Can An Electric Motorcycle Go From SF To LA Without Stopping?


Lightning Motorcycles is headquartered in Silicon Valley but it is relying on the Battery Innovation Center in Indiana to help it accomplish an almost impossible goal — building an electric motorcycle that can go from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a single battery charge. That’s a tall order, considering that the Tesla Model S 100D — which features a 100 kWh battery — is the longest range production vehicle in the world today and has a range of “only” 335 miles.

Lightning Electric Motorcycle

“We see ourselves as following in the footsteps of Tesla, and accomplishing the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles run would show that range anxiety is becoming a thing of the past,” says Richard Hatfield, head of Lightning Motors. He is no stranger to long distance electric vehicles, having been part of a team that built an electric Porsche race car in 1995. Since Lightning Motors was founded in 2006, it has set a land speed record for electric motorcycles and won the grueling Pikes Peak “Race To The Clouds” in 2013.

The Battery Innovation Center is a nonprofit organization that works with industry leaders, universities, and government agencies to rapidly develop, test, and commercialize batteries and storage systems that are safe, reliable and lightweight. Its clients include the State of Indiana, the Japanese technology company NEC, and Duke Energy.

“We work with companies like Lightning to pair them with cutting edge energy storage makers to make things like the 500-mile ride possible,” its president, David Roberts, says. “We think that with the technology as it stands right now, the ride is entirely achievable. Companies come to us for energy storage solutions that may not be ready for prime-time just yet,” Roberts explains. “They come to us saying, ‘I need so much energy in so much area. Can you do it?’ From there, we help develop, test and manufacture the batteries in the hopes of helping these companies turn breakthrough technology into commercially available batteries that can handle real-world demands.”

How soon will Lighting Motors have an electric motorcycle with 500 miles of range ready for the run to LA? Not tomorrow, certainly, but soon. And when that day comes, the lessons learned will trickle down to help drive the quest for lighter, more powerful, and less expensive batteries for all electric vehicles. If Richard Hatfield can make it happen for a motorcycle, it won’t be long before an electric car can go that far or further. Innovation is a very exciting thing.

Source: Forbes


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Troy

    I have a LS-218 from Richard’s company Lightning and I love the bike. Way more torque & power than I need, so smooth and fun to ride. Free parking at SF Bay Area BART stations, too! I’d love to upgrade it someday (if possible) to get 500 miles of range, wow.

    • Steve Hanley

      Way cool, Troy.

      • Thanks Steve. Hey, on another topic, I’ve been funding a company here in Silicon Valley in stealth mode for about 4 years. The company is about to come out of stealth, and the technology is quite disruptive. It’s on 4 wheels, so it fits your profile of things you want to know about. It’s not a passenger vehicle, but it looks likely to disrupt the transportation and fossil fuel industries simultaneously. It’s infrastructure. I’m putting together an advisory board and thought of you. Let me know if you’re interested in getting involved as either a paid or unpaid advisor or board member. Happy to have a chat about it any time. M) 415-940-5678 or

      • Steve -thanks Steve. I have the LS218 and we are a 2 Tesla household as well (two S’s). In your bio you indicate you love anything that moves on wheels. Well, for about 4 years I’ve been funding a start-up in stealth mode that has a disruptive technology. It could (with the right messaging to the public to avoid special interests trying to shut it down) simultaneously disrupt transportation and fossil fuel power generation. We’re not ready to come out of stealth mode (and I’m not looking for press coverage yet) but I’ve enjoyed your articles & perspective for years. I’d like your input on what we’re doing as a possible advisor (paid or unpaid, your choice). Let me know if you’d like to learn more. or M) 415-940-5768.