The company responsible for the wildest electric sportsbike on the planet has just shown off its first mass-market offering. The Strike is a fully-faired electric motorcycle that starts at US$12,998 with 90 horsepower, a monstrous 180 lb-ft (244 Nm) of torque and a 10-kWh battery offering 70 miles (113 km) of highway range.

That base spec for the Standard Strike will be a terrific short-range super-commuter, but there's also a Mid Range version with a 15-kWh battery delivering 105 miles on the highway for US$16,998, and a sexy Carbon Edition with 20 kWh that'll take you 150 miles (241 km) on the highway for $19,998, while also boosting horsepower up to 120 with the same gigantic torque as the others.

The Carbon Edition also includes 6.6-kW level 3 fast charging (the others support levels 1 and 2, with Level 3 an optional extra, and all bikes use a CCS charge port). The Level 3 charge option will let you put 100 miles (161 km) worth of range into the bike in just 20 minutes.

It's worth noting, you'll get much better range than the figures quoted if you're riding it around town. But Lightning's inclusion of an aerodynamic fairing – something Zero fans have been begging for ever since the Zero S was launched – reduces drag on the highway by as much as 30 percent and significantly extends range at higher speeds.

Lightning's price structure might cause some consternation over at Zero as well – Zero's brand new SR/F offers comparable performance to the new Lightning bikes at 110 hp/190 lb-ft of torque, but spending $18,995 on the standard spec SR/F will only get you 80-odd miles (130 km) on the highway.

What's Lightning's secret weapon in keeping its prices down? In a word, China. According to Electrek, the company has just set up a Chinese manufacturing center around the same size as its new main factory in San Jose, California, where much of the componentry will be built before final assembly in California. Lightning also expects its Asian presence to be handy when it starts looking to expand its presence internationally, beginning later this year.

The regular Strike bikes will have an exhilarating top speed around 135 mph (220 km/h), while the Carbon Edition will take things up a level with 150 mph (240 km/h) capability. Since they're geared so much lower than the eyeball-flattening LS218, which has a single speed drive that goes as high as 218 mph (351 km/h), we wouldn't mind betting they'll feel extremely quick on the road, and should offer sustained performance thanks to liquid cooling in the motors.

There's no word on what lower-spec Strike bikes will get in terms of suspension and brakes, but they can both be optioned up to match what the Carbon Edition gets – Ohlins and Brembo Monoblocs, with an AIM Strada datalogging dash – by the addition of a Performance Package. We'd expect all editions of the Strike to hold their own on a racetrack, and it'll be exciting to see how they go and what they're competitive against.

Staying fairly close to the Glyn Kerr-designed LS-218, the Strike looks terrific with its braced subframe, banana swingarm and colorful motor connectors providing contrast against its fairings. The riding position is set up to be more relaxed than the race-focused LS-218, and the throttle has been tuned for "phenomenally smooth and intuitive power delivery."

The Strike becomes really the first electric sportsbike we'd call affordable. The base price bike might have a limited range that won't cut it out in the hills, but it's more than enough to handle daily duties and the odd quick blast if you live close to something twisty.

Given Zero's decade and a half manufacturing history compared to Lightning's relative inexperience in mass market serial production, we'd suspect that the SR/F will offer a more tightly integrated and well thought through riding experience with better mod cons and fewer teething issues, but the new Lightning Strike presents a performance and price tag challenge buyers wont be able to ignore, and it flat-out looks cooler. Both bikes deserve to tempt customers away from gasoline bikes, which is the real goal of all e-moto makers, and both are serious leaps forward for their makers.

It's exciting times in California as the electric motorcycle market heats up. We can't wait to get a leg over these things to experience the latest generation of electric giggle machines. Strike deliveries will begin in July, with Carbon Editions rolling out first.

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