Electric motorcycles are still a bit of a niche item in the United States - they're bigger sellers in Asia – and one reason for that is the combination of power and speed that we usually associate with gas-guzzlers. Let's face it, nobody buys a Prius as a muscle car.
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Mission Motors, a San Francisco-based maker of electric car components, aims to change that. The company is planning to roll out a street-legal version of its super-powered electric motorbike, the Mission R and Mission RS. The company says it can top out at 150 miles per hour, and go from zero to 60 in three seconds, with no emissions from a 160 horsepower engine. The model with the largest battery, at 17 kilowatt-hours, can ride for 140 miles.
Getting this kind of performance took some re-jiggering of a traditional motorcycle frame. For instance, the engine is directly incorporated into the rear suspension.
One other interesting effect of riding an electric motorbike is better handling. In a conventional motorcycle, the rider has to lean into turns slightly, just like on a bicycle. That's because motorcycles have an engine spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute and the spinning creates a force that "fights" the turns, making handling more difficult. Electric motorbikes don't have this problem.
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There are other electric motorcycles out there – Zero Motorcycles makes a line of street bikes, for example - but they don't boast the high speeds and power that the Mission R does, with top speeds under 100 miles per hour.
The Mission R bike, called a "performance development platform" by the company, made a splash at the 2011 U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, where it beat the other electric bikes in the race by nearly 40 seconds on a 2.3-mile track.
That's part of the appeal. Motorcyclists in the Unites States have been more interested in the power and speed, and the roar of a Harley Davidson has become iconic. So something like the Mission R might be just the thing to get more of the people who want to ride two wheels to go electric. But be prepared to pay for performance: the top-end Mission RS with the largest battery will set you back $72,500 before the federal tax credit kicks in.
Credit: Mission Motorcycles