We’ve tested a number of 200-horsepower superbikes, but nothing – NOTHING – accelerates like this thing. This is an electric motorcycle that actually out-performs anything you can buy that burns dinosaur bones. It makes 200 horsepower, a ludicrous number but one we’re more or less familiar with in today’s modern superbikes. But, being electric, it makes an absolute mountain of torque – 70% more than the punchiest petrol superbike you can buy, and it can output this torque from almost a standstill. It recorded a top speed of 218 miles per hour (351 km/h) on the Bonneville Salt Flats, making it the world’s fastest production bike. When the LS-218 raced against a field of primarily petrol bikes up Pike’s Peak in 2013, it demolished everything else on the mountain by more than 20 seconds. In racing terms, that’s an absolute pants-down spanking. This thing is capital-F Fast. The acceleration is just unbelievable. I’ve opened the throttle on plenty of open-class superbikes, but nothing throws you into the future like this thing. Nothing. I can’t keep the throttle wide open for more than about a second. There’s just no straight piece of road long enough. My brain can’t keep up with just how ferociously it builds speed, and my eyes can’t bulge open wide enough to take in every piece of scenery that’s hurtling towards me.
“One of the things you can do with an electric that you can’t do with a gas bike is make your own fuel for it,” Hatfield tells me, “So we have a transport van based on a Sprinter, and it has three banks of three solar panels that we can slide out when we’re stationed. We can store energy in a battery pack, and most events that we go to, we fuel the bikes off the energy we harvest off of our transporter.”
The LS-218 ships with either a 12, a 15 or a 20 kWh battery pack, getting you a maximum range of 120, 150 or 180 miles respectively. Charging time is around 30 minutes on a DC fast charger, and I don’t know many sportsbike riders who don’t appreciate a half-hour break after a couple of hours in the saddle.
Tesla, with their supercharger network, they’re at about 130,000 watts, so if we plugged that in to our bike and watched it carefully, everything was optimal, we could have the bike to 80 percent full in well under 10 minutes. So that’s kind of the holy grail. The technology exists right now to do it. We have our own chargers that’ll charge that quickly, but we just need to see a network out there that people can use.
Battery range is an issue Richard sees disappearing in the next few years: “Of all the battery companies that we’re talking with, everyone is working on 300, 400 watt-hour per kilo batteries – that’s twice the run time, twice the energy density, twice the range of the very best batteries that are available now. They’re in the bench for one reason or another, maybe it needs more cycle time, maybe they need to squeeze some of the cost out … There are a variety of different issues that have to be resolved, but there’s so many really bright people and so much money pursuing it that it’ll be really surprising if we don’t see those types of things soon.”
The other bugbear is battery price, which is one of the main factors keeping electrics out of reach of most buyers. “There’s a lot of effort being put into that as well,” Richard tells me. “If Elon Musk and his Gigafactory are successful in bringing batteries down below $200 a kilowatt-hour, where we could put a 20 kWh battery on a 200 horsepower bike that would go 170, 180 miles and that battery would cost $4000, that’s going to change things.”
It’s my personal belief, even as a card-carrying member of Petrolheads Anonymous, that in 50 years, we’ll look at gasoline vehicles the same way we look at steam vehicles today: As dirty, noisy, quaint anachronisms …