The Roehr eSuperbike | First Ride

Walter Roehr electrifies his American motorcycle dream

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Jim Moy

Talk about a flip-flop: Roehr Motorcycle's flagship 1250SC Superbike, powered by a supercharged Harley-Davidson V-Rod engine, is a two-wheeled ego trip that shouts for attention in more ways than one. Walter Roehr's latest creation, the silent, zero-emissions eSuperbike, seems on the surface to be everything the 1250SC is not. Both share the same purpose, however: to realize Roehr's dream of building and selling handcrafted, thoroughbred American sportbikes.

Roehr released the $39,995 1250SC (which remains in production) in July 2008, at the height of the U.S. economic meltdown. After seeing 11 of 12 deposits canceled in just two weeks, Roehr read the writing on the wall. "The exotic sportbike market died like that," Roehr says. "It was either close the company or develop a different product in a growing market."

This led Roehr to e-bikes, the only segment of the motorcycle industry showing any promise for growth. "I was always intrigued by the idea of an electric bike," Roehr says, "and I saw a great opportunity for a small-volume manufacturer like us to compete. There are no big players here yet."

Rather than build his own frame, Roehr buys a rolling chassis from Hyosung and extensively modifies it to accept his electric powertrain. "From a technical standpoint it would be preferable to build my own," Roehr says, "but using the existing Hyosung chassis literally saves me $15,000. Add up labor, plus the cost to buy every nut, bolt, clamp and axle spacer, and building my own chassis is prohibitively expensive."

Roehr considered an aluminum-framed Japanese supersport donor, but chose the Hyosung GT250R because its thinner steel beams leave more room to locate large battery packs. Roehr modifies the frame extensively, removing unnecessary tabs, welding in motor mounts and battery trays, and reinforcing the headstock to increase rigidity. The subframe is also abbreviated to a solo configuration.

Two basic models, the $16,965 eSupersport and the $27,595 eSuperbike, are offered. The eSupersport features a single, 48-horsepower motor and 5.8kWh battery pack. The 96-bhp eSuperbike, which we tested, uses two motors and a larger, 7.7kWh battery pack. The air-cooled, brushless AC motors are custom-built by Hi Performance Electric Vehicle Systems in Ontario, California, and weigh just 35 pounds each. Roehr builds the battery packs in-house, using Headway-brand large-format Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) cells. The eSuperbike battery consists of 240 individual cells; the eSupersport pack is made of 180 cells.

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