The Mission One Electric Superbike - Green Means Go

Mission Motors promises true electric superbike performance next year

This bike will achieve 150 mph. That's our minimum target." So says Mission Motors Product Manager Jeremy Cleland in describing the Mission One electric superbike. "This is not a glorified scooter. We want to be competitive on all metrics with our gasoline competitors. We're sportbike enthusiasts. We want to be able to go to the racetrack and flog this bike."

Mission's (www.ridemission.com) targeted 150-mph top speed, 150-mile range and two-hour recharge time are ambitious goals-some would even say impossible with currently available battery technology. But with batteries advancing at a breakneck pace, and an engineering staff poached from Silicon Valley's most powerful firms-Tesla Motors, Google and Intel, to say nothing of a CFO (Dan Kaplan) and Product Manager (Cleland) formerly of Ducati North America-Mission seems to have both the talent and experience necessary to achieve those goals.

Cleland revealed precious few details, citing ongoing development, but we do know Mission One will be powered by a proprietary, high-energy, lithium-ion battery pack paired with a three-phase, AC-induction electric motor. Heat management has so far been the limiting factor with large-capacity lithium-ion batteries-remember the rash of spontaneously combusting laptops circa 2006?-but Cleland claims Mission's battery pack produces exceptionally little heat, and certain components will be liquid-cooled.

The motor will incorporate an adjustable energy-recapturing system to both extend range and enhance performance. "The adjustable regeneration feature will be very cool," Cleland says. "Set to recapture very little energy, the bike will coast through corners like a two-stroke. Set to capture more energy, it will mimic lots of compression braking. You'll be able to adjust it based on how you want to ride and your practical needs." Adjustable launch control, traction control and wheelie control are planned as well, accessed through a USB drive incorporated into the ignition key. "There won't be any wrenches to spin," Cleland says. "You'll plug the USB portion of the key into your laptop and tweak all the settings from there, or even access the bike wirelessly."

Chassis components are conventional, consisting of top-line hlins suspension, Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels. The prototype presently utilizes chain final drive, but a quieter, maintenance-free drive belt-more in keeping with the silent, no-maintenance character of an electric motorcycle-is being considered for production.

Anything but conventional is the styling, executed by Yves Behar's fuseproject design firm best known for creating the iconic Jawbone Bluetooth headset. Drawn with sharp lines to emphasize speed and efficiency, with a tall, convex "tank" that mimics the form of the rider on the bike, Mission One won't be mistaken for any other sportbike. Aesthetics are always subjective- to us the headlight resembles a bottom-feeding nurse shark or certain hand-held vacuum cleaners, while triangulated venting suggest the heat registers in some 1900s-era apartments-but it's hard to argue with Behar's pedigree, which Cleland suggests was essential for this first model.

"The prototype needed to be desirable. We wanted to make it aspirational," Cleland explains. The first 50 limited-edition examples, differentiated with special components and unique paint, will retail for $68,995-an amount made somewhat more agreeable with Behar's imprimatur. The designer's considerable star-power also helped Mission secure a marquee spot for the machine's public unveiling, which occurred on the main stage at February's Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Long Beach, California, immediately preceding a speech by Microsoft's Bill Gates.

Orders are being taken now for the first 50 bikes, with delivery anticipated in the first half of 2010. These will be followed immediately by 250 production models with a "substantially lower" MSRP for a total of 300 bikes to be delivered next year. The production-spec version will be revealed on the Isle of Man this coming June, immediately following the inaugural TTXGP (see sidebar) in which a racing-spec Mission One will compete with an experienced American TT racer at the controls.

"We want from the get-go to have racing heritage," Cleland says. "As a sportbike-focused company, that's very important to us." Fifty years ago, Soichiro Honda chose the Isle of Man TT to officially launch his brand on the world stage. Could Mission Motors be the Honda of the future?

The Mission One prototype weighs a robust 540 pounds. Target weight for the production version, due out next summer, is 475 pounds. Target speed is 150 mph, target range is 150 miles.
"Motorcyclists know burning gallons of gas just for fun isn't environmentally friendly," Mission's Jeremy Cleland says. "Anything we can do to bring this sport in line with new, greener attitudes will be great."