Normally, when we think of battery-propelled motorcycles, we picture anemic, fragile commuter scooters that have a short range, limited performance, and struggle just to get out of their own way, let alone keep up with traffic.
There are exceptions, of course; Zero supermoto motorcycles are as fast – if not more so – as their internal-combustion rivals, but for most riders, an electric motorcycle has about the same appeal as a battery-powered senior's scooter.
Perhaps it's time for a second look here.
At the El Mirage Lake Bed in California, a battery-powered motorcycle recently set a land-speed record of almost 305 km/h over a two-kilometre course – the fastest of three runs.
The bike, a Lightning Superbike, is powered by a 125-kilowatt, liquid cooled electric motor that spins at up to 10,000 rpm and is fed by a 370-volt battery pack. And here's a nice touch: before each run, the battery pack was recharged by a portable solar panel charging unit, and the total cost for fuelling the Superbike was, according to the manufacturers, around eight cents. This bike has also exceeded the 320-km/h (200-mph) mark during previous runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
And that's not all. Former AMA Supebike champion and five-time Daytona 500 winner, Miguel Duhamel, rode a Lightning to victory at the electric motorcycle LeMans e-Power championship race in France, earlier this summer. While the Canadian rider allowed that he had to pace himself to conserve battery power, he said he was surprised at the bike's performance and handling capabilities.
The Lightning Superbike won't be present at this year's Toronto Motorcycle Show, which runs Friday, Dec. 7, to Sunday, Dec. 9, but there will be plenty of other exhibitors on hand, as well as the usual roster of activities and things to do. Here are a few highlights of this year's show:
She Rides Night. Women get in for half-price on Friday after 5 p.m. and there will be various demonstrations and displays, , not to mention "deals galore" and visiting celebrities who ride.
Yamaha Riding Academy For Kids. This popular event allows kids, aged six to 12, to experience that first thrill of riding a motorcycle under the careful supervision of trained instructors. All parents have to do is show up with their kid(s), sign a waiver, and off they go. The bikes are diminutive TT-R off-roaders and, according to Yamaha, more than 20,000 kids have experienced this 15-minute ride over the years. Helmet and riding gear is supplied and the only thing the child needs is the ability to ride a bicycle.
Yamaha will also be introducing two new models at this year's show: the FJR1300 and V-Star1300 Deluxe. Despite their similar displacements, these two couldn't be more different. The FJR is a state-of-the-art sport tourer that will now feature electronic cruise control, a traction control system, and re-designed front cowl. The V-Star, meanwhile, is a traditional cruiser that will come with hard saddlebags, a liquid-cooled V-twin, and a Garmin Zumo 665 navi system.
Bombardier's distinctive three-wheeled CanAm Roadster will be on hand, and the company is adding the Spyder ST to its lineup. This "Y configuration" three-wheeler features an adjustable windscreen, removable wind-deflectors, and a 998 cc Rotax V-twin that's good for 100 horsepower.
Harley-Davidson will have examples of its new "hard candy" paint program at the show. This nostalgic paint treatment has various models featuring the retro metal-flake paint scheme and/or scalloping so beloved by hot-rodders during the 1950s and 1960s. Harley will also roll in some of its 110th anniversary models, including the Fat Boy Lo and Switchback.
BMW Motorad will be showing off its new scooter/cruisers, the C600 Sport and C650 GT. An intriguing blend of practicality and performance, these two, in their own way, could be harbingers of what is to come in the world of urban two-wheeled transport.
In a similar vein, Honda's new-for-2013 500 series – CB500F, CBR500R and CB500X – will likely be front and centre as well. Although slightly different in purpose and appearance, these three share the same engine and are basically variations on a theme.
Victory will show off its new Boardwalk. Essentially a variation on a theme, the Boardwalk will feature wraparound-style full fenders, floorboards, and beach style handlebars. Not to mention Victory's 106-cubic-inch V-Twin.
For motocross enthusiasts, Suzuki has a new mogul-shredder ready for 2013 in the form of the RM-Z450. This one is for hard-core off-road scramblers and features a revised engine and transmission, new suspension and an available 250 cc model.