. “To have broad acceptance from the motorcyclist community,we need to provide design, performance and value that competes head to head with the best gasoline motorcycles on the market. Lightning’s R&D team has developed electric vehicle technology through years of competition at racing events around the world. We believe that the LS-218 offers consumers the best of design, performance and value in today’s market.”
Lightning claims the LS-218 presents the first opportunity that consumers can purchase a production motorcycle capable of setting land speed records and winning road racing competitions right out of the box, something virtually unheard of on a standard gas motorcycle.
During my first ride in 2012, Lightning informed me the production bike would feature different bodywork than the bike I rode and would look very similar to this rendering. Of course, the final bike will also include standard mirrors, lights and assorted accessories required for legality reasons. Otherwise, the mechanical bits haven’t changed.
The LS-218 will be highly customizable, with three different battery packs available. Beginning with a 12kWh pack, the middle step provides 15kWh and the highest tier 20kWh. Lightning claims the 12kWh pack will be capable of over 100 miles per charge at “highway speed.” As always with electric motorcycles, actual figures will vary based on riding habits and conditions, but the company also claims recharge times as little as 30 minutes using a public fast-charging station.
Some examples of available options are a fully programmable Android display, carbon fiber swingarm and frame, titanium fasteners, custom graphic wrap and seating. Otherwise, the other components of the LS-218 include an Öhlins FGRT inverted fork, with NIX30 cartridge internals, along with an Öhlins TTX36 Shock. Both units are fully adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping, with the shock adjustable for ride height, as well as high-and-low speed compression damping. Brembo provides the stopping power, and wheels are forged magnesium Marchesini units.
All told, Lightning claims the LS-218 weighs 495 lbs and starts at $38,888. While certainly not cheap (the Ducati Desmosedici cost almost double that amount when it was introduced), what you get in return is two-wheel performance unlike anything I’ve ever ridden.
For more information, including a chance to own VIN number 0001, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lightningmotorcycle.com.