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.
“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.