Electric motorcycle maker Lightning is joining the likes of Zero, Harley-Davidson and startup Fuell by announcing a new bike: the long-awaited (and more affordable) Lightning Strike, a high-performance, lower-cost follow-up to their primary offering, the $38,888 LS-218, which debuted in 2014 (and is still available).
Lightning is one of the smaller electric motorcycle makers and has a sharp focus on performance. In 2013, a lightly modified LS-218 won the overall motorcycle division at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, granting credibility to Lightning’s design and power management systems. The second place motorcycle, powered by a gas engine, crossed the finish line a full 20 seconds behind the LS-218, a massive margin of victory for Lightning. Most major bike makers, including iconic performance marques like Ducati, participate in the race each year.
Lightning also took their bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011 and set an electric motorcycle land speed record with an aggregate pass of 218 miles an hour. Now, the company is promising class-leading performance and range with their new bike, the Lightning Strike, which will be available in three trim levels starting at a tick under $13,000 and optioning up to $20,000.
The specs are indeed impressive. Even the base Strike Standard configuration will make 90 horsepower and a massive 180 foot-pounds of torque, allowing the bike to hit a claimed 135 miles an hour. An onboard 3.3 kWh charger juices a 10kWh battery and all told, the Standard tips the scales at 455 pounds, which is about average for an electric motorcycle at this level of performance. Faster charging options, including a $1,500 6.6kWh upgrade, will further speed recharges. The base setup should achieve 70 miles of range at highway speeds and about 100 miles rolling around in the city.
Above the Standard model, the Strike Midrange option increases energy storage 33% to 15kWh for 105 miles of highway riding or 150 miles in the city. Power output stays the same as the Standard but weight climbs by 10 pounds while the price rises to $16,988.
The top-of-the-line Strike Carbon Edition, just two bucks short of $20,000, serves up all the goodies, including a 30hp power bump to 120 ponies while torque remains at 180. The battery grows to 20kWh but a Level III charger is also included to speed up the flow of electrons. Weight rises to 485 pounds while range stretches to 150 highway miles and 200 in the city. Top speed is spec’d at a blistering 150 miles an hour, far above the Zero SR/F’s 124mph limit.
The Carbon Edition also upgrades the bodywork to carbon fiber, adds in upgraded Brembo brakes and highly desireable Öhlins suspenders. Basically, it includes every option Lightning offers.
The Lightning Strike bikes are clearly more sport-oriented than offerings from Zero and Harley-Davidson, whose bikes are both sit-up styled and unfaired. The Lightning Strike is fully faired like a traditional race-replica sport bike, which Lightning claims cuts down on wind resistance by 30 percent over their unfaired rivals. Lightning also uses a liquid-cooled motor while primary competitor Zero has stuck with air-cooled technology for the sake of simplicity, according to an interview Forbes conducted with the Zero CEO.
Indeed, it looks like Lightning has their sights set on market leader Zero, who just announced their newest machine, the SR/F. While there are technical and stylistic differences between the Strike and SR/F, they are fairly well matched on features and performance, at least at the top tier offerings, both of which ring in right near the $20,000 mark.
The Lightning may have the edge in performance, but with its pure sporting stance, it may be the less practical of the two machines. The Zero SR/F’s “streetfighter” configuration lends itself to comfort (and a more urban mission) with a more upright riding posture. An integrated cubby where the gas tank usually resides adds convenience and USB connections for today’s digital riders. It remains to be seen what the final details on the Strike will include as far as rider comfort and conveniences, but the bike is clearly positioned to appeal to those riders looking for ultimate performance and handling for their dollar.
Many of the major components for the Strike lineup will be made in China, where Lightning has a facility, with bikes coming together in Lightning’s San Jose, California facility. Lightning has also made clear they hope to begin selling bikes internationally at some point later this year. Lightning is now taking deposits on the new bikes but no timeline for delivery has been specified so far. Standard Strikes require a $500 deposit, while the Carbon Edition will need a $10,000 commitment.
Casting a long shadow on the announcement, of course, is Harley-Davidson’s Livewire, a $30,000 electric motorcycle recently announced by the traditionally more cruiser-oriented Motor Company. H-D hasn’t specified the final specifications for the Livewire machine outside of an expected range of 88 highway/140 city, and a zero-to-60 claim of three seconds. It’s not expected in showrooms until August, which will give them time to perhaps tweak some parameters to have parity with Zero and Lightning.
How much wiggle room Harley has in the Livewire’s engineering options to compete with the 150 mile-an-hour Lightning Strike Carbon remains to be seen. While the Livewire will certainly be a halo vehicle for Harley (with other eventual and less-expensive models supposedly in the pipeline), it will need stellar performance and range numbers to justify the $10,000 premium over the latest Lightning and Zero machines.
Overall, with the latest announcement from Lightning, early adopters of electric motorcycles are beginning to see more choices, generally lower prices and more performance than ever before. And just in time for riding season.