Tesla Model S

The electric motorcycles that can run rings around the Tesla Model S P85D (or come close)

Yesterday Tesla Motors unveiled the ‘D’, the Dual Drive version of the Tesla Model S.  The fully tricked out Model S P85D will set you back a minimum of $120,000, and be the fastest 4 door sedan ever built.  Raw acceleration is demonstrated by the video below, and the spec saying 0-60 miles/hr in 3.2 seconds.  Top speed, about 155 miles/hr.  That makes it the fastest electric vehicle on the market, right?

Of course it depends on how you define “fastest”.  The electric motorcycle manufacturers don’t get as much attention as they deserve, and are delivering electric motorcycle performance matching this new-fangled Model S P85D.

The 3.2 second 0-60 time of the Model S P85D is impressive, but what about 3.3 seconds for the 2015 Zero Motorcycles SR?

The difference between 3.2 seconds and 3.3 seconds – well, to a racer looking to win that’s an important difference, but for regular folk like you and me that’s not an important difference.  They’re both pretty darn fast.

The SR is the race version of the 2015 Zero S.  It’s built with a beefier controller, and an electric motor built for more speed than the Zero S (thanks to better magnets).  The official top speed is 102 miles/hr, but I know some people who will tear into this bike, change the controller settings, change the gearing and some other things, and probably hit 120 miles/hr or more with it.

The cost?  $17,345 is about 1/7th the price of the fully tricked out Model S P85D.

Brammo is another long-time electric motorcycle manufacturer.  Their Empulse R and Empulse TTX are directly competitive to the Zero SR.  Their Empulse RR is a pure prototype bike that’s extremely unlikely to go on sale, but that bike is in the top tier of electric motorcycles whereas the R and TTX are in the second tier.  I’ll explain that in a second.

The website only lists a top speed for the Empulse R, of about 110 miles/hr.  I’ve sent them a query for 0-60 times etc, but let’s go with 110 miles/hr for now.  That makes it a bit faster than the Zero’s but when I’ve seen races with both Zero’s and Empulse R’s or TTX’s the Zero’s tend to win.  Maybe.

The Empulse TTX is a racing version of the R originally built as a joint project with the TTXGP.  It’s an Empulse R kitted out to fit the TTXGP rules.  However, the TTXGP, FIM e-Power and eRoadRacing series have all ceased to exist, and accordingly Brammo’s website doesn’t show the TTX as an available model.  Perhaps the TTX has been canceled?

The cost for the Empulse R is $18,995 or also about 1/7th the price of the Model S P85D.

The Empulse RR is in a whole other league of performance than the Empulse R or Zero SR.  Those bikes perform, in race conditions, similarly to 250-450cc gasser bikes.  On the other hand, Empulse RR and Mission RS and Lightning LS-218 and some other bikes performed, in race conditions, similarly to the 600cc superbikes or even better, in some cases.  The Empulse RR is not for sale, and Brammo treats it as a testbed with which to prototype design ideas.

This is what I meant earlier by top tier and second tier.  These tiers are readily apparent in the road racing on a race track events I’ve attended.  What’s most important in that case are lap speeds, not 0-60 times.

The top tier of electric motorcycles got, at the Laguna Seca raceway, lap speeds below 1:40.  The lap speed record is 1:31 set by Steve Rapp riding a Mission Motorcycles Mission RS in the 2011 FIM e-Power/TTXGP race at Laguna Seca.  Lightning Motorcycles, MotoCzysz and Brammo have all hit lap times close to the 1:31 record still held by Mission.  That’s the top tier bikes, lap speeds under 1:40 and approaching 1:30.  The second tier bikes get lap speeds starting at 1:55 and longer.

The fastest lap speed for a Tesla vehicle is about 1:50, set by Tesla’s own lead test driver with a Model S P85+ at the 2013 REFUEL race.  He was closely followed (10ths of a second difference) by Joe Nuxoll driving a Tesla Roadster with race tires at the 2013 and 2014 REFUEL race.  It will be extremely interesting to see the results of the 2015 REFUEL race to see whether the Model S P85D will break through the 1:50 lap time barrier in any significant way.

The Mission RS, by Mission Motorcycles, is in the top tier of electric motorcycles, and the company is promising to bring it and the Mission R to market.  Sometime.  The model they plan to sell is derived from the bike Mission Motors brought to the FIM e-Power (and TTXGP) race at Laguna Seca in July 2011.  Their rider, Steve Rapp, is among the top tier of motorcycle racers, and with the bike broke the lap speed and top speed records for all electric vehicles at that track.  Those records still stand today, despite attempts by Lightning Motorcycles, Brammo and others to best them.

According to the Mission Motors website, the RS performance is better than the Model S P85D.  Top speed is 150+ miles/hr, 0-60 time under 3 seconds, and 1/4 mile time of 10.492 seconds.

The cost is $58,999 or $74,999 with the “GP Package” that beefs up the suspension system.  The company plans to build just 40 of these bikes, pouring the income into production of the Mission R.
That bike, the Mission R, has similar performance specs to the RS, 0-60 time under 3 seconds, and 1/4 mile time of 10.492 seconds.  Top speed is either 140 miles/hr or 150+ miles/hr depending on which variant you buy.<

Price ranges from $32,499 to $42,499 depending on the battery pack size.  That’s about 1/3rd to 1/4th the price of the Model S P85D.

The Lightning Motorcycle LS-218 is also in the top tier of electric motorcycles.  The company has been racing with variations of this bike since 2011, in the TTXGP, land speed racing, and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

In 2011 they set the land speed record for electric motorcycles, on the Bonneville salt flats, at 215 miles/hr.  The model name LS-218 comes from the top speed hit during that run, 218 miles/hr.  In 2013 they beat every motorcycle rider at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb by over 20 seconds.  By “everyone” we mean, all the motorcycle riders, even the ones with 1200+cc fully tricked out gasoline powered superbikes.  They also won other events in the TTXGP, FIM e-Power and other series.

The production version of their motorcycle has all the same equipment as the prototypes with which they achieved those wins.  From 0 miles/hr to 215 miles/hr, no gear changes.

Richard Hatfield, CEO of Lightning Motorcycles, tells me the company has not attempted to score optimal 0-60 or 1/4 mile times.  He believes they would get sub-3 seconds from 0-60 and sub-10 seconds in the 1/4 mile, with good traction.

The company is nearly ready to sell motorcycles, and the starting price is $38,888.   That’s about 1/4th the price of a Model S P85D.

>Your electric thrill ride can be had in the form of an electric motorcycle with all the speed and acceleration of the Tesla Model S P85D, but a fraction of the cost.

If your pocketbook is modest, you can get competent bikes from Zero Motorcycles or Brammo with most of the oomph of a P85D, but at a fraction of the cost.  These bikes are in the 2nd tier of electric motorcycles and will certainly give the P85D a run for its money.  If your pocketbook is suitably large enough to plop down $35,000 or more on a motorcycle, you can buy one that will run rings around the P85D – well, when Lightning and Mission finally get their bikes into production.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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