photography by Royce Rumsey & courtesy Energica
Over the past several years, electric motorcycle manufacturers have popped up all over the place, like mushrooms on my lawn after a spring rain. U.S. companies like Brammo and Zero have established themselves as to the go-to makers of production e-motorcycles, with ever-improving product lines and growing dealer networks, while Harley-Davidson’s prototype Project LiveWire brought widespread attention to the upstart segment. Even the venerable Spanish motorcycle company Bultaco, defunct since the early 1980s, has been resurrected and will start building electric bikes in 2015.
Then there are the boutique manufacturers that focus on performance. San Francisco-based Mission Motorcycles makes all-electric sportbikes that make a claimed 160 horsepower, go 0-60 in 3 seconds flat and have a top speed of 150 mph. But such performance ain’t cheap. You can buy less powerful, lower-spec Brammo or Zero motorcycles for $10,995 to $18,995, depending on model and battery capacity, but the high-zoot Mission R costs starts at $32,499 (12 kWh battery, 105-mile range). The limited-edition Mission RS, with its Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and carbon fiber wheels, costs $58,999, and adding the GP Package, with even higher-spec components, raises the price to a cool $74,999.
Mission has some new competition, the Energica Ego, an electric superbike made in Modena, Italy, with similar performance claims: 0-60 in 3 seconds and a 150 mph top speed (electronically limited). Peak output is said to be 134 horsepower and 143 lb-ft of torque. And when it goes on sale in April 2015, it will cost $34,000. Double that for the special-edition Ego 45.
Energica is a new brand created by a 45-year-old company (hence the name of the special-edition model), the CRP Group, which provides engineering services, advanced materials manufacturing and 3D printing for Formula 1 race teams, Ferrari and even NASA. Most of what CRP does is behind the scenes. Developing an electric motorcycle provides a front-stage platform to showcase the company’s technological prowess.
The Ego’s power comes from an oil-cooled permanent magnet AC motor, with electrons supplied by an air-cooled, 11.7 kWh battery pack made up of more than 400 individual lithium-ion cells. Energica’s proprietary vehicle control unit manages power output, throttle response and regenerative braking, with everything displayed on a full-color TFT screen. The VCU offers four power modes (race, sport, wet and eco) and four regen modes (low, medium, high and off), and there’s even a reverse mode to help you get out of tight spots. Since electric motors can provide maximum torque immediately, electric bikes need a controller to deliver power gradually (especially since most have just one gear with no transmission), similar to the throttle on an internal-combustion-powered motorcycle. Energica got it right; throttle response on the Ego is perfectly smooth and linear, like a rheostat.
From its angular styling to its tubular-steel trellis frame and premium components—Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi and Öhlins suspension—the Ego is very much a high-end sportbike. With a claimed weight of 560 pounds, it isn’t light by contemporary standards, but the mass is well centralized. Our test ride, on the famed Mulholland Highway near Los Angeles, was limited to a few photo passes and a short, out-and-back ride, totaling less than 25 miles. Hardly enough for a thorough riding impression, but enough to get a sense for the Ego’s riding position (aggressive), handling (sharp) and acceleration (brisk).
Energica claims 100 miles of range. On an 11-mile section of the ride with the bike in sport mode with low regen and riding at a moderate pace, I saw the charge drop 12 percentage points, from 89 percent to 77 percent, about 1 percent per mile, so the claim is plausible. With a 240V charger, Energica says it takes 3.5 hours to go from zero to a full charge. An optional fast charger (standard on the Ego 45) provides 80 percent of a full charge in 20 minutes, with the final 20 percent taking another 20 minutes due to cell balancing.
Given its price and limited range, the Energica Ego isn’t for everyone. But it does offer an exclusive, exhilarating ride that’s wickedly fast and eerily quiet—all you hear is the high-pitched whine of the straight-cut final drive gears.
The base-model Ego is priced at $34,000, and will be available in Matte Pearl White and Matte Black. The limited-edition Ego 45, which has carbon fiber bodywork, special 3D printed parts on the fairing with an F1 coating, higher-end components and a fast charger, and weighs 18 pounds less than the Ego, is priced at $68,000 (only 45 will be made and each comes with an exclusive “Olmo” watch by Lowell, made entirely out of wood).
The Energica Ego will be on display at the American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) in Orlando, Florida, October 16-19, 2014. For more information, visit energicasuperbike.com.