Mission One Superbike | First Ride

Mission improbable

By: Ari Henning, Alan Cathcart, Photography by Kevin Wing

Because out in the real world of no-compromises sportbiking, there is literally nothing with sparkplugs and a license plate that will out-accelerate the Mission One off the mark. Nothing. This literally awesome and definitely addictive launch performance comes in spite of the bike's hefty weight of 525 pounds. Although the e-superbike feels a tad cumbersome at slower speeds, the bike's dynamics work well at a quicker clip.

The digital speedo is easy to read, ditto the dash panel next to it telling you the single most vital fact you need to know: your remaining range. There's also a secondary readout showing the remaining charge in the separate 12-volt batteries that drive the oil and water pumps, fans, lights and dashboard display. This small secondary pack is supposed to be kept charged via a link from the main batteries, and it was that link that packed up 130 miles into our ride. We still had 30 miles left on the main batteries after that 90-minute recharge at lunch, so I'd go along with MM's claim of a 70- to 90-mile range for the bike in spirited use. Two hours would have been needed to fully recharge the batteries.

People get too excited about how much horsepower their bikes put out, swapping numbers like stock-market traders as if that's all that matters. Only it isn't. What is vastly more relevant in real-world riding is maximum torque and the shape of its delivery curve. Torque equals acceleration, and that's the forte of any e-bike, especially this one. The Mission's claimed 136 horsepower is quite impressive for a supersport, except that this bike weighs 50 percent more than your average 600. Yet the awesome blast of drive available from the moment you open the throttle comes courtesy of that huge helping of torque. This e-superbike's torque completely eclipses everything else on the street, especially any scooter, which the twist-'n'-go, direct-drive Mission One most closely resembles dynamically.

To start with, though, we had a problem. It came from the regenerative braking used to recapture some of the kinetic energy expended while stopping the bike-a system that is said to extend range by up to 14 percent. Mission Motors had the regen set too high, introducing what was in effect a severe dose of engine braking every time I backed off the throttle. Laforge supplied a solution over lunch, pulling a laptop out of his backpack to reprogram the regen so it was less intrusive. That may also have lessened the amount by which it recharged the batteries, but now the Mission was ready to carve corners, gliding through turns on part throttle with a total lack of vibration before picking up the drive on the way out. Now it more closely resembled a conventional gas-powered bike, but with no need to notch down a couple of gears to get the engine singing up high in the super powerband. Just twist and fly!

There's no shying away from it: The creation of the Mission One is a key step in the evolution of the sportbike, in redefining the way we think about how we can go fast and have fun on two wheels in the uncertain 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 10 years," says MM CEO Jit Bhattacharya. "We can no longer take energy sources for granted-especially fossil fuels. So why are we even having this conversation about electric motorcycles? The principle behind the Mission One sportbike is actually similar to a company like Tesla's. For so long we have associated electric drive with sacrifice, with having to give something up by switching to electricity, so you get a heavier, slower, lesser-performing vehicle whose primary value to the customer is that it's 'green.' 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 minds, that performs in a way they didn't think was possible, and that they can buy. That's the Mission One, and in building it we want to demonstrate that no compromises need to be made to bring about a change, and start a revolution."

Mission Accomplished.

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