Practical and fast is the goal.
Want to ride a motorcycle but you want a bit more safety, you don’t want to be out in the elements, and you want to be environmentally friendly? Lightning Motorcycles is working on a vehicle that addresses all those concerns.
For a while now, there have been rumors about a new motorcycle from Lightning—if you can even call it that. Patent drawings for the new vehicle appeared out of China showing a powered two-wheeler with an enclosed cockpit. Certainly, we’ve seen those sorts of designs before, even in the EV world, but this patent from Lightning is especially interesting considering the company’s reputation.
Lightning has built its name on speed for the better part of a decade. When the electric superbike wars took place in the early 2010s, with start-ups and solo inventors all trying to outdo each other at the Pikes Peak and Bonneville races, Lightning was the company that rose to the top. In 2014, it launched the LS-218, the fastest production motorcycle in the world at that time. With a 218 mile-per-hour top speed, Lightning claims it’s still the fastest street-legal bike available six years later, even faster than the supercharged Kawasaki H2.
Why would Lightning change direction from muscle-bound superbikes to the fully-enclosed machine in the video above? Company CEO Richard Hatfield told Elektrek it’s part of a plan to build a more all-round machine. Not everyone wants to spend huge money on a commuter bike, especially if that machine is oriented at performance, not every-day rideability. For years, different manufacturers have tinkered with the idea of a fully-enclosed two-wheeler because of its all-weather practicality, and its perceived additional safety.
Lightning has another reason to look at the idea of a fully-enclosed bike. Hatfield told Elektrek the improved streamlining means better energy efficiency, which in turn allows for more battery range, or a smaller battery. Battery range and size is still the biggest problem faced by electric motorcycles, so a technology that solves that problem is a big deal to companies like Lightning.
It’s not just about practicality, though. Hatfield figures a properly-designed enclosed machine could be not only the most efficient daily-use motorcycle, but also the fastest. Given Lightning’s history of land speed racing, it’s probable this streamlined bike would show up at Bonneville (or Limestone, or wherever these events are going to run in the future, now that the salt flats are constantly in jeopardy). A blazing-fast speed run would go a long way to silencing detractors, who might not like the bike’s enclosed cockpit.
For now, we have Lightning’s video above confirming this project’s existence, but other details are scarce: We don’t know what motor or battery this machine would have, or how it would stay upright at a stop (Gyroscope technology? Extendable stabilizers?). If Lightning continues to plug away, we should know more in coming months.