Lightning Motorcycles accelerates into the EV racing record books
29 August 2023
“After the first ride, I was convinced that electric motorcycles should be a business. The bike gives you a feeling of limitless torque, with no vibration, no noise and no heat – there is almost a magical feeling to it.”
That was the experience of Richard Hatfield, founder and CEO of Lightning Motorcycles Corporation, which now holds the land speed record for electric motorcycles, exceeding 215mph. The San Carlos, California company was founded in 2007, just a few streets over from another electric vehicle pioneer – Tesla.
Lightning strikes and breaks land speed record
Having cut his teeth on EVs in the late 1990s on the development of an electric Porsche, Hatfield, a lifelong motorcyclist, set his sights on creating a motorcycle that leveraged the same technology.
After developing early prototypes with his original EV motorcycle design, Hatfield equipped his next bike with a Tesla motor and Lightning was born.
“We took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats and broke a speed record that had stood for 35 years,” Hatfield said.
“We still hold the Bonneville record – an SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) sanctioned 215.962mph – in addition to 211.7 at the El Mirage dry lakebed.”
Honing a world-class electric riding experience with power modules
The next challenges were range and charging time. Today, Lightning’s top bikes now range more than 170 miles and can recharge to 80 percent in 10 minutes.
As Lightning’s bikes became more sophisticated, the electronics on board demanded more power, but not weight. Managing electrical noise in a compact and lightweight vehicle is always a challenge.
Lightning adopted Vicor DCM4623 DC-DC converter in all of its products, to power the 12V control electronics, lighting system, dash instrumentation and sensors. A decision Hatfield attributed to their superior reliability, low noise, power density and superior thermal management.
Balancing speed and performance
For Hatfield, while the records are important, it’s the poetry of riding an EV motorcycle that is most satisfying.
“It’s just a more advanced feeling,” he said. “You don’t need a transmission, you don’t have to shift, and you have limitless torque all the way across the power band.”