We’re about to find out. Lightning Motorcycle is about to reveal their top-of-the line electric May 17. Before doing so, they’ve been blogging about their history so far. Obviously the rest of us are all speculating until the official word comes out, but… let’s speculate, shall we?
Based on the photo alone, it looks like some changes are coming… however, it’s clearly an obfuscating photo, and it’s clear the vehicle is being worked on at the moment. Still, the tail plastics are different from the 2013 Lighnings (such as they were). As production is likely in the handbuilt levels, it’s easy to alter each unit. At least it looks like there’s some sort of pilion pad… unless that’s just a styling touch, and you can’t actually sit there.
We have to look in the company’s words for something more substantive. At the “faciest” face value, the EV’s now called the LS-218, not simply Lightning Superbike or SBK3 or whatever. Not that name witchcraft means anything in the 21st Century (if ever), but I take that to mean there are, in fact, changes for 2014. And why wouldn’t there be? This is a fast-moving field, pun intended. We knew continuing improvements were coming down the pike.
However, it’s not all cherry filling inside. Again at face value, Lightning said their big announcement would be in April. Punctual, they’re not, but they’re hardly the first guilty parties on that offense. They also claim to have proprietary technologies, prior drivetrain solutions, and years of racing experience. These aren’t outright lies, of course- you can be sued for that. But they’re stretches.
Immediately, the Lightning’s traction motor is sourced from Remy. It’s the Remy Motor HVH250, the same mill that (slowly) pushed the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. You can cheer or jeer that as you wish; some companies design their own motors, some contract it out; pushing a Tahoe is still kinda impressive, except if it isn’t. At least, the Lightning motor was from Remy; we’ll see Saturday whether or not Lightning actually unveils a big surprise.
As for previous drivetrain solutions, this isn’t groundbreaking either (assuming it’s literally true). Both Brammo and Mission tried other applications, moreso Mission. Here, Lightning’s previous drivetrain work turns out to have been, not saleable products, but “testbeds” if you’re charitable, and “development mules” if you’re not. Mission, on the other hand, actually helped automakers (ones you’ve heard of) release cars to showroom floors- and possibly to your driveway right now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog.
Lightning’s prior racing history is less disputable… but still not indisputable. Much of that history is desert speed runs on barren salt flats- hardly a slugfest. Of course, some of that wasn’t- Lightning did enter the inaugural, 2010 TTGXP “series,” and even win some. Series is in quotes, since I hardly consider four events a rigorous competition… particularly when there are fewer competitors entering than in the gasser world. And Lightning did miss the 2010 Isle of Man. Sure, they made up for it by winning the 2013 Pikes Peak. Still, Pikes Peak is a speed run, more challenging than a salt flat or some dumb oval, but hardly like MX or Rally Car/Baja. Boy, I’m harsh, aren’t I?
I suppose we’ll see on Saturday. I’m waiting to be pleasantly surprised, though not by the price. It’s already been preannounced- same as last year- $38,000 plus change. At this level, it’s still a custom-type product; there are only so many buyers out there, especially with Mission already in this space. More relevant is the Sportbike (as opposed to Superbike), the Lightning Aion. Various claims have been made for Aion delivery, including that one’s already been delivered. I find this unsettling- either the buyer is keeping mum, or the news isn’t good.
Even more unsettling is Lightning’s reference to a “Vista” electric scooter. The company isn’t even moving any motorcycles of note, or at least we aren’t seeing them, yet there’s a completely different platform under development, burning up company capital. The Aion could simply be a decontented LS-218, with lower-spec suspension components, a cheaper battery system, fewer bells and whistles, etc. But a scooter is a completely different platform, for a different market, and even requires different marketing and sales. Although a healthy manufacturer sells large numbers, referencing some vaporous “Vista” makes me less confident in the company, not more. I don’t take the claim of a coming scooter very seriously, any more than I take a fancy new name seriously.
Impress me, Lightning. No, seriously, I want to be impressed this time, since I’ve clearly been disappointed before.