Mission R Electric Racer

An Electric Racer, Shockingly Good on the Road

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Kevin Wing

Steve Rapp’s visit to Laguna Seca in 2011 was more successful than his 2012 visit—where, despite a valiant effort, he failed to qualify the Attack Racing CRT bike for the MotoGP event. In 2011, aboard the Mission R built in a converted fire station in nearby San Francisco by Mission Motors, he won the TTXGP e-Power race for electric bikes so convincingly he finished the eight-lap race an impressive 39.9 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

It’s clearly a fast, capable motorcycle. But does it work in the real world? Finding the answer could be interesting, and here was Mission making the offer to let me ride a street-legal version. I couldn’t refuse.

First impressions: You feel part of the bike rather than perched atop an angular-shaped battery pack, as on the Mission R’s predecessor, the Mission One. Once you’ve switched the bike on and its systems are ready, there’s nothing more to do than twist and go. In doing so, I immediately noticed there wasn’t the same humungous hit of torque found on the Mission One. The Mission R’s pickup is far more progressive thanks to remapping of the ride-by-wire throttle over the first 5–10 percent of available revs. Still, the Mission R can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds, according to the company. This literally awesome performance off the line comes in spite of the bike’s hefty weight of 545 pounds wet.

The only sounds the Mission R makes at slow speeds come from road noise and a hint of chain whir, plus a subdued whine from the straight-cut primary reduction gears. But get out of town and see the road unfold ahead, and that whine becomes an utterly thrilling speed scream.

The motor is connected to the primary gear reduction via a small single-speed planetary gearbox. So with no need to worry about selecting the right gear for a given turn, you can focus on braking where you should, picking a good line and feeding in the power on the way out. The Mission R has regenerative braking—using the motor as a generator on deceleration to partially recharge the batteries—and the Mission’s aggressive regen meant I hardly ever needed to use the brakes to slow down for a bend.

Apart from the improved throttle response and torque delivery, the most significant difference between the R and the Mission One was the much superior handling of the James Parker-designed frame. Whereas the older bike felt much more top heavy, the Mission R is more neutral steering and considerably more precise.

These are impressions confirmed during a late-afternoon stint around Infineon Raceway.

Preparing the bike for my evening run on the scenic, switchback Bay Area center of speed involved backing the regen right off as Rapp had requested for Laguna Seca. There was still a little left in, which helped stop the bike on the downhill stretches. But except for its hefty overall weight, which I definitely became more aware of on the racetrack compared to the street, the Mission R now resembled a 500GP racer of the 1990s.

On the Mission R, this meant I could focus on braking as hard and late as I dared, knowing there was no electronic impediment to keeping up my chosen turn speed. The bike felt balanced and relatively agile considering all the weight it was carrying. I especially liked the way it was so stable under braking. There was zero instability even stopping hard into the Turn 7 and 11 hairpins, where the extra pounds made sure the rear tire stayed glued to the track.

The creation of the Mission R is a further key step in the evolution of the sportbike. E-bikes have seen some resistance in the marketplace, but there's no denying that electric drivetrains are part of motorcycling's future. “What sold me on coming to work here was not zero emissions, but a recognition that the world has changed very much in the past ten years,” says Mission’s Jit Bhattacharya. “We’re looking for alternatives to oil, coal...simply as an availability issue, before considering emissions or the environment. And electricity is one answer, irrespective of what we use to generate it in future. For so long we’ve associated electric drive with sacrifice. The public needs to have its perceptions about electric drive changed. And the best way to do this is to build something electric that blows their mind and performs in a way they didn’t think was possible. That’s the Mission R.”

Yes, indeed. But this motorcycle is far too good to remain a race-only wonder, a Mission Motors calling card to its future e-customers. Someone, somewhere—please pick up this project and bring it to market. You’ll be reducing the world’s carbon footprint in addition to inventing a new kind of production motorcycle with built-in thrills.

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