If you're as fascinated as we are with electric motorcycles, Richard Hatfield is a pretty special individual to sit down with. He's the founder and CEO of Lightning Motorcycles, and the man behind the world's fastest production motorcycle, the Lightning LS-218. Riding the Lightning bike was amazing and terrifying – check out our full review here.
We don't usually post entire interview videos online, but this one's a beauty. Hatfield speaks at length about the LS-218, the electric vehicle business, the state of battery technology and more. The full 23-minute interview video is below:
While Richard is a nice-looking guy, there's not a whole lot happening visually in the video. So if you'd like an audio-only, downloadable stream to listen to in the car, then here you go!
On what's holding electrics back:
"The main thing that's holding electric bikes back – and it's getting better – is the range of the battery. But now bikes can be built that'll go 150-170 miles on a charge. That's doable now."
"The other thing is just the price of the battery. There's a lot of effort being put into that as well. 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. Elon Musk is the patron saint of all electric vehicles at the moment. He's the first person to prove that you can build a valuable, profitable company selling electric vehicles. He's a guy that dreams big and takes big gambles. I think all of us that are following in his footsteps trying to build businesses that emulate that have a lot of admiration for what he's accomplished."
On the value of racing, and emerging battery technologies:
"One of the big benefits of competing with the LS-218 at Bonneville, at Pikes Peak, at Laguna Seca is that we've gained a profile with battery companies and battery engineers in a lot of different companies, and we've had access to people that have shared technology with us that we wouldn't have without racing. A lot of people have criticized spending money on racing, but when you look at how it opens doors for a small company, I think it's time and money well spent."
"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."
On the flexibility of throttle mapping on an electric bike:
"We can map the throttle basically any way the customer wants. It can be mapped against speed, so that when you're rolling along at 5 or 10 miles an hour, we can just dial the regen right down and let it coast. It's very easy for us to create a throttle mapping, customers can come back in at any time."