Lito Sora. Amarok. Lightning. Mission. Brutus. BRD. eCRP.
All bikes that looked almost impossibly awesome, some that started as real bikes, some as renderings, some around for a number of years and some brand-spankin’ new. They all have one thing in common. I can’t have one. From what you read on their sites, it’s “I can’t have one yet“, but in the spirit of the American Consumer, for me it’s more like “but I want it NOWwwwwwah! (stomp stamp whine)”. (…nevermind that I don’t have umpteen million dollah to buy one, but still)
So here’s what I’ve got.
The Sora has had some serious press for over 2 years now. The latest onslaught came around May of this year, when they obviously sent out more Press Releases, this from EarthTechling, for example. The styling? …well, the styling. I can’t say much about it except it seems derivative of not much I enjoy about motorcycle styling. As far as the tech, well, the big Tragic Flaw of this product from my perspective is the advertised CVT “no-shift transmission”. From what we’ve seen, designing a CVT that can handle the torque an electric motor delivers is nigh-on impossible. If you add the weight consideration, then yeah. Pure vapor.
So, naturally, I’ve been dying to see this thing in a final production iteration, and see if it has a CVT and if it works. As far as the “Tesla of Motorcycles”? That warrants a hearty “oh puLEEEZE, bitch!”
Advertised price: $41,000. No known sales.
As long as we’re talking about bikes from Canada, next comes Amarok Racing. These guys hit the scene with some serious talk about new ways of thinking about motorcycles, breaking down barriers, etc etc like that. In this story, back in 2012, it seemed like they had their ducks in a row:
Originally from Sudbury, Ont. Michael is an industrial designer who specializes in creating style and function. After working with Piaggio, Yamaha, and Bombardier, Michael moved to Halifax last year with his wife Michelle, who is originally from New Brunswick.
Since 2010, Michael has been working to develop his prototype electric racing motorcycle, the Amarok P1. In 2007, he went to a motorcycle show in Milan, where he saw a modern electric scooter produced by a U.S. company. He wasn’t impressed with the design, but the idea of the electric motor intrigued him.
Cool. I like the idea of what he was saying – a completely redesigned frame for an electric drivetrain, ultra-light, efficient and nimble. All the things I like in a motorcycle. It sounded like they had some money backing up the talk. When they announced their bid at Pikes Peak this year I was watching with rapt attention. Rapt.
Things didn’t go real well for them at Pikes. They could barely get the bike ready, had some battery issues, no backup packs, and when they finally did run the Peak they got screwed by an accident on the track ahead of them. They had to restart without a recharge and didn’t finish, though came damned close. Here’s a good little piece on it on The Examiner, by Ray Roske.
Bad luck, and a valiant effort by some genuinely nice guys, it sounds like.
But. There’s just a wee bit of that “Emperor’s new clothes” thing going on.
Before all this, anything you read made it sound like this was a world-class team with awesome funding and some really cutting edge ideas. As tactfully as I can say it, that bike was about 2 year old racing technology where you’re talking dog-years in development pace – dual PMDC Agni motors, RC lipo batteries, no backups and some pretty basic mistakes in handling the packs, from the little I could read into what happened… The most gracious thing I can say is they apparently don’t spend much time on the forums. …and they barely had enough funding to make it to the base of the mountain and home again. Great guys, heroic effort, but not the team it was billed as. And sure, things don’t go how you plan, and you’ve got to give it to these guys for putting their balls out on the block.
Where are they now? I just found this story on them. They promised they’d be back in the ring, swinging, and it appears they are and with the same strategy of attracting investors with big ideas. Still. When do I get my bike? I wish them only the best.
Brutus, by Bell Custom Cycles, is built by Chris Bell, a regular on a few of the forums. The first version had a transmission, which, after much talk about how great it was, was subsequently dropped. Chris said it was dropped because it simply didn’t perform up to their expectations especially since “new developments” in battery technology. OK fair enough. When you put as much time and effort into a build as Chris does, you’ve got to believe in it… but in this case, his decision backed up much of the data we’d previously put together – the transmission was not a big plus. The developments he was talking about weren’t particularly new at the time of the first build, but maybe new to him once he hooked up with Manzanita and started with a well-managed LiFePO4 pack.
In kind of a show of bravura, he’d also claimed that they could sell a bunch of bikes (it seems like he said 30 or so) immediately if they only had the bikes – if memory serves, they “had the buyers”. That’s a pretty tall claim. Last I heard they were still promising to be able to deliver bikes by about now – last quarter of 2013, but no sales, or even orders, from what’s been made public. Chris has been hard at work, though, adding products to the line. He now has the Brutus 2, the Brutus 2 Cafe, the V9, and the V2 Rocket, the Rocket apparently in progress..
So. Awesome designs. (Somehow these cross over the line to “Cool!” for me, where the Sora, a similar feel, doesn’t) Some great press. Decent prices. Any sales? At least one, to the partner, and certainly not the 40 or so that we were hearing about back when he started.
From $20K to $32K… complete with a factory visit included.
Forgive me, but these guys rank a big “meh” in my book. Hell. A little, tiny “meh”.
They both have been around since I started looking, about 2009, and they’ve been talking like they’re “Production” bikes since the very start. They’re both proven to be a couple of the baddest-ass fastest, sexiest and most expensive motorcycles available. Yet, are they actually available? Lord only knows.
Mission came out this year and said they were accepting orders for 40 bikes. Apparently Lightning will build you a bike if you order it, but after about 7 tries to get information from them, all I get is dropped emails. If they’re selling them, they’re just selling them to people who can stop by the shop, I guess, and there aren’t even any decent shots of the Lightning on their site. Most of the good stuff is on their Facebook page.
Yeah, I guess I’m kind of being a bitch, but these bikes could change motorcycling, just as Tesla has changed what we think electric cars are. So yeah, I’m pretty frustrated, and so much of it looks and smells like way too close to just efforts to collect investor dollars and stock options, and not about bringing a product to market.
These two companies seem to be going through pretty normal gestation periods, and appear to have actual workable business plans. eCRP comes from a parent company, CRP Technology. These guys know from manufacturing, and are kicking some butt in the 3D fabrication area. They’ve fielded some ideas in recent years, gone into the back room and emerged with a very cool bike. They just popped it out to several journalists to get some roadtests out there, and you get the idea they’re still thinking in terms of the development of the product. Here’s my favorite, Wes Siler chatting up tech with riding geek banter:
Richard, by the way, over at ESBK, has put together a good post with a collection of all the videos of all the tests.
BRD? Who doesn’t love a company with the domain http://www.faster-faster? And a little dirt bike / trials bike? Seriously, that was one of the first genres of electric bike that caught my eye simply because it makes so much sense. These guys have never seemed like they’re doing anything but what they claim to be doing – designing and building a new motorcycle – and apparently a fella by the name of Martin Eberhard seems to think it’s worthwhile sitting on their board. They have some pretty solid funding, they have a line of two basic bikes in the $15K range, with a Police option package for one. They’re taking pre-orders, locked in with a $100 deposit, listed on their site as “2013 Pre-Orders”.
These two seem to me to be on a normal, albeit painfully slow trajectory. They both have backing, though different kinds of backing, and they’ve taken the admirable road of not making promises that seem too good to be true.
So yeah. I want to see the Lito Sora float that CVT out there and see if it works. And how it works. Cause I’m all about building this stuff. Those Amarok guys? Get those bitches some funding, will ya? They’re looking for $800K to take their bike to the next level, and hell, I could do something like that with $800K. I can only imagine what those boys could do with it. I’d love to see Bell Custom start actually selling and delivering bikes, because the guy has some serious skills and vision. I’d kill to see Mission and Lightning get off the pot and actually deliver bikes instead of racing wins and media noise. I don’t know how many times a “company” can say they’re releasing the “fastest production electric bike in the world” before the world stops caring. BRD and eCRP? I just want.
Alrighty then… back to my shop with me, with my milk-crate seats and my PBR, with the country music on the radio. Before you log in and bitch me out for being a “hater”, take a minute to breathe, and read what I wrote. mmmmK? If you do that, and still want to call me a hater, then bring it on. Always a critic. Never a hater.
But do, please, correct me if anything I’ve said above is wrong.