Mission R Electric Superbike

A raddical 160-MPH racer ready to charge

The most striking thing about Mission Motors' latest effort is you have to look twice to tell its 140 horsepower come from a three-phase induction motor and not some combination of pistons, cams and valves. Unlike most other electric motorcycles we've seen, the Mission R looks like a racing motorcycle. No surprise there, considering well-known motorcycle designers James Parker and Tim Prentice shaped the chassis and bodywork.

Creator of various innovative designs including the 1993 Yamaha GTS1000, Parker started talking to Mission Motors in April 2009. Four months later, the Quad-Element chassis was born. “Basically, it’s a unit-construction design with an integral drive system,” Parker explains. A billet-aluminum head box bolts to steel-tube side frames, followed by a stressed-member power unit that carries the swingarm pivot. “I wanted to show off exactly what’s going on with the bike,” he adds.

That was the easy part. Packaging the electric bits was much harder. Witness the aluminum head box: an 85-liter, 210-lb. masterpiece carrying enough lithium-ion pouch cells—similar to those used in a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf—to store 14.4kW of energy in one hot-swappable unit. A MissionEVT controller is the 100kW brain behind the operation, turning stable battery voltage into variable power for the liquid-cooled AC induction motor. And it does all that without screwing up handling or getting in the rider’s way.

Every racebike has to accommodate a human racer, which kept human factors near the top of Parker’s design brief from the beginning. Using Yamaha’s YZF-R6 as his ergonomic model, everything but the 57.5-inch wheelbase had to fit into that three-dimensional chunk of real estate. Other chassis dimensions are decidedly Ducati-esque. The 24-degree rake and 3.8 inches of nominal trail are essentially identical to a new 1198. Parker’s design target was 525 lbs. As it sits, the Mission R weighs 545 lbs.—hefty compared to a 438-lb. 1198S, but impressive once you learn the motor and battery alone weigh 300 lbs.

Capable of pushing the R to its theoretical 161-mph top speed, Mission’s 141-horse AC induction motor is a beast by electric-bike standards. But since more power means more heat, a steady spray of automatic transmission fluid keeps the iron-and-copper rotor cool. High-voltage switches inside the controller are liquid-cooled as well. According to VP of Engineering Jorah Wyer, Mission’s innovation is in the controller’s software. “We use a variety of different drive algorithms in order to get power out of the motor as efficiently as possible at various speeds and power levels,” he says. Mission’s crafty proprietary software contributes to the bike’s immediate throttle response and projected 150-mile range at race speeds: more than enough to finish any TTXGP on the 2011 calendar.

What’s next? Testing should be well underway as you read this, with the aim of being on the grid at the TTXGP season opener at Infineon Raceway in mid-May. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Parker says, but he’s excited about what’s next. And if you’re thinking an electric racer sounds about as exciting as an electric razor, Parker swears the Mission is different: “Those straight-cut primary-drive gears can make some noise!”

The R generates 141 bhp, 115 lb.-ft. of torque and enough heat for two cooling systems: one for the motor and another for its controller. Both radiators live in the fairing’s belly pan.
Designing an 85-liter home for the battery and its controller unit that wouldn’t interfere with the rider was the hardest part of the chassis design. Hot-swapping the 14.4kW power pack takes 5 minutes.