Electric News: Lightning Motorcycles Delivers its First Production Bike

Lightning strikes in San Francisco! With the LS-218, Lightning Motorcycles CEO Richard Hatfield claims the title of the world’s fastest production superbike.

Troy Helming was beaming. And for good reason: he had just taken delivery of the very first production Lightning LS-218 electric superbike—serial number 0001—at a special press event in San Francisco's Financial District.

“I did the math,” Helming said. “It’ll get me from my home in Berkeley to my office in San Francisco in 17 minutes. That’s observing all speed limits, too, well under its 200-mph capability! And the fuel cost for my commute will be just pennies.” Helming is an alternative energy veteran and CEO of Pristine Sun, a solar energy contractor, and admittedly a novice rider. Still, Helming was obviously smitten with his new bike, as evidenced by his incessant smile. He clearly embraced the Lightning’s nexus of clean technology and sportbike sizzle: “It’s green, it’s fast, and it’s sexy.”

The LS-218’s design is compact and modern. Components are all top shelf: Brembo brakes, Racetech-tuned, fully adjustable superbike suspension, Marchesini wheels, the GP-inspired rear swingarm. The LS-218 form is familiar to any sportbike enthusiast, save for a few e-bike concessions such as the absent (and unnecessary) clutch lever and massive rear sprocket necessitated by its single-speed transmission. Fit and finish are universally impressive.

With the LS-218, Lightning CEO Richard Hatfield claims the title of the world’s fastest production motorcycle. Its name, in fact, derives from its 218-mph speed run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2012, still in prototype form. Claimed specs are credible: 168 pound-feet torque in a 495-pound package—lighter than a fully fueled Suzuki Hayabusa, in other words. A 360-volt lithium battery pack powers a water-cooled, three-phase motor. Redline is 10,500 RPM. Rear wheel regenerative braking mimics traditional engine braking for a familiar riding feel. Claimed range is between 100-120 miles with the standard battery pack, or up to 180 miles with an optional expanded pack.

At $38,000, the Lightning is roughly three times the price of a current Japanese literbike, but that‘s not an unheard-of multiple for an exotic. Look at the price of a Ducati 1199R, the EBR 1190RS, or any brand-new Bimota.

It’s one thing to produce a one-off jewel of a prototype like this; mass production is something tougher. We’ll check back in after serial number #1000 rolls off the line, but until then, the LS-218 puts Lightning CEO Richard Hatfield closer than anyone to making a practical, compelling, and (almost-) affordable electric superbike.