Motorcycles

Too fast, too strong, too scary: Electric Lightning LS-218 will be the fastest production bike on the planet

Too fast, too strong, too scar...
Lightning's LS-218 at the 2014 Quail Motorsport Gathering
Lightning's LS-218 at the 2014 Quail Motorsport Gathering
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
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Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 at the 2014 Quail Motorsport Gathering
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Lightning's LS-218 at the 2014 Quail Motorsport Gathering
Lightning's LS-218 - teaser image lightened in Photoshop
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Lightning's LS-218 - teaser image lightened in Photoshop
Lightning's LS-218 - designed by Glynn Kerr
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Lightning's LS-218 - designed by Glynn Kerr
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No road vehicle needs a 218 mph (350 km/h) top speed. No motorcycle needs to make 200 horsepower, with as much torque as a Hyundai iMax people mover. These are figures of absolute excess – and that's the point. The Lightning LS-218 will be a truly, horrifyingly fast motorcycle, the fastest on the planet. And it's set for release this summer in America.

You may notice that we're getting a touch excited about electric motorcycles right now – and with good reason. The segment is coming of age at the moment, finally beginning to deliver bikes with practical range and genuinely exciting performance to go along with all their many well-known ancillary benefits. Perhaps the one thing still missing is the electric superbike, the performance king of excess that will prove to petrolheads once and for all that the biggest, fastest, meanest bikes on the road won't be burning dinosaur bones in ten years' time.

And here it is. The Lightning LS-218 is due to launch this summer in the USA, and it promises to be the fastest production bike on the planet.

Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)

After a runaway 20-second victory at Pike's Peak last year, Lightning gave the world a sneak peek at its production superbike over the weekend at the Quail Motorsport Gathering in Carmel, California.

While these photos just show a hollow shell of the superbike with no battery fitted, Lightning has also released some truly eye-popping specs to go along with it.

For starters, the 218 in the model name refers to the bike's tested top speed – a ridiculous 218 miles per hour, or around 350 km/h. Lightning believes it'll go faster. Either way, it already holds the world record for the fastest production motorcycle.

Lightning's LS-218 - designed by Glynn Kerr
Lightning's LS-218 - designed by Glynn Kerr

To get there, it makes a liquid-cooled 200 horsepower (150 kW), which sits right at the pointy end with the latest hypersport machines in the market. But this is a false equivalence, as the Lightning also belts out a truly mammoth 168 lb.ft (228 Nm) of torque, nearly twice what the Ducati Panigale manages. The feeling of acceleration on this machine will be absolutely effortless, and it will flip your brain inside out. This is excess in its purest form.

The LS-218 doesn't use a clutch or transmission, it's a direct drive system. You can think of it as the world's fastest twist-n-go, so presumably in lower power modes it will be ridiculously easy to ride, when you're not out setting land speed records on the weekend.

Different battery pack options will be available depending on your budget, from 12 kWh up to the big daddy 20 kWh pack that boasts a maximum range of around 180 miles (290km), and lightning is claiming it'll take 30 minutes to top up on a quick charger. Getting from 0-100 percent will doubtless take a long, long time on a standard wall socket.

Wet weight ready to roll is 495 lbs (224.5 kg), and the running gear is all absolutely top-notch, with Öhlins FGRT forks and TTX shock, magnesium Marchesini wheels and radial Brembo front brakes.

Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0)
Lightning's LS-218 electric superbike (Photo: © 2014 Bryan Delohery / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons - Attribution 3.0)

Customer bikes can be upgraded with more than just battery pack options. The frame and swingarm can be swapped out for carbon fiber units to save weight and unsprung mass, the dash can be swapped out for a fully programmable Android touch screen, the seat unit can be customized and the bike's Glyn Kerr-designed looks can be totally overhauled using a custom graphics wrap.

This is an important motorcycle, because it's really going to be the first electric on the market that goes too fast, accelerates too hard, and reduces most riders to trembling lumps of jelly – all the things that make street superbikes so alluring and awe-inspiring. Just look at Motorcycle.com's very quick test ride of the 2012 prototype. The poor guy, a professional bike tester, spends three solid minutes just howling and jabbering in fear and exhilaration.

Electric bikes are exceptionally practical, we know that already, but this is the kind of machine that will take them to the next level: fearsome and drool-worthy. If I could take any bike in the world out for a test today, this would be the top of the list. Whaddya say, Lightning?

Source: Lightning Motorcycles

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33 comments
Randy Brainu
Seeing as you're on the electric bike bandwagon now you should design a contraption that allows you to switch batteries with minimal effort. That way you'd always have one on the charge, and one on the charge, so to speak.
Daishi
This is their production version of the bike they won Pikes Peak in 2013 with. I didn't see the specs of the bike back then but I can sort of understand why now. The best literbikes peak out ~195 HP and ~80 lb. torque. This is 200 HP/168 ft-lbs but it makes power everywhere instead of only above at 13k RPM.
I imagine it would be certifiably nuts to drive. My 600 GSX-R is ~100 HP and 40 ft-lbs torque and it's not far behind a Bugatti in a 1/4 mile. I imagine with the linear power delivery of electric and a limited need to shift it won't be long before electric bikes hit the drag strip too. Exciting times we live in.
@Randy That's definitely possible but it would be expensive to own both. I think batteries are still too expensive for now for people to be willing to swap them at charge stations or anything though. At some point in the future I could see electric cars having a 2nd smaller/cheaper auxiliary battery that can be stored in the trunk and swapped like a propane tank. The Tesla gigafactory is going to try to cut lithium Ion costs by ~30% by eliminating all the middle men and delivering minerals directly from the mines to mass produce batteries.
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is really nice. Perhaps they could create a cruise bike with that power / battery arrangement? Instead of using of going really fast, one could cruise at a lower speed and go farther?
I think a fuel cell - they make some that are really small - could help give extra power plus help to charge the battery.
They have tiny trailers for motorcycles. Perhaps one of these tiny trailers could house a small generator or extra batteries?
StWils
Does buying one of these include one of those biker crash bag jackets? It should.
Bruce H. Anderson
October 24-26, 2014. Texas Mile. Top speed of 225.6MPH on a 2007 Suzuki Hayabusa was the March event record. Might be fun.
tyme2par4
Are they using the standard J1772 EV charging port, or are they being stupid and using a custom charge port?
Phil Taylor
No road car needs 200mph either!. It works both ways. It's all about self control!
MintHenryJ
There is a relative handful of mc riders with the qualifications to drive this machine. Same is true for some conventional super bikes. Sorry to say, but it seems irresponsible for the manufacturer to offer it to the public at large as a street bike.
Milton
@Big Warp Guy:
" Perhaps they could create a cruise bike with that power / battery arrangement? Instead of using of going really fast, one could cruise at a lower speed and go farther? "
The big beauty of EV's is that you can have both power and efficiency. This massively powerful motorcycle would still be a fuel-sipper (so to speak) if you didn't burn through the kWhr's doing insane acceleration. Try to baby a 200 hp ICE vehicle and you would still be suckin-down the fuel.
Mel Tisdale
MintHenryJ gets to the main point. We just do not need this product, period.
I don't care that anyone daft enough to ride one of these might kill themselves. In fact, removal of their genes from the gene pool would be a desirable outcome. What I do care about is that I just might pull out in front of one because I simply hadn't seen it (m/c are rather small in outline), or I had seen it but hadn't allowed for it to be traveling as such an idiotic speed. Perhaps the registration plates should be made in the form of a one tonne slab of concrete.
The daft thing is that with it being electric, there will be a reluctance to have the headlight permanently on when in motion in order to increase its range. If any vehicle needs to declare its presence, this one does.