Motorcyclist attempts to break the outright electric motorcycle speed record!

Bonneville or Bust

I'm in Salt Lake City tonight, working my way slowly toward the town of Wendover, on the Nevada/Utah border. Home to Wendover Air Force Base, where the B-29 Superfortress the Enola Gay was housed during World War II, Wendover is also the nearest civilized outpost to the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats.
Bonneville is well known as the preferred venue for the very fastest vehicles on earth, and this weekend it hosts the Southern California Timing Association's annual Land Speed Racing World Finals. I'm attending this year at the invitation of Lightning Motors, an upstart electric vehicle manufacturer from Northern California that hopes to enhance its virtually unknown reputation by breaking the outright speed record for electric motorcycles. Lightning has asked me to ride their motorcycle, giving me the rare opportunity to attempt a world speed record and perhaps make a bit of electric motorcycle history in the process. Who could say no to that?

The current outright electric motorcycle speed record stands at 176.434 mph, set at Bonneville this past August during the Speed Week by Kent Riches aboard the Airtech-eRacebike motorcycle. Lightning Motors owner/inventor Richard Hatfield believes his prototype is capable of speeds in excess of Riches’ number, helped along by a massive, A123 lithium-nanophosphate battery pack and one key piece of unobtanium hardware: a high-horsepower electric motor salvaged from the supposedly non-existent General Motors EV1 electric car.

Hatfield’s Project Lightning is not just a one-off, land-speed project. The prototype I’ll ride at Bonneville is basis for what Hatfield hopes will soon become a street legal electric sportbike. Underneath that enormous, Bonneville-only dustbin fairing is a tube chassis with conventional sportbike geometry. Hatfield expects to create an all-electric motorcycle capable of performance that equals the best ICE (internal combustion-engined) sportbikes, and he considers this record attempt his first proof-of-concept.

I’ll see the machine for the first time tomorrow morning, during technical inspection. The World Finals racing program has already been delayed by one day due to rain this past weekend, but the sun is out and we’re told the salt will be dry and ready for racing as soon as Thursday morning. From there it’s up to me to find the courage to tuck in, twist the grip and see if we can’t be the first electric motorcycle to break the elusive 200-mph barrier.

Wish us luck and keep watching this space—I’ll be posting daily updates here.