Mission Motorcycles president Mark Seeger wants to do for electric bikes what Tesla did for electric cars: Match the performance and range of gasoline-powered superbikes, but do it with a massive battery pack, an electric motor and zero emissions.
We’ve seen these kind of EV moonshots go down in ignominious flames before. But the two-year-old Mission Motorcycles might just pull it off. In an exclusive interview with Wired, Seeger revealed his company’s first product will be a street-legal version of the legendary prototype that won the 2011 TTXGP electric grand prix at Laguna Seca. That bike dusted every other in its class and finished the race an astonishing 39.98 seconds ahead of the 2nd place rider.
Called the Mission RS (RS for “Race Special”), the bike won’t be cheap: the price tag is an eye-watering $59,999 — or $56,499 after the feds kick in a tax credit. But when it goes on sale next summer, it will be the first step towards a revolution that Seeger calls “Motorcycle 2.0″.
“We want this to be the best of the best,” Seeger tells Wired, “Something really exclusive.”
The Mission RS builds on, and partially incorporates, technology developed by the similarly-named Mission Motors, also based in San Francisco, which designed the prototype that won at Laguna Seca. Mission Motors hasn’t always delivered: it began developing and racing electric bikes back in 2009, and promised a street-legal version of its record-setting racer nearly four years ago. That ambition died on the vine, and Mission Motors eventually refashioned itself as a supplier of EV components to automakers and upstarts.
“There’s a lot of symbioses there, as implied by the name,” Seeger tells Wired. “But Mission Motorcycles is focusing on the bikes. It just happens that we’re buying [Mission Motors’] powertrains and they’re customizing it for us.”
That’s a similar sentiment echoed by Jit Bhattacharya, president of Mission Motors, who says, “For two years, riders were demanding that we bring the Mission race bike to market. And for two years, we disappointed them… the wait is over.”
Mission Motorcycles will only be making 40 examples of the RS — to commemorate the nearly 40 second advantage the prototype held at Laguna Seca.
At its core is a 160 horsepower (120 kW) electric motor outputting 120 pound-feet of torque from zero RPM to redline. Combined with a single-speed transmission, that’s good enough to get the RS from rest to 60 mph in under three seconds and top out at 150 mph.
More impressive is the lithium-ion battery, which packs 17 kWh of juice — one kWh more than the miserable four-wheeled Mitsubishi i-MiEV — along with a pair of on-board chargers that allow nine kW worth of energy transfer during charging. All told, Mission estimates a max range of 200 miles, but on the combined city/highway cycle, riders will get 140 miles in the real world, and be able to top up that massive battery pack in around two hours through the industry standard J1772 Level 2 charging stations. According to Seeger, “Even a short rest stop is enough time to add a significant amount of range.”
The rest of the kit on the RS is what you’d find on the high-end race bikes it aims to compete with, including BST carbon fiber wheels, an Öhlins FGRT fork and four-piston monoblock brakes with ABS on the rear wheel.
But that’s where the similarities end and the real tech treats begin.
Because the electric motor is integrated with the on-board computer, Mission can do insanely impressive things with traction control. Power is only good when it can make it to the ground, and with between 2,000 and 4,000 calculations a second, Seeger says, “We’ve got acceleration down to perfection. We can adjust power in and out of turns, even locking the motor to allow complete control.”
And they’ve also added a feature rarely seen on bikes: reverse. It’s something Seeger claims is “hugely helpful.”
Then there’s MissionOS, the company’s bespoke operating system controlled through a seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen (with a resistive display, because gloves). Riders get the normal speed, range and performance data, along with an embedded LTE connection that links up with Google Maps to provide navigation, traffic and — most important to riders — weather data.
Different drive modes — from Normal to Race — give the rider a range of functionality, with GPS triggered laps that track your times around a circuit and can be uploaded to a system called MyRide. That website allows you to collect a database of all your track attacks, including telemetry data which can be overlaid on a video provided by a 1080p, image stabilized camera mounted in the nose cone of the RS, right above the LED headlight.
Naturally, they’ve included Bluetooth functionality for both iOS and Android devices, but the real kicker is a specially developed helmet Mission is planning to sell next year (after the arduous process of DOT approval) that includes a built-in heads up display that connects with MissionOS over Bluetooth. And just to get developers ready, Mission plans on making an SDK available ahead of launch so they can begin reviewing app submissions.
So what if you can’t afford one of the 40 RS models? Mission has you covered, with plans to simultaneously launch an R model with three different battery capacities — 12, 15 and 17 kWh — good for ranges between 105 and 140 miles on the combined cycle. The R will start at $29,999 and include Brembo brakes, forged aluminum wheels, Öhlins RT suspension and MissionOS, along with scads of configurable options. Sales of the R will begin after all RS models are delivered.
Seeger and the rest of the crew at Mission Motorcycles are nothing if not ambitious. If Mission meets its goals, it will have have created the first real superbike for the 21st century.
“We’re planting a clear flag on the ground,” says Seeger. Let’s hope that flag can stand up by the time the RS and R launches next year.