The explosive harmony of a high-revving, internal combustion engine is a sound that I'm not too ashamed to admit I can fall asleep to. I'm perhaps more embarrassed to admit that the smell of race fuel and burnt exhaust are pretty nice, too. But both stem from a love for race cars and motorcycles I've had since I was a kid. With that in mind, what was truly striking about watching Mission Motorcycle's electric superbike hurtle around a track was that by stripping all the mechanical noise away, you're left with just a sheer sense of speed.
The RS model, which is the subject of the video above, is Mission's limited-edition, top-end bike. It's got a race-ready Ohlins suspension, carbon wheels, and perhaps the most advanced gauge, navigation, and telemetry system available on a bike. It's also got the price tag to match; for $58,999 and up, one would expect the best parts available.
Still, it's the drivetrain that stands out. Mission's motorcycles are all-electric, but unlike some of the city bikes and scooters attempted before, Mission wants to prove that an electric superbike can hang with their gas-powered counterparts. The RS's electric motor produces a huge-but-not-unheard-of 160 horsepower; the 130 foot-pounds of torque puts it at least in the superbike world. Even then, the bike's lack of a transmission means going from zero to 60, which takes less than three seconds, requires nary a shift. Hitting its limited top speed of 150 miles an hour requires little more than twisting the throttle and holding on.
Of course, the bike is still electric, and range is an inherent concern in a world still dedicated to gasoline. Mission says the RS gets 140 miles per charge, which isn't bad for a sportbike, although even with a quick charger it still takes longer to recharge than simply refilling its gas counterpart. But Mission hopes that, given the performance, simplicity, and lack of an ear-shattering exhaust, charging is a moot point.
Given the slow growth of the electric vehicle market and resultant charging infrastructure—it's about as straightforward a chicken-egg scenario as one can get—can high-end electric vehicles break the stalemate? That's been Tesla's plan, with a goal of not just building electric cars, but better cars. Plus, adding more batteries and building a charging network isn't cheap, which is one reason mid-range EVs like Nissan's Leaf are saddled with 100 mile ranges and little charging support. By aiming at the luxury market with its Model S, Tesla's been able to afford to build EVs with larger ranges, as well as build out its own Supercharger network for high-speed fill-ups. So far, the model has been a roaring success.
Mission's plan is similar—build the best electric bike possible, and those that can afford it won't have to worry about compromises. For EV builders, it's important to prove to the market that electric vehicles can compete, something the RS does well. But the huge question is when the technology will trickle down to cheaper models and more potential buyers.
Mission's already building a bike for half the price of the RS, albeit with less range and more pedestrian components. Still, $30,000 and up for an electric superbike is out of the range of a whole lot of folks, just as Tesla's cheaper offering are out of the range of much of the car-buying public. (Neither company is pretending otherwise, for what it's worth.) Battery technology remains expensive, and charging networks can't grow fast enough. So even while electric vehicles are projected to grow steadily, it's going to be a while until they're ready to take over the larger market.
Yet while hanging out of the back of a chase car, with Mission's Jeremy Cleland riding a wheelie past on the RS, there's no doubt that electric vehicles can compete. They can definitely haul ass. Dreams of rumbling V8s aside, the future of speed might just sound like a quiet, whirring spaceship, and I'm totally okay with that.